New York Comic Con 2011

Another October is nearly past, and with it my latest trek down to New York for their version of Comic-Con. I attended for a couple of hours last year on a Sunday, just to get a flavor of what the show is about. My 2010 reaction was positive, but overwhelmingly Video Game and Anime Centric. This makes sense as this show started as an Anime festival which then morphed into a full blown Comic Con. When I decided to return this year, I made the commitment to spend at least 3 days at the show. Luckily,  my old friend Justin decided to travel with me, our first real convention (together) in over 6 years.

Justin and I left Massachusetts at about 9:30AM on Friday the 14th. The drive down was relatively uneventful. We did the usual 95S activities of stopping at McD rest stops and catching up on the last few years of our lives. Surprisingly little has changed, and we remain the same cynical asses we have always been. Traffic was at a standstill in the few miles preceding the George Washington Bridge, but once we got over it, and onto 9A, it was smooth sailing straight down Manhattan to the Javitz Center.

In preparing for the trip, I decided that it would be best to stay in New Jersey and park in the city every day. Now, I have driven in cities before, but I have heard so many horror stories about NYC that I was getting rather nervous about driving in and out every day. Upon arriving, we immediately noticed a parking garage literally 1 block from the convention center. Deciding that this was too good to pass up, we drove in and walked to the show. By this time it was somewhere around 2PM, and as I had been to this show before, I led us to where we needed to go. Unfortunately, the 2010 convention layout was nothing at all like the 2011 floor plan, and I got us lost. After consulting a map, we found what we were seeking- the Autograph Hall.

Most Convention goers attend the panels and do the company booths as a primary goal, while the purchasing of autographs and collectables are secondary. We, and many others, are different as we head straight for the celebrity autograph areas and try to get that done as soon as is possible. So, basically all of Friday was spent in the Autograph Hall. We got autographs of Eliza Dushku, James Marsters, Jerry “The King” Lawler, David Blue, and Erin Cummings with little real trouble. As we were doing this, however, I began to notice one line in particular growing to mammoth proportions. Deciding that the monster line tonight was preferable to a possibly longer one tomorrow, we jumped in for an autograph of Felicia Day and Sandeep Parikh of The Guild and Legend of Neil fame. This was a long line. I estimate we were there at least an hour, but once we arrived at the front, that old comic-con magic happened. You see, I was wearing a Boston Red Sox shirt (a dangerous thing to do in NYC), and it turns out Sandeep is from New Hampshire and is a true blue Sox fan. He reaches into his backpack and pulls out a weathered BoSox cap that he was hiding from the locals. We posed for a picture together…

and talk a little more Sports and New England. At this point, I sort of realized that I was totally ignoring Felicia Day, a sin for true geeks, and promptly said my goodbye to Sandeep and greeted Felicia. She was very pleasant, and looked a bit confused at my sports talk with Sandeep, but was cool about it.

By the this was accomplished, it was after 6PM… How did we spend 4 hours in that room, I do not know, but it went by fast. We walked around a little bit more and made some purchases. In my case, I bought a Ghostbusters “Slimer” bank, a Tardis and Green lantern Bobble head, and a copy of Octopus Pie the comic by Meredith Gran. We would have explored more, but the day of travel had left us tired, so we went back to the car and negotiated Friday Night traffic in Mid Town Manhattan. It was surprisingly not as bad as I expected. There was a little bit of a traffic jam, but I attribute this to the convention drivers not knowing where to go. We made it into the Lincoln Tunnel, and within 5 minutes were at our Hotel. Now, this was by no means a 4 star place (Hojo) but for Jersey standards it was good. The one distinctive feature of this hotel is that there is a main lobby building near the entrance, but all the rooms are on this 40 degree inclined hill behind it. Below is a stock photo I found of it.

Photos of Howard Johnson North Bergen, North Bergen

Now it was that bad of a driveway, but boy was it fun to drive down! I was having Dukes of hazard moments every morning. We checked in and immediately fell asleep, being the Old men that we are. The next day brought a continental breakfast, and a crazy comic-con attendee dressed very goth, with those vanity “zombie” contact lenses. She was ahead of us in line, and was trying to get a cup of coffee. There was probably some issue with her lenses, as she stood there staring at the coffee pots for several minutes. What followed was a hilarious exchange with the Hispanic kitchen attendant:

KA: (pointing to coffee pots) That one decaf, this one regular.

Goth: Thank you.

She continues to stare, without grabbing coffee.

KA: (pointing) Decaf…Regular.

Goth: I know!

This continued for a couple minutes, with the Kitchen Woman insisting to remind the young girl of which was which several times in a row. Finally, the fool decided what she wanted to drink. Following this, we headed out in the car towards the city. What little traffic we faced the night before had completely vanished by morning. It was a quick 10 minute drive, and we were back in the parking lot near the convention. Day two began right where Day one left off: Autograph Hall! This was the day we dedicated to finish out autograph collecting. For starters, I purchased some prints from C Martin Croker- Animator on Aqua Teen.

Yes, I bought a Balloon Hitler print, he signed and posed with it.

Following this we got autographs from Jason Momoa, Rose McGowan, Stephen Lang, and Jason O’Mara- all of who did not take free photos with fans ūüė¶

We then headed back onto the floor and procured an autograph from Ian McNiece, whom I had met 10 years prior.

Yes, he was absolutely cool, and gladly took a photo with us.

We then spent the remainder of the day dedicated to exploring every inch of the show floor. We started with Autograph Alley and worked our way up and around. We bought some cool posters (though we call them oversized prints), a making of Jaws books, and a few other random trade paperbacks and a Bettie Page statue. After all this, it was somehow closing time, so we headed back to Jersey and had a nice dinner at La Fusta steakhouse.

Day Three had even less traffic than the previous day, this is mostly because we left early. We parked our car and took a cab down town to the 9/11 memorial. We got our passes and walked about a bit, seeing the sights. We walked St Paul’s cemetery, and well as Trinity Church, where we saw the grave of Alexander Hamilton. We headed over to the memorial, proceeded through more security than I have ever seen, and made it inside the park. Much of the area is still under construction, but the spaces were the towers stood were completed with the beautiful waterfall memorials.

Following this, we returned to the Convention Center. These final few hours were spent meeting Bill Amend of the comic strip Foxtrot, and walking the con floor for some last minute deals. I got a bunch of trades, a Bruce Campbell bust, a Boo-Berry Plush, and The Captain America Bust I have been salivating over for a year. FINALLY at a decent price.

The drive home was quiet and sleepy, for Justin at least, and we made it home around 6PM. It was a good trip. We spent too much money (as usual) but it was a good experience. Conventions are a funny thing. Each one has its own personality, and this one reminded me a lot of San Diego back in the early 2000’s before it exploded into the behemoth it is today. I will be back in NYC next year for at least the weekend.

Here is a link to my Facebook album containing all my photos from the show. Enjoy!

Comix this week! October 19, 2011

What is it about October that brings out the Blog in me? I have bounced around different sites, but I have decided to settle here for all my egotistical ramblings. Now, back in the day (writing that phrase is how you know you are old) I used to do this email comic review with some friends of mine which we appropriately called “Comics this week”. I have decided to resurrect it here for all to dissect and critique with me. Expect new posts every Wednesday.

 Justice League #2 Written by Geoff Johns, Pencils by Jim Lee, and Inks by Scott Williams.

Johns and Lee continue the story begun in last month’s relaunch.

Plot: The mystery of the alien incursion (cough cough Darkseid) unfolds as Batman and Green Lantern get into a slobber knocker with Superman. After exhausting nearly all their weapons and tactics against Big Blue, Green Lantern calls in The Flash (literally calls him mid-battle on a cell phone) and the heroes come together at the end to figure out what is going on. At the end, the “Mother boxes” (alien box) open up the “boom tubes” (wormholes) allowing armies of Para-Demons to invade the Earth, frying the heck out of a young Victor Stone in the process.

Writing: Johns continues to lay the groundwork of the New 52 as the JL comes together. The new Superman is still in a time and place where he is a loner and distrusting of just about everybody. Green Lantern is still new at his job and reflects the recklessness inherent in that. Flash is a cop who follows the law and does not consider himself a vigilante. Batman is Batman. Like previous incarnations, he is the one keeping the League on the job and focused. Vic Stone is getting a great set up on his road to becoming “Cyborg: A-Lister”. His dad is a man obsessed with the Superheroes, which will carry forward nicely as he needs to find a way to “fix” his injured son. There is a great sense of fun in the title. Johns is not afraid to throw out some humor amid the action, which is a great alternative the doom and gloom and Bwa-haha stories in past comics. He rides the edge nicely.

Art: Not much needs to be said about Jim Lee. When he delivers his work on time, it is great. When he delivers it late…its still great. This is one of the guy that defined that 1990’s Comic Art for me. He was a god to the young Ponte, and continues to be a great influence on my comic tastes.

Overall: A great issue. The slow burn heats up a lot by the end of this issue. Half the League is formed, and we are well on the way to seeing how the world turned from fearing superheroes to loving them.

 Supergirl #2 Written By Michael Green & Mike Johnson. Pencils by Mahnud Asrar and Inks by Dan Green.

Plot: Kara Zor-El believes she was on Krypton three days ago and her cousin Kal-el is just a baby. Now, she finds herself on a strange world named Earth, with powers she does not understand, fighting a powerful being claiming to be her baby cousin. In what I can only call a family reunion from hell, they fight across Asia, literally across Asia. By issue’s Superman calms her down, and he tells her that Krypton is gone. It ends with a mysterious governmental? agency studying the pod that brought her to earth and the information crystal within.

Writing: Green and Johnson do a great job of revealing pieces of Krypton history. What I liked most was the concept of the “Worldkiller” program. It appears to have been some sort of Super Soldier military project on Krypton. Zod is still a force to be reckoned with as Kara name drops him.

Art: Johnson draws a good fight scene, and that is what this issue is…one giant fight. Supergirl punching Superman through the great Wall of China never looked better (not that I have ever seen that before).

Overall: Supergirl continues to surprise me. It was one of those New 52 titles that I was hesitant to read. I am pleased to report that this title is one of the better of the 52. There was no exposition needed right off the bat. The story begins with Kara on Earth and confused. I look forward to seeing the story of Argo city unveiled in future issues.

 Batman #2 Written by Scott Snyder, Pencils by Greg Capullo, Inks by Jonathan Glapion

Story: Dick Grayson…Murderer?! Bruce Wayne…next victim?! Batman hunts the “Owl” killer, while evidence leads to Dick Grayson. Of course, Dick is innocent, but who is the killer? Bruce Wayne comes under assault atop Wayne Tower and defeats the Assassin. It ends with the Owl Killer rising from the dead?!

Writing: Snyder has a tight plot, beautifully set up with Bruce Wayne being thrown out of Wayne Tower, with the story that follows telling the tale of how we got to that point. It has been used a thousand times, but this is still one of my favorite story devices. I enjoy that Snyder is delving into the history of Gotham City in the series. Bruce Wayne is not just the son of Dr Wayne, but is descended from many generations of the family. Gotham is in his DNA and Snyder enjoys reminding us of that.

Art: Capullo draws some good gore, and he always has. We have stabbings and an autopsy and a few killings giving Capullo a chance to show his stuff. He has demonstrated his ability to draw caped figures fighting in the night quite expertly throughout the 90’s in Spawn, and he, like McFarlane, is a great fit for Batman.

Overall: Another solid issue of Batman from Snyder. This was a great case of “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it”. Pre-52 Batman was very very good, and they are not messing with the formula.

Green Lantern Corps #2: Written by Peter J Tomasi, Pencils by Fernando Pasarin, and Inks by Scott Hanna

Story: Someone is killing Green Lanterns. A group led by Guy Gardner and John Stewart travel to find the culprits. The strange alien menace is stealing water and air from other planets in a plot that reminds me of Spaceballs, but more violent.

Writing: A very lackluster issue. The story functions well, but as an introductory plot it leaves me a bit cold. There is an awful lot of Green Lanterns being torn limb from limb, and the overall goal of the enemy is not impressive.

Art: No complains on the art. The creatures are well designed, and the action is well executed.

Overall: I am invested in Green Lantern pretty heavily (every issue back to the 70’s) so I am not gonna be dropping this title, but they need to bring a better game. Tomasi can write some good stuff, but this is not jiving for me. Green Lantern, with Batman, was the other character that was not meddled with at all in the reboot. Sales were strong and the story was good. This is the first good title that has taken a nosedive following the reboot for me. I am hoping that as we get deeper into the story, there will be a turn around.

  Wonder Woman #2 Written by Brian Azzarello, Art by Cliff Chiang

Story: Wonder Woman has a woman who is carrying the daughter of Zeus! She brings the woman, and the injured god Hermes to Paradise Island for refuge. After being initially suspected of being intruders by the Amazons, they are given asylum. Diana’s origin is retold (being molded from Clay), and she competes in some athletic competitions while back home. The story ends with an attack by The Goddess Eris, called Strife here, and a revelation that she and Diana are…sisters?!

Writing: Azzarello is rocking this title. Wonder Woman is rarely done well. George Perez understood her 20 years ago, and Gail Simone did great with her a few years back, but Azzarello is off to the best start on her I have seen since the 80’s. We are not being served with another “Hero learning her trade” story. Diana knows who she is, and what her place is as Wonder Woman. Part of the charm of this tale is what is coming next issue, as Diana learns a secret from her past.

Art: Beautiful. Simply beautiful. The Designs on the Gods are great. They are not the typical “Spartan armor/Toga” versions we have been served with for years. Strife is very Goth, Hermes looks like a damn alien. The design on Hera is very Greek/Middle Eastern, but she is the queen of Mount Olympus, so it works.

Overall: Another pleasant surprise from the New 52. What was once at the bottom of my “Must read” list is now at the top with the best of them. Wonder Woman is one to watch.

 Nightwing #2 Written by Kyle Higgins, Pencils by Eddy Barrows, Inks by J.P. Mayer and Paulo Siqueira.

Story: Someone wants Dick Grayson: Murderer dead! I cannot but help think that this is tied to the murder frame happening over in Batman. A mysterious Assassin tries to kill Dick Grayson and “Nightwing” steps into the fight to stop him. Following the brief tussle, Dick gets his romance on with Raya from Haly’s Circus and gets pulled into a request from Circus owner Mr Haly. He travels to Atlantic City and meets with the dying Haly who reveals that ownership of the circus is now falling to Dick. The Assassin discovers the Haly connection and tortures the old man to the point where he reveals Nightwing’s identity. Old Mr Haly dies before he can reveal to Dick a “secret” in the circus.

Writing: Well written, best I can say. Higgins keeps the reader interested, especially at the end with the talk of secrets. I am curious to see if there will be a link with the Court of Owls over in Batman.

Art: Excellent panels and splash pages are used to great effect. Barrows continues to grow as an artist in DC, building on his work on Superman to bring a great dynamic to this title.

Overall: As stated before, so many issues were added with great trepidation in this new 52 era of DC comics. Nightwing is not as strong as some of the other titles out there, but he is safe from cancellation for now.

 DC Universe Presents #2 Written by Paul Jenkins, Art by Bernard Chang

Story: Deadman wants answers from the goddess who fated him to inhabit the bodies of people. He wants to know why he is doing it, and what the endgame is. After catching her in a lie (why am I seeing the faces of those I quantum Leap into), Boston jumps from body to body infiltrating a nightclub where there is a mysterious woman called The Librarian. She is a fallen angel in possession of books that tell the fate of every soul. His, and all those linked to him, end in damnation.

Writing: Jenkins does a good job of moving the story along by having Boston leap into dozens of bodies, all to start what is essentially a bar fight in the club. He comes across a room full of vampires and monsters who can see him, and they think he is some sort of stand up comedian at one point. It was pretty uneven in those sections, but it moves along well enough. Not his best stuff.

Art: Great cover by Ryan Sook, and OK art by Chang inside. He does a good job of making the confusion of the club fight scene understandable.

Overall: I am giving this one more issue. This is supposed to be a title that showcases various minor characters in the DC lineup. The Deadman story is supposed to run 5 issues long. I think this is way too long. I would prefer 2-3 issue arcs on each character. Deadman is great, but I am not sure if I can keep interested in this for another 3 months. I may pop off for a while and return in the next arc.

 Avengers 1959 #2 by Howard Chaykin

Story: Following a series of attacks on the 1959 version of the Avengers by Nazis, Nick Fury gets recruited by Powell McTeague to bring the Avengers on a mission to uncover these Fifth Column Nazis and take care of them.

Writing: Its Howard Chaykin.

Art: Its Howard Chaykin. You love it, or hate it.

Overall: Great follow up to the story in the Avengers. Seeing Fury lead a team of Mad Men era Avengers was inspired. The team make up is awesome, but I am interested in this character called The Englishman. Is it a pre-existing character from the period? Could this be young Jarvis? I am in all the way with this title.

  Avengers 18: Written by Brian Michael Bendis, Art by Daniel Acuna

Story: Following the events of Fear Itelf, Steve Rogers finds himself back in his role as Captain America: leader of the Avengers. Gathering in the Old Avengers Mansion, Steve lets the team know that it is time to decide who should continue to be Avengers- prompting confusion by the members. Throughout the issue, we see a “greatest hits” of the last few years worth of stories. There is a woman who has been working for SHIELD, collecting DNA samples from all the members of the teams. At the end of the issue, she turns these samples over to HAMMER for their nefarious purposes.

Writing: Bendis is at a point now where he knows this stuff left and right. His definitions of the characters of this team are the standard. He is a “Architect” for a reason.

Art: The art left me a little cold. There was not much to play with in this issue other than a lot of characters talking to each other, but it went well enough. Acuna likes that “painted” look in his stuff, and he uses it a lot in this issue. While the cover is nice, I am not sold on Acuna as an interior artist just yet. I feel he needs to season a bit more.

Overall: I picked this one up just to see the follow up to Fear Itself, and I was not let down.

 Fear Itself #7: By Fraction and everybody else.

Plot: The Heroes get superweapons, and defeat the Serpent God. Thor dies. Was this that hard? Did we need 7 issues?

Writing: yeah…

Art: Art first It was ok. It seems as if every other page was done by a different artist…because it nearly was lol.

Overall: The multiple epilogues and closing chapters do a great job of closing out this monster turd of an event. Fraction had some really great things to work with in this story: Iron Man re-succumbing to alcohol, a secret Serpent God Brother to Odin, 8 Hammers, similar to Thor’s, that bestow evil powers, the Death of Bucky (again), and the death of Thor. This should have been awesome, but it was poorly executed and ultimately uninteresting. The Last issue was the best of the series, sadly. This series was the final straw that got me to stop reading Fraction’s Iron man.

Now on the last page, we get a 2 age splash advertising “It is Coming” with a flaming Phoenix depicted. I am fearful of what this one will be, and how they are going to screw up the phoenix force, and the possible return of Jean Grey.

Coming tomorrow: A Recap of New York Comic Con.