I hate to be a hater, BUT I THOUGHT THE NEW YORK COMIC-CON SUCKED! I’ve written approvingly of the con in the past, but it’s been steadily going downhill, and this past weekend was its nadir. When they started the show in 2006, they made a concerted effort to attract alternative and “literary” publishers and cartoonists, which they balanced with an understandably mostly mainstream vibe, and I appreciated the influx of potential new readers.
But then last year, the show began seriously tilting toward the same superhero/manga/gaming/merchandising thrust of the other mega-cons like San Diego and Chicago; and this year, it was full-bore. In 2007, although it was a bit of a pain squeezing through the crowds, I was still able to see friends and compatriots like Chris Staros of Top Shelf, Sheila Keenan at Scholastic, Mark Siegel at First Second, and the like; this year, I couldn’t find any of them. (I know, I know, Sheila is no longer with Scholastic, but you get the point.) Granted, I showed up with Phoebe at about 1 pm on Saturday, which was probably the craziest time, but it was a madhouse, a zoo, a freak show, a … you get the drift. I can’t say enough how unpleasant it is to be jostled, squeezed, and b.o.-bombarded by hordes of Star Wars stormtroopers, flabby “superheroes,” and wannabe Suicide Girls!
I saw a small Fantagraphics table, but absolutely no other representatives of — or cartoonists from — the alternative industry. Even the Vertigo booth (they were kind enough to provide me a free pass due to my work on American Splendor) was so packed and chaotic, that I didn’t dare venture in there to say hi to editors Jonathan Vankin and Mark Doyle. (I did spot
, signing copies of Shooting War, and briefly spoke to
before he did a panel, but that was really it in terms of folks I knew.) I guess after last year, there was a general consensus by folks with non-mainstream agendas to skip this show. I wish I had gotten the memo!
To me, nothing at the show really was about comics, about great stories, exciting art, innovative uses of the form. It’s all flash, marketing, cross-branding, and perpetuating the most crass, adolescent, and stupefying elements of genre content. For all I know, the panels may have been interesting and enlightening, but after all, there’s only so much programing you can fill with peaens to Battlestar Galactica and tributes of the death of Captain America. (I did hear that the ACT-I-VATE panel on Friday went well, which I’m thrilled about.) And the place was such a circus, that even if I had seen, say an editor I knew, it was no environment in which to review a project or discus possible new ones.
So now I know I can skip this show in the future and stick to indy-centered cons like SPX and MoCCA. If nothing else, the experience reminds me why those kind of shows (and APE, and SPACE, and Stumptown, etc.), were created, and how anachronistic (and insulting!) cons like this one are in terms of their portrayal of the comics industry as a whole.