Wednesday, October 17, 2012

My 7 favorite things about New York ComicCon 2012

My last post about ComicCon wasn't really about the Con itself, but more of an end-of-the-Con gush of emotion. An emotional oil derrick, if you will. I felt sappy, melancholy, and maybe a little defensive of the vaguely subversive and tawdry things I'd said and done. I think we've all had weekends like that.
I'm looking at you, Hedonismbot.
My sordid personal life aside, I did have a great time, so great that I'm going to count down my top 7 favorite things about my trip to ComicCon 2012.

7) The layout of the Javits Center.

When I went to the Con in 2010, it was the first year that New York ComicCon and New York AnimeFest had a shared event. Regular readers may remember that I went to the AnimeFest in 2009 when it was still it's own separate little convention, tucked away in the basement level of the Javits Center to prevent any high-falutin' ideas in attendees' minds regarding their social acceptability. This tradition continued in 2010, when the AnimeFest show floor and artist displays were crammed into a single hall in the basement while ComicCon got the entire top floor for their show floor and artists, with sunlight and everything. There was some definite stigmatizing of the anime-fans going on that year. And grown-ass adults dressed as cartoon characters shouldn't be casting stones at other grown-ass adults dressed as cartoon characters.
Glass fucking houses, nerds.

Social commentary aside, the arrangement also made for terrible traffic flow in the Javits Center. This year, the organizers wised up and had a fully-integrated Con. There was one show floor on the top level, one Artists Alley on the ground level, and the basement level was only for panels and screenings. Even though over 100,000 people attended this year, traffic flow was kind of okay. I only had one panicky moment where I was afraid I'd be crushed into a fine red paste on the show room floor, and that was my own fault. I should have never tried to get into the most popular part of the Con during peak hours.

6) Archery.

First thing we did on Saturday morning after changing into our costumes. I didn't have my glasses on, so my first two arrows didn't even hit the target. I pulled low and to the left, which is actually the same problem I have when I shoot guns. My third and final arrow I WAY overcompensated and hit the bulls-eye.
Like a boss.
I won a limited edition Tomb Raider print, which thrilled me a lot less than getting to keep my target. Incidentally, does anyone want a limited edition Tomb Raider print? I don't play Tomb Raider and I try to surround myself with art that doesn't depict fiery doom.
Just screams relaxation. Or maybe just screams.

5) Kill Shakespeare: A Live Stage Reading

Second thing we did on Saturday. "Kill Shakespeare" is a comic written by Anthony Del Col and Conner McCreery, and drawn by Andy B. They projected panels without word bubbles on a screen behind a table of actors, who provided the dialogue. There was also one very busy prop man making all of the sound effects with plastic wrap, spoons, and buckets of water. The story is about a bunch of characters from Shakespeare's plays, some of whom believe Shakespeare to be a god, and some of whom want him dead because of the threat he represents to their power. It was a good story with memorable characters, and it's always fun to see something in one medium make the transition to another.

The best part, though, was that R won a copy of Kill Shakespeare: Volume 1 by answering a Shakespeare trivia question, and it was a doozy. "What Shakespeare character has the most lines in a play not named after that character?" R's hand shot up so fast she almost knocked my mask off. She was in there like swimwear. "Iago!" Iago in "Othello" has the most lines of any Shakespeare character in a play not named after him. Now that is some hard-core nerd knowledge. In my opinion, R definitely won the Con for Saturday.

4) ComicCon Comedy

In 2010, I only saw one stand-up comedian, doing just a single 15-minute set. It was great. This year, there was so much comedy to choose from that I didn't get to see it all. First was the Nerdologues, "a comedy show that explores nerd culture through hilarious sketches and personal stories." Then we saw an hour-long set by Uncle Yo, seen here leering from behind a monocle.
Classy, Yo.
It's pointless to recap a comedy routine, firstly because I don't want to plagiarize the comedians, secondly because I don't want to make you laugh using someone else's material, and thirdly because I don't even think it would be that funny. You just had to BE there, man!

3) Saga panel

"Saga" is a comic written by Brian K. Vaughan and drawn by Fiona Staples, and it's currently the best-selling independent comic after The Walking Dead, in addition to being my favorite comic on the stands right now. I was on the fence about whether or not to go to this panel. Panels with creators are hit-or-miss. Just because you're good at writing or drawing doesn't mean you're a great public speaker, and nothing makes me cringe like seeing some poor creator bomb on stage because s/he can't work the crowd. But Brian K. Vaughan killed it. I laughed almost as much as I did at the actual stand-up comedy. He was charming, friendly, foul-mouthed, cheeky, and just humble enough to be endearing.
Not even trying to hide the bald.
My favorite quote: "I remember asking Fiona not to make Alanna [the heroine] a redhead, because I thought there was a glut of redheads in fiction right now. And she said to me, 'You know, she doesn't have to be white.' And I said, 'Of course, I'm an IDIOT!'"

My other favorite quote: "I had an idea about this guy and his monkey being chased by women with one boob on motorcycles and I thought, Did I just shit myself? Or was that a real idea?"

Fiona was nice enough, but Brian K. Vaughan owned that stage. Cool for him, slightly problematic for her (see number 1 on this list). Plus I got some artwork!
My copy smaller.
2)  Geek Thoughts panel: Top blogs discuss writing about science fiction, fantasy, and fandom

This is the meat-and-potatoes stuff of conventions. Writers from, Boing Boing, The Mary Sue, The Beat, and Bleeding Cool talked about what it means to be a fan and what it means to be leaders of fans and fan forums. Honestly, this one is a bit of a blur because it was late in the day and I was really tired, but I remember feeling like I was more informed about the way information is disseminated through my community, and that made me feel smart.
Smart enough to finally make the connection that the guy who ran a website called Bleeding Cool would, of course, be British.

1) ComicCon Women

So I attended two panels, back to back, by and about the women of the nerdly underground. The first was GeekMoms: Raising Young Padawans, held by the women who write Wired's GeekMom blog. I only caught the second half of this one, and it was entirely by accident. I wanted to attend the panel right after GeekMoms, which was being held in the same room, and I was so tired after two days of walking the Javits Center that I decided to just to the room and sit through whatever was there, just to SIT. And it turned out to be a very interesting discussion about how these women were passing their interests along to their children. They talked about what properties were appropriate for kids in terms of gaming, books, comics, and movies, and how much the landscape of childhood has changed since they were nerdy little girls who had to hide their interests from classmates, both because of their gender and the actual interests.

I'll just say I'm into leather. No one will suspect a thing.

I had a moment where I drifted off because they were discussing how to pick the right schools, and suddenly heard one of the panelists mention the Girl Scouts, so I whooped and clapped and completely threw her off track. I don't think she was expecting that much love for the Girl Scouts, but gang, I loves me the Girl Scouts. I loves them a lot.

The second panel was even better, Getting Graphic with Girls: Empowering girls and addressing issues through paneled pictures. This was a younger set of panelists whose moderator cancelled at the last minute, leading to a lot of very funny "Unmoderated!" jokes.
Look how unmoderated they are. Scandal!
Something magical happens when you get some confident women in a room together and ask them to talk about their careers. There was so much confidence radiating from these individuals, and they all had so much respect for each other, it was mesmerizing. Maybe they all knew each other already, maybe they all happened to be great public speakers, but they were far and away the best panel of the Con in terms of flow, diversity of topics, humor, intelligence, and exuberance. They were just so much FUN. One of the presenters even said, "Girls writing comics just have more fun with it. Guys feel the need to be all dark and gritty and serious, but maybe because we're outsiders in the genre, we can just have fun with our comics and not have to worry about that."
She doesn't give a damn if you like her duckies or not.
All of the other panels I'd attended to had just one or two women presenting, and while I wouldn't say they were drowned out by the men, the men spoke a lot more and there was a slight hesitation on the part of the women when it was their turn. It wasn't obvious, and I may even be imagining it in hindsight. I don't think anyone is surprised that a woman who spends her weekends like THIS can mistake fantasy for reality every now and again.
Sh! I'm feeling the curvature of the earth.
But dudes, DUDES, the contrast between the way women spoke on the panels where they were outnumbered and the way the women spoke on the all-women Graphic Girls panel--you can't witness that without feeling both empowered and stripped of power, all at the same time. Empowered, because hearing women talk about their art and passion is awesome; and stripped of power because you don't really get to see that when you add men back to the equation.

And I swear I'm not making this up. Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg said that her colleagues will sometimes just straight up ignore her comments during conferences. "When I will say something -- and I don't think I'm a confused speaker -- and it isn't until somebody else says it that everyone will focus on the point." Women are ignored. My Big Boss commented as I revved myself up for the Con that he always thought the BF was the one who got ME interested in comics. A student worker followed up with a comment about how you don't meet a lot of girls who are interested in comics. And this wasn't about the comics, not really. Cultural and political movements are almost always dominated by men. Democracy: "Oh, women want to vote, too?" Art: "Oh, Virginia Wolfe, you want to write, too? Oh, Frida Kahlo, you want to paint, too?" Girls can be geeks, too?

Do we need to see the evidence again?
If something is important and destined to have impact, women have to scrape and scramble to make certain they're a part of it, and everyone is always surprised to see us there. They shouldn't be. ComicCon is amazingly diverse. There's an even 50-50 gender split, and a huge range of ages, races, and level of mobility represented. Sadly, you wouldn't know it to look at the "Special Guests" list for New York ComicCon: a bunch of middle-aged white dudes with a scattering of Asians and women shuffled in at the bottom. I'm not saying that those people didn't work hard to get where they are or that they aren't talented. I'm just saying that the people who consume the product don't have much of a voice in the group of people who produce the product.

And it's that sort of dense brain-food that makes the ComicCon Women my number 1 favorite thing about New York ComicCon 2012.
Next Sunday, I'll count down the list of my least favorite things about New York ComicCon 2012.

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