I went to New York Comic-Con on Thursday, Friday, and Saturday. What follows is an unedited, sort of first-person, kind of gonzo account of a mad, sleepless weekend.
It's early Thursday morning.
Okay, it's nearly noon. But I'm a night person. I work an overnight job, and I sleep when I get home from it. To me, anytime before noon is an ungodly hour to be awake.
Nick and I are walking towards that giant amorphous blob called the Jacob K. Javits Center. Along the way, the crowd around us swells. With one look at us, it's obvious where we're all going.
We're going to Comic Con.
New York Comic Con, to be precise. To go to Comic Con is to go on a pilgrimage of sorts. Well, for me, anyway. Maybe it's just a trip for you, but whatever. See, I've never actually been to Comic Con before this. It's not that I didn't want to go; it's just that circumstance generally prevented me from doing so.
Not this time. Things are different this time.
This time, I have a press badge.
I work for B-TEN.com, an up-and-coming gaming news website. I applied for a press badge to NYCC sort of randomly, not expecting any kind of response.
Lo and behold, they sent me a press badge! I am free to go in and out of NYCC as I see fit!
Okay, not really. They're pretty strict about what a press badge entails. But I do get to go.
We arrive at the Javits Center. Have you ever seen this building? It's generally unattractive. It serves it's purpose-in fact, it excels at it's purpose, but the outside of it is just so…
This is what animal poop looks like in Minecraft.
Anyway. We arrive. Nick and I are quickly separated, as he has to go pick up his badge at the window. Not me, though. For I am press. Apparently. NYCC considers me press, that's the important thing.
I noticed a funny thing about that press badge. When people notice it, I am treated to one of exactly two responses. Either they A) ask me about it with a sense of awe and wonder, or B) look at me as if I have committed some kind of crime.
I prefer A, but I fully understand B.
I'm directed towards the queue where I have to "tap in." Essentially you have to press your badge to a tablet held by a friendly staffer. An unusually jovial staffer notices my press badge. "PRESS! YES!", he shouts, directing me to the tablet-holder. I wonder why he's so cheery? Is this his first convention, like me? Does he have the slightest idea how many people are going to be here? I hope he can stay that upbeat. I hope I can stay upbeat.
I tap in, and I walk into the convention floor.
The first thing I notice is a giant Smaug, from The Hobbit.
The second thing I notice is the sound.
Comic Con is filled with an unrelenting drone. Like you're trapped in a hornet's nest. Everyone can't hear each other, so they yell-which adds to that droning sound. Occasionally the drone is altered by someone with a megaphone. Or maybe you pass by a TV displaying a new game, anime, movie, etc.
But there's something funny about that drone.
It's a happy drone. It contributes to the third thing I notice.
The third thing I notice about the convention floor is the energy. You can just feel the positive vibes all around you. Maybe this is just an amalgamation of the colorful booths, the crazy costumes, and so many smiling faces. Or maybe that energy is really there, coursing through you, and suddenly you're part of it, letting it direct you, guiding you to the cool comics and figures.
You can expect crowds much like this. There was a guy dressed as Waldo, and he might be in this shot somewhere.
There's costumes everywhere; people will cosplay as virtually everything. They stop and pose for pictures. I ran into my friend Heather and bounded around with her for awhile. She got into a discussion with a Deathstroke cosplayer about costume materials and lost me about two seconds in.
The sensory overload is overwhelming. This must be the opposite of one of those sensory-deprivation experiments, like in Altered States or something. Whereas, in a sensory-deprivation tube, you're deprived of everything buy your thoughts, here you don't have time to think. Every sense is on full blast; my brain shuts off, in a way, and I resolve to go where the flow takes me.
There's an abundance of things. I know this sounds obvious, but I don't believe one can fully expect the sheer amount of objects present in this building. Stand in any one spot at the Con, and you can find anime, movies, comics, figures, plush toys, posters, bags, mugs, video games, board games, t-shirts, model kits, and lunchboxes. To name a few.
Eventually I met up with Nick. Meeting up with a friend at Comic Con is sort of a cat-and-mouse game. You text your friend, they text you back with their location. You make your way there, but it takes you a good 20 minutes to get anywhere due to the most people in one spot you've ever seen.
And by the time you arrive at your friends' location, they've moved on. So you repeat the process. Insanity defined.
But we figure it out, and together we gape at Smaug's eye (it opens!), and then we wander the convention floor.
Nick's goal at Comic Con is to go to the Vocaloid Panel. I look at the list of panels, and there's not really a lot of panels I wanna attend. I didn't plan my Comic Con like everyone else. Figured I'd just wing it.
I don't know how to Con.
I do know a good costume when I see one, though.
We gape at collectible figures. We see comics on sale. We spot some old video games. We even walk by Sgt. Slaughter, signing autographs. He looks pretty put out. We don't get autographs.
Don't you think $30 for an autograph and another $30 for a "photo-op" is a bit extreme? I understand that autograph signing is a source of income for guys like the Sarge, but if you were getting an autograph, you'd think they could throw in a quick photo op. Just grin and let me take like a selfie with you or something; I don't care. Alas.
Nick soon departs for the Vocaloid panel, leaving me to wander the floor solo. I kind of amble around and very nearly crash into a table, behind which sits the great Jonathan Coulton.
Jonathan Coulton (JoCo) is a kind of folk rock musician who writes quirky songs about…stuff. Like writing code, Ikea, and suburban life. He's a magnificent songwriter, who also did "Still Alive" and "Want You Gone" from Portal and Portal 2, respectively. I'd wager 20% of great songs are written by JoCo. Maybe that's just the songs on my iPod, but still. Check him out if you haven't heard his stuff.
A sign at the table he occupies reads, in fairly bold lettering, NO PHOTOGRAPHY. Okay.
So I approach JoCo, and am so dumbfounded, me being a big fan and all, that I can think of nothing to say except how I'm a big fan and all. He's remarkably nice about me fumbling around, asking if I'd like an autograph. He asks me if I'd like to have a signed postcard for something when my mind clears. "Wait," I say. "Can you sign my notebook?"
No, it's not an autograph notebook. It's my little Moleskine notebook, which I carry to jot down story and article ideas. I figure I'd probably lose that postcard, but I'll have the notebook forever.
JoCo, being JoCo, signs both. He briefly debates with himself over which back page of my notebook to sign, before choosing the right. And hence, I've met one of my favorite musicians.
I am suddenly re-energized. I was exhausted all day, having gone to the Con straight from work. It's at this point, almost exactly, that I've now been awake for 24 hours, and have worked through some of them. My feet were killing me, thanks to a poor choice of footwear (pro-tip: Converse Chuck Taylor's are a terrible choice for walking 10+hours). But none of that matters now, because that was Jonathan Freaking Coulton.
For a time, it doesn't occur to me that I've been awake over 24 hours, have had little food (except a Vitamin Water) and have been walking without end for 6 hours or so. Just at the Con; I'm not counting the walk to the Javits Center or work the previous night.
I go for another pass at the figures, eyeballing the Square Enix Play Arts Kai collection. I must have that Tetsuya Nomura designed Batman. It's so deliciously ludicrous.
Nick gets back from his panel. He got a picture with somebody important regarding Vocaloid. I got JoCo's autograph. Can't ask for a better day than that, right?
Little did I know what was going to go down tomorrow.
We exit the Javits Center and make our way home. It's only an express bus ride, not bad. We meet two Comic Con dudes who spy my press badge. They go in Column B, the ones who think I've ripped someone off. "Oh…you got the press badge…" one of them says, a slight squint in his eye. I shrug.
On the bus ride home, I look over the NYCC program; sensory overload in print form. I wonder how the actual hell one person is supposed to see the whole Con. Dare I try?
Friday brings about a larger crowd. I thought Thursday was huge. My friend Heather told me it was dead on Thursday.
I must be missing something.
I bring with me this overcast Friday afternoon a plan. I've brought a plan of attack after scouting the Con yesterday. It's not quite what you think it is. For while I do plan to meet with friends and wander some more, today, I have a mission.
I must find L.
This is L. He's one of the greatest anime characters ever. In my opinion. Yours, too, I think.
There's a popular anime called Death Note. It's about a genius high school student named Light Yagami (because of course that's his name) who comes into possession of a notebook that kills the person whose name is written in it (because of course it does). Naturally, Light resolves to kill every criminal ever to turn the world into a utopia (with himself as the god of this new world).
The police hire a world-famous detective known simply as "L" to catch "Kira," which is what the press has come to call Light. L is presumed to be a suave, genius detective, but when the police meet him in person, he's a beyond quirky, oddball genius detective. Generally disheveled, barefoot, lacking eyebrows, constantly eating sweets, and never sitting (he crouches instead)…that's L in a nutshell. What follows is an exciting cat-and-mouse game with much more subtlety and character development than you see in most anime. I caught the show late, on Netflix, and for me, it's currently the Best Thing Ever.
So on Friday, somewhere along the bus ride, I resolved to find an L figurine, to crouch proudly on my desk.
Ah ha, but finding L proves to be much more difficult than I'd assumed. And we're talking about a Javits Center full of anime figures. Seriously, they're everywhere.
I go to my friend Heather's booth, and she tells me L figures are rare these days. Another booth tells me the same thing. An angry looking woman just shakes her head before I'm done asking. I wonder why she's so angry. Is it because I asked for a supposedly rare figure?
Probably not. Likely she's just angry.
I meet my friend Tom. I used to work with Tom, and so we play the rendezvous game I mentioned earlier, meeting up…eventually.
We wander around.
Somebody's selling swords. Can they even do that here? Like, real swords.
Magic cards for sale too. Individual cards. They don't have the one I'm looking for, sadly.
Holy crap, that's Hacksaw Jim Duggan. And "The Million Dollar Man," Ted DiBiase.
Also we see Mick Foley. The line to meet him is unreal.
Eventually, Tom and I split up. It's nigh-impossible to remain together at this thing. We decide to meet up later anyway.
I got to meet Brian Wood. Brian Wood writes comics like DMZ, Demo, and The Massive, all of which are among my favorites. He signed a copy of The Massive Vol. 1 for me, and we talked about his new series coming out and our similar desire for collected volumes of comics to release sooner than they do. Sorry if that sentence makes no sense. He found amusing the similarity of our names. Sadly, I didn't bring my copy of DMZ Vol. 1 for him to sign, though I likely would've brought Vol. 4 given the choice, but whatever. I got to meet a fantastic writer, so it's all good.
It's about here that I get a text. An urgent text. See, I'd been texting my friend Christine re: meeting up and saying hi. The urgent text wasn't from her. It was from Tom. He sent me this photo:
It's L! Somehow, Tom has found an L figurine, and for cheap, too. He directs me via text to a booth I hadn't seen throughout my unending scouring of the Con. Happily, I buy L for just $20.
He ended up looking pretty pale. I know L is supposed to be pale, but come on. This guy looks nearly dead. Alas.
That sums up what Comic Con is like, in my opinion. I'm trying to be in two, six, ten places at once. Where I was supposed to be heading to the Square Enix booth to see Christine, here I am buying a deathly pale version of L. (Later, I would go back to buy a Light Yagami figure, also from Death Note, just to have them both. They're kind of a set, those two). This on top of trying to make panels and catch news. Suddenly, you become aware that a day consists of a finite amount of time, and Comic Con is but seven hours of that day. You can try your damnedest, but face reality: you're never gonna see it all. Ever. Between the booths, the signings, the comics, the figures, and the panels, and the pesky need to eat, I realized that maybe planning your Con experience may not be the worst idea in the world. On the other hand, winging it may also have it's benefits. For example…
Exhausted at about 6:00, I resolve to travel to the Press Lounge. Mostly because I want to see what's up there. SPOILERS: It's a big room/hallway with chairs and tables. Fun!
I sit down at a random chair, dead on my feet. Around me, other press individuals pretend to work. Were you in the press lounge, reader? If so, come on. You weren't working. I was there too. None of you were typing anything. One of you was playing World of Warcraft, so.
There's no "news" here. Even the panels I did catch were full of cast and crew members talking about how great their show was going to be this season. So there's nothing to report on at the Con that can't wait until later. There were no revelations at the Walking Dead panel; nothing so severe and important you'd have to post it on the Internet right fucking now.
So after resting and rebuilding my mind after the constant assault on the senses that is Comic Con, I decide to-holy crap, Kevin Smith is up here!
You know who Kevin Smith is, so I won't waste your time telling you about how great Clerks is. At first, my tired mind registered him as a Kevin Smith cosplayer. Great costume, I thought. He got the hockey jersey just right and everything.
I got a picture with him. Turns out he's a really nice guy. Apparently, at least some celebrities are the people we imagine them to be.
I'd like to thank Kevin Smith for taking a photo with a very tired, clearly insane homeless man, aka me.
And it reinforces my idea of not planning my Con. There's no freaking way I'd have met Kevin Smith if I was trying to attend 19 panels at the same time. It's by utterly random chance that I wandered up to the press lounge, at that random time, right as Kevin Smith randomly walked by. I think wandering aimlessly has it's benefits, don't you?
I decided my Friday wasn't getting better than that, so I make the journey home. I stop at Sam Ash to unwind by playing guitar; the clerks there notice the press badge (ugh), but they're nice about it, asking who I write for and such. I far prefer that reaction.
Saturday is an abbreviated Con day for me; I don't even make it to the Javits Center until about 3:30. Yet, I catch the Walking Dead panel, and sure enough, they talk about how great the show is, and how this year, it'll be More. Yes, that's "More" with a capital M.
That's the thing. I pointed out how the Con, in my experience, is a terrible place for news. The panels exist solely for puffery. Of course, as a fan, I don't mind. Still, sometimes it feels like the press badge is burning just a bit.
I spend a half hour trying to bargain with a salesman over an Eren Jaeger figure, from Attack on Titan. It's a Figma, which means it's crazy poseable as well as crazy expensive. I get him down to $45, which I feel can't be beat.
I look around, and notice that everyone seems as tired as I feel. What I notice is the direct corellation between what kind of pass a particular person is wearing, and the amount of life in their eyes. People with Saturday passes are like kids in a candy shop, bursting with energy. People with press badges, or 3-or-4 day passes, are dead behind the eyes. I wonder if I look like that, and I assume I do.
Later on, I discover "Artist Alley" with my friend Christine and her boyfriend Frankie, both of which I reckon are far more experinced Con-goers than I. Because damn it, there's a whole 'nother convention going on down here.
See? You'll never see the whole Con, so stop trying.
I'm a little miffed at myself for missing this. I'm very much into art, despite being a largely untalented artist myself. My collection of art books, mostly-no, exclusively-showcasing art from video games, sit proudly on dislpay in my home, ready to be perused at a moment's notice. So meeting these artists would've been cool.
A lot of artists are just, like, missing in action from this new, exciting convention (new to me, not the rest of you). Still, I buy a random comic from a random artist, because he seemed like the underdog here, amongst a cavalcade of artists known and unknown. Plus, if that dude becomes famous, I've got a valuable if odd signed collectable. Like a photo of Sean Connery signed by Roger Moore.
Us three wander around the Alley. I lament the price of a boxed copy of Chrono Trigger for Super Nintendo I spotted on the Convention floor ($250). We converse over things we saw. I saw a bunch of statues. So did they.
Comic Con eventually can be described as "things you saw there." Saw this, seen that, met this person, bought this thing.
In other words, it's an experience. It's something you have to do at least one time. It's a nonstop assault on the senses; at all times, you're bombarded with sights, sounds, smells, tastes, and…whatever the word for touching things is. (See, you bump into people a lot, and you eat crappy food-to explain those last two.)
It's a weekend dominated by consumerism, really. You're there to see, to interact, to buy. To consume. It's not a bad thing.
It's three days where you can just say f*ck it, and dress up as somebody else. Or not. Do whatever. Three days where I didn't worry about money for a change; if I wanted something, I bought it. Although, I did stay under budget, so yay.
Three days where you get to be in an entire building filled with like-minded individuals, where no one calls you a nerd; when they do, it's a term of endearment rather than ridicule.
It's three days off, not just from work, but from the unending monotony of Real Life; that life we all lead where we work and then we sleep.
In short, I really enjoyed my time there. It's exhausting, and you forget to take care of yourself (drink water, and for God's sake, eat), but it's an experience you'll not soon forget.
See you there next year.