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NYCC 2014 Re-visited
An after-word by Bob Reyer

girls reading comics

 “This is not a revolution. This is a restoration. Girls have always read comics.”

It may seem rather late-in-the-game to be taking a look back at the 2014 NYCC events, but from over at my desk, I was waiting for Marvel to drop some other shoes that would shore up and amplify some of the foci of what I felt were the highlights, but as they didn’t make mention of them at the show itself, I’ve been sitting back patiently…

(Robert,  don’t be coy; you’re forgetting that these people out there reading are well acquainted with your im-patience! They know as well as I that you’ve been stewing for weeks awaiting those movie announcements! Sorry for the interruption, darlings. @udrey)

…okay, impatiently, and with much teeth-gnashing, but waiting nonetheless. As I anticipated, the press conference that revealed the titles of Marvel Studios’ Phase Three slate that included the long-rumoured “Captain Marvel” film set into high-relief the changes that are occurring within comics fandom, and the industry itself, in terms of the growing involvement of female fans and creators and their effect on the products moving forward. Anyhow, I think I’ve already not only given away the lead, but buried half the story under a pile of “inside baseball” minutiae, so I’ll move things along and try to give you a sense of what this year’s NYCC was like from my personal perspective…

(Yes Robert, try to get on with things, dear; you’re running on, and at this pace, next year’s convention will be here before you’re through, darling. @)

So as to avoid incurring Audrey’s wrath (and any further “Strange Interludes”) , I’ll  move right to those bits of the NYCC 2014 that caught my eye, ear and pocket-book, and give you some feeling for how this year’s event may have helped to define a shift in the comic book spectrum.

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As I only attended the con on Saturday and Sunday this time around, I travelled into Manhattan without any of the Talking Comics crew or friends, although hardly alone, as the local train station was filled to the rafters with groups obviously heading to the NYCC 2014… at least based on their clothing, unless Sailor Moon outfits are more common as street wear than I previously thought! The crowd at the depot was my first inkling that there was change in the air, as the gender split was roughly 50/50, and encompassing many more parents with kids in tow than I was used to seeing, particularly for a Saturday. (Sunday’s “Kids’ Day” crowd sported even more little ones, and virtually all of them cos-playing!) On the train, the energy was very high, as was the level of conversation, as these fans were quite intelligently engaged in their favorite titles and characters in a very charming way.

Once inside the Javitz Convention Center, I was pleased to see that ReedPOP (the show’s organizer) had been pro-active in giving the NYCC 2014 a welcoming atmosphere for all, as the program book contained a page headed “Cosplay IS NOT consent”, which out-lined their zero tolerance anti-harassment policy (including an app for reporting incidents), as well as copious signage throughout the venue.

nycc-cosplay-consent     nh policy

After a chance encounter with comics’ “first couple’, Kelly Sue DeConnick and Matt Fraction, and a lovely, if too-brief run around Artists Alley with Melissa Megan, I headed off to meet Carolyn Cocca for the Nerdist Writer’s Panel that for me would be the “debut” of Ms. Marvel scribe G. Willow Wilson.  Hosted by Ben Blacker and Heath Corson. and also featuring Greg Pak, photo 4Ms, Wilson was clearly touched by the amazing reception she received (something that would happen all through the week-end!), and when Mr. Blacker mentioned that “reading Ms. Marvel was like reading early Spider-Man“, Ms. Wilson spoke quite humbly about how expectations were low, but she was given the freedom to make it authentic and even off-beat, and as she put it: “Sometimes, it’s good to be the dark horse!” When she addressed the notion of the change taking place in comics by saying that “We couldn’t have done Ms. Marvel five years ago, as it wouldn’t have sold” , Mr. Pak responded with “It’s because of Ms. Marvel that “Storm” exists!” Ms. Wilson was also a big hit during the Axel Alonzo panel on Sunday, drawing a huge ovation, and this from Mr. Alonzo: “The digital sales are historic! Ms. Marvel is here to stay!” Professor Cocca and I had a chance to have a nice chat with Ms. Wilson a bit later during her appearance in The Mary Sue Lounge,and we had the company of great friend of our show Lauren Kolligs (who had cos-played as Kamala through much of the NYCC!), and we’re hoping to have Ms. Wilson on Talking Comics sometime in the future.         (Photos here and below by Carolyn Cocca)

I had the great good fortune to renew my acquaintance with Kelly Sue DeConnick that afternoon, securing a “birthday autograph” for a good friend, trading a coffee for a rare Bitch Planet poster (and now signed by both Ms. DeConnick and artist Valentine De Landro), as well as taking the obligatory “duck-face selfie”: photo 1

After some not-too-quick (I’m not the spry youth I once was!) runs across the Show Floor searching out (un-successfully) some missing Eric Luke Wonder Woman issues and choosing some gifts for friends, I took in the “Women of DC” panel that featured a great roster of guests including Gail Simone, Amanda Conner, Marguerite Bennett, Becky Cloonan, Babs Tarr, and Caitlin Kittredge. There were some interesting comments, such as Ms. Conner picking the moment she knew comics were for her was when the Tooth Fairy left a nickel…and a copy of Mad Magazine, or Ms. Simone’s affection for TV’s Batgirl Yvonne Craig, but the decision to forego audience questions (to groans from the crowd!) kept this from being the day-capping uber-highlight it should have been, although I’m very glad to have attended just to hear these talented ladies opine. I saw a fabulous “50 Years of Star Trek” panel with the charming Ms. Cocca (how she stands my crabbiness, I’ll never know!), and then we both headed to the customary Saturday Night Talking Comics meet-up (Hiya Dani, Ryan, and SuperbadLarry, and you too, Steve!), after which it was time to head home.

Sunday, well Sunday was “Kids’ Day”, and what a treat it was to see so many youngsters really in the spirit of things, excitedly roaming the exhibition hall in search of treasures, and many in the most adorable cos-play outfits, including a young mom with two daughters, all decked in various stages of Wonder Woman gear! I can’t seem to find them in anyone’s pictures, but a few of my other favorites were:

avengers cosplay   hawkgirl 2

Alex-Erde-Little-Riddler   little-ms-marvel

 

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA  nycc2014-cosplay-bombshell-wonder-woman-and-vintage-capt-america

 

The day’s events began with a very happy accident, as I ran into Huw Parry (over from Wales) and Rob Neumeyer (in from Medford–and Talking Games/Tor Comics) as I scurried to the show floor carrying a cup of coffee. Huw asked, “Is that for who I think that’s for?”, and wanting to pay forward her constant kindness to your Obedient Servant, I brought the boys over to meet Kelly Sue DeConnick, where she took the time to graciously chat, sign a bunch of stuff, and took this picture with Huw:

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After a few more laps around Artists Alley (I still can’t get close to Katie Cook’s table–ARRGGHH!), and a final tour of the show floor,  I re-acquired Huw and Rob just in time for Axel Alonzo’s panel on all things Marvel. As I described earlier, Ms. G. Willow Wilson owned the room, despite  a stellar line-up including Charles Soule, Ales Kot, Kieron Gillen, Phil Noto, and James Robinson, with whom I had a brief chat where-in I expressed my sadness that just as his Fantastic Four was hitting its stride, it would come to an end. With obvious emotion, he told me that he “…wanted to honor it all, and those who stuck with it won’t leave the series with a bad taste.” (By the way, Huw and Rob did a great job tweeting out intel from this panel, and congrats to Justin Townson for a super job all week-end!)

Keeping our seats (and adding Ms. Kolligs and Grace Lu to our merry band, with whom Steve and I would later share a birthday dinner for Lauren at Tea & Sympathy!), we were now ready for my highlight event of the NYCC 2014, the “Women of Marvel” panel! At one point there were more than 15 editors, writers, artists, novelists, digital media-ists, and cos-play gurus on the stage, among them Jeanine Schaefer, Sana Amanat, Ellie Pyle, Katie Kubert, Marguerite Bennett, Sara Pichelli, Stephanie Hans, novelist Margaret Stahl (who’s writing a YA Black Widow book!), Judy Stephens, Jen Gruenwald (described by Ms. Amanat as the”‘heart of Marvel”!) and of course, the spiritual god-mother of this new aesthetic, Ms. Kelly Sue DeConnick, held court, challenging the assemblage to make their own comics, for young women to “…fight their way into the industry because you have to–we need you! It’s hard, but don’t be afraid; the only way out of the woods is through! Do the work–be brave!”  When asked about the fact that she was the only woman on the dais at the “Cup O’Joe” panel the day before, and why weren’t more women on the big stage, Ms. DeConnick replied “You’re not wrong, but we’re getting there; a bigger presence in creative, and editorial is booming! Every woman here is bringing more women in–next year’s “Cup” will be filled differently!”

wom panel

[As an aside here, at a Friday panel on the subject “Carol Corps and Beyond: The Future of Female Fandom” featuring Ms. Amanat, Ms. Simone, and Ms. DeConnick (which played the biggest room to an enthusiastic and overflow crowd), there were these marvelous comments:

Gail Simone: When I came in, many mainstream women writers had left. but now, “I predict that in the future, female creators will change what comics are.”
Kelly Sue DeConnick: This is not a revolution. This is a restoration. Girls have always read comics.
Sana Amanat:  I’m  not sure why, could be because “everyone’s more vocal now” or the “industry is embracing female fandom” or “we’re having dialogue about it.” Several years ago the Women of Marvel panel was half this room size and the room wasn’t full.] (My thanks to Carolyn Cocca for the above reporting!)
NYCC-New-York-Comic-Con-Cosplay-wonder-woman1
With record total attendance this year, I’m sure that the NYCC 2014 also had their largest turn-out of female fans, as well. Some of these women are veterans who have stuck it out from the Silver Age through the recent “Dark Ages”; others are returnees, perhaps mothers who grew up on Archie or Sabrina, the Claremont/Byrne XMen, or Batman:The Animated Series and now bringing their daughters, sons, and husbands to the medium, and even more are new fans, and whether they’ve come to our hobby through the films, video games, cos-play, non-Big Two comics such as Saga, or the glass-ceiling-busting titles such as Captain Marvel, Ms. Marvel, or the new Gotham Academy, their reasons are every bit as valid as my own, a collector of over half-a-century, and are to be respected. While it is obvious that there are segments of the comic book audience unwilling to understand and accept the changes that are coming in terms of the growing diversity of the readership, creators, and books and then react poorly, spewing internet hate-speak, these recalcitrants should not be the focus; instead, it’s important to remember that these early steps toward securing a marketplace that will more closely represent the world at large are going to make some uncomfortable, and that’s as it should be, as real, lasting change is difficult. (“I’ve been facing this since I started Women in Refrigerators…Look for support where the support is and you tell the other ones to F*** off.” -Gail Simone) For all those who rail against this shift toward inclusion, for the large majority of comic book history through into the Late 1980s, women made up around half of the readership; any swing of the pendulum back to those numbers is merely a return to the proper equilibrium, and is, to these offices, long overdue.

That’s it from your Humble Correspondent; I’m off to present one final gift, a lovely “Carol Corps” shirt to my muse Audrey, whose real-world incarnation was no stranger to the finer things in the four-color medium:

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(Why, Robert–you shouldn’t have! It is fetching, and I know just the outfit it will complete! Thanks awfully, darling! @udrey)

A Final Word from Kelly Sue DeConnickAfter the “Women of Marvel” panel, Ms. DeConnick was engaged in a round-robin of conversation with a group of fans outside the conference room, and one very humourous point she made carries a lot of real weight. In a discussion of how big business/media conglomerates assign gender roles to youngsters, Ms. DeConnick was heard to say “F**king stationery as a toy in my daughter’s Happy Meal?!? What kind of BS is that? She deserves an action figure just like her brother gets if she wants it!” Preach it, Kelly Sue! rrr

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