Last weekend, October 13-16, New York Comic Con took over the Javits Center in Manhattan.  NYCC 2011 attracted a record 105,000 attendees over the 4 days, up from 96,000 attendees just last year.

I’ve been going to San Diego Comic-Con International (AKA SDCC or “the” Comic-Con) for a few years now, but this was my first time at NYCC.  Here are some of my first impressions (and inevitable comparisons to SDCC):

The Con Overall

  • Room to grow – It’s having some growing pains, but that’s to be expected from such a young Con (it was first held in 2006) that’s still experiencing a lot of firsts (this was the first 4-day NYCC and the first year they sold out of 4-day, 3-day, Saturday, and Sunday passes).  Look for NYCC to get bigger and hopefully better every year.
  • Good things do come in small(er) packages – As The New York Times reported in their NYCC coverage, there are benefits to being No. 2.  In general, NYCC felt more focused, more intimate, more local than its San Diego counterpart, which felt especially crazy and unsustainable to me this past July.
  • Education matters – Unlike SDCC, NYCC counts educators and librarians as industry professionals, which means we can score $10 4-day pro passes. Makes sense to me, since we’re often the ones out there inculcating young, impressionable minds with a love of comics and pop culture!  There were also several panels geared toward this group, like “Digital Comics & Libraries – Past, Present & Future” and “RWP 2.0 – The Future of Comics in the Classroom,” and even a couple on gaming and libraries.
Cosplay

via sweetlolipop-ai-ai.blogspot.com

  • More cosplay please – Cosplay is always a big part of any Con.  I didn’t see quite as many or as elaborate costumes as I typically see at SDCC, and a lot of the ones I did see appeared to be from anime or manga (I’m guessing, because I’m totally ignorant about that stuff), which makes sense since NYCC merged with the New York Anime Festival back in 2010.  It did seem that, if you put effort into a good costume, you’d get a lot of attention and really be appreciated.  (For example, there was a good Bumblebee at the Felicia Day panel, and he nearly stole the show.)  For coverage of some of the best cosplay at NYCC, check out MTV’s cosplay portraits and crazy costumes coverage, as well as galleries at 1up.com and the NY Daily News.
  • Overcrowded show floor – I was a little disappointed in just how crowded and chaotic the exhibit hall was.  An inside source told me that theft was a big problem as a result — not cool. It was hard to find specific booths, except for gaming, which had a huge presence and seemed to be everywhere.  And because I didn’t spend that much time on the floor, I didn’t score as much swag as I usually do at SDCC.  I’ll have to do more recon next year.
  • Diverse crowds – From my very unscientific observations, I saw a lot more people of color than I’ve ever noticed at SDCC.  Not too surprising, since NYC is the most densely populated major city in the U.S. and one of the most diverse urban settings in the world.  (So diverse, in fact, that half the city didn’t know what was happening and was really confused about why people seemed to be celebrating Halloween so early.  Heh.)  But there is something so awesome about that many different kinds of people all jammed together in one space, getting along, and sharing love of all kinds of nerdy things.
  • For more on diversity at NYCC, check out NPR’s “Comic Conventions Not Just for Nerds,” featuring an interview with Latoya Peterson, editor of the blog Racialicious.  I also ran across a great blog post entitled “An Ethnography of New York Comic Con” by Alyssa Rosenberg that kinda sums up what I was seeing/feeling:

“The other thing that stuck with me was the experience I’ve never had before, of being in a place essentially without a visible social hierarchy.  Some of that is because this is a temporary community, and some of it’s because everyone there is pulling a Clark Kent, taking off their workaday clothes and putting on what makes them comfortable and most them, whether it’s Chuck Taylors or some really fantastic ladies-fit purple Mandalorian armor.  But despite the fact that the audience ranged from black teenaged hipsters, to parents with their kids, to the standard, stereotypical white-dude comic fans, as well as up and down the age spectrum, it was essentially impossible to tell who had power among the attendees. […] by the temporary nature of the situation, there’s no way to tell who’s cool, maybe because for once, for a couple of days, it just doesn’t matter.”

  • Diverse programming – There was a really wide range of programming, something for everyone, including a good number of panels that dealt with race and politics and using pop culture for good.  I couldn’t make it to everything I was interested in and was especially bummed to miss stuff like “It Gets Better (With Comics!)” — which focused on the question, “How can comics help at-risk LGBT teens?” — and “Always Bet on Black,” covering the history of black heroes.  Also missed the panel for the new Adult Swim animated series Black Dynamite, based on the 2009 film (see video from the panel at Adult Swim).  We fangirls and fanboys are ready and hungry for pop culture that reflects who we are and makes a difference, so let’s hope for more panels like these in NYCC’s future.

Black Dynamite comic

The Panels

IMHO, the panels are the best part of NYCC.  The rooms (and the lines for the rooms) were smaller than at SDCC, and the panels (even in the biggest theaters) felt pretty intimate and communal as a result.  (I really wanted to tell the whiny line noobs behind me how I’d waited in line for 6 hours to get into Ballroom 20 at SDCC.)  The fact that they don’t have as many popular TV and film panels as SDCC is a blessing in disguise.  What they do have is really good, and they seem to be getting more of it every year.

Here are some of the panels I enjoyed this year:

Felicia Day

Felicia Day, of course

  • Felicia Day Spotlight – WOMEN RULE! seemed to be a popular theme, as well it should, with panels on Womanthology and on the women of Marvel, and titled things like “Girls Kick Butt: Strong Female Heroines in Young Adult Fantasy” (which you can watch on YouTube) and “We’re No Angels: Leading Ladies of SF/F.”  This message was also alive and well at the Felicia Day Spotlight (check out a recap of the panel at MTV Geek).  Moderated by the very funny Chris Hardwick, the panel featured, of course, Felicia Day, geek goddess of The Guild and Dr. Horrible’s Sing-Along Blog fame (and one of my biggest girl crushes), and her awesome Guild co-star Sandeep Parikh, who also created and is directing Legend of Neil, a webseries parody of the game Legend of Zelda.
  • Day talked about the pros and cons of producing your own stuff vs. just acting, which she compared to owning a small business vs. working for a big corporation: the former is more work, responsibility, and risk, but it’s ultimately more rewarding.  She described The Guild as really being about a group of people who find and form a family online — something she relates to, having moved around a lot growing up — and who become more confident in themselves because they have this community.
  • She talked about her new mini-webseries Dragon Age: Redemption, based on the popular game series from BioWare, and said she’d love to do more transmedia stuff, which she finds more organic and creative anyway.  The panel wrapped up by emphasizing that no one lacks the resources to tell a story these days, and Day advised an aspiring artist to make something for the love of it, for the right reasons.  Word.

Nikita Maggie Q poster

  • Nikita Nikita returned to NYCC with producer Albert Kim, the stunning and eloquent Maggie Q (who plays Nikita), and the handsome and reserved Shane West (who plays Michael).  They revealed some stuff about the direction of the show this season (check out a recap of the panel at The TV Addict), and Maggie Q, one of the very few Asian American leading ladies on TV, revealed some stuff about herself: no, she’s never formerly trained in martial arts — she had to learn quickly when she was starting out acting in Asia, which fundamentally shaped her work ethic; yes, she’ll go back to doing movies while on hiatus from the show; and also she’s currently working on a book, possibly about juicing.
  • Sony – The Sony panel provided awesome first looks at Underworld Awakening in 3D (coming out Jan. 20, 2012) and Total Recall (coming out Aug. 3, 2012, with John Cho as a supporting character!), and then treated the audience to an extended chat with Brian Taylor and Mark Neveldine, the two surprisingly smart and funny directors of Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance (coming out Feb. 17, 2012), who also brought us the Crank films (check out recaps of the panel at Cinema Blend and Screen Rant).  They talked about their desire to make “a superhero movie based on real sh*t”; their propensity for crazy stunts, which comes out of their background as guerrilla filmmakers; and their rule that if someone breaks a bone on set, they put it in the movie (which they confirmed did happen on Ghost Rider).
  • AMC’s The Walking Dead – One of the biggest panels at NYCC was for The Walking Dead, which included cast members Norman Reedus (who plays Daryl Dixon), Chandler Riggs (Carl Grimes), Lauren Cohan (Maggie Greene), Steven Yeun (Glenn), Laurie Holden (Andrea), Jon Bernthal (Shane Walsh), as well as producer and special effects guru Greg Nicotero, executive producer Gale Anne Hurd, and none other than the creator of The Walking Dead comics himself, Robert Kirkman.
  • The panel was moderated by Chris Hardwick (he was everywhere this Con), who is hosting a live aftershow on AMC about The Walking Dead called Talking Dead.  We got to see never-before-seen footage from the new season, which promises to be even bigger and better than the first.  Seeing the sexy and bright Yeun represent for Asian Americans was definitely a highlight.  And hands down the best quote came from Reedus, who described his character as needing a hug, “But if you try to hug him, he’ll try to stab you.”  Check out a full recap of the panel at EW.com.
  • Marvel Studios: Marvel’s The Avengers – The culminating panel in the IGN Theater on Saturday was Marvel’s The Avengers.  Kevin Feige, head of Marvel Studios, moderated a panel with Chris Evans (Steve Rogers/Captain America), Tom Hiddleston (Loki), Cobie Smulders (Maria Hill), Clark Gregg (Agent Phil Coulson), and Mark Ruffalo (Bruce Banner/The Hulk).  Swoon!  Some of the best moments included Ruffalo inventing a new word — “Ruffalize” — to talk about how he paid homage to previous Bruce Banners but still made it his own, and Gregg talking about how they were all in Albuquerque and Evans sent him the best text message ever: “Assemble.”  Heh.  The Q&A was a Hiddleston love fest, and I only wish the audience had had more questions for the other stars.  Check out recaps of the panel at HuffPo and EW.com, or watch the whole thing at io9.
  • Conan Spotlight – The last panel I made it to was the Conan Spotlight with Jason Momoa, Stephen Lang, and Rose McGowan.  There was no moderator, which was kinda nice, because it felt like we were all just sitting around and chatting.  They were all funny and articulate and seemed genuinely interested in talking with their fans.  They spoke about how there likely won’t be a sequel and how the business ended up at odds with the product, which all three of them seemed to be proud of, and McGowan in particular was critical of how the film’s distribution had been handled.
  • Momoa talked about a project that he wrote, Road to Paloma, a road/revenge movie based on the real issue of rape on American Indian reservations.  He also talked about how he wants to do a film that’s like a Hawaiian Braveheart and how he also wants to star in a romantic comedy, because he’s romantic and “funny as f*ck,” and he’s tired of frowning.  Somebody cast the man in a rom-com already!

Comic Con 2011

All in all, it was a great Con, and I’m super excited to see what NYCC has in store for next year.

For more on what went down this year, check out MTV’s coverage, as well as any of the websites and blogs mentioned above.

Comic Con NY 2011

UPI/Courtesy of Rob Boudon via Flickr

 

— CKH

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