Guest editorial by Tom Tormey
New York Comic Con took place this past weekend and, for the fifteen consecutive year, I was in attendance. Conventions of this size are rare in New York these days so, when they come around, it’s always a major event. However, like any con, regardless of size and media attention, there are always laudable aspects and areas of need of improvement.
How Safe Was NYCC 2021?
The show returned to an in-person event after going virtual in 2020 due to the global pandemic, so let’s start with that. The event was organized so that all attendees were as safe as possible. Proof of vaccines or negative COVID-19 tests were required from all regardless of status; from exhibitors on down. Rumors were circulating, and ultimately confirmed, that an exhibitor refused to comply with the mandated regulations and was booted out of the show. Although, any regulations, no matter how well managed, can’t stop the virus, they did a great job of mitigating any potential outbreaks by enforcing mask wearing and vaccines.
NYCC 2021: Artists Alley
Artists Alley was organized well. It was great to see so many amazing talents in one place. My sons and I always visit Art Balthazar from Aw Yeah Comics to pick up his latest work and get a commissioned piece. Despite the first two or three rows operating under dim lighting compared to the rest of the artists, it seemed like everyone was having a great time. Even the longest of lines wasn’t too bad. James Tynion’s line, the longest line by far, was comparable to the Chucky truck giving out “ice scream” on the main floor. That’s not an inditement of Tynion’s popularity but rather a compliment to the speed and organization of the lines at the event.
I was able to connect with several artists and writers throughout the show. I can’t recall a time when so many independent comic companies were apart of the show. Regardless, it was great to meet and support them. I picked up quite a few books, way more than my wife knows about (until the credit card bill comes)! Since the event I was able to keep the connection with these artists going through social media, a skill that many picked up during lockdown and the subsequent quarantines.
NYCC 2021: The Fans
Needless to say (but I will anyway) everyone at the show was super cool and chill. Everyone seemed happy to share their passion for comic culture with each other. I attended the event solo on Saturday but every queue I was on became an opportunity to connect with a fan. Cosplayers were everywhere and they were awesome. Genuinely, one of the best showings of cosplay I’ve encountered at any event.
NYCC 2021: What Was Missing?
Not everything about the show was praiseworthy. That included the noticeable absence of the major comic publishers. Marvel, DC, Image and Dark Horse did not have a noticeable presence at the show. HBO MAX was present to promote season three of Doom Patrol and Audible was there to promote the Sandman audio series but that was it from DC. Marvel, Image and Dark Horse were all but absent. With DC’s FanDome around the corner and Disney getting ready for Disney Plus Day in November it’s no surprise that they sat this one out, but for Image and Dark Horse not to seize the moment seemed ill advised. Perhaps with the current state of the world they thought being a part of a con was not in their best interest which is understandable.
NYCC 2021: The Meet and Greets
I usually avoid meet and greets at large conventions. Smaller shows allow for a level of intimacy in the interactions with the guests that larger cons can not replicate. A buddy of mine and I met Jon Bernthal at Monster Mania in NJ when The Walking Dead first took off. He was amazing. He took the time to talk with my friend and I for some time before he had to move on. We still talk about it to this day.
This year at NYCC my wife surprised our fourteen year old son with a chance to meet one of his cinematic heroes, Hayden Christianson. Those who paid for a picture were organized and placed into several groups. It was quite a sight to see. I hadn’t been in such a large group for over two years. I was a bit nervous so my family and I did everything we could to properly social distance. We waited in line for an hour, which considering the number of people present, wasn’t that bad. When the time came to take a picture we were in and out before any of us really had a chance to take in the experience. Luckily my son didn’t have the same reservations that I did and was floating on cloud nine. I don’t see us doing something like that again.
NYCC 2021: The Anime Intruders
In the absence of the big publishers, anime rose up to fill the vacuum and the space. The Funimation and Dragon Ball Z pavilions easily occupied a third of the main floor. I can see why people like anime and manga as much as they do. I can see the value in it, both creatively and financially. However, it was an abhorrent use of the floor’s space. Usually there are two sports cars with superheroes on them and a giant Gieco RV which I’m glad were gone. I guess these pavilions took over that space and whatever space the big publishers would’ve taken. I believe there’s an Anime Expo in the next few weeks here in NY that would’ve been perfect for these guys, but not here.
NYCC 2021: Was it Worth It?
My oldest son said, “This is worst Comic Con I’ve gone to but I had the best time.” I couldn’t have said it better. The event as a whole didn’t live up to previous standards set by Reed Pop but in the vacuum caused by the presence of so much anime and the absence of the big publishers we filled it with things we normally wouldn’t have done. All in all, it was a fun show but it needs a lot of work.
Tom Tormey is a a contributing writer for Spoiler Magazine and a 21 year veteran of the NYC Department of Education. You can find him online at @cosmiccomichistory on TikTok and Instagram