By James Hancock October 11th, 2015
New York Comic Con 2015 has come and gone and before I collapse into a very deep dark sleep, I want to share a few highlights as well as some thoughts on how New York Comic Con compares to the biggest convention of them all, San Diego Comic Con. NYCC has grown in leaps and bounds since it was first held in 2006 and now fills the Javits Center completely to capacity. While much of the convention floor feels identical to its west coast cousin, the vibe here is quite different. First of all, far more of the attendees are dressed in black and there is a greater sense of pent-up desire for the event. While Southern California has other conventions like WonderCon, NYCC is unique to the area which creates an irresistible gravitational pull for every hardcore geek from New Jersey up to Massachusetts. Like most people from the northeast of our country, their personalities have more rough edges than your average Californian who enjoys 365 days of perfect weather every year. If any of the religious protesters who converge on SDCC each year tried their shenanigans in New York, it would likely not end well for them. Californians might think it is okay for religious kooks to block the only entrance to and from the San Diego Convention Center, but my fellow nerds and geeks in New York play rough and I don’t recommend that anyone stand in the way of their pop culture obsessions.
I first attended the convention back in 2010 which was where I met animator Bill Plympton. It was at his panel where I saw the first pencil tests for a work-in-progress called Cheatin’, a film that I would join a few years later as an executive producer (you can find the film here on iTunes). In the six years since, I’ve seen the convention explode in popularity with the event now selling more than 150,000 badges per year. Granted, NYCC does not get nearly the same number of filmmakers or celebrities as San Diego due to San Diego’s proximity to Los Angeles, but there were many signs this year that celebrity attendance is on the rise here in New York. Vin Diesel, Elijah Wood, Rose Leslie, the stars of the Netflix series Daredevil and Jessica Jones, Kevin Smith, and countless luminaries from the comic book industry were all in attendance to promote their various projects. The only major drawback to NYCC is the neighborhood around the Javits Center. Unlike San Diego’s Gaslamp Quarter where SDCC attendees can attend superhero-themed burlesque shows, hit comedy clubs or just drink themselves into oblivion with their fellow freaks and geeks, NYCC offers nothing of the kind in the immediate area. The neighborhood around NYCC was converted to a residential district by Mayor Bloomberg only a few years ago and as a result the neighborhood has been one giant construction site ever since. Buildings are going up and subway stops are being added underneath, but for now the end of each day at NYCC means that everyone disperses instead of hanging out into the wee hours of the night. Hopefully that will change in the years to come.
This year I divided my time between Bill Plympton’s booth and the panels I wanted to attend. I won’t bore you with all the details of the past 4 days but there are a few highlights worth mentioning. I’m a shameless comic book fanatic and one of my all-time favorite reads is Frank Miller’s The Dark Knight Returns (1986), a comic that belongs on the Mount Rushmore of classic comics. Frank Miller has suffered from bad health recently and makes very few public appearances, but when I heard that there would be a surprise guest for the DKIII panel, I decided I had no choice but to attend. DKIII: The Master Race (a classic provocative title by the master of provocation) combines the writing talents of Frank Miller with one of my favorite writers, Brian Azzarello, and features art by Andy Kubert & Frank Miller along with inks by Miller’s longtime collaborator Klaus Janson. I assume all the extra hands are on deck are due to Miller’s fragile health, but I have no specific evidence to support this suspicion on my part. At any rate, Jim Lee was also in attendance and he suggested that DKIII could be just one of many future DC projects set in this continuity. For now, every issue will feature bonus stories like the one featured in the above image. With a lineup of talent like this working on the DKIII stories, I’m happy to read whatever they set in front of me. Frank Miller has alienated a lot of fans over the last decade or so with work that was either misunderstood or just flat out poorly received. I’ll be crossing my fingers that Miller has enough gas in the tank to blow our minds one final time when the first issue is published later this Fall. If the crowd’s reaction to the Batman picture at the top of the post is any indication, fans should get prepared. When they flashed that image on the screen during the presentation, the majority of those in attendance audibly moaned as if they suddenly achieved multiple orgasms.
It wouldn’t be a proper convention without checking out what both DC and Marvel are doing to outmaneuver one another so I squeezed in a Marvel Animation panel hosted by Dan Buckley, President and Publisher of Marvel, as well as Joe Quesada, Chief Creative Officer of Marvel Entertainment. Most of the animation they were discussing was geared toward a very different fan base than whatever base I am a part of. The main attraction was the first episode of season 2 of the animated Guardians of the Galaxy, a show that I would probably love if I were 25 years younger.
The biggest treat of the convention by far getting into the Marvel Netlfix panel where they covered their upcoming season 2 of Daredevil and Jessica Jones which will be available on Netflix on November 20th. I got up dawn to stand in line for one of the 2500 wrist bands being handed out at 10 am to gain entrance to the panel at 5 pm later that day. I felt like I was part of an army when we were asked to hold our fists high above our heads to show our wrist bands as we marched in unison into the main stage area at the Javits Center. I already wrote at length about this event (which you can read here). Moderator Jeph Loeb almost blew the roof right off the building when he told us we were going to get to see the first episode to Jessica Jones. I absolutely loved the show. Somehow Marvel keeps managing to up the ante both in film and television with no clear ceiling in sight yet. As a lifelong fan of Marvel, it is exhilarating watching Marvel explode as a pop culture phenomenon like I always hoped it would. While most fans today think of Marvel as a movie studio, the roots of Marvel go back to the late 1930s in New York City and it was great of producer Jeph Loeb to reserve such an exclusive experience for Marvel’s New York-based fans.
On our last day we had a surprise visitor at the booth. I had already seen cosplayers in full costume as the lead characters, Sam and Suzy, from Wes Anderson’s Moonrise Kingdom (2012) so when a young man approached our booth looking just like the star of the movie, I naturally complimented him on his amazing cosplay. He politely told me that he was actually Jared Gilman, the star of the movie and that he was looking for my producing partner Adam Rackoff. I apologized for my stupidity and we invited him into the booth to have Bill Plympton draw a caricature of him. We had a blast talking movies, video games and music with Jared and I shamelessly asked him to make an appearance on Wrong Reel to talk about his movie work, a booking I can hopefully confirm later this week.
So that’s all I have for now. Another Comic Con is in my rearview mirror and all that’s left to do is unload our gear from the Javits Center tomorrow. These conventions can be bit of a grind and there is always the risk of getting laid low by convention flu in the days after the event. Being in close proximity to over 150,000 mouth breathers for four days means sharing a lot of oxygen with one’s fellow attendees. Sour body odor and acute halitosis assail the senses at all hours. I’m always tempted to sit back and absorb the news of the convention from a computer screen while sitting in a comfortable chair. This is a temptation that is very important to resist. For hardcore fans of comics, movies, tv, cosplay, video games, etc. it is essential to attend these conventions. While not everyone there will share the same interests, what they all have in common is some overwhelming burning geeky passion that gives their life meaning. There is a sense of cultural unity at SDCC & NYCC that is difficult to describe for the uninitiated. It is safe to say that whatever hassles and expense are involved in attending, they are absolutely worth it. As long as my legs will support my weight, I plan on attending as many conventions as humanly possible. Plus, where else would I get the chance to hang out with a real life Vampirella? Schwing!
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