On Thursday night of New York Comic Con, not much is usually going on. There are a few lower-key panels, mainly aimed at professionals and press looking to network, and the main floor and Artist's Alley are open, but Friday night is typically the kick-off for the high-profile panels and screenings. Imagine my surprise that this year, Thursday night left me much more pumped for the rest of NYCC while Friday was a bit of a downer with a moment that was nothing short of disheartening. Otherwise it was two days filled with genuine comic book appreciation and appearances from the likes of Lance Henriksen.
Movies Are Ruining Comics and Artists Don't Tell the Story
My first panel on Thursday night was “Comics Pros And Film Buffs: When Fanboys Collide,” hosted by John Siuntres with Matt Singer, Gabriel Hardman, Janet Lee, and Jim McCann. Ben Mankewicz of Turner Classic Movies was also supposed to be on the panel, but at the last minute, he was asked to host a screening of Forbidden Planet at NASA. There is no way that anyone who loves movies and sci-fi could possibly pass up that opportunity, and though I was sad not to hear his thoughts, the discussion was plenty lively even without him present.
The panel discussion started out with a brief history of comic book culture being a part of film. Films that were highlighted included obvious choices like Iron Man, The Avengers, and Spiderman, but the panelists pulled out some fantastic and more obscure films back to Jack Lemmon's comic book writer character in How to Murder Your Wife and satire of the Senate's comic book hearings in Jerry Lewis' Artists and Models.
After showing some clips and laughing over the irrational fear that comic books are warping our children, the conversation turned to films based on comic books influencing the current runs of comic books. Is it good or bad that Iron Man in the comic books is resembling Robert Downey Jr. more and more? The panel was surprisingly okay with this trend despite some protests and lively discussion with some audience members. The overwhelming opinion was that this relationship between comic books and film wasn't completely unique, and it reminded me how the casting of Alan Rickman as Snape in the Harry Potter films affected how J.K. Rowling wrote the later books in the series. John Siuntres couldn't help but smile as he quoted Battlestar Galactica, “This has all happened before. It will all happen again.” All in all, it was definitely one of my favorite panels from the weekend and the perfect start to New York Comic Con.
My second and last panel of Thursday was “Surviving Collaboration” which consisted of a short presentation followed by a Q&A with comic book writers and artists. While the presentation was informative, I was somewhat underwhelmed considering that the moderator had access to a network of creative types. The panel picked up once they started taking questions from the audience and sharing stories from their time working in the industry. The Q&A section also led to one of the funniest moments of NYCC for me. A gentleman near the back of the room with strap-on horns asked the panel how comic book writers should negotiate compensation and various rights with their collaborating artist because, in his words, the artist doesn't tell the story. One of the panelists snorted loudly holding back laughter, and the moderator more diplomatically replied that he did not agree with the assumption behind the question that artists don't tell the story in comic books. I also had to laugh to myself and wonder that anyone who appreciates comic books as a medium would suggest that artists are not storytellers on the same level as the writers.
Face-Huggers and Cocktails, Save TRON: Uprising, and Ray Bradbury Deserved Better
My Friday at New York Comic Con actually started off-site at a private event for Aliens: Colonial Marines. The event included a talk by the game's creators, an exclusive play-thru presentation with commentary by the creative team, and the opportunity to play through part of the game. Easily the most surreal moment of the event was seeing Lance Henrickson in person and then seeing his character Bishop on-screen in the game. The whole event was wonderful themed for Aliens fans with staff dressed as Weyland lab technicians and jars of face-huggers sitting on the tables and in the bathroom perched on the sink. Even the signature drink of the night was dubbed the Chest Burster, an appropriate name for any drink with vodka and Monster energy drinks.
I left the Aliens: Colonial Marines event early because I wanted to make it to the TRON: Uprising screening and panel over at the Javits Center. TRON: Uprising has been on my list of shows to watch for quite awhile, and the chance to see an episode and hear from the show's creators seemed perfect. When I arrived, the screening had already started, and since I hadn't seen the show before, I was a little lost on certain characters and relationships. Luckily, the show gave me great animation to admire and outstanding voice work from actors like Elijah Wood, Bruce Boxleitner, Lance Henricksen, Paul Reubens, and Tricia Helfer.
Unfortunately, the Q&A afterward made it abundantly clear that the show is in serious danger of not getting picked up for season 2. They begged audience members to watch the show, download the show from iTunes (episodes are $2.99 and pilot episode is free), and tell their friends to do the same. I went home and downloaded the first 5 episodes, and needless to say, I am completely hooked. Any TRON fans should check it out, especially those who were let down by TRON: Legacy. TRON: Uprising takes what worked with the action sequences and world building in TRON: Legacy and adds in a Batman Beyond twist to the plot with Tron training an apprentice to lead the uprising. This is a show with a lot to offer, if only people would tune in.
After TRON: Uprising, my night took an unexpectedly sad turn when I headed over for the Ray Bradbury Tribute over at the Unbound Stage. When I had arrived, the previous panel was wrapping up, and a small crowd had already gathered for the tribute. There were young and old alike and a healthy mix of men and women in the crowd. I couldn't help but smile when a young girl dressed as the Eleventh Doctor, complete with fez, skipped up to the Unbound Stage with a grin and gushed that she couldn't wait for Ray Bradbury. The previous panel wrapped up, and the crowd waited 5 minutes, then 10 minutes. About 15 minutes had passed, and we started turning to each other with worried looks. Was the location printed wrong in the program? This was the Unbound Stage, right? Then a NYCC staffer walked out and unceremoniously announced that the Ray Bradbury Tribute had been canceled. No explanation was given, and we sat there stunned. One audience member yelled, “Ray Bradbury deserved better!” and the audience replied with a smattering of applause.
It might seem melodramatic to be upset over a panel cancellation, but this was a tribute to Ray Bradbury. He was one of the giants in writing and social commentary through science fiction. He wrote his classic Fahrenheit 451 in a public library on a typewriter that he paid 20 cents an hour to use. Ray Bradbury's contribution to this community is immeasurable. His work and life should be admired and properly recognized at an event like New York Comic Con. Why was the tribute canceled? I would have been satisfied if the staffer had given a reason like the moderator couldn't make it or the ichiP! dancers down the way were going to use the stage for an encore performance later, but no reason was ever given.
The whole situation was such a disappointment that I left earlier than I planned that night and headed home, hoping that Saturday would be a better day. Little did I know what lay ahead for me and how amazing the rest of the weekend would turn out.
Stay tuned for more of my recap of New York Comic Con!