@Agent_70 2015 Convention Travel Log

Eagle-eyed fans of the #ComicBookChronicles may have spotted @Timdogg98 at Dallas Comic Con this past weekend. In honor of our panel’s first visit to a comic book convention in 2016, here is a recap of the conventions that @Agent_70 visited in 2015.

Agent_70 at Special Edition NYC 2015 at Pier 94

Special Edition NYC 2015 (Special Edition) is the sophomore outing for ReedPop’s comic-centric spin-off convention of NY Comic Con (NYCC). And the show is going through some growing pains. I was only able to attend on Saturday due to prior obligations on Sunday.

First things first. The biggest drama surrounding Special Edition this year was the on-site sales of NYCC tickets. Due to the numerous issues surrounding the online sales of NYCC tickets, many rushed to Special Edition in order to get their NYCC tickets. ReedPop claimed it had clawed back several tickets that were purchased online and then placed on the secondary market, giving them more tickets to sell at Special Edition. Nevertheless, the line to enter started very early for those looking to purchase their NYCC tickets.

Venue
The venue in 2015 switched from the North Pavilion of the Jacob Javits center, the home of Artist’s Alley during NYCC, to Pier 94 just north of the Intrepid Sea Air and Space Museum. The change in venue was announced early, and the venue brought back memories of a difficult Wizard World New York show held there back in 2008 or 2009.

Curiously, the Javits Center calendar of events does not reflect that there were any events at the Javits Center this weekend, which leads to the conclusion that the high price for using Javits as a venue led to an alternate location for Special Edition.

The consensus opinion I gathered from the more than 25 people I asked about the space is that the North Pavilion, designed as a convention hall, is more aesthetically appealing than Pier 94, which was jokingly referred to by one member of Special Edition’s Artists Alley as “the warehouse where the Joker burned the mob’s money”. Another exhibitor complained that it felt like she was sitting in a cave, with little to no natural light making its way in. Further souring opinions was the stagnant air in the building that did not move until the fans were turned on and emergency exits opened after convention attendees entered the building. The food options were limited, consisting of a cafe area at the rear of the main room with few options. Many opted to walk a few blocks away to get some food and fresh air.

Panels
The panels were located in adjacent curtained areas, not actual rooms, near the show floor. This led to outside noise often permeating the panel discussions. The content was impressive for a smaller con, with Marvel, DC, Image, Dark Horse having panels during the two days.

Artists Alley
There were plenty of artists on hand for the event, with positive word of mouth from the first show spreading amongst the talent. Robbi Rodriguez and Jason Latour had long lines to their tables on the heels of the launch of the first Spider-Gwen series. Shout out to Kaare Andrews, with whom I had a great conversation about his Iron Fist series.

Overall- The con experience was fine, but for the insane rush to get NYCC tickets that seemed unnecessarily annoying to fans who simply want to buy their tickets ahead of time.

 


 

@Agent_70 at New York Comic Con

This was the 10th annual New York Comic Con, and the first time that the con’s organizer, ReedPOP, held panels offsite at the Hammerstein Ballroom a few blocks away from the Jacob Javits Center.

The con has grown to the point that ReedPOP found the need to hold some panels at the Hammerstein Ballroom. The panels were TV related panels, such as a panel featuring the stars of the show Elementary.

As always, tickets were hard to come by. ReedPop has not yet perfected a way to sell tickets to fans and simultaneously keep the tickets out of the hands of scalpers who would sell them on eBay. I was unable to buy 3 or 4 day passes when they initially went on sale online. I obtained my 4 day pass while attending Special Edition. Read about my adventures at Special Edition at link.

Guests and Artists Alley

One of the true highlights of the con season for me was finally meeting Arthur Adams. I had a great conversation with him, and had him sign my sketch book cover that is adorned with a copy of the cover to a Marvel trade. Mr. Adams signed the entire Longshot limited series for me, as well as the incredible three issues of FF he drew with Walt Simonson on scripts. and purchased two great prints. Charles Soule was great as usual. He was sure to plug his upcoming Daredevil series. I bought a gigantic art book from David Petersen, The Art of Mouse Guard. I touched base with the Paybacks crew of Donny Cates & Eliot Rahal. I caught up with Frank Barbiere to say hello!

I picked up some great prints from Jim Cheung, including a print of the Hip Hop cover to All New All Different Avengers. John Cassaday was great. His line stretched around the corner and had a lot of people with stacks of Captain America, Astonishing X-Men, and Star Wars.

Mitch Gerads was a great pleasure to talk to. He and Tom King were sitting together in advance of the release of Sheriff of Babylon. I picked up a great print from Phil Noto and got a quick sketch of the Black Widow that was instantly recognizable as his version of Natasha Romanoff. The Spider-Gwen co-creator Robbi Rodriguez had his usual long line of fans looking for autographs and quick sketches.

I touched base with Sanford Greene, another friend of the show. I picked up his art book, and got a preview sketch of Iron Fist in the wake of the announcement that Mr. Greene was the artist on the new ongoing PowerMan and Iron Fist book.   

As always, Walt Simonson was a gentleman and a scholar. He also provided a phenomenal sketch of a frog-Thor.

Cosplay– For the very first time, I caught up with some friends who were cosplaying as Tony Stark and as Quake (Secret Wars Dell’Otto version), and I walked with them to the main cosplay areas. This was my first time diving headlong into the cosplay areas of NYCC, and I found it to be a fascinating experience. It is one thing to pause, stare, and stop cosplayers who are walking the aisles for pictures, and it is something else entirely to see cosplayers sharing cosplay tips and tricks while taking thematic and non-thematic group pictures. It was a great experience walking through the cosplay areas, and I look forward to walking the cosplay area next year.

Overall–  This was a very enjoyable New York Comic Con, and the show continues to expand, making ticket demand high during the early releases for tickets.  

 


 

@Agent_70 at NJ Comic Expo November 21, 2015

This was the inaugural NJ Comic Expo held at the NJ Convention and Exposition Center in Edison, NJ.The organizers are behind the Long Beach Comic Con. I was only able to attend on Saturday, November 21, so I cannot attest to the con experience when Jim Lee was signing on Sunday. FULL DISCLOSURE: I was provided Press Credentials for this show by the organizers MAD Event Management, the folks who also bring you the Long Beach Comic Con.

Location: The NJ Convention Center is located out in the wilds of NJ, I could not help but think as a New Yorker about how this location helped and hurt the convention. On one hand, having parking mere feet away from the convention floor made it SO very convenient to go back and forth from your car, especially if you made a big purchase, or simply needed to ditch the jacket you did not need during the con. On the other hand, the con was pretty much accessible only by car. There was no mass transit in the immediate vicinity from which one could walk to and from the convention center. I wonder how much of a difference that really makes to a con like this. The con is close enough to NYC that people like me could easily drive down within 45 minutes without much traffic. But people like me are driving down, whereas there are scores of comic book con-goers who do not drive or have a car because it is not convenient to have a car in New York City. I would love to compare this con to other small to mid-size cons that take place in suburban settings. Do cons in suburban settings ever expect that big a turnout from a nearby urban center where most people don’t drive?

Venue- The venue was functional and the layout of the convention was well thought out. Kudos to the convention planners for thinking through the use of the space and implemented what seemed to be a very practical layout.

Food- The food choices were limited to what was on-site, as there were no restaurants within walking distance. Again, if you are at all familiar with the suburban strip mall/office park setting, virtually every food option outside the convention center required a short car ride. The food available at the convention center seemed ok- standard fare hot dogs, burgers, and french fries, but there were a few other options, like some macaroni and cheese that looked good. An outside vendor had a space to sell empanadas, which were good and the stand had a steady stream of customers for most of the day.

Vendors- This was a mixed bag. There were a few comic book vendors who brought the latest comics to sell at discount prices, and there were a decent amount of back issues to be searched through. Toy vendors were more prominent, with FUNKO POP vinyls a big draw for the con. There were also two booths that dealt exclusively in the world of LEGO compatible brick characters, and my biggest regret was not picking up some of the really nice looking minifigs that were laid out in formation like the armies of Mordor or the orcs under the command of Saruman.

Guest list and Artists Alley: This too was a mixed bag. If you came out on Saturday, it seemed that there were virtually no lines in front of some big-name guests. I missed out on John Cassaday’s 3-5 p.m. signing at the Dynamite Booth while I was in a panel, but it turns out that once his line died down after one hour, there was virtually nobody there and you could go up and ask for a sketch, which is usually unheard of for an artist with Cassaday’s popularity. Jim Lee was scheduled for Sunday, and from some of the pics posted there was a good turnout for Sunday. Walt Simonson and Louise Simonson had a steady stream of folks by their tables. The people most hurt by the low attendance on Saturday (more below) were the lesser known artists who often catch your attention while you are waiting on line for a more established creator.

Attendance level- Disappointingly low according to the vendors and artists I spoke to. This con has definite room to grow attendance wise. I was able to confirm from friends I touched base with at Winter Con that there were more fans in attendance on Sunday for Jim Lee’s signing. A picture tweeted out by Fabian Nicieza showed a good-sized line for his table on Sunday, whereas on Saturday I walked right up to him in the late afternoon. I initially thought that the con floor would be packed due to the parking lot being full just before 11:00 am when I arrived Saturday morning. There seemed to be a good level of activity on the floor, but there was plenty of room to maneuver. By 1PM, the show seemed to slow down. I was in some very sparsely attended panels during the afternoon, and it was obvious that the attendance for Saturday had hit its peak. The attendance at the panels was particularly disappointing, because the guest list was pretty impressive.

Panels- The guests on the panels were very good for the first ever edition of this con. The panels I attended on Saturday had excellent content. First was a panel on Why Color in Comics Matters. The speakers, Andaiye Taylor, PBS Media’s Naseed Gifted, Darrell Goza, Dilettante J. Bass, and Khaalis Finney spoke candidly about the experience of being both a creator and fan of comics as a person of color. The second panel I attended was the Action Lab panel hosted by Jamal Igle and Vito Delsante that celebrated their 5 year anniversary. They had an entertaining overview of their upcoming offerings, and a breakdown of the differences between Action Lab, and Action Lab: Danger Zone and the well thought-out reasons for them.

The third panel I attended was the Marvel talent Speaks panel, moderated by Camilla Zheng, and the panelists were Frank Tieri and Fabian Nicieza, who relayed some very interesting information about how they each broke into writing comics (both were actually at Marvel in business capacities and used that “in” to pitch their work), and how the atmosphere at Marvel was vastly different when comparing the working conditions in the mid 90’s to the conditions at Marvel after Joe Quesada became the EIC.

The last panel I officially attended was the panel featuring Chris Claremont, Walt Simonson, and Louise Simonson. I wish there was audio or video of my first question to the panel as a member of the comic book press, which fit into their discussion of the creative process at Marvel in the late 70’s and early 80’s.

The Sunday panel schedule was highlighted by the Kubert School, which is based in New Jersey.

Overall impression- The inaugural NJ Comic Expo has a lot of room for growth, and that growth is attainable as long as they are able to bring in recognized creators to boost attendance. NY Comic Con has been building its show for 10 years, and the folks at ReedPop needed 3 or 4 years to really work out the kinks to produce a better show. Nowadays, ReedPop’s biggest problem is dealing with the massive demand for tickets and the limited convention space at the Javits Center and in Manhattan. The NJ Comic Expo has a lot of work to do to get to the desirable problem of there being too high a demand for tickets.

 


 

@Agent_70 at Winter Con 2015

On a lark, I attended Winter Con 2015. This was a very cosplay heavy con. The convention was held at Resorts World Casino New York City in Queens, New York, which is a brief drive from the Comic Book Chronicles Brooklyn field office.

I only made it out for Saturday The con was a bit light on comic book creators, but had a phenomenal vendor section, where I picked up a huge number of Marvel Rom: Spaceknight issues, as well as a copy of Ifukube 100: A Legacy of Monster Music, which was the result of a Kickstarter campaign called Ifukube and Godzilla: A Musical Celebration. The CD’s are a recording of a full scale orchestrated concert of the music from the classic Godzilla films scored by Maestro Akira Ifukube.

The focus of Winter Con was cosplay, and the biggest part of the Saturday at Winter Con was the cosplay contest. The majority of attendees on the floor at the time were watching the cosplay contest. I had the good fortune of running into an old college buddy and his friends at Winter Con, and I discovered that they were avid cosplayers and cosplay photographers. This aspect of fandom is still new to me, and I look forward to rolling through future cons following these guys around to see more of the cosplay world.

Overall, the Winter Con experience was eye-opening for me. This was my first Winter Con, and I was impressed that so many people wanted to get into their cosplay for a smaller show in Ozone Park, Queens. I hope that more creators find their way to this con.

 

Level 9 Agent. After debriefings a regular panelist/comic book reviewer on the #ComicBookChronicles hosted by @TheKliqNation http://www.thekliqnation.com