5 Observations on Comics and Fandom from NYCC

Comic Books Events Geek Culture Movies Television

nycc-logo-hi-resI was one of the more than 150,000 people to descend upon NYC last weekend for New York Comic Con (NYCC), the biggest mass media conglomeration on the East Coast. This is what I learned.

Say what you will about San Diego Comic Con, but New York is really where true comics love resides. After all, New York is the birthplace of the American comic book industry and the stomping ground for some of the worlds most celebrated superheroes. NYCC has grown so fast that this year’s con even surpassed San Diego in attendance.

Its been argued that television and film have overtaken comics as the major draw to the big con’s these days. This is my fourth year in a row attending NYCC and I would argue on the contrary; Comics still reign supreme.

There is so much more to New York Comic Con than simply previewing the teasers for new movies and television episodes we’ll all be able to see in a month’s time. Beyond the star-studded panels moderated by Chris Hardwick with Michael Keaton, George Clooney and the cast of The Walking Dead, New York Comic Con is really a celebration of comics and fandom.

With that in mind, here are five observations I made at this years event…

1) Geek Girls are NOT a minority. It’s easy to say that female fandom is on the rise, but honestly, that’s an ignorant observation overlooking the simple truth that women have always been a major part of fandom. Looking over the NYCC panel schedule, featuring panels with titles like “Marry, Do or Kill? What Will it Take to Shatter Female Stereotypes in Comics?,” and cosplayers representing a new cast of great female superheroes like Ms. Marvel, Batgirl and the new female Thor, its not female fandom that’s on the rise, but rather, the acknowledgement of and respect for this fanbase by the industry. Finally, comic book publishers are starting to shed stereotypes and tropes and introduce great female characters. It’s a slow movement, but certainly one that is on the rise.

Even NYCC itself took strides to recognize that a change is necessary. As the topics of misogyny, intersectionality, sexual harassment and bullying are being discussed more openly within geek culture, NYCC took action by teaming with The Mary Sue to devise an anti-harassment initiative based on the idea that “cosplay is not consent.” As someone with two daughters who might someday want to attend the con with their dad, I for one fully endorse these strides.

Source: Marvel

2) Marvel embrace the wonderfully weird. Unlike DC, who prefers darker storylines, Marvel is consistently embracing the weird and fun side of the superhero genre. I’m in the camp of people who think comic books should be fun. Marvel gets it. Just look at Guardians of the Galaxy, the highest grossing movie of 2014, a film with which Marvel have proven that weird works. Marvel revealed a promise to keep comics weird at NYCC, unveiling a new run for The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl and hinting at a cosmic Kitty Pryde/Star Lord relationship. Thanks Marvel, for knowing what fans want and creating superhero comics that cosmically appeal to the diversities of the entire comics reading audience.

3) DC Comics are confused. New York is the comic book capital of the world, and until 2013, home to the industries two mega-publishers, Marvel and DC. Marvel still calls NYC home, but last year, DC Comics moved their operations to Burbank, CA. The move was an obvious shift towards pivoting against Marvel’s successful cinematic universe, but some, myself included, feared the step would make DC lose their focus on comics. Lo and behold, the NYCC show floor had one striking absence this year; No DC Comics booth. Sure, DC had a slew of scheduled panels, lots of writers and artists in attendance and a nice display of Batman suits to celebrate Batman’s 75th anniversary, but no booth to celebrate the comics themselves.

This all leads to a point I’ve been considering for some time. Batman and Superman are undoubtedly the most classic superheroes of any comics publisher ever. These two heroes are DC’s bread and butter, and despite DC’s physical absence, Scott Snyder’s incredible Batman series is consistently the best-selling comic month after month. Does DC need a physical presence on the show floor to succeed? No. Or at least not for their Batman titles to succeed. But what about their other characters? In order for Swamp Thing, Wonder Woman, The Flash, Cyborg and even Superman to succeed, DC needs to showcase these characters in more than panel discussions with a limited audience. Fans want to experience DC, meet writers at a DC booth and take pictures with DC icons on the show floor. Marvel does it big, and fans flock to their booth more than any other. With DC announcing their new slate of movies this week, and those titles including a new attempt at a Green Lantern film, DC had better take Marvel’s lead and start building the hype around the comic books themselves.

Source: DC Comics

4) Comics are truly everywhere. Arguments that Comic Con is not about the comics are clearly false. Television and movies are taking over comics just as quickly as comic books are absorbing those same mediums. Just look around. Every major movie and TV panel at NYCC was somehow based in the world of comics. The Walking Dead, Gotham, The Flash, Constantine, Daredevil and Powers TV series’ are all based on comic books. Michael Keaton’s Birdman is about a former superhero actor. Big Hero 6, based on a comic. Look at the other side of it and you’ll see that some of the big comic book news from the Con revolved around new licensed books spun from popular movies and TV shows including Rick and Morty, Bobs Burgers, Sleepy Hollow and more. Marvel announced a new comic book title based off of their upcoming Agent Carter television series as well as teasing the slew of new Star Wars titles the company is launching in 2015. Hell, even DC announced a fun and exciting new TV/comic crossover. They revealed a new graphic novel bringing to life Harlan Ellison’s unproduced script that would have introduced Two-Face into the sixties Batman television series. Cross pollination is alive and well in mass media, and lots of it is revolving around comics.

5) Image Comics can’t be beat. While Marvel and DC have countless superhero books running simultaneously, IDW and BOOM! are excelling at licensed crossovers and other companies are trying to stay original, the greatest, most consistent company out there is Image. Not only are Image Comics running the best sci-fi series on the rack with Brian K. Vaughan’s Saga, they also may have the second best with Jay Faerber’s new space-western, Copperhead. They certainly have the most provocative and interesting series with Matt Fraction’s Sex Criminals and now the scariest with Scott Snyder’s Wytches, the perfect book to read alongside Image’s other horror favorite, The Walking Dead. Image brought Copperhead to NYCC along with Ed Brubaker’s fantastic noir series Fade Out and a slew of other titles and creators. Simply walking past the Image booth was enough to say to myself, “wow, this really is the most creatively innovative publisher out there.” Looking for great comics? I recommend you start with Image.

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