We Attended a Highly Controversial Comic Convention and Here is How it Went:

I will preface this blog with two reference points so as to explain the title. Santa Fe Comic Con has given themselves allot of bad PR in the last couple years. So much so, that our local convention is known internationally for its PR Meltdowns and cyberbullying as detailed in this aptly titled and highly in depth article: Comic Convention Has PR Meltdown. Their prop weapons stance after the fallout of Phoenix Comic Con has also received bad press, which we covered in The End of Conventions as We Know Them, a blog where we detailed the knee jerk reaction the owner of New Mexico TriCon took by instating a no tolerance/all prop weapons ban at all three of his conventions this year. With this background you might be wondering why we bothered attending this convention at all. Well folks, the answer is that we wanted to give you an honest firsthand account of what this convention really has to offer as we have become known to do.

Day 1

We arrived when they opened at 10:00. When you approach the convention entrance from the Buffalo Thunder Hotel or the Casino below you are bombarded with signage

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No, I’m not kidding. This is the actual signage in front of the convention. 

alerting you to the fact that your person and belongings will be subject to searching with phrases like: “ALL BAGS SUBJECT TO SEARCH;” “SECURITY CHECK UPON EVERY ENTRY;” and “NO WEAPONS OR PROP WEAPONS ALLOWED. MANAGEMENT RESERVES ALL RIGHTS.” While we had some expectation of what was to come due to their press release like Facebook posts and, of course, these lovely signs, there was no way that we could have been prepared for the TSA which awaited us at the end of the very long line. A table filled with little buckets in which to empty your belongings led up to two men bearing metal detecting security scan wands. It was definitely reminiscent of an airport checkpoint, from which I’m sure they took inspiration. Fortunate for us the owner of TriCon could not invest in an X-Ray scanner or I’m sure we would have been putting our arms up and subjecting ourselves to radiation.

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The screening belt where you place anything in your pockets.

As for the professionalism of these guards, they made many off color comments every time we went through this checkpoint, I’m guessing in attempt to lighten the mood. @skyberry13 went through first and her Startfleet badge pinged, but that was not enough. He continued going up and down over her chest area pinging before she told him that it was very obviously her Starfleet badge. With reluctance he agreed and resolved to scan her back. When it pinged over the small of her back he jokingly said: “That will be your bra.” Now, this was just our experience, many of our friends attending the convention had similar if not worse experiences at the hands of these men.

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The wand security screening which, in certain cases, led to a pat down.

They put a tag on any bags they have searched which, if you leave and come back, are subjected to the same search and the tag replaced. I would suggest getting to the convention at least half an hour before any panel you want to attend to account for your security check. With only a few hurt feeling and some super awkward/inappropriate interactions we survived what I dub the CSA (Convention Security Administration).

From there, we went to the first of two dealers and artist ballrooms. Our first panel was not until 11, so we had some time to scout out our purchases. As we were walking the hallway to the other ballroom I spotted Marina Sirtis. Now, she was booked at this convention last year, but had to pull out. Meaning I had been looking forward to meeting her for two years now. I even brought a Councilor Troy Pop! figure I had been holding on to for her to sign. I stopped dead in the middle of the hallway. The pictures online do not do her justice. Honestly, she is quite stunning. So, squeeing, @skyberry13 had to pull me over and calm me down before I dared presenting myself in front of her. To be fair I was dressed as Wesley Crusher and had a pretty great smolder so I should have had nothing to worry about. None of which helped my confidence in meeting this amazing woman. I approached the small line at her table composing myself. She is English! She has the most elegant British accent, which I was totally not expecting! I shook her hand and told her how much I loved her character on Star Trek the Next Generation. She loved my Starfleet uniform and said that it fit me better than allot of people on the show. She also made some cracks at how skinny I am, which ended in her jokingly telling me to get out of her sight. While, harsh, her personality is totally great which is further elaborated on in our coverage of her panel!

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The first the panel we attended was Cosplay 101 with Dava Cosplay. She is a stay at home mom who is big in the local cosplay community outreach scene, visiting children’s homes and hospitals in costume. For this panel she was dressed as Elvira. She was very good at addressing specific costuming questions and diplomatic at giving insight into the controversial issue surrounding cosplay at this convention: “Boob Models” vs. “Elitist Cosplayers.” Her words and words borrowed from the first article, not mine. This controversy is covered in the aforementioned articles.

After the panel we met up with our friends from Retrospect Cosplay who were cosplaying that morning as Sexy Snape and Ash Ketchum from Pokemon.

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QueenBreadSama as Snape with a Sirius Black cosplayer 

 We met these incredible cosplayers in the line for Forever 21’s grand opening in Santa Fe about a month before. What are the odds that two queer cosplay couples would end up in line together at something so unrelated to cosplay? Well, thank God we did because we became fast friends and hanging out with them totally made the convention! We ate lunch at the Painted Parrot Buffet in the hotel, which is a stop we make every year at this convention. It is a great buffet and they always have a special and quite reasonable convention price, this year it was $15. They seated us somewhere we could talk without interrupting their other guests and we had a great time at a long table with a bunch of new and old cosplay friends. Retrospect Cosplay is based in Albuquerque and they are definitely tapped into the huge cosplay community there.

The next panel was what my entire convention experience was centered around: Marina Sirtis’ Star Trek Next Generation panel. received_1735907886714636-e1508875776748.jpegAs soon as she entered the room she made her magnanimous presence known, instructing the moderator to take a break because she does her own panels and asking some spry young men to move the table from the stage so she could walk around (which launched a bridge crew in full uniform to perform the task, myself included). Anyway, as soon as the room was set up how she liked it she gave a brief introduction about her experience acting on Star Trek Next Generation and a disclaimer that she does not watch science-fiction, instead preferring sports. She shared her confusion over the Betazoid accent which she was asked to invent. She drew inspiration from middle eastern accents and throughout the show it became a more mid-Atlantic accent. This was due to a plot hole she went to great lengths to figure out and correct. After her mother appeared on the show, she went knocking on show runner’s/ writer’s door inquiring why her mother did not have the same accent. She was told it was her father’s accent. However, later when her father appeared on the show and did not have the same accent she implored again. The dismissive answer she was given is that Councilor Troi was sent away to boarding school. Well, she tried and invented an iconic accent in the process.

Other highlights of the panel included her introduction to conventions by her fellow actress Majel Barrett-Roddenberry who incidentally plays Lwaxana Troi in Star Trek Next Generation. The writers/show-runners thought that there were too many women on the bridge and were looking for someone to cut. Councilor Troi was the obvious character given that the ship could perform without a psychiatrist. With some self-preservation in mind, Majel took Marina to her first convention and introduced her to the fans. After a couple conventions Marina was a natural and, therefore, made her character indispensable. Of course, before this ultimatum even came to a point, Denise Crosby announced her departure from the show, leading to the touching episode “Symbiosis” where the Enterprise said goodbye to Chief Security Officer Natasha Yar. As the panel drew to a close Marina gave such a heartfelt thank you to her fans that she began tearing up. It was a truly genuine encounter with our beloved Councilor Troi and the beautiful soul behind her. I could go on for pages about her panel, but I hope that I was able to give you a glimpse into the humor and honesty of the woman behind the uniform.

We caught up with our friends for a bit before heading to wait for what was newly titled the: Costume Contest and Masquerade. And wait we did. But before we get into that, for those new to cosplay the difference between a costume contest and a masquerade is how the costumes are judged. This has been a topic of controversy at this convention and it was a relief to see that the convention is attempting to addressed this issue. A costume contest is usually a walk on affair that anyone can participate in no matter whether you bought or made your costume. A masquerade is usually judged by a panel with experience in creating their own cosplays. Not all masquerades are judged with the rules set out by the International Costumer’s Guild, but many are loosely based on the internationally accepted rules that at least 95% of the costume has to be hand made or modified. It was obvious this year, when going around the guests booths, that many locally recognized and respected cosplayers were involved this year. One of whom we follow and was a judge for this competition is Maddest Madi Cosplay. She does incredible cosplays, some of her most recent being: Jack Sparrow, a gender bent Danny Phantom, and a Pumpkin Spice Faun (which she wore on Sunday of the convention).

The other two judges were cosplaying as a Blue Army member from Halo and Ashe Kai as a character I am unfamiliar with, but looks like it walked right out of WoW ( ice foam armor and all). It was obvious that this costume contest would be better than last year’s, or at least judged more fairly. Well…we sat…and we sat…at 45 minutes past when the contest was supposed to start they began the children’s costume contest, which we were able to stay for. It was adorable, there were some great costumes both made and bought. Unfortunately, we were unable to stay for the masquerade due to their incredible failure to start on time. Here is a link to a good photo album from the masquerade, though, if you still want to see the costumes.

The after party for this convention, while not actually tied to the convention itself, is an affair not to be missed. It takes place in the Shadeh Nightclub located within the Buffalo Thunder Hotel. So, it is an actual nightclub which means two things. One, it is an incredible opportunity to see the cosplayers and guests on their off hours (our friends apparently partied with Tracee Lee Cocco, also from Star Trek Next Generation, the night before). And two, locals frequent this establishment which apparently has a bad rep as far as reports of drugging incidents. While we have never had a bad experience here, I am not one to leave drinks unattended and I highly suggest following this practice no matter where you are clubbing. We had a great time dancing while there was pop music playing, unfortunately the DJ left something to be desired and, in the end, it was all music geared at their Spanish clientele. One of our friends had bough some hentai arm tentacles from one of the vendors which she brought to the rave and danced with those on most of the night. We sat and chatted with our friends and other cosplay guests who were there. It was a nice way to enjoy each other’s company and let off some convention steam.

Day 2

I attempted to begin the day with coffee to recover from the night before. Unfortunately, Star Bucks failed me.IMG_20171022_111229520 I would not suggest ordering from the Star Bucks in Buffalo Thunder, fortunately the Iguana Cafe made up for everything. Their sweet server immediately seated us and amended the situation with two steaming cups of coffee. She even let us take some pastries that had not yet been cleared away from their earlier continental breakfast. Rejuvinated, I attended part of Kitty Kaboom’s panel on Cosplay Creations. She had large pieces of fabric folded all around the table and chairs for anyone to take. She mostly answered audience questions, but I’m sure for a beginning cosplayer her suggestions were helpful.

We met up with Retrospect Cosplay again, today they were parading around as: YouTube sensation, “Pumpkin Man,” and Bane, a Furry of their own creation. Later in the day QueenBreadSama (Pumpkin Man) changed into her Princess Bubblegum cosplay which was also really awesome.

We hit up the dealer’s room again, there were allot of deals today. @skyberry13 of course visited her favorite henna artist, Starlit Skies Henna, who did an amazing job as always. I had been eyeing the TeeTurtle $40 grab bags boasting three retired prints for the last two days and, Seth, the TeeTurtle guy offered me a great deal! He was, not only a great salesman, but a pretty cool dude to talk to. In the very first bag he opened was the Pearl T-Shirt reading “It’s Over Isn’t It,” which is the exact one I had been hoping for! It was like the cherry on top of a great convention! Maybe we’ll be doing some affiliation with TeeTurtle in the future, stay posted. Well, that pretty much wraps up our coverage of Santa Fe Comic Con. We had a great time, much of which was due to our cosplay friends but some of which was thanks to the convention and the guests they brought in. I will say that NMTriCon is attempting to address the disparity of a professional cosplay presence, for which I give them props. They still have a ways to go in addressing all the bugs involved with their costume contest, but I appreciate their attempts to make it a fair competition. The vendor hall was lacking some of the staple vendors that we were looking forward to, but they did bring in some new vendors that are better known, like TeeTurtle. As for the security screening and their online PR stunts, those pretty much speak for themselves. All in all we might attend Albuquerque Comic Con to see what their larger convention is like.

Our next convention, however, will be Indigenous Comic Con, where Retrospect Cosplay will be cosplay guesting, so be sure to check back for our next blog post covering that!

The Voice of Monica Rial at Hub City Comic Con

Bianca Montoya

img_20170827_170433.jpgBianca Montoya holds her BA in Interdisciplinary Film and Digital Media from the University of New Mexico where she directed, wrote, and produced student film; Capturing Life. Her film career so far includes Art Department Assistant on the Limited Television Series, Waco, and Feature Film, Woman Walks Ahead, which will be coming to theaters in 2018. Bianca draws inspiration from the films Dark Crystal and Labyrinth. She is an avid convention goer and beginning cosplayer. Her cosplays so far include Bulbasaur and Katara, but she looks forward to learning more about sewing. Bianca loves almost any anime you send her way, some of her favorite included: Inuyasha, Death Note and Sailor Moon.

 

It all started with a trip to see a Red Raiders football game accented by a rather confusing tradition of throwing tortillas in the air when the opposite team scores. This event was meant to be the highlight of my first trip to Lubbock, Texas. However, out of the blue, it was challenged by the Hub City Comic Con. To be completely honest I had no idea the Hub City Comic Con was even descending on the Lubbock community (for its third year in a row I might add, according to their Facebook page) until the very aware MaeBerry Cosplay members told me the event would be happening the weekend I just happened to be there. They clearly continue to be on top of their convention game, which warrants huge props.

Convention

It was the second day of Hub City Comic Con, September 16th, and there were only a few short hours to experience the con to the fullest before being pulled away by the Red Raider football craze. I played my cards carefully and was able to rope in both a ride and two fellow attendees: my younger, geek cultured aficionado brother; and my carefree cousin who was simply pulled in with the promise of video games and random entertainment. (His exact words were something like; “Eh, why not”). Super exciting success! We set out for the Lubbock Memorial Civic Center and, right before parking in a passing glance, observed the opposing football team preparing in all their athlete driven glory in the parking lot of the Hotel Elegante (right next door to the Civic Center). With that, we were both reminded of our tight schedule and unyielding excitement to get the day started. I had one goal: to meet Monica Rial. A fantastically talented woman who happens to be one of the leading dub voice actresses in the world.

It was around 10 AM when we made our way to the front doors and took our first steps into the arena. The first thing we saw was the welcome desk before looking down an ever-expanding hall. To the left were large closed doors leading to the Exhibit Hall. To the right was an expanded space with only a few booths and a few doors leading to the game room and panel rooms. So, with little option, we purchased our one-day wrist bands and went through the large doors that led to the main space filled aplenty with both vendors and guests. The guests were lined on the far left of the room, while the vendors mainly took up the rest of the space– lining up and down in six rows. Basically, you had to get used to the idea of being close to other people. If you’re used to cons though, this is kind of a given to be in a tight space with: clowns, cosplayers, nerds, fandom enthusiasts and awesome people alike. It’s part of the fun. I mean, where else could you see these sights?

A few cosplayers wandered the aisles that early morning, including a notable gender bent Sailor Moon and a set of clowns. Did I mention the clowns? The clowns moved so closely behind us for a time that it freaked out my cousin with their intricate costumes. This was the best way to start the morning. IMG_20170916_1126551Speaking of sights, there was a full size R2-D2 wandering around the aisles followed by a fascinating full-sized minion version of R2-D2. Checking out the scene we saw some local illustrators, traveling vendors and found ourselves being absorbed by the exciting atmosphere you can only find at a Comic Con. It was filled with people who are devoted to: fantastic fandoms, love geek culture, illustrations; Funko pops; plushies, special guests, and are fully willing to lose themselves in a cornucopia of it all for a couple hours.

Guests included: the original voice actress for Frieza from the Ocean dub of Dragon Ball Z, the voice actor for Trunks from Dragon Ball Z, and Monica Rial from multiple anime dubs. My male companions, of course, were most interested to see the Dragon Ball Z actors because it’s the epitome of epic Kamehameha blasts– ripped men fighting aliens while also being revealed as aliens with just the right hint of humor and ruthless martial arts tinged ferocity. That proved to be a huge selling point reigning the both of them in. Personally though, I was totally captivated by the wonderful Monica Real whose voice can totally fool me with her vast range, even though she has been integral to some of my favorite anime. I caught a glance of her at her booth beyond a line of fans, her hair an electric shade of violet pink. At that moment I realized we needed to find a schedule for the panels. After trying to subtly dance around the growing lines looking for a print schedule I finally proclaimed the search was futile as there was no print schedule. We pulled our wits together, (or rather I did while being observed by two young teenagers) looked online and found a schedule for the panels and events at the con. Reinforced with the panel schedule, we made our way back into the vendor room. Our first panel was going to be Eric Vale’s, the original voice actor for purple haired defying Trunks.

34CB7A63-5B3F-429C-B62C-E532D66B4BE5 - CopyIn the meantime, however, I found a familiar face. I ran into the wonderful author, Julia Joseph, whom I had met at a previous convention in Las Cruces, NM where I bought her fantastic book there, The Broken. It is the first in a fantasy series and I proceeded to finish it in one evening. As any avid reader who becomes completely immersed in an author’s world, (enough to feel compelled to only stop reading when there simply were no more words to read about Rose and her Warrior Ouriel) I decided to take advantage of this unforeseen opportunity. I had so many compliments to shower and inquiries, just trying to get an even more depth look into this brilliant author’s mind. In the process, I was abandoned by my companions who left me to my absurdity for a time. Julia Joseph took my colossal devouring of her time in stride and, un-wearying; answered my inquiries, explored themes of characters and the process of building a main heroine that is faced with having to confront what true faith is, revealed bits of her own experience and how it influenced her work. It was an experience you don’t happen upon every day. I cannot recommend her work enough if you are a fan of: dry humor, great imagination, young adult fiction (with none of the Twilight nonsense), strong characters, consequences, and thought-provoking situations and adventures. This experience accented one of my favorite parts of visiting Comic Conventions. You can come face to face with people involved in creating something you ultimately fell in love with and have a conversation about it. How wonderful is that? Slowly, we wrapped up our conversation as my companions wandered back and we took a final picture to solidify the exchange. And just like that, we were late for Eric Vale’s panel and had to rush off.

Panels

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Walking into the panel we were about ten minutes late. This panel was interesting because, though the character is well known, the actor did not seem to have much to say about the character. He mostly talked about how the character caused him vocal strain because of the yelling. If you’ve ever seen Dragon Ball Z it’s understandable. He also talked about his experience doing voice overs for commercials and on other entertainment platforms. After the panel ended we made our way to Monica Rial’s booth. I had already met her at Albuquerque Comic Con, where I recorded a message from her to a friend as Konoka from Negima. Realizing how incredible she is, I secretly hoped to record my own message this time around. I built up the courage and asked. Unfortunately, Monica explained she was not allowed to record anything at her table but suggested, as all hope was passing by, that maybe something could be worked out after her panel. It was a lost battle though, we were going to be pulled away before the panel and so, it was over.

We spent the rest of the con walking around, accumulating illustrations, precious treasures and then retiring to the game room to play a stupid amount of Super Smash Brothers. We only stopped when we were told we had to give up the machine as it was going to be used for a tournament. And so, it was time to go. I made a call to reveal our whereabouts to our ride. My voice gave me away though and I was given, unpredictably, special permission to stay for Monica Rial’s panel. An incredible amount of excitement rushed over me as we made our way to wait for the panel to start.

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Monica’s panel was one of the best I’ve ever seen. She loves what she does, she loves her characters, she has a wonderful sense of timing, humor and a great energy to share with everyone around her. On the way out, she caught a glimpse of me and, selflessly, she made my day (and week). She took a short video for me as the voice of Mayaya from Princess Jellyfish. It was a dream come true for a colossal fan! I literally fell to my knees and put both hands up in the air, triumphant, despite the curious gazes. I walked out of the panel euphoric and bubbling with joy.  We went outside to be picked up and to discuss the events of the day. We all agreed Monica’s panel was a highlight and that we had enjoyed our time at the convention.

As we waited to be picked up for the trip back home, we watched as the Minion R2-D2 wander around outside. A young child caught a glimpse of the yellow, suspender clad droid and took caution as the droid moved closer to him. The child waved hello and goodbye to the droid, both captivated and mystified by the unusual sight. It was a nice moment to leave on. It really emphasizes what makes Comic Conventions so fun for the people that take every opportunity to attend. It is a fantastic community where you can meet: artists, creators, collectors, fans, cosplayers, creative aficionados, authors, designers, voice actors, actors, illustrators and random people you thought you would never meet etc. And to share in a collective community drenched in fandom. There’s a lot of acceptance, enthusiasm and comfort in loving what you love and being who you are. With that, we were whisked away to what should have been the highlight of our trip. In my mind though, Hub Comic Con took the cake and I hope to visit again in the future.

“Next stop, 34th Street—Hudson Yards.”

 

Ashleigh Heaton 12096111_10154338111203636_599989196636884250_nis a book marketer at Random House, a voice actress/part-time mermaid princess on Sirenetta & the Second Star and nerd living in New York City. She enjoys reading, gaming, and exploring new places. An avid cosplayer, she has worked New York City Comic Con for three years. You can see her attempts at being funny on Twitter at @ashleighdearest.

 

The subway car doors open up at Times Square. Tourists start shuffling out of the 7 train, casting confused looks over their shoulders as a crowd of Jokers, Reys, Narutos, and Sailor Moons funnel past them to take their seats. They wonder; “Is it already Halloween? Oh well—only in New York.”

When the doors ding close, the car practically bubbles over with excitement. Strangers turn to other strangers, chatting like old friends and complimenting each other’s costumes.

“I love the way you knitted your shell!”

“Which panels are you planning on going to?”

“Wait—you hand sewed that? No way!”

They’re all headed to the same place: the one, the only, New York Comic Con (NYCC).

For one weekend, the Javits Center is transformed into a funhouse of cosplayers, media, and artists. And I was lucky to be a part of the fun.IMG_2102

Unlike the convention goers beside me on the train, I was headed over for a slightly different reason: I had to work. I count my blessings every day that a shift at NYCC is a part of my job description, though it does mean that cosplay is off the table for me. But that doesn’t stop me from adding a small nerdy embellishment to my ensemble: a Leia bun wig, and a pair of Zora Sapphire earrings.

This was my third year to work NYCC, so I felt like an old pro walking through the entrance early on Thursday morning before the floor had opened (exhibitor perks.) The moment you walk in the doors, you’re greeted with an overwhelming amount of banners, advertising the next big thing. I head to my booth and help with a little setup, taking in the empty aisles around me and knowing that this calm will not last for long.

My view from the Del Rey booth

Suddenly, there’s a whoop from the entrance. The doors have opened. New York City Comic Con 2017 has begun.

Cosplay

It goes without saying—everyone brings their cosplay A-game to NYCC. It’s invigorating to be surrounded by so many talented and creative costumers! You know when you’ve stumbled upon a great cosplay when a crowd of people has formed amidst the chaos, phones and cameras raised and snapping away. Because of the nature of the con, it’s truly difficult to see everyone’s amazing work, which is why I’m thankful the internet exists to fill me in on anything I might have missed.

NYCC is a more mainstream convention, and much of the cosplay reflected that. The floor was rife with plenty of Marvel and DC superheroes. (I saw tons of little girls dressed as Wonder Woman and it made me tear up. Just a bit.) There were countless Captain Marvels, Guardians of the Galaxy team-ups, Jon Snows, Sailor Moon characters, and a sprinkling of Disney princesses. I also saw some truly lovely Princess Zelda cosplay, and some kick-butt Overwatch characters, as well (Ana’s Halloween skin was especially popular this year, since NYCC kicks off October.)

But mainstream doesn’t necessarily mean boring, or uncreative. I walked by a man I call “Party Thor”, who was dressed as the God of Thunder, and had rigged his costume with lights and a boombox hammer blasting oldies hits. A mother passed by dresses as Rey from Star Wars, carrying her 10-month old baby who was dresses as a tiny BB-8. (I’m not crying, you’re crying.) Intense costumers with stilts, large attachments, and moving components usually didn’t get further than the entrance hall before they were mobbed by fans with cameras, posing for endless photos.

While I wasn’t able to take as many photos as I would have liked (again, when you’re moving in a crowd this large, it’s hard to stop the flow of traffic), I did snap a few of my favorites. And when my camera failed me, the internet came through:

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Pharah from Overwatch. I’m overwhelmed at this girl’s cosplay game—I have never and will never be able to pull off a cosplay this intense. Brava!

The Javits Center…INSIDE the Javits Center. Cue the Inception bass music, please.

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Not the best photo, I’ll be the first to admit, but can we appreciate how these guys crafted their arms to look loopy and elongated? Incredibly impressive work.

As someone who was raised on the original “Sailor Moon” anime, this cosplay of a DIC VHS case made my nostalgic heart sing.

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Yondu from Guardians of the Galaxy Volume 2: “I’m Mary Freaking Poppins!” I’m a sucker for gag cosplay, and this was one of the most charming on the floor.

Sunday is family day at the convention, which opens up the portal to maximum cuteness. Needless to say, I loved this spin on Marvel’s Moon Girl and Devil Dinosaur.

Booths

 IMG_2112Much of the booth layout on the floor doesn’t change much from year to year—if you’ve been once, you’ll know how to make your way around pretty quickly. That said, I was always on the hunt for free swag, photo opportunities, and signings, which are happening all the time on the floor and easy to attend…if you plan ahead. If you plan on heading to NYCC in the future, I highly recommend looking up the schedules for the specific booths you want to check out and make a battle plan accordingly. Otherwise, it’s very easy to get swept up in the general chaos of the show floor.

My favorite treasure from the convention was a free advance copy of Renegades by Marissa Meyer (fittingly, the start of a new superhero series.) I also dropped by the Funimation satellite booth for Your Name. for a quick photo op (one without a line, no less!)

Immersive Experiences

NYCC is second in size only to San Diego Comic Con, and continues to grow every year; this year, 200,000 people attended the 4-day event. While it’s great to have so many passionate nerds in the same place, it does mean that navigating the crowds can get…pretty overwhelming. (I oftentimes imagine that I look like a salmon swimming upstream.) Until the Javits Center finds a way to address the crowd control issues, a lot of exhibitors have responded by taking their showcases outside of the actual convention hall for a more intimate, offsite experience.

While I wasn’t able to attend any of these satellite exhibits, I was a big fan of the inventiveness behind HBO Westworld Experience (here be spoilers!) as well as the Audible pop-up for Andy Weir’s newest novel, Artemis (narrated by none other than Rosario Dawson). In the future, I’m curious to see if this “experience” trend continues—and what that means for NYCC.

Artist Alley

In years past, Artist Alley has been housed in the northern concourse of the Javits Center, in a huge, spacious hall a bit separated from the rest of the craziness. However, this concourse was closed this year due to construction (for a huge renovation and expansion), which further exacerbated the over-crowding issues with the convention.

In lieu of the northern concourse, Artist Alley was moved to the southern basement area of the center, and I felt truly awful for the artists who attended. This hallway was much more crowded, and the air circulation left me feeling like I was walking through a humid jungle stuffed with people, shuffling their way slowly through the booths. Bigger artists with followings did fine, but newer artists looking to be discovered had much less visibility. Hopefully this change is just for this year, and we’ll be back at the northern concourse next year.

Panels

Since I was working during this convention, I wasn’t able to attend any panels on my bucket list—simply being, you had to line up for the panel looooong before the panel was set to start. That’s the trade-off at NYCC: the longer you wait, the better the panel and overall experience. (But, if you were lucky, Mark Hamill might have come by for a surprise selfie…)

My inner booklover was sad to miss the panels with Patrick Rothfuss, as well as the headliner panels from RoosterTeeth and Marvel. But, the good news is that the best panels usually have a way of winding up on YouTube not long after the event.

Much like exhibitors, some of the biggest panels of the convention were moved offsite to help accommodate larger crowds. Bigger panels got hosted in places such as the Hudson Mercantile, Hammerstein Ballroom, and even Madison Square Garden.

***

Despite the large crowds, long lines, and occasional pay-to-play experiences, it’s hard to not get excited about NYCC. Towards the end of the convention, I found myself wandering through familiar aisles, seeing familiar vendors and booths, and wondering, “Is this it? Have I experienced everything this convention has to offer?”

But then, I did a double-take as Tara Strong walked past me, a pleasant reminder that anything can happen at New York Comic Con.