NY Comic-Con Packed All Weekend Long

By Neal Comment

The Javits Center was packed tight all weekend for the first New York Comic-Con—as Newsarama reports, Saturday’s crowds were, thanks to an aggressive local media campaign, “not a lot in terms of a comic book convention, but a lot in terms of a rock show.” As people lined up all over the front of the convention center, the earliest panels began before many fans had even gotten onto the main floor; the show had completely sold out by 12:30 and state police were keeping a tight rein on people coming in and out of the exhibition. “There was just a demand and a walk-up crowd that we had just never anticipated,” said NYCC director Greg Topalian in a separate interview with Newsarama. “The man who runs the Javits Center literally pulled me aside and said that in twenty years of running this building, he’d never seen a crowd of this magnitude, especially considering how little space we were occupying.” (Comic-Con was only occupying half the main floor, as the New York Times Travel Show was also taking place that weekend; Topalian conceded that “there’s no way we can run it in the same size space” come 2007.)

comicon-weekend.jpgI was glad I’d spent time out on the main exhibition floor Friday, then, because it was only with my press pass that I was able to get anywhere near it Saturday. I did manage to catch up with my friends Elizabeth Genco and Leland Purvis (bottom), who had set up an exhibition table for their publishing venture, Streetfables. But for the most part, except for when I was running into stormtroopers and bounty hunters in the lobby (top left), I stuck to the DC and Marvel panels in the side rooms. Most of these were designed as showcases for publishing events like the closing issues of DC’s Infinite Crisis and its sequel 52 or Marvel’s Civil War, but the amount of actual information that came out of the discussions varied. Fans I spoke to had high praise for Marvel editor-in-chief Joe Quesada’s willingness to reveal substanially new info, like design sketches from the forthcoming Eternals series by Neil Gaiman and John Romita, Jr., but they found DC panels frustrating; despite the amiable patter of the DC crew, some attendees felt they weren’t hearing much they hadn’t already seen online. (Some of this, however, may have been due to the fact that there had been a major convention in San Francisco just two weeks earlier.) At DC’s “Better than Ever” panel, for example, newly appointed Justice League of America writer Brad Meltzer (top right) had a stock answer for nearly every question from the audience: “I’m not telling you anything.”

What I did learn fresh from DC’s panels ultimately had more to do with their creative mindset as they relaunch their comics “One Year Later” starting Wednesday, bringing a single tonality to the DC Universe. “This is the voice of our world,” said executive editor Dan Didio, “and we’ll build characters around that voice.” But in a very real sense, the most revealing panel I got myself into was on “the future of the graphic novel,” where writer-artists like Jessica Abel and R. Kikuo Johnson talked about their latest projects and a publishing climate that seems more receptive than ever to serious graphic storytelling. “Now is the time to grow the market actively,” said Grady Klein. Brian Fies, whose Mom’s Cancer was launching a new graphic novel line from Abrams, agreed, hoping for all sorts of stories in the format. “I’d love to see a veternarian write a graphic novel,” he enthused. “Comics should be a medium artists go to for anything.”

Heidi MacDonald and Christopher Butcher were among the press attendees offering additional coverage. And I caught a glimpse of Jessa Crispin just outside the press room, too, so I imagine she’ll be writing something later this week. And Calvin Reid was working the PW Comic Week beat pretty strong. (In addition to reporting, the Comics Week crew, which also includes MacDonald and Douglas Wolk, were also moderating panels; MacDonald also served as a consultant to Reed Exhibitions, the convention’s organizers.) See also the mainstream press accounts from NYT, NYDN, and Newsday