Ponies, Venture Bros, Robot Chickens… and more; Joe Strike visits the New York Comic-con
It took some serious down-on-my-knees begging, but I managed to score press credentials a mere 36 hours before the fun began. (They said they were Emailed to me; perhaps my inbox looks down on comic books & such…)
As I keyboard it’s Saturday morning the 13th and the New York Comic Con is at its halfway point. The Javits Convention Center was bustling but navigable Thursday; yesterday’s edition was massively attended. (Calling the packed crowd milling about the main concourse ‘a sea of people’ wouldn’t begin to do it justice; a better comparison would be to Times Square on New Year’s Eve.) Now it’s Saturday and I suspect everyone who bought a ticket to the completely sold-out event will be here today.
The con fills every square inch of the convention center – even the airplane hangar-sized hall an endless corridor away from the main building, a distant boondock to which Artists’ Alley has been banished. The top floor of the center is entirely given over to exhibitors who have come to peddle their wares and hopefully make a few bucks. (Except for Marvel, Lego and DC Comics, excuse me, DC Entertainment, whose mega-displays dominate the view.) The annual Licensing Show used to fill the center, selling brand names and entertainment tie-ins to folks; now a sizeable portion of that licensed merchandise is being sold in the same space.
I first arrived late Thursday in time to catch Neal Adams’ session. For those who aren’t comic books scholars or weren’t around in the early 1970’s, Adams basically revolutionized the look of comics by approaching them as an illustrator, not a comic book artist. Up until then characters never looked as human (even when they were aliens or monsters), emotions never seemed as convincing, settings never looked as real. Partnered with writer Denny O’Neill, the pair created a run of legendary Batman and Green Lantern stories.
Adams has never suffered the burden of modesty. “My hobby is to stop books from being cancelled – call me, I’ll save it.” His hobby is (or at least was) helping comic book creators avoid being exploited. (Ever notice how every time Superman’s name appears onscreen or in print, the words “Superman created by Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster” are not far away? That was Adams’ doing.) He tells a story of being warned away from the ‘dying’ comics biz in his youth by Captain America co-creator Joe Simon – who years later comes to the mega-successful Adams seeking help in reclaiming ownership of his characters.
Adams recounts various run-ins with the comics powers-that-be, opines on superhero movies, describes how he beat out the competition to design an updated Robin costume (“the old costume sucked the hairy banana…the other [competitors for its revamp] looked like Halloween costumes”) and confesses his dream return to comics: “I’d love to do the Kree-Skrull war.”
Adams’ son Josh is onstage with dad, following in the family footsteps. (Check out his work at whatwouldjoshdo.com) Asked what it feels like being the son of etc., he answers “I take every comparison to my dad as cynically as possible – ‘that old guy?’” Perhaps it’s a touch of revenge when Dad opines a few minutes later, for no particular reason, “daughters are brilliant and sons are stupid,” while his son sits alongside wearing a poop-eating grin (or is that a grimace?).
I wander through the exhibit hall, past the biggie, medium- and compact-sized booths, and into a low-ceiling cramped space housing tiny cubicle after cubicle. For some reason the expression“a wretched hive of scum and villainy” pops into mind, but it’s actually the ‘small press’ zone. Here folks with personally printed books, posters, e-books, T’s, comics & miscellanea have set up shop. One booth is selling snacks along with their publications; why not try a Kryptonite or a Pinkie Pie brownie? Two guys are selling “How to Roll a Blunt for Dummies,” an illustrated guide to exactly that. Religion seems to be a theme, at least at the booths selling “Jesus Hates Zombies” comics and Zombie Last Supper posters. I find out one of the tiny spaces will set you back $925 – and you have to supply your own folding table. Wandering the zone you can feel the hopes, dreams (and at some of the tables, the desperation) of these ambitious creators.
Ahh, and now for something completely equine: there’s a looong, meandering line leading into the My Little Pony session, set in a medium size-ish room that barely fits all the bronies attending. Hasbro Studio execs Brian Lenard and Mike Vogel are onstage along with supervising director Jayson Thiessen and scripter Meghan McCarthy.
A lengthy clip from season three’s premiere episode is screened for starters: Twilight Sparkle and friends visit the Crystal Kingdom, trying to learn why total ennui is the order of the day. (Pinkie Pie, overdoing it as usual, skulks about in night-vision glasses in broad daylight.)
One topic on everyone’s mind is the mythology underlying the series, the history of Equestria. Lenard admits “nobody knew the series was going to take on this level of mythology” while Vogel says “the episode [stories] are free-standing, but we’re gradually adding details.” World building is definitely going on: Thiessen mentions the various histories referenced, backstories hinted at and says “our job is to find out how they’re connected.” He adds that the current series is “ground zero,” unconnected to early Pony series. McCarthy says Equestria will “get bigger – there are areas we haven’t explored yet.”
Questions are asked; the answers, often amorphous; beans go unspilled. Season three premiere date: No one’s talking. Thirteen or 26 season 3 episodes? “The number of episodes doesn’t indicated anyone’s desire not to continue Pony” Lenard replies. (Is there a hint of additional seasons in his answer?) Will future episodes show more Derpy, the fan-favorite cross eyed pony? “Maaaybe,” McCarthy slowly answers. How about a feature film? “Maaybe,” says Vogel. “We’re going to have a Broadway show – I’m just joking.”
We are told the way popular John DeLancie-voiced villain Discord will return (I'm wearing his T-shirt), a future episode may possibly explore the roots of the Celestia-Luna conflict that first launched the series and the upcoming MLP:FiM comic book will explore (says Vogel) “ideas we don’t have time for in the show.” (Does this mean comic stories will be ‘canon’? Stay tuned…)
I manage to squeeze in a question: why not put together an assortment of fan-made Pony videos as a Hub special? After all, Hasbro owns the rights to the characters and the fan creators would be delighted to see their work broadcast. The question seems to stymie Vogel who pauses, then answers “we haven’t thought of that.”
(More Comic Con reportage to come…)