I opted not to attend SDCC this summer, largely because of how crazy, overcrowded, and mainstream it’d become, and I needed a break, especially after last year. So I was extra excited to get my fangirl fix at this year’s New York Comic Con.
NYCC 2013 took place this past weekend, October 10-13, at the Javits Center in Manhattan. The sold-out four-day event, now in its eighth year, had over 130,000 attendees, making it about the same size as SDCC.
NYCC is getting bigger every year, and there are definite downsides to this.
- The show floor was as crowded as ever, especially with the expanded section dubbed “The Block.”
- This was the first year I didn’t get in to The Walking Dead panel (see recaps at EW and CBR or watch the panel on YouTube). On Saturday, I waited in line for Main Stage 1-D for three hours and made it almost to the entrance as the hundreds left in line got increasingly restless, shouting and knocking over barricades, then watched, crestfallen, as they closed the gate on us during the previous panel. (Missed the John Barrowman Q&A for nothing…)
- The Beat‘s Heidi MacDonald blogged about the unacceptable widespread sexism and harrassment at this year’s NYCC. All this despite the fact that, as she points out, “EVERYWHERE I LOOKED EVERYTHING ELSE WAS SO MUCH BETTER THAN IT USED TO BE. Everywhere I looked there were female creators, female characters, female editors, female fans.”
- There was also the controversy over ReedPOP, the company that puts on NYCC, hijacking and tweeting from attendees’ Twitter accounts (it even happened to me!), rightfully raising concerns about privacy. Stuff like this is a reminder that NYCC, like its San Diego counterpart, is a massive commercial venture that doesn’t always have the fans’ best interests at heart.
Still, I stand by my first impressions of NYCC from back in 2011 — even though NYCC is now about as big as SDCC, it somehow manages to feel more focused, intimate, and diverse.
That has a lot to do with the wide range of programming covering comics, TV, film, genre fiction, gaming, cosplay, comedy, etc., including several panels focused on diversity and social and political issues.
As Racialicious rightfully points out, there aren’t enough panels focused on diverse representation in media, and they started a great Twitter convo about the kinds of panels we need more of:
— Racialicious (@racialicious) October 11, 2013
I’m totally with Racialicious here, though I do want to increase their panel count a little bit. Issues of diversity and representation were discussed on a number of panels throughout NYCC, even if the panel titles and descriptions didn’t necessarily signal that they would. There’s definitely more of a burden on us fans to seek out those panels with diverse creators, artists, writers, producers, actors, etc., when Cons should be promoting them front and center.
I was especially bummed to miss “The Mary Sue Presents Representation in Geek Media” panel (damn you, TWD line), which was apparently packed half an hour before it started. The Mary Sue is “a guide to girl geek culture,” and their panel included their own Jill Pantozzi and Susana Polo, comics artist Jamal Igle, web cartoonist Kate Leth, writer N. K. Jemisin, and comics artist Phil Jimenez (see PCMag recap).
I was also sad to miss explicitly women-centric panels like “Women in Comics” (see Newsarama recap) and “Women of Marvel” (see LA Times Hero Complex recap), panels dealing with issues of race and featuring people of color like “Geeks of Color Assemble! Minorities in Fandom” (see PCMag recap) and “Boom! Bap! Pow!! Comic Book’s Influence on Hip-Hop Culture,” and panels working to change our culture in positive ways like “End Bullying! Responding to Cruelty in Our Culture.” And there were of course TV and film panels featuring diverse creators and casts like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. and Sleepy Hollow.
I’m all about panels, and I did manage to get to some stuff, a lot of which did deal with issues of diversity and representation. Here’s a recap:
Day 1, Thursday
- “New York Times Out and Geeks Out Present LGBT and Allies in Comics” (see recaps at Bleeding Cool, The Atlantic Wire, and Newsarama) started off with a fun video of fans talking about their fave queer comics characters, before turning to the panelists and their work. The panel featured Rich Bernatovech (writer of Sentinels), Dan Parent (writer/artist who created the first out gay character in Archie Comics), and, to my excitement, three influential Asian Americans in the industry, Marjorie M. Liu (bestselling writer who’s written a number of comics with queer characters, including Northstar and Kyle Jinadu’s wedding in Astonishing X-Men), Greg Pak (prolific comics writer and filmmaker who wrote Hercules and Howlett’s passionate kiss in X-treme X-Men), and Marvel editor Daniel Ketchum (see his interview at Gay-Nerds.com). Liu talked about wanting to play with stereotypes and challenge things we often take for granted in comics and pop culture, like race and the victimization of women. Pak (who was on four different panels this NYCC) talked about the importance of not reacting against stereotypes, giving the example of his Marvel character Amadeus Cho, who is Asian American and also a super genius. Pak stated that “no one character should have to sustain the hopes and dreams of a community” and that the solution was to create a ton of diverse characters. From an editor’s perspective, Ketchum noted that things have changed; they used to have to go all the way up the food chain to get approval for a LGBTQ character, which isn’t the case anymore, and they have a lot more freedom now, even in depicting teen gay characters and couples in Young Avengers. The moderator asked the panel to chime in on the controversy over at DC over their decision not to allow Batwoman to marry her girlfriend, supposedly because superheroes can’t be happy. Liu was the most vocal in disagreeing, arguing that getting married doesn’t mean there’s no tension, drama, or conflict, and she called the idea that superheroes have to be miserable “lazy storytelling.” The panel wrapped up with a lot of laughs, as the panelists talked about the LGBTQ characters they would want to hook up as couples.
- The “NYCC Thursday Night Kickoff” is always a good time. This year’s kickoff was an evening of stand-up with Comedy Mutant, featuring Brian Posehn, Mike Drucker, Myq Kaplan, Baron Vaughn, Trevor Moore, and special guest Janeane Garofalo. I especially loved Baron Vaughn, who slipped in a joke about being the token black comedian, and my fave bit by far was his dramatic singing of 80s and 90s cartoon theme songs for shows like DuckTales, TaleSpin, Chip ‘n Dale: Rescue Rangers, and Disney’s Adventures of the Gummi Bears. And of course I adore and worship Janeane Garofalo, who was as wonderfully scattered and ornery as ever, though I was bummed that she clearly wanted to do more leftist political content but the crowd wasn’t into it.
Day 2, Friday
- I was too late for “Felicia Day and Geek & Sundry Presents!,” so I went to check out “will.i.am’s Wizards and Robots” (see the Wizards and Robots Tumblr page and CBR recap). will.i.am and futurist Brian David Johnson talked about their graphic novel Wizards and Robots, to be released next year, in which robots from the future battle ancient wizards in the present. I have to admit to being skeptical when I walked in, but their excitement and enthusiasm for the project was totally infectious. will.i.am connected the project to the work he does with inner city kids through his foundation i.am.angel. He was thinking about kids in the near future having to compete with technology and wanting to inspire young people to pursue science and math and see that they’re only limited by their imaginations. As a futurist, Johnson believes people can change the future by changing the stories people tell themselves about the future that they’ll live in. The project is a result of the two of them working together, without a company. They admitted the two of them should’ve never gotten together, which speaks to the power of effecting change through unexpected collaborations and community. will.i.am talked about how they’d planned to go to SDCC but he’d pulled out because he felt that was arrogant and wanted to do more work before presenting it. He emphasized their desire to really “build a world” and called the end result “next-level geeky shit.” And what they brought to show us looked pretty cool. They showed off a robot they built. Kaku is a robot historian from the year 3000 who has access to all of mankind’s knowledge (“all data is memory, and all memory is data”) and has sent back an artifact to us at NYCC (we’re part of the story!) to try and help us save the future. They showed off the artifact, which is a 3D-printed case containing booklets and an obelisk-shaped flash drive with info on the robots and the wizards, including the prequel “The Hope Algorithm.” will.i.am and Johnson insist that the story is rooted more in science fact than science fiction, and the idea that magic is just science we don’t understand yet. Looking forward to reading it.
- Part of why I love NYCC is that comics are still at the heart of this Con, and indie comics in particular have a big presence. I was so happy to catch a panel on one of my faves, “Eat, Read, Love: Chew‘s Ascendance” (see recaps from CBR and The Beat). Writer John Layman and artist Rob Guillory talked about their Eisner-Award-winning series Chew, about FDA agent Tony Chu who gets psychic readings off of whatever (or whomever) he eats. They talked about how funny and goofy the series is, in large part because of Guillory’s art, despite a lot of the gruesome subject matter and its start as a more of a cop procedural. They discussed the Showtime deal falling apart and their current talks to make Chew into an animated series. They teased the remaining story arcs (the series will wrap up with 60 issues), including the next Poyo-centered arc called “Chicken Tenders.” And IMO the best comment of the panel, Layman very plainly stated, “Comics are too white,” and talked about how the Chew universe is different. Layman also revealed that he rarely has to specify racial identities to Guillory, that he just chooses to draw diverse characters.
- Day 2 wrapped with more comedy at “CollegeHumor Live! at New York Comic Con Starring Kumail Nanjiani.” So awesome to see a person of color headlining a comedy lineup. Nanjiani is a bona fide nerd (he hosts with his wife Emily V Gordon a gaming podcast called The Indoor Kids) and he totally killed, whether he was joking about anime and video games or about growing up in Pakistan.
Day 3, Saturday
- The rest of my weekend was all about TV, which has really increased its presence at NYCC. Though a good chunk of my Saturday was spent unsuccessfully waiting in line for TWD, I did manage to catch the “Archer: Discussion and Q&A” panel earlier in the day (see IGN’s recap). FX handed out the best swag of the Con — everyone in the audience got an Archer beanie on the way in. We got to see the season 5 premiere episode (including some pretty cool animated storyboards). Then the show’s creator Adam Reed and cast members H. Jon Benjamin, Jessica Walter (her first Con! so fun to see her blown away by fans cosplaying as her character), Aisha Tyler (Queens of the Blerds!), Judy Greer, Amber Nash, and Lucky Yates talked about some of what we can expect next season, in hilarious fashion of course. No spoilers here, except to say that everything’s gonna change for the ISIS gang in season 5, which will premiere in January 2014. Till then, get your fix by (re)watching Archer‘s awesome “Danger Zone” music video promo.
Day 4, Sunday
- Afraid I might not get into the X-Files panel after Saturday’s disappointment, I parked it in Main Stage 1-D all day on Sunday (though there turned out to be no line at all). Started the day with Syfy’s “Defiance: A New Earth – with New Rules” (see IGN’s recap or watch on YouTube). I haven’t seen it yet, but based on the clips we saw and comments by the panel — producer Michael Nankin, and stars Grant Bowler, Julie Benz (BtVS‘s Darla and Dexter‘s Rita!), Jaime Murray (Warehouse 13‘s H. G. Wells!), and Stephanie Leonidas — I think I’ll start watching before season 2 premieres in June 2014. Any show with a ton of kick-arse female characters (and aliens, of course) makes my to-bingewatch list. Plus, the transmedia tie-in with the MMO game of the same name seems innovative and thoughtfully done.
- Next up was The League panel (see WeGotThisCovered recap). We were treated to a new ep from season 5, “Flowers for Taco” airing next week — so wrong but so funny. Then creators Jackie Schaffer and Jeff Schaffer, and cast members Mark Duplass, Katie Aselton, Paul Scheer, Jonathan Lajoie, Stephen Rannazzisi, and Jason Mantzoukas basically replicated the hilariously improvised dynamic of the show on stage. They talked about their real fantasy football league and about what’s in store for each of their characters this season.
- Then it was another FX/FXX panel, for the new animated series Chozen (see IGN’s recap). The show’s about a gay white rapper, newly released from prison, on a quest for redemption. And after seeing the premiere ep, I don’t think I’ll be tuning in for this one. First of all, there were a lot of gay jokes, as you might expect. And even though they’re not necessarily at Chozen’s expense, the fact that he’s super horny for man meat perpetuates a tired stereotype and, more importantly, just isn’t that funny. Secondly, IMO the underlying tone is a bit ineffective in its earnestness. It was clear from creator Grant Dekernion’s comments that he truly thinks of Chozen as an inspirational figure. But I just wasn’t buying it. From what I saw, there just wasn’t enough for me to care about or root for Chozen. That said, I was so happy to see SNL‘s Bobby Moynihan (Drunk Uncle!) and Wu-Tang Clan’s Method Man! Best moment of the panel: when Meth freestyled about NYCC, with Moynihan and Dekernion laying down the beat. So good!
- And finally, what I’d been waiting all day and all Con for: “Gillian Anderson & David Duchovny Talk X-Files” (see recaps from Vulture and Screen Rant). This year marks the 20th anniversary of The X-Files, probably the first cult science-fiction show to really go mainstream and become a huge pop-culture phenomenon. Duchovny kicked off the panel by recording us singing happy birthday en masse to creator Chris Carter. Then the two of them took a ton of questions and comments from the audience. They confirmed that they, including Carter, would love to do a third movie, and Anderson and Duchovny would want it to be about aliens. In response to a fan comment, Anderson talked about how Agent Scully had inspired generations of girls to pursue science and other related fields. They were asked to improv a scene as Mulder and Scully, and it got weird and hilarious as they pretended to be talking on the phone. And in the end, the panel was all about the love. The love between the two of them — it was apparent that their chemistry and affection for each other haven’t faded at all. Of course the deep, abiding love the fans, old and new, have for the show, and several commented on how the show had brought them closer with their families or friends. And love was how the panel ended, as the last question of the day was a fan who asked for the stars’ blessing as he proposed to his girlfriend. Anderson and Duchovny brought them up to congratulate them and wish them a long and happy marriage.
*sigh* Such a happy, uplifting note to conclude another great Con, despite all the problems and issues that come with a pop-culture event of this magnitude. And I firmly believe that continuing to talk about how to make NYCC and other Cons better and safer and more diverse is the best way of keeping that nerd love alive.
Already counting the days till NYCC 2014!