THE BIG SMELLY MOVES DOWNTOWN
The Big Apple Con put on a fresh coat of paint this past weekend, moved downtown, got some big-name guests, and still sucked. Just to cover their tracks, however, they renamed it "The Second National Comic Book, Art, Toy, and Sci-Fi Expo." It tried to be all things to all people and failed miserably. (For sanity's sake, the con will heretofore be referred to as "The National.")
There seems to be one thing the promoters don't understand in New York City: More dealers and guests don't necessarily make a con more attractive. I'd rather have a smaller con where I can walk around without excusing myself every five steps than one with twice as many dealers where I feel like I'm holding up a line if I'm looking at a dealer's box.
That's a major reason why I've enjoyed the Madison Square Garden convention the past two years much more than the National. While the MSG people have some problem keeping their advertised guests at the show longer than a single afternoon, they do have a load of comic book guests, as well as plenty of dealers and enough room to move around. Heck, they even get Marvel and DC to attend the shows!
Maybe I'm just spoiled after San Diego and Chicago, but there's something to be said about a convention where there's some open air. The aisles are wider than three feet. The ceilings are nice and high. The lighting is bright. People aren't crawling over each other. Creators don't disappear in a corner. The panel rooms are -
Oh, wait, this is a whole paragraph unto itself. The National had a "panel room." It was used to record interviews for a local comic book radio show. It's a room with a table at the front, and about ten rows of folding chairs, with each row about five or six chairs across. There's one aisle to the right side for people to walk in and out of the room, and two sets of squeaky swinging doors. Right behind the table with the hosts and their guest is an ice machine, where con volunteers are wont to walk in and out through a squeaky swinging door to loudly scoop up ice in their pitchers. I heard that when the ice machine automatically turned on throughout the day, it drowned out the panelists.
It's so bad it's almost laughable.
New York needs a real convention. I don't think I need to go through this rant again. And I know it's virtually impossible with current union regulations. Hell, even the Auto Show has its problems with them. What chance do lowly comics have?
Why can't someone put together a show in a large enough venue that would allow for artists' alleys, retailer booths that are both large enough for the retailer to be comfortable, but also spacious enough that a crowd of people can be standing in front of the booth and not have to suck in their guts - no matter how skinny - to let people pass through the aisle behind them.
The answer might lie in putting the convention just outside of the city, whether it is in "upstate New York" (the quaint euphemism used for any town that's not in the five boroughs or Long Island), or over the river in New Jersey. You could get the cache of a big city con without incurring all the extra costs.
I saw one or two people in wheelchairs at this convention. I have no idea how they ever moved through it. I had a backpack and barely made it down some tight spots. Of course, Murphy's Law kicks in then. Picture this: You're driving down a long straight road and there's a car at the far end coming at you in the opposite lane. There are only two cars parked on the curb in this entire road, and of course they're both parked directly across from each other. Guess at which point your two cars are going to meet? If you guessed at the strategically located point in the road where it's only one car wide, you're right!
That's how it felt at this convention the entire friggin' time.
Thankfully, I only picked up the less-than-faint whiff of Unshowered Fanboy Stench in one or two locations. Those two examples were all I needed. Yuck!
Glen Fabry was seated next to Erik Larsen in what could laughably be called "Artists' Alley." Their lines choked off any hope for people to get to any of the other six guests in the immediate vicinity. I don't think it mattered, though. Most of the guests at this convention were not big name modern day artists. I don't mean to diminish the worth or value of the Golden Age Greats, or their Silver Age counterparts, but I just didn't see that demographic shopping at this con. The crowd skewed much younger than forty.
Carmen Infantino sat in the original art section of the con (on the far end of the con from "Artists' Alley") twiddling his thumbs.
Dan DeCarlo seemed to keep busy. Every time I passed by him, there would be one or two people there talking to him. In retrospect, I'm sorry I didn't stop by to say hi and wish him well in his struggles with Archie. Might have made a great addition to my sketchbook. Hmm…
Jimmy Palmiotti was nice enough to draw in an Alec Wagner from GATECRASHER in my sketchbook, which made me incredibly happy. I love that series. It still never fails to amaze me how artists can take out a Sharpie at a con and, on their first try, draw these perfect sketches. Even knowing that they draw the same sketch over and over again, you've got to figure they'd screw one up every now and again. It's never happened to me, though.
STAR TREK's Scotty, James Doohan, was there, signing autographs and taking pictures for a $20 or $25 fee. Or, you could go around the corner and down the next aisle to buy some plaques with his picture and autograph on it for about the same price at the Star Trek Autographs booth. Heck, even Leonard Nimoy's autographed pics were marked down.
It's a bit of a sobering reminder that time stops for no man. Doohan was seated in a wheelchair, and his agent wheeled him around whenever he had to go anywhere. I also felt sorry for him because this really wasn't his convention. Erik Larsen was drawing longer lines than STAR TREK's Scotty. Can you imagine? Millions of people know who Scotty is. Millions can recite some of his dialogue. Yet little comics artist Erik Larsen outdraws him. And the convention management keeps stocking the con with 1970s Playboy models, 1960s Sci-Fi television show has-beens, and 1970s sit-com hacks.
You can't split your focus up into that many directions without losing your audience.
There were some very surreal moments, as well. Try hanging out by the bathroom some time. Anyone who spends any time at a comic con will eventually pass through there, right? Don't hang out inside a bathroom. That would just be scary. Just try hanging out and watching the people come and go. There are a couple of interesting things to notice. I mean, I saw Spider-Man go into the bathroom. (Can you picture Spidey at the urinal?) I asked Erik Larsen if he had ever drawn Spidey in the bathroom. Of all the creators over the decades to draw or write Spidey stories, isn't Erik Larsen the first choice you'd pick for doing the scene? We all (Chris "DESPERATE TIMES" Eliopoulos was there at the time, too) came to the conclusion that he hadn't, aside from Peter Parker's tendency to enter and leave the various apartments he and Mary Jane lived in through the bathroom skylight.
It also seems that the three-quarters naked chicks have weak bladders. Either that or their miniscule costumes get too tight when their bladders fill up and so they need to empty themselves pretty often. Empty their bladders, that is. Not their stomachs.
Well, maybe both… Wearing a cat's tail must be uncomfortable, though.
Speaking of which, there were a lot of mostly-naked chicks and drawings of them hanging out in this con. I'm tempted to say there were more mostly-naked chicks per square foot at this con than any other con I've ever been to. (Yes, that stat is a bit skewed by the relative size of this con compared to San Diego and Chicago. But they definitely beat out the Small Press Expo.) One of the oddest bits of positioning was the Friends of Lulu booth. Yes, it was nice that they were next to Dan DeCarlo. On the other side, however, was a booth with a bunch of posters and prints hanging up behind it that had to make judicious use of Post-It Notes to block out the naughty bits. Will con organizers never learn?
I spent all of six bucks on comics at the con. (Picked up all three issues of Dan Jurgens and Kevin Nowlan's SUPERMAN/ALIENS mini. Beautiful art. Haven't read it yet.) My small spending spree is not entirely the convention's fault. I'm just not looking for much these days. There also seemed to be an inordinate number of Golden and Silver Age dealers at this show. I think they outnumbered the "Modern Age" dealers. (Nor did I need trading cards or action figures or sci-fi collectibles or quartz crystals or animation cels.)
Oh, wait, I did drop $20 at one trade paperback table. Picked up THE GREATEST SUPERMAN STORIES EVER TOLD and read the two most recent stories from it on the train road home. The first was Alan Moore's "For the Man Who Has Everything," illustrated by Dave Gibbons. (It's a very good story. I don't know if it's the best Superman story of all time that some have suggested, though.) The second was John Byrne's SUPERMAN #2, which tells of Lana Lang's kidnapping by Lex Luthor. That one is crucial to a bit of business in the modern Superman continuity, so I thought it was worth reading.
The other TPB was Peter Kuper's THE SYSTEM, a wordless story of coincidences and the way different lives in the big city intertwine. It's a bit too jumpy, but it's definitely an interesting experiment, and worth reading, if you can just follow everything that happens in the first issue.
Now for the name-dropping: Hello again to Danielle, Cheris, and Rahsaan. The world's a small place. I first met them at WizardWorld this summer and so we made the trip to NYC together this past weekend. Go figure - I had to go to Chicago to meet new friends who live an hour away here in New Jersey.
Also, I should say a great big "hey" to Lou, a Pipeline reader who picked me out in the crowd. For a brief moment there, I had more people talking with me than James Doohan.
Finally, it was good to run into Kevin Mason, creator of Slave Labor's SLEEPING DRAGONS series. We first met in Bethesda last month, and you can expect a review of his comic coming soon. He's a very nice guy, but he's Canadian so it's not like he can help himself. ::duck grin run::
MUCH MORE IN THE PIPELINE THIS WEEK
Just to further prove I'm insane, I'm writing two more Pipelines this week! Stop back here on Thursday for a bunch of reviews of recent comics that I've read but haven't had the chance to talk about yet.
Then it's a themed review day for Pipeline2 on Friday, as I open up a bunch of books starring BATMAN. It surprised me to realize there were three books I read last week that dealt with the earliest days of Robin, so I want to compare and contrast those. But there will be more past that, even. After all, they publish at least for other monthly Batman books. Certainly, there's something in there I can find to talk about!