The highlight of many an East Coast geek's year is New York Comic-Con, and 2014's was, as always, a cornucopia of nerdy delights. This was the first year I was able to attend for all four days, and I tried to maximize my exposure to all aspects of the con. Here are a few of the highs and lows.
The Costumes: No, you don't need to wear a costume to go to the con; yours truly didn't bother with it this year. But it makes for some great people-watching. Costumes from all fandoms – film, television, video games, animation – are represented in abundance, and even relatively obscure characters aren't at all out of place. People of all ages, races, gender identities, and body types get in on the action – super fun to see, and the enthusiasm is downright contagious.
Video game heroine Bayonetta
SNL's Ambiguously Gay Duo
An adorable Li'l Link, from The Legend of Zelda
And an adorable Thing 1, from The Cat in the Hat
The Guests: It may not be quite the multimedia juggernaut that is its San Diego counterpart, but it's still a Big Deal. George Clooney showed up in person to promote his upcoming movie Tomorrowland. The cast members of numerous TV shows were there, including the entire cast of Star Trek: The Next Generation, as well as current and upcoming shows, including the casts of such shows as Marvel's Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., Sleepy Hollow, and Archer.
TNG cast with moderator William Shatner; photo via blastr.com
Comic book publishers large and small made major announcements. A few things to which I'm looking forward:
Hawkeye, Vol.2 (Marvel): Much praise has (deservedly) been given to Matt Fraction and David Aja's brilliant run chronicling the adventures of everyone's favorite archery-based Brooklynite Avenger. That run is due to end with the upcoming issue #22, coming out... sometime in the next few months (the book has been often plagued with delays). In March, the book will shift to the capable hands of Jeff Lemire—writer of such quality comics as DC's Green Arrow (though the archery connection is, he insists, coincidental), Vertigo's Sweet Tooth, and his Essex County series of graphic novels—and artist Ramon Perez.
Spider-Gwen (Marvel): A new ongoing set in an alternate universe where Gwen Stacy (Peter Parker's long-dead love interest in the main Marvel universe) is Spider-Woman. She has an awesome costume and plays in a rock band called The Mary Janes. What's not to love?
Archie meets Predator (Dark Horse/Archie): This crossover seems like the sort of thing commissioned on a dare, and I wouldn't be surprised to learn that it actually was. That said, Archie Comics has fared surprisingly well with twisted reinventions of its characters in recent years—check out acclaimed zombie comic Afterlife with Archie or the just-released Sabrina horror book if you haven't already—and this has the potential to be just the right kind of ridiculous.
The Talent: Name a comics writer or artist you like, and there's a pretty good chance they'll be there (and be willing to sign books and draw sketches on commission). Fodder for even the geekiest of geeks to... well, geek out.
The Diversity: As I alluded to in describing the cosplayers above, NYCC has an impressive commitment to making the conference a safe space for all. Such diversity isn't just limited to the costumes and their wearers. For starters, there's a strict anti-harassment policy – conceived with the help of girl-geek site The Mary Sue that makes it clear that groping, stalking, or general creepiness will be in no way tolerated:
I'm also happy to see bathroom policing called out for being as terrible as it is.
Meanwhile, the panel roster included several LGBT-specific discussions featuring talent and fans (including one, which I unfortunately wasn't able to attend, specifically on transgender themes in comics), and a number dedicated to women. The latter included panels on harassment at cons, women in the gaming industry, and more. Most inspiring to me was the Women of Marvel panel, featuring an impressive roster of female creators and writers – and an audience full of fans.
G. Willow Wilson and Adrian Alphona's Ms. Marvel–a teen Pakistani-American Muslim—has proved to be a surprise breakout hit. There were more than a few women costumed as her, too.
The Crowds: No, seriously, the crowds. Over 150,000 people make for one hell of a packed Javits Center.
The Diversity: In the sense that what was there was a reminder of what still needs to be accomplished:
The anti-harassment policy and panel are great, but one wishes that harassment wasn't so common in geek spaces as to make such things sadly necessary.
One of the LGBT panels featured a white male panelist—on an all-white panel, no less—declaring that (I paraphrase his words here) “inside every gay man is a strong black woman,” a statement that provoked gasps from the audience; I could probably write an essay about this nonsense, but it's been done, and to put it mildly it's a tone-deaf statement—and that anyone would see no problem making it suggest how much work still needs to be done in making LGBT spaces truly inclusive.
The aforementioned Women of Marvel panel was great, but as one questioner pointed out, it contrasted sharply with other Marvel panels at the event, mostly featuring one to zero women. It's a problem that talented female writers like G. Willow Wilson and Kelly Sue DeConnick simply aren't seen as A-list the way male writers like Jason Aaron, Jonathan Hickman, and Brian Michael Bendis are.
The also-aforementioned panel on women in gaming: I've written before about the “GamerGate” harassment movement and its pernicious efforts to expunge women and “social justice warriors” from the industry. The panel featured game developer Brianna Wu, who only a few days earlier had been doxxed (having personal information disclosed involuntarily) and forced to leave her home by death threats. It's great that she can stand strong against such abusive behavior, but it's little wonder that, as some panelists and questioners recounted, such hostility makes women hesitant to be involved in the industry in the first place. One questioner, who identified herself as the proprietor of a female-geek-oriented site, noted that several bloggers were afraid to speak out about GamerGate, lest they be subjected to harassment themselves.
Nonetheless, that so many voices could unite is testament to the geek world at is best. Comic-Con, at its highs, is a celebration of everything I love about geekdom: the heroes, the villains, the creators... and the fans. And I have faith that the voices that need to be heard are being heard.
The author as a Strong Female Character. Here's to the next con!