Friday, October 21, 2011

New York Comic Con 2011 Report

As I mentioned in my preview, here I am with my post-New York Comic Con 2011 report, during which I’ll talk about some of the announcements made, some of the books I discovered, and some general observations about the convention and Kid’s Day. I took my own children on Kid’s Day, where they get in for free on Sunday. We arrived before the convention officially opened, got our tickets and then got going out on the show floor, visiting many booths. Unfortunately, it had already been a very busy weekend for my family, so just after lunch my kids had had enough, and we left without having the chance to attend any panels. I won’t go specifically in the order of what booths we visited, frankly I don’t remember anymore and there’d be little to tell about some of them anyway. Instead I’ll give you more of my general impressions starting with…

Marvel comics comes into NYCC ’11 on the heels of two hit movies, and with some of the more well-informed readers knowing that there’s going to be a special Point One issue which will show what their big comic plans are for 2012. So how do they present themselves at COMIC Con? By promoting their Avengers movie and a videogame. Listen, I’m all for the excitement that the new movie should bring and videogames are a great way to reach out to a potentially different reader – but shouldn’t the point of those things be bringing in new COMIC readers. And it’s worse that I show up on KIDS day with my kids, only to find that the only free comic from Marvel is a few page preview of their upcoming Avenging Spider-man title. Not Thor, a movie which has prompted my kids to role-play Thor and got them interested in picking up comics about him. Not Captain America, which was such a big hit in theaters. Now I thought there was supposed to be a Marvel Mix-tape (comic), which maybe would have alleviated some of my concerns, but there were apparently no copies left when I arrived early on Kids Day – which I would think is the day you most want to push those upcoming titles onto potential new (young) readers. But what do I know, I’m only a guy with two kids who walked away completely unimpressed by the company whose comics I love the most. In my opinion, that Point One issue should have been available for purchase at NYCC (instead of November), and that Marvel Mix-tape should have been in the hands of every attendee (and it should have included Thor and Captain America if it didn’t).

At the same time, I don’t want to give the impression that I didn’t enjoy some of the things that came out from Marvel over the weekend. Avenging Spider-man actually looks like it could be a lot of fun, a Marvel Team-up title featuring Spidey and various Avengers, but not tied into the ongoing plotlines featuring various cast members of the Spider-man books. It reminds me of Todd McFarlane’s Spider-man – a title I loved because it could be enjoyed on it’s own without worrying about getting caught up on back-story. A highlight for me was hearing that Guardians of the Galaxy should be returning as a comic by next summer, which only makes sense when Marvel/Disney is in talks to do a movie based on the property. Now I just have to hope that Star Lord is back as leader of the team.

Titan books apparently forgot that they actually sell stuff that’s relevant to Kids when preparing for NYCC. I get that you’ve got a lot of new products you want to get us consumers interested in, but to make your booth completely irrelevant on Kids Day when you have products you could be promoting to them just seems to me to be a waste. Would it really have been that hard to bring along some of the product that would have been more fitting for that day. This is a general comment for any exhibitor as well – it’s ok for you to hold back stuff until Kids Day, you’ve got a whole bunch of new potential customers walking in for the first time on that day. Imagine if Marvel had announced it was ONLY going to give away a specific comic on the final day of the show – how much busier would their booth have been?

Orbit books failed a bit to impress me, but it had less to do with anything specific to Kids Day (they don’t really have books that I would consider appealing to kids). But, they had no catalog of products for me to pick up – and as a father who has two kids who had no interest in standing at a booth that had no products they were interested in, I had no time to have the Orbit rep talking to me about all the books they currently have to offer. If you’re not going to have books that my kids are going to be interested in, then I need to be able to get a catalog from you quickly with highlights of your upcoming or recently released books. But I give them credit; Orbit was at least AT NYCC, which is better than some publishers who didn’t even bother to come.

And why is that important? Because I will say that at a number of other publisher’s booths, I found a bunch of new books I’m now interested in and will be on my reading list for 2012. That’s potential sales that book publishers who didn’t come to NYCC missed out on. Because I discovered a number of titles from other publishers, via discussions in their booths, catalogs, ads, and so on.

DK and Penguin had particularly great booths for both adults and kids, with a great selection of books for both, as well as discounted prices for attendees, giveaways and friendly workers. I discussed the merits of the various Lego books and how my local library says they can’t keep those books on the shelves with the DK folks. I got to share in unabashed love of Jack Campbell with one of the Penguin folks. I also got introduced to Dead Iron by Devon Monk at that booth, as well as Alien in the Family by Gini Koch which now I realize is just the latest in a series that I’ll have to add to my list to check out in the near future.

Del Rey had a great booth layout, which was a huge improvement over last year, where they were stretched out in one long row – this time they had two booths one across the aisle from the other. They had a third booth in the Star Wars “area” though to be honest, they didn’t really need that booth, since the “Star Wars area” didn’t seem all that themed – only The Old Republic, as well as Her Universe and Celebration VI seemed Star Wars specific. Otherwise, Hallmark, Hasbro and others featured some Star Wars products, but they had plenty more to show as well. But Hasbro really knocked it out of the park at this convention – I don’t remember if they were at the last NYCC, but this time they were the sponsor of Kid’s Day, they were giving out Kreo Transformers to the kids, and their booth was filled with previews of upcoming toys as well as numerous picture taking opportunities.

We had a couple of celebrity run-ins, starting with our visit to Her Universe to see if Ashley Eckstein (voice of Ashoka Tano in The Clone Wars) who was very nice to both my sons and posed for pictures… which my phone apparently deleted. We also got to see (but didn’t get to talk to, because the line was too long) Mark Hamill at the New-Gen booth, where we received some posters and limited convention editions of the new comic he was there to promote.

Disney Publishing had a great catalog of their upcoming Marvel books, and Chevrolet did a great job of entertaining my kids with a flying balloon car while I was waiting on line to get a NYCC tee-shirt. I wasn’t expecting to find much of interest for me at Harper Collins, as they focus a lot on urban fantasy, and when they branch out it’s into fantasy, but they managed to get my attention with two YA titles, The Secret Adventures of Jack London (The Sea Wolves) by Christopher Golden & Tim Lebbon and The Invisible Tower by Nils Johnson-Shelton.

I was already looking forward to Sisterhood of Dune from TOR before NYCC, but likewise I found some new discoveries with Girl Genius (Agatha & the Airship City) by Phil and Kaja Foglio and All Men of Genuis by Lev AC Rosen. I didn’t think much of the Dark Horse booth, it was a little oddly laid out and again, considering it was Kid’s Day, they were focusing on Creepie (an adult series) and had nothing in terms of Star Wars stuff for the kids – a missed opportunity since I think their Digests are a great format and my kids love reading those comics from Dark Horse. That would have been a great time to introduce a whole lot of new readers to that format. Dark Horse did have some great news on the digital front, as they plan to release Dragon Age comics (based on the video game) on digital first, at a price point lower than what it will cost at the comic stores – exactly what many people think should be happening with the cost of digital products vs physical copies.

Since I had mentioned some of these panels in my preview of NYCC, and they got some good coverage at other sites, I thought I’d pass along some links for anyone interested in checking them out. The Military scifi panel was given a nice summary at io9, or you can see the full video at Myke Cole’s website. There’s a Girl with the Dragon Tatoo panel summary, as well as a summary of the Star Wars book news from NYCC. Here you can find the Steampunk 101 panel, the Del Rey/spectra panel, the We’re No Angels panel, and the Urban Fantasy panel. And if you’d like to see more photos from NYCC, check out this post at Men in Black Reviews.

Finally, I’m going to leave you with some Rules that I’ve come up with concerning NYCC – things that apply to exhibitors, press, attendees, and sometimes all three:

1. All, pay attention to the fact that it’s kid’s day – this means for exhibitors actually having relevant stuff for them, and for attendees it means wearing something other than your stripper costume for just that particular day of the con.

2. Exhibitors, have something readily available promoting your recently released and upcoming stuff.

3. Exhibitors, if you’re going to have comic con exclusives, make sure you’re telling people about them every chance you get at your booth – I missed one I would have bought if I had known about it when I was at the con, instead of finding out about it on your flyer when I got home. That’s money lost.

4. Interviewers, don’t monopolize the time of the person you are trying to do an on the floor Q&A with. I get that you want a chance to ask a bunch of questions, but really you should both limit it to what you can remember without referencing a multi-page sheet, and frankly the fact that you need multiple pages of printed out sheets means that your interview is probably too long.

5. Attendees, you should really look around when you’re trying to take a photograph. If you have to block an entire aisle when thousands of other attendees are trying to make their way from one booth to another – you need to rethink that photograph. Likewise if you see something that’s an obvious photo op, look around and see if there’s already a LINE of people waiting for that photo op as well.

6. In general some attendees need to pay attention to the fact that there are LINEs for all sorts of things. And just because you finally get to the front of said line and now have what you came for, doesn’t mean that’s the perfect time for you to have a brain fart and pause to collect yourself while holding up everyone behind you.

My kids and I look forward to attending NYCC again in 2012, and hopefully it will be on a weekend that’s a little less busy for us and we’ll be able to attend more panels. If I can manage it, I’ll even try to get there for a day on my own – but that’s for next time. Until then, we had a great time at NYCC ’11 and there’s plenty to do for everyone. If you’re into videogames, there were lots of opportunities to try out games that haven’t been released yet. There are lots of chances to meet authors, buy exclusive merchandise, talk to industry professionals – whatever you’re into NYCC gives you the opportunity to indulge in your favorite pastime.


SQT said...

Nice rundown. I've never been able to go to a Comic Con, but my husband and I are going to try to make it to the San Diego one next year. It's nice to know they have days for the kids because we were thinking of taking them.

Btw-- I need to finish "Dead Iron" but I like what I've read so far.

animewookie said...

Very much enjoyed your list of rules :D I'm glad that not all the publishers missed the mark. Wonderful post TY

Charles Gramlich said...

That Airship city looks pretty cool.

Elfy said...

It's a shame that the attendees don't always follow your rules there, Jim. Events would be much more pleasant if they did.
@SQT Dead Iron is pretty cool, I really enjoyed it. If I ever get some space in the TBR pile I may even look at Devon's other series.
@Charles Gramlich Agatha H. and the Airship City is a hoot. It's the first 3 Girl Genius collections in novel form. Kaja and Phil are quite fun to meet in person, too.