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New York Comic-Con 2013: A Report From Inside

This four-day period that we wait all year for just goes by so fast! My fifth year in, I'm an alumni, having learned what shoes to wear, how many breaks from the floor to take, and where to eat.

From this standpoint, I begin this article with a list of both improvements and disappointments as compared with last year.

First, the positives:

• Cell service and charging times drastically improved this year – a huge plus.

• Air conditioning was turned off, preventing the awkward radio knob nipple scenario for those of us dressed scantily.

• The personal panel organizer, while not able to be accessed from our phones as promised, was easily downloaded to a spreadsheet and printed out, helping to keep us organized and on time for events. Additionally, panel information was readily obtainable via the app.

• The press area was located on an off floor with easier access to discussion rooms and had its own WiFi, bathroom and snack bar with free coffee refills – three absolute godsends.

• Artist locations and schedules were clearly identified on the site, eliminating the frustrating witch hunts of yesteryear.

• Staff was on hand to provide smooth access to the center and there were enough check-in lines to get everyone inside quickly and painlessly.

• The Family Room.

And now, the negatives:

• The press area was also freezing.

• Panel attendees are still being allowed to occupy rooms all day long, essentially cutting off opportunities to attend panels scheduled for 4:00 p.m. by 11:00 a.m..

• Coat check was nearly impossible to locate – even by staff.

• The floor was well over capacity, making it impossible to get from one place to another without at least a half hour's head start.

• Guests are still uncompensated for their appearances, forcing attendees to shell out an average of $75 for a moment of their time.

• Not nearly enough outlets.

Now that that's out of the way, back to your regularly scheduled highlights:

Day One featured several awesome panels. I started out my day with endless notes taken at the "Protect It and Publish It" panel run by Alan Robert, Allan Norico, David Gallaher, Matthew Tynan, Sheafe Walker and Thomas Crowell, Esq.. Even though the focus was on comics, as a writer, there was a wealth of informative advice given, and it was a great kickoff to the event.

My friends Jess and Liz dragged me to Syfy's "Haven" panel. I've never seen the show, but I had a great time at the panel. Brian Millikin, Emily Rose, Eric Balfour, Lucas Bryant, Nick Parker, Shawn Piller occupied the main stage well as John Dunsworth and Richard Donat moderated the floor. There were bursts of song "We're Troubled" and spontaneous weddings "By the power invested in me by no one," intoned Balfour as Bryant strummed soulfully, watching the denim jacket-veiled bride and her proud groom seal it with a kiss.

I rounded out the evening at the "LGBT and Allies in Comics" panel hosted by the New York Times and Geeks Out. The Times' Jude Biersdorfer led the discussion with Dan Parent, Daniel Ketchum, Greg Pak, Rich Bernatovech and Marjorie Liu regarding the comics industry's bold progression into modern times, particularly by Marvel and Archie Comics. There was a bit of shade thrown at DC for refusing to toss their hat into the ring.

There was a sorrowful lack of cosplay on Thursday (although I did catch up with Superdog,) and my friend Liz was barred from the "South Park" game demo because she didn't have i.d. (we'll all just pretend that everyone didn't start watching the show at age six.) Jess and Liz set sail for home as my friend Ludovica and I debriefed over Chinese cuisine until the wee hours as we planned our chart of attack for the weekend.

Day Two was rife with cosplay (and shoulder-deep crowds.) We succeeded in smuggling Liz into the "South Park" exhibit this time, but we left about ten pounds lighter due to the spectacular lack of oxygen in the tent.

Despite my pathetically late start, I was able to snap a photo of a cute older couple en route to the show, and catch at the only panel of the day, "Spotlight On The Fifth Beatle." I'm not much of a Beatles fan, but the Brian Epstein story was damn interesting. I've already placed my preorder. Trust me, you don't want to miss out.

Despite the plethora of badass available panels (almost all of which were full,) I spent the bulk of my day on the floor. I caught the "Cosmos: A Space Time Odyssey" trailer, which looks so badass. I love the planetarium, and plan on dragging my dad and my son there to see the show chance we get.

I changed out my belly ring for a Batman logo and drooled over a Wonder Woman swimsuit that I knew I'd never be able to afford this go-round. Jess, Liz and I spent our lunch hour with this rad couple from The Netherlands who ran a comic store there and polka-dotted our nails as our phones slowly died due to acute lack of electricity.

We rounded out the evening with an ever curt visit to the Tick Tock with a new friend named Karolina and a surly waiter who refused to bring us mayonnaise, followed by a lively debate over interesting names with the Au Bon Pain staff at Penn Station.

Day Three was interview day for me. I started my day with the "Mad About Mad" panel featuring John Ficarra and Sam Viviano, which was absolutely hilarious (although I didn't wind up scoring a preview issue for my question [boo.]) It was great to see that the magazine hasn't lost a single drop of its edge, and I immediately preordered my copy of "Inside Mad," which will feature 17 essays by celebrity fans such as Roseanne Barr and Pendleton Ward and a forward plus two-page spread by Judd Apatow spoofing all of his movies to date.

From there, I was off to meet the legendary Victor Gorelick, editor-in-chief at Archie Comics. He was just the sweetest as we waxed poetic about zombies, same sex dating and Veronica's out-of-place accent (inquiring minds, i.e. my dad, wanted to know.)

I rounded out my day at the "Ink Fusion" panel, where the infamous artists Marc Draven, Shannon Ritchie, Chris 51, Josh Bodwell, Mike Bianco and Needles shared tales of their most inappropriate requests, funny reactions at cons and reasons why one never falls asleep around six buddies armed with permanent pens. It was a superfun panel and we were all bummed that Javits doesn't allow work to be done on their premises (maybe next year?)

Ludo and I took our emotions out on some mini pies as we said goodbye to Jess and Liz and prepared for the fourth and final day.

The first half of Day Four was all about "Adventure Time" as the day began with a hilarious panel featuring talent Jeremy Shada and John DiMaggio, writers Kent Osborne and Rebecca Sugar and creator Pendleton Ward. It was moderated by New York Times contributor Dave Itzkoff and also featured bursts of song, stories of pizza and background checks on all of the princesses of Ooo!

We went directly to the Roundtable, where Rebecca, Kent, Jeremy and John enlightened us on the writing process, the temptation to have adventures together in their downtime and the worst episode ideas ever.

Sunday is also Kids' Day, which makes the floor even messier than normal, but this year, Javits was smart and set up a panel room especially for families. It definitely cut down on the tripping risk for all concerned. I wanted to make contact with my British nieces, who I hadn't had the chance to see all weekend, so we spent an hour and a half exploring the floor together in search of presents for home.

As Ludo attended her panel, I chatted with a zombie who dangled a tempting afterparty under my nose, but there was just no way on a schoolnight. I requested a raincheck. We frantically shopped for the last hour of the con before retiring over good sangria and steaks.

All in all, a successful Con and a killer kickoff to Halloween month. For more information on New York Comic Con, go to http://www.newyorkcomiccon.com/Home/. Next year's Con will take place from October 9-12, 2014.

Deborah J. Draisin

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