And the Geek shall inherit the earth. Or at least these fabulous and dirty pieces of the planet mortals call the Isle of Manhattan.
Last weekend’s New York Comic Con saw nearly 77,000 diehard fans, curiosity-seekers and dragged-against-their-will spouses crowd into the Jacob Javits Center. They were able to browse and buy what seemed like millions of toys, collectibles and busts (not those kind), high-priced original comic art and … comic books.
Hollywood came hat in hand, looking to spark buzz for its upcoming tent pole pictures by rolling out exclusive footage. Fans who crowded into the main exhibit hall saw up to 20 minutes from mega-budget movies such as “Terminator Salvation” and “Watchmen”, as well as upcoming TV shows like “Dollhouse” from “Buffy” creator Joss Whedon.
You couldn’t take two steps without running into a celebrity appearance. You could fill your autograph books with John Hancocks from Teen Beat cover boys Ed Westwick from “Gossip Girl” and “Supernatural’s” Jared Padalecki, to Con veterans such as “The Incredible Hulk’s” Lou Ferrigno and Peter Mayhew, more commonly known as Chewbacca.
OK, there was a lot going on. So what? Comic Con is supposed to be an orgy of pop culture goodness - when it’s held in San Diego.
But this is the NY Comic Con. A show that in its first year, made more news for the people stuck outside the convention hall than anything that took place inside. But if there was any doubt the East Coast now has its own big-time pop cult show, NYCC: Year 4 erased them. The show once again had record-breaking attendance, showing an increase of roughly 10,000 over last year’s numbers.
“I'm ecstatic with the results of New York Comic Con. In an economy where flat is the new up, we were up in attendance by 15 percent. That is an outstanding result that shows the strength of pop culture in the country," said Lance Fensterman, Vice President and Show Manager for New York Comic Con.
Fensterman makes a good point. This is not the ideal environment for buying that CGC-certified 9.8 copy of Harbinger #1 ($379) or the original cover art to Dazzler #24 ($1,500), but that’s the wonderful thing about fanboys and girls. We don’t let fiscal reality invade our realm of fantasy.
What’s that, you say? What about the costumes?
Any convention worth its weight in 70’s Marvel Slurpee cups has to have a quality Fanboy Fashion Weekend, and NYCC earned high marks here.
The usual suspects were on hand, including plenty of Jokers, Wonder Women and chubby Spider-Men, not to mention enough Stormtroopers to stage a coup at City Hall. Those don’t impress me much. You know who does? The folks who came dressed up as their favorite “GHOSTBUSTER.” It takes guts to represent in full gear an 80’s property that’s a generation removed from relevancy.
Was this year’s Con perfect? Far from it. The aisles were still way too crowded Saturday, traditionally the busiest day of any convention. Organizers should think about having more crowd-control volunteers in place next year to keep people moving.
Since this is as much a pop culture event as it is a comic book gathering, organizers also need to express to Hollywood studios the importance of providing more star power. Maybe it had to do with smaller marketing budgets or conflicts with actors’ schedules, but this year’s NYCC lacked the A-list celebrity presence a convention needs to generate mainstream media coverage.
None of the cast members for “Watchmen” appeared at the movie’s presentation. No one from the fourth Terminator movie did, either. Disney’s panel to promote the upcoming graphic novel adaptation “The Surrogates” could have used a cameo from its star, Bruce Willis to get the word out about the movie.
Meanwhile, surprise appearances are routine in San Diego. Hugh Jackman flew in from Australia last year to plug “X-Men Origins: Wolverine.” In 2007, Robert Downey Jr. showed up and helped kick start the blockbuster word-of-mouth for “Iron Man” a year early.
NYCC still hasn’t had defining moments like this. Until it does, it will continue to be the Little Joe to San Diego’s Hoss Cartwright in the eyes of the non-industry press.
But I don’t want to sound like an ungrateful fanboy. For too many years, New York City fans had few options for indulging in four-color love. There was the occasional show in a West Side church basement or at the Pennsylvania Hotel, but the main purpose of those dingy gatherings seemed to be to perpetuate the stereotype of comic book lovers as grimy, cellar-dwelling sociopaths.
NYCC levels the playing field with San Diego, Charlotte (Heroes Con) and San Francisco (WonderCon). You know what? With all due respect to those great cities, New York was long overdue to establish itself as a Con player.
New York is the birthplace of comic books. The Yankees and Red Sox of the comic industry, Marvel and DC, are based here, along with the majority of the writers and artists who bring The Bam! and THWIP! every week to your local comic shop.
Last time I checked Amazing Spider-Man, Peter Parker wasn’t web swinging around downtown San Diego chasing the Green Goblin. You know what I mean? We shouldn’t have to hop in a car to drive south down I-95 or fly out west to take part in a quality celebration of our hobby.
Now we don’t have to.
Overall, this year’s NYCC was a pleasure to attend. As I said, not a perfect show, but how much fun is that? Without a little pushing and shoving, a Con isn’t really a Con. Besides, where else in this city can you hear a Tusken Raider say, ‘Pardon me, coming through’?