Virginia Comic Con takes place several times a year, traditionally in a franchise hotel in Richmond, VA. It’s were I get all of my New 52 back issues and, prior to last weekend, it represented the entirety of my comic book convention experience. And I was okay with that. Because a $5 ticket and a 10 minute drive are just about all the time and money I thought I’d be willing to shell out in pursuit of comic books.
But I love Batman. More specifically, I love Scott Snyder and Greg Capullo’s current ongoing run of Batman. So this summer, when I found out Scott Snyder would be at New York Comic Con, I bought a ticket the minute they became available, and wouldn’t you know it, a few months later they announced Greg Capullo would be there too.
This is the story of my first balls-to-the-wall convention experience. This is an examination of mistakes and successes.
A day at New York Comic Con 2013.
Arriving in Manhattan at 8:30 in the morning I was half-awake as my accomplice and I shuffled along the city streets amongst crusaders and knights and the like. The convention hall opened at 10 and Scott Snyder and Greg Capullo’s signing started at the same time, so there was no time to waste. Herded into the sprawling basement of the Javits Center I waited in a twisting, turning line of Thors and Deadpools and Robins awaiting that magic moment, 10 a.m.
Per Snyder’s twitter account I knew he’d be signing in the Artist Alley. Per my lack of experience I had exactly no idea where that was. Luckily while in line I met a fellow Con-goer, Trevor from Grand Theft Auto V.
Not somebody dressed as Trevor from GTA V. Not the voice actor who played Trevor from GTA V.
Trevor. From GTA V.
Or at least a balding guy from Canada.
Trevor had traveled from Newfoundland and was at the Con the day prior. As such he was able to tell me how to get to the Alley from the trough we were stuck in. I had an objective and now, I had a direction.
And then the moment hit. We were let out in packs, like a staggered running of the bulls, and we ran out of our confines with the excitement of an angry animal and the speed of someone being chased by said angry animal. Using Trevor’s direction my compatriot and I quickly made our way to Artist Alley. But wait? What booth was the signing at? E1 or EE1? Where were either of those booths?
Who gives a shit?
Because by 10:10 when we found the line for the signing a vile, decrepit roach of a man stood at the end of it with a sign that, while I may be paraphrasing, read “Nice try, assholes. Better luck never.”
And that was that.
$50 tickets. Four months of anticipation. 340 miles of driving.
There’s a certain freedom that comes along with having had your mightiest aspirations for a day decimated in its opening moments. Unfortunately that understanding had not occurred to me just yet upon running into Brian Buccellato, co-writer of The Flash.
Walking away from the Batman line, after watching Snyder and Capullo sign comic books from afar for an uncomfortable amount of time, I noticed some pretty baller Flash prints at a booth and I took up small talk with the man presenting them. The sign behind him said Brian Buccellato, but I don’t exactly have a running knowledge of the faces of comic book creators that aren’t Scott Snyder or Greg Cappullo, so for all I know he could have been Brian Azzarello.
“What comics do you guys read?” he asked us. At this point I strongly suspected the man speaking to me was, in fact, Buccellato, which would suggest that the right answer was, “The Flash, Mr. Buccellato.”
“Batman and Wonder Woman,” I stammered. He nodded. “I’ve never really been to one of these things before so I’m not up on the etiquette. Are you Brian Buccellato?” I finally asked, undoubtedly slaughtering his last name.
He was. I told him how excited I was for his and Francis Manapul’s upcoming Detective Comics run, at which point something dawned on me: I have The Flash #1. I should ask him to sign it. And I did. And he said yes.
I dug through my friends backpack, thumbing through Batman and Wonder Woman comics almost instantly realizing I definitely hadn’t brought literally the only issue of The Flash I own to New York with me.
“Just kidding. I didn’t bring it,” I mutter. “But I’m going to check out these prints,” I looked through the binder at his booth, all the while contemplating running away and making a break to Snyder and Capullo, when a print caught my eye. It was badass as hell. So much so that I decided to buy it.
Buccellato retrieved a copy of the print, signed it and handed it to me. Happy with the print I tried to resurrect the failing conversation I’d butchered and asked the first question I could think of.
“So what do you do all day?”
For his part Buccellato was very friendly considering the crippling awkwardness I brought to his booth. He explained that he spent his time at the booth and at various panels, including one for Forever Evil.
“That’s right,” I remembered. “You’re drawing The Rogues mini-series.”
“Writing it,” he corrected me.
I turned to walk away, but Buccellato stopped me.
“That’s $20,” he reminded me, pointing to the print.
It was a rough morning, one that could only be corrected by going into the main sprawl of booths at Comic Con and finding Convention Exclusive comic book covers and the odds and ends needed to complete various collections. But even Hawkeye #1 couldn’t help me shake the bad taste leftover from my floundering interaction with Buccellato. Luckily for me, upon my return to the Alley I stumbled across a levy of hope boldly withstanding the rising flood waters of fumbling desperation and disappointment, an avatar of redemption and changing fortunes – Pete Tomasi, writer of Batman and Robin.
I had a delightful conversation with the writer whom I hadn’t even known for certain would be there. Soon after, in quick succession I was able to meet other comic book writers and artists; Cliff Chiang, Chris Burnham, Greg Pak, Charles Soule, etc. And time and time again I managed to steadily weave my way through polite chit chat without coming off as an intrusive monster. By the time I left Artist Alley the second time the memory of my Snyder-less morning was quickly fading, replaced with a baller-ass print of Cliff Chiang’s Wonder Woman art.
Between my forays into the Alley I spent time in the autographing area. Fans lined up hundreds upon hundreds at a time to meet the likes of Stan Lee, Hulk Hogan and, of course, the Green Power Ranger. It was a madhouse and yet through the throngs of eager fans I was able to get into a line without a rat of a man with a “Nice try, asshole” sign at the end of it. I may not have gotten the chance to meet the creative team behind Batman, but, for a small fee, I had the pleasure of spending a sublime five seconds in the presence of William Shatner.
In the weeks leading up to Comic Con I had known Sir William of Shatner would be at the convention, but had operated under the assumption that he would be swarmed with fans and I would never get within a hundred yards of the man/myth/legend, which I was okay with because I also operated under the assumption that I would be meeting Scott Snyder and Greg Capullo.
What a whacky world we live in! AMIRIGHT?
As I stood in line, inching steadily closer to the Captain of Captains, I thought through the coming experience over and over:
“Mr. Shatner,” I would say, with the upmost reverence. “I know you’re from Canada, but you’re a national treasure.”
“Thank you, son,” he’d chuckle, shaking my hand.
“Sir, I’m but a lowly 23 year old trying to find his footing in adulthood whilst simultaneously clinging to my youthful dreams. But it can be hard. I get tired. I lose motivation. I lose sight of my real goals. Mr. Shatner, do you have any advice?”
At this a twinkle would come over Shatner’s wise eyes, a knowing smirk across his gentle lips. He puts his arm around me and pulls me in close, his mouth mere molecules from my ear as he whispers two words:
I look the man in the eye and nod. He shakes my hand once more, this time slipping me a signed 8×10. It reads:
“Here we go again old friend!
I approached William Shatner, handing the $5 photograph I’d bought at the beginning of the line to a middle man, who then handed it to Shatner.
“How are you?” I asked.
“Good, and you?” he replied, quickly signing the photo.
“Good thanks. My dad and I have gotten a lot of entertainment out of your work.”
“Good, I’m glad you’re here.” He nodded and offered a quick smile, handing me my photograph, and I was ushered on my way.
I took one last glance at the legend and the surreal factory line I had just been churned out of, then looked at the 8×10 in my hand, inscribed now with a message from my Captain, Bill”
It was awesome.
I waited in line for perhaps 25 minutes to meet William Shatner. Other lines were not as surmountable.
Later in the day astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson was signing in the autograph area. My friend waited diligently with a calculator to be signed while I, making a snap judgment call, hurried upstairs to the main floor in the hopes of meeting either Claudio Sanchez, frontman of Coheed & Cambria and writer or the series Kill Audio (get it), or Charlie Adlard, artist for the Walking Dead.
Within half an hour it became abundantly clear that my friend and I were not going to meet any of them.
But Comic Con isn’t just handshakes and autographs.
Panels are a big part of Comic Conventions, particularly the larger ones like San Diego Comic Con, which sees the likes of everyone from Tom Cruise to George Lucas answering questions and previewing new and upcoming entertainment. However, I could never shake the feeling that panels were, at the end of the day, in-person infomercials.
But even that realization wasn’t enough to keep me from attending the panel for Comedy Bang Bang, the IFC comedy starring host Scott Aukerman and bandleader/sidekick Reggie Watts. The duo screened a yet to be aired Halloween episode of CBB and answered a handful of fan questions – the best of which being mine, of course. Capping off the panel was the announcement that the series had been renewed for a third season.
It was an entertaining hour, to be sure. But after sitting through one panel, which took up an hour plus of my only day at the Con, not even the prospect of the new Star Wars animated series Rebels was enough to convince me to attempt to attend another.
However, even outside of panels and signings and booths entertainment was quite literally all around in the form of some of the most elaborate and impressive costumes this side of Party City.
Finn and Fiona from Adventure Time were around every other corner, as were Deadpool and Chubby Wolverine and ladies dressed like Loki, but the amount of insane, original costumes was staggering.
Just in my single day at the convention I ran into a B-Boy Darth Vader, Ahsoka Tano, a hefty, hairy, forty-something dude in a Wonder Woman costume, Kratos, the avatar from the video game Journey and a man in a legit Batman costume that actually had the physique to fill out a legit Batman costume.
The most impressive cosplayers were celebrities onto themselves, being stopped in the halls to pose with other Con-goers left and right. That I didn’t have the courage to ask hairy Wonder Woman man for a picture will haunt me until the end of my days.
As exciting as it was seeing a squadron of Reach soldiers chilling out by an escalator, or talking with Cliff Chiang, or looking at William Shatner, by the end of the day my friend and I had eaten two gross, overpriced caloric abominations, spent hours in various lines and thrown out way more than too much money and it felt like it.
A day a NYCC is a long one. And it requires a lot more than $5 and a 10 minute drive. And it’s worth it.
The 8×10’s, the comic books, the art prints, the exclusives: these are my conquests.
I’m in my twenties after all, and I’ll be damned if I don’t spend them funneling too much time, too much money and too much effort into something that’s significance is quickly put into perspective by my ever-encroaching thirties.
Driving too far to wait in a line that’s too long for a chance to tell creative people I admire that I appreciate their work. Sharing a second with my Captain. Grasping a bushel of comic books, hauling them across the coast and returning them to the altar from whence they came to be scribbled on by their creators and then whisked away, back to a mundane life in a cardboard box on my bookshelf.
These are my triumphs. These are my failures. These are my conquests.
Four out of five stars.