New York Comic Con has now officially closed, and I have to admit, it was my favorite one ever. This show has a reputation for being more comic-focused than San Diego, and that certainly held true this year, but the news wasn’t entirely comic book related, as you might have seen if you were following TR’s Twitter feed. Here are the 14 things that stood out the most from four days in New York.
I know that a lot of the Twitter feed sounded like incomprehensible fanboy gibberish if you were reading it in real time, but that’s how excited I was to see footage of next year’s Daredevil series from Marvel and Netflix. Daredevil’s one of those characters who is so easy to get wrong, but when he works he’s so resonant and powerful that he can be one of the best storytelling vehicles in comics. And while the movie was objectively awful, it wasn’t because of any of the inherent traps in the character.
Daredevil at his worst is a relentlessly depressing punching bag, a character who absorbs so much abuse and turns so self-destructive that he pushes the audience away. Some of this is essential to the character, but there needs to be the slightest hint of light in the story to add appeal. Rosario Dawson as Night Nurse convinced me that they’ve got it. She wasn’t there for levity by any means, but what she represents to the story (as the nurse who fixes banged-up heroes) seems to show that they won’t just pile on the guy, that they’re building him towards something bigger.
The other thing from this preview that I cannot stress enough was how utterly perfect Vincent D’Onofrio looked both in the preview clip and from being on stage. The way he carried himself on stage made him absolutely convincing. Then his preview scene, with Ayelet Zurer as Vanessa, was understated and intense at the same time. Sitting Cox next to him was an effective choice, too. The physical differences between the two of them are going to make their inevitable on-screen fight scene awesome to watch.
The cast and crew of the show seem like they have the knowledge and will to make it good, but I’m convinced that D’Onofrio is going to be what pushes it into great. When he walked out on stage, he was dressed like casual Friday Kingpin (sport coat, black t-shirt, slacks) and the entire crowd let out a collective “holy shit.” He was incredible, and I wouldn’t be surprised to see him get an Emmy nomination. Hell, all he’d have to do is pay a few “personal visits” to Emmy voters and I’m sure he’d be a lock.
2. Ant Man/Avengers: Age of Ultron
I knew that Marvel Unlimited+ membership would be worth it.
Sunday morning is usually the worst part of every con. Everyone is either hung over or 8, so walking the con floor is like trying to walk through a bumper car ride with less potential for revenge. So of course that’s the day that Marvel decides to show trailers for their next 2 movies: Ant Man and Avengers: Age of Ultron.
The Ant Man trailer seemed to confirm a lot of the rumors that have been floating around about the plot: Michael Douglas, playing Pym, hires Scott Lang (played by Paul Rudd) to be his on-the-ground man for a heist. They argue about super-heroics and then Lang, wearing the Ant Man suit, runs towards the camera, trips, damages the helmet, and then calls an ant to take him away. When the obviously malfunctioning helmet won’t let him escape on the ant, Douglas seems to call one for him and convinces it to catch Lang mid-air and fly off. It was great to finally see Ant Man on screen, but it was completely overshadowed by the next trailer they showed.
Descriptions of the Age of Ultron trailer are all over the place, and it sounds like it’s similar to what was shown in San Diego earlier this year. I believe the footage and the presentation were more polished, and they looked like they’re ready to start showing this as a full trailer to the entire world. You only got the briefest glimpse of Quicksilver, and not much more of the Scarlet Witch, but what you do see is intense. Spader’s voice is magnificent as Ultron, and the casual humor and relaxed banter between the Avengers that made the first one so endearing was very much present in the opening of the trailer. I really can’t wait for this to be released widely so I can watch it over and over and over again. The trailer was so good that the pros on the dais – Dan Slott, Ryan Stegman, Brian Bendis, Nick Spencer and others – demanded that it be shown again.
3. The Show Organization
I’m not sure if it was all planned or if it was a confluence of planning and a couple of happy accidents, but I’ve been to every NYCC since it started, and this was easily the best-run show of them all. Somehow, miraculously, they managed to fix the problems with cell phone reception, which – miracle of miracles – allowed me to use a credit card to buy things! But that was moot anyway, because they had more than 2 ATMs in the building.
They had new wristband and panel clearing policies for main stage events – when you arrive at the con, you line up for the main stage panel you want to see. Shortly after the con floor opens, they issue wristbands for that panel, and they clear the room after every single panel. You are only allowed in if you have already received a wristband. This policy, and the fortuitous timing of the Walking Dead panel, made it possible for me to see my first main stage panel in nine years of attending this convention.
The biggest news that came out of the con on the organization side was the harassment policy, and it worked. As a matter of fact, I bet it worked better than they were hoping: not only have I not seen any of the horrifying harassment stories this year that have become common at these gatherings (fingers crossed that it stays that way, but it does take a few days for all of it to trickle out, so we’re not all the way clear yet), but I think that the harassment policy and the fact that it was posted everywhere made folks more conscious of the space that they physically occupy and how they interact with their fellow con-goers. People seemed to be more attentive of the con-goers around them – I swear I heard “excuse me” and “I’m sorry” from random strangers more in four days here than I have in fifteen years of riding the subway.
I mentioned in the preview the conspicuous absence of a lot of video game companies, and also surprisingly absent were about 15 movie studios that have traditionally been there trying to foist crap like Hercules: The Greatest Story We Just Won’t Stop Fucking Telling on a nerd audience. So we did miss out on some legitimately interesting stuff – no news broke on Batman v. Superman – but it also meant that the con floor was MUCH more open and easy to maneuver. I also think that con organizers made a conscious effort to widen the aisles so that if somebody started a flash mob for a joke that’s 4,000 Internet years old, it wouldn’t make an entire busy intersection impassable and lead to a fistfight.
My love of Scott Snyder’s horror work is well-documented on TR, so the announcement of more American Vampire, especially vampires playing a role in the space race, had me racing out of the panel looking for copies. Similar to the “British Invasion,” which gave Vertigo a stylistic vibe that saw a lot of anti-heroes in stories about stories, Snyder seems to be functioning as the line’s new anchor. New Vertigo is horror: some of it Americana, some of it monster, all of it cerebral and high-concept, and nowhere was this on display than at this panel, which featured previews and discussion about Coffin Hill, Bodies, and a new series from Tim Seeley and Marley Zarcone called Effigy.
My favorite part of the Vertigo panel, though, was the announcement of Gail Simone’s book. It’s called Clean Room, about a self-help organization whose leader has a room that can extract secrets from an adherent’s mind, and that are then used to blackmail any potential troublemakers. I hope they get a whole line out of it: a sequel, Clean Boat, where the founder of the self-help organization flees the government for a few years; Clean Room 3: Tampa about their organizational headquarters. They could even do a political procedural about the process behind getting recognized as an official religion.
5. Matt Fraction & Chip Zdarsky Are Actually That Funny
Saturday’s Image panel didn’t break any news or have any particular insights into what they’re putting out right now (besides the news that Mark Millar still hasn’t written issue 5 of Jupiter’s Legacy). It did, however, get crashed by Chip Zdarsky, and he and his co-creator on Sex Criminals, Matt Fraction, are even funnier in person than they are on the book. The two of them, along with James Robinson of The Saviors; Roc Upchurch of Rat Queens; Wes Craig from Deadly Class; Frank Quitely from everything that’s good and right about comics, and also Jupiter’s Legacy; Brian K. Vaughan from Saga; and Steve Orlando from Undertow managed to put on the most entertaining panel I’ve ever seen.
It was an hour of lewd sex jokes about everyone’s books, along with some process discussions that ended up turning into lewd sex jokes. Everyone on stage seemed to be huge fans of their colleagues’ work. Robinson seemed especially knowledgeable about everyones’ work, and fanboyed out pretty hard for Saga and Sex Criminals. And, after some prolonged, very uncomfortable flirting, BKV and Fraction tossed out the idea of a Saga/Sex Criminals art swap. An issue set entirely on Sextillion with Chip Zdarsky using aliens to explain more ridiculous UrbanDictionary sex myths would probably be the highest selling non-big 2 comic of all time.
6. Wonder Woman ’77
Some of the best books that DC’s put out since the reboot have been out of continuity, digital-first comics. Adventures of Superman and Batman ’66 in particular have sold well and been critical darlings, and the early issues of Sensation Comics were very entertaining. So the news that DC is planning to take this formula and use it to expand on their most popular, enduring vision of Wonder Woman by publishing a weekly, digital-first comic expanding on the story of the 1977 Wonder Woman TV show has a lot of people excited.
Me, I’m just psyched for Marc Andreyko and Nicola Scott doing a Wonder Woman book. Everybody loves Manhunter. Scott’s work for DC has been great. And you know that they’re going to have other DC heroes show up. I can’t wait to see Batman spin himself dressed too.
7. The Valiant
Valiant made some nice splashes at NYCC this year, but nothing was more interesting than their push for The Valiant. It’s a limited series coming in December where the Eternal Warrior gathers up a variety of heroes from the Valiant Universe to battle an ancient threat.
The story isn’t exactly groundbreaking stuff, but it also has the spiffy trailer above, and it’s from Matt Kindt and Jeff Lemire, with Paolo Rivera on art. Rivera is one of the nicest guys and best artists in comics. He, with Mark Waid and Marcos Martin, revitalized the Daredevil comic after it had spun into self-parody. His style is almost timeless – classic and modern at the same time. I can’t wait to read it, especially if the ancient evil turns out to be the goat from Quantum & Woody.
8. My Face on Captain America
I always knew I was as smart and handsome as Iron Man, and in 6-8 weeks, I’m going to be able to prove it.
Hasbro ran a promotion at FAO Schwartz and Toys’R’Us in New York City this weekend where they used a computer to scan in your face, and then they would custom-3D-print a Captain America or Iron Man figure with your face on it. This is one of the coolest things I’ve ever seen from a toy company, though I have to imagine that it’s terrifying for Hasbro.
By the way, when I asked Hasbro’s rep if they had any plans to expand out of New York City, she told me that they don’t have any yet. I’m not sure how she italicized her voice, but it was there.
9. Marvel Cartoons
I’ve been down on Marvel Animation since they canceled Earth’s Mightiest Heroes. When that show ended, Marvel made what seemed like a conscious decision to skew their shows younger. They became very decidedly not-for-me (read: awful. Oh God they were awful). I was apprehensive going into the Marvel Animation panel on Friday, but I wanted to give it a chance. I was pleasantly surprised by Avengers Assemble and Ultimate Spider-Man: the animation still had the weird jump cuts, but it was much more fluid than early episodes, and the action in AA was well-choreographed and fun to watch. Ultimate Spider-Man is doing a full season of alternate universes and tailoring animation styles to the alternate universe the episode is in – they showed a clip of the 2099 episode, and the animation looked like ReBoot. Both of them are going to get a second chance, I think.
Hulk: Agents of S.M.A.S.H is going to stay a pass, though. They showed an upcoming episode with the Guardians of the Galaxy, and it gets 3 of a potential 5 Charles Barkleys on the Turrible scale. Speaking of the Guardians, they also previewed some test footage…well, I hope that it’s test footage, because I’ve seen slicker animation in a Homestar Runner cartoon.
10. More Artist’s Editions
Two announcements came from IDW early in the con that are great for comic process fans: starting in early 2015, they’re going to be putting out Artist’s Editions of Carl Banks and Don Rosa’s Uncle Scrooge books, and they’re expanding their partnership with Marvel to produce additional Artist’s Editions. They’re expensive, but they’re worth every penny.
These books are oversized hardcovers with art printed directly from scans of the original art, in color but only so the reader can see every smudge and blue copy line that the original artist was working off of, every detail hidden behind a word balloon and every hidden reference in the background art. In related news, Fraction and Zdarsky announced at their Image panel that they’re putting out an oversized Sex Criminals hardcover in the coming months.
11. Archie vs. Predator
I know it’s not called that, but I don’t care. You know we’ll always refer to it with the “vs.” in there.
Archie had a good weekend at NYCC. They had a big roll out for their Dark Circle hero books, and the continued good press they’re getting for Afterlife with Archie and the new Sabrina book kept their booth jammed through the entire con.
Of course, they were helped along by news of the most ridiculous crossover since Archie vs. Punisher: the Predator is coming to Riverdale. This is an utterly ridiculous idea and quite frankly, I can’t wait to see it. Read this and tell me you’re not excited:
Let’s take this gentle, beloved, classic teen cast and hunt them down and slaughter them one by one.
The only way this comic could be better is if Jughead turns out to be all ripped and growly like Adrien Brody.
12. DC’s Non-Presence
I know moves are stressful, but I was pretty disappointed to see that DC Comics apparently spent all their energy packing for Berkeley and didn’t actually have a booth on the floor. What they did have was the corner of the entrance hall where they used to run “how-to-safely-fake-lightsaber-fight” demos (spoilers: it’s a lot like how you real lightsaber fight), and the back corner of Artists’ Alley for signings. Calling that a booth is like calling the wall outlet I sat next to for an hour on Saturday in the hall between the show floor and Artist’s Alley “Topless Robot’s Press Lounge.”
Most of the presence they had was talent with work at other companies who also promoted their DC work. I wonder, though, considering the lack of news coming out of DC, if this isn’t part of a larger strategy. It probably is a coincidence, but what with this being the comics internet, it would be irresponsible not to speculate: does DC’s move to Burbank mean they’re also ceding NYCC to Marvel? Do they plan on establishing SDCC as their big “home show” and dominating the announcement schedule there? Is this the first phase in a new bi-company, bi-coastal publishing cold war? Does my insistence on seeing the diverse, healthier-than-ever comic book industry as a binary, half-century old conflict between the two cape companies betray a limited perspective?
Spinning out of The Death of Wolverine, which ends this week, are a couple of series that examine the various and sundry reactions to that death throughout the Marvel Universe. Then coming in January, is Wolverines, a weekly from Charles Soule, Ray Fawkes and Nick Bradshaw
where we find out what really happened to Kim Jong Un that takes Mystique, Daken, X-23 and Sabertooth (among promised others) and has them investigating Logan’s death.
At the Death of Wolverine panel, Soule compared said we would see the Wrecking Crew and Fin Fang Foom, and compared the book to Nextwave. Oh, you cannot imagine how excited I am.
JETPACKS! JEEEEEEEEEEEEEETPAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAACKS! Probably the most unexpected appearance at the entire con was a newly-married George Clooney, terrified to confront the furious nerd hordes he betrayed so many years ago. Fortunately for him, he brought with him a trailer and the first hints of information about Tomorrowland, Damon Lindelof and Brad Bird’s ultra-secret movie based on the Disney theme-park area of the same name.
There still isn’t all that much information out there on this, but at least now we can start to make informed speculation on what’s in the movie. A girl who’s obviously had some issues with the law finds a MacGuffin that takes her between alternate realities; one of them is the depressing, drab world she grew up in, and one has DUDES ON FREAKING JETPACKS and, according to the 4th edition of the Encyclopedia of World-Building Shorthand, is automatically awesome. Also, it’s got Danny Ocean, Dr. House, a cynical teenager and was directed by the guy who did The Incredibles. I’m stoked for this.
Previously by Jim Dandeneau
Topless Robot’s 2014 New York Comic Con Preview