REPORT: New York Comiccon 2006
Reported by Jonathan Ellis
On the weekend of Feb 23rd to 26th I attended the first ever New York Comiccon hosted by Reed Exhibitions accompanied by best bud and blogging machine Christopher Butcher and other best bud and PopImage Co-Editor in Chief Ed Mathews.
It took a long time for me to actually think of this trip as a convention. I didn't even pay attention to the con's site at all until DC started releasing PR about added guests which was probably sometime in January. Going into this show all I really cared about was meeting a few people, attending a few parties and getting to see New York. I completely glanced over the big name guests and paid it no heed. I don't think it actually dawned on me the nature and forthcoming insanity of the con until we received some PR from VIZ Media about their booth, including a big grab-money booth, Mardi Gras beads, giveaways, costumes, the works. I must have somehow got it into my head that because I was focused more towards the art side of the con I had ignored the commercial side. Once the nature of the con started to click in and guests like Milla Jovavich were added to the bill there was a sense of excitement mixed with wonderment. We knew it was going to be big before we even left.
Chris had the right idea of blogging throughout the day, even during the weekend I found myself forgetful of events which occurred only hours earlier, let alone writing a report after the weekend.
Kicked off the forthcoming trip by showing up late for the Sammy Harkham, Kevin Huizenga, Anders Nilsen event at the Revival. Got to see some good friends like Kean Soo and Chip Zdarsky, and make some new ones as well, like John of the excellent Drawn.ca. Chris has some photo's from the event at his site.
The flight was early in the day [at least for me] so I was up all night instead of sleeping, giving me time to shower, shave, pack and read the unfortunate news about iBooks going bankrupt. Interesting way to kick off the weekend. When we arrived at the airport we discovered our friends from UDON were on the same flight. Erik Ko and Jim Zubkavich [Professor Zub] were there joined by George and Clarence Lim.
We hung out at the hotel for a while, where Chris and I were staying with Ray [MNEMOVORE from Vertigo, APOCALIPSTIX with Cameron Stewart from Oni Press and a forthcoming book with artist Vince Locke from Top Shelf Comix] Fawkes and Ramon [BUTTERNUTSQUASH & SPELLGAME from Speakeasy] Perez. We headed over to the con to sign in and check out the floor. Immediately I was impressed because I saw the one thing every con I've ever been to sorely lacks; signage. Clear, branded, noticeable signage, and it was everywhere.
We checked out the floor as people were setting up. From the very beginning we anticipated problems. The rows were narrow and DC Comics, who has almost everyone who works for them showing up, was situated right at the very front and that alone was going to create some serious crowding. You could tell that some people took their set-ups very seriously, my favourites being TokyoPop, DC Comics and Harper Collins. TokyoPop had crates just for the pieces of their set and set up their booth like a miny bookstore with shelving units and a cashier desk. While on the flip side of their set up was a mini-stage and seats for meetings and portfolio reviews. DC had a square set up with four tables reserved for signings, two for the DCU, one for Wildstorm and another for Vertigo. Harper Collins just had a nice clean set-up with great graphic novels side by side with great novels.
Transcontinental Printing held a mixer following the panels that occurred during the day, we arrived a little late and ending up missing the programming, but arrived just in time for the blue martinis.
Got to meet Calvin Reed and Jon Davis from BOOKAZINE, gab with Heidi MacDonald, and pick up a few freebies courtesy of Transcontinental.
Went to the Marvel party afterward and had awesome mozzarella sticks. Got to say hi to some old friends like C.B. Cebulski, Joey Q and Brian Michael Bendis as well as for the first time meeting Marvel's David Gabriel, Jim McCann, Warren Simons, Jeff Parker and Dynamite Entertainment's Joe O'Brien. It was a good time and pretty much our first chance to sit down since leaving the hotel - good food and good chat. Got to talk to C.B. about some of his upcoming books, I'm certainly now more interested in the X-MEN: FAIRY TALES series. Don't let the first issue fool you, this isn't a manga inspired re-imaging, each issue will reinvent the X-Men using different fairy tales and different artists, including Bill Sienkiewicz on one issue.
Speaking of Marvel, check out this really short teaser for the Ghost Rider Movie.
There was another party following the Marvel one, we were headed that way but when we went to drop off our stuff at the hotel room we just ended up crashing for the night.
Started Friday at the convention centre for the retailer breakfast discussion in the morning, which turned out to be a panel with coffee at the back of the room. So instead Chris and I left to have breakfast with Ed Mathews and CBR contributor Justin Jordan at the Tick Tock Café up the street. We headed back and attended the "Are Pamphlets Doomed?" panel. Ed really sparked a digital comics conversation and Dan Didio's response was along the lines of you-do-it-first and-then-we'll-ride-you.
Next we took to the floor, saying hi to DC Comics Adam Philips who will be moving on allowing Alex Segura to take his place in the publicity department. The VIZ Media booth had already begun testing out their grab-all-the-money-you-can-in-our-windy-money-booth [at this point the floor had not been open to the public yet, just exhibitors, press and professionals, and already the floor was filled].
Ran into Dan [STYX TAXI, ACT-I-VATE] Goldman who's got a great Devil's Advocate [not the movie] story lined up, afterwards Ed introduced me to the Midtown Comics boys. Met the Pocket Books people and started making jokes about the David Mack connection [David -KABUKI- Mack does the cover art for a forthcoming Wolverine novel written by an author, also named David Mack. Apparently the idea came up when the two ended up with their tax information getting mixed between them]. Checked out the Top Shelf booth with Alex Robinson, oddly, the smallest amount of space I've EVER seen Top Shelf have to fill, but then it wasn't really their particular market. There were a large number of people in attendance over the weekend, but not all were spending money.
Also ran into the BRODIES LAW boys, who you may have heard of when their series written by Alan Grant had its film rights picked up recently. The boys were there selling the new trade featuring a cover by Simon Bisley.
Caught up with Kyle Baker and got to purchase the latest work from future superstar Lillian Baker who was there selling her exclusive mini, SNAKE CURSE OF THE CLASSROOM.
Meet local artists Euralis Weekes and Kevin C. San Diego who were there promoting their studio Chaotic Unicorn and their books EBONYC and COMBINATION PLATTER. I picked up some cute HATEFUL THINGS stickers by Manny Galan from their table.
Next we checked out our boy Chris Butcher on the How To Sell Manga panel where he represented pretty damn well, name-dropping one of my fave manga publishers Fanfare/Ponent-Mon and giving the entire room the pitch for DRAGON HEAD that he just loves to tell to anyone who will listen.
One thing that I'll add to the discussion is that it's a give and take relationship with the retailer and customer. I shop at the Beguiling, not only because it's a great store but also because Chris Butcher is my friend. I'm not your typical manga reader so while stocking the shelves with INUYASHA might provide entertainment for younger readers, it does nothing for me. So when it comes to purchases, Chris will recommend DRAGON HEAD to me because it's good and he trusts I'll like it and in turn I'll badger Chris about a title like JAPAN and other Fanfare/Ponent-Mon titles to ensure that it gets into my hands, but into my hands, through them. And in doing so, ensuring that they support the book as well.
Here, by the way, is a picture of the BELLE & SEBASTIAN anthology sticking out of his bag to which he, along with artists Kalman Andrasofszky and Ramon Perez, was a contributor.
Afterwards we had just enough time to say hi to Neil Kleid, Dino, Colleen Doran, Jim Dougan and Danielle Corsetto before I had to head over to the big Vertigo panel, which was really more of a 45 minute presentation followed by a couple questions. Unfortunately with a dozen people of the panel, it didn't give anyone very much time to speak at all.
The good news though is that I got to finally meet Douglas Rushkoff, Karen Berger, Jonathan Vankin and Shelly Bond following the panel. On the way back it was easy to notice that while the day was winding down, the doors had opened to the public and the con floor was filling up even further.
The rest of the night was fairly dedicated to checking out Zander Cannon's very reasonably priced original art for sale, including pages from LUCIFER, SMAX and TOP TEN pages finished with Gene Ha.
Friday night held a few different parties, we ended up blowing off the MoCCA McFarlane affair to attend the CRAZY PAPERS party at Jigsaw. This was actually the final weekend of JIGSAW, a gallery slash indy comics store. Obviously cared for with good taste, I could tell since I owned many of the select books that were available there.
Jigsaw is run by Mr. formerly known as Ben Jones, but he's closing up to move away from the city where he can get a bigger store, better exposure and more walk in traffic then the city affords him. It was cool that I got a chance to check the place out before its reign had come to an end.
It was a good time topped off with some New York City pizza. Ed insisted I try some and I opted for the pasta pizza, a pizza with penne with a cheese and meat sauce baked into the actual slice. Good shit.
Back at the hotel Butcher, Fawkes, Professor Zub and I rambled into the night about horrible submission packages [more details here] and inventing new and disgusting ideas for comic pitches.
The biggest story was the fact that the con floor was cut off with thousands turned away and ticket sales halted. State troopers were called in and even the likes of DC Comics president Dan DiDio, director Kevin Smith, author Douglas Rushkoff, creator Frank Miller, Comicbookresources main man and convention sponsor Jonah Weiland, and many more were barred from even entering the con floor.
With this the question of blame comes to a head or really, was this actually anyone's fault? There was no question the con was going to be huge, even when the only people on the floor during the pre-con hours were exhibitors and press on Friday, it was packed. A big guest list of high profile names, last minute additions, a large advertising push and being centred amongst the publishing worlds home town are just some of the reasons there was such a huge turn out. But the con organizers could only work with the amount of space they were ALLOWED. The Javitz Centre already had two other shows reserved for the rest of the space, and this being the shows first year, would not even give the organizers the additional space they wanted.
Ed and I spoke with Colleen Doran a bit and she nailed it when she said:
"The good news! A raging success!
The bad news! A raging success!"
And "In one weekend, this show became San Diego East, and NO ONE was prepared for it. Certainly not me."
Now, was offering refunds and sending everyone packing the right thing to do? Yes and no. The refund is just common sense, but sending people packing... if I had travelled all the way only to be turned around [and I'm sure there are people who DIDN'T get in who travelled much more then I did] I would be incredibly pissed. So what could they have done? Create a new venue. Obviously there's no big spaces to take advantage of and you can't start moving set-ups, but you can take advantage of what's nearby, and it's New York so there are plenty of options. Take Frank Miller and have him sign at Midtown Comics. Take Joe Quesada and offer free tours of the Marvel Offices to every child accompanied by a parent. Do the same with DC. Have Todd McFarlane signing exclusively at the Museum of Comic & Cartoon Art during the day. Put Bendis & Bagley at Jim Hanley's Universe. Offer free admission to panels or screenings that weren't full - sort of like film festivals, if there's a free seat then there's a line-up of people outside willing to gladly fill it. If it were warmer outside, I'd say start taking the set-ups out into the street [the winds were a bitch and we were right near the water, so being stuck outside wasn't ideal]. Problem is the organizers were just so overwhelmed with state troopers yelling at them that they had to act immediately, and the immediate response was no last call, get the hell out, you don't gotta go home but you can't stay here.
There's a lot to be said about this situation and it'll be interesting what the official 'NY Comiccon Aftermath' statements will be from the Reed people, but when people with guns are waiting for you at the bus stop to tell you 'go home', there's no sole party that can be put to blame.
Now then, I was actually able to make it onto the con floor but once there felt trapped as leaving the floor meant little chance of return. Saturday was the day filled with the most big name guests and I didn't see any of them at all. So Saturday during the con was pretty uneventful as much of it was spent just chatting people up in and around the floor.
Our room became an impromptu hang out destination between the con and dinner, which was cool because it gave us a chance to chill and I was able to check out some black and whites from the forthcoming Vertigo series THE OTHER SIDE by Jason Aaron and Cameron Stewart, needless to say, I'll be picking up the series.
Next we hit up Korean barbecue, which is always good. During which we were continuously text-messaged by Lauren Martin with demands that we appear at the Kettle of Fish to hang with some authentic New Yorkers.
From there it was a trip to see Alex from Rocketship and fellow blogger Joe Rice in a small bar wherein Ed and I took it upon ourselves to describe, in detail, the greatness that is PROMETHEA to a friend of theirs. Next up was the Beauty Bar, a pretty cool place that was an old beauty salon retrofitted into a bar. We headed to the back to hang out on the dance floor [though no one was dancing] with some glam-alt locals. The music wasn't that great [with the exception of one Peaches song and Tainted Love by Soft Cell] but I at least got to perform my good deed of the day by helping a girl who was getting hassled by another guy by confronting him and sending him off.
This is where it starts to get fuzzy... Sunday was also pretty uneventful. The day began with our check out and from there we went straight to the con. Checked out the VIZ panel, followed by some wondering around, then the Heroes and Villains panel where I tended to doze off, then a walk around the floor to say goodbye and it was off to the airport. Since they suspended ticket sales on Sunday it wasn't as busy, with many people already packing up to leave early in the afternoon.
Spent our last hours in Newark, waiting on our delayed plane, eating dinner at the airport T.G.I. Fridays and reading a copy of NEBULI by Becky Cloonan and Vasilis Lolos.
Monday & Tuesday: Reactions
Monday. I slept. More then usual. Usual being, not much. Hopped online to continue checking out the NY Comiccon coverage and was also treated to the unfortunate news of Speakeasy's closing.
The whole weekend we were secretly holding onto some Speakeasy info that hadn't hit the net just yet. Revealed in a recent article in the Globe & Mail, Speakeasy had struck up a deal to handle the comic versions of HBO's properties. Sopranos, Deadwood, etc. This was a part of Speakeasy's new direction heading towards a more Platinum Studios-like format, crafting comic properties with the intent of moving forward into new mediums, and taking other media properties and turning them into comics.
Adam Fortier had to cancel part of his appearance at the NY Con due to some family illness but eventually made it down on Saturday, though I never saw him, he was most likely one of the many people turned away at the door. Saw editor and writer Chris Stone later that night though nothing was mentioned.
Again, here is another story where blame is looking to be placed. While I agree that some of Speakeasy's publishing choices and marketing concerns were poor, I don't agree with personal attacks slanted towards Adam by people who don't even know him. Making personal stabs at Adam just shows what an asshole you are and claiming that the downfall of the company rests in the fact that YOU couldn't find a copy of TITLE X # 1 is bullshit. Want a book? Pre-order it. Re-order it. Ask your retailer for it. Buy it online. A lot of people are saying that if they really wanted to make the company work they should sink every minute of their life and income into it, but no one is pointing out that if you really wanted to buy one of their comics, you should have bought it instead of whining about how your retailer didn't order it, or it sold out before you got there.
Yes, it's a pleasant thought of sacrificing health for art by living like a hermit, only emerging to appear at conventions and buy more Ramen. But YOU SHOULDN'T HAVE TO. I've been there, I've lived off Ramen and MSG laced Campbells soup, I've had negative signs in my bank balance, I've gone an entire week with only a few hours of sleep spaced over a couple of days but you know what, I got past that and I like my stock options and profit sharing, my health insurance, my car, being able to afford the internet and buy a computer for that matter, being able to spend a dollar on a coffee without having to literally count the pennies in my pocket, and being able to buy a book like BUTTERNUTSQUASH.
Were there problems with the company? Yes, no doubt, they grew too fast with no specific direction and took on poor properties. But much like TokyoPop, who have their own problems, they gave a great number of people their first IN into the industry, some of whom greatly deserved the chance and some of whom, didn't.
But attacking Adam Fortier personally for running the company you didn't buy a single book from just won't cut it here. Try and keep it civil fanboy.
The good news is that it clears up my friends to get their books and work published through new companies. Check out BUTTERNUTSQUASH creator and SPELLGAME artist Ramon Perez at ButterNutSquash.net, Ramon-Perez.com, and see more art at his livejournal. Check out BEOWULF artist Atilla Adorjany at 600poundgorilla.com, see more process work and illustrations at his livejournal, and be sure to check out Atilla on MySpace.
Back to the con. New York was a decent time, good but not great, mainly as a cause of the whole shut down/state troopers thing. I'll definitely consider returning next year but it's really a matter of time and money. To attend this year I took time off work and spent a lot of money without actually buying any books. Whether or not I attend next year will be a matter of wait and see.
One of the highlights for me though, aside from meeting some great people for the first time, was the foreign books tables. All grouped together were Delacourt, Casterman, L'Association, Soleil, Bayou, INRA and editions de l'AN 2. Some of the best books in the building and I couldn't even read them [my French isn't that good]. The representatives were there to handle the transition for European properties to English and English properties to Europe. None the less, their catalogues alone were worth stopping by for. I've already discovered some books I'll likely buy, even though they're in French. I'm coming for you TOKYO EST MON JARDIN, hurry up with my English version Ponentmon.
2005 was a bad year for conventions for me, with the exception of one show, they were primarily surmounted by bad personal shit, including two deaths and a physical injury. 2006 is looking good so far but the cons themselves aren't what I really care about, it's the social environment and the time we spend with others in the after hours that make these events worth going to and New York is a good place to be social.
Check out our forum for more photos and props to our peeps.
Thanks to all the people who worked so hard in making the convention come together.
Jonathan Ellis si Co-Editor in Chief of PopImage.com
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