6 Things I Learned at New York Comic Con 2011

Well, another New York Comic Con has come and gone, and taken with it entirely too much of my ever-dwindling cash reserves.  But it was a good time overall, and the memories will last a lifetime. Here’s the short list of what I did at the Con this year:

  • Got my copy of The Foot Soldiers Vol. 1 signed by Jim Krueger (and found out that they’re redoing the series in color in 2012! Woo!)
  • Got my copy of The Flash #1 (New 52) signed by Assistant Editor Darren Shan (It was his first autograph ever, which was amusing)
  • Attended in costume for the first time, dressed up as DC’s The Question
  • Picked up a Professor Zoom T-Shirt, since you can’t buy them online anymore
  • Got hedgehog-themed sketches for a friend, in return for helping me with my mask
  • Played Con Bingo, and generally took pictures of awesome people and things at & around the convention
  • Met the folks from Channel Awesome who showed up, and attended their after-party on Saturday night

So, after attending the con for 5 years in a row, what have I learned?  What are the things that are fun to do at NYCC, and what are the things to avoid? What are the keys to having a good time?  Here’s my advice, in list form:

1) WEAR COMFORTABLE SHOES!  I cannot stress this enough.  When I was attending in a professional capacity, this was the single best piece of advice the head of my company gave all of us. Quite simply, seats are in extremely short supply at NYCC, and if you want to actually do anything you’ll find yourself standing and walking far more than you would in an ordinary day.  Additionally, I recommend checking your coat and any heavy bags you might have on you.  $6 may seem like a lot, but your back will thank you for it (by not causing you tremendous pain!) Never has there been a more important occasion to be gellin’.

2) Eat hearty meals before you enter the con and after you leave it.  While bathrooms are in ample supply within the convention halls, affordable food vendors are not. While there, you will have to choose between subsisting on whatever you can cram into your backpack (protein bars, energy drinks and the like) or paying exorbitant prices for food that would be sub-standard at a high school cafeteria. In the case of NYCC, you do not even have the luxury of walking to a nearby eatery and dining there, for the Javits Center’s section of Manhattan is a food WASTELAND.  Additionally, be sure to bring at least one bottle of water.  The more crowded cons (of which NYCC is certainly one) often get very hot, and it’s hard to have a good time if you get dehydrated.

3) Take a shower every morning before you leave for the con, and apply some form of deodorant or anti-perspirant.  This isn’t so much for your enjoyment as it is for everyone else’s.  We nerds frequently get a bad rap from the mainstream media for being sweaty, smelly and gross, so there’s no reason to play into a negative stereotype.  Just remember: Personal hygiene is everybody’s job.

4) Before you attend, make a list of the things you want to do in priority order.  In a manner similar to the dark magic practiced by Las Vegas casinos, high-profile nerd conventions reduce the average attendee’s level of rational thought to somewhere on the level of “oooh, pretty.”  If you aren’t moving with purpose, you will quickly find yourself swept up in the flow of foot traffic, being bounced around from one major entertainment company’s marketing booth to the next.  If you want to get that copy of Swamp Thing #1 signed by Len Wein, look online to find out where his booth is and head there first.  If you want more than anything to see the new Marvel Studios film footage world premiere, show up the night before the con opens and get ready for a lot of waiting in line.  If you want to go to a panel in the same room where they’re showing said Marvel Studios footage, too bad. NYCC is not designed to cater to your needs. Which brings us to the next point…

5) Know your con’s strengths and weaknesses.  ComicCon is a very different environment from Dragon*Con, which is a very different environment from PAX, which is a very different environment from MAGFest.  Every convention, in addition to focusing on different fandoms, has its own atmosphere and focus.  If you spend the entirety of PAX on the show floor trying to get free swag from the gaming companies, you’ll be missing out on what makes that convention stand out from the rest.  Likewise, if you go into NYCC looking to attend great panels, make new friends and participate actively in the geek community, you’ve got a long uphill road ahead of you.
Like its even more massive counterpart in San Diego, NYCC is a high-profile convention focused on creating opportunities for the major geek media producers to advertise to their fanbase, almost to the exclusion of all other activity.  There are still opportunities for fans to interact with their favorite comic creators in Artist Alley, and there are a handful of events (such as the Cosplay Contest or Speed Dating) that focus on attendees themselves, but nearly all focus is directed away from these toward the show floor and showcase theater.  Since convention admission packages are almost never cheap, it is important to determine what the average con-goer’s experience is and whether or not it is right for you before you buy that 3-day pass.

6) When meeting your idols, try to avoid acting like Chris Farley’s character on the classic Saturday Night Live sketch, “The Chris Farley Show.”  For those who don’t remember, “The Chris Farley Show” was a sketch based around the joke that Chris Farley was a television show host who was so completely star-struck by his guests that every interview went something like the following:

CHRIS: So, Paul McCartney.  Do you remember … when you were in the Beatles?
PAUL: Yes, yes I do.
CHRIS:
CHRIS: … that was awesome.

This is the type of thing that fans typically blather to their idols, and I know that I’ve been guilty of it myself more than once in the past (arguably even at this convention!)  It’s awkward for both parties, though, as the person you’re praising doesn’t really have a way to continue the conversation.  As fans, we should be trying to engage them the way their work engages us, even if we can’t do it to the same extent.  It’s fine to praise a person’s work, but the praise shouldn’t be empty and generic.  Tell them how their work changed your life for the better, or made you think about a subject differently. Ask them about the themes or messages in their work, not about minor plot details or continuity errors.  Also be conscious of your surroundings, taking care not to take too much of their time if there is a long line of other fans behind you.  I found it helpful to write down what I wanted to say before I said it, if only to give my thoughts coherence and organization.  In short: Don’t be creepy, rude, redundant or dull if you can possibly avoid it.

Well, there you have it.  Those are my six pieces of advice on how to survive and enjoy New York Comic Con.  I’d actually love to examine the facets of fan-idol relations in greater detail, so if you have your own perspective on the subject, (or if you just know of an article someone else has done about it) please share it with me. Until next time, in the words of Stan Lee and the New York State motto, “Excelsior!”

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One Response

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