New York Comic Con 2012: Exhibitors Hall & Artist Alley

New York Comic Con is the only convention I attend where the Exhibitors Hall is one of the main draws for me. This is not just a place to shop, though you can do plenty of it if you so desire, companies come to try to get a little piece of your attention whether through demos or free samples. Some booths don’t have much to sell at all beyond an exclusive or a pre-order so you’re free to have fun, explore, and talk without too much pressure. Of course there are also dealers who will happily take your money.

This year also saw the Artist Alley really explode into its own destination, too. This made creators and comics feel like it had a huge presence at NYCC. And although I’ve never been myself, others have said it was a better space and focus than you see you at San Diego.

As much as we talk about panels, guests, and special events one of the biggest lures for most people to a comic convention like this is the Exhibitors Hall and Artist Alley. That is where you get your exclusive merchandise, sneak previews, hot demos, early releases, original art, one of a kind prints and tchotchkes, and all the free swag you can carry. If you go in the Exhibitors Hall at the right time of the day it makes rush hour Calcutta seem placid. But if you have a Thursday pass it is still busy but not anywhere near as insane as the weekend. Even with the increase of 4 days badges it seemed tranquil compared to the main days.

But if you want to chat a bit with your favorite artist and buy some of their art then Artist Alley was far more accommodating and personal. It was still packed but it was never as insane as the Exhibitors Hall. But either area has plenty of places for you to happily give away for money for treasures in return. But there is also good deal to take in (and take away) even if you can’t spend a dime.

 I wasn’t crazy about the layout in the exhibitors hall, it ended up feeling like a hodge-podge mass and the far left section through the (totally awesome!) Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle-themed passage seemed underutilized. There were booths that got incredibly crowded which were at the very front entrances. Companies such as Capcom and whatever dance game they had this year were packed out right at the front which was a common problem last time, too. But I don’t see what NYCC can really do about that since vendors pay to have placement.

Though of course on Saturday, every bit of available space was full on the show floor. I spent a total of seven seconds in there before high-tailing it.

I do have to wonder if there is some way to corral things a bit better for autograph signings that are happening at booths on the show floor but that may be up to the individual companies. For example, the Image Comics booth was situated so that check-out lines and autograph lines were unclear and branching way out into other walkways.

Despite the layout, there was plenty of awesome booths to see. The aforementioned TMNT hallway was a cool surprise complete with rolling fog. Shifty Look had arcade cabinets for old school games including a sweet 4-player Pac-Man VS game which I didn’t even know existed. Bluefin always impresses if you can get into their booth to see anything that is; they had the super expensive new Mazinger Z to behold. LEGO rolled out the giant character sculptures like Gandalf and Frodo which also help promote their new Lord of the Rings sets and games. GoodSmile treated everyone to a display which had all of the Nendoroids, ever.

Somehow I didn’t have enough time to see it all with the 6-hour window on preview night even!

I will say that I am just thankful that the main doorways were never as congested as I remember them last year. If you went in through either of the main entrances the traffic was always fairly brisk. The major choke points were always the escalators. While they were oftentimes the most convenient way to get on to the Exhibitors Hall they were also the most unmanageable bottleneck. But I am not sure what you can do about the escalator choke points. Then again after Thursday I mostly avoided the Exhibitors Hall after 11 am. I would check things out when I came in the morning before panels started and then avoid the place until things started to cool down in the evening. Any other time it was just madness to go up there.

Oddly enough when Patz and I went to the JManga booth on Saturday at 5PM we were able to rather effortlessly get there for Masakazu Ishiguro’s autograph which seems like it should have been impossible to get to in any timely manner. I wonder it was a combination of it being dinner time  while also seeing it was the time the Walking Dead panel just starting that created that odd eye in the storm. Also with many of the booth signings the front of the line usually goes to whoever is brashest near where they start the line. There was not a huge demand for Masakazu Ishiguro so we were like 4th and 5th in line despite being the first people to the booth after the JManga panel but I am sure more popular artists can make quite the brouhaha.

As one would hope, there were a lot of ways to participate in the festivities. The videogame booths have become a bigger and bigger deal though I didn’t play any myself.

What I was most excited for was LEGOs first appearance at the convention. Their booth had places to build all over the place including the boards pictured above which were all around the walls. Some ambitious soul(s) made Link and Navi and even add some “HEY LISTEN” text. I decided Link needed a heart piece so added that. It was fun to stop by and see what others were working on over the weekend.

Hall B even housed the much better than the official booth LEGO display presented by I LUG NY. I took plenty of pictures and conversed with some of the builders. I was surprised to learn they don’t sketch or anything, just build til they get it right. I inquired about joining their ranks which ends up being fairly simple: go to meetings and volunteer to help them on projects. They have a museum piece they are working on currently and need builders. Sadly the group is not based in NYC rather the greater NY-area so it is doubtful I’ll be able to participate.

In the hallway connecting to the Artist Alley you could shoot real arrows as sponsored by the new Tomb Raider game. This was definitely a highlight of the convention; I didn’t really care what it was for or if I won, I just wanted to do real archery!

After Narutaki talked it up I had to check out the Tomb Raider archery booth. It was positioned in the long hallway between the Exhibitors Hall and Artist Alley. I think everyone had a mixture of apprehension and curiosity about this idea. The idea of firing a bow was cool but the mixture of nerds as real weapons seems like a recipe for disaster. But thankfully being off the main thoroughfare and having trained archery instructors helped keep the booth from having any incidents (although they wisely made everyone sign wavers). Sadly my father was not with us. I am sure he could have won the prize for getting the bulls-eye. I myself it the target twice but apparently the few archery lessons I had in the past have mostly been forgotten.

I also played a few games this year. They had a demo of the PS3 version of Ni no Kuni.The combination of Level-5 and Studio Ghibli is powerful indeed. The game looked fairly spectacular. The game play was a fairly intuitive action RPG setup with one unusual twist. Each of the party members has two companion spirits that you can switch between. The demo was fairly unspecific what the advantage was of using the little spirits were. The main character seems to be a mage so it seems that his spirits are mostly there to do the brute force melee attacks while he hangs back and casts spells but I am not totally sure that is the case. But either way it looked really fun. I can’t wait to see the full game when my roommate gets it next year.

I also saw the demo of the The Wonderful 101 for the Wii U. I did not play the game personally but I saw a few people play the demo. It is a fairly nifty little game where you play this roving band of minor super heroes who are fighting alien invaders. It seemed really fun with bright graphics and fun but slightly offbeat game mechanics. It really felt like one of those innovative mainstream games in a time when far too many games seem like just graphical updates on existing best-selling games. My only criticism is the use of the Wii U tablet often just seemed gimmicky. It seemed like most of the things you could do on the pad were just there because you had to use the new pad.

I also played with the iOS version of the first Phoenix Wright game. It played pretty much like the DS version except for one odd addition. It had built-in Twitter functionality. Even as someone who uses Twitter all the time I am not exactly sure what need you would ever have for that but it certainly is there.

The Artist Alley was an exciting place to be because it had its own dedicated space it wasn’t being overshadowed by the glitz of the show floor. The North Pavillion ended up making the Artist Alley feel like a special mini-convention all on its own. This part of the center is the newest and afforded the creators all the well-deserved attention.

At the front were companies like Copic and Kickstarter as well as booths selling poster tubes and the like to people who didn’t bring their own ways to transport purchases.

I made a beeline for Frank Barbiere and Chris Mooneyham’s table where they were selling print editions of Five Ghosts: The Haunting of Fabian Gray. They even had buttons! The book is a slightly oversized floppy with a sepia tint to the interior adding to its atmosphere.

I realize shockingly I only picked up that one button in the alley. Instead I ended up with array of postcards!

I happily noted that even though NYAF is no more, there were many anime/manga-inspired artists here in the new combined alley.

There was a bit of a mix-up on Friday night because the Artist Alley was supposed to be open an hour later than the show floor but security wasn’t aware of the difference. This nearly resulted in an angry mob but thankfully before it came to blows the misunderstanding was rectified.

I spent the convention popping in and out of the alley and finding myself there whenever I had free time.

I only made one purchase in the Exhibitors Hall this year but it was the only one I HAD to make. There was a small fan art group that I have seen at conventions before. They mostly do Vocaloid and Touhou art books well because they are Vocaloid and Touhou. But the usually have a Saber book as well. This year the Saber selection was quite a nice combo because it had a Saber doujin book, a bag with original artwork, and four Saber pins in a combo deal for 35 dollars. And all the Saber art was totally safe for work (and I mean actually safe for work and not hyper pinup art that is millimeters away from being porn) which in is a treat in of itself. I do wish they would maybe touch upon some other Type-Moon girls as well. I would easily by a Witch on the Holy Night or general Fate/Hollow Ataraxia (More Bazett: Hint Hint) book in a heartbeat. They also had a nice Madoka book but I am sadly not made of money.

Speaking of being low on funds. I did see one item I struggled with buying the whole convention. The Good Smile booth had the Cheerful Nendoroid Saber & Rin Tohsaka figures. They even came with an original piece of Takeuchi art that was specifically made for the charity project. If I were not going to the JAM project concert next month I would have picked it up but 70 dollars was a bit too rich for my blood. But the temptation was oh so very strong.

Thursday I ran into more and longer lines in the Exhibitors Hall while Sunday was busy but lines and purchasing were much better. But had I waited, I would have run the risk of booths being out of certain things so you just have to make priorities. I still think Thursday is a worthy endeavor because it is the only time there is space to turn around. And besides, I’m always looking to spend as much time as possible at a convention.

The Artist Alley was mind-blowing wonderfulness and I wish I’d had more time to give it more attention. I think next year I’ll have a new #1 priority.

And by golly I hope Hasbro is back next year!

While I did not spend a lot I did get a whole bunch in return. I know I hit up the Krave cereal and Hi-Chew booth twice a day. That distinctly helped me skip going out for lunch by supplementing what I brought to eat from home. I also got a ton of free comics, buttons, shirts, and other fun goodies. If nothing else lots of that goes into our giveaway packages for the blog. But I keep the A Certain Magical Index poster I got for myself.

If nothing else my greatest regret is always missing the little booths that have some of the most interesting things. It is easy to see the huge DC booth where you can get your picture taken on a comic book cover and miss some of the smaller projects with things you may never heard of before. But the glamor and the glitz are hard to ignore especially when I spend so much time in panels. But my tip to anyone who spends a good deal of time in the Exhibitors Hall is to stop and smell the roses at the smaller booths to the walls. You just might find something amazing.

Other NYCC 2102 Coverage:

New York Comic Con 2012: Tweets
New York Comic Con 2012: Our 6 Favorite Announcements
New York Comic Con 2012: General Impressions
New York Comic Con 2012: Moyoco Anno
New York Comic Con 2012: Anime & Manga Panels
New York Comic Con 2012: Comics & Media Panels


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