new york comic con

New York Comic Con 2013

I had the pleasure of attending the New York Comic Con once again in 2013 and it was a whirl-wind fun time. It gives me the ultimate excuse to spend a few days in NYC with my life-long friend Jason Juniewicz. As a resident New Yorker and a former Marvel employee, he is my guide in the city and the con. I haven’t been to the con since 2011 and one thing is for sure…it has grown! Estimates put attendance in 2011 at 90,000 with 2013 reaching over 130,000 which has pushed attendance past San Diego (a fact I am still wrestling with being possible). So many aspects of my experience at the show are going through my head that I think it best for me to list a few of the major things that I witnessed at the show.

Special Access Badge

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What we felt like all week.

The running joke all week between Jason and I are centered around our Special Access Badges. This is the best money I spend while at the show. The main difference between the VIP badge and the 4 day pass is that you don’t have to wait in line to get in when it opens and access to the “VIP Lounge”. Thursday is where not waiting in line really makes a significant difference. The showroom floor opened officially at 3:00pm on Thursday. We got there at 2:30pm and found out that people had been in line for 2 or 3 hours already. That must suck. We walked right in, checked our bags at the VIP Lounge (one of the main and best features of the room) and then proceeded upstairs. We were some of the first people to hit the show room floor and essentially had our choice of any exclusive we wanted. That brings me to the next experience I had. I was going to detail it here but it was such an interesting experience, I decided to dedicate a whole post to it.

Read about my Robert Kirkman Autograph experience here.

Cosplay

img_9385I hesitate to say you have to see it to believe it because it’s become such a huge part of geek culture. My feeling is that these cons should pay for these people to go because it’s an attraction. The details and passion these cosplayers have is unbelievable. Personally, I love to obscure characters or the less obvious ones because I think all that commitment for something most people won’t get is next level awesome. I sound like an old man when I say this but…”When I first started going to cons….” well, this wasn’t as big a deal. I know a lot of people who have been into geek culture for multiple decades hate how big things have got but…they’re wrong! To see so many people flying their geek flags proudly is inspiring. If you want to see some of the pictures I took, including a lot of cosplayers, check out this gallery.

 

Convergence of Fandoms

Speaking of things old timers and comic book hipsters say that get on my nerves here’s one…”It use to be just all about the comics!” Yeah well, guess what? Pop culture has decided to embrace comic books and the center of their universe. When I was reading comics in the 90s, adults would ask me: “Do they still make comic books?”. Now we rule all forms of entertainment. Keeping cons small and niche so we can feel superior in our little cocoons is not what’s going to ensure we stay on top – diversity is. If you JUST like anime, Doctor Who, My Little Pony, Adventure Time, Video Games, or whatever…this was the place for you. In my now WELL documented Robert Kirkman line experience, I was next to the huge Nintendo booth(s). People would ask me what I was in line for and I would say for Robert Kirkman. Some would say “Who?”. Now…these people aren’t big comic fans BUT that’s OK! Whatever they were into I probably didn’t know the ins and outs of but we were all together being passionate about what we love. THAT is what is cool about large modern cons.

Diversity

Not only was the types of fandoms diverse but so was this group of 130,000 people. To me, it seemed like it was almost 50/50 guy to girl. Again, 20 years ago, I would never see a single woman at a con. No way. There is so much more for women to be excited about in geek culture now because, slowly, producers of content are starting to see the errors of their ways. It wasn’t just gender diversity though. It was ethnic, age…everything! No benchmark to me is more important to something thriving than diversity. This isn’t some dieing boys club anymore. There is something for everything and you no longer need to be quiet about the things you love in pop culture.

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Sgt Slaughter

So we met Sgt Slaughter. After I got his signature and photo, I posted it on every major social media twice. It was a moment I’ll never forget. Now there are two groups different reactions I get when I show people the picture or tell them I met Sarge. In one I’m met with equal enthusiasm and then envy (this I understand). The other is either a “Who?” or “He’s still around?”. To those people I smile and said, I guess you had to be the right age at the right time. I was at that age at just the right time. I’ve never been a big wrestling fan but I was a kid in the 80s and wrestling was amazing back then. It was on after cartoons on Saturday and each character was a broad archetype that seemed right out of a comic or…a cartoon. All of them except Sgt. Slaughter who…WAS IN COMICS AND A CARTOON! Not just any cartoon either, he was in G.I. Joe as, you guessed it, Sgt. Slaughter. I mean, he was a flesh and blood Joe and the ultimate one at that. His every word in the G.I. Joe movie was epic. When he showed up, you paid attention. As a kid, I had the Triple T Tank because it was the only way to get his figure.

After seeing this commercial, how could you NOT want this??

I was talking to Jason and all of a sudden he wasn’t saying anything. This was Thursday and we were still trying to take in all there was to see. Next thing I know he’s screaming “GUYS! Check this out!!”. I look over to what he’s looking at and like him, I didn’t really understand what I was seeing. It looked like Sgt Slaughter exactly how I remembered him. I’m sure thousands walked by and either didn’t know or were like “that’s the old wrestler, right?”. Well, it was totally different for me. All the times I had watched him on TV as a cartoon or otherwise flooded into my memory and I remembered how cool I always thought he was. I walked right up to him and said I wanted a print and a photo and paid whatever they told me without even thinking about it. I got to take a photo with him and then he said, right to me: “Want me to put you in a Cobra Clutch?”. I must have looked like a slack-jawed idiot child. I was like: “Yeah….please!!”. I told my friends after – if Brad Pitt had been there I would have said: “I liked your work a lot in 12 Monkeys.” and that’s about it. Seeing Slaughter was something totally different. He was really warm but also in character. I met someone bigger than life.

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New Friends

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Brooklyn Defender – The exclusive beer of NYCC

One of the if not THE best part about cons is that I seem to always make new friends. Jason’s friend Fernando was with us a lot and you’d never know I just met him by how famously we got on with each other. Also, I was able to meet Karl Olson who I know from a private comic collecting group and he couldn’t have been nicer. There’s something really special about being part of a community and sharing experiences. I’m glad Jason had me for another year because a lot of great memories were made I’ll never forget.

 

What I Bought

So…I bought a lot of stuff! That’s what you do, right? My hats off to the people that come and walk around and just check stuff out. I don’t have that kind of willpower. I go with an agenda. The agenda includes some specific stuff I want but overall, I come to spend money. I bought things I had been meaning to buy and some things I had never seen before. I told Jason that the word “need” doesn’t mean the same thing at comic-con. Technically they are all “wants” but when you are there, it’s OK to use the word need. These are Nerd World Problems.

We Love Fine

Oh how I love this store. I’ve bought from them before but they have the rights to great properties, their thumbs on the pulse of what’s hot now, and attract the most creative designers. I’m obsesses with Adventure Time, Bravest Warriors, and Gravity Falls in a way that no other 32 year old is. I picked up the ” I Am Not Daredevil” shirt I’ve wanted ever since I saw it in Daredevil #7. We did an interview with Adam Warrock and he mentioned it again and it put it back on my radar. Well, I’ve got it now and it’s glorious. I also picked up an Peppermint Butler shirt that calls him “Dark One” (which makes sense if you watch the show). Because I am riding high on the new Agents of S.H.I.E.LD. show, I picked up a polo shirt and button up work shirt with both a shield patch and a patch that says “Phil”. We Love Fine has the best bags at the con every year and this year was no exception. I kept going back every day for a new bag!

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ONI Press

I love me some Scott Pilgrim! The hardcover color editions are so worth getting. I loved the original but this is one book that really benefits with the addition of color. Until the con, I only had Volume 1 in color and this was a perfect excuse to get caught up. I picked up the Evil Edition variant covers because when else would I have the opportunity? In addition, I bought this amazing 1-Up Coin you HAVE to see!

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Skybound

I mentioned that I picked up the Walking Dead 10 Year Anniversary Black and White NYCC Exclusive Issue #1 but that’s not all I got at Skybound. I also picked up a Walkind Dead Onesie for my future son (awww!), a Survivors logo hat, and a number of 115 variants. I love me some Walking Dead!

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Funko Pop

When did Funko’s Pop Vinyl figures decide to completely dominate every fandom? I was scared to buy one for a long time. Because they have so many properties all at the same scale and design, I didn’t know how I wouldn’t become obsessed and try to get them all. I decided that if i would get any of them it would be for Adventure Time. On Thursday I got the last figure I needed from series 1 and found out that series 2 is out (but I could only find Gunter). Either way, these figures are obviously the coolest thing around.

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Comics

Oh yeah! Did you know you can get pretty much any comic at this HUGE comic convention? Who knew! I had a very narrow plan going into this con. I was only looking for issues of Uncanny X-Men that I didn’t have. I decided that I would make an effort to obtain the entire original X-Men title from 1964′s issue #1 to today. Well, I picked up about 40 issues I didn’t have. The latest issue I need is currently 140 but I bought a number of them well before that (including a great copy of #96). Besides Uncanny X-Men, I got a the last few Villains Month 3D covers I didn’t have and the latest TMNT trade paper back from IDW.

Robert Kirkman Signing

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Signed Walking Dead #1 10th Anniversary Edition (NYCC Exclusive)

Like I mentioned in my NYCC 2013 review, I walked right in with the very first people to hit the con on Thursday due to our VIP Badges. It’s sooo overwhelming when you first get there. Just getting acclimated to the booths and where things are…it’s intimidating. One of the things I knew I wanted was the NYCC Exclusive Black & White Variant of the 10th Anniversary Walking Dead #1. I didn’t really know how limited it would be but I knew that Walking Dead fans are as rabid as the zombies in the comics. So, as soon as I saw Skybound, I went right for it. I was one of maybe a few dozen (at first) there and they were unprepared for the opening. To be fair, they let us VIPs in 15 minutes early for some reason (I wasn’t complaining) but they weren’t ready to sell us anything. I just wanted my comic so I could run around and get more exclusives. There was no line just a growing crowd pushing us into a clump. I said to the guy next to me: “All this for an exclusive cover, huh?”. He looked at me weird and said, “this is the line for Kirkman’s autograph.” Right after he said that I found out that the Image guys picked my side as the front of the “line”. They said he was only taking 75 people to sign books so I figured if I was lucky enough to be in the right place I might as well take advantage.

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Skybound Booth at NYCC 2013

I got a Skybound wristband and was told that the signings would begin for the 75 of us in 45 minutes. Since I knew the line wouldn’t be that bad, I went to the other end of the booth and bought the Exclusive cover I wanted and a couple of issue 115′s variants I didn’t have and preceded to look around the floor. What I missed was the other half of us nuts who queued up around the Marvel booth to get a Rocket Raccoon plush.

I figured I missed that boat so I went in line to wait for Kirkman. While in line I noticed that everyone else in line had a short box of comics with Walking Dead issues bagged and boarded with cutouts like real pros. Also, I noticed that everyone looked less like your typical comic fans and more like regular guys (not really sure how I would back up that statement…more of a feeling). We were told that we could only have 10 items signed by Mr. Kirkman and that devastated most in line.

Let me tell you a little bit about my relationship with The Walking Dead comic and Robert Kirkman. My friend Mark Welser is and has been one of the biggest Savage Dragon fans on the planet. Year ago, Mark told be about Robert and that he was also a big Savage Dragon fan and a member of their message board. He self published a book called Battle Pope which I picked up at the 2001 Wizard World Chicago Con (Kevin Smith even mentioned it in his panel as loving the concept – “A Battling Pope. What’s not to like?”). When Image put an effort into producing some new super hero comics, I noticed Invincible and have been reading it since.

img_1754Which takes us to the Walking Dead. I have been a zombie fan for a long time and it wasn’t that hard of a sell for me to pick up a zombie book written by a writer I already quite liked and was pulling for. It was even easier when I saw the art of Tony Moore. I was hooked and telling my friends about the book for the first few issues all the time. The idea that the first trade came out the same day as #7 (collecting 1 through 6) and was only $10 helped me convert a few non comic readers to pick this book up.

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Robert Kirkman Daredevil Sketch

Skip ahead a year to the 2004 Wizard World Chicago. I’m there with my friend Mark (who even did a pin-up in a Super Patriot mini-series Kirkman wrote) and convinced him to get the past year of Walking Dead comics. I mean…why not…they were all still cover price and they had piles of them (oh to have a time machine…). We then went to Kirkman and Moore and talked to them about the the series and where it was going and it was great. This book was still really small and hadn’t nearly blown up yet. I collect Daredevil sketches and I even had Kirkman draw one for me. He was working on Captain America at the time so he said he could draw Cap with Horns.

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Pre-Marvel Zombies – Daredevil by Tony Moore

I asked Tony if he would draw Daredevil as a Zombie because I loved his zombies and I’d remember it as him then. It turned out great and I told Kirkman he should bring back the obscure Marvel character Mort The Dead Teenager. He told me he’s not a one trick pony and wasn’t going to be working on any other zombie books. Keep in mind, this is BEFORE Marvel Zombies (which I should get some credit for…don’t you think?).

All that story is suppose to illustrate my history with the comic. I am one of the few who had been there since day one because I was already a Kirkman fan. I’m not trying to sound like a hipster Walking Dead fan but it’s why I didn’t see Kirkman as a Rock Star or a Celebrity. I see him as a solid comic book writer and a real person. So when these guys in line were grumbling that they couldn’t get their 90+ books signed, I didn’t get where they were coming from. I mean…I do. They’re scalpers and not fans. The guy behind me asks me, “how many books are you having him sign?”. I thought about it for a second and I said, “I guess…three?” I then told him: “They’re for me so I mean one is actually fine but I figured I’m here so I could get these ones signed too.” He looked at me like I was the village idiot. My books weren’t even bagged and boarded with windows cut out for him to sign (I just bought them). He told me he had 90 books he wanted signed (seriously 90) and wanted to know if he could pay me to have 7 of his books added to what I was allowed to be signed. I said no problem but I didn’t need money…I wasn’t really doing anything.

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Kirkman right before the signings began.

Looking back on it now, I wonder if I should have just said no. I wanted to help the guy out because look…everyone has the right to make some money and if people are willing to pay and if Kirkman was willing to sign, where’s the harm? Well, he then did the same deal with a few others in line and he made sure everyone had the maximum number of books. By the time I got to Kirkman he was…despondent, head down, and out of it. I don’t blame him at all and felt terrible for him. Here’s a guy who is Hollywood big. He doesn’t need to be here and doesn’t need to even still be writing all these great comics. I’m sure he does this stuff for the fans that got him to where he is today. Meanwhile, he could be personalizing each of these signatures to eBay for all it meant to these people.

I tried to cheer him up with the 2 minutes I had. I told him not to worry that the line was almost done. I then said that I’ve been there since the beginning and thanks for all the great stories. More than anything, I wanted a quick photo of him to remember the show by. I asked him if I could get the obligatory selfie and if he could look like he just saw a ghost. That made him smile for a second and he looked up. I got the shot and made my way out of the line.

He added a poster for his next series, “Outcast” and the title’s artist, Paul Azaceta, signed it as well. More than anything, I’m excited he’s got a new series underway. Bottom line, I’m a big Kirkman fan and getting to see him again in all his success was really great. He’s the real deal. A comic book fan turned pro turned celebrity all the time giving back to the fans time and again even if some of them are just trying to make a buck from him.

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My picture with Robert Kirkman

Image/Skybound guys – Might I make a suggestion? Why not a lottery for signings? The others in the line knew the system that I just stumbled into and took full advantage of it. I’m glad I got my time but I think most in that line were just using Robert to sell goods.

*Update

Robert Kirkman sent me a tweet about this which means he read this rant. I took him away from creating great comics and TV. To all the fans, I apologize! Seriously though, what a great sport. He’s got a fan for life in me.

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