I have grown far too used to attending anime conventions. Most of the time the anime fans who attend conventions don’t come for the panels. The panels are there for the older fans and the more academically inclined. But while the dealer’s room in always filled at a comic convention something like NYCC has a rhythm to getting into panels that I had forgotten. So I set up my schedule like I was attending an anime convention which made me miss several things I could have attended had I only prepared better. First of all I would have never even thought of going to the Avengers panel and I would have waited a bit more in advance for some of the bigger comic panels I wanted to attend. Narutaki knew how to play the game and got into more of her prime time panels. But I still got to see and do quite a bit and now I know better for next year.
There is no shortage of things to do at New York Comic Con, and that makes almost every panel big. That also means that it is best to line up a little earlier than you might elsewhere. I felt that 45-minutes was a fairly sweet spot time but screenings and big panels on Saturday seemed to need closer to an hour-and-half. Everyone has their personal limit on how long they are willing to wait. Still the programing proved well worth it in most cases. And I was able to get in an average of three events each day.
I being slightly less of comic book fan than Narutaki tried to balance my time equally between comics and anime unlike Narutaki who is a bit more starved for the comic convention experience she craves. I was sort of amazed that the Aniplex panel was standing room only since they normally are only half filled at other conventions I have been to. The most interesting point not usually mentioned in news reports is that they outright stated, “Hey if you have a siscon then Oreimo is the anime for you!” I was surprised they were so blatant about that when the anime itself dances around it. They also seem to be going all out on Madoka with a wide variety of editions you can buy. But they are also going for singles on a 13 episode show. Not sure how that is going to work out. Madoka is popular but is it “Put up with singles in this day and age” popular. They did not have much of a Q&A. I asked about the success of the international streaming initiative of Fate/Zero but they played their cards close to their chest. I assumed that would be the case but I figured it was worth a shot. I also went to the Vertical industry panel. Ed ran a good panel as normal. The big announcements were Adolf and Sakuran. Adolf has been long out of print in the US and Vertical has wanted Sakuran for a while. Vertical also licensed the 5 Centimeters Per Second manga which seems like a nice solid one shot release. I don’t think it will light the world on fire but it will probably make their money back with a small profit.
This was my first year attending any DC panels. Obviously I’ve become interested since the New 52. Unfortunately, both panels I attended were rather subdued and not very good at creating anticipation. Both All Access: Batman and All Access: Young Justice started out introducing a smattering of creators and editors on the books each of which would talk about the book’s story followed by some pages from upcoming issues. Things felt very introductory while it seemed like the audience was already well aware of the works. And it took up most of the panel before getting to questions. It was great to hear Greg Capullo talk about Batman and then wax poetic about how Scott Snyder will become a legendary writer in comics. This was one of my favorite books from the reboot so I agreed immensely. At the Young Justice panel I noticed a few fans that left quickly when they realized it wasn’t about the cartoon. I was able to ask about the appearance of Gen13 characters and whether we’d see more and would they be playing a major role. But I was given the standard wait and see answer.
We so rarely get manga artists in the U.S. so I had to see Hiro Mashima when I had the chance. He started the panel by drawing a picture of Natsu from Fairy Tail. When he finished it they raffled it away with 4 other pictures he drew. The Q&A that followed went fairly smoothly. People asked a bunch of questions that were either spoilers for the American audience or the future of the manga that just could not be answered. I was surprised no one was a jerk enough to ask if he was picked up because his art style is similar to the mega popular Eiichiro Oda’s. We thankfully avoided that Faux pas. But on that same note I learned that Fairy Tail just had a time skip. I have to say that if that if Hiro Mashima wants to shake of rumors that the was hired just to be Shonen Magazine’s Oda the way to NOT do that is to have a time skip right after One Piece did. If nothing else he confirmed a weekly manga-ka crazy hours as he always works 6 days a week and sometimes as much as 16 hours a day. His favorite manga is Berserk and he likes Assassin’s Creed. And Monster Hunter. But it is only really news if a Japanese nerd does not like Monster Hunter. I also braved the anime ghetto to see the State of Mecha panel in the anime cafeteria. Most people assumed the panel would be old mecha fans crying over the death Halcyon Days of the genre. But it a positive look at what is currently out and coming out that might interest mecha fans. There was a bit of tokusatsu as well as what you would traditionally consider the topic of conversation in a mecha discussion but I thought it was relevant. It was a nice panel for anyone who loves mecha but is not sure what is coming out anymore. I hope they run an updated version at a con where they will get a bit more of an audience when they are not banished to the outlands.
It was lovely seeing Makoto Shinkai again and with a very packed house who wanted to hear words from him. This panel was set up differently than a typical Q&A. Instead of opening the questions to fans first or using stock questions, Roland Kelts was brought in to conduct a sort of live interview. As we found at Otakon, Mr. Shinkai is a very humble creator. Some of the more interesting things we learned were how his new film relates to his other works and his frame of mind. He likened 5cm Per Second to how time was seemingly standing still in Japan; showing that things were not changing, that they would be the same forever. But in the last couple of years things have changed and the unease of that change as well as the realization that things must change is shown through Children Who Chase Lost Voices from Deep Below.
After I saw Children Who Chase Lost Voices from Deep Below they had another quick Q&A with Makoto Shinkai. Right out of the gate we had the trinity of awkward fans questions in one person. Someone asked a question in mediocre Japanese (without also saying it in English), made a big rambling speech about how they were a creator just like Shinkai, and then asked what his motivations were. There was nothing wrong with his question per-say but it did open up the floodgates for everyone to try to ask their question in Japanese which almost always makes the guest and the translator scratch their head as to what you are asking. I will also mentioned people seemed oddly fascinated by what his computer set up was. People asked that at both Q&A sessions. We did learn that he is a cat guy in the eternal battle between cat and dog lovers, that he believes that any work he does comes from stand on the shoulders of previous animators, and that called the creates in Children Who Chase Voices the Quetzalcoatl because he was the god who gave humans intelligence in Mesoamerican mythology.
Marvel panels are always fun, they have a great rapport when it comes to talking with fans. The Avengers: Shattered Heroes panel was very early but still had a good turn out. They showed off the end of Fear Itself along with some side stories coming up for it. Then even pulled fans from the audience to read some of the comics early and give their reactions. They were a lot of announcements that got me excited including The Defenders ongoing series which is supposed to have a sprawling, core mystery and includes big characters like Dr. Strange, Namor, Iron-Fist, and She-Hulk. Then I nearly jumped with joy to hear Avengers Academy will be meeting The Runaways in March. Since losing their own title I’ve been hoping they could find a permanent home with the younger set at the school. They didn’t give away any story hints so we’ll just have to see. The youth are doing big things right now in the Marvel Universe as Children’s Crusade continues and will have major repercussions. I was also happy to hear the cosmic portion of the cast will be getting some play in the near future including Guardians of the Galaxy. There were a few announcements at the Cup O’ Joe panel the most fun being Prep and Landing: Mansion Impossible, a Christmas tale about elves trying to get into the Avengers mansion. They also had teaser image that implied we can expect Phoenix in some form for 2012. Then it was primarily questions and things stayed very positive. I’m always impressed by how well Marvel and especially Joe Quesada interact with fans, he always comes off as gracious but candid. Things were a little less positive at the Women of Marvel panel. It was great to see so many women talking about and loving superhero comics, but of course the topics were heavy because they have to be. It was unfortunate to see the “it makes money” reasoning being used when discussing the male gaze and other topics. While that is the truth of the matter, it doesn’t further the discussion. But everyone on the panel did feel things are getting better overall and encouraged the women creators in the audience to be confident and not be afraid to walk into an office full of guys.
Since Narutaki was bound by ancient oaths more scared than the Holy Grail to see the Cup O’ Joe panel I went to see the Womanthology panel in her place. The Womanthology project was started to team up professional female artists with up and coming female artists to create an anthology project with a wide range on appeal around the theme of “Heroic”. The panel was made up of several of the contributors to the project including Renae De Liz who started the project. They went over a history of the project, what it took to get it together, the overwhelming support for the project and what they hope its impact will be. It was a highly encouraging panel with a good deal of positive energy. I think the mainstream American comics industry could learn a great deal from the project. Woman can and will draw all sort of comics if given the chance. Most people would like to have a creative career but know that few people can actually be lucky enough to land such an opportunity. A woman can gamble on being an artist or they can work just as hard to be a doctor or lawyer and be guaranteed a good income. But this project showed that people are willing to gamble on a risky endeavor if you meet them half way. I look forward to the finished Womanthology project. On a more somber note I also went to the Comic Book Legal Defense Fund panel about manga. The panel was an overview of the recent court cases involving manga being found indecent and the Comic Book Legal Defense Fund’s defense of the medium. I did find it a bit fear mongering but they brought up many a good point. I was tempted to play devil’s advocate and argue that perhaps they should abandon the lolicon cases and save their time and resources for other issues but I did not feel like playing the bad guy for a point I don’t really agree with.
I attended the Comixology panel because it sounded like an open forum and it was that indeed with a good portion of the staff in attendance. They started the panel with a very brief overview of the company, site, and applications associated with it. Since we were all familiar with Comixology, they moved on to questions and discussion quickly. Some hot topics were brought up like subscriptions, digital store fronts, and of course the price of digital comics. There is a constant comparison to something like Hulu, but the Comixology reps were right to point out the amount of people who watch television is nowhere near the amount that read comics. They also don’t set the price of comics, that is in publishers hands. I personally think that $1.99 is a better price point with $2.99 for special or event books. Things like Marvel sales every Monday and DC dropping their price by a dollar after one month are also helping. Speaking of DC, the New 52 has helped show store owners that digital comics sale aren’t impeding their print sales. Nearer the end of the panel, I asked about why the reading and buying on the web has been rather neglected compared to the apps. As someone who doesn’t have a fancy phone or anything this impacts me a lot. They said they often don’t hear from people about reading primarily on the web and that now they have a fire lit under them to make some updates. I felt a lot better about buying digital comics after this panel.
As someone who had a brother that quite often frequented the Chinatown Fair I was curious to see the Meet Me at the Arcade panel about the documentary covering the famous Manhattan arcade. It consisted of the filmmaker who shot the documentary, a former Chinatown Fair employee who started his own arcade, and some notable patrons of the establishment.They reminisced about the rise and fall of the American arcade scene, why the arcade has mostly died out, and what it meant to each of them personally. They also talked about what made Chinatown Fair a unique experience for good and for ill. It had a vibrant community but it was also a bit of a dive. My roommate did note for as much as they talked about the community and comradery being the key to arcade’s success they all seemed more focus on the competitive aspect. The documentary was still in the middle of being edited so we only saw a short trailer at the end of the panel. I would be curious to see the end result given the chance. Out pure schadenfreude I had to see the Spiderman: Turn Off the Dark panel. They had some of the creative team behind the musical explain how they were brought in to retool the project and the difficulties they faced. The panelists were very upbeat but the fact that is was a troubled piece that has had countless problems was unmistakable no matter how positive they tried to sound. Still when they got around to the Q&A section the people who asked questions were the biggest super fans and only had love in their hearts with their questions. I myself got a good chuckle out of the whole events and that is what I really wanted all in all.
The no room clearing policy was both a curse and blessing depending. On the one hand, it actually encouraged you to check out panels you might not have otherwise just to be sure to get into another one. It also allows there to be more programming on the schedule overall. On the other hand, this prevented people who really wanted to see some panels that some fans were just suffering through for the next. For the most part, volunteers were good about finding you seat and space when it was available. I found the panels strong and entertaining for the most part this year. I can only expect that to continue as the convention grows.
Live and learn. I wish I had seen more of the DC panels because I was curious to see the fan reaction to the Justice League, Batman, and Superman reboots. Que sera, sera. That is what You Tube was made for (and silly cat videos.) Despite not getting into all of the panels I wanted to see I did quite a lot every day. I got into everything I wanted to without major problems on Sunday. It is just a matter of changing the way I plan for Saturday which is a true madhouse. Next year I will hit NYCC and not the other way around.
More NY Comic Con and Anime Festival and 2011 posts:
NY Comic Con & Anime Festival 2011: Tweets
NY Comic Con & Anime Festival 2011: General Impressions
NY Comic Con & Anime Festival 2011: The App
NY Comic Con & Anime Festival 2011: Exhibitors Hall
NY Comic Con & Anime Festival 2011: Screenings
NY Comic Con 2011: Venture Bros.