02/27/2006

The Eye of The Storm -OR- The People Who Truly Run This City… And They Don’t Like Comic Books?

by Matthew Hawkins

I may as well get to the good stuff: this past weekend was the first ever New York Comic-Con.

Perhaps I shouldn’t even bother, since anyone who is in comics has probably already had their fill of show talk, bitching, and spinning from the mountain of blog reports and all the other forms of coverage that the show has produced. But since 90% of the folks reading this particular blog is into video games, I may as well give my two cents. And like everyone else, I also thought the show was both a tremendous success and a cluster-fuck of epic proportions.

Day one started when I arrived at the Jacob Javits Center around 11-ish. Going in, I was already frustrated because I had failed the number mantra of indie comic-dom, which was to get one’s book done for the show, no matter what. The previous day, I was at MK‘s to put together the second Unlucky mini, but due to a combination of being sick, technical difficulties (mainly MK’s crappy scanner), and my sometimes overly picky demeanor, I didn’t get it done. Granted, its not like I had a table or anything, I just wanted copies on-hand to trade or give out, but still… But hey, my stuff may not be much, and even though I’m never ultimately satisfied with how it ends up, if anything ever seems off and I can still do something about it, I ain’t printing it, end of story.

Anyway, by the time I got there, there literally thousands of people (now I’m finding out that it was about 4,000-6,000) waiting in line inside the convention center, which made looking for MK, who had been there for almost an hour beforehand, impossible. Though I did find her, in another line outside (which was insanely cold btw). What this second line for the con, which seemed to lead to nowhere was doing (though one would only know this if they had scoured the entire parameter like I had), and whom plus why had it been set up is beyond me, but it immediately became a moot point once I met with up MK since that was the exact same moment when the guy in the bull horn started to everyone: “The building has met its capacity. By order of the fire marshall, everyone must leave. Only pre-registered people can enter. If you have not already purchased a ticket, you must leave the building.”

MK & I went back inside, in hopes of figuring out some contingency plan, but primarily to get the hell out of the cold. It was a real mess indoors, with tons of confused and pissed folks, with others barking (literally) at them to get the hell out. I had assumed that these were con people, but later learned that they were Teamsters, and a great source of all the problems (or at least, according to some). I immediately spotted Ric Meyers standing by the huge Lego statue of Batman. He was waiting for a business associate who had his pass to show up, so we stood around and chatted for a bit, plus soaked in the mess that was unraveling. In short time, after talking with other friends, a story began to emerge, that it was the Teamsters that were calling all the shots, and who made the decision to stop letting people in. It would seem that they have no love for comics, and this goes back some 12 or 13 years ago when a similar event was shut down by the fire marshal, again due to the Teamsters (both are quite close to each other). They basically run Javits, and I guess they expect to be heavily involved or a cut of the pay in each show that runs there. I’ve been there before for various other shows, like Licensing Fair, MacWorld, and DigitalLife, which are run by some heavy duty, big money entities, and you can tell that such folks can afford the bill. And considering that comic shows are nowhere near that scale, I’m guessing they didn’t give the Teamsters their cut or whatever, and were using tactics to retaliate against the Comic Con, or so I figure (hey, I’m just repeating what I’ve been told, so don’t quote me on any of this). But hence why everyone was saying “This is why you don’t hold a show in New York City!” all around.

Ric offered the possibility that his associate might have some spare passes, and he did, but only one. It was a temporary working exhibitor pass, which I gave to MK since she had been up all night working on putting together comics, plus it was her very first “mainstream” comics show. She went to the desk and did the “I fucked up!” routine, and managed to buy a pass, but best of all, they gave back the temp pass, so I went and did my patented, pissed off “Someone at the office fucked up!!!” routine and that’s how I got in as well. This was around the time the police were blocking off the stairwells, so Teamster bullshit or not, there really were way too many people for the show. So anyway, MK & I had both luck and timing, plus the ability to bullshit on our side, which as it would turn out would be the only means to get it. And I have to admit that I did feel pretty bad as I passed a pair of girls who were crying because they had waiting over two hours for their first comic show ever, only to be told that they couldn’t go in. But things weren’t exactly smoothing sailing from that point; there was yet another line, one that led directly to the show floor, and I almost got myself in trouble when I tried to circumvent it by asking if there was a special exhibitor’s entrance, and the person I was talking to turned out to be one of those ultra proactive individuals who then had to check if I was legit, and whom I had to literally run away from. But eventually I got in… again, I was lucky. I’ve since heard that even special, advertised guests, such as Kevin Smith, as well as the show’s sponser were denied entrance.

The floor itself was insanely packed, of course. You had the big guys, Marvel and DC, and right up front, which caused a massive bottle-neck, and that was rather annoying (even though that’s what they always do at the San Diego Comic Con, that place also six different entrances). Plus there were plenty of other publishers (both big and small), plus toys, anime, and manga companies, as well as tables with assorted back issues and bootlegs. The goal was to emulate San Diego, and it pretty much was, albeit scaled down. But the mood was definitely different, which could be best described as tense. Aside from all the Teamsters getting in peoples faces and seemingly misinforming people on purpose, as well as the Comic Con folks who simply didn’t know what the hell was going on (and a few even acted as if they enjoyed the spectacle of it all), and men in uniform from the police and fire department, and how everyone was constantly arguing with each other (mostly via walkie talkies), you had attendees that were afraid to simply leave the room, even to attend a panel that was taking place right around the corner in fears of not being able to let back in (and after checking out some reports, it seems that those fears were completely valid), which really made the $35 entrance fee feel like a total gyp. So basically, everyone was trapped.

Otherwise the show was fairly decent, though certainly nothing mind-blowing. At this point, I much prefer the atmosphere and intimacy that’s found at small press events such as SPX or MOCCA, can still enjoy rummaging through old books, if only to find that one old Iron Man collection back which I’m eternally looking for (I can’t believe Marvel has reprinted almost everything in their back catalogue, except for the the Armor Wars saga). Hell, I just enjoy being around comics, and even the folks that they attract, despite how stinky they can be. It was also interesting to see MK’s reaction to it all, since again, it was her first standard comic show (she’s only been to small press events previously). She obviously wasn’t prepared for the funk that had taken over certain sections of the floor (again, primarily at the Marvel and DC booth). The best part of any comic show for myself is running into folks, and there were some familiars present. Dave and John were there, of course, in the artist alley, as were Jamie Tanner and Tim Kelly, each with a new book (and both are quite superb). Ran into Steve, and I was able to finally compliment him on his awesome Brocktoon hooded sweatshirt, along with Matt Singer with his girlfriend Mel; he was there shooting stuff for IFC earlier in the morning, but one of the crew brought his girlfriend who wanted to get the hell out, so they had all split. Mel also complained about the smell (if you haven’t figured it our by now, comic geeks sure do smell funny!). Plus Gerard Way was present. I’ve never really mentioned this online, since I’ve always been afraid how it might look, like I was name dropping or something, but yeah, I went to college and am still sorta friends with the lead singer of My Chemical Romance. He was a cartooning major as well (and was a damn good one to boot), and we’re constantly running into each other, hence why I guess there’s no need to be super secretive.

Oh, and you had folks in costumes. The best had to be Unemployed Skeletor, who was just some dude with a huge gut and dressed like He Man’s arch-nemesis. He did a killer job with the voice (it was almost better than John Green’s rendition… almost). Also up there was the Stormtrooper with the creepy Burger King mask on; I caught him getting down on one knee and offering a hamburger to some girl dressed like Slave Leia. Funny. And the creepiest has to go to this one girl who was wearing a corset REALLY fucking tight (folks who saw her will know who I’m talking about). The way it contorted her body… imagine the letter r, literally as a humany body viewed from the side is the only way I can come close to describe it.

After about four hours of just walking around, MK and I decided to take a chance and leave the confines of the show room for the panels. ADV was apparently trying to make a big splash with their release of Oh Mikey!, a.k.a. The Fuccons, and MK was interested in checking it out (perhaps due to the fact that I’ve been telling all my friends about it for the past four years). And I was curious to see how others would react to it… I still can’t believe that its being released in America. I know its popular to love all that’s “WACKY JAPPY!!!” but The Fuccons is on a whole another level. Basically, the show is about a family, the Fuccons, that hail from America and have relocated in Japan, and all the adventures they encounter. The crazy cast of crazies that they encounter includes Teacher Bob, a super shy school teacher who is too bashful to say anything, so his mom has to be by his side translate, Time Boy, a kid that is obsessed with time, and the Blueberry King, who is pretty self-explanatory. And everyone is portrayed by mannequins from the 50′s who are simply filmed just sitting there (occasionally one will spin around or go down a slide). You just have to see it. The person at ADV who’s spear-heading the project gave the presentation, and explained how super popular The Fuccons are in Japan (more so that I realized) and all the intricacies involved in it coming over here (such as re-edited everything to allow the different length of time for Japanese and America dialogue). Thankfully its in good hands, and even the American voices sound great. A few episodes were shown, and while it took a short while for its genius to sink in, MK is now an official fan. She even managed to score a free preview DVD which we watched later that night at my place, while doing laundry.

But the big highlight of the con for us was the catching the preview screening of Art School Confidential, the new film by Terry Zwigoff and Daniel Clowes. I may go into details a bit later (maybe I’ll do a full-fledged review for the new section!) but all I’ll say it is I’ve never seen a movie that has so accurately characterized the bullshit that is art school. I was a big fan of Ghost World, and I have to say, I liked this one even better, due to entirely personal reasons (when the character is dealing with all the crazy art school chicks… fucking classic). The movie also led to what I believe to be my definitive moment of the entire con, which took place shortly beforehand, while waiting in line.

I’m there, in a roped off area, and this kid comes up to me, with a blank, dumb state. He’s wearing, among other things, a Naruto headband, and a shirt that says “I Love Anime”, though the heart was actually kanji, so I really don’t know what it really said. Anyway, he’s just standing there, and asks, “What this line for?”

“Art School Confidential.”

At first he says nothing, but then asks, “What’s that?”

“It’s the new Terry Zwigoff movie.”

Again, the kid says nothing and just staring at me. Until I finally get a bit impatient and state, “Listen, its not anime.”

To that, he seems a bit taken back, almost insult, with his response of, “Well… that doesn’t automatically discounts it.”

In which I respond with, “Well, I’m afraid unless you have a pass, you can’t get in. To attend, you need a special screening pass, which are all gone.”

And to that, the kid turns around and starts walking away. But then he turns around, and with a sheepish grin, says “Promise me that you’ll throw trash at the screen if it sucks.”

Then I to that, “Ummm…. I’m pretty sure it won’t.”

Also worth noting was the girl who was right in-front of us was a girl whom I recognized, but couldn’t figure out where, until it hit me. It was a SuicideGirl. When I mentioned this to MK, I was curious how she would react to this fun fact, but wasn’t. And when I asked why, she marked that it was hardly surprising, given my tastes, and reminded me that she’s so well aware in my taste in porn that she once got me some. And I’ll save my “Why I hate SuicideGirls, because its used to be chock full of all my kind of girls, like naked nerdy chicks, but now its mostly thuggish, tattooed and pierced chicks that I find a total turn-off, and which is especially lame since the photos are all boring, ever since it stopped becoming ‘porn’ and turned into ‘art’, and that’s because now more women subscribe to the site than women” rant for a later time (unless I just did it already). Then again, its hard not to notice any girl that’s just going on and on about how “awesome” Hentai is.

MK & I were on the fence about going to the next day, but since we had spent money on a two-day pass, we almost felt obligated (plus we had to meet Robin and give him copies of our stuff before he goes off to Texas for a show there). Sunday was windier and colder, which made the sight of seeing the line of people, which had been moved outside, all the more horrifying. Though the mood was far lighter and less oppressive than the day before, which was certainly nice. Chatted with a few other folks, including Dave Keirsch and Sara Varon. But otherwise, it was the last day of a comic show, and therefore, not too exciting. Though I did stumble across the Jedi Academy panel, and discovered that much of what Jedis wear can be found at Marshall’s.

And that was the show. People are viewing it, in particular Saturday’s debacle, as an amazing testament of how much demand there is for comics in New York City, which it is, and that sense of validation is a good thing. And it could be argued that the Comic Con organizers simply underestimated said demand, plus any show its first time out is going to be a mess, but when you have folks who paid in advance being told to go home shortly after MK & I scammed our way in (again crazy rumors time: some were apparently being given refund on site, but I have since heard that people were instructed to get a refund online, and even then there was no guarantee), then that is simply bad business and severely diminishes the future of a future show.

In non-comic stuff, and going back a few days, Friday night finally saw another horror night at Joe‘s. The main feature was Uncle Sam, which shows what happens when some jarhead who’s way too into fighting and killing (and who’s just an asshole off the battle field, such as his history of beating up his sister and mom) is himself killed by friendly fire during the Desert Storm conflict. His body is recovered sometime after the war is over and is shipped back to his family, who is less than thrilled to be reminded of him, with the exception of his nephew who, not knowing of all the girl punching, viewed his uncle (named Sam btw) as a hero. Hence why he has no problem when the army literally leaves the coffin in the middle of the living room. Then the 4th of July happens, crazy uncle comes back to life, steals a cheesy Uncle Sam out-flit and goes on a killing rampage during a small town’s big 4th of July festivities. The biggest failing of the film is perhaps the idea that it sorta tries to be a serious film, which means the gruesome deaths are really not that gruesome and therefore not that much fun to watch. Then there’s the idiotic logic that the film prescribes to, such as how Uncle Sam is killed in the end by an old cannon, and how Issac Hayes. playing an old war vet who hobbles along on a fake leg, can get to his truck, drive to the middle of the town square, hitch the heavy-ass chain of the cannon to the back oh his truck, drive back to the house where he’s been about to kill the kid, get out of the truck, load the canon, then fire the deadly blows, all in such short time.

The next feature on the other-hand was simply amazing: Troll 2. LIke the best good films, the best worst films are at their apex when you just don’t know what’s going to happen next, let along what the hell is going on at the moment. Take Troll 2′s plot for example, which centers around a kid who’s constantly playing with the ghost of his dead grandfather. The family decides to take a trip to the country to switch places with another family in a small, innocuous looking farming community, but in which everyone acts sorta strange. Plus everyone’s trying to get them to eat stuff slathered in green goo. This goo is actually a substance which if a human ingests will turn them into half-human, half-vegetable thing, which is what goblins eat (not trolls it seems… in fact, never once are trolls ever brought up, just goblins), so the kid, with the help of his dead grandfather, has to prevent his family from eating the green crap the whole time (such as urinated on everyone’s meal at the dinner table early on). Also along for the fun are four geeky, and vaugely gay, teenage guys that follow the family to swoon the kid’s sister and who are the first encounter some woman who’s the head goblin. At one point, you’ve got one of the nerds who has become a potted plant thanks to said woman, the kid’s sister doing aerobics (in a scene that steals the whole film), and the most awkward skateboarding every caught on film. Troll 2 simply has the stupidest story, the worst acting, the dumbest looking goblins, and the awesomest 80′s soundtrack imaginable.

Lastly, I also found out last night from my roommate that our house is being dropped by All State. The reason? It seems that Brooklyn is now a hurricane zone. And at a time when its been so gusty that the house is starting to shake a bit. Basically, All State lost a ton over Hurricane Katrina, so they’re dropping hurricane coverage completely. Sweet.

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  • http://local.live.com Forward Observer

    International Brotherhood of Teamsters, Local 807
    32-43 49th Street
    Long Island City, NY 11103
    (718) 726-2525
    (718) 726-7037
    William Turis, John “Buddy” Sullivan, Anthony Storz, Kevin Brudie, Angel Curbelo, Luis Herrera, William Hedrick

    The International Brotherhood of Teamsters, Local 237
    216 West 14th Street, 8th Floor
    New York, NY 10011
    (212) 924-2000
    David Gonzales, Housing Division Business Agents & Areas of Representation: Brooklyn & Staten Island, Staten Island Community Operations, Jacob Javits Center

  • http://www.fort90.com Matt

    Well…

    Guess I should start making phone calls?

  • Ruby Rinekso

    Yeah,.. that was me in as the Burger King Stormtrooper. Good times. Good times. :-)

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