All words and photos by Stephanie Breijo
I stepped off the Chinatown bus at Penn Station onto streets with no sign of a superhero. There were no capes, no gunblade swords, no wands, no communicators (which is especially strange because yeah, there’s an app for that). And I was legitimately confused like the New York Comic-Con tourist I was. Google Maps (double true) had given me a vague idea of where the Javits Center would be upon my arrival, though in my years of Comic-Con experience I was used to San Diego–a city not nearly as accustomed to the foot traffic New York is famed for–so naively, I had hoped that throngs of costumed con-goers (crammed into a few blocks like they always are in San Diego’s Gaslamp District) would lead the way to NYCC. Wrong.
I zigzagged past taxis and knish vendors hoping to spot an oversized swag bag, maybe a furry. No sign. I had walked within three or four blocks of the convention itself when I slowed for a red palm at a crosswalk. “Ok, a cape and some green pleather, lady? Must be in New York.” And then it hit me–I was standing directly behind a family of cosplayers without even realizing it; mother in bright platform boots hidden coyly behind a full-length black cape, son with duel-wielding katana capability, fastened tightly to his back.
I suddenly realized the beauty of holding Comic-Con in New York–con-goers blend into that weird and amazing mishmash of New York City. Strangely enough, an odd viking here and there crossing a sidewalk doesn’t seem anywhere out of the ordinary at all; it’s absurdist in only the way it could be in New York. It’s as if everyone was meant to be there in full costume at all times, and why wouldn’t they be? It’s arguably our country’s most culture-driven city. Everywhere you look you spot a sign in another language, you pass a street vendor serving food from every corner of the world from a shoddy cart on a few rickety wheels. And in the case of the weekend of Comic-Con, you might not even notice the Smurf, the Japanese schoolgirl, or the cardboard-box transformer crossing paths with a group of businessmen who don’t even look up to notice it themselves. Just another day in Manhattan, and it’s incredible.
When I reached the Javits Center I saw clouds hanging over a dark cement building–don’t let the over-exposures on the pictures fool you–Friday was bleak and spattering rain. “If San Diego is Comic-Con’s Metropolis, New York is certainly its Gotham.” (Yes. This was literally my first thought when I walked up. No, I’m not lying and yes, I am aware that San Diego is not Los Angeles, daytime New York, or any of the other original models for Metropolis, wiseass.) But it struck me that nearly a decade of attending Comic-Con in San Diego had fooled me into believing that every convention–especially its East Coast counterpart–would be sunny and bright and altogether identical. (I’m sorry, New York–I was naive and foolish but now I know better.)
The truth is that New York is obviously not San Diego and regardless of what anyone who has or has not been to a comic (culture) convention may think, the events themselves are wholly different in that there are pros and cons for each. I was disappointed to find less panels for major studios (who am I kidding, I’m just upset there wasn’t an entire panel devoted to “TINTIN,” a childhood favorite of mine, especially given that the movie adaptation opens in less than two months). But a decrease in major studio events means less crowding–and thank god for that. I certainly didn’t hear of any stabbings at this one (Hall H, I’m lookin’ at you).
So while con-goers in New York may not get as many celebrities as they would in the (almost excessive amount of) Hollywood panels in San Diego, they probably run a better chance of getting in and seeing whatever it is they came to see. …Unless you came to see the panel for “Adventure Time,” which I missed out on again. (A plea for any convention planners out there–for the love of whatever, please start putting “Adventure Time” panels in larger rooms. Nobody I know ever makes it in to those. Give the show its dues and put it in a larger hall. Be cool.)
The difference in size is really most noticeable on the floor (TWSS) of the respective conventions and I hate to say that I wandered NYCC’s main exhibit hall and was stunned it took me just over half the time San Diego’s typically does. I promised myself I wouldn’t walk in comparing the two, though with so many years of participating in one, it’s almost impossible to not immediately juxtapose what you’re seeing on another coast’s (incredibly similar) version of the same thing. So circle the main exhibit hall I did, and multiple times. Though–Jesus, where the hell did all of these people come from? Oh Jesus, it’s Stan Lee immediately to my left. If this tall-ass bouncer in front of me would move for two seconds I could get a picture–and there we go. That’s the beauty of a small convention floor. Your chances of running into celebrities or your favorite attending artists are immediately boosted–Stan Lee Sighting Achievement Unlocked.
There are still game demos, an Artists’ Alley, 101 panels about the industry, portfolio reviews, etc. And there is still an immense amount of pride in the costumes and animal cosplay (I’m still in awe of how many fox tail vendors I saw on the floor, and even more so of how many attendees I saw wearing them), and there’s still a Masquerade–Comic-Con’s official costume contest, resulting in prizes, cash money, applause, laughter, tears, you name it. Both SDCC AND NYCC are obviously worth checking out, whether you’ve only attended one, the other, or nothing like either in your entire life. NYCC may be smaller, but it’s definitely got its advantages–there are no Eisner Awards, but again, there are no stabbings…… that I am aware of….. as of yet.