Without a single exception, everyone who knew I was going to New York Comic Con this past weekend asked me what I was dressing up as.
The fight is over. The general public's view of any comic convention now is a costumed character parade.
On the bright side, it might be a half step up from the reactions I got 15 years ago: "A what? A convention for comedians? Oh, do they still make comics? Is it a bunch of guys coming out of Mom's basement to fight Star Trek versus Star Wars?"
I used to get frustrated that the outside media would focus on the costumes and miss all the comics stuff happening at a given convention. Since the kinds of conventions that such media focus on are already overrun with movies, video games, and television shows, we might as well concede the fight. You and I can have a pleasant little comics show somewhere in the back, while the tall dollars that convention organizers are looking for take up the rest of the floor with the loudest booths and the biggest panel rooms.
The cosplay thing has definitely grown in recent years. I'm convinced the percentage of the con-going public that's dressing up has doubled, at least. It's tough to tell, though, since the audience has drastically increased at the same time.
And you know what else? It's kind of fun. Heck, I don't recognize a lot of the costumes and I haven't seen the shows or read the comics that a lot of modern costumes are based on, but there's a great feeling of fun and fandom there that's tough to ignore.
I choose, instead, to have fun with it. I put on my photographer's hat and hit the floor.
PHOTOGRAPHERS AND COMIC CONVENTIONS
It's just as much a part of the comic book conventions today as cosplay and artist's alley and loud video game booths: The photographers. They're everywhere. It's gotten worse over the years, as photography has become a more affordable hobby and comic conventions are seen as a target-rich environment.
I'm as guilty as the rest of them, I suppose. Where once you could walk up and down the aisles with a point and shoot camera and get all the shots you want, today you have just as many people with cameras hung around their necks as there are people in cosplay.
There are even people shooting the show with their iPads. I believe the show organizers were doing that, too, partially because they could get the model release signed on the iPad after they took a picture.
The knowledge of the photographers has risen, too. I see more of them posing their subjects, taking various angles with their shots, and using lighting gear. I saw a lot of soft boxes and other light modifiers attached to flashes this year. I saw people walking around with cameras on tripods or long monopods, many of whom I suspect were shooting video.
It leads to bigger crowds and gang shoots amongst the costumed folks. The bottlenecks in the hallways aren't getting any better. I did the vast majority of my shooting in the widest hallways just inside the front door to the building. There was room to work in there, even amongst the crowds.
PIPELINE PHOTO PARADE
The following might read like a litany of excuses. It partially is. It's also a good look back as a photographer of things to keep in mind when taking pictures in the future. Consider this the photographer's post-mortem:
1. Unless you set up shop in a corner along a wall and bring the cosplayers to you, you're going to have a tough time controlling two of the most important things of any picture: The lighting and the background. And, yes, I did see a photographer or two setting up shop like that.
2. Sometimes, you have to take the best shot you can, recognizing that you're not going to get an artistic shot, but rather a "journalistic" one.
3. You can't beat the crowds. Don't try. If you're tall like me and have a good general idea of the lens you have attached to your camera, though, you can shoot over the crowds with decent success.
4. There are a million people doing photo parades now. The best way to stand out is with a theme. I had a couple in mind as I was shooting around that I might want to try another year:
- Characters on their cell phones.
- Characters from different universes. No two people from the same fictional universe are allowed in a picture together. They're often the most fun, as you'll see in this column.
- Cosplayers taking pictures of other cosplayers.
- Cosplay photobombers. (Pick a Deadpool, any Deadpool.)
I have examples of all of these ideas in the photo parade we'll get to next.
5. My wide angle lens (17 - 35mm) broke on me. It must have happened before the show, but I was very thankful I had my next widest lens on me as back-up, the 28-75mm. If you see some characters with cut-off feet, blame that last 11mm of wideness I lost.
6. Very closely related: You can't always stand far enough away from a subject and get their whole costume in the frame. Focus on details. Get the face when the cosplayer is a good actor or actress. Avoid them when they're distracted by ten cameras pointed at them or when they're annoyed that they're never going to get to the panel they were on their way towards.
To that end, there's always the necessary reminder that cosplayers are people, too. Thank them when you get the shot you wanted. Ask them before taking their picture. Don't sneak a shot of their butt or when they're eating. And if they really are trying to move on or are clearly working their way somewhere else, just let 'em go. There are ten more with time on their hands ready to pose for you.
Also, if your buddy is using your phone to take pictures of you with Power Girl, don't wrap your arm around her waist so tightly. Look, don't touch, OK, guys?
At the end of the day, I saw a woman in a Chewbacca costume. My first thought was that it's the perfect costume to guarantee you won't be groped as a woman at a convention. Then I realized that even Wookies are likely "a thing" for someone at a place like that. I shuddered and moved on.
On with the photos. . .
I FOUND HIM!
This is a shot from the top of the stairs at one end of the Jacob Javitz Convention Center around the middle of the afternoon. There's a lot to see in here. In the bottom left corner, there's a green skinned woman with crazy hair. In the middle, there's an X-Woman, perhaps Kitty Pryde, from the early 1980s. Just above her, some Power Rangers are standing across from some Mario Bros. folks next to the Tardis. (This is the closest you're getting to a Doctor Who picture from me, though.)
But, wait, what's up there in the crowd in the upper right corner?
Zoom in and enhance, CSI!
I FOUND WALDO!
My convention is complete.
I FOUND CREATORS, TOO!
I saw a lot of them. Artist's Alley is impressive at NYCC. I just didn't talk to that many of them this year. No time. Two highlights:
This is Steve Uy, whose "Feather" and "Eden's Trail" I recently reviewed here. I got to play with the demo of his forthcoming iOS game on an iPod Touch. It's impressive. It'll take you a few minutes to get used to, but the mechanics of it are fairly straightforward.
And this is Jimmie Robinson, for whom NYCC was his first trip to the east coast. I explained to him the major difference that the sun rises over the ocean instead of setting on it.
I hung out for a while talking to him and the "Five Weapons" fans that came by for autographs and to pick up the trade. A couple of them discovered the series through Pipeline and/or CBR Reviews. There's no better feeling than the validation one gets from meeting people who took your advice and found a new book to enjoy. Thanks to one and all.
RAPID FIRE GALLERY PICTURES
Impressive makeup and costuming. He was, I told him, the whitest guy at the convention. I thought I had that title wrapped up. Oh, well.
I saw one other "Cowboy Bebop"-themed group, but I think this one had them beat. I've never been a big anime fan, but "Cowboy Bebop" hits all the right buttons for me.
Shortly after taking this picture, DC Editorial whisked the cosplayer away and told me I'd have to retake the picture.
CBR's skybox. Through the glass on the right side you can see my CBR Reviews editor, Steve Sunu, and Pipeline's editor, Steve Gerding.
I saw lots of signs being held up at the convention this year. Must be a new thing. These were the funniest.
By far, my favorite Loki on the show. When I asked for a picture, she went straight to her poses. Photographer's dream!
The Voltron behind her was a bit distracting, though.
A random assortment of costumes, backed up by all the social media icons you could ask for in 2013.
Two Venoms. Lots of tongue.
Honestly, I don't know what the knights here are from. In retrospect, I'm too distracted by the Sailor Moon guy with the impressive abs on the far right just behind them.
Kids in cosplay are ridiculously cute.
Shredder wins. I found an April O'Neil cosplayer later. Too bad I couldn't bring them all together for the saddest cosplay pic ever.
It's like Neal Adams was drawing this Mr. T. He got along well with Harley Quinn. Again, the background cosplayer on the far left threatens to steal the scene.
Harley was awesome. She stayed in character because she was having fun.
Yes, this is Mr. T screaming, "Welcome to Comic-KHAAAAN!" There is video of this moment. I hope he posts it on-line someday.
Greaser Justice League? Awesome stuff.
From a pure photographic standpoint, this might be my favorite picture of the day. Gandalf the Gray in black and white looks like a classic film-era grainy shot. In real life, the background was bright red and distracting.
Would it be a CBR Photo Parade without a Storm Trooper?
Batman interviewing two Power Girls -- wait, is that a "Saga" cosplayer in the upper left corner?
Teen Titans types were very popular.
Sharknado: 2013's Snakes on a Plane.
Pretty good Scarecrow, but Pimp Deadpool threatens to steal the scene from behind.
Adventure Time! I've never watched the show, have no interest in it, but I know it sells comics like hot cakes and will get me 100 extra hits on this column for including them. Off to the right, you can see a Pikachu cosplayer.
The men of 300 attracted a large number of the woman in attendance to have their pictures taken.
Not comics, I know, but how can I pass up a "Spaceballs" cosplay? He's his own best friend! But, wait, it IS comics: That's Starman walking behind them to the right.
This is a rejected photo reference from Alex Ross' next DC cover, isn't it? And is that Rikki Barnes in the background? Rob Liefeld characters were everywhere at this show.
This is Spider-Woman taking a picture of DC's Trinity, as a female Wolverine and Rogue walk by on the left.
There's a political cartoonist's take on the industry here, with a Rob Liefeld character photobombing a DC character photo op. Somehow, that works.
Going a little wider, you get a better sense of Deadpool's rubber chicken, plus a cameo from Spider-Man with his iPhone wrapped around his arm.
That same Deadpool then photobombed this family of Deadpool cosplayers themed out to Super Mario Bros. Love it.
If there's ever another Marvel/DC crossover, I bet this won't be a panel in it at all.
I have more pictures. We'll do Part Two of this Parade next week, which includes lots of X-Men, disembodied heads, cars, Predator, and more Deadpool, I'm sure.
There was some exciting news breaking at NYCC that I'll cover next week. Some of it is very cool, indeed. NYCC is starting to challenge the convention in San Diego for the mindshare of the comics community.
Here's the comparison I've had rolling around in my mind this weekend: Before Comic-Con International: San Diego starts, comic companies make all their announcements so as not to get lost in the convention. Before this convention in New York, comic publishers tease the products they plan to announce at the show. In a weird way, NYCC is more of a comics show than San Diego, just because Hollywood isn't saving their announcements and flying their entire casts across the country for it. Food for thought.