by Glenn Matchett
Hello boys and girls! Back to update my (currently) ongoing life as an Irish fan boy. We zipped all the way to the present in my previous chapters (go read them if you haven’t, they’re awesome! Trust me, I wouldn’t lie to you) so it seemed that I had come to an end. In fact I look at it more like I ended at the beginning of a hopefully very long and prosperous career in comics. I intended to do at least one of these per year as a semi auto-biographical perspective on my Grayhaven and other comic stories as they progress and something happened I felt warranted a new Irish Fanboy article. Something I’ve thought about my whole life but never got to do.
I went to New York Comic Con this year to help out at the GrayHaven booth and meet some of my oldest friends, some talented up and comers, some of my creative heroes and generally enter fan boy utopia.
I’ll warn you all in advance this will be VERY lengthy and there will be points where I will not be able to contain my fan boy giddiness. If you’re prepared for a long tale full of star studded guests, great people, cosplayers, lots and lots of walking and lots and lots of standing then grab your overpriced confections and join me!
I have wanted to go to a comic convention when I first learned about their existence. I actually had been pretty ignorant of comic cons for many years until I joined the Jinxworld forums and got exposed to the larger comic world the internet offered. Previously mentioned in prior (awesome) installments the comic fan base here in Northern Ireland is pretty small and we only have one comic shop with woeful customer service. There would be small conventions involving video games or manga and sometimes TV or comic celebrities would come to do signings at said woeful comic shop. I actually met actress Amber Benson a number of years ago (name drop #1!) at the comic shop and I believe comic pro and Gathering contributor and early supporter Gail Simone is headed there too.
However there were no conventions. The closest one for many years was the ones held in England until the emergence of Dublin comic con. Every year I would hype myself to go and then I simply…wouldn’t. I can’t explain why, I just didn’t go. I think in my mind I wanted to go to the major American cons first and experience it in a big way. My goal was San Diego comic con which not only offered a lot of comic stuff but also general media too. Previous readers will know how much I love my films and my awesome television shows so San Diego offered a sampling of three of my major passions. The only problem there was the cost and the fact that I didn’t really have anyone interested in going with me. I despise travel as people who know me well will already be aware of and I hate traveling alone. I even channeled my hatred of flying into a story for the third installment of GrayHaven’s upcoming Tales Of The Abyss Horror anthology. I kept putting it off and for many years I would hate myself more and more for not going.
Last year was really the straw that broke the camel’s back. It was the first year GrayHaven had a major presence at NYCC and I wanted desperately to go. I could travel with fellow editor and Southern Irishman James O’Callaghan from Dublin for company and help out the company who I owe so much to. Sadly due to my job (the boring one, not the real one) I couldn’t get the correct dates off at work and I missed out.
I will never forget sitting in my day job on the first day of New York Comic Con 2011 and staring at my work computer and how I felt. I was in terrible form and I can’t begin to describe how awful I felt. I sat there and I knew that I didn’t care if America was invaded by Daleks or zombies or sentient coffee mugs I was going to be at New York comic con 2012. The stars aligned, I booked the dates early and I saved like a demon and I managed to shape my family holiday around my first con ever.
I had never been to a con so I read up on as many tips as I could. Some advice was very good but I don’t think anything I read could prepare me for what I was about to experience in person.
I’ll share some tips here briefly. I’m sure most people reading this have been to a major comic convention so feel free to skip the next few bullet points but in case you haven’t here’s some stuff I found incredibly helpful in advance and some stuff I learned the hard way.
- Bring lots of drinks. Drinks at the con are expensive and I don’t know if it was the heat or the air conditioning but I was constantly thirsty. There were several hours where I was seriously considering cold blooded murder for a drink. Thankfully some of my fellow Grayhaven friends came to me with drinks and it was a God send. I thought I brought enough to last me but I didn’t on the first day. So yes lots of liquids.
- When taking photos of cosplayers it’s always polite to ask first. I saw some people taking pictures of people from a distance and it seemed slightly creepy to me. Most cosplayers were more than happy to pose for photos when I asked. I didn’t dream of doing it without asking first.
- When taking photos try to do it out of the way. It was madness enough trying to make it across the floor without a group of people stopping to take photos and disrupting the flow of human traffic.
- Try not to bring too much stuff with you. If you’re anything like me you’ll buy on top of the stuff you brought and you’ll be weighed down like nobody’s business. My left shoulder was killing me by the first day and most of the stuff I brought I’d left at the hotel in an attempt to spread the load out. Next time I go I will definitely not bring as much, carrying the bag around all day was murder.
- Stuff I did bring with me though was limited during to travel weight. I would literally bring one comic for someone to sign and someone would come with like 50 comics in boxes for one creator. Try not to be greedy with a creator’s time. Bring 2-3 issues that really mean something to you and let everyone else have their turn.
- More on this later but ask the right people to get directions. Best to ask a fan who’s been there a few days. I can’t tell you how many people we helped find artist alley this year (more on this in a bit). Or, better yet, bring your map. You should get in your NYCC convention guide and use that.
- Buy some stuff from up and comic creators. There were amazingly talented people just sitting there while the que’s for the bigger names were a mile long. Some of my favorite pieces I purchased were by people I’d never heard of and they seemed more than willing to speak with a fellow up and coming creator. Much like Grayhaven comics a lot of these people depend on cons to make sales so if you go to see your favorite creator and there’s a massive line take some time to explore some new talent and give them some money.
- Several times I went to artist ally to speak with writer Dan Slott. His table was seemingly always vacant and the poor guy next to him seemed to only be approached by fans asking when Dan Slott would be back. I remember feeling really sorry for him as he’s obviously there trying to make a living and he was being used largely as an information hub. Try not to do that. If the creator isn’t there and the info isn’t on their table just leave it a few hours and come back. I did this several times with Slott, sadly I always missed him but there’s always next year!
- If a creator is doing a signing at a particular time be there at least 30 minutes early. More on this later.
- If you buy anything keep an eye on it. I set something down and walked away. My own stupid fault, just be careful of your belongings
Upon arriving I was absolutely blown away. I stepped inside the Javitz Center and saw the New York Comic Con sign, a massive poster for the Walking Dead TV show and a troll made out of lego and I knew I was going to enjoy myself.
I’ve been posting on Jinxworld for over six years and many of my fellow Gathering contributors I met on that forum. I consider them all very good friends but previously I had only met James and his lovely girlfriend Christina (who was also present at the con) and I was nervous as hell. I won’t lie I was worried about meeting these people.
I worried that perhaps in person I would not be able to make the same connection to these people as I did online. To be blunt I was worried about embarrassing myself in front of people I like a great deal and some who I admire creatively quite a bit.
Meeting up with those people (along with Sean’s girlfriend Sarah) was like I’d known them my whole life. I have known them for many years and it wasn’t awkward or difficult or anything. It was like we’d spent time at Grayhaven tower in person the day before and we were just meeting up to do business at the con. Soon to arrive after was our boss and the man who all of us owe so much to. Meeting Andrew Goletz was a great experience and I’m glad I got to thank him in person for all he’s done for me and he put up with a man hug from me.
We set up and were good to go. We went to lunch because the con had a few hours before the general population would be allowed in and on the way out I even saw comic internet journalist Rich Johnston (name drop #2!) I wish now I’d gone over and said hello. I saw him a few more times at the con (usually in the one good wi-fi zone near artist ally on his laptop) and should have said hello. He’s been very good to us at GrayHaven and gave me some good advice when I was starting out a number of years ago.
I’ll get you next time Johnston, nexxxxxt tiiiiime!
When the doors opened and the con came alive I felt like Charlie after entering the chocolate factory. It was crazy (or so I thought, turned out I didn’t know crazy yet) and the con started to call to me. It started to go ‘Pssst, hey Glenn, come explore’ after assurances from Andrew I was good to go I went.
Comic con had really started and here’s where I’ll cover a few lowlights and highlights.
First thing I’ll talk about is the bad. The crowd of people on Thursday was sizeable, like a busy day in our largest city Belfast times ten. Some of my fellow Grayhaven staff members assured me this was considered ‘quiet’ and I naturally thought they were having me on.
Friday was more insane and Saturday there was serious issues moving 5 feet never mind across the floor to get to all the different areas. Here’s a photo I took on Friday before it started to get really crazy and it’s just a drop in the ocean.
By Saturday I gave up on pictures and tried to merely survive. It was a little overwhelming and I hid most of my last day there at the Grayhaven booth and had a much better experience sitting, trying to sell comics and watching the world go by rather than make my way through the sea on people.
Second some of the creators came off disappointingly rude. I won’t name names and I’m not really annoyed. I was feeling antsy by Saturday so I could only imagine what these guys were feeling. I don’t blame them for being sharp or flat-out rude. In particular one artist who had constant long lines finally had nobody there so I took the opportunity to get something signed and maybe tell them how much I loved their art. I’m not sure about other up and coming comic writers but I personally have made kind of a mental list of people I’d like to work with some day and this was one of those people. I eagerly handed him the comic and without turning to look at me or stopping the conversation with the person at the booth beside him he signed it and handed it back without uttering a word. Kind of saddened me.
The worst was a booth shared by two creators of a quite popular comic which I got gifted to me and adored. I wanted to buy a fantastic print they were offering. I stood at the booth with the cash in my hand and stood silently in front of the artist while they looked down at their phone for several moments. After a while I said ‘Excuse me, can I purchase one of the prints?’ without looking up the creator in question said ‘Not right now, I am just the artist. Leave me be.’ So I took my money and walked away.
Not all sunshine and roses sadly. Of course with the bad came the good. I met an actual real life former Doctor (as in Who) in Peter Davidson who played the 5th incarnation of the time lord. I spent time with fellow editor Doug to meet him and had a fantastic morning speaking with one of the nicest people I’ve ever met. He’s an amazingly talented writer and I encourage everyone to pick up his upcoming one shot ‘My Geek Family’ along with GrayHaven artist Donal Delay. I’ve read the script and if there’s any justice in the world this will be a comic picking up a lot of praise and awards. Get in at the ground level and say you were there at the start before it’s the cool thing all the kids (and adults) are reading. I also got to meet his super nice wife Tina who offered to geek out with me on all things Who and Sherlock related. I also told her about a super secret project I’m hoping to see print next year and she said she loved it so she gets huge thumbs up from me.
While waiting for Peter Davidson I also got to see Christopher Lloyd step out to a huge round of applause and him being sincerely touched by it. I would have loved to have met him and also actor Sean Astin who was also there but their lines were super long and I didn’t want to spend too much time away from the table. It was great to see them both though.
Meeting Peter Davidson was great. He was very nice, very brief but that’s probably because his line was ever growing. Both Doug and I got to quiz him on the 50th anniversary of Doctor Who which he pleaded ignorance about with a smile that said different. At the same time I also got to meet actor Phil LaMarr who voiced not only Green Lantern on JLU but does a lot of animated voices for Futurama. Regular readers will know these are my two favorite animated shows of all time. He chatted to me for a good bit and was super nice and I got to talk to him for 10 minutes almost about my frustration about waiting for Futurama and JLU to be available in the UK. If you’re a fan and he’s at a con you’re going to he’s well worth tracking down to have a chat with.
I got to also meet some of my favorite comic creators in artist alley. I loved artist alley because while still pretty busy it wasn’t as crazy as the main floor and there was tones of talented people selling prints at very reasonable prices. I got prints and had great conversations with both Mark Bagley and Dustin Ngyugn especially the latter who quizzed me all about Northern Ireland and was a great pleasure to talk to. I had brought a comic to sign but the print I got he signed so that was more than good enough for me.
I got to also meet artist Luke Ross who had a great run on Spider-Man when I first became a fan and I got to tell him how much I enjoyed his art. I also talked to Jim Calafiore and complimented him on the success of his and Gail Simone’s kickstarter and how much I was anticipating their upcoming independent record breaking project Leaving Metropolis
I got to meet some of my favorite writers too including Bill Willingham. Due to weight restrictions I actually had neglected to bring Fables for him to sign but he was generous enough to sign my NYCC souvenir guide.
I also got an autograph and picture from Peter David who a number of years ago I sent an e-mail to asking about writing advice. Not only did he reply but he said some very nice stuff that meant a lot to me. I got to tell him how his advice has led to my work with Grayhaven and how much it meant to me. He also shared an antidote from his latter run on Spider-Man which I greatly appreciated.
Another creator I had hoped to meet and got to have a nice chat with was artist Lee Weeks. Recently he’s done stints on Daredevil, Amazing Spider-Man and in the past done work on Hulk. I am a huge fan of a mini-series he both wrote and drew called ‘Spider-Man: Death and Destiny’ which is not only one of my favorite comics ever but a criminally underrated mini-series. Talking to Lee Weeks was an easy con highlight and I got to see some awesome stuff I can’t even talk about which makes me super excited for something he’s doing next year.
Creators I didn’t get to meet but really wanted to included Tim Sale who sadly couldn’t make the con, Dan Slott and his invisibleness and Tom DeFalco.
I did manage to run into Jeph Loeb (who I didn’t know was going to be there) and shake his hand and got to tell him how much a big fan I was. It was a running meeting and I’m sure he had forgotten me as soon as he turned away but it was great.
Another one I loved meeting for all of 3 seconds was Robert Kirkman and I got to shake his hand as he walked past me (Doug is my witness on this). He was a creator I was very eager to meet but it was easier said than done. First I had to stand in a line at 10AM and get a ticket so I could stand later in ANOTHER line to meet him. Well I did and I stood and stood annnnnd I stood. 40 minutes I stood standing to the same spot with a heavy bag on my shoulder and the heat nearly killing me and I didn’t move one inch. I eventually gave up and will just be happy I got to shake the man’s hand.
Of course I did meet a bunch of new talent in Artist alley and at the Grayhaven booth. I can’t explain how exciting it is to sit there with an up and coming artist showing you a portfolio and eager to work for any company. I saw some amazing talent during my time at NYCC, some of which I think will blow our readers minds when they see it.
I also saw some fantastic cosplay. Most of my pics are from the first day when it was quieter and my picture taking didn’t disrupt traffic too much. There were some I really wanted photos of but didn’t get a chance due to the crowd of people around them. Although I didn’t get any photos of them the most popular cosplay was Bane (both Nolan and comic versions) and 11th Doctor’s but mostly girls in the role. One particular cosplay highlight was a fantastic 10th Doctor who in character assured he had met me before but that hadn’t happened for me yet.
I also got to meet a lot of our talented creators who work so hard. Each and every one of them are amazingly talented and I got great pleasure meeting fantastically talented Grayhaven writers like Camille Dewing, Sean Leonard, Travis Holyfield, Corrina Lawson and some of our amazing artists like Dillon McGuire, Chris Page, Scott Sackett, Leigh Wells, George Amaru and of course Amanda Rachels. I bought amazing commissions from the latter three at a steal of a price. These guys are super talented and if you see them at a convention don’t miss out and get them to draw you something; I guarantee you won’t regret it.
There were two easy highlights for me at New York Comic Con. First was the editorial staff and how nice they were.
Andrew Goletz, Doug Hahner, Ray Goldfield, James O’Callaghan, Erica Heflin, Marc Lombardi are all people I’ve been friends with for years. Some of them I consider some of my closest friends. They were nicer in person than I could have ever imagined. Each and every one of them are amazingly talented and work harder than they’re given any credit for. I want to particular mention Andrew, Doug and Ray who along with James I’ve known the longest on the board and I was glad to see they were as awesome as they see online.
Some of my favorite moments at the con were talking with Erica, Marc, James, Ray, Doug and Andrew. It greatly saddens me that I simply can’t go into an office on Monday and see them all. I hate travel but spending time with those people would make double the trip worth it. They’re the unsung heroes of Grayhaven and without them I would never have been at NYCC. I owe them all so much more than I can ever say in words.
My second highlight was a very bitter sweet moment and sums up how crazy Comic Con can be in one story. It was the first day and while looking around I decided to look for the autograph section where I would later meet Peter Davidson and Phil Lamarr. People would continually ask us at the booth where artist alley was because it was so damn far away (I often joked with people to make sure they had plenty of supplies cause it was far). Well the autograph section was like that. I just knew it was on the bottom floor. I spent nearly an hour and a half looking for it, asking staff for directions and being sent continually the WRONG way.
When I finally found it was of course empty. The signees wouldn’t arrive until Friday.
Bugger, all that for nothing.
Or so I thought.
Walking back I decided to look outside the panel doors and I saw a group of people. Glancing over I knew I recognized one of them. It was Scott Snyder, the writer of Batman who might be doing the best run of all time.
I didn’t know what to say. I had set something out for him to sign on the off chance I met him but had left it at home. I knew it was do or die so I politely walked over and asked for a picture. He looked puzzled and said ‘with me?’ like he was ignorant of what he was doing with a character I loved so much.
I talked with him for nearly 10 minutes and he was really nice and it was SUPER awesome. I even made a poor Superman gag that he generously laughed at before I was aware of his official work on the character. I even got in the photo with him which is rare for me.
I’ll let you guys decide who is who.
Soon he had to go and I shook his hand and then someone else walked past me who had been standing there the entire time.
It was too late though. He was gone. So happy to meet and talk to Scott Snyder I completely blanked possibly the best and most popular artist in the industry and the man who drew my second favorite Batman story ever.
You’d think it would only happen in comedy movies but no it happened to me.
New York Comic Con had its ups and downs. By the end of day 3 I was headed to the airport, annoyed an item I had misplaced was lost forever and glad to get away from the crowds.
I vowed never again.
Sitting in the taxi I looked back at New York though and I knew I would never forget it and I realized how fantastic my 3 days I had been.
I thought about what I would have available in my name the following year and the awesome people I met and the ones I didn’t get to meet.
I knew then I didn’t regret coming. I knew then that next year I would do my best to do it all over again.
It was crazy, it was exhausting and it was an experience I will never forget. The next 350 or so days can’t go quickly enough.
Coming In December: Writing comics years 2 and 3.