It’s that time of year again…the insanity that is the New York Comicon.
NYCC 2012 made the massive Jacob K. Javits Convention Center on New York’s West Side feel more like the steerage compartment of a turn of the century immigrant steamer than a place designed to host large trade shows. I don’t know what the attendance numbers will shake out to be for this year (I hear that 2011 topped 105,000 attendees), but for someone who started attending conventions in the days when we were impressed with 2,000 people coming through the door, this is crazy impressive…and somewhat oppressive.
I showed up on Thursday morning, which is still, technically, set-up time. Sporting an exhibitor’s badge, I was allowed inside and, with only a couple of thousand people on the floor, it was easy to wander around, get the lay of the land, visit with friends from far and wide, and conduct a little business (i.e., pitch my wares and services to editors and publishers) without all the distractions that come after the doors are open to the public. I’ve got a couple of creator owned pitches that I’m hoping to sell, so it helped to have some (relatively) quiet time to talk to those who buy such things.
Along the way, I crossed paths with a lot of old friends and acquaintances; after more than forty years as fan and professional, it’s astonishing the number of people I’ve come to know. The prize for longest distance for oldest friend has to go to Nick Landau, managing director of the Titan Entertainment Group, who I first met in the early 1970s, during the days of the old Phil Seuling New York conventions.
I left the show mid-afternoon on Thursday, skipped Friday, and was back in early on Saturday morning, when I was scheduled to start the day with a 10:00 a.m. signing at the Archie Comics booth, sharing the table with two of the artists I work with on Life With Archie, brothers Pat and Tim Kennedy. We met some fans, signed some books, and got to catch up with one another regarding one of the aforementioned creator owned pitches on which we’re collaborating. While we were at it, MAD Magazine chums, art director Sam Viviano and editor-in-chief John Ficarra, wandered through and stopped for a while to chat, as did one-time DC Comics inker Eduardo Alpuente, who now runs Infinitoons Creative Agency, repping artists in Spain. Archie letterers Jack Morelli and Janice Chiang were also on hand, as were Archie editors Victor Gorelick and Mike Pellerito and Michael Uslan, originator of the “Archie Marries…” concept on which Life With Archie is based.
After my stint at the Archie booth, I wandered the hall for a while, first to the Penguin Books display, hoping to finally meet, face to face, my editor on the upcoming Archie Comics: Kevin young adult novel (coming in April 2013)–no luck there–and then over to Voyageur Books, where my buddy Robert Greenberger was signing his new book, the comprehensive Star Trek: The Unofficial History. My next stop was at the Dark Horse Comics booth, where I got to spend some time with Jan Duursema, current Star Wars artist and my long-ago collaborator on Arion, Lord of Atlantis, and her husband, artist Tom Mandrake.
Of course, when I say I “wandered,” what I really meant was I shuffled through the hall, jammed together with fans and cos-players by the tens of thousands. There really wasn’t a clear patch of floor to be found anywhere in the joint, although things were a little less congested down in Artists Alley. This aircraft hanger-sized space contained hundreds of artists, hawking their wares and sketching for the multitudes.
I usually spend a few hours there, hunting down old friends and collaborators, and this year that included seeing Joe and Hillary Staton, my Takion collaborator Aaron Lopresti, Rich Buckler, Ron Randall, Bob Wiacek, Rodney Ramos, and others, as well as artist Michael Golden. Michael was hard at work sketching and signing prints while we spoke, including for one fan for whom English was a second language. As he waited patiently for Michael to get to signing his print while the two of us bantered, he saw my name on my badge exclaimed in delight, “Why, you are vintage, too!” Figuring that being “vintage” was better than being a relic or an antique, Michael and I decided we could live with the term.
Before heading back to the main floor for my next scheduled event, I found my way to David Campitti’s Glass House Graphics tables where I met the fabulous Fabio Laguna, a South American artist with whom I’ve worked on numerous jobs, including many Scooby Doo stories for the Cartoon Network line of DC Comics and several color and activity books for Dalmatian Press. Fabio is an amazing artist and we both expressed the hope that we’d get to work together on projects in the future.
At 2:30, I reported to the Captain Action booth for a signing, alongside Walter Simonson. For me, Cap was a childhood favorite toy and comic book series (five issues published by DC in 1968, featuring work by Wally Wood, Gil Kane, and Jim Shooter) and a mass of nostalgic grown-up fun when I wrote a handful of stories for the Moonstone Comics title published in conjunction with Ed Catto and Joe Ahearn’s revival of the action figure. Like the 1960s original, the new Captain Action has available a variety of costumes with which to transform Cap into the superhero of your choice, including Captain America, Spider-Man, Iron Man, and Thor. Walter was appearing to promote his illustration for the packaging of the latter, a character with which he has more than a passing acquaintance.
As there were a goodly number of cosplayers wandering through, Ed Catto, knowing my close association with the characters, kept shanghaiing the Supergirls and Wonder Women (Wonder Womans?) to stop and take pictures with me. Not that I was complaining…
With a Captain Action Captain America costume (with both versions of the shield!) in hand, I squeezed myself through the wall-to-wall fans to the literal opposite end of the convention center where I was to appear on a panel, “Gay Marriage In Comics” with artist Phil Jimenez, editor/writer Joan Hilty, and writer/artist (and Kevin Keller creator) Dan Parent. The panel was moderated by FanboysoftheUniverse.com‘s Chance Whitmire and sponsored by Prism Comics. The panel room was packed and the discussion was lively and informative and demonstrated a clear need not only for an increased and more realistic presence of LGBTQ characters in comics, but for better portrayals of human relationships in general in the all too often cartoony world of superhero interactions. You can find coverage of the panel on the Prism Comics site and at Bleeding Cool News.
My obligations satisfied, my work done, and my feet throbbing in pain, I hit the bricks and headed on home, but not before encountering a sight that will haunt me for a long time to come. And because I hate to suffer alone, I share it with you here: