Before comic-book conventions roamed the Earth, there were science-fiction conventions. The early sci-fi cons started in the 30s and were nonprofit events where the focus was literature and the turn-outs were low.
The costuming aspect of fan conventions was introduced by the creator of Famous Monsters of Filmland, Forrest J. Ackerman. Forry wore his "futuristicostume," designed by Myrtle Douglas, at the first Worldcon in 1939. The following year, costume contests became a hallmark of science-fiction conventions, although it was decades before wearing them all day and walking around getting photographed became normal con behavior.
The first comic-book convention was the Tri-State Convention on July 24, 1964. Taking place about three blocks from where NYCC is held now, the T-SC was organized by a 16-year-old and his friend. Steve Ditko was a special guest and almost a hundred people came by. There weren't even stores dedicated to selling comics until the late 1960s. There was no built-in infrastructure or proven market. It was all virgin territory being plowed by innovative and probably equally virginal men.
It's hard to comprehend the humongous leap in fan culture from what once was to what currently is. I keep thinking about the match cut in 2001, where the monkey tosses the bone into the air and the film jumps forward in time millions of years.
Today New York Comic Con is the most well-attended comic convention in North America, surpassing San Diego Comic Con in 2014 and luring 170,000 people in 2015. The largest comic convention in the world is Tokyo's Comiket, which draws a crowd of 590,000. These things are no longer staffed by volunteers or fueled by enthusiasm for niche interests. They are fueled by money, and the subject matter being celebrated is now as mainstream as it gets. Is a convention needed when everybody in the world loves the same thing? The modern comic cons bear no resemblance to the small cons I attended at the New Yorker Hotel in the 90s and even less to that first science-fiction convention, where under 20 people hung out in nuclear physicist Milton A. Rothman's Philadelphia kitchen in 1937. What's left for the outsiders?
Here's how spending four days at the New York Comic Con worked out for me. It's mostly photos of costumed people, in case you were bored by my introductory essay.
A kind stranger offered Deadshot some mask assistance on the subway.
The convention is held in the Javits Center. Here's a lego model of it.
This person is dressed as the Eyehole Man from Rick and Morty. Her friend (not pictured) was dressed as the even more obscure R and M character, Ants in My Eyes Johnson. These are the people who make going to comic conventions fun.
This piece at Anthony's Comic Art booth spoke to me. I wanted to buy it, but I'm not rich and never will be.
I liked this Vaughn Bode drawing.
Look how happy Cave-Pharrell is.
Here is a man making custom vampire fangs in another person's mouth in a crowded convention hall.
People were waiting in line to pay $5 to win comics that would be otherwise unsellable.
These colorful cardboard cubes are "mystery boxes." For $20, sometimes $30, con-goers could buy a box with junk that the dealers couldn't sell when people could see what they were deciding to buy or not. I guess people got the idea from Loot Crate, a subscription service that sells you a box of random nerd garbage.
In the convention hall, there were thousands of people selling weird, cool, rare, obscure things from all over the world. If you would spend $30 dollars on a mystery box, then I think it's fair to say that you are either a gambling addict, an adult child who wants every day to be Christmas, or you have no taste and are living only to consume.
A positive trend I saw was people bringing in their dogs! Here's a Pikachu Pomeranian. I would buy a mystery box if one of these popped out.
Here's a surprisingly manly Finn with a service-Jake. Although less prominent than it used to be, Adventure Time is positive and great art.
I looked up and saw Stan Lee on a stage at Marvel's booth. He knew the creators of some of the most popular superheroes and took all the credit and money from their success. I think he's managing to stave off death with a hidden supply of Jack Kirby's blood. As long as his autograph can be sold, Stan Lee will keep living to turn a profit.
One of the best things to ever happen in the world of TV animation is the Cartoon Network mini-series Over the Garden Wall. It made me very happy to see people cosplaying as Wirt and Greg.
Here's another good Wirt.
Wirt and Greg.
Here's a Greg with pockets full of candy in order to do Greg's "candy camouflage."
This is the best Dragon Ball toy I've ever seen.
Perfect 2001 action figures that cost a mere $380 per doll.
This is the guy who produced the 2001 figures. His staff referred to him as the "Philosopher."
Here's a 20-inch-tall toy that I painted for New York Comic Con. It was given away as a prize to some lucky person.
Here's a Star Trek cosplayer trying to win my art/toy. I stood by the display case and told people that I had painted that toy and was the Nick Gazin. Everyone was very impressed and also jealous.
Realizing how empty my accomplishment was, I took more photos of people in costume since it seemed like the thing to do.
Bebop and Rocksteady.
The Tick and Arthur.
Black Panther and Brian Stelfreeze, the current Black Panther artist.
This is Geof Darrow holding up a drawing I bought from him. He is best known as the artist behind Hard Boiled, Big Guy and Rusty the Boy Robot, Bourbon Thret, Shaolin Monk, and for designing all the technical stuff in the Matrix movies.
I yelled out "Gokus!" and they responded with this pose. From their facial expressions, I get the sense that one of them is way more into this than the other one.
Narcissistic Sonic the Hedgehog.
Miss Yvonne and Pee-wee Herman.
Poison Ivy and a guy who really likes Poison Ivy.
There weren't as many Star Wars costumes as there've been in previous years. Surprising, since the new movie made a lot of money, but I found it pretty forgettable and I guess a lot of other people did, too.
The Sucklord found a bunch of the water pipe that was part of Jabba's throne in the old Star Wars toy and made the best Star Wars toy since the remote control BB-8.
The Dazzler and the Beast.
And then I went off with the Beast and Dazzler.
The number-one costume for ladies at NYCC this year was Harley Quinn as the character appeared in the atrocious Suicide Squad movie. It's a flattering outfit, and I like that it's based on that photo shoot of Debbie Harry in the Vultures shirt, but I see it as a signal that we're returning to a more barbaric and less feminist culture.
I prefer the character of Harley Quinn in the Paul Dini/Bruce Timm animated cartoon from the 1990s.
In addition to the movie being boring and confusing, it was also the most anti-woman comic-book movie I've ever seen. Viola Davis plays an incompetent female boss who assembles a team of villains for no clear reason and then creates the monster they have to fight. One of the "sympathetic" characters murders his wife and kids with his fire powers and says, "I just couldn't control myself," which is what every abusive husband says after beating or killing their families.
In the cartoon, Harley Quinn was portrayed as sort of a 40s gangster moll. In Suicide Squad, Harley and the Joker have a whore/pimp dynamic. Her clothing is branded with things like "Property of the Joker" and "Daddy's Little Monster." We see the Joker electrocute her, toss her into a vat of chemicals, and then save her as an afterthought.
Mothers, don't let your children grow up to be Harley Quinns.
This one combined the most popular costume for dudes and ladies into one costume. I approve this since it involved some creativity.
This Harley also flipped the script a little. But I still see that movie as a harbinger of shit getting worse and dumber.
I'd like to see more Catwoman cosplay. Catwoman is the inverse of Harley Quinn.
This Wario has a great mustache and gave me chocolate gelt! Toh, Wario!
This woman figured out a pulley system for her costumes that involved using kite string to make the wings flap. I admire that level of ingenuity, but it almost seems like her talents are wasted on being a spectacle for people to photograph.
The Scarlet Witch.
Jax and Leia.
Lana and Archer.
I won this costume in a contest two years ago, and they still haven't sent it to me. I was kind of a dick at their booth about it, but two years is a long time to wait for a Bespin outfit. Also, I'm kind of a dick most places I go.
Howl and whats-her-face.
This near mint copy of Spider-Man #1 was for sale for a mere $200,000. My dad bought this comic when it came out, and it upset him so much he immediately threw it out.
The owner of this and several other very expensive comics had a giant ten-foot-tall safe in the booth. I asked so many questions about whether or not people had ever tried to pull an Oceans 11–style heist that they refused to let me photograph their giant safe.
This is Silver Age Larry. I've never seen him in such finery before, though. If you don't know SA Larry, then you haven't been buying comics in New York for very long.
Wonder Woman scissors seem cool.
Three Mortal Kombats.
Joker and Voltron.
I think this Toy Story Bo Peep outfit would be a good everyday outfit if you subtracted the giant hook and three-headed sheep.
One of my many fans brought me DJ Uncle Al records. Thanks, Robbie! RIP DJ Uncle Al!
I greeted these two with the Vulcan hand gesture and the Vulcan guy responded with a thumbs up. He also hosts a monthly Star Trek party in Times Square.
The convention was over. The conventioneers lurked outside either collecting themselves or soaking up as much attention as they could until next year.
While these two Ash Williams were chainsawing, a teamster came out of the haunted cabin holding a deer head and making spooky noises.
Dee Dee Twins.
And then this lumpy Norrin Radd gave me a lift home on his flying silver tongue depressor. This photo was taken right before we zoomed off back to Greenpoint, where we live together happily.
Follow me on Instagram, please. I'm very lonely.