Wednesday, October 15, 2014

New York Comic Con 2014 - Day Three - Sunday

My last day of NYCC 2014 was spent roaming the convention mostly by myself. I’d wandered with my brother-in-law on Friday and Leslie on Saturday so I had a pretty good lay of the land. The big thing; however, was Leslie was there, helping to staff the booth of our friends’ comic book shoppe. The only minor monkey wrench this threw in our plans is the timing of everything. We couldn’t both leave at 7:00 A.M. and stay until the convention closed because of Sully. We felt bad enough leaving her for a “workday’s” amount of time on Saturday, so we certainly didn’t want to leave her alone for (potentially) upwards of 12 hours on Sunday. So, she left early and drove in with a few guys from the comic shoppe and I drove in later, arriving around 11:30 AM.

The first thing I did was head down to the Dark Circle Comics panel. Novel concept, attending a comic book panel at New York Comic Con, right? What drew me to this panel was the fact that Chuck Wendig is writing one of the books - The Shield - as part of the rebranding of the superhero line of comics from Archie Comics, or as some long-time comic book fans and readers know them the MLJ superheroes. I recall various attempts to bring these characters into the spotlight over the past few decades I’ve been reading comics. There was the Impact Comics line in the mid-90s which was spear-headed by DC Comics and Archie recently reinvigorated the characters through the Red Circle branding. Launching (or in this case re-launching) a new superhero, let alone an entire superhero universe, is a bold move in today’s market. Going back twenty-plus years again, the Malibu line was fairly successful launch until the implosion of the 90s (thanks Death of Superman). Hell, there was even an animated series based on the Ultraverse. But let’s skip ahead to now, shall we?

I think the Archie folks, with Alex Segura spear-heading this thing, are taking an interesting approach. They are using some familiar characters with a level of recognition by long-time readers while also reimagining the characters with modern sensibilities so readers unfamiliar with the past of those characters can pick up and read the comics right at launch. To a much lesser extent, I’d say this approach is almost…almost like DC re-launching their superheroes in the Silver Age with the first appearance of the Barry Allen Flash. The Dark Circle brand is starting with three characters: The Fox, The Black Hood, and The Shield. These three comics are being pitched as a mix of superheroes and, respectively, adventure, crime, and superhero adventure. The creators on the panel, Duane Swierczynksi, Chuck Wendig, and Dean Haspiel, exhibited a great deal of enthusiasm for their plans for these books. When time for questions came, I asked about the characters meeting each other then immediately doing the typical superhero thing of “punching each other in the face before realizing they are alliees” which brought some laughter. Alex said the characters will definitely be aware of each other. I later asked about how Alex and the others responsible for the launch came up with the books/characters; who would be re-launched and if specific creators were on their list and who would be part of the second wave. I wasn’t able to get an idea of who the next wave would include, though Alex did indicate one of the next characters would be a surprise. I also realized Mike Underwood was sitting in a couple of rows in front of me because he asked a question about female characters and female creators. Alex said they were very cognizant of such things and want the right story and character, not to just push out a female character or creator without forethought.

Based attending that panel, I’ll be adding all three titles to my pull-list once at my local comic shoppe.

Patrick Rothfuss, Seth Fishman, Cindy Williams Chima, Gail Z. Martin,
Garth Nix, Robin Hob and moderator David Peterson

In that very same room immediately following the Dark Circle Panel was the “How Game of Thrones Changed Fantasy…or Did it?” panel, with authors Patrick Rothfuss, Robin Hobb, Cindy Williams Chima, Garth Nix, Gail Z. Martin, and Seth Fishman, and moderated by David Peterson whom Mark interviewed for SFFWorld a little over a year ago. So, while I was in the back for the Dark Circle Panel and was even standing at one point, I moved up to the second row for the GOT panel and sat next to a very pretty Daenerys Targaryen with one of the dragons on her shoulder. Mike Underwood and Garrett came forward to chat with Chuck and I before the panel began. When moderator David asked the panel who they thought would be sitting on the Iron Throne at the end of the series, the young girl stood to a rousing applause and laughter.

Each of the authors brought an interesting perspective to the panel; Robin Hobb’s Farseer books, the first of which Assassin’s Apprentice published shortly before A Game of Thrones published and Garth Nix was publishing before A Game of Thrones published, too. Cindy Williams (I think) noted she was reading George before A Song of Ice and Fire citing Tuf Voyaging. I cheered for that (and I think I was the only one). Cindy later specifically said she began writing because of reading A Game of Thrones. Patrick; however, was the most vocal of the panelists and damn can he get an audience in the palm of his very large hand. One very good point he made was the distinction between the books of A Song of Ice and Fire and the television show A Game of Thrones. To highlight this point, a fair number of people in the room (including the Daenerys sitting next to me) didn’t read the books, nor were they aware of who the authors on the panel were.

Patrick pointed out how Game of Thrones / A Song of Ice and Fire now triangulated Fantasy allowing for greater reference points for the genre. Whereas prior to GOT/ASOIAF, there was mainly the two point line of Harry Potter and Lord of the Rings to use as short hand for describing / recommending Fantasy, GOT became a third point off the line forming a triangle, widening the scope of what people are willing to embrace in fantasy. To the point of “Yeah I write/want to read a story that’s a little bit GOT and Harry Potter. Fantasy can be more than just HP or LOTR.” (And it can also be much more than GOT, for that matter.)

Another point made was that more time elapsed between book 3 and 4 in Garth Nix’s Abhorsen books. It was downplayed a bit because Garth had written so much in the intervening years. On the other hand, Gail Z. Martin had a much more regular schedule, or you can say another way, she’s a writing machine. She mentioned 3 current series she’s writing with a book in each publishing over the next year.

Shecky, me, and Garrett
After the panel was the signing for these authors, the line was the longest line on which I stood. There again I crossed paths with Shecky and Garrett, so this time we finally snapped some photos of each other. A significant portion of the people on line were waiting solely for Garth Nix, so the line was broken apart to help those folks. Once I got in the cordoned off line, I was bumped ahead of others to get my Robin Hobb books signed since the folks in front of me weren’t waiting for Robin Hobb. I was a little tongue tied because Robin’s books, especially her books about Fitzchivalry Farseer, are so high on my bookshelf of favorites. I asked of all the deaths she’s written if the death of Nighteyes was the toughest and she said it was. She referenced the scene in Romancing the Stone where Kathleen Turner’s character (a writer) was weeping as she was typing a scene.

Me and Pat Rothfuss
I also had a couple of more books to be signed by Patrick Rothfuss. One of which was for my wife’s colleague who is big fan of Patrick’s work. I had a nice little moment when I thunked down my Advance Reader Copy of Wise Man’s Fear for Patrick to sign. He softly and clorfully asked, How I got one of those? He then said I could sell this for a couple of grand, if I so chose. I mean, I realized there weren’t many of them because the ARC was number 227 out of 227, but it was very cool to surprise the author of the book being signed in such a fashion. Similarly, two years ago presenting Peter Brett with an ARC of Brayan’s Gold elicited a similar, if more tame response. Suffice it to say, I may have gloated just a bit about Patrick’s reaction.

I later discovered, when I traipsed through the Penguin booth, that one of the many great Penguin staffers was corralling the line and doing a fantastic job of keeping the signing line moving and people ready for their books to be signed. All in all, I’d say Penguin, the Ace / DAW / Roc imprints, had the best book publisher booth at the convention. There were ticketed signings throughout the weekend (most publishers had signings, but none quite as many as Penguin’s three-headed SF imprint), Penguin seemed to have the most give-aways (I told my brother-in-law to snag the mmpb of Anthony Ryan’s Blood Song), I grabbed Daniel José Older’s Half Resurrection Blues which was a Comic-Con exclusive in addition to the Sniegowski and Strout books I mentioned snagging and having signed on Friday.

Me and Chuck Wendig
After having my Hobb and Rotfhusses* signed, I just wandered the convention for a while and thumbed through comics at various vendors searching for some back issues I’d had on my mind for a while. Some old Flash or Batman issues, perhaps. Also, as I indicated at the top of this post, this is an actual Comic Book convention, I thought I would be remiss if I didn’t snag some comics. The aimless wandering came a brief halt at 4PM when the folks from the Dark Circle comics panel were signing things at the Archie Comics booth, including the free poster with the three characters being re-launched. I also had Chuck sign my ARC of Under the Empyrian Sky (since I have electronic copies of most of his work). Chuck also was kind enough to take a photo with me.

*Doesn't Hobb and Rothfuss sound like a Victorian, British law firm?

More wandering after that as I wound up at the booth Leslie was helping to staff. I rifled through some back issues and found what I was hoping to find: the five issue series from 1973 based on Fritz Leiber’s Fafhrd and the Gray Mouser stories: Sword of Sorcery. I also finally snagged a copy of a book at another booth for 50% off X-MEN: Days of Future Past which I’d never read. I know, I know, that’s one of my geek admissions. My excuse is that I was a DC Comics guy for the majority of my comic book reading life. I also forgot to mention on Friday, I picked up the first trade of a series at least half of the comic book readers my twitter stream have been raving about Rat Queens.

As the show closed, all the booths were shouting last minute deals. Boy is the Javits Center very … adamant about closing the show on time to the point that convention employees were not permitting people to walk past certain points, dimming the lights and shouting over a bullhorn that the convention was closed. So, the show closed and I helped box up some of the unsold items at the JC Comics booth before Leslie and I were on our way home after a marvelous weekend at New York Comic Con 2014.

All that said, the most surprising thing is just how damned crowded the convention was on Sunday. I realize it was “Kids’ Day” but it was crazier than Saturday was this year, something I would not have predicted. This also makes me happy that I took the opportunity on Saturday to be more leisurely with our approach to walking the floor in addition to sitting in on two panels on Sunday.

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