So – this is late. Really, really late. I can only apologise – real life and the editing of Department 19: Battle Lines sort of got in the way…
If you haven’t read part one of this epic account, click here, then come on back.
OK. Once I had fought my way onto the convention floor (and I do mean fought – the Javits Center is appallingly laid out, with the main space not on the ground floor, and only two sets of escalators leading up to it, at least one of which had invariably stopped) I headed for the DC Collectibles booth to try and get my hands on two of the three Comic-Con exclusives I really wanted. For the uninitiated, many companies produce limited edition products that are only for sale at NYCC – comics, toys, posters, even editions of video games. Demand always outstrips supply, and there are normally a number of labyrinthine hoops one has to jump through to in order to get them. In this case, DC were offering an edition of Batman #13 with a die-cut Joker cover, a Justice League #13 with Superman and Wonder Woman making out on the cover, and a Batman toy created by Aardman, the makers of Wallace and Gromit.
By the time I got the booth, the Batman’s were already gone – they hadn’t even lasted the first day. There were still Aardman Batman figures, but I wasn’t allowed to buy one – instead, I was given a wristband that allowed me to return between 2 and 3pm and buy one then, if there were any left. I took the wristband, and headed for my first actual work of the Con, a mass signing featuring all the authors who would be on the horror panel later on…
The autographing area was a cavernous space on the lower level of the Javits Center, guarded by the Galactic Empire. A long row of benches had been placed at one end, with separate queues for each person. At one end was a sealed section, a sort of plastic shed covering a guarded table – this was where the biggest names signed, safe from the prying eyes of the general Con public. While I was there, a queue was stretching most of the way back to the doors, full of people happily handing over $150 each to get a maximum of two items signed, fittingly, by Ian McDiarmid. They all seemed perfectly happy with the situation.
I went into the green room area behind the tables, and ran into Rachel Caine, the superstar author of the Morganville Vampires series (amongst many others) who I had never met, but who was charming and friendly. We chatted while we waited for our signing time, and were joined by Brom (Krampus, The Child Thief), Barry Lyga (I Hunt Killers) and Stefan Petrucha (Dead Mann Running, Ripper), all of whom were also lovely. When our time came, we wandered out, and took our seats. It wasn’t the most well-attended signing (unless your surname was Caine, in which case you were very busy indeed!) but it was nice to make some new friends, and check out what was going on around us.
That’s Nicholas Brendon (Xander from the wonderful Buffy The Vampire Slayer) working his way through a vast queue, signing and chatting to all. He took photos with everyone who asked (which was pretty much everyone) and seemed every bit as friendly and affable as you would hope. Near the end of our allotted time, there was a deafening scream at the other end of the line. I checked out early, and made my way over to see Tom Felton (Draco from the Harry Potter films) on the verge of being mobbed by a horde of teenage girls. He looked both flattered and mildly scared :)
At that point, I extricated myself from the autographing area and made my way back up to the main Con floor, where I was immediately confronted with this…
Not a great photo, I know, but the costume was awesome in the flesh, so to speak. And terrifying, frankly. I moved on at some speed, and checked in at the Penguin Young Readers booth, where I introduced myself to Mia and Bri, two of the wonderful Penguin team that were organising the Con with amazing precision, and who were incredibly helpful (and patient!) over the course of my visit. I was VERY grateful to them both. I confirmed the details of the panel, and headed out for a quick wander through the booths of the comic companies, which were (unsurprisingly) some of the loudest and most crowded of the whole Con.
I got a bit lost at the DC booth, to be honest – there were about four different queues forming, and nobody seemed to know exactly what they were queueing for – until I ran into Scott Snyder, who was taking a rest behind a tensa-rope. I’d met him at Kapow! in London, as the hype around his and Greg Capullo’s run on Batman was really starting to build. By this point, it had become a full on hurricane, and there was a huge crowd of people trying to talk to him. He remembered me (which was nice) and we caught up for a few minutes, before he was summoned back into the throng. I was about to leave the DC booth, when I (almost literally) ran into Jeff Lemire, whose Underwater Welder and Animal Man are some of the best comics I’ve read this year. He was cool, and friendly (and very tall) and we chatted for a few minutes, before he went in search of something to eat, and I set off for some fresh air. A tall order in Manhattan, but worth a shot. I remembered to stop back by the DC Collectibles booth on my way out, then ran for the exits.
Once I was outside, I suddenly realised how tired I was, and decided to head back to the hotel for some food, and maybe a nap, before coming back down for the panel. I made my way up 38th Street, stopping only to snap the following photo. Because how could I not?
A pizza, a couple of beers, a few innings of the Yankees game and a power-nap later, I felt like a different man. A healthier, more awake man. I headed back down to the Javits, fuelled by another litre or two of coffee, and made my way to the Programming area to take part in my first ever literary event on American soil. As it turned out, it will take some beating.
Here are the participants:
That’s a lot of authors for an hour-long panel, but I think we made it work. Jonathan moderated it well, and we covered a lot of ground – why horror appeals to people, why we write it, how we first got into the genre, and loads more. We talked about seminal books (Stephen King got a lot of mentions!) and movies, we talked about dreams and fears and creepy things that had happened to us in real life, and we answered what seemed like dozens of questions from the audience. Nobody got too hung up on trying to plug their own stuff, and there were still plenty of hands in the air when we had to call it a night, so all in all it went pretty well. I chatted to Daniel and Barry for a while afterwards, before we went our separate ways. I got a last-minute invite to the Geek x Girls party, but was starting to feel my time-shift and residual illness once more, so I headed back to the hotel, grabbed a sandwich, and fell asleep in front of the baseball.
The next morning (Sunday) I ate pancakes, dosed myself with Advil and coffee, and headed back down to the Con. I got there about half an hour before they opened the doors, and the queue already looked like this:
And I was nowhere near the front when I took this. It was crazy.
When they opened the doors, I got swept inside and ran towards the Lego booth, trying to get my hands on the other NYCC exclusive I really wanted – a limited edition Luke Skywalker and landspeeder. But even though it was 10.05 when I got there, the wristbands were all gone – apparently the Con opens half an hour early if you have the right kind of super-VIP ticket, and those lucky souls had taken them all. I waited as a teenager in a Lego Star Wars t-shirt pointed out how ridiculous that was, in the hope that the booth staff might come to see that he was right, but to no avail. I gave up, and headed back to the Penguin booth.
A queue led away from a small table in the middle of the booth, and went all the way around the block. I was about to check the name on the sign, when I saw Maureen Johnson tweeting inside the booth. She and I share a UK publisher, and I’ve met her a few times, so I went over and said hello. We chatted for a while, as Mia and Bri unloaded boxes of her Shades Of London series – they were giving away ARCs of the second book, The Madness Underneath, and it’s fair to say that the people in the queue were a little bit excited about getting their hands on it. As Maureen was summoned to begin her signing session, I met Lyndsay Faye, the author of the ridiculously highly-acclaimed Gods Of Gotham, and we hung out for a while – she was lovely, and I added her book to the (increasingly long!) list of things I needed to buy when I got home.
With about half an hour left until we gave away some Department 19s, I went for a quick stroll. Not far from the Penguin booth I saw this poster for the Comic Book Legal Defense Fund – definitely one of the positive aspects of New York Comic-Con.
Right next to it was something far less savoury – a booth advertising a graphic novel called Whore. While the title appeared to refer to the central male character, there was no shortage of naked female flesh surrounding him on the cover, and the promotional hook was a cage (!) with the word ‘WHORE’ printed on it, in which attendees were encouraged to stand; if you stayed in for twenty minutes, you got a free t-shirt. Unsurprisingly, the booth staff seemed to be focussing on girls in revealing cosplay outfits as they attempted to recruit volunteers. I didn’t take any photos of it, but you can probably find them if you really want to. It was a bit depressing, to say the least.
Anyway. I went back to the Penguin booth, and started reading one of their big titles for 2013, Rick Yancey’s The 5th Wave, while I waited for my turn to sign. When Mia told me they were ready, I looked up and got a lovely surprise – there was a queue stretching along the booth and round the corner. I’m not delusional – I’d already realised that the easiest way to attract a crowd at Comic-Con is with the promise of free stuff – but it was still very nice to see. We gave away about a hundred paperbacks; I signed them all, and chatted happily to everyone until I was eventually told I had to stop :)
I thanked Mia and Bri yet again, and left the booth, intending to pay a visit to Artist Alley before I left the Con for good. Filling one entire end of the Javits lobby was this:
It’s still funny for me to see Egg from This Life killing zombies as an American sheriff :) But The Walking Dead is pretty much the biggest show in the US at the moment – the queue for its panel presentation apparently started forming six hours before it began…
I fought my way along the corridor, following the signs, and was eventually rewarded with the following view:
That’s Artist Alley, the (huge) area of the Con where artists rent tables, or booths, and sell original work, sketches, collections, books – basically whatever they want. It was immediately clear that I wasn’t going to be able to look at everything (it would have taken a whole day, seriously!) so I located some of the names I was interested in on the floor plan, and made my way into the thick of it.
First up was Mike Mignola, the creator, writer and artist of Hellboy. I remember reading the earliest adventures of the big red demon in individual issues way back in the mid-90s, at my local comic shop in Whitley Bay, and have always loved his art – I was hoping Mignola might have some pages (even though I was sure I wouldn’t be able to afford them!) and I was right, on both counts. I spent a very happy half an hour flicking through his portfolio – page after page of exquisite black and white art, with the brush strokes still visible in the black ink. They ranged from $300 up to $6000 for some of the covers, so I was very, very careful with them :)
I grabbed a copy of Severed, the collected edition of Scott Snyder’s and Scott Tuft’s rural horror, got it signed, then headed over to Cliff Chiang’s table. His art on the New 52 Wonder Woman has been pretty much my favourite across the entire relaunch, and I wanted a print to take home with me – I’d promised my girlfriend I wouldn’t come home with too much stuff, given that we already have a cupboard full of poster tubes containing work that we don’t have enough wall space for, but I was prepared to make an exception in this one case. I bought an A3 print of his cover for Wonder Woman #7, featuring Diana wielding a huge hammer that she is about to bring down on one of The Smith’s swords. It’s a beautiful piece, perfectly representative of his work on the character, particularly his unusual (for comics, at least) insistence on making her look at least something like a normal woman, with a refreshing lack of broken spines, impossible waists or beach ball-sized boobs. The man himself was extremely charming, and we talked for a few minutes before I went in search of a tube to carry his work home in.
With my one major purchase in the bag, I decided to call time on New York Comic-Con 2012. I had about three hours before I needed to get a taxi to the airport, and I was keen to pack my stuff, get a beer and relax for a little while before heading back to London. Thankfully, the Con saw fit to bestow upon me a fantastic selection of cosplay as I made my way to the exit – I present the following photos without comment, as the creativity and dedication at work speaks for itself.
Back at the hotel, I ate one of the best, and biggest burgers of my life (the Skyscraper burger – if we’re friends on Facebook, you can see it here) and waited till it was time to leave. It was a remarkable forty-eight hours – exhausting, loud, incredibly busy, bright, colourful, and full of amazing people. I’ll definitely be back next year, if they’ll have me :)
I got home the following morning, and went straight to bed – I’m not a very good plane sleeper, and New York to London is not really a long enough flight to get more than an hour or two anyway. When I got up, I arranged my Comic-Con swag on the our kitchen table, and took the following picture:
From top-left to bottom-right: box for the Aardman Batman figure, signed copy of Marvel Comics: The Untold Story by Sean Howe, Wonder Woman print by Cliff Chiang, my ‘Speaker’ badge, The Iron Giant poster by Mondo, Severed by Scott Snyder and Scott Tuft, and the Aardman Batman himself…
Try and tell me that isn’t the coolest thing you’ve ever seen. Go on, try.
Now roll on NYCC 2013…