Arriving at the train station in New Brunswick early Friday morning I began to scan the people waiting for the train, trying to see if I could tell if I could pick out anyone else who was obviously heading for New York Comic Con. There, amongst those heading to New York for work and business, was a lone twenty-something man dressed as a character from the incredibly popular anime of recent months, Attack on Titan. The sight of someone, clad in a tan jacket emblazoned with a massive crest on the back with tall brown boots and an endless amount of straps to match, standing among the business men and women waiting for the next train to Penn Station was out of place for now. But once I arrived at the glass house of the Jacob Javits Center, everybody seemed in the right place no matter what they wore.
Although the booths, the panels, and the comic and entertainment industry stars are the main attraction for the over 130,00 people who ventured to the West Side for the four day event, the fact that almost half of them came dressed as their favorite comic and cartoon characters made for some of the most fascinating people-watching of all time. No matter the quality of the materials or the likeness of the person cosplaying and the actual character, there is something endearing about someone putting in the time and effort into a costume that makes even the most minimalist or low quality of cosplays worthy of admiration. The Attack on Titan cosplay I saw at the train station would prove to set the tone for the weekend as there were more cosplayers for that particular anime than for anything else by a wide margin. The classic cosplay groups were still present of course, with bands of friends dressing as the Justice League, X-Men, or as characters from popular webcomic Homestuck. The complexity and high-quality of certain people’s cosplays cannot be understated, but in the end my favorite from the weekend was easily a man with an orange day-glo painted Darth Vader helmet, red Adidas tracksuit, gold chains, and a massive boom box blasting LL Cool J and Run DMC songs.
Friday saw my first disappointment as I missed the opportunity to get into one of the two panels I was most looking forward to, Adult Swim’s Venture Bros. The panel’s late afternoon start time and the show’s popularity made admittance a slim chance in the first place. Show creators Doc Hammer and Jackson Publick are often the most hilarious hosts at any convention, making a Venture Bros. panel a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity chance for fans of the show. I instead took a trip to Artist Alley, located well off the main show floor this year in a room at one end of the convention center to help accommodate the growing number of exhibitors. There I met Yale Stewart, the creator of one of my favorite ongoing webcomics JL8 . A re-imagining of many popular DC Comics characters as elementary school students, the weekly strip is a love letter to both the Justice League and to the wonder of childhood. I bought myself a set of pins and a signed mini-print from his booth and, him being a noted Cardinals fan, I let him know that I thought my Dodgers would triumph in the game that night and eventually take the NLCS (This would prove to be incorrect on several different levels).
Saturday morning I was able to get in to the Javits Center just moments before the doors for the busiest day of the convention opened, allowing me just a few precious moments to check my coat and bag before getting in line for what would surely be one of the most popular panels of the entire weekend, Nickelodeon’s The Legend of Korra. On hand were show co-creator Bryan Konietzko, director Joaquim Dos Santos, and voice actors Janet Varney, PJ Byrne, and Steve Yeun. They treated the fans that were lucky enough to get into the panel to a preview showing of the first half of the next weeks two-parter episode, a short Q and A session with questions taken from Tumblr, and a very interesting in-detail walkthrough of what exactly goes into creating a scene for the show. Their look into the exhaustive amount of detail that it takes for just a single shot of an animated sequence was eye-opening, going into each level of writing, animating, musical scoring, and voice acting that it takes to perfect the unique style of the show.
Although the general rule of cons is that it’s better to buy things on Sunday, when the crowds are thinner and booths often knock down the prices for merchandise, I knew I’d be leaving that evening so I decided to go ahead and do some shopping late on Saturday. Buying at a convention is almost purely on impulse; except for NYCC-exclusive merchandise almost everything could probably be found online and for cheaper. But it’s easy to get caught up in the moment, with hundreds of other people around you all searching for the perfect shirt or glassware or suspicious full-length anime body pillow. Several massive towers adorned with thousands of different shirts were placed throughout the show floor offering the Batman shirt you always wanted three stories from the ground. After I was able to get myself a Breaking Bad and a Gotham Police Department t-shirt I decided to do some early Christmas shopping for friends. The retailers on hand offer a wide array of merchandise, from the aforementioned t-shirts, glasses and body pillows to things such as replica swords, action figures, illicit Japanese manga, video games and of course, owing to the original intention of the comic convention, comic books.
After the weekend news reports came out that revealed attendance for New York Comic Con were just about equal to San Diego Comic Con, making NYCC one of the top two entertainment conventions in the country. The crowds have grown by about 15,000 extra people each year; the only other year I’ve gone, 2010, saw 96,000 people enter the Javits Center and even then I was amazed at the density and congestion of the crowds as I tried to navigate the show floor. This year, as I looked down from the press lounge at the masses of people shuffling their way around one another, it became clear that the Jacob Javits Center is operating at its maximum capacity and any increase in attendees next year would be nearly impossible to control. Space issues aside, New York Comic Con 2013 proved to be an event accommodating of people of all ages, with a highly diverse crowd where everyone seemed to be having the time of their lives. Conventions can be extremely taxing on the body. A person going to the Con must prepare themselves to face endless lines, unexplained smells, profuse sweating, and an obscene amount of walking. The train ride back from New York City is usually when the physical toll of the weekend truly sets in, but it’s also when you realize just how much fun you had and that you already can’t wait to go back next year.