NYCC 2013: A Personal Look Back by Bob Reyer
As I write this it’s Monday evening, and even though I’m a mite ache-y, I have avoided the “Con Flu”, so with just a few Ibuprofen (and a tumbler of 54-year-old Canadian Club whiskey at the ready!) it will be my great pleasure to give you a personal look back at this year’s New York Comic Con, and so as not to bury the lead, let me just say that I had experiences this year that rate with some of the most memorable I’ve ever had, in or out of conventions.
Elsewhere, I’m sure that you’ll read of attendance figures (a record 130,000!), security and scheduling problems (despite some flaws, better than last year on the whole), or gripes about convention newcomers clogging the aisles (just use common courtesy and move to the right!), but there’ll be none of that nonsense here!
(Did you like the way I cleverly snuck all that technical stuff in without you noticing?)
(Robert dear, I’m sure they couldn’t have helped but notice. That was more clumsy than clever, darling. Strive to do better next time, won’t you? @udrey)
Back to our story, on Thursday I rushed right through the doors to a panel called “Women in Comics” which featured creators Becky Cloonan (Demeter), Amy Chu (Girls Night Out), and Erica Schultz (M3), as well as four librarians and educators in an entertaining and enlightening talk about the industry and where it’s headed in regards to creators, as well as growing the female readership. The lack of proper marketing to attract a more diverse audience to comics was a major point on this front, with comments about how the major comics publishers underestimate the potential customer base, and fail to adequately address an entire segment of the population. Ms. Chu (who is the holder of a Harvard MBA!) made the point that in terms of the hiring of women, Wall Street does a better job than comics, and chided the convention on the fact that although more than 40% of the visitors were female, women only accounted for 6% of the guests! The panelists agreed that although there has been progress, there was still a way to go, and Ms. Schultz commented “It would be great if we didn’t have to do a panel like this, but it’s still neccessary, sadly”–what more need be said!
The first order of commerce on Thursday was to secure my Kickstarter reward copy of Jamal Igle’s grand new book Molly Danger, a charming all-ages tale of a 10-year-old super-heroine who is…wait a tick, I’ve almost spoiled some good stuff! Trust me on this, Molly Danger is a book that you’ll be thrilled to share with your children, and it’s a great read for us grown-ups, too. Congratulations to Jamal Igle and all the fine folks at Action Lab!
From there to Artist Alley, where I high-tailed it to Amanda Conner’s booth where I procured a print that was on my “Wish List”, this hilarious cover from Girl Comics #1:
(We’re hoping to have Ms. Conner and Jimmy Pamliotti on Talking Comics in the near future to discuss the new Harley Quinn series!)
A quick run around the room to get the geography, and then I ran into my colleagues, who had friend of the show and podcast guest Professor Carolyn Cocca alongside, as she had been searching for this correspondent to no avail, as we had missed connections at the “WiC” panel, and I had missed the PBS “Superheroes” preview due to that issue. (The Professor says that it’s worth watching, and as the winner of “Comic Book Jeopardy”, I’d take her word for it!) A day of mostly reconnoitering, but some groundwork was laid for the rest of the week-end.
After a short night’s sleep (a common occurence, as I probably slept a total of 11 hours across the three nights!), I headed into the con Friday, and this time right to the show-floor. First off was a visit to the booth of one of my artistic heroes, the legendary Jim Steranko (Nick Fury), with whom I had a wonderful chat about his “History of the Comics” volumes that I often cite, and his short run on Captain America (his favorite character, I learned!) that features my favorite page of comics ever–it’s in issue #113, and you’ll know it when you see it! I also purchased this print, which is the wrap-around cover to “History of the Comics Vol. 2”:
There were some personally amazing things for me on Friday (which would eventually span the week-end!), but I think I’ll keep you in suspense for a bit! Actually, it’s just because it will play better at the close, you’ll see!
(Robert, you’re being awfully obtuse. Exactly how much of that whiskey have you drunk, darling? @udrey)
Saturday seemingly dawned before Friday ended, but as long as there’s enough coffee, I can keep myself out of a muddle. I caught the Rocket Girl panel featuring Amy Reeder and Brandon Montclare ( the new Burns & Allen of comics–so,so funny!) and had them sign a copy of the first issue of this great new series. (We will have them on, after having their last appearance cancelled due to Hurricane Sandy!)
A quick run to the Image booth to pick up a piece of Emma Rios promo art for the up-coming Pretty Deadly series:
(While I’m at it, I’d like to publicly apologize to friend and colleague Melissa Megan, whom I blew past on my way to Image with barely a word, assuming that she was on her way to meet the rest of our crew. Who could have guessed that the only one of us she would locate was the cellphone-less codger? Sorry, Melissa! Thanks, too, for appearing on the show that night!)
After the Inhumanity/Marvel Now! panel it was back to the show-floor to secure an autograph from writer Caleb Monroe of Steed & Mrs. Peel, which led to me heading back to Artist Alley to have his collaborator Yasmin Liang do the same. From there, a visit with another long-time favorite, artist Ramona Fradon (Aquaman,Metamorpho) of whom I wrote during our “Women in Comics” week. From this charming lady I bought a lovely pencil sketch of Wonder Woman that has an amazing depth to it, almost 3-D in quality, that I’m at a loss to figure out, except that she is a very talented artist! I also picked up a needed gift from Katie Cook and Andy Price of an autographed My Little Pony #10. I found Stephanie at this point, hovering and lunging at Becky Cloonan’s booth around the corner, and after the usual pleasantries, I asked Stephanie to select a work by Ms. Cloonan for me to purchase. She chose the mini-comic Demeter, which Our Ms. Cooke had selected as her “Book of the Week” some time back, and now having read it, I know why! It was simply fabulous, with a great Rod Serling/O.Henry ending, and you can add my recommendation to Stephanie’s!
Saturday saw the Talking Comics crew at two after-con events; the Molly Danger launch party at the new 32nd Street Jim Hanley’s Universe (thanks, Jamal and Jeremy!) and then to our own meet-and-greet with some of our listeners at the Beer Authority. A good time was had by all, despite my ranting on myriad subjects…at least until the cover band came on and we lit out of there!
Despite getting to bed at around 2 AM, I was on a 7:40 train in order to give myself enough time so as to be composed whilst interviewing one of my all-time favorite comics writers, Chris Claremont of Uncanny X-Men fame. He graciously gave us much more of his time than I would have thought possible, and he was quite expansive with his answers and opinions; I hope that you’ll give it a listen when it goes up on-site here on Talking Comics. I then grabbed a quick chat with and an autograph from Nicola Scott, who signed the cover of my copy of Birds of Prey #108…
(–which features one of my favorite comics sequences, this amazing illustration that spans 4-plus pages–)
…and then I headed off to wait on line for the “Women of Marvel” panel that you’ve heard described on our re-cap show. My thanks to the lovely Ms. Lauren Kolligs for making the wait so much fun, as well as appearing on that show! We both ran straight from that recording to the “Spider-Man” panel that Steven Wacker and Dan Slott conducted like maestros, and which featured the announcement of many new events, most notably to your Obedient Servant the re-launch of Captain Marvel with a new number one issue, and this statement from editor Steven Wacker: “In five years, you folks will know you have been in at the start of one of Marvel’s most important and successful characters!”
That segues into what for me personally was the highlight of the convention, which was the time I got to spend around the delightful Ms. Kelly Sue DeConnick, who is an absolute gem of a human being! On a personal level, at Ms. DeConnick’s first Marvel signing on Friday, when I got to be within her viewing range, despite the fact that we’ve never met in person, she began waving, mouthing “Hi Bob!”, and as I reached the table she rose to give me an embrace. We had a great little talk, and she signed a Captain Marvel trade for a good friend, inscribing a wonderfully up-lifting message to boot. Earlier in the week, we had made tentative plans to have a conversation over coffee in the gap between two of her signings, but as that window closed due to her efforts to give everyone a memorable moment, it became a walk-and-talk followed by a brief chat with Steve and I before her Image appearance. I did become her un-official “coffee wrangler” for the week-end though, as when I passed her table I’d ask if she was in need, and then go rustle up a cup of java. (If you see any NYCC photos of Ms. DeConnick with a cup of coffee, there’s a good chance that I delivered it!)
(Photo by Grace Lu–and thanks so much Grace!!)
On the broader stage, while speaking at panels, her opinions about the state of the industry were very insightful, sometimes quite hilarious, and oft-times touching, as when asked at the “Women of Marvel” panel whether there was a growing blow-back about too much being made of the “female issue” and Kelly Sue very passionately answered “It’s a big deal! If I make people angry, if they get upset, that’s all good if it means my daughter won’t have to deal with it! It’s getting better, but it’s not nearly good enough!”
What was most remarkable though was her interactions with fans. I’ll try not to gush, but as illustration, all of her signings went long, as she took out of her own time to talk at length with every person who came up to her (and tried to ensure that everyone on line was seen!) and those conversations were generally intense; women who had never read comics before and now found themselves fans of the medium, younger women (and men!) who became inspired to become pilots or scientists, and tales of personal problems made easier by having a hero to call their own. The last people (nearly an hour after the scheduled ending!) at Ms. DeConnick’s Friday signing at the WeLoveFine tee-shirt booth (for whom Ms. DeConnick curates a line of merchandise, and her commissions go to the Girl’s Leadership Institute!) were three sisters garbed as Thor, Loki and Ms. Marvel who were trying in vain to hold back tears as they told their story of being inspired by Captain Marvel, and though I tried not to eavesdrop (I was standing beside the table), I was myself overcome by the emotions of the moment, and found myself in a similar state. To everyone in the massive line, Kelly Sue would beam, well up a bit herself (“You’re ruining my eyeliner!” in mock terror!), give a hug, and take a picture, but beyond that, genuinely care for these folks as much as they care for her. I’ve been going to conventions for a very long time, and I’ve never seen this connection between a creator and their audience. As much as I loved her work before, I can hardly describe my admiration for the person behind it.
When talking about my greatest con experiences, I invariably cite my conversations with Harlan Ellison, Robert Bloch, Roger Corman, and particularly the amazing Ray Harryhausen, and topping the list is the “Daily Double” of having the chance to speak with both Stan Lee and Jack Kirby at different shows, and having them each sign my copy of Fantastic Four #1. With all the wonderful people I was able to meet this time around, plus the unmatched experience of watching a creator bond with her audience, this year’s NYCC finds a home on that exalted list. My thanks to my Talking Comics colleagues Stephanie Cooke, Bobby Shortle, Steve Seigh, Melissa Megan and Brian Verderosa, as well as friends of the show Lauren Kolligs and Carolyn Cocca for helping to make it so memorable!
(No, I didn’t forget you Ryan, Kyle or Harry, I just wanted to give you your own spot!)