It doesn’t seem like all that long ago that comic book conventions were exactly that – a bunch of people getting together to buy, sell, trade, discuss and celebrate the art form with liked minded individuals and fans. And while a lot of smaller conventions still hold true to this concept, it seems that more often than not these days the larger conventions are about a whole lot more than comics. Despite being called The San Diego Comic Con or The New York Comic Con, large shows like these tend to see the actual comic books get lost in the shuffle, buried beneath the media feeding frenzy that occurs when big Hollywood movie projects are announced or the cast of a popular Adult Swim show arrives to do a panel. This is all well and good, there’s no reason that different forms of pop culture can’t coexist at the same event, but for those of us who still really dig comic books, it can sometimes take the fun out of an event.
And it would seem that the people behind ReedPop, the team that actually puts on The New York Comic Con that takes over the Javitz Center in Manhattan every year, would agree. It was with that theory in mind that they created Special Edition NYC, a convention debuting for the first time this past weekend also at the Javitz Center (though filling what was artists alley at the larger sister con, not the entire convention space). The point was to ‘get back to basics’ in that this was almost entirely comic book related. With a few other competing conventions all taking place across the country this month and with this being a first time show, it maybe made sense that there weren’t a ton of larger publishers on hand but the con made up for this with some great dealers, a really strong selection of attending creators, a good assortment of panels covering everything from Silver Age greats to up and coming Marvel artists to the work of Howard Chaykin to enjoy.
And being a comic convention, of course there were cosplayers, even a four legged one getting into the spirit of things.
The Artists Alley area featured a great assortment of talented men and women signing, answering questions, doing sketches and generally just hanging out and having a good time. Chaykin, who has recently returned to The Shadow for Dynamite and who continues to illustrate Satellite Sam for Image was top billed and that’s fair enough, he’s a legend in the field. Also on hand were established guys like Mike Allred of Madman, David Mack of Kabuki and Daredevil fame alongside more recent luminaries like illustrator Francesco Francavilla of After Life With Archie fame and writer Jamie S. Rich of Madame Frankenstein and more recently Archer And Coe. Faust illustrator and underground comics legend Tim Vigil was on hand, as were big names like Bob Wiack, Brian Wood, Carl Potts, Gail Simone, Geoff Darrow, Mark Texeira and Tony Daniel to name just a few.
The area had plenty of foot traffic throughout the weekend and attendance was solid enough to create plenty of energy but not so packed that it was unpleasant the way a lot of larger multi-media conventions can be. It was nice being able to stop and talk to the talent without getting shoved out of the way or feeling like you were going to suffocate.
While the focus was almost exclusively on comic books, some related materials were on hand such as action figures, posters and prints, a DJ standing beside a bunch of Batman standups for some reason and plenty of fantastic original artwork from the early days of the development of the art form through to the present.
When the dust settled, however, it all came down to the comics. ReedPop did a really great job getting together a whole bunch of top notch vendors from all over the place, not just the NY/NJ/CT area. This resulted in everything from a generous selection of low cost titles (there were even quarter bins!), the kind that get new readers hooked and help established collectors fill those random holes in their collection, to dudes selling seriously expensive high grade Golden and Silver Age books. This was one of those shows were it paid to look around – there were gems to be found in those bins under the table and it was great to see everything on display from instantly recognizable comic book gold like Amazing Fantasy #15 to underground classics like a rare first printing of The Fabulous Furry Freak Brothers. So yeah, comics. There were a lot of them and it was great.
When it was all said and done, ReedPop accomplished what they said they were going to do with this event – it was a really well run, well organized and most importantly FUN convention to attend and here’s hoping we get the chance to do it all again in 2015.