When I first got the tickets for the opening day of the New York Comic Con, I figured that it wouldn’t be that bad of a day – it was the first of four days, a lot of kids would still be in school and it was generally the weekend that was the most insane in terms of crowds. Yeah, you see where I’m going here, right? I was wrong.
The first sign that I was incorrect in my assumption was when I got to 34th and 10th Avenue around 10:30am. The doors opened for the con at 12pm, I was hungry since I hadn’t had a chance to eat before getting on the LIRR to Penn Station. I had walked from Penn Station towards the Jacob Javits Center while carrying a fairly heavy bag and I needed to get some food in me before walking any more. So I was sitting there in this deli – the table was near the door and I saw all these groups of people walking towards the Javits Center. At 10;30 in the morning. Hmm.
Sufficiently fortified, I picked up my bag and began walking toward the Javits Center. That’s when I saw the guy standing across the street with one of those signs on a tall pole. The sign read “This way to the Comic Con” and it was pointing right. Towards 35th Street. OK then. I walked to 35th … and saw another person with a sign that pointed to 36th St. Continuing on, I made my way to 37th, along with a throng of people. There was someone with a bullhorn exhorting us to keep walking. For some reason, I started thinking about a Richard Bachmann short story, “The Long Walk.” At least there wouldn’t be armed guards shooting me if I stopped walking here, right? Another irony: One of the images on the badges that we all wore was from the TV show, “The Walking Dead.” Anyways, we were finally allowed to turn a corner at 40th and then we were greeted at the next corner of one line making its way towards the Javits Center and another one walking in the opposite direction of the first line. Guess which way I had to go? You got it. I got to West End Drive, turned left.. and had to walk all the way to 34th St before being able to then turn around and start walking in the opposite direction. It was like the Millipede from Hell. At one point, I just started looking at the various costumes that people were wearing to keep my mind off the fact that I was walking roughly 10,000 miles. I’d hate to think how I would have been feeling if I hadn’t eaten.
Finally I made my way to the outside of the Javits Center… where we all formed one giant blob of humanity trying to squeeze our way through several checkpoints. There was the requisite bag check and we had to press our badge against a tablet so that it could read the RFID chip that was in the badge. At least it was a nice day outside for all of this – I had gone to one of the first New York Comic Cons when it was held in February that had similar lines. Standing outside the Javits Center in February= NOT FUN.
Once inside, it took me a little while to get used to the layout of the con, since there are several levels to the Javits Center. That and I had to fight the urge to pass out from the sheer amount of stuff there. There were three areas that I really wanted to go to – the Main Floor, Artist Alley and the Autographs area. I went to the main floor, where it seemed like there were 20,000,000 people already milling around. I’m only exaggerating slightly.
After that, I found the Artist’s Alley, where hundreds of comic book artists were all plying their wares. This is where I wished I had won the lottery, since I have tremendous respect for what they do and it pained me to not be able to buy something from all of them. I did see a couple of them that I really admired, Freddie Williams III (I got him to sign a copy of his book on how to draw digitally and I also bought a sketchbook of his) and Adi Granov, who I have long admired for his work on the Iron Man comics. I’d hoped to talk more with Jim Zub, who I have known through a forum – but there’s one thing about cons… it is NOT conducive for long conversations. There’s always someone looking over your shoulder wanting to talk to the artist. So I kept things brief.
I knew there were some people autographing soon, so I wended my way over to the autographing area, though I had to endure one of the biggest pet peeves of mine – I’m a native New Yorker and I. Walk. Fast. There were so many times I had to stifle the urge to smack someone in the back of the head for walking really slowly in front of me (added points for having a big-ass backpack on their back).
The first people I wanted to get autographs from were Curtis Armstrong and Robert Carradine – who I originally saw in “Revenge of the Nerds” many, many years ago in the theater. Armstrong had also recently been on “Supernatural” as the power-hungry angel Metatron. Thus began the con ritual known as waiting in line after line after line. The funny thing was, there was a line that was triple the size of the one I was on for the guy who played the Green Ranger on “Mighty, Mighty Power Rangers”
Armstrong and Carradine came out close to on time and they graciously signed drawings I did of them
Giancarlo Esposito, one of my favorite actors from “Breaking Bad” was slated to sign a couple of tables over and I quickly ran over and got in that line. He actually showed up 45 minutes late, but the Green Power Ranger guy came out to greet his crowd in the interim… and dear god, he worked that group of people like I have never seen anyone do before. First he came out and ran all up and down the line cheering and high-fiving. He would do things like that every 10 minutes or so.
Esposito finally came out, to cheers, and as gesture of goodwill, he walked all up and down the line, shaking people’s hands, before he started signing.
Esposito also signed a drawing I did of him, complimenting me on it. I then took the worst posed picture in human history with him:
By then, the time had melted to 4:30 and I hadn’t eaten or drank anything since 10:45. My feet were also starting to get sore from standing all the time. Some people had sat on the floor, but I was wearing khakis, as you can see, and I wasn’t getting them dirty. Walking around the con floor took time, so I quickly went and got something to drink – eating would take too much time and I was still too amped to be terribly hungry.
I made my way back to the photo ops area, since I had gotten an op with Esposito before the con began, since I wasn’t sure if I would be able to take one at the autographing session. I also got one with Karl Urban that was half an hour later. One thing that makes these radically different from the autograph session is that there is virtually no chit-chat whatsover. It’s “Hi. Pose here. Smile! Next!”, which makes sense.
The con was wrapping up after that, and I made my way back to Penn Station. When I sat on the LIRR train, it marked the first time I had sat down in nearly 10 hours. It made me respect those people who have to be on their feet all day, like traffic cops. There was no way I was going to walk the nearly half-mile home with all the stuff I had, so I had a taxi pick me up.
It’s been 24 hours since I got home last night and my feet STILL hurt. Some thoughts though: One day is not nearly enough to see everything at the con – I missed so many exhibitors because I was going from place to place. Also, if you hate crowds, it’s NOT the event for you. I had a blast, though, and I look forward to next year.