Sunday, October 17, 2010

New York Comic-Con Recap: Part Two

Grrr, bub! Look at us! We promised a part two, and here it is!

Go read Part One, or you'll be confused!

-- -- -- --

The artists and art vendors were out in force on Saturday, with more than a quarter of the floor space being dedicated to tables displaying original comics art as well as unoriginal comics art. How derivative. From posters to commissioned sketches, there was almost no end to the amount of visual art standing between me and the celebrity guests who were signing autographs.

The best part about going into a convention completely blind is that the surprise is even greater when you discover something or someone cool is going to be there. Example: I got to meet Christopher Judge of Stargate fame, shake his hand despite feeling sickly at the time, get an autograph for the friend who introduced me to the show, and ask the one question I've always wanted to ask:

Actually, I had no idea what I wanted to ask him. So I inquired as to whether there was any question fans never asked him, but he'd love to answer. "Yes," he responded. After a moment of expectant silence, he looked at me and said something to the effect of, "Oh, you want me to answer that, too?" I chuckled and nodded. With a warm, pensive smile, he looked off into space and said, "Are Jolene Blalock's lips real?" And after a thoughtful pause..."Yes." With a bigger grin than before. What a guy.

Being the huge Star Trek fan that I am, because I love space, I was excited to discover that Michelle Forbes would be signing autographs. You may recall Ms. Forbes from such roles as Ensign Ro Laren, the sassy Bajoran from Star Trek: The Next Generation, and Dr. Judith Mossman from Half-Life 2.

Considering how quickly my money had been evaporating just by looking at all there was to buy, I decided I actually didn't need to pay $30 or $40 for a signature, or $10 more for a photo. A brief moment to say hello and ask a question or two would be sufficient for me.

Lesson learned: Having a celebrity sign their autograph buys you valuable time that will allow you to construct a longer sentence than, "Hello, I'm a big fan of your--oomph!" before getting muscled out by the next person in line.

See, the person in front of me had an Ensign Ro action figure to be signed--brilliant, by the way--which gave me a good intro line to get warmed up. "So, how does it feel to have an action figure of yourself?" I asked. Not as clever as, "I don't mean to alarm you, but you've got Wil Wheatons on your shirt," but it'd do.

"Two, actually," she responded, starting to look behind me. What could possibly be behind me that was possibly more interesting than where this line of conversation was headed? Sensing my time was short, I quickly recited the generic "Hello, I'm a big fan of your work" line (with my own personal twist on it, of course). That's all I had time to say before the people behind me struck up a conversation with Ms. Forbes, who appeared to be an acquaintance of theirs.

Well, at least I only had to wait ten or fifteen minutes for that.

I got the distinct vibe that Ms. Forbes is a career actress, that it's more of a job for her. I'm okay with that, if it is indeed the case, but it certainly didn't leave me with the warm fuzzy feeling I got from purchasing a palm-sized model of the Enterprise NX-01.

But that's really where the joy of Comic-Con was: in the shopping, and in the ogling. It wasn't even a matter of greed, so much as it was a matter of awe and wonder. Miniature power lanterns in every color of the DC spectrum. Body pillows with pictures of anime girls on them. Space-efficient comics cabinets with laser etchings of anything you want on the front. Who comes up with these things?

I'm not sure. But I know who buys them.

Of course, you could just as easily find all these things online. The other half of the joy of Comic-Con comes from being able to share all this with friends.

We spent half the day as a party of four, having coordinated with another out-of-towner to join us whenever he wasn't together with his friends. We met up during lunch with another friend who wasn't even attending the convention. We may have even gotten most of our Christmas shopping done, so that we can share our experience with others a few months from now. Most surprisingly of all, I ran into a friend from middle school--sitting behind a table for InterVerse Comics, the company he co-owns.

Honestly, it's the most social I've been in weeks. I seriously thought I'd be doing less socializing and way more conventioning, but this was a different (and positive!) twist on the convention scene for me.

I managed to run into several people I know--and a couple of people that I hadn't seen in a year or more, from other conventions. Which is pretty cool, and honestly, something I never thought I'd say. You know, because of that whole fear of giant crowds thing. But I'm at that point now where I've been to enough shows to recognize faces, and I've hung out with people from all over the country. Like I said--pretty cool.

Oh, and speaking of giant crowds...

I have a method to my madness at conventions. Go in, look around, buy something. Repeat. Because I tend to be a little obsessive compulsive, I'm constantly passing things up because I know--I just know--that I'll find That One Thing later on in the show, and if I spend my money too soon, That One Thing will never be mine.

This works in theory. My thinking is that I can always come back to something I passed by, liked, but wanted to hold off on in favor of checking out other things before laying down my cash.

And, usually, as a convention stretches on, the chances improve for dealers to drop their prices.

However, at this particular show, with its tens of thousands of people--seriously, the range I've heard/read about this week estimate 100,000 on the low end and, at the high end, 125,000 with possibly over 50,000 just on Saturday alone(!)--finding your way back to a booth you passed hours or even minutes before proved difficult.

Sometimes you just had to stand around, watching other people play Starcraft II until your friends were physically capable of meeting back up with you.

And that was my major quip with the show--there was a sea of people, and after lunchtime on Saturday, walking around got to be pretty difficult. When we returned from lunch--which was the perfect way to recharge and get off the con floor for an hour or two--the convention had changed dramatically. And that change was evident immediately.

There were just way more people there. The aisles were clogged and I got bumped into a lot more. From things I've read from dealers and creators online, NYCC has been likened to San Diego in terms of how dense the floor was. Certainly, there weren't nearly as many people there, but the traffic jams from booth to booth were excessive.

Still, what the con lacked in...let's call it more than made up for in terms of guests.

Artists' Alley alone was a site to behold--hundreds of artists from both the big publishers and the small press were there, drawing and signing and talking to fans. The comics art dealers were out in force, and the selection of things available was amazing. Certainly the best spread I've ever seen at a con.

I picked up some nice pieces, and I met my goals of buying Chandra Free's The God Machine hardcover (which I really look forward to reading when I have a few minutes), and an original drawing by the amazingly talented Rebekah Isaacs (of Neil Gaiman's character, Death, below), and a Wonder Woman pin-up by DC artist Mahmud Asrar.

As cool as it was to actually go into a con (and one as big as NYCC) with a list and to actually check off the major things on said list, you're always likely to literally walk into something you could never have expected.

I scream about the Vertigo series, House of Mystery, almost on a monthly basis, and it's probably my favorite current series behind Dark Horse's The Goon. When I look for pages of original art to buy, the first thing I take into consideration is how I feel about the book from which the art came. I prefer to buy pages from books I love and from stories I love, but that proves very difficult as there's only one of each page in any given issue.

Because House of Mystery ranks so high on my favorite list, and because I feel like there's a strong emotional connection to the title, I've been on the lookout for a page for a couple of years. The problem with that has been that the artist--Luca Rossi--lives in Italy and does not sell his original art.

Which is a problem when you're specifically looking to buy a page of original art by Luca Rossi.

When it comes to original art, any collector will tell you that the hunt is never really hopeless, but I had long since put the possibility of buying a House page out of my head. And then I ran into the table of inker Jose Marzan. I looked down at the stack of pages sitting in front of him, and guess what stared back at me?

Countless House of Mystery pages. From some of my favorite issues. Awesome! And so I bought two of them.

But enough about Artists' Alley. Let's get back to the convention proper, and our hilarious attempts at some kind of planning in a chaotic scene. Or maybe not; we'll see.

We kept making these grand plans of splitting up to go shopping and then meeting up in half an hour, but no matter how many times we did this, it never sank in that half an hour was the amount of time we'd need to wade through the crowds enough to be split up. This convention was not designed for a drop-in/drop-out cooperative multiplayer experience.

However, this was a day trip. Under normal conventioning circumstances, we would've picked separate days to seek out the table with the Darkwing Duck comics, sift through the discount anime, and debate about whether we wanted the poster from over here or the wall scroll from over there more.

We also might've stood in line a little longer for a shot at playing a demo of Mega Man Universe. After the post where I talked about potentially having to give up on Mega Man(!), I was determined to at least watch this game that would either cause me to run in terror or run to the store to buy a new gaming system that would play it.

Ten or fifteen minutes of watching decent to pretty good Mega Man players try out Mega Man Universe was all I needed. Something finally clicked. It wasn't the game itself that concerned me--after all, the gameplay looked as solid as ever, and it was basically Mega Man 2 changed around by a level editor. No, it was what the game represented that bothered me.

As mentioned in my Mega Man Marathon reflection, it has been fifteen years since the last original series Mega Man game made a meaningful, lasting impact on the franchise's continuity. Mega Man Universe doesn't look like a bad game, but it doesn't look like a professional, meaningful entry in the canon or the series at large. What I've seen so far suggests, "Mega Man level editor in the style of a Flash game," which pretty much indicates to me that Capcom is done with plot development and innovative gameplay indefinitely.

Imagine your favorite TV show suddenly stopping in the middle of a story arc and producing nothing but filler episodes until it gets cancelled. That's what I feel has happened with Mega Man, and--oh, right, Comic-Con.

No, no. I think we've talked about the con enough for one weekend. Time to wrap this bad boy up.

At the end of the day, we were tired and hungry and a little less inclined to be in a room with more than a dozen or so people, but we were happy. The show was fun and productive and we all bought cool stuff, sure, but hanging out with friends old and new made the day a special one, and we look forward to the next time.

Aw, now that warm, fuzzy feeling is coming back again. Way to go.

In conclusion...Nick Fury and Black Widow.


Scott said...

I'm confused -- did the two of you write this post together or did you (Alex) have your horizons exfanded a lot more than I thought you did?

Flashman85 said...

Did you read Part Two before Part One? For shame! I've edited the intro to help clear this up, but it's a joint post.

Scott said...

I actually thought Part One was written by Alex and didn't pay attention to the author headline, heh. It's just confusing since it's a continuous stream of first-person narration without a hint of narrators changing. ;)

Flashman85 said...

Really? Well, we *did* warn you in Part One that we'd be switching off; I wasn't sure how it'd flow for people who weren't Alex or myself, but we both had fun.