About 3 days before the convention, I decided that I was going to attend New York Comic Con. Mostly spurred on by the presence of WotC running a couple events I wanted to be at (and having missed going to DDXP), I recruited Matt (a friend and reader of the site) to come along and purchased two Amtrak tickets up to the con. It required waking up at an hour I don’t normally think of existing and spending a bit of money, but it meant we would be there for a decent chunk of Saturday and wouldn’t have to worry about falling asleep at the wheel and careening off the Tappen Zee.
Anyway, after arriving in Manhattan and following a few Jedi down 34th street to the convention center, we made our way through the crowded main entrance. Signs everywhere proclaimed that Saturday and Weekend passes were sold out at the show- apparently there were plenty of others liked me who just wanted to show up for the day. This caused a great deal of anxiety: if the show was sold out, would they be cutting off press passes too? Would I have traveled this way for naught?
As it turned out (that you can probably guess since I’m writing this), getting a press pass was no problem: in fact, it was the smoothest, quickest acquisition of press passes I’ve ever had. Getting out of there was another matter: the screening for a clip from Watchmen was going on just outside, and that drew a pretty big crowd. We ended up passing it on by to get to our scheduled game, especially since we heard press could get better seating. Oh well.
The convention doesn’t go far from what I’ve come to expect from Comic Cons. The exhibit hall is the big thing, which contains a mix of publisher booths, seller booths, creator booths (artist alley), and assorted other miscellany. The big difference is how packed everything is. Except during the very end before the hall closed, it was hard to get almost anywhere, and even harder to get pictures (which you want to do, since it’s quite a spectacle). Plus you have events with back-ups: signings and portfolio reviews all took place in the same space, which caused a few choke-points. Unlike Baltimore Comic-Con, where there were only a small handful of guests that were inaccessible and everyone else didn’t have lines to meet your favorite creator, NYCC had lines for practically everything in an already crowded hall. NYCC did have the advantage of having more guests and just generally more stuff. So if you want a wider variety (especially if you’re also interested in gaming), go to NYCC. If you want a much better chance of getting time to get a signature or sketch, go to BCC. (Or start your own website and go to both!)
As far as other stuff to do, there was a fair amount of panels, though not nearly as many as your average science fiction convention, and still not enough to rival San Diego. They are definitely going for the same type of show as SD, though: in addition to the usual comic company panels, there were also panels about TV shows and movies, many without any connection to comics. As mentioned before, there were screenings too. The movie I really would have enjoyed seeing screened, Pixar’s Up, had a good chunk shown on Friday. There also was a big push for The International, despite it being really afield of anything nerdy.
There was also the gaming area run by Wizards of the Coast (which I’ll cover in a subsequent post), and the walkway between it had a number of activities ranging from costume contests to geek stand-up comedy to interpretive dance versions of Michael Jackson songs (I kid you not). There was also a Guitar Hero room off to the side. The problem with all these placements? They were all very loud. This wouldn’t have been a problem if there weren’t people trying to game down the hall. But trying to hear DM narration while a minute and a half of Sabotage plays over and over again poses a bit of a problem. Still, I applaud the convention for having such a wide variety of events… even if they were poorly placed.
After the exhibit hall closed, things began rapidly to die off, as they usually do at these types of conventions. Unlike other types of conventions that can often run later and provide late night programming, the exhibit hall remains the focus, and for most, that’s the only reason to be there. My impression- that could be totally off-base- is that unless you were a professional or celebrity, you weren’t likely to find a party you could go into. It was New York, and there was plenty of people headed to the subway afterward, so I’m not sure how much room partying was going on nearby. I could be wrong, but it’s definitely different than a science fiction convention that maintains an open party listing.
All in all, I enjoyed NYCC, and would go back. There’s a fair amount to do, most of which is worth planning extra time to go to just because of the sheer amount of people there. I could fill up a weekend with different panels, screenings, and auxiliary events (and head to the exhibit hall during any downtime), but I would have to plan plenty of time for pushing through crowds and waiting in line.
Finally, personal highlight for the convention was meeting Gabe and Tycho from Penny Arcade, and Tycho telling me he’s read Critical Hits. I probably turned into a babbling con-goer mass by that point, but I think I told them to also check out RPG Bloggers. I also picked up all 5 of their books, a poster (signed), and a Photoshop Hero shirt.
Be sure to check out our New York Comic Con ’09 Photo set, with images from the floor and of our D&D sessions. Thanks to Matt for coming along and working as photographer.