This past Thursday, Friday, Saturday, and Sunday, the New York Comic Con (NYCC) was held at the Jacob K. Javits Center on the westside of Manhattan, between 34th and 40th Street. I've been in attendance in 2006, 2008, 2009, 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014, 2015, and 2016, covering it most of those years—but I never bothered to learn who Jacob Javits was. My focus has always been on the comic books.
If you elect not to read any of the words and just want to scroll through the photos of people in costumes, that's OK. But...
Jacob K. Javits worked in the US military's Chemical Warfare Department during World War II. Later, he became one of the most liberal Republican senators in US history, backing civil rights and unions. He sponsored the War Powers Resolution, which limited the Office of the President after it was leaked that Nixon had secretly been bombing Cambodia without approval from Congress, and died from ALS in 1986, the same year they opened the convention hall that now bears his name. He was a politician who went against his own party and was isolated for it, but he had values that he lived. In many ways, he was the opposite of our current president, whose actions seem driven by a desire to be adored and applauded. Now he's memorialized as a giant, boxy, glass and steel terrarium designed by I.M. Pei's old architecture firm.
I enjoyed half of my time this year at NYCC. For all the earnestness of the flocks of people who show up in costume to express themselves, such a place of fan worship also felt like a cathedral being used for an advertising show. The beauty comes from the love, but the ugliness comes in the form of consumerism being a core element of it. I came hoping to escape my thoughts about recent real world horrors, but they kept seeping in. I saw people desperate to make a connection, and I couldn't tell if they were achieving their goal or not.
You may have heard that Marvel had a big promotional Punisher presentation that it pulled the plug on out of respect for victims of the Las Vegas massacre. The Punisher is a Marvel comics character who wears a skull on his chest and murders his foes with guns. I don't like the concept of the Punisher as a Marvel superhero. It seems more like an R-rated exploitation movie from the 70s, like Death Wish or First Blood. My mom once told me that she didn't like slasher movies because, unlike supernatural monsters, there really are people who kill women with knives. The Punisher is like the comic book character version of that. There's nothing fantastic or magical or fun about him the way that there is with Spider-Man. He's an angry guy with guns who thinks it's his job to kill people he doesn't like, and I had an action figure of him when I was nine that had a big friendly smile like a Joan Cornellà drawing.
Despite the Punisher panel being pulled, I was unable to forget the horrors of real life. Police cars were lined up outside the Javits Center, and metal detectors had been added to the entrance ritual. I'm grateful that the police were there, but their presence was a sobering reminder that mass gatherings are potential targets for terrorists.
I try not to arrive at NYCC with too many expectations. Instead, I like to wander around and let it reveal what it wants to show me. The convention is a microcosm of all "nerd" culture, and its trends reveal real human truths. I think of it as being sort of like in Watchmen when the Adrian Veidt character watches every TV channel at once and bases his business decisions on what he gleans. "First impressions: oiled muscleman with machine-gun... Cut to pastel bears, Valentine hearts. Juxtaposition of wish fulfillment violence and infantile imagery, desire to regress, be free of responsibility... This all says 'war.' We should buy accordingly." And then he tells his assistants to buy baby food and maternity goods. I'm neither as smart nor villainous as the fictional comic-book genius, so I'm not making elaborate business plans.
Here's what I saw at New York Comic Con this year.
The first thing I noticed upon entering the south end of the convention hall was that the independent artists, small companies that made high-end art toys and stuff, had been moved from the front of the convention to the back. The real estate had been gentrified to make way for bigger companies. This interactive advertisement allowed people to pretend they had telekinesis and shake a vending machine around until it gave them a bottle of water.
This company called Pozu is now making high-end Star Wars boots. I really liked these. Quilted white leather always reminds me of 70s sci-fi.
VICE had a presence too, promoting our new video game thing. Just kidding.
I liked how intricate these two got with their Harry Potter/Ghostbusters costumes. They remade the Ghostbusters logo to have a Death Eater. Their backpacks were all wizardly. I really liked looking at them.
Playmobil was there too showing off its new Ghostbusters Playmobils. I always liked Playmobil as a kid, but I thought its selling point was its blankness. Tying them in to a commercial property seems off-base, but I also remember putting Playmobil people into my Ghostbusters car as a little child so what does adult me know? Kid me would be psyched. I really like this hotdog cart.
Super7 was making these toys based on the 1980s He-Man cartoon. I thought this guy was funny.
This was my first confrontation with Christianity at this year's NY Comic Con. I don't really see what religion and video games have to do with each other, but I tried to talk to the guy about how the new Zelda game is rife with religious references. You start off in the game emerging from a cave after having slumbered for a century, like when Christ rolled the stone away. The dungeons are now called shrines. Also there's a place called Hebra Tower and "Faron Seas" sounds like Pharisees. He said he hadn't played it, though. How do you run anything related to video games and not play Zelda?
The man on top of the bus shouted, "When I say, 'Geico,' you say, 'Great Rates!' After people shouted back, "Great rates!" he hurled a ton of stuffed Geico geckos at the people. It was a truly disgusting display that soured the good time I'd been having.
While I was chatting with the guys at the Heavy Metal magazine table, they gave me this issue, which was the second weird image of Jesus. First there was video game Jesus, now here's Jesus the Barbarian. I wasn't offended or anything. I just wasn't used to seeing a lot of religious imagery of any kind at NYCC.
They skinned Gizmo and made him into $400 sneakers.
I thought this person was supposed to be dressed as Robyn, but someone told me she's a Game of Thrones thing.
I thought this anti-Trump toy was pretty funny.
I thought the owner of Mishka begging for money so he could buy the first appearance of Spider-Man was pretty funny.
Is this the greatest Yu-Gi-Oh! card player of all time? Is this what you get to become if you are the greatest at Yu-Gi-Oh!?
This is me and Jojo, having bizarre adventures.
The Cos Play Against Bullying booth was empty, which is good because I told them if they showed up they were going to feast on a knuckle sandwich.
That was a joke, not a threat. Please don't ban me from NYCC. I take bullying seriously.
Tiny Rick! I know there are a ton of awful and vocal Rick and Morty fans online but remember that there are also sweet, earnest kids out there who are coming to NYCC with their moms because they just love a cartoon so much and want to connect with others and share their creativity and enthusiasm.
Comic Con has its fair share of crass advertising, but it also has people expressing themselves creatively without any thought to commerce, just a desire to express themselves.
My other favorite thing, besides enthusiastic kids, is people sitting on the floor in costume. We talked about which sneakers are the comfiest because she was wrecking her ankles in flip flops. The best sneaker is the Nike Air Max. It is the best footwear for con-going.
This lady went as a combination of Jared Leto's Joker, animated Joker, and Jack Nicholson's Joker, but also she has a green headwrap instead of green hair.
I liked these two. Just smoking behind a trash can on the ground like they hadn't a care in the world... Living their best lives.
This is like a modern American Gothic. Look at all the easy-to-understand symbolism in this image that either summarizes NYCC or America. He's got the toy symbol of patriotism while he looks disillusioned. She's got a giant Geico bag and her arm around her boyfriend, but she's also on her phone. It's saying that we're physically close, but we're completely disconnected from each other and from ourselves. I am extremely high as I write this.
I looked at the buildings going up around the Javitz Center and thought it looked exactly like Blade Runner. The west side of Manhattan looks like the future.
On Friday, my famous sister, Penelope Gazin, came to NYCC with me. The story about her website, Witchsy, went viral a couple weeks back, and now she's the feminist icon I inspired her to be.
She was posing so I could photograph the cops behind her without them noticing, but I guess it was obvious. This police gave me the universal symbol for "hang loose," which I found relaxing. I was glad he was there to kill anyone who might want to kill me, but the sight of assault rifles is still jarring.
This was a perfect Marv from Sin City.
This Audrey Horne was the only Twin Peaks cosplayer I saw. I thought that show was the biggest cultural event of everyone's summer?
This is the Blue Morpho, the villainous Monarch's superhero alter ego. Good obscure choice.
This Chewbacca costume is truly awful. I like that. There was an adult man in that mask by the way, not a kid under there. I love that this middle-aged guy showed up in pajamas.
This lady came out of the bathroom looking like a famous person exiting a plane. She was the most glamorous person I saw.
My sister thought the kid on the left was cosplaying as Prince. I thought they looked like Rat and Mike in that Mary Ellen Mark photo.
Chun Li beats Ken.
People in costume sitting on the floor is my favorite thing.
You can see a child's legs sticking out of the bottom of this AT-ST. The guy behind him in the blue shirt is best dad of the con.
Buff Rick and Summer were going around looking for Nazis to beat up. There were a lot of Ricks at this con. Deadpool is still the number one costume for men, but no matter where you were, there was usually a Rick within view.
Although the AT-ST's father was the best dad of the convention, this other guy is Super Dad. He was pushing a stroller. I liked that he or someone else bungled the shape of the Superman symbol.
I asked Weapon X where Scott was, and he replied, "I killed him!" and we laughed. This was a reference to Wolverine's long-held crush on Jean Grey, who's in a pretty serious thing with Scott "Cyclops" Summers. My sister's there too, for some reason.
This Rick had a service dog. I love when people bring dogs to NYCC. She blew a major opportunity by not dressing him up like Morty, though.
I think this is Tarzan. He was in the running for "nakedest man at the convention."
My sister wanted to see where the artists were, and so we journeyed to Artists Alley. She said San Diego Comic Con is a lot cooler and has more variety. Dennis Kitchen, creator of Kitchen Sink Press, was selling old underground comics of his, though.
Bob Camp, who took over the reins of the Ren & Stimpy show after John K got canned, was there selling sketches. Here's a piece of LOG art he hand-painted.
My sister met Psylocke.
I also met Psylocke.
Then my sister met Wonder Woman. My sister makes funny faces when she meets hot ladies.
This is Jae Lee, who rose to prominence drawing comics for Marvel and Image in a style that was very unlike his peers. His work has somewhat more realistic proportions and a dramatic use of shadow.
This is Humberto Ramos, who drew a fun comic called Impulse and a lot of other stuff, too.
This is Geof Darrow, who's famous to most for designing the robots and stuff in the Matrix movies. He's holding up a copy of Hard Boiled, a comic that he drew and Frank Miller wrote. It's about a robot tax collector that believes it's a man and continuously goes haywire and kills a lot of people in a hyper-detailed world where people constantly eat junk food and fuck in the streets.
Here's a neat drawing Darrow did that he was selling for a mere $150. It's of a guy who bicycled with his cats to this place where he's now fighting a giant dog. Considering how perfectly detailed and laboriously inked it is, Geof Darrow is selling his stuff for so much less than he should be.
I like that this guy went as Jazz Riker. (For non-Trekkies, sometimes Commander Riker plays a trombone in Star Trek: The Next Generation.)
I didn't recognize this as Ms. Frizzle, but my sister did. She's better than me at everything, even recognizing cosplay characters.
I asked this guy to do this pose.
I watched Brian Stelfreeze, the artist behind the current Black Panther, give a super in-depth critique to the brown-haired girl on the right for about 15 minutes. I was in awe. I spend a lot of time critiquing people's comics, and I can say that Brian Stelfreeze crits as good as he draws. Let it be known: Brian Stelfreeze is a good guy.
You guys! Big news!
These guys went as Green Lantern Corps Saiyans. This is such an inside idea that I have no idea how they scraped together five people to do it. I couldn't find five people to do this with me.
I asked these guys where the Prison School Student Council was, and they said, "That's what we're looking for."
My sister pointed this guy out as being a very sad-looking Joker, but he perked up when I told him he was beautiful.
These guys are dressed as characters from Gravity Falls. It's an incredible show that lasted two seasons and is like a very well made children's cartoon version of Twin Peaks or The X-Files. It's really sweet, and the finale is insanely dark.
My sister and I took part in this South Park quiz show. The deal was that Randy's head would turn and face you, and if you answered the question wrong, he vomited a mixture of milk and corn starch into your mouth.
My sister won. I ate a lot of Randy's vom.
It looked like these Shyguys were about to enter the 36 chambers.
When I came out of the bathroom, my sister was talking to Lloyd Kaufman, founder of Troma Entertainment. I don't think he actually knew who she was, but his employee did, and he pretended to.
My sister asked me to take a photo of this Sith Lord sleeping with his lightsaber by the women's bathroom. The lady with the bullhorn woke him up when she announced everyone had to leave.
Also, my camera got steamed up.
After she said everyone had to leave, he flicked his lightsaber on without moving otherwise, and she responded with, "I saw that!" Everybody fell all over the place laughing. At first we thought he was a fool, but he won us over with his subtle, saber-like humor. When was the last time someone you thought was asleep made you laugh?
This was my favorite costume that I saw. One of the Monarch's ex-henchmen would be hanging out shooting up outside a comic convention. It made me very happy to see this man in this costume in this place.
This was the weirdest costume I saw at NYCC. He also wasn't wearing shoes, which takes commitment because even the nudest costumers still wear flip flops. He was wearing glasses, though.
Secret Wars #10 cover-art Doctor Doom. I love how specific this is.
I watched this guy have some very elaborate hugs.
Sideshow Collectibles's perfect little dolls have gotten me through some hard times. I want this doll they made based on how Boba Fett looked in his animated introduction from the Star Wars Holiday Special.
This is the largest costume I saw. Everything below the knees is part of large platform shoes.
This Poison Ivy spent three months constructing a moving, singing Audrey II robot. I was wildly impressed by this. With some of these costumes, my reaction is, "Why are you wasting your talents here? Go do this professionally." But there's a beauty to doing something without thought of monetizing it too, I guess.
By the fourth day of NYCC, I was completely over all the crowds, terrible food, and Christian imagery, but I showed up again because that's what VICE pays me to do.
This guy is dressed as Joseph from the game Dream Daddy.
BOOOOOOO! BOOOOOOOOOOOOOO! Fuck whoever wrote Suicide Squad for making this character.
Military cosplay is confusing to me. If you want to play army man, go join the army. I'm pretty sure everyone who came dressed as Spider-Man would choose to be Spider-Men if there was a Spider-Men recruitment center in their town.
Somehow I never heard of the Michael Jackson's Pets toy line, but I like that his bear is cool.
One of my favorite things at NY Comic Con is Anthony Snyder's booth of original comic art. I know I said I hated the Punisher, but this is a good Punisher drawing.
I bought this original comic. I feel like this could be a pretty good T-shirt graphic.
I bought this original Terry and the Pirates color guide as well. I thought the text was very profound. I felt like the dying lady.
This was an amazing Piccolo. He was just lurking in this dark corner, being terrific.
This one comic dealer brings a box of Snickers and charges $2 for them every year. He also leaves the box on top of his comics every year. I find this charmingly disrespectful to the comics and quaint in a stupid way. Across the hall, you've got Marvel and Geico putting on these giant shows, and here's this guy just trying to sell a few candy bars along with his old comics. If I come back next year, I think I just might finally buy one of those Snickers bars.
I watched the middle-aged couple who ran this booth pack up their wares on the final day, and I could tell the convention was almost over. There's something about the name Tomorrow's Treasures that makes it seem even more obvious that most of the stuff for sale is tomorrow's trash. I love comics, toys, and physical media like I love life, but I also know that the majority of what people spent money on at the convention was future landfill.
I thought these outfits were really cute. I think that everyone should wear clothes like this in their everyday lives.
There were Marines trying to recruit new soldiers outside by having people do pull-ups while wearing a weight vest. I feel like nothing is going to dissuade someone from joining the marines quite like making them do this. "Oh, this is what the Marines is like? No thanks. I'm going to keep cosplaying and eating $2 Snickers."
This guy nearby said,"Hey you work for VICE? Check this out." And then he put on this Jesus Christ ski mask. I thought it was weird that all these sort-of perverted visions of Jesus had appeared before me at New York Comic Con. Usually I don't see any.
Then this miniature Storm Trooper rowed me home. Thanks for looking at my coverage of the New York Comic Con. I hope it feels like you were there with me and that you liked having me as your guide. If not, maybe you'll like my coverage next year better.
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