Monday, February 27, 2006

New York Comic Con...DISASTER!!

I hated the New York Comic Convention this past weekend.

Absolutely hated it.

I had high hopes for the show. I really would love to have a quality convention once a year within a few hours of home. It would be much more convenient and much less expensive than the airfare and a hotel room in San Diego, Chicago et al.

This show though...this show sucked.

I arrived at the Javitz Center around 4:00 on Friday afternoon to get my badge and walk the floor for a bit to get the lay of the land. There were a couple of impressive lines of people waiting to pick up their badges or register, depending on the line they happened to be standing in. As a professional appearing at the show, I'm accustomed to being able to find the professional booth, show my ID, and get my credentials with no fuss or no muss. Not so at the NYCC, where after asking around I quickly learned that professionals had been grouped in with online preregistrations. Annoyed, I waited in line for over an hour for a badge that at any other show in the world would have taken no more than five minutes to obtain.

Note to the convention staff: A great part of the reason people come to these shows is to meet the professional writers and artists. Most of us don't get paid to appear at your show, we do it as a way to network with other professionals and, more importantly, to provide a thank you to fans for shelling out their money for our work. You might want to put a little more thought into making our presence feel a little more appreciated. You are making money off of us, after all.

Once on the convention floor, I was quickly struck by how claustrophobic and cramped the hall was. The room was built to be long and narrow and the booths were not widely spaced apart, leaving thin 'halls' between them that already felt crowded, even with the room being only filled to about half capacity. It took all of fifteen minutes to get up and down every aisle, there was little to see.

Nonetheless, I enjoyed catching up with many aquaintances in the few hours I was there. Saturday though...Saturday was the nightmare.

When I arrived on Saturday, even though I already had my badge, I wasn't allowed into the hall. Instead, I was shunted into an enormous line of several thousand people waiting to get into the hall, all of them with their badges too. I tried to explain to the security guard that I was already late to my first signing of the day at the DC Comics booth fifteen feet behind him but he, obviously following orders and unable to think for himself, insisted that I go to the far end of the building to the end of the line with everybody else. The convention staff seemed to be unprepared for the fact that people actually showed up to their show and didn't know how to handle the turn out.

What started out as chaotic quickly got worse when, a couple of hours later the NYC fire marshall shut the show down because it was filled beyond capacity. No one was allowed in to the convention hall. If you left the floor, you weren't allowed back in. At one point, there was a line of seven thousand people waiting up to six hours to actually get into the show. It was ridiculous.

Meanwhile, on the inside of things, moving around was much like trying to swim through a can of sardines, complete with that delicious smell. Comic fans can be a gamey, sweaty lot at times. The narrow halls were basically shoulder to shoulder with people trying to move around. Foot traffic was slow and by mid afternoon, frustrated and annoyed, I basically decided I no longer wanted to be there. I packed up my things, grabbed my coat, and hit the door, tossing my badge into the trash as I went. Enough was enough, at least for me. I have better things to do and, after a three hour drive, made it home in time to put my son to bed.

Not that the weekend was a total waste. Friday evening, I enjoyed a fine meal with Firestorm editor Mike Siglain, writer Stuart Moore, and fellow artist Jamal Igle. I had never met Stuart of Jamal before and had a good time talking and getting to know both of them a little bit. It's always fun to trade war stories and hear different perspectives on this little business.

On Saturday, I also took a big step towards solidifying some writing work with another company. That should all get firmed up and started over the next couple of weeks. And I do enjoy meeting many of the fans who just want to say hi, chat about comics, and grab a sketch. That's what makes the show fun.

The rest of it though...what a waste.


Brad-Brown said...

On the plus side the large number of participants sounds like a good indicator for the industry. Hopefully anyway. Wish I would have actually showed up then and we could have ditched the show and headed out to this Brazillian place on w49TH.

MrNinja said...

Proper planning and tactics are essential for any mission or event to be a success.
I suggest you use your unbridled Brazilian JJ powers next time. It will go good with the Brazilian food you'll have afterwards.