I’ve been to comic conventions before, but nothing like this. My first one was when I was 14: my mom drove me to the local Holiday Inn and I spent an hour looking at back issues of local retailers. My next convention was approximately 12 years later. My at the time girlfriend and myself drove down to Denver, to another hotel for the local Sci-Fi / Trek / Comic convention. It was mostly Star Trek stuff, as several Trek actors were going to be there. I don’t remember seeing any comics creators. There were some local self publishers and local retailers with back issues, that was about it.
Then in 2002 I went to the SPACE convention in Columbus, OH. It was the biggest convention I had ever been to. Tons of small press and indy comics creators hawking their books. It was good times.
Fast forward 6 years. All of a sudden I’m going to two major conventions: the New York Comiccon and San Diego International Comiccon. The NYCC was this past weekend, and it was quite different from all the other conventions I’ve been to in the past.
Jeff T and myself took the train down, and were greeted at Penn station by Lenny. He gave us the five cent tour of NYC as we walked the couple of blocks to the Ginger Man bar. After some taste stouts for the guys and a ginger ale for me (though I was disappointed that they didn’t have real ginger ale, just some Schweppes stuff) along with some warm pretzels and very tasty spicy mustard, we took the local rail back to Lenny’s place. It was 1am in the morning, but we still had time to drool over Lenny’s Amazing Fantasy #15, Avengers #4 and 40 long boxes of comics.
One early wake up and several pastries later, we were off on the express rail to the city. At Grand Central station we met up with a friend of Lenny’s, got some more coffee and pastries and at 9:30am walking into the Javits center. We had to hunt for plastic holders for our tickets, though the lanyards were right up front. When we did find plastic holders, they were of the wrong size. I folded my ticket a bit and shoved it in the holder and started the hunt for the line to get in to the show.
There were people walking around with bright yellow shirts that said volunteer, so we asked them where the line to get in started. They pointed us all the way over to the other side of the convention center. The line was on the main convention floor area, taking up approximately 1/3 of the area, but walled off from the actual floor. The amount of people already waiting was impressive. And more just kept coming in. By the time the convention floor opened at 10am, the entire large path for the line must have been full. Granted, there was large “holes” in the center of the line, this being one of the two:
But still, about the only time I’ve been in crowds that size is leaving a concert or a sporting event. I took this in the spot of the line along one wall, and to the left is the “front” of the line, after heading thru that pass the line turned left and a short walk later was on the con floor. The people waiting to the right were the “back” of the line. The convention floor opened at 10am and the line started to move very slowly. Then stop. Then move slowly some more. Then stop. It repeated this cycle until we got on the con floor at 10:40am.
Surprisingly enough, even with a crowd that size, in an enclosed space like that, the air felt cool. They must’ve cranked up the air conditioning, it felt great. At times I could actually feel the cold breeze and I got a bit chilly.
We wanted to see the Steve Gerber Memorial at 11am, so we looked at the map for the panel rooms. They were on a lower level, not accessible from the main convention floor. So after waiting in line for over an hour, we had to leave the main floor. We saved some seats, and in a few moments Nate O and Mark B caught up with us. The Memorial was hosted by Mark Evanier, who while being funny was at the same time reverent. Then a few other comics professionals spoke, including Paul Levitz and Gail Simone, and then Steve’s daughter and his partner spoke. They showed an old Merry Christmas video made by the animation studio Steve worked at, and opened with a presentation of Steve’s work. My eyes started to tear up and it was all I could do to stop from crying. It was a good memorial, and as Mark said while starting it, he would say Steve would’ve wanted to be there, but he was there – his ashes were in a box on the table, and they should throw them in the faces of the publishers there. Ha!
After the memorial we parted ways with Nate O, who wanted to look around, and was leaving early to go see a show. We headed up to say hello to the Comic Geek Speak and Indie Spinner Rack guys. Having paid for my dinner with the ISR guys, Marc and myself took off to a have a look see around. We knew we wanted to see a bit of Garth Ennis’ panel for Dan Dare and then Grant Morrison’s panel, so we had a couple hours to wander around the floor.
Up and down the aisles we went, hitting the publishers booths and then Artist’s Alley. We were just walking up and down Artist’s Alley, seeing who was there and occasionally snapping a picture. Unlike SPACE, these artists were not trying to get you to come to their booths – no puppy dog eyes pleading with you to buy their books. These creators were busily working on commissions or talking to a small crowd gathered around their booths. If I had some money I would’ve asked Kevin Maguire, Peter Laird or Jim Steranko for sketches. As it was, I settled for some pictures. When I went to snap Steranko’s picture, what would’ve been a nice waist up shot, he put his hand up covering his face and said “No pictures please.” Ohhhhhkay. So I turned off my camera and put it down. I asked him if I could at least shake his hand, which he graciously said yes – and I thanked him for all his great comics work. He clasped my hand with both hands and said we’ll always have this moment.
Sure, but I’d like a picture too as memory fades with age.
We walked around the DC Booth,and while we were looking around there Gail Simone appeared about 3 feet away from me. I walked over an introduced myself as “Margaret Liss, Cerebus Fangirl”, which made me feel a bit egotistical, but I figured she wouldn’t have remembered my name, and prolly knows other Margarets, which one am I? Ohh, the one that likes Cerebus. She was all smiles and shook my hand and said hello. She didn’t have the look of recognition in her eyes, in fact she was with someone and had that con-glaze look in her eyes. . . the WTF am I doing now, where am I going and why is this person stopping me and talking to me? I was saying something and her 1,000 yard stare was off in the distance and then she started talking to the person she had walked into the DC booth area with. So wow, only a couple hours into the con and Gail was already . . .not really bewildered, but thinking of too many other things to remember our “chats” from her forum and email. Total opposite reception then I got from the first time I met Dave, but what can I say? Gail isn’t Dave.
The Garth Ennis program was labeled as “Dan Dare” in the program, with Garth’s name only appearing in the small print in the back. So this large room (several smaller ones put together actually) with all these free comics lying around on the seats, were empty. It wasn’t that crowded at all. We left halfway through, so we could get in the Grant Morrison panel.
The line stretched around the common area for the panel rooms and it took us a while to find the end of the line as there were several other lines forming nearby for several other panels. When we got in the room, it was packed, we grabbed two seats in the last row and sat down. People were still coming in, and it was standing room only for Grant. They opened with a monologue written by Grant, read by the moderator and pictures of Grant’s comics work and other things came up in a powerpoint presentation. Then it was just an open Q&A session for the crowd to shout out questions to Grant. Pretty fun. Except that there was no microphone for the people asking questions and we couldn’t hear a dang word they said. I don’t see how Grant heard them at all. There was a boom operator, but it looked as if he was there for the people videotaping the event. Because if he was there so we could hear the crowd’s questions, he and the sound crew sucked, as we could hear nothing.
After the Morrison panel was done, we tried to leave the room. There were two doors open on our side, and as soon as we started headed out both of them, someone shouted at us to only use one, as they were coming in for the next panel. I said a lot of good it is going to do you to get into the crowded room to get seats when we’re still standing in it and sitting on them. We would’ve been able to clear the room faster if your line wasn’t right in front of the doors and if you didn’t try to use one of the two doors from which we were egressing. Idiots.
We wandered around the convention floor some more, and went to meet up with Jeff and Lenny after they hit the Venture Brothers panel. We stood on the main floor and just looked down at the mess that was the panel room. Oy vey, it had actually gotten worse then when we left the Grant Morrison panel. Unbelievable.
When Lenny and Jeff got out of the panel, Mark said his goodbyes and left to go see his mother, just in from England. The remaining three of us took off shortly afterwards as well, as we were headed out to the ISR ‘all you could eat pizza’ dinner. That was a pretty good time, and lots of good food. I even managed to win some Garth Ennis autographed comics – The Boys and Dan Dare issues.
Dinner was over all too soon, and we headed out to see where we would all be going for post dinner drinks and chatting. Outside the sidewalks were full of people coming out of shows, most notably “Gyspy” which was right next door. We were hanging out talking to the Vampire Cowboy crew when Jeff said, hey, it’s Stan Lee. We were like, what the heck did you just say? When Stan Lee with another guy walked passed us. Everyone cheered and was saying things like “Stan ‘The Man’ Lee” and Hiya Stan! Mr. Lee turned around, smiled, waved and said hello back to us. Only in New York City.
We made up our minds were we were going and decided to get a cab, but to do so, we’d go to a main intersection as no cabs were coming down our street. We went up the street and turned the corner, and who was ahead of us? Stan Lee still. He probably thought we were stalking him. We kept walking and he stopped in front of Don Shula’s steak house, saw it was closed and turned around and passed us again.
Grabbing a cab, we headed to a small bar for drinks, or ginger ales as the case may be, and some chat. We had to make it back to Grand Central by 1:53 or our pumpkin would leave and we’d have to find another way out of the city. Fortunately, we made the 1:5am train back to the suburbs. And in good New York fashion, there was some woman who kept visiting the bathroom to do a little dry heaving. She’d stumble out of the restroom only to stumble back about 10 minutes later. Ahh, the fun of drinking too much.