I really needed New York Comic Con. Right when I leaped off the edge into a truly epic emotional nosedive, my hometown con came along and played parachute for me. This might be a more personal entry into the IYFJ back catalogue, but it’s really the only thing I can write right now. Get ready for some indulgence, and maybe — just maybe — there’ll be some lessons learned for all at the end.
The running theme of Sean Howe’s excellent “Marvel Comics: The Untold Story” is not a pleasant one; for the most part, the comic book industry is a relentless soul-sucking machine that left everyone in its Silver Age wake penniless and credit-less as they entered an uninsured old age. The picture the book painted was pretty bleak!
Things have changed for creators since then, but the comic book industry as a whole can still be a merciless place. Comic book jobs still come and go, and this is especially true in the comic book journalism field. I realize that I’m incredibly lucky that I get to write 1400 words about She-Hulk on a Wednesday morning for work, but I also have to come to terms with the fact that this entire gig will never be as lucrative or stable as all those jobs my high school peers went into, gigs that involve, like, numbers and stuff. I get to write for a living, specifically about a thing that I love, but I don’t get to earn stacks on stacks on stacks. I will never own a Manhattan apartment, is what I’m getting at. That’s the trade off.
So let’s get IN YOUR FACE with some honesty right now: I entertained the notion of cutting my losses and running into whatever non-niche field would take a guy with my nutso resume exactly a week ago. Could I hack it as a “social media strategist,” or could I suck it up and devote my writing skills to — ugh — something other than comics? It became time to either go all in or fold, and I wasn’t sure which way this clumsy poker metaphor would go.
And then New York Comic Con 2013 happened.
I’m not gonna front and act like I didn’t previously have a Sam and Diane thing going with my hometown show (“Cheers” reference count: three in three weeks). Last year, the crowds became unbearable, the post-show hangouts too scattered, and the overall experience wore me down. I’d discovered the glory of HeroesCon in Charlotte, North Carolina, a show that is filled with pure comic book goodness, and with seeming infinite room for personal space on the show floor. I even had a good time at Comic-Con International! These shows were somehow giving NYCC some stiff competition.
And, again, then New York Comic Con 2013 happened.
This show wasn’t as unbearably crowded as last year’s (although it apparently had more attendees), the quality of Artist Alley obliterated anything SDCC can put together, and I spent a ton of time with people I love. I was considering abandoning the journalism ship Titanic-style, and NYCC was all like, “That’s not an iceberg, that’s a party island! Let’s park the boat and get down!”
I assume that the heavy-duty Fraudulent Badge Prevention Force played a significant role in keeping the floor free of badge-sharing/stealing riff-raff. Honestly, having to scan my badge on entry and exit didn’t cause the congestion I initially thought it would; I entered and exited the con with as much ease as any other year, and my experience on the show floor was a bit more enjoyable. Yeah, the con goofed big time with their social media hijacking, but it turns out that the tweet they wrote for me on Thursday — “I amount of people in artist alley felt better than ever. I got to meet great creators for the first time, and all of them reinforced my idea that comic book creators are the coolest and nicest people on Earth. I got a few new pieces for my TV characters sketchbook, including a David Letterman from Gabriel Hardman and “Golden Girls'” Blanche from Russell Dauterman.
But what really made me decide to stick with all of this has to be the interactions I had with the creators that I can now call my… friends. Even though I’ve been in this industry as a professional for the past five years, I still have a hard time wrapping my head around the fact that people whose work I love are also people that remember who I am, ask how I’m doing, remember things I told them in person a year ago, and genuinely like seeing me. On top of that, those people read this column, and people I met for the first time also read this column. I honestly just throw this into the ether every week and pray to God I don’t get a ton of hate-tweets, so to get positive in-person feedback from people I admire…? That’s just what I needed after the soul-crushing-ness of last week.
I got even more encouragement at the two panels I attended: the NY Times OUT and Geeks Out sponsored LGBT & Allies in Comics panel, and the Women in Marvel panel. Both of these panels felt incredibly fresh and invigorating, and gave me the exact adrenaline I needed to get motivated about comics again. Both panels were built around representation in comics and the need for diversity both on the printed page and behind the scenes. As a gay dude that wants to write comics, these panels helped convince me to stick around in a big way.
The 2013 NYCC Women in Marvel panel will go down as the turning point in the fight for gender equality in comic books. After a year of proving that Carol Danvers is on par with any male hero thrown her way, “Captain Marvel” writer Kelly Sue DeConnick delivered an impassioned speech to her troops to make comics. The huge panel room was at standing room only levels, filled predominantly with women who not only read comics, but want to make comics.
I know I’m a guy, and I know I’m a white guy. I know the industry is filled with me and my Converse-wearing, glasses-sporting brothers, but this stuff inspires me. I doubt any other panel contained as much passion for making comics as the Women in Marvel one did, and if any white dude wannabe creator left it feeling anything other than completely charged up to make comics, then they’re all the weaker for it. Those women are smart, positive, and incredibly passionate; as a hopeful writer, I want to create female characters that attract that audience.
One of my New Year’s resolutions for 2013 was to start making comics again. After NYCC 2013, I’m happy to report that I’ve finally stopped procrastinating. Thanks to kind words from strangers, creators, and friends, as well as the rallying cries delivered in every panel I attended, I think I’m deeper into this business than I was a week ago when I considered ditching it entirely.
I love comics, and after this past weekend, I don’t think there’s any place I’d rather be.
Brett White is a comedian living in New York City. He co-hosts the podcast Matt & Brett Love Comics and is a writer for the comedy podcast Left Handed Radio. His opinions can be consumed in bite-sized morsels on Twitter (@brettwhite).