NY Comic-Con = Bleaugh


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.

17 thoughts on “NY Comic-Con = Bleaugh

  1. I had a good time at NYCC – but agree with a lot of what you say. We went w. my brother-in-law and his infant son on Sunday, and found the crowds weren’t too bad in terms of having a stroller with us. I wasn’t there on Sat. so perhaps it was way more crowded.
    I think looking at the spectacle of mainstream comics/TV/movies/video-games is enjoyable enough, but it doesn’t do much else for me. I bought almost nothing, and basically just came home from the convention really excited for MoCCA.

    1. Yeah, I can totally relate that some folks enjoy the spectacle. The thing is, though, ever since I lost interest in getting autographs from my favorite cartoonists, or filling gaps in my Doom Patrol collection, the whole scene has lost its allure. Remember, I attended my first convention when I was around 15 years old, so this is like 25 years worth of geek/junk culture overload!

  2. I had never been to one of Those Shows and then I went to Wondercon this year……. dag. I didn’t mind because it doesn’t have “comic” in the name anyway, it’s just an all-purpose fan thing, and I was happy to see Mulder & Scully and chat with the very nice Battlestar actor Richard Hatch [and publicly embarrass my friend who had confided in me that she always had a crush on “the old Starbuck”]. Plus, it was kind of nice not to know anyone at the tables — I’m used to small-press shows where I spend most of my time going around and saying hi to people I haven’t seen for a while, but this time I got to be just some random gawker instead. And there wasn’t anything I wanted to buy, so I didn’t have to buy anything! Yay! Still….. dag. There was a big damn crowd and there were people dressed up as dumb stuff and I can see plenty of Suicide Girls in my neighborhood anyway.
    Hey, maybe the show went “downhill” just because they knew Phoebe would be there and she has the innocent gleeful eye of a child, whereas you and I are ancient bitter snobs.

    1. Yeah, see my response above about having had to endure these type cons over a 25-year-span. It’s almost like there should be a distinction between a “convention” and a “trade show.” San Diego, WonderCon, Chicago, now New York — those are trade shows.
      “Bitter?” Apt term for Pennsylvania primary day. I’m gonna go home and burn incense at my John Byrne shrine. Then I will perfect my light saber moves.

  3. Hey, Heidi MacDonald excerpted part of your post over on her blog, to which I replied:
    “Harrumph, harrumph! At the risk of being opportunistic–or more correctly, displaying my opportunism openly–I would point out that this year’s HeroesCon is boasting its most mind-boggling indie guest list ever. Seriously, I’ve been working on the seating for Indie Island all morning, and it’s a pretty AWESOME group of big namers (Huizenga, Harkham, Hernandez, O’Malley) and studly up-and-comers (Longstreth, Zettwoch, Baillie). If Mr. Neufeld is within the sound of my voice, I’d invite him to come down to where the flavor is this summer.”
    I’m not speaking ill of NYCC, which I’ve never gone to before, but I feel your pain on indie comics at mainstream shows. Bring it on down to Charlotte–we’re a family-friendly show that’s ALL ABOUT COMICS, plus has a huge section right at the center of everything. More here: http://www.heroesonline.com/con-indie.html. It’s pretty sweet, if I do say so myself. And you know who else is coming? Mike Dawson, that’s who–bring your stroller, Mike!

    1. I just realized after posting that I’m “anonymous”. Just so’s you know, this is Dustin Harbin, one of the organizers of HeroesCon and Indie Island.

  4. I try to stay in the loop as best I can
    Josh, from what I’ve heard, all the indy comics people are now promoting their graphic novels at the book publishers’ conventions. I’ll bet there are some old school poets and novelists who are up in arms about all the “funnybook people” invading their conventions.

  5. In fairness, man, I think you found what you brought with you. I mean, you must have had expectations which weren’t met, to be so disappointed. I had a great time, met with lots of people including Siegel and Bertozzi. I saw a number of ‘alternative’ cartoonists signing at the Image booth, because Image is putting out a wider range of material these days. I met British cartoonists, Italian cartoonists, editorial reps from four publishing houses, and my favorite art director.
    All the good stuff was there, if you let yourself see past the glam.

    1. You’re undoubtedly right. It looks like I was there at the worst possible time — plus I was pushing a stroller. I honestly was looking forward to the show, however, and wanted to have a good time. But instead I felt like I was in the fourth circle of Hell. (I am surprised I didn’t see any of the book publishers; I really thought I slogged through the entire joint.)

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