New York Comic Con 2009

Reported by Jilly Gee and Linda Yau
Photographs by Eric M. Chu and Linda Yau

First day of NYCC

After a very cold week in New York City, the Jacob Javits Center was host to the fourth New York Comic Con. Similar to San Diego’s Comic Con, NYCC is the East Coast’s representation of this American tradition. NYCC welcomes all types of fans, so there was programming suitable for industry professionals, video gamers, science fiction lovers, fantasy enthusiasts, Japanese animation, cosplayers, and even children.

This was the Journal of Lincoln Height’s first time attending the NYCC, which is also a companion con to the New York Anime Festival.

New York City is one of the best locations for conventions and NYCC is among the top five most-attended conventions in New York City. There is talk of expanding the subway line, but with budget cuts and such, it is so far just idle talk, making travel to the convention a trek from the subway, then foot. Easier traveling could be had with the buses, which unfortunately are few and far between on the weekends. There was a shuttle service that was provided by the convention with the schedule of the times and drop off points printed in the convention booklet and billboard. I didn’t see the shuttle though, so I relied on public transportation and my own two feet, which after three days, felt like they were about to fall off, along with my hands and back.

Prior to the convention, I resolved to be more proficient in con survival, which meant having several bottles of water handy, some cash, wearing comfy walking shoes, and definitely carrying a backpack. I ended up doing without some of those, but having to spend big bucks for the food at the convention center.

This was the line to the ATM in the Dealer’s Room.

I was able to pick up my professional badge on Thursday, and press badge on Friday. On Friday, before the convention was opened to the public, there was a morning of professional interest panels. One professional panel I attended was “Newsflash: Teen Girls Read Manga!” I attended this panel with Eric, who is a professional freelance photographer. He took this shot of the panel of speakers.

Courtesy of Eric M. Chu

The purpose of this panel was to introduce the topic that a large percentage of manga readers are made up of females. Even a majority of publication editors are mostly females, but within comic book industry, is there a possibility to appeal to female readership? Many of the panelists were fed up with American comics not being targeted for women, so they have turned to Japan’s publications. There was a consensus that if the reader was a fan of graphic novels currently, then they would most likely be a fan for a long time to come.

These were points brought up by the panel:

  • Is manga starting to be a term for female readership?
  • Would josei be a possibility for current readers of shoujo manga to advance into as they grow older?
  • Teenage readers are always changing, and the market needs to find books to fit their tastes.
  • A call for the comic industry to learn from the manga industry, since fandom is very female driven. Would they want to drive away a readership population?
  • While there are many manga creators, there is no countable number of comic creators being female.

Many panelists enjoyed reading stories where heroines were able to surpass glass ceilings. Suppli was an example of good manga for 20 to 30 year-olds. This is good for the Sex and the City fans. Unfortunately, there is no English release for it. Viewers of Japanese dramas should know the dramatization title of this manga to be Sapuri. Would there be a future trend of American female readers and the industry realizing that there is a market for that type of graphic novel then?

Following this panel, I went to the dealer’s room, where I picked up more than a few books. Interesting news is that I saw Sherrilyn Kenyon’s Dark Hunter series getting the graphic novel treatment. I wrote an earlier review of one of her books.

Then for several more hours, I got sidetracked by the Sakurai Sho fans, waiting for a glimpse of the Japanese superstar. Convention planners for the Yatterman film company probably underestimated the legions of fans waiting for this special appearance of Sho-kun.

This was a picture of a small portion of the crowd waiting for him.

I met up with Jilly, and in the afternoon, we attended a literary panel, New York City Through Its Authors. This was a panel of eleven speakers, where they talked of how New York City inspired or influenced their writing. Several of the speakers were natives, some were immigrants, while others were from other parts of America, but found their way to the Big Apple.

Points from this panel were:

  • New York City is the perfect place to be anonymous, fantasize, and experience.
  • Post-911 was very different from pre-911 attitudes; writers are now more hesitant to try and destroy NYC as a plot premise.
  • New York City is a place that never sleeps, other cities always sleep, but not NYC.
  • Metropolis and Gotham are representations of New York City from different aspects or cues.
  • New York City attitude is timeless.
  • There was a lot of harmless *cough* *cough* New Jersey bashing.

New York City Through Its Authors
Jilly Gee’s account

In this panel, several authors discussed their feelings about New York City and how the place has influenced their work.  A few were native New Yorkers while others spent a significant portion of their lives here.

Paul Wilson is actually a "Jersey boy", although he did go to Xavier High School in Manhattan.  A "subway commando", he knew how to ride the subway for free, knew where to get firecrackers, and other good bad stuff like that.  He came of age in the city and grew to love it.  His series featuring Repairman Jack is set all over the place in New York, from Astoria to Jackson Heights to East New York, which is a great setting for the character since he needs to be anonymous and work under the radar.  When asked what work he thought most representative of New York, he thought of an old television show titled Naked City, which sported to tagline, "There are eight million stories in the naked city.  This has been one of them."  He also enjoyed "silly films", such as Breakfast at Tiffany’s, even if, "New York is more believable as a character than Holly Golightly."

Isamu Fukui was born and raised in New York City and still hasn’t left it.  New York of course heavily influences his work, having been the only environment he’s spent a large amount of time in.  The places in his works are not named, but there are recognizable aspects of New York in them, mainly bad experiences, giving off a "totalitarian New York" feel.  New York City is such a varied place that he cannot think of just one work that would epitomize the city.  New York City is seen in works everywhere and not one can represent it as a whole; all stories that feature a classic urban setting take some cues from the city.  When he thinks of NYC, what pops foremost into mind is the giant, sprawling, urban cityscape.

Brian Slattery recalls something a friend said, about how New York rewires the brain and you start thinking in a different way; the city starts getting to you and after that you are free to play with it however you like.  Not just a writer, but also a musican, when thinking of works that best represent New York City, what came to mind was the music and how they can mix and merge here.

Leopoldo Gout dreamed of coming to New York City from his original home of Mexico City.  He would think of the Baxter Building the Fantastic Four had their headquarters in.  When watching the movie Escape from New York, he would think that would rather escape into New York.  He would watch New York movies badly dubbed in Spanish and read the comic books that he wasn’t allowed to, which only fueled his desire to come.

Sarah Langan from Long Island looked for Smurfs as a child.  She remembers New York back when it wasn’t a safe place to be and notes that the city is like a person, always changing.  In her 20’s, she dreamed of living in the city, as do all other people in that time of life.  When thinking of a work that represents New York, she thinks of the book, The Bonfire of the Vanities, which had all different stories, about the ultra rich to the ultra poor.  Another work that comes to mind when she thinks of New York is Random Acts of Senseless Violence.

Bill Evans is not only the well-known meteorologist on channel seven here in New York City, but also the author of Category 7.  Originally from Mississippi, he grew up wanting to come to New York City.  He’s been here for twenty years now and remarks that it has been a dream-like experience.  When he was nine, a hurricane destroyed his home, his farm; this experience prompted him to become a meteorologist.  Riding the Staten Island ferry when he first came to New York, he noticed how there were so many great structures on the coast:  power plant, airport, water treatment center, etc.  He saw all this and thought, "Wow, what a great place for a hurricane," which is part of the story in Category 7.  When thinking of a work that really makes him think of New York, he thinks of Time and Again.

Jackie Kessler grew up in Brooklyn and went to high school at Midwood High School.  Afterwards, she worked in Manhattan, then moved to Queens, then Long Island, then upstate, and is now living just south of Albany.  She remembers seeing the Rocky Horror Picture show back when it was okay to throw things.  Growing up in New York City really "messed her up".  She went with her husband to see a Trans-Siberian Orchestra concert upstate and deciding to grab a bite to eat before the concert, they discovered that the restaurants all seemed to be closed.  Their first thought was that, "The economy must suck," and then it dawned on them that it’s not New York City and nothing’s open after seven.  Her short and sweet answers to what she relates most to New York are Ghostbusters and Spiderman.

Anton Stout started in Western Massachusettes and has been forming a slow, migratory path; next month, he will be in New Jersey.  His books are set in New York because there is too much weird urban fantasy here.  He talks about Cleopatra’s Needle in Central Park and implies the stories that could go along with it.  "Why wouldn’t people write something weird about New York?"  Ms. Kessler’s Ghostbusters mention got him thinking and he realizes, "Ooh, so that’s the reason I write the way I do."  In response to works that represent or epitomize New York, he thinks of Frank Miller comics, Spiderman, and Daredevil.  He remembers the old Marvel RPG with its deluxe map, showing where the heroes lived in famous New York City landmarks and locations, such as Hell’s Kitchen, which is really "more like Heck’s Kitchen now".  When he was younger, he was writing his own "awesome" comic, which was really just a daredevil ripoff, involving ninjas in Hell’s Kitchen.  Looking back now, he realizes he knew nothing about New York City then, with his characters driving motorcycles all over the buildings in the city.

Koren Shadmi grew up in Israel, but came to New York about seven years ago to study at SVA.  It’s the visuals of New York that stand out to him the most; the architecture, the buildings, the way people interact.  Although his works aren’t set specifically in New York, he does take reference shots in Brooklyn, which is where he lives.  Replying to the question of what work he feels epitomizes New York, he remembers a movie called The Naked City, which was set in a noir, 1940’s New York.  It’s fascinating to see how much the city has changed, with it being cleaner and with less crime now.  He does think it would have been cool to live here back then, though, with rent less than twenty dollars a week and a drink for less than seven.

Second day of NYCC

Del Rey Panel

I was able to attend the Del Rey Panel, where there was release of several interesting news bits

  • An exciting collaboration between Del Rey and Marvel, with both Wolverine and X-Men getting graphic novel-fied. X-Men’s graphic novels are going to be focused on Kitty Pryde, and the men are sexier in his series with influences from real life models like Tim Gunn for Magneto, Justin Timberlake for Angel, etc.
  • CLAMP-relevant news was released, with the announcement of one xxxHolic guidebook, a Tsubasa Chronicles artbook, and a gift from CLAMP to the American audience to be released.
  • Genshiken’s original manga is also going to be released.
  • Another strategy I noticed was the focus on releasing seinen-themed works. This is the masculine equivalent of josei, where the target is for 18-30 year-old men.

A tip for any aspiring comic artists to get started is to work on web comics. There was also a big push from the panel to go visit Del Rey’s booth.

The next panel I attended was the Yen Press panel with Jilly. There was a huge crowd of people to see Seth Green in his exhibit of Robot Chicken, which I later heard was closed out because of too many people. Back to the Yen Press panel, one reason for their popularity is the giveaways that they do. So many books were given to fans, it felt so much like a musical chair act. I have to support and give kudos to Yen Press for being that gracious to their fan base, though. I was able to get several graphic novels, many of which were sent to JLHLS to be reviewed.

There was a mention for readers to look at Yen +, which is their monthly publication, such as Shonen Jump is for Viz. Yen + can be a great source for readers to sample new genres, in spite of the market being very competitive.

After Yen Press was over, I made my way over and watched previews for Pixar’s latest movie, Up, which is going to shown in theaters on May 29, 2009. It has an interesting movie premise, one that I would recommend to any fans of Pixar’s films or just want to go see a family film for fun.

Third day of NYCC

Viz Media

The first panel I attended was Viz Media, of which there was way too much news to be mentioned here. I took too many notes, as with many of the other panels, but for space, and some sanity, some interesting news bits to be noted of JLHLS interest are:

  • Launch of “Haikasoru”, that is Viz’s science fiction literature line
  • Jormungand by Keitaro Takahashi (likened to Black Lagoon)
  • This is the official venue where there was an announcement of Ms. Rumiko Takahashi’s next work, which was also reported here.

Interested readers can check out Gia’s liveblog for details on what happened during this panel.

Today I spent most of my time attending more book panels.

Kick-Ass Authors and Killer Heroines Panel

The next panel I attended was “Kick-Ass Female Authors and Killer Heroines”. The panel was united by the fact that their books had a strong female lead character and they all wrote for the paranormal genre. The authors in the panel were Kim Harrison, Vicki Patterson, Jeaniene Frost, Margaret Ronald, and Jocelynn Drake. There were some interesting questions and the gist of some answers:

Why is the paranormal genre popular with males and females?

  • Movies – paranormal is one of the oldest genres around.
  • Escapism – collective popular consciousness
  • Enjoy a what-if factor and coping with fears.
  • Action
  • The setting, an attraction of explaining something, turning boring to interesting

How much of the author’s personality makes its way into the characters?

  • Some characteristics
  • Opposite personality
  • Bad language – inability to use inappropriate language because of not wanting to influence people around us – “Crap on toast” was uttered by Patterson to laughter.
  • Humor
  • Drake said, “This comes down to asking if I am violent.”
  • Strategy of putting up with challenges

How and what do you research about for writing this genre of books?

  • Fairytale books
  • YA books
  • “Location research is vital” – do not want to get fan mail from fans complaining that certain locations are not there.
  • Technicality research on fight scenes and weapons

How important is sex in the books?

  • Not really important.
  • Usually sex is used as a plot mechanism.
  • It is a personal decision or level of comfort to include sex scenes or not.
  • Sex scenes are hard to write in, very much like a fight scene.
  • Sex can be a teasing scene

How important is it to keep from straying toward the stereotypes of women’s expectations?

  • Plug more into your characters as an individual, then that can alleviate the stereotype.

How would you cope with series or character burn out?

  • Generally not a problem, as some of the authors love their characters.
  • It is a wish fulfillment to write these character’s stories.
  • Characters become a personal thought and there can be plot inspiration.
  • Series are usually left open.
  • Contract from the publisher.
  • Support from fans.

I was able to ask a personal question of whether or not it is easy as a novice reader to get into reading these long series of books, and the panel replied that any of the books can be read as a standalone, but to get the gist of the author’s thoughts and connections for other works of the series, it is best to read the entire series.

“What’s New at Penguin and DK” was the last panel I attended. This was a panel that was very similar to Viz, Funimation, Del Rey, and Yen Press. There was talk of a lot of releases from Penguin, and DK. I was able to pick up an advanced reader copy of Jim Butcher’s next novel, Turn Coat.

Then I took one last turn around the dealer’s room, where I met a representative from Fanfare/Ponent Mon Publications, and received a copy of Jiro Taniguchi’s The Walking Man, so look forward to a review of that at a later date.

Fanfare/ Ponentmon Publication

After three days of attending NYCC, I was pretty bushed, but happy with my experiences. I do wonder if I will be able to attend 2010’s NYCC. The possibility is high, though. Next year they will be moving the convention to October 8-10, 2010. Before that though, NYCC has announced the start of another convention in Chicago, the Chicago Comic & Entertainment Expo (C2E2) on April 16-18, 2010. New York Anime Festival is going to be held this year on September 25-27, 2009. To get more updates from the convention planners themselves for these events, be sure to check out their blog:

For additional photo coverage, please see the JLHLS NYCC 2009 gallery and with photos by Eric M. Chu.