Day four was shorter, and my mood was bittersweet. I woke up ecstatic for another day at Comic Con yet was tired, stiff and sore; I was hyped and also sad that it was the last day. One great thing about today was that I had convinced my fiancée to come with me and check out the convention. She is accepting and even dabbles into my world of geekdom sometimes but has never been dunked into a whole ocean of it at once. After the initial shock and sensory overload, she began to get into it, attending some panels that interested her and checking out the art and scene of the show floor.
We got here much later than we had planned on because of G Train issues. A big note for those considering coming to NYCC that are not from NYC, the MTA can be very unreliable so plan ahead and just assume your train is going to be delayed twenty-to-thirty minutes because it most likely will be.
Looking at the list of panels that were listed for today, there seemed to be a good number touching on social issues. I was very excited about this, unfortunately many of them were at the same time or so close together that going from one to another would be a problem if the next panel was popular and had a long line of people who waited a while for that panel. That is one major critique I would have of NYCC, to dive into the much needed focus on color, diversity, LBGTQ, women, gender and equality in comic books and pop culture you often have to chose one or the other because the are not very spread out.
The first panel I attended was The Economics of Star Trek. There was a huge turnout of people in Starfleet uniforms excited to hear the panel discuss the foundation of the world Gene Roddenberry created that is not as apparent in the tv shows. There is always more of a focus on the technology and where we are in comparison to the tech they have and not much about where we are in relation to them economically and socially. The panel was made up of an author that wrote “Trekonomics”, a writer for Enterprise, and Economics blogger and other economic experts. The major themes discussed were the practicality and possibility of a “post-scarcity” economy which is the state that earth is in the 24th century in the Star Trek universe. There was a lot of discussion on how it was actually not a utopia because there was still a push for achievement and when money and good are no longer commodities, time becomes the currency.
I must say that this panel was ultimately a bit of a let down. The moderator was funny and had a good energy but the questions were a little weak and a majority of the panelists didn’t really answer them directly. It wasn’t until the end when audience members brought up the prime directive (the Magna Carta of the unified earth in Star Trek) and its relation to society and the economy that it got really interesting and to the point. Unfortunately that was the last five or so minutes of the panel. All in all it was worth the wait to hear a discussion about one of my favorite shows but it could have been better.
The next and last panel I attended was probably one of the best I have gone to at Comic Con yet. It was called Culturally Queer: The Explosion of LBGTQ Representation in Mainstream Comics & Pop Culture. The panel was made up of a pro cosplayer, several indie comic creators and an editor at Marvel Comics. The moderator was funny and asked very good questions that were very on topic and the panelists answered them directly. What made it even better was that there was a great dynamic between the panelists and they would riff off of each other and ask each other questions which made it more of an organic conversation instead of a tennis match. Some of the topics of interest were how the panelists got into comics, any queer influences in the media they connected with that influenced them and how they view the change in LBGTQ representation in comics.
The panel was lively and made many great points including the fact that though a lot of progress has been made since the dark ages in America where heteronormativity ruled, but taking a good look at where we are now and looking ahead to where we could be, we have a long ways to go still. There were references to changes in comic characters that have evolved over time to be more fluid in their gender and sexuality. Some specific examples were given including Adventure Time and Marvel’s X-Men which is a good example of moving from metaphors to reality in their representation of the queerness of characters. There is now more room to have the discussion about a character’s identity and room to play with gender roles.
In addition, there is beginning to be a shift in queer character portrayals, they are able to be made flawed and even evil because there is more of an acceptance of queer characters in general. The war on acceptance and representation is not anywhere near over but the fact that queer characters don’t have to be created overtly good to send the message that it is ok to be queer is a step in the right direction. Now what is needed is more representation, especially for the bi-sexual and transgender communities. It was stated that part of the issue with a lack of representation (especially at major comic sources) is the fact that white, cis males are still dominating the industry and dominating the targeted fan-base.
The mood of this panel was light, hilarious and hopeful while being realistic that there are still issues that need to be addressed. Even the panel members didn’t agree on everything and often sided differently on some ideas and questions. This brought forth the idea that it needed to be ok for people of the same community to disagree and think differently for progress to be made. I think this panel could have went on for another hour-or-so and still have kept the panel and audience engaged. There was a long line of people waiting to ask questions when the time ran out and you could tell most everyone in the room really didn’t want it to end.
After that panel let out I made my way to the last part of the convention that I had not yet checked out yet, the Artist Alley. This is an annex of the main center that houses rows and rows of tables with comic book and graphic novel artists displaying and selling their sketches, prints and books. It was just as busy as the show floor but was a slightly different vibe. Color and artwork is everywhere you look and there is no pop-culture merchandise hovering around, this was just a place for art to be appreciated.
Four days at Comic Con is definitely a commitment and a challenge. It takes a lot of energy, time and patience to make it through just one full day there and more than that seems like lunacy. The reality is though, when you are doing something that you love and are surrounded by people that are similar to you (a place where you fit in just fine) it doesn’t feel like work. Despite swarms of people buzzing around every inch of the center and long lines for everything from the bathroom to the ATM, it had a peacefulness to it. Looking past the logistics, sensory overload and crowdedness, the energy is real and invigorating. You don’t have to be a geek or into comics/sci-fi/fantasy/superhero culture to really appreciate the beauty of so many people that make that culture a part of their lives gathering in one spot to celebrate their geekdom.
There are Comic Cons and similar conventions all over the country (and the world). Another reason I chose to use the word “geek” in this coverage is that I think that it is universal for people that are fanatic and get into the culture of anything. The great thing is that there are conventions and events for many different interests and I would encourage you to go to them and surround yourself with others that geek out about what you are into, it is good for the soul.