I had been looking forward to attending the New York Comic Book Convention (ComicCon) for the last four years, it’s an annual event, but work obligations have prevented me from attending the east coast’s biggest convention of comics, movies, video games, books and pop culture...until now! Finally, my schedule worked out where I could attend (for one day at least) and I was blown away, this is one of the few things I have looked forward to for a significant amount of time that not only lived up to, but surpassed any and all expectations I had about it. This was quite simply one of the most fun days of my life and I will be pleasantly surprised if any other 24-hour period in 2009 comes close to providing so much entertainment and enjoyment.
ComicCon is a 3 day event held in New York City’s Jacob K. Javits Convention Center and is second in size and scope only to the San Diego Comic Convention that has been immortalized on the HBO series “Entourage.” Because I was so pumped about the convention (the day before when Lyle Mead called and asked “Dude, how pumped are you for ComicCon?” I responded “If I was any more pumped I would have to be taking hits from an oxygen mask and sitting in a “cool zone” to calm my a** down.”) I set my alarm for 7 am and went to bed early on Saturday night so I could get there early and beat the crowds to all the cool exhibits and giveaways before settling in for an afternoon of panel discussions and screenings (for some reason this doesn’t sound nearly as cool when I am writing it). Myself and Amber De Leggas arrived at the Javits Center just before 10am and there was already a huge line to get credentials for the day, I proceeded to cut in line in front of about 1,500 people and nobody said anything! I would never try this at a Hip-Hop show or sports event, but these people seemed pretty docile and most of them were so happy to be there they were not trying to step to some guy dressed “normally” for wandering into the front of the line. Looking back on this decision it was clearly riskier than I imagined because this was the first event I had ever purchased tickets for online that followed an email with the confirmation number with multiple emails forbidding attendees from bringing swords, nunchucks, guns or other weapons to the event, luckily for everyone, neither Amber or myself were impaled with a mace for cutting the line and everything went smoothly.
After we got our credentials (which we displayed around our necks proudly) we were instructed to go downstairs and wait in a giant “Z-Line” to get onto the exhibition hall floor. While we waited for about 15 minutes to get to the exhibits we basically “people watched” and made fun of/hated on people for showing up dressed as their favorite fantasy characters, however after I looked around some more I had this thought: How much different is this line than the spirals at Giant’s Stadium where people are decked out in Eli Manning jerseys and thousands of fans come to the stadium to watch their favorite team play? Then I looked around some more and realized that none of these people were belligerently intoxicated, nobody was yelling for women to “Show us your t*ts,” no one was profanely harassing somebody for liking Marvel instead of DC, there were no fights of any kind and I’m reasonably sure none of these people bet their next mortgage payment on whether the upcoming Watchmen movie will be better than the graphic novel. I’m not saying anything, I’m just saying.
We arrived on the main exhibition floor at about 10:30 and I was basically overwhelmed. To grasp the concept of this space one must envision an air plane hangar and then pack it full of some of the coolest stuff in the world. The array of action figures, comics, graphic novels, collector’s items and promo material for soon-to-be released movies and video games was simply mind blowing (I am not easily impressed, but this actually moved me). I was so overcome with shock and awe during the first 15 minutes I actually felt as if I could vomit at any moment, I had not felt this way since I saw “The Dark Knight” in IMAX last July and reportedly lost consciousness in my friend Lyle’s truck for a few moments while he was so stoked he got lost driving home from a theatre no more than 5 miles from his house. Luckily, I held it together and was able to enjoy a few hours of exhibitions, the highlights were Mattel’s action figure area where Amber’s passing mention of “She-Ra: Princess of Power” lead to a lengthy conversation with another attendee, the Ghostbusters video game area where actors had real proton packs (still cool 20 years later) and the DC area where we got enough free buttons to decorate the lapels of every jean jacket I ever owned.
At about 12:00 we had to leave the exhibition hall and start making our way to a panel discussion about Hip-Hop and comic books, if you know anything at all about me, you know there was no way I could miss this. The discussion was moderated by a comic book author and the panel included DMC, Chuck D and DJ Johnny Juice (PE) and some comic professionals. This was awesome, I sat about 15 feet away from two of my all-time favorite musicians while they discussed how comics influenced Hip-Hop and vice versa. The discussion was informative, although somewhat dominated by DJ Johnny Juice, it was clear he is a real comic book fan but at times it seemed as if he was getting back at Chuck for not letting him get on the mic at PE shows. Also, it was painfully obvious who the performers where and who the writers/illustrators were, DMC and Chuck D definitely held the room’s attention better and were more compelling public speakers than their comic counterparts. A discussion like this needs a strong moderator that can take control of the group and this was like having Milton Waddams from “Office Space” try to control a panel of Wendy Williams, Howard Stern, Samuel L. Jackson, Morton Downey and DMX. Regardless of the minor shortcomings the roundtable was awesome and, not surprisingly did not contain one mention of the farces “Run’s House” or “Flava of Love.”
Following the panel discussion all members were available for autographs and a brief meet and greet. Amber and myself got in line and we were quickly given the coolest Public Enemy poster ever (considering I have about 5, I consider myself an authority)and a few of their newer CD’s to have signed. DMC and Chuck D were amiable with everybody in line and posed for several pictures and would sign whatever was brought to them. When we got to the front of the line the two legend posed for two sick pictures with Amber and I and then signed our copies of Issue #1 of the Public Enemy comic. We made some small talk, I thanked them for so much great music and then the rest of the panel signed our comics. I don’t normally get star struck, but this hit me pretty hard and Amber loves seeing/meeting celebrities of any kind so to say we were pretty fired up would be a huge understatement. After I acknowledged that my heart rate was dangerously high and Amber stated “There’s no possible way I could sit down now” we wisely decided to skip the two-hour presentation on themes of “The Twilight Zone” and went back to the exhibition hall to calm down.
Immediately following meeting two of the best to ever do it we spent some time in the artist alley/small media section of the convention. This is where aspiring artists and books with limited circulation can cultivate new fans and make potential fans aware of their products. Right before the Hip-Hop discussion we walked through this area and Amber spotted a cool-looking graphic novel about sororities but no one was at the booth to sell it to her, we briefly discussed just walking away with it, but both agreed stealing from people providing this kind of experience was just too wrong. We spent the next hour looking for the book and unfortunately never found it, but this is where those “Comic Book Weirdos” can be found. In our search for this book I saw booths ranging from “adult themed” and “Mature” to just plain weird. There were also booths with Adult Film “Stars” (“Stars” is a subjective term, just because you made a movie does not make you a “star”), goth people, vampires, women in various stages of undress and an Asian woman claiming to be “The East Coast’s #1 Import Model” (I tried to argue that the #1 import model is the Nissan Altima, but no one really seemed interested).
Also during this part of the afternoon I was approached by a publisher and given a postcard about a hero named “Electrolyte: The Cure for Hangover” and called over to a booth by a guy promoting a book titled “How to Roll a Blunt for Dummies.” I do not use drugs or drink excessively, but apparently I look like “one of those guys.” Also, the guy with the “Blunt” book may be the world’s greatest salesmen because somehow he sold us one of the books even though neither one of us has any use for this information.
After our trip thought the “comic underground” we went back to the main area and picked up some cool S.W.A.G. (Stuff We All Get) from Marvel, DC, Vertigo, and EA Games including a triangular poster box emblazoned with titles of video games like “Warhammer” and “Spore” (basically what is used to mail posters or blue prints plus a shoulder strap). I carried this box over my shoulder for the rest of the convention and the rest of the day in NYC and Hoboken. I was later informed by Amber that the “Comic Book Convention Poster Box Over The Shoulder” -look was less and less acceptable the further away we got from the show. It was awesome in the Javits Center, across the street it was pretty cool, in Times Square it was alright, in Hoboken it was kind of goofy and by the time we got to my town it was completely asinine. However, I got like 10 free posters home without one single crease, so who’s laughing now? The fact that none of these will ever actually be displayed is completely beside the point.
Following ComicCon (we did not stay until the end, just until we could not take it anymore), we spent the rest of the day in NYC and had dinner at Black Bear in Hoboken. I have only been to Black Bear under the following circumstances: NFL Sundays with about 20 of my boys from High School and paying $35 for all-you-can-drink open bar parties. Having a quiet dinner during the Pro-Bowl (probably the worst thing in sports) is still fun, albeit a different kind of fun.
Overall New York Comic Con 2009 was a sick experience. I saw the best of comics, video games and upcoming movies AND got to meet two guys that shaped Hip-Hop. The only two “negatives” on the day were not tracking down that graphic novel and arriving at the Mattel display after they gave away all the inflatable He-Man swords, however considering I got enough free stuff that it was difficult to carry the “Swag Bag” back to Jersey, I can’t really be too disappointed. Anybody with any common sense will be there in October of 2010 for next year’s edition, I know I will be.