Let's see if I have this straight. I live on Staten Island, NY, which is a stone's throw from New York City. The city is the greatest city in the world AND the locale of the top two comic book countries in the nation. Here's my question: how come we don't have a kick-ass comic con?
What makes for a good con, you ask? Well, it's the feeling that you can do anything, and know you're missing stuff in the process. It's shaking hands with your favorite talent, talking crap while you get a sketch. It's hunting high and low for that one back issue that's related to what you're reading now. It's panels full of fanboys asking questions and editors previewing new stuff. And it's something I cannot get in New York.
So what do I get? There's the Big Apple Con...and that's about it. It runs several times a year...which is good for anybody wanting fifty-cent back issues. It's held at Penn Plaza Pavilion, across the street from Madison Square Garden. But the layout is chaotic, with too many twists and turns. The talent? Second-rate at best. If you're a fan of some dopey sci-fi show, odds are somebody's there to sign autographs for money. Since there is no real big company presence, artist charge for sketches. I do understand that bills have to be paid...but damn it, I'm cheap. The most I've ever paid for a sketch is $25. Maybe if I get a job and a life, my attitude would change.
The closest to what I look for is Wizard World Philladelphia. It takes me about 90 minutes to get there, and I sweat the whole time. First of all, I tend to get lost. I still remember the time it took me hours to meet an interview subject, when I was supposed to get there in about 30 minutes. The other concern is car safety. On the last day of the 2003 show, I rear-ended a car in the rain. I just blinked and BANG! No real harm was done, but that rattled the hell out of me for a while. Luckily, I had a clean run last year, and I got some quality con time in. But sadly, it all paled to the Main Event.
Comic Con International. It is Mecca for geeks everywhere. Located in San Diego, it brings in close to a million people during a four-day weekend. By my estimate, it would take about five minutes to go from one end of the hall to another...and that's if you're the only person there. Dealers? Hundreds. Companies? Big and small. Panels? Around the clock. There's also the Eisner Awards, the annual Masquerade, proximity to the Gaslamp Quarter, and a new baseball stadium across the street. Oh, and it's located in a California city that doesn't have smog and/or earthquakes. Sadly, it's 3,000-plus miles away from where I am. Both times, I stayed in Little Italy, in a hotel with no air conditioning. Not really that much fun.
Sorry to gripe...I've been reading stuff from Wizard World Los Angeles, and I saw a pic of one of my fave writers, whom I knew before she became famous. A lot of my friends end up going to CCI, and I feel bad that I don't meet them. I just wish there was a big enough show near where I live, so they'd come to me. Also, I don't know if I'll be flying out anywhere this year. CCI's a probable no-go. I do have friends in Chicago, so Wizard World wouldn't be out of the question. Ditto with Toronto, which seems to have all sorts to neat stuff. There's also a Wizard World in Boston, which could be a fun trip. The bad news? It takes place during the last weekend of the baseball season...and that's a Yankees/Red Sox series. So much for getting hotel rooms there.
I should hit the hay now. One day, I'll have to go over the con stuff from my past....memories, sketches, that sort of thing. I can tell you my most surreal moment: the time I was having breakfast in Chicago right before Wizard World 2001, and having Kenny Baker (the guy in the R2-D2) asking me about it. Perfect way to start off a weekend.