Growing up GEEK: My NYCC retrospective
New York Comic Con is an annual comic book, pop culture and overall nerd convention held in Manhattan. Many things have changed since its inception in 2006, as geek has become ‘chic’ and mainstream, when it used to exist in obscurity. This year marks my twelfth annual attendance at New York Comic Con and I wanted to look back and share some of my favorite memories and discuss what I am looking forward to this year, and for the future of New York Comic Con.
My very first New York Comic Con was in 2008. Previous to this, I had been to a few anime conventions in the DC/Maryland area such as Katsucon and Otakon. My brother really wanted to go to Comic Con, and when I saw that there were some movie panels and guests I’d be interested in seeing, I was sold. We convinced our mom that we should go, and applied for press passes for our small website. Somehow we got approved and were all able to attend the entire weekend for free in exchange for posting coverage on our website. My brother was excited to interview one of his favorite comic writers, Brian Wood. I wasn’t super into comics at the time and was mostly looking forward to the entertainment panels like The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian, with guests from the cast of the film such as Ben Barnes and Peter Dinklage. Other standout panels were Journey to the Center of the Earth featuring Brendan Fraser and Harold and Kumar go to White Castle with John Cho, Kal Penn and Neil Patrick Harris. There were a few big panels we didn’t make it to this year including Hellboy II: The Golden Army and The Incredible Hulk. This was a really magical time for NYCC where they were able to book huge stars who were made very accessible to attendees. There were no barricades and after each panel, fans rushed the stages for autographs and pictures.
We had such a great time at our first NYCC that we knew we had to go back the following year. This year was big for video games, something the con rarely features as prominently anymore. Rockstar Games had a large booth promoting Red Dead Redemption: Undead Nightmare where you could play the game ahead of its release and pick up some free swag. There were also great panels for gamers featuring video games such as Gears of War, Splatterhouse, Wanted and Prototype. One of the best gaming panels of the weekend was a discussion with Bioshock developer Ken Levine and Fallout developer Todd Howard. There were some great TV and movie panels this year as well for shows like Fringe and Dollhouse and the films Up, The Hurt Locker and Surrogates. Being fully immersed in comic culture for the second year encouraged me to start reading more comics and graphic novels. Some of my favorites of the time include Sweet Tooth by Jeff Lemire and Sandman by Neil Gaiman.
I would consider the following year a landmark year for New York Comic Con. This was the very first The Walking Dead panel and the entire cast was there to promote the show along with creator Robert Kirkman. No one knew at the time just how big of a juggernaut this show would become and that it would be one of the biggest panels at every NYCC from then on. There were some other big changes for the convention in 2010 including moving to October and combining forces with Anime Fest. The highlight for me this year was meeting Adrian Brody who was there promoting the newest Predators film.
The following year was my first foray into Cosplay. I dressed as the Sandman character Death and also wore a cheap party city Batman costume. This year the convention expanded for the first time to include Thursday. This was only open to press, professionals and VIPs so it was less crowded and easier to traverse the show floor. The most notable panel of this year was The Avengers with cast members including Chris Evans, Mark Ruffalo and Tom Hiddelston. I don’t remember any other panels from this year and yet it still remains in my memory as ‘the best year’ simply because of The Avengers. This was also the year I moved from the DC area to NYC. This made attending the convention so much more convenient and I knew my way around the city better than before.
Musicians have always had a presence in the comics industry. From indie artist Max Bemis (Say Anything) to radio rockers Coldplay, many have made the leap from musician to comic writer/creator. You can generally find a few rockstars at NYCC on the show floor or in the artist alley, like Billy Martin (Good Charlotte) and Claudio Sanchez (Coheed and Cambria). In 2012, they had Slipknot lead singer, Corey Taylor and My Chemical Romance frontman Gerard Way in attendance promoting their new comics. I actually didn’t know who Corey Taylor was, but got a photo with him anyway after chatting with him at the Dark Horse booth. They also incorporated music into the con with a live performance by Ben Folds 5. Flash forward to present day and even more musicians are getting into comics including Darryl McDaniels of Run D.M.C, LIGHTS and Steve Aoki. I also did cosplay again this year, dressing as Knives Chau from the comic/film Scott Pilgrim Vs. The World.
In 2013 I met my soon-to-be husband (then boyfriend) and brought him to his first ever New York Comic Con. My brother was most excited for the GTA5 and Person of Interest panels this year. I enjoyed all of the Adult Swim content and the X-Files reunion. My mom was interested in meeting Kevin Bacon, which she did. This was also the first year the general public was able to purchase Thursday tickets, which resulted in higher attendance matching that of San Diego Comic Con.
In 2014 the con grew even more, reaching over to 150,000 attendees and surpassing that of San Diego Comic Con. NYCC was now the largest comic book convention in North America. I did a few more signings and spent more time in the artist alley this year than I usually do. I got a print signed by James O’Barr (creator of The Crow) and a book signed by Peter S. Beagle (author of The Last Unicorn).
One of my favorite things that happened at Comic Con in 2015 is something I did not even witness… Mark Ruffalo and Jared Leto walking around the show floor wearing masks. One thing to always be on the lookout for at NYCC is celebrity sightings. Not every guest is announced on the website so you never know who you might run into. This was a really fun year where they outfitted one of the entrances to look like the Jurassic World park entrance and set up a Back To The Future ‘Pepsi Perfect’ area complete with a Delorean. This was also the first year the con expanded past the Javits to include the Theatre at Madison Square Garden and Hammerstein Ballroom. The addition of the 7-train line at Hudson Yards also made the convention easier to get to than ever before.
NYCC made a few logistical changes in 2016. They added a Fan Registration requirement and ditched the “VIP” tickets. One of of my favorite things from this year was the Trollhunters panel. This was a new animated series directed by Guillermo Del Toro and he was there along with some of the cast including Ron Perlman and Kelsey Grammar who were not announced as guests. They brought out a cake and sang “Happy Birthday” to Del Toro who’s birthday was that day. This year also featured a ton of off-site events and parties. The War for the Planet of the Apes screening and panel at a nearby movie theatre was a ticket lottery you had to win to gain entry. They showed the trailer as well as some unfinished clips still in the post-production process which showcased the incredible amount of work that goes into making this type of film. Andy Serkis was there along with director Matt Reeves to answer questions and discuss the franchise. They also gave out t-shirts to everyone who attended. The party to beat this year was the Adult Swim “Tyrannic Third Maiden Voyage” which was free with RSVP. They had Flying Lotus perform a DJ set on board the ship as they took everyone on an hour long cruise. Afterwards they gifted tons of swag like tote bags and posters.
2017 is the year New York Comic Con notoriously ditched 3-day and 4-day tickets. Everyone had to buy individual tickets for all 4 days and it was definitely not a very popular change. Looking back at the schedule it was a pretty great year with big movie panels including Replicas, Pacific Rim Uprising and a Psych Reunion and movie sneak peek. They also had tons of TV shows from networks such as SYFY, ABC, Amazon, TBS, Hulu and more. There were a few off-site events like the Mr.Robot E-Corp party which included free food and drinks as well the Westworld experience which was an immersive VR game complete with in-character actors.
The more I attend, the less ambitious I am about trying to see and do everything. I probably went to less panels than previous years and spent less money on the show floor. I missed some things I was hoping to get into such as the Netflix and Chills panel which featured Sabrina the Teenage Witch, Umbrella Academy and the Haunting of Hill House. I also went to some things that I was not expecting, such as the Unknown 9 Immersive experience at the McKitrick hotel. I attended my 9th annual Walking Dead panel, this one being Andrew Lincolns last. It was a very emotional goodbye for a lot of the cast, many of whom had a hard time holding back tears on the stage. The convention also partnered with Anime Expo in 2018, but I couldn’t tell you anything about that as it was in an entirely different location and required a separate ticket to attend.
2019 and beyond…
Over the years I’ve become somewhat of a comic-con veteran. I’ve learned where the best lunch spots are, how to get into panels with relative ease, which bathrooms have the shortest lines and exactly what to bring and wear to be comfortable all weekend. One thing I am really looking forward to this year is the addition of the NYCC book club in collaboration with Penguin Random House. Fans had a chance to sign up to receive a book to read ahead of the con in one of four genres. I got the horror book, which I loved, and get to attend a discussion as well as receive a bunch of free swag. As video games have become less prevalent over the years at NYCC, I’m excited that there is a panel this year for the game Sea of Thieves. There are a few movie panels that require fans to enter a ticket lottery to attend including 1917 and Servant. Both screenings/panels seem to also be open to the public and do not require a New York Comic Con badge. Speaking of badges, thankfully the fans were heard and the convention brought back 4-day badges.
I look forward to the future of the convention, and wonder how things will continue to change. I am hopeful that one year there will be something on the badges other than The Walking Dead. Perhaps they will once again have a panel as gargantuan as The Avengers. Maybe in ways, NYCC is as big as it ever was and it’s magic has simply dulled for me after over a decade. And yet, I still find myself counting down the days until this years convention.
I may not be as current on comics as I used to be, but there are a few that have caught my eye recently. Here are some of my recommendations:
Gideon Falls by Jeff Lemire
Monstress by Marjorie Liu
Snotgirl by Bryan Lee O’Malley