A Gothic Metropolis

A coworker and I were sent to the New York Comic Convention to represent Prima. Me and comic cons (sorry, “Comic cons and I”) go back a long way. I used to pay $1.50 every month at the Ambassador Hotel (final living place of Bobby Kennedy) to spend money on X-Factor, Alpha Flight, Groo, and other four color miscreants. I moved up the ladder, attending WonderCon in Oakland religiously and the mecca, San Diego Comic Con, for six straight years hustling a possible comic script (never read).


Now with a corporate card in hand, we were going to see what New York had to offer the combination of Strategy Guides and Comic Books. On the first day tips were forgotten at the hotel and a taxi was hailed. The gratuity industry is a puzzlement to a man from California and a coworker recently from Japan, places where tips are the province of the rich and an insult, respectively. And then we were awash in comics. A mild flow of pros for the first five hours, reconnecting with people from my company’s main office. Jolly-ness is infectious at a con. We had nothing to sell, just give-aways and so our ballyhoo is innocent though mistrusted until the free comic is in their hands and, after a beat, we haven’t tried to sell anything more. Then smiles.
I made a sign: “Nothing for Sale. We just want to talk.” and it’s true. I love these people. I was these people on that side of the table, head down, furtive glances at wares, afraid to look too closely or with interest as that would invariably trigger a hard sell from the merchants or, from the creative hopefuls with table space full of xeroxed copies of their work, a patter tinged with minor desperation (growing as the weekend progressed) that caused so much guilt in me since I could not buy everything they had crafted or help them realize their dreams which, mostly, seemed so unlikely but so earnest it made me want to cry in cynical frustration for them. Can’t we all just create and be paid? And no matter how awful the art is, how hackneyed the story, I envied them the passion to put it in front of the world and pitch with gusto and was concurrently horrified that they couldn’t see how terrible was their creation.

Now I get to sit on the other side of the ramparts, give something away, and try to reassure the timid that not every table is an obstacle or a money trap. I’m polite to the socially stunted in a way I wouldn’t have been able to conceive when I worked at a comic book store and took great delight in tormenting the same. Here and now I ask questions of passersby about their costumes, t-shirts, hats, and hair. I ask them to pose for pictures, I cajole them to explain cryptic fictitious symbols on their clothes, I try to give them the opening to explain exactly why they are cool.

Which, by my own experience, is exactly what the costumes, logoed t-shirts, and patches are attempting to convey. I know they want me to recognize the Tardis printed on their jacket, the Mandalorian armor, the web-comic t-shirt, to give them the Prisoner salute. And I want to show them I’m cool by that same recognition. Sure, I’m telling them, I’m here behind a corporate desk, but I get you.



This mutual admiration convention went on for three days and I enjoyed the hell out of it.

High five. Live long and prosper. Be seeing you.




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April 2008
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