WOLVERINE, MARIO and Luigi waiting in line to meet the original Hulk? Indiana Jones accepting Lara Croft’s cell number? Chuck Bass actually behaving himself around women wearing nothing but booty shorts and cropped tops? Another weekend at the New York Comic Convention, or popularly known as “Comic Con.”
Walking west down 34th street last weekend, as you approached 11th avenue, it became clearer that Batman, a Starship Trooper and Spiderman were all following you. Hundreds of people—some in costume, some in jeans—made their way down the street of miracles from hotels and eateries with the same destination in mind. You’d have been forgiven for thinking another plane had crashed into the Hudson, and pedestrians were crowding the west side of Manhattan hoping to catch a glimpse. But when you saw the Watchmen poster, the realization would hit that a bird’s life had been spared the mob was actually composed of comic fans were flocking to the Javits Convention Center.
Entering into the 657,000-square foot venue, the building seemed too small for the all-ages crowd of 77,000—a 15 percent jump from last year. After eager fans bought tickets and asked volunteers for location specifics, they waited in an entry line that took half an hour to walk through if they beat the rush. Dads carrying mini-Supermen on their shoulders with toothless grins on their faces, women overflowing out of their makeshift snakeskin costumes, and teenage boys in gamer T-shirts all fidgeted in place, willing the queue to move faster.
Once inside, they flooded the Exhibition Hall where the likes of 20 Century Fox Films, Archie Comics, DC Comics, Fox Home Entertainment, Harpers Collins Publishers, Marvel Enterprises and Mattel, Inc. waited to hand out free posters, first looks and $139.99 Edward Cullen Character Figures. At the Autograph Stage, fans waited in a five-foot wide barrier, gripping post-it notes that claimed their number in line, to confess their love to their favorite authors, producers, actors and writers. Michael Uslan, executive producer of The Dark Knight, Joshua Jackson and the cast of Fringe, Matt Fraction, the writer of Iron Man and Casanova, and Korean actor, Daniel Dae Kim who plays Jin Kwon on ABC’s LOST were among the few celebrities.
Victoria Lee, 18, was working the Emote’s doll booth when she heard Kim was doing an autograph signing. Still breathless from flailing and running back to the booth after meeting her favorite actor, she said, “I was working for them and then I heard Daniel [Kim] was coming so I took a break.” Minutes before, she’d been screaming with her friends and co-workers: “He wrote it! He wrote it!” Victoria, who is also Korean, translated the autograph, “It says, ‘To Victoria, I love you’ in Korean. I can’t believe it!” she squealed, with what had to be the only energy she had left.
The exhibitors might even bring the stars from the stage to the booths like Fox Home Entertainment, which held an autograph signing for the Boondock Saints themselves, Sean Patrick Flannery and Troy Duffy and then another one for Ed Westwick, Gossip Girl’s Chuck Bass, who was promoting S.Darko, the straight-to-DVD sequel to Donnie Darko. “He was really nice in person, nothing at all like his character Chuck on the show,” said Olivia Chalk, dressed in a blue spandex suit promoting the new Dragon Ball Z movie, to be released in theaters on April 8. She was fortunate enough to meet him just before he left. “He was much more attractive in person, too,” she whispered with a crafty smile.
At educational panels, fans learned how to structure a comic issue from start to finish, break into the comic scene as an artist or writer, and how to safely enter and secure a room full of zombies for, you know, when that zombie apocalypse finally comes around. The panel selection offered a DC Talent Search to inform aspiring artists on what comic companies are looking for. A select few were even able to have their work reviewed and critiqued.
And, of course, what would be any convention without the costumes, most of which were only decipherable to the die-hards. A mad scientist with white hair, orange skin and a white lab coat carried around a gawking half robot, half chicken. At the 8 Films To Die For Booth, a man resembling a brown grim reaper leaned against the wall with eye’s glowing yellow and pointed his gun at various women clad in tight, neon nylon. Next to the Wii Virtual gaming section, a boy in a tan trench coat, black gloves with holes in the thumb and pinky fingers, and a black headband held four aces from a deck of cards up to his mouth while posing for pictures with the green and red Power Rangers.
A better-looking version of Indiana Jones could be spotted at the Emily the Strange table, chatting it up with one of the five Lara Crofts in short shorts and black Doc Martins. The two-faced Mayor from The Nightmare Before Christmas crept up on unsuspecting convention goers while Anakin Skywalker and Darth Vadar reenacted scenes in the middle of the Artist Alley. A seven-year-old Joker in full green hair, purple suit and pre-applied red smile costume walked hand and hand with what looked to be his faceless scarecrow father.
You may not understand why anyone would travel thousands of miles and shell out $65 to walk around in a cape, but freelance artist Rob Reilly offers some insight: “As a kid you have no responsibility and your biggest care is what you’re going to watch on TV. Comic books are such a big draw to a big audience because you kind of keep that feeling. I’m almost thirty and I still have an eleven to twelve year old maturity level. It keeps you young.”
Photographs by Laura Herrod.
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