Saturday, December 29, 2012
Adventures in New York City's 2012 Comic Con
It only seemed appropriate that a disembodied robotic British woman’s voice should guide us on our way to the 2012 Comic Con in New York City. Every twist and turn along the way she patiently described as Alfred might have done for Batman on one of the Caped Crusader’s missions. I’m pleased to say Ms. Garmin (or should that be “Garminwoman” in comic-ese?) only had to recalculate for me once.
Comic Con is one over the top fan experience. Every organization directly or tangentially involved in the comic book/superhero worlds was there ready and waiting for the eager fans, including Lego with their super-heroic lines and Craftsman?! I can only guess that had something to do with Batman’s utility belt.
But I spring ahead, leaping over tall narrative in a single bound. We stowed the car and our bags in the Holiday Inn Express, which was the most vertical motel I’ve ever seen. Six rooms to a floor and fourteen floors in all. Superman would have enjoyed the bounding exercise leaping that tall building. We gathered our publishing advertising materials and headed for the show, a show unlike any I’d seen before, including the one Star Trek convention I attended (for work, mind you). On the way there, an man in his sixties lugging a rolling suitcase came up beside me. We spent the rest of the walk to the convention center talking about his adventures at previous Comic Cons. He had been to each and every one of them, traveling from San Diego to New York every year for many years. He regaled me with tales of the famous folk in that world he had met and friends he had made. His openness set the tone for the event. I’ve never been among a group more excited to be where they were and enjoying being who they really were, geeks steeped in lore and legend, geeks accepted for who they are in a place that welcomes them wholeheartedly.
I discovered that one of my business associates is an ardent fan of all things comic and anime. I impressed him with my old school comic knowledge among the characters on display in day one and with the fact that I am “a gamer,” which he would never have taken me for. That first day was a VIP day, with a select and limited crowd. The next day, I was impressed by his extensive knowledge of the characters walking by from the anime world. What characters are these? They are fans, fans in all shapes and sizes wearing costumes ranging from the very amateur to the nearly professional, from virtual suits of armor in which no portion of the human form beneath is exposed to little whiffs of near comic nothingness exposing an alarming array of flesh.
The first day was deceptive. In an hour or two, you could stroll the complex, talk to the vendors and the artists who were setting up booths hoping to catch the eyes of new fans for their home creations or perhaps the eyes of agents and publishers seeking new talent. My favorite was the duo who wrote “Kill Shakespeare” a graphic novel (think long, elaborate comic in hard cover) combining many of Shakespeare’s characters. Hamlet arrives on England’s shores, has an audience with the King (it might have been Lear, Macbeth, or another storied Shakespearian monarch) who commissions Hamlet to kill an upstart rebel in the land, that well known scoundrel William Shakespeare. Entertaining cameos did abound.
The next day was a reality check. It began when we arrived in the lobby of our motel and found ourselves in the company of Batman, the Joker, Bain (the ORIGINAL Bane, we were informed), and an Assassin from a video game. I was impressed by the willingness of the costumed fans to pose for photos. Holler out a character name and that person would turn, strike a classic pose in most cases, and gladly wait as you took one or several photos. It was fun watching costumed superheroes and heroines taking appreciative photos of each other. Arriving at the booth one half hour before opening time, when the doors opened to the public, in they came in costumed waves, rising higher and higher with each passing hour. By noon, a stroll for coffee and a rest break that would have taken ten minutes was an hour long adventure in a cacophony of cartoon and video game worlds. Again, the acceptance of the fans for each other’s divergent passions was fun and a relief to be a part of in what has become such a divided and polarized nation. My business partner with the deep comic knowledge expressed that gentleness of spirit well when he saw some fan who had less than comic book proportions (and who doesn’t) carrying a bit of a belly (or a lot of one) would pass off the aberrant (or mutant?) physique as, “Oh, that’s the Joker in his retirement years.”
Without the immense fan enthusiasm, this would be just another sprawling convention selling a wide variety of wares to a niche fan base. But the fans made the experience special. Their excitement to be among people with whom they could truly be themselves was contagious and rewarding.
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