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2011 New York Comic Con, Day 3

There’s little to write about news-wise for Saturday, our third and by far the biggest day of the convention, because we got shut out of every panel we wanted to attend. So it turns out that to get into a 5pm panel in the IGN Theater, you have to go to the 10am panel and just sit there all day. I knew the panels I wanted to attend in that particular room — The Walking Dead panel and The Avengers movie panel — were going to be crowded, and I was prepared to queue up ninety minutes, even two hours ahead of time. No dice. By the time we got to the line, it was an unruly mass of humanity over which the otherwise more or less competent line organizers had completely lost control. This sea of shut out hopefuls were jammed into a space in front of and totally swallowing an escalator, which made for something of a traffic nightmare. Even when we decided it was pointless to stay in line, it took nearly twenty minutes to extract ourselves from the well-behaved but poorly organized mob.

I hear this sort of thing is a huge problem at San Diego Comic Con, and it looks like New York has achieved at least this goal on its road to being as big as the west coast juggernaut. I don’t know exactly what the solution is. Clearing the rooms between panels sucks if you are genuinely interested in sequential panels, but it’s also unfair to the people outside to expect them to spend their entire Comic Con sitting in one place just because they’re afraid they won’t get in to see something they really want to see. And lining up early for a panel only to find out that it is preemptively full is disappointing. Clearing the room would mean other people get a chance to see something. Maybe you clear the room after every other panel? I don’t know. Maybe the solution is the current, “tough luck, kiddo.” I assume it’ll be like that as things go forward.

For me, I wasn’t willing to waste the entire day staking out a seat just to see a panel of people discuss how awesome what they did was. The new episode of Walking Dead was on the next day, after all, so blowing a whole Saturday to see a clip wasn’t worth it. And as for The Avengers — unless there was a Comic Con exclusive release of more nude Scarlett Johansson photos, there wasn’t anything there worth blowing the entire day, either. So instead of panels, we just wandered the halls the entire day taking photos and picking through artwork we would buy on Sunday. Even though the panel area was hopelessly crammed, the floor itself was — while really crowded — much easier to manage than last year. I would guess that if this was your first NYCC, it would seem an immobile mass of humanity, but I found it an improvement.

I bought a few things, including a book signed by Famous Monster of Filmland’s signature artist Basil Gogos. Unfortunately, I learned a valuable lesson about paying attention to signs scrawled on notebook paper. I thought $24.95 was decent for an art book signed by the artist, especially an old guy like Basil. Didn’t realize I was going to pay another $15 on top of that for the signing, but what can you do? Oh yeah, he also spelled my name wrong. Has anyone named “Keith” ever spelled it as “Kieth”? Why does everyone make that mistake?

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We also hit the New York Anime Fest portion of the con, for what it was worth. Anime writers have written better summaries of NYAF than I can — I encourage you to check out Reverse Thieves thoughts, especially their general impressions article — but the gist of it is that I don’t much see the point. Some people complain that, despite what outsiders might think, anime fans and comic fans don’t mix. I hesitate to make generalizations, so let’s just say that traditionally, one population skews older, male, and sort of socially introverted. The other is younger, much more female dominated (or at least balanced), and far more energetic about making a scene and going a little nuts. I like combining the two, because I like everything it brings together — comics, scifi, film, anime, Japanese culture, steampunk, et cetera.

The reason I don’t see much of a point in NYAF isn’t for that reason; it’s because it doesn’t have that much to offer, and measured against the big, professional guns the Comic Con portion of the convention brings out, the entire NYAF looks sort of, well, dinky and half-assed. This is because of one particular issue separating comics and anime. The comic and film professionals and creators are, for the most part, here in the United States. It’s easy for them to show up, or at least, it’s easier than it is for someone in Japan. Anime and manga professionals have to be convinced to fly to the other side of the world to sit at a table or on a panel for a couple hours. That’s just not going to happen most of the time, especially if they have to chose between NYAF and a better known convention dedicated entirely to anime, like Otakon or even Anime Weekend Atlanta. The few professional aspects of the industry in the United States — DVD importers and manga translators mostly — generally opt to sit not in the anime part of the convention, but in the larger Comic Con show floor.

This leaves the weight of NYAF squarely on the shoulders of the fans, and though they try, the fact is most of them are just kids. The tables are full of earnest but amateurish art, and the panels are often well-intentioned and enthusiastic but also awkward and poorly done. The obvious solution is to just roll NYAF fully into NYCC. This would let the convention organizers devote more money — potentially — to luring guests over from Japan. This year, they managed to get Makoto Shinkai, which is a pretty big deal, but maybe with a little more weight, they could get more than one notable professional guest. On the other hand, it’s possible that the anime aspects could simply be devoured and forgotten.

I’m of the opinion that you should attend NYCC and consider NYAF a nice little spare rib bonus. It’s not particularly great content-wise, but as a place to let anime kids hang out, meet each other, and squeal and sing without having to endure disdainful glares from fat, sullen Captain Americas, it serves a valuable purpose. And even though this year’s NYAF had a smaller area than last year, it also had a larger open space for hanging around and showing off your costume — not to mention a nice outdoor patio area overlooking the river. And I don’t want to totally bash the panels. Some are quite good, even if they are fan run, because those fans have been doing it for a while (and sometimes, fans are also professionals). The Ninja Consultant panel on unusual manga is a great panel, even for someone like me who doesn’t read manga.

Anyway, what Saturday is good for is costumes. It’s the money day, since people have to work on Friday and are often leaving or exhausted by Sunday. There were some pretty good costumes. Day one’s heavy Fifth Element representation was replaced by other popular costumes. There were a lot of Black Cats from Spider-Man, a lot of Captain Americas, and a huge number of David Tenant and Matt Stone era Doctor Who cosplayers — most of them female. For me, the winner of the day was the buff dude dressed up as Power Man. Beefy surfer dude Goku was a close second, and silver painted shirtless Colossus was a respectable third.

Yes, I’m picking shirtless dudes as the top cosplayers of the day. One of my failures as a Comic Con photographer is my hesitance to only take pictures of women in skimpy outfits — not that I shy away entirely. It’s just that I appreciate a shirtless lad just as much. And while I know people crack wise about doughy superheroes and jiggly men and women in spandex, I say that it’s awesome that people have a place where they can dress in an outlandish costume and fit in, even if they don’t fit in the costume. I say bring on an endless parade of chubby Batmans and plump Harley Quinns. There’s obviously plenty of people who do pull off the physical aspect; why should they have all the fun?

I will say, as sort of a closing thought, that once again New York Comic Con proves how moronic it is to assume that this vast and varied fandom is male dominated, and how ignorant it is of the industries that provide us our entertainment to continue assuming that everything they do is created by and targeted to men. The ladies are out in force, people. I wouldn’t hazard a guess, but if New York Comic con doesn’t approach a 50/50 split between the sexes, I’d be shocked.

“Geek girls” aren’t rare, and they aren’t new. It’s well past time that the industries recognized and embraced this rather than seemingly laboring to actively repulse the legions of females. And I’m not talking about just fans. Look at NYCC Artist Alley. It is full of women — not as booth babes, not as eye candy, but as artists and writers. The costume seller booths are full of women. The booths dedicated to writers and publishers — hey, what do you know! Full of women. The stereotype of comic book fans as fat, awkward, white guys with neckbeards just is not true, and while I don’t expect the mainstream media to leave it behind anytime soon, shouldn’t we stop applying it to ourselves?