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I started early, 7:30 AM on Thursday morning, to attend the Diamond Comics Retailer Appreciation Breakfast. The first thing I noticed was massive construction around the front of the Javits center. While that can’t be held against the promoters of the show, it sure limited the comings and goings as the days wore on. The Breakfast itself was fine. Marvel Comics shared a scene from Iron Man 3 with us after taking our cell phones and cameras. I am looking forward to that, but Dan Slott dropped the teaser bomb that when Spider-Man hits Marvel Now with Superior Spider-Man #1, in the wake of the last issue of Amazing Spider-Man with #700, Spider-man will not be Peter Parker. Who will it be? Slott asked. I don’t care, said I. Marvel and DC were both tooting their own horns about how great their product is and how great it sells. I’m really just finding myself bored with ‘event fatigue’ and the fact that there’s no drama left in these books. There are no permanent changes. There are no ramifications or changes or character growth or development. It’s an Archie comic on steroids. Not that there’s anything wrong with Archie comics. I just never felt the need to visit there regularly as it would take half a second to feel comfortable and familiar with those characters when I pick up a book after not reading it for years. (Incidentally, that’s been changing under a plan outlined by Michael Uslan, and coming to pass in Life With Archie, as they give him a running story and explore a much more vibrant universe in which the characters can change and grow.) Walking the floor I heard this same idea voiced many times by different fans. Diamond itself announced that sales for the year are up across the board. Things are looking good they say..
My feelings towards Marvel (and DC) were not alleviated as I hit the showroom floor. Both booths seemed anemic in their handouts of swag for the fans as well as any experience opportunity. In years past Marvel has had very exciting photo ops on first the throne of Asgard set from the Thor movie and then the Shield Helicarrier command center. This year there was nothing of the sort. Tables were set out for creators to sign autographs during in booth appearances but if one table was in use the others were agonizingly empty. Both DC and Marvel seemed to have issues with their signing schedules as when I visited them I had to ask who would be where, when, and was told “That’s not my department," “I’m not sure, go ask him," or “If you come back later, we’ll have it posted."
If you had experienced that showroom floor you would further understand the attitude I have when I say I wasn’t in the mood to return anywhere. The show was obviously over capacity and several times I found myself wishing the Fire Marshall would just show up. One time, my 12 year old daughter needed to use the ladies room and the closest one we could find was closed for cleaning, that’s right, closed for cleaning during show hours, and the next one we found was nearly a 45 minute wait to get into.
I watched a girl in a wheelchair start crying because she had been in line to meet Tom Felton, Draco of the Harry Potter films, for three and a half hours. Tom was supposed to sign for three hours and depending on which posted schedule you looked at, start from either 3:30 or 4:15, so I’ve no idea if he was late, but shortly after starting we were told he needed to leave for about an hour to do photo ops. That’s fan friendly scheduling. He came back and needed to take a break at about 6:15. Here’s where the girl in the wheelchair cried. As people in line started complaining, all we were told by the event staff was that we should show up five hours early next time. What in the world makes you think I want to experience this for a ‘next time’? He did eventually return and signed for just a little longer but thankfully Danielle got her opportunity so it worked, as it were, for us. The other truly stressful part of this story is that the entire time I’m waiting on Tom, I was running back and forth across the hall because I had bought a ticket to meet Carrie Fisher. The staff knew I had a 12-year-old in Tom’s line, I made sure when I bought the ticket that as long as I had it I could meet her and they watched me come and go for a couple of hours and when Carrie’s line got down to six people and I thought ‘I’m not leaving here or I’ll miss her’ the staff told me that Carrie’s line was shut off and I couldn’t meet her. I said “My daughter” and they said they knew. I said I’d been there all night and they told me they couldn’t help me, I’d have to know better next time. You’re damn right I found somebody who could help me and after an argument among the staff themselves I did meet Carrie and then raced back to Tom’s line to join my daughter. Why did I have to go through all of that? I’d paid for two weekend badges. I’d paid for the two opportunities. Why did it have to be so difficult? I know the show’s not responsible for Tom needing a break but they should be aware of how this experience sat with the fans that had paid for it.
My last complaint has to be the commercialization of the comic book convention. I said comic book. Chevrolet was set up on the floor. As was Craftsmen tools. Other than the super lame Craftsman Saves the Justice League free comic giveaway, what possible reason could there be for booths like this at a COMIC BOOK Convention? I don’t go to Home Depot looking for my comics…
It’s not all bad, though. Jeff Kaufman and Big City Comics had a good presentation and sales pitch that I was interested in. I bought the books. I’ll read them and was happy to spend my money there. Valiant Entertainment really impressed me. They came out of the gate with very cool blank variants of their number one issues to have sketches done on and provided creators, at all times that the show was open, to then sketch for free on any books. They did them as flip books. So you’d buy one and walk away with two original sketches. The staff was there. They were talking not about how great they are, but how great they hope to be. They thanked every fan who visited their booth. Valiant Entertainment showed me a company committed to its fans and the characters they’re producing. I’ve not quietly espoused the books they make, but after having met them personally, I am so much more invested in what they want to share with me. You’d be doing yourself a big disservice if you didn’t check them out.
I also liked Artist Alley, large and full and set apart from the main show floor. I know that some artists were unhappy to be set so far from the exhibitors and the show floor, but the fans in that room were looking for artists and I liked the fact that it felt like its own little thing.
There were some rude and/or inconsiderate people in the mix but all in all it was a very good weekend spent in the company of my daughter, who had a spectacularly great time, made so by the wonderfully grand moments of single individuals. Juanjo Guarnido, artist of Blacksad was there and talking with him was just such a pleasure. J.Scott Campbell, Mark Bagley, Dan Parent, Mark McKenna, and Norman Lee and his wife, Janet, were very good to us. From Valiant Entertainment, Dinesh and Hunter went out of their ways to make the show a success for us, as well as Mr. and Mrs. Gorelick and Michael Uslan at the Archie booth. It’s because of the acts of generosity and sincere thankfulness to their fans from people like these that we look very much forward to returning and seeing them again!