Rogue Element #88: New York Comic Convention 2011 aka Best. Weekend. EVER.
By Avril Brown
Last week I was making preparations for my triumphant return to New York City and my first attendance of the New York Comic Convention. This week I am finally recovering from that whirlwind long weekend of comics, cool people (both familiar and fresh), consumables and constant movement.
Honestly I was slightly concerned over my distinct lack of solid plans (besides having a press badge to the Con and a place to hang my hat), but the past weekend could not have been any more of a rocktastic good time than if I had the Italian Job crew sketch out my entire itinerary. From the bountiful beginning to the exhausting end, there was not a single moment that sucked (apart from most of my MTA time, a transit system I now have more rage towards than the CTA, and that’s saying a lot). So allow me to take you on a tour of a young, vibrant, evolving Comic Convention in one of the greatest cities in the States.
Thursday: Thanks to a generous boyfriend who happens to work in the sticks, I arrived at O’Hare for my early morning flight with oodles of time to spare. Praise be to the stand-by gods who allowed me access to the 7AM flight, ensuring I landed at LaGuardia and began my weekend nice and early. After acquiring keys from my college friend Katie, whose apartment in Brooklyn was to be my domicile for the next five days, I took the subway with ease (nights and weekends are the primary times when the MTA acts like a baby brat without a bottle) to her pretty cherry pad in Brooklyn. Freshening up was in order, as was a trip to the grocery store (Avi’s tip of having a nice cheap Con: get portable, energizing snackies from a normal grocery and not an overpriced convention center) before I hitched up my nerdy socks and headed on over to the Con being held at the Javits Convention Center.
Even if the Javits Center wasn’t laid out like it was designed by M.C. Escher on a bad ‘shroom trip, navigating the Con would have been a chore regardless. Though the showroom areas were open with brilliantly high ceilings, the layout of vendors, artists and publishing companies was poorly organized, making walking the Con floor a bit confusing. However, the show itself was enormous and nearly twice the size it was two years ago, according to artist and recurring NYCC attendee Jenny Frisson (be sure and check out my video interview with the lovely Miss Frisson, coming soon!), which bodes well for this and other budding Cons. There was plenty to see, and the diversity of artists, vendors, gamers and other nerd-centric medium was rather impressive, and I nearly blew a gasket when I saw two gentlemen dressed as Ruby Rod and Jean-Baptiste Emanuel Zorg from ‘The Fifth Element.’ They were totally super green. Needless to say, my first thoughts of the New York Comic Con were of the warm, fuzzy and tingling variety.
An exciting first day was capped off with an excellent first night, complete with food, drink, laughs a plenty and the making of new friends. Dinner at an adorable Italian bistro with several new faces was bolstered by delicious freebies in the form of cheesy flatbread and Limoncello, all thanks to a member of our party who also happens to work at that lovely little restaurant. Drinks followed as fellow podcaster Molly Jane and I, along with artiste extraordinaire and previous Comics Slumber Party interviewee Ben Templesmith and his friend Jen Timms (a gorgeous magenta-haired Aussie gamer/podcaster/fellow cosplayer; more on that later) relocated to a bar where a Drink and Draw was supposedly occurring. Turns out there was plenty of the former and nil of the later, which worked out just fine as knowing people continued to pay off: a slightly inebriated but extremely generous fan of Mr. Templesmith bought us all a round.
Being closer to thirty than the party-stamina age of twenty, we all decided to call it an early night. As it turns out the MTA had other plans for me that evening which delayed my return to Brooklyn until 2:30 in the morning…but I’d rather not talk about that.
Friday: Bright and early-ish I woke in the morning with an eager attitude, my homicidal thoughts towards the MTA pushed to the back of my brain. No time for fretting about bad commutes, there was a Con to be had! Armed with a box full of Peter Pan donuts (that shop is a fucking revelation, I swear to donut-loving Jeebus) I arrived at Javits ready to soak up more of the show. The hours simply flew by as I walked the floor, chatted with new friends and old, did a few video interviews here and there and acquired a couple new buttons, including Rosie the Riveter on a Pride background and a Buffy and Spike pin, one of the hottest bottle blond duos in television history. I also took a turn about the rooms with a Chicago friend and artist Kyle Bice, followed by a constitutional with the finest Poison Ivy to grace that shedding red carpet: Ms. Jen Timms, who was frequently paused for photo ops. Another fantastic cosplay I was tickled pink to witness were two people dressed as Lana and Cyril from ‘Archer,’ an animated FX program that is pee-your-pants, why-aren’t-you-watching-this-show hysterical.
By the end of the Friday Con day I was laden with acquisitions, including prints from artists Dennis Calero and Jon Hughes (be sure and check out their video interviews; stay tuned!), so it was back to Brooklyn for a shower, new wardrobe and less accessories before I returned to Manhattan for drinks with my friend Joe who is singlehandedly responsible for some of my most unforgettable moments at a variety of Comic Cons, this one included. Joe also happens to be one of the editors of one of my favorite writers, a lovely Irish chap by the name of Garth Ennis (I may have mentioned him before), and I was allowed to join his Friday night group at HIS table in a Manhattan tavern. The urge to go all fangirl was tempered by the fervent desire to remain cool in the face of awesomeness (the creative mind behind some of the most violent, sexually explicit and bloody brilliant books I’ve ever read is also one of the most down-to-earth men I’ve ever met), not to mention the fact he was surrounded by actual friends and I had catching up with Joe to do. Plus, another individual at the table named Dan was intrigued by my love of the X gene and opened the floodgates when he asked me to bring him up to speed on the X-Men Universe (I’ll talk comics pretty much non-stop when someone encourages me, and that’s without several pints of malted liquid in my belly). The MTA and I were back on speaking terms by 1:30 on this Friday night, but I still felt I was floating back to Brooklyn on the high of a second straight night of massively good times in the city that never sleeps.
Saturday: Day three of the Con roused me from my air mattress in a timely manner (thankfully Katie is a running addict and was actually awake and functional before I was) and it was Javits time again, this time with more stuff to carry to and from the Con. I adore simply walking the floor, absorbing all the colorful details that a Con has to offer and getting my Press on, but going in cosplay, if only for a few hours, is starting to become as much of a Con experience as chatting with friends and shopping for comics. Therefore, after a couple more interviews and a morning spent as a ‘normal’ Con goer, I took off my clothes and, for the last time in 2011, donned my Leeloo costume. Walking solo in cosplay is slightly intimidating and occasionally lonely, and walking with my Korben was awfully fun, a wee bit romantic and filled with photo requests. The few hours I spent walking around half-naked with a gorgeous woman at New York Comic Con, however, may have garnered more attention than a full day of cosplay in Chicago. People enjoyed the randomness of a DC villainess posing with a ‘90s action heroine, not to mention the intricacy of Jen’s costume and the lack of intricacy of mine, and we were even interviewed a couple of times. An elaborate promotional stage for ‘The Survivor Code’ game was set up right outside the entrance and we were encouraged to pose for a picture. The center of the stage was elevated so we walked the few steps up…where we both almost ate shit as the photographers neglected to tell us the floor was covered in ball bearings. Jen’s spike-heeled boots were not faring well on such unstable material, and my bare knees sported numerous indentations for at least an hour afterwards (we took the picture posing on our knees…you pervs).
Still, every round depression, every ache in my calf from those damn supportless sandals was all worth it for one singular moment: James Marsters checked out my ass. Once again, knowing people reared its totally awesome head when Jen mentioned she knew Mr. Marsters (aka Spike from ‘Buffy’ and Captain John Hart from ‘Torchwood,’ among other hottie characters) from a previous project they had worked on and we should pop in his line and say hello. Being a hardcore Spike-a-licious fangirl I was all for this plan, so we sidled on over. Jen and James caught up for a moment before I introduced myself with a witty opening line, followed by a well-deserved compliment on his intensely hot guy-on-guy make out scene he shared with John Barrowman on an episode of ‘Torchwood.’ “You’ve got good taste, I see,” he replied. “I’d like to think so,” I said, coy and cool as I turned to begin my exit. Wearing his signature smirk that can set panties afire and with his eyes ON MY ASS, James added, “And you really pull off that outfit.” I swear the wattage of my resulting smile could have lit up half of New York. “Thanks,” I think I said as I walked away, feeling my inner ears bleed out from the sheer volume of my internal girly happy noises. So what if I’m in love and James is married and well accustomed to pleasing his fans? James Marsters, the face and body of Spike, the sexiest vampire ever brought to fictional life, gave me an up-down gander. My joy knows no bounds.
Soon enough it was time once more to put my clothes back on and rejoin the rest of the Comic Con society, and evening fell faster than a nerd’s bank account bringing about the end of my last full day at the Con and another round robin trip from Javits to Brooklyn and back to Manhattan for drinks with Chicago buds and new friends. Sure it was seven bucks a pint, but it was a tasty pint and the Half King bar was presenting some vintage tunes (aw yeah, rocking out to ‘Gansta’s Paradise’ with Molly Jane). Sharing a brew and more than a few laughs with some damn decent people is a fine way to spend an evening, especially a post-Con one in New York City, and there was plenty of people watching to be had on the walk/train ride back to Brooklyn.
Sunday: For the first time all weekend, I was early. Wanting to squeeze in a couple more hours of Comic Con before hitting other items on my NYC agenda, I arrived at Javits bright and early before the Con floor even opened. Armed with some age-old advice (if in doubt, act like you own the joint) I walked right past the cantankerous volunteers and headed onto the empty floor, enjoying the quiet before the calm and discovering new tables despite this being my fourth day at the Con. Last tours were taken, goodbyes were said and gifts were gotten (like I could resist getting a R2D2 and a Han Solo frozen in carbonite ice cube tray for the nerdy men in my life?) before it was time to bid goodbye to the New York Comic Convention and enjoy the Indian summer in NYC.
Times Square was too crowded for my tastes so I abandoned it as quickly as possible for Central Park, where I got to briefly see my Wombie (college gal pal; she and I must have been womb-mates ‘cause we speak the same movie-quote language) before diving into the greenest part of Manhattan. A sunny October Sunday afternoon with the temp teetering at sixty-five degrees meant people were everywhere, perched like gargoyles on every available rock face, frolicking along the many pathways, climbing all over the Balto statue and trying to get into the Central Park Zoo. Naturally I got lost trying to find my way back out of that lovely Labyrinth, but I managed to find the number three train in time to join some other college friends for drinks at an Irish bar. Ain’t nothing like a mini D5 reunion (Donlan dormitory, fifth floor) as we all caught each other up on life, and there was no question in my mind that this trip was never solely about a comic convention or kicking back in New York, but also spending time with people I adore.
Dinner followed drinks which included a burrito bigger than my head (thanks again, E-dogg!) before Brooklyn was calling my name in a painful tone that belied the strain of the weekend on my fragile frame. Still, there was enough time for a minor fashion show as Katie let me dip into a pile of clothing from a swap she and friends recently participated in. Various outfits were either greeted with enthusiasm by my audience (which included her roommate) or an immediate request to take off the offending garments and never don them again. Several pieces of clothing richer meant a fat suitcase and a happy, spoiled Avi.
Monday: I managed to cross two items off my NYC to-do list on my last day, procuring a heavenly black and white cookie from Peter Pan’s (I think I was entertaining my train-mates as I consumed my delectable breakfast, unable to contain my happy grunting noises and literally bouncing in my seat in sugary happiness) before meeting my mother’s cousin in Coney Island to explore a new-to-me area of New York. “Avi!,” Liz called to me as we spotted each other on the Brighton Ave. boardwalk, “You skinny bitch!” “Good to see you too, Liz!” I replied with genuine affection, thinking how much I’ve missed this woman. My toes tasted the Atlantic Ocean for the first time in years as we walked along the beach, carefully sidestepping crab corpses and hypodermic needles while chatting about life and other details. Lunch and people watching followed the beach walk (retired Russian mobsters, ancient Orthodox Jews and women who look like European supermodels dominated the landscape), in addition to a couple of trips to local Brighton Ave. shops (Liz was hunting for persimmons) rounded out our reunion.
Far too soon the time came to bid farewell to east coast cousins, college friends, new buds, a brand new Con and my second favorite city in the whole wide world. Sleep deprivation and broken bank accounts be damned, I will never forget, nor regret, one single moment I spent in New York last weekend. Although my wallet is weeping and it took my body nearly three full days to stop feeling like a zombie’s main course, life is short and I am fiercely determined to go about living mine to the absolute fullest. Thanks to everyone who helped this past weekend be the best it could possibly be, and I am counting the days and dollars until the next time the stars align in my favor for another Comic Con/vacation out east.
And did I mention James Marsters checked out my ass?