Adventures In Freelancing: NYCC Post Mortem

Between my photo diary entries over on The Monkee Diaries (Thursday, Friday, Saturday and Sunday) and a pair of posts over on Pop Poppa about my experiences leaving Lucy for the first extended period of time and her first comic con, I’ve done a lot of writing about the New York Comic Con. And that doesn’t even include all the actual work I did for CBR!

Last year, I wrote a pretty negative post about the NYCC. My main complaints were that people were not very considerate while walking along, the show was too crowded to really look for comics and the press pass line was way too long. And you know what? Those problems still exist. Well, I assume the press line thing was still a problem, I’m not exactly sure because, the main reason I enjoyed the show so much more this year over last was because I not only had a series of solid assignments but also was doing them for a company that really knows how to treat its employees.

I know this might seem like I’m being a company man or what have you, but I don’t do that and never have. I say good things about good people and groups, but if I happen to be aligned with a less reputable group, I’ll keep my mouth shut. So, take that into consideration when I say that Jonah Weiland and CBR are wonderful to work for. They not only had press passes waiting for us so we didn’t have to wade through the line, but also had a nice skybox overlooking the smaller of the show floor sections. The room was done up in a tiki theme, a desk was set up overlooking the floor and a corner was designated for video interviews with comic creators and celebrities. If you’re unfamiliar with the press situation at the NYCC, everyone is crammed into a living room-sized space on the bottom floor with no real ventilation and very little table space.

Being busy with panel coverage (sitting through the hour-or-so talk and then writing it up) kept me away from the show floor for the most part, which was fine by me. Actually, my only real problem this year, aside from huge crowd and a smell of buttered feet in the main area of the floor, was that press had to wait in line to cover a panel. I know this makes me sound like an entitled jerk, but hear me out. If you’re going to bother giving out press passes, the point is, presumably to get the press to cover the event. Whether the organization wants the event covered so news can reach the people or so people can read about how awesome the event is and want to go to it doesn’t really matter to me. What does matter is potentially not getting into a panel to cover it because of a huge line. It bothers me because this is my job, this is how I help feed my family. I’m not demanding front row seats or anything along those lines, but possibly a row or two set aside somewhere for press and the ability to take those seats between panels would not be beyond the realm of normalcy, right? Heck, look how well set-up sports writers are at baseball or football games.

Okay, that’s the end of my press rant. I still think there’s too many people on the floor, lines are impossible to control and there should be a height limit on costume accessories (or an outright ban), but at the end of the day, I had a good time at this show. It was long, hard work, but I liked that too. Last year I didn’t have any work to do, so I felt like I had more of a purpose this year. I also had a great place to do said work alongside great people, which always helps. I got to see some old friends, meet some new ones and even found myself in the same room with Tom Morello (a panel room, but it was still cool), Patton Oswalt, a good deal of the cast of The Walking Dead, Greg Nicotero, Liz Lee from My Life As Liz (got introduced to her and didn’t realize who she was until about 10 minutes later, but she was super nice) and Kenny from The Challenge. Honestly, being in the same room as Patton Oswalt and seeing how free and easy and insanely funny he is just talking to a bunch of people overlooking a comic convention floor was a career highlight. You can see the video interview here, by the way.

So, yes, I think I enjoyed the NYCC more this year than ever before. They shuffled things around yet again, but the set-up seemed to make sense. Most of the big booths were in one area while artists alley and people selling stuff were in another. It will never be a light and easy show to breeze in and out of or walk away with a big stack of cheap comics, but it’s starting to feel familiar and therefor somewhat more normal, which is funny considering I saw a guy dressed in a pretty darn good Voltron costume and an absolute army of girls dressed up as Finn from Adventure Time. Crossing dressing Finn is the new Slave Leia and I kind of like it.

A Few Thoughts On New York Comic Con

Right off the bat, I’m going to say that I’ve learned over the last five years of attending New York Comic Con that big comic shows  like this are not my cup of tea. I don’t care about seeing panels for the most part (I’ll read about the news online), I’m not into getting celebrity autographs anymore (used to be when I was a kid), I don’t want to dress up, I like getting sketches but they’ve gotten pretty pricey and I generally don’t like standing in line. I do like flipping through cheap comics, perusing original comic art and buying cheap trades. Oh and seeing all my friends who come in for the show, that’s the best part. I guess I’m pretty simple when it comes to what I’m looking for in a show.

Basically, NYCC is too big, too crazy, too packed and the people walking around seem a little too rude for my tastes. Sure there’s lots of nice folks around, but the number of people absentmindedly flailing around the aisles with signs sticking out of their backpacks poking me in the face and pulling suitcases or hand trucks filled with comics taking me out at the legs is way too high. If I ran the show, I’d ask retailers and vendors to relax on the overly huge giveaways that just end up getting in the way. Weird Alien facehugger mask things? No problem there though they were littered all over the place, but those big huge Anime signs? Too much.

The costumes also caused a few different problems. I’m not saying people shouldn’t dress up, but try and be considerate of the people around you. Skintight’s alright, but carrying a giant hammer or sword? Ridiculous. I would imagine it’s also pretty damn uncomfortable after about 20 minutes. Oh, and if you’re wearing a costume that obscures vision, don’t act pissed off at me when you bump into me and don’t say “Hey, sorry.” I can’t tell you how many “sorrys” or “excuse mes” I dropped at the show. But even the costumes that don’t get in the way while you’re trying to walk the floor can be a pain when other people stop them to take a picture. I personally don’t understand the appeal of dressing up for these things, but to each their own. I understand wanting to take pictures of every Chewbacca or Scarlet Spider you see (I saw three myself) even less. But, if you’re going to do something like that, please, for the love of Mike, do it off to the side and not right in the middle of the aisle. Many of my problems with the show come down to basic human courtesy not being observed.

But not all of them. I went down to the show on my own during the day on Friday only from about 2 to 5 or so and the first thing I did was go down to get my press pass. I was shocked to see a line so long I half expected Jim Lee to be on the other end handing out free art and hugs. Nope, it’s the press room. I don’t really know what the hold up was. There were four or five volunteers helping people out and the guy who helped me was super nice, but it took a good half hour. I heard that this year, Reed accepted a lot more press credential applications, which was painfully obvious as I stood in line with a dude in a Viking helmet, people in costume and dudes running fan sites. Maybe I’m old fashioned, but I think people from the press should handle themselves professionally.

The press line was just the first hint at how crowded and busy the show was going to be. Friday wasn’t terrible, but it still wasn’t easy to move around the show floor. I wound up spending my last hour of the show hanging outside with some friends and then took off. The next day, the missus and I planned to get down to the show around noon and it was ridiculously packed. We made our way to a few booths to see some friends, but even after that I was pretty tired of fighting the crowds, especially trying to get from the main show floor to artists alley which was not easy thanks to a gigantic Animal Planet structure they put in the back corner.Basically, this year seemed like a complete 180 change in the problem that people had the first year or two when they actually closed off entry onto the show floor because it was too crowded. The only problem with that was that some pros and panelists were actually kept from their tables and appointments.

I think artists alley has been in a different configuration each year of the show and this one was pretty good, though having the gaming stuff crammed back there lead to some more aisle-cluttering. In my opinion, the best year for the alley was when they had the whole thing on the upper level, but I hear this year, that area was being redone.

At first I thought about not even bothering with this post because it’s kind of like a hardcore horror fan taking Twilight to task for being aimed at teenagers, because these big shows aren’t really my thing anyway, but they should be my thing. Any comic fan should be able to go to a show, have a good time and take advantage of whatever the show offers. I know going in what I don’t want to bother with, but when I can’t even get to the comics, that seems like a comic show that isn’t being run very well. I’ve heard a lot of complaints about the volunteers, but I didn’t have any problems with them. I was shocked that I never once saw a place to pick up programs. They could have been right in front of me, but the crowds were so thick that I couldn’t see them.

I don’t expect much to change with NYCC. It sold out on Saturday and Sunday, so it made huge money. Things that make lots of money tend not to get scaled back to make less money. Maybe some limitations on what attendees can bring into the show could be made (no giant hammers or suitcases on the show floor, but also give people an opportunity to access their comics at the rental place) and the aforementioned request for smaller, more manageable giveaways. A much more well handled crowd would also be appreciated and make the crazy number of people walking around feel less daunting. Even if nothing changed on the part of Reed and NYCC, it would be awesome if people just relaxed a little bit, weren’t chasing after people in costume to take a picture of them in the middle of the aisle and freely smashing into people without apologizing. I don’t expect the show to be completely turned around to fit my ideal show (quarter boxes as far as the eye can see), but it would be nice if the people in charge made a change or two to make the show a little more easy to swallow.

New York Comic Con

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So, as I’m sure you’re aware, this past weekend was the enormous New York Comic Con. I’ve actually gone every year and the show gets better and better, though, that’s pretty easy considering how poorly laid out it was the first year.

I mostly walked around and talked to my various ToyFare contacts, but I also got a chance to flip through some boxes of cheap trades ($5, 50% off and best of all, buy 1 get 2 free!!!). So, keep an eye out for a bunch of trade reviews in the coming days and weeks (including a four trade Black Panther retrospective).

Aside from that, I was too much of a wuss to talk to any artists and get sketches in my Green Lantern themed sketchbook (as of now, it’s got one sketch, though it is a pretty cool Koi Pham Guy Gardner). So, if any artists are reading this and want to contribute, let me know 🙂

Last but not least Justin Aclin, the big man at ToyFare, lead a slew of us in a Twisted ToyFare Theatre panel that turned out to be a lot of fun. So, thanks to anyone who came out for that and anyone who wished me a happy birthday on Friday (my 26th).

And, seriously, if you’re an artist and want to draw some rad Green Lanterns, drop me a line!