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Tue, February 10th, 2009 at 2:28pm PST

Comic Books
Augie De Blieck Jr., Columnist

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NEW YORK COMIC CON 2009

Sadly, New York Comic Con 2009 is likely my last comic book convention for a couple of years. My next best chance at a convention would be the 2010 NYCC, except that it will take place on my daughter's second birthday. I get the feeling I'm booked that weekend already. So I took the six hours I had to spend at this year's convention and did the best job I could.

Confusingly, the travel show happening next door to the comic convention didn't have booth space reserved for Latveria, Symkaria, or Qurac. Their travel bureaus must be feeling the economic pinch.

The tricky part is, the convention is massive. It's packed into a relatively small space -- maybe two of the San Diego halls, at best -- but there's an amazing density to it. The crowd comparison to be made on Saturday is to that of a traditional San Diego Saturday. You'd attempt to merge into the crowd and then follow it as long as you could. Sadly, you never got very far, because Slave Leia would be holding up the aisle as a circle of gawkers whipped out their cameras to commemorate the occasion of a slight female dressed up even more slightly on a day when it's 15 degrees outside.

Am I one to judge? I was amused by this mushroom costume enough to snap a pic:

She was being interviewed by someone with a video camera. She looked slightly embarrassed by the whole thing.

Maybe I'm getting too old, but I revel less in the craziness and showmanship of the con now and feel awkward and sorry for the people who feel the need to dress up in outlandish costumes. That goes triple for the booth babes. At least they're getting paid, I suppose, but I don't see the constructive point of scantily-clad pirates in thigh-highs handing out fliers.

Aren't we better than this?

As it turns out, Carmen San Diego was in New York City last weekend. At least, I THINK that was meant to be a costume.

Yes, we are. But not here. That's MOCCA or SPX or APE, I suppose. NYCC, like San Diego Comic-Con and Chicago Comic-Con (or whatever Wizard World is trying so hard to hide themselves as this week) is a show about mass audience. Bring them all in. Pander to the horny fanboys.

It was awkward in the coat check line on Saturday morning when the teenage girl in front of me starting taking off her jeans. Where do you look when someone starts disrobing in front of you, exactly? As it turns out, she was exposing the world to -- her Poison Ivy costume. Her friend came dressed as Harley Quinn.

It takes an event like that to remind you of where you are.

This Watchmen thing seems to be catching on. I saw girlfriends carrying their new copies around at the show. I don't think they were merely acting as sherpas.

Rorschach was the costume to have, though, even moreso than Nurse Joker. At one point in the day, Marvel was giving something away and a throng of people huddled together in their booth, arms outstretched into the air. It was a sea of heads and hands. Sitting just above them all was Baby Rorschach: a boy not ten years old sitting on his father's shoulders, dressed in "Watchmen" costume. Does he have a clue? Did he just think the commercial/trailer looked cool? Or did Dad force him into the face mask and trench coat?

The End Is Nigh, indeed.

Silly Diddy. Only Doom can be King.

In any case, the place was sold out and breathing room was at a premium. Artists Alley was crowded at all times. It was slow going, and lots of artists from all corners of the comics world had people at their table. It was great to see, but also frustrating to walk through.

The worst of it was the autograph lines in the back of the hall. That's where they put the has-been media stars who charge their $5 for a signature or a picture. Roped off areas direct the lines. There's room for ten stars, but usually only a few are signing at any given time.

And there was always one or two that had an enormous line that stretched way past the roped-off areas and halfway up the hall, choking off traffic and blocking people who had to reroute themselves a long way around a line. This is an area that the convention organizers need to rethink for next year. Either have less lines and create snaking ways for people to take up less floor space, or cut off lines earlier.

I found solace in the fishbowl of the CBR Skybox, where not only could you look out over the ants marching up and down the aisle, but you could stretch your arms out and sit down and not worry about who would jostle you next. Plus, I got to talk to the CBR crew and meet new people and see old friends.

Conventions aren't for buying lots of stuff for me anymore. It's about seeing the people I only get to see once or twice a year or less. The convention is just an excuse. I'd just as soon rent out a restaurant for the day and invite a couple dozen comics friends and eat a couple of meals and talk all day about life, comics, work, show off original art or recent purchases, etc.

That said, I picked up a few things:

One of the biggest trends in comic cons continued, from a retail perspective: Cheap collected editions. The busiest dealers I saw had signs offering half price trades or $10 hardcovers. I picked up Dark Horse's "The Art of Bone" for $15 and the HERO Initiative's "Marvel: Then and Now" DVD for $5.

Over at the Top Shelf booth, I ran into "Korgi's" creator, Christian Slade, and grabbed the second volume from him. The first one was a bit surreal for me, but the art is undeniably beautiful, so I didn't think it was too big a risk to spend ten bucks on the second volume while I also picked up the "Owly" short story collection. (I was tempted by the "Owly" hardcover editions, but managed to restrain myself.)

"Kirby Krackle" is a CD of a geek band, produced and with co-writing credits by an old Friend In Comics, Jim Demonakos. You know him better from his recent appearance on "Webcomics Weekly" and as a founder of the Emerald City Convention.

I've been told that the "He-Man" statue in front of the entrance is a character named "Faker." Very subtle naming scheme, that.

The highlight of the day came near the end for me, though. I ran across the Cinebook booth. I've mentioned them a bunch of times on the podcast, but don't know that I've talked about them much in this column. They're a British publisher that licenses and translates the Franco-Belgian comics I'm always rooting for more of. I have a couple reviews of their material in the pipeline (pun intended), but getting the chance to pick up a couple of books, their catalog, and to talk to a translator there was a real thrill for me.

I grabbed "Largo Winch" volume 2 and "Scared To Death" Volume 1. The former was featured on the most recent "Comic Geek Speak: Exploring BD," and the second is drawn by Belgian favorite, Mauricet. I plan on picking up more, and even have a separate Amazon wish list devoted to the titles I want to stock up on.

There will be more BD comics reviewed in this space this year. That's one of my new New Year's Resolutions. I'm ret-conning that one in!

I can't explain this Hulk character. It's a guy in a costume on stilts, I presume. He looms about seven feet tall, and I caught him hanging outside the Marvel booth. He took swipes at anyone taking his picture, and had an electronic voice box that threatened all around him with how angry he was getting.

It was awesome.

Also awesome was the guy I saw walking around in his puffy Hulk costume. It came complete with the Hulk Hands. The problem came when he needed to scoop his backpack up off the floor. Imagine wearing Hulk Hands and trying to grab a backpack strap. The results were briefly comical.

Sadly, my pictures of him were not. I forgot to reset one of the settings and got nothing but blur. This one is the best shot I have. Keep it small and you likely won't notice it.

It was hard to get too many great pictures at the convention. There's no space to ever back up. There's no time in the hustle and bustle to stop and compose your shots. And the situations call for such different settings and lenses that it's tough to keep straight in your what everything that's going on with your camera.

Everyone had a camera. Every third person was carrying around a video camera, often with a shoulder harness, a boom mic, a ring light, or an LED light. I'm guessing this con will lead to hours of video podcasts on the net. If you've seen one, please send me a link.

Still, I'm betting more than half of those people carrying digital SLRs around had their cameras set to "P." They don't actually understand the power at their fingertips. They just think they're making better pics.

Here's an occupational hazard of a comic book convention in NYCC: It can be a bear to get a taxi for you, two employees, and a dozen long boxes.

The one thing I come out of this convention experience is that same thing that all conventions do: Re-energize me. I'm excited to read more comics and write more reviews again. I've read three graphic novels in the last three days, and plan on reviewing them all in the next month. I'm excited to put all this stuff out, and am trying to work out the best way to present it all.

This is a good problem to have. After a bit of a comics lull for me, personally, in the last month or two, I'm ready to get my head fully back in the game. I love comic conventions, even when I at times think I'm far too old and jaded for some of their trappings.

COPYRIGHT, FAIR USE, AND "HOPE"

The story of potential copyright infrigement just gets more and more interesting. I don't want to make this a weekly feature, but I do want to bring you up to date on what's happened since last week talked about it, a scant seven days ago:

The AP is now suing Shepard Fairey for using their image for his poster. The photographer is not taking sides, but isn't sure who owns the photo -- saying he never signed a contract with the AP, so the rights may still be his to sue over.

Sounds a little like the contracts creators signed by way of their paycheck endorsements forty years ago.

Fairey has been a busy boy, vandalizing things in the name of art. He was recently arrested on those charges.

He's also suing the AP to get a "fair use" judgment to end the case quickly. I guess he works best from jail?

And still we wait for a lawsuit like this against a comic book artist.

Next week: A slightly delayed look at the back half of the latest "Previews" catalog, and some reviews.

AugieShoots.com is currently showing pictures from the NYCC that didn't make this column. If you want to see kayakers in the Hudson or the city skyline or the moon over a skyscraper, keep checking AugieShoots.com for daily updates.

Don't forget to check out my Google Reader Shared Items this week. It's the best of my daily feed reading, now with commentary!

The Various and Sundry blog carries on, though still a little slowly in 2009.

My Twitter stream is like my public e-mail box. I check it daily, looking for responses and new conversational threads. Heck, you're more likely to hear back from me if you ask me something on Twitter than my own e-mail box.

You can e-mail me your comments on this column, or post them for all the world to see and respond to over on the Pipeline Message Board.

More than 800 columns -- more than eleven years' worth -- are archived here at CBR and you can get to them from the Pipeline Archive page. They're sorted chronologically.

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