The song "New York, New York" wasn't actually written about New York Comic Con, but it could have been. If you can deal with that convention, maybe even have a good time, then you can probably handle any convention of any size, in any place. With attendance around the size of San Diego Comic Con, crammed into a building half the size with none of the nearby hotels to absorb the overflow, questionable "ventilation" and a creatively chaotic layout, then you're definitely some kind of superhuman. Clearly I'm some kind of insane glutton for punishment though, because I'm going back for a third time this weekend. Being the big convention on the East Coast, NYCC attracts a large European contingent and is often the only place where I can meet friends visiting from the UK and Europe.
It isn't like I'm so immersive about the experience, I know I half-ass it. I'm old and I'm sleepy, and I'm probably going to be working on some pretty intense little design jobs in a cafe somewhere for part of NYCC. But still, even only attending the con for a couple of hours on a couple of days, I get completely blown away. Last year I have only two memories of the con and one is smiling and saying hi far too many people to remember individuals, while the other memory is of hiding at the back of the Star Wars vendor, while staring into space and trying to remember where I was supposed to be. It sounds pathetic and I fully admit that in the face of the chaos, I lost it. This is what happens when you pack too many people into a small space and then create a layout which feels a lot like a maze.
To qualify my inability to cope I should tell you that I'm no country mouse. Although I've been living in the mellow environs of California for 16+ years, I am a native Londoner with a New York mum (so I spent a lot of time there growing up.) What I'm saying is, I can handle a crowded city. The problem is not the city. It is the convention. It just blows all the fuses in my head every time. So my advice is, if you're attending NYCC, do not underestimate the convention, it is a beast and there is no other like it. People may try to tell you it is the East Coast version of SDCC, but they're wrong. Respect NYCC.
Now, on the other hand, if you're considering a slightly less glitzy convention, closer to the spirit of the quie, self-employed loners who actually make comic books, I highly recommend the Alternative Press Expo in San Francisco.
Strangely, APE is happening this weekend too, at exactly the same time as NYCC. It makes me sad that they're on the same weekend, because if they were just a couple of weeks apart, I'd go to both. It seems like a huge mistake to have scheduled such different conventions on the same day, since both have a different appeal and offer a unique experience, neither of which are echoed at the other, so whatever I do, I'm missing something big... Look, if you any of you go, can you tell me all about it? While I both fear and love the insanity of NYCC, I'm so excited about the joys of APE this year. Here are a few cool things and very nice people which I will be missing (which you can look out for and report back on, if you go to APE!):
Justin Hall will be there. He's the writer and artist behind crazy books like Glamazonia and True Travel Tales. He's on a queer cartoonists panel on Saturday too, but if you can catch him on the Prism table he'll be super friendly too.
Amanda Storey will be at APE for the first time, presenting all her new book "Brow-zine" (documenting all of the really important eyebrows in beauty history), as well as a pretty amazing Benefit competition you can enter.
Ben Walker is going to be there with all his disturbing western-themed paintings, if you're lucky he'll be selling tshirts too. His bears are ripped off by all sorts of people, so why not go right to the source?
Kristen Adam is also going to have a table at APE for the first time, and she has a whole slew of her disturbing / naked / death /Victorian art (which has to be seen to be believed.)
Josh Ellingson is creating a whole new batch of teeny, tiny paintings on canvas for production as a limited edition print (previously cocktail-drinking-fish, so I'm very curious about the new one), and his illustrations of Slimer are free on nifty stickers with any purchase (I want those!)
Katie Longua is selling her psychedelic comic book ROK, which is a freaky mashup of Norse gods, sparkly unicorns, rainbows and violence. She is deceptively small, with a fiercely eclectic imagination.
There is a lot going on at APE, some good and some bad, this is just a taste of the things that pop out to me. APE is bigger than you'd think, check it out. While you do that, I'll be on the other side of the country checking out NYCC 2012 and hoping it doesn't kill me. I'll let you know how it goes...