It’s that sacred time of year again, when Chelsea gets overrun by Power Rangers and Supermen. This weekend, New York Comic Con transformed the Jacob Javits Center into an adult playland teeming with awestruck fans dressed in costumes (“cos-play,” for the uninitiated). As an outsider looking into the world comic book culture, it was more than a little strange to step into a sea of outlandish outfits, countless neon wigs, dangerous-looking props, and Hot Topic paraphernalia—the likes of which have rarely been seen this side of Y2K.
Down on the floor, exhibitors were busy advertising their comic books, comic book movies, and (tons of) video games. Of course, the biggest draw for the hardcore comic enthusiast includes meeting artists, creators, and stars, which involves tackling long lines and fervent fans. The most elaborate booth belonged to Marvel, who upped the ante with the Avengers’ Stage, a full-scale set erected to promote the new film that ties together characters from Iron Man, Thor, and Captain America. Close to two stories in height and nearly as wide, the installation let fans take a photo on the deck of (what appeared to be ) a mission control station complete with dedicated extras who kept busy behind supercomputers.
As tempting as Avenging was, our mission firmly meant spending the weekend taking in screenings, and we can happily confirm they didn’t disappoint. First up was the Locke & Key pilot, which piqued our interest for two reasons: the television series originated from the graphic novel horror series written by Joe Hill (Stephen King‘s son), and the peek was directed by Mark Romanek, the esteemed music video director. (Re-watch En Vogue’s “Free Your Mind,” Fiona Apple’s “Criminal,” and Nine Inch Nails’ “Closer.” Now.)
The pilot follows the Locke family as they move to the ancestral Key House (no one said it was subtle), at which point the story moves into classic haunted house territory with the clever addition of hidden magical keys meant to unlock supernatural powers. Teen drama and familial woe are thrown in for ratings’ sake, but it’s not nearly as cheesy as its genre suggests. The show promised to be much more entertaining and original than FX’s American Horror Story. Unfortunately, the pilot was ordered—and rejected—by Fox, and then passed on by SyFy. Rumor has it that MTV is considering picking it up, but as of now, it’s homeless.
From there, we moved on to the highly anticipated PBS documentary, A Never Ending Battle, which chronicles the history of comic books from their inception to present day. Although we only saw an early cut of the first part in a three-part series, it offered a fairly comprehensive introduction to the genre and also examined the impact of comic books from a cultural and historical perspective. Interviews with experts, insiders, and retirees like Stan Lee, Michael Chabon, and Phil Jimenez added an appropriate dose of humor to the doc, which tackles the less-than-glamorous beginnings of genre’s pioneers, the post-war backlash, and the rampant sexism, racism, and patriotic violence that plagued the Golden Age of Comics.
On Saturday, we made it our mission to attend both The Walking Dead and The Avengers panels, but despite lining up hours in advance for these back-to-back events, the major fans beat us! Instead, we sulked our way over to check out some of Adult Swim’s new live-action shows and caught the first episode of The Heart, She Holler, a Southern soap opera spoof costarring comedians Patton Oswalt and Kristen Schaal. Although the source material might be too scant to sustain more than one season, the first episode had some solid laughs and the Q&A panel was moderated by surprise guest David Cross—who repeatedly compared the show to an episode of Blue Bloods he saw the night before.
Before we knew it, Sunday came and we were on our way to the IFC panel for the second seasons of The Increasingly Poor Decisions of Todd Margaret and Portlandia—and this time we got in! Todd Margaret was first and David Cross brought longtime friend and comedian H. Jon Benjamin (Archer, Jon Benjamin Has a Van) onstage to interview him about the show. Having performed together for years, it felt more like an extended comedy sketch than a proper interview, culminating in Benjamin commandeering the audience’s Q&A mic and demanding to know why Cross’ other friends were offered roles on the show while he wasn’t.
When the folks from Portlandia (Fred Armisen, Carrie Brownstein, and Jonathan Krisel) took the stage the crowd went wild. As excited as were for the trifecta’s banter, we went to see moderator (and SNL head writer) Seth Meyers ask some great questions about the show. Like anything that inspires fan-boyism, however, the audience’s attention to detail and fervent questioning ran the gamut from cloying to annoying, as when one crowd member asked, “Why don’t you start the show by saying, ‘Live from Portland, it’s Saturday Night!’?” At that point, it was nearing Sunday night, and we were pooped. Following the excitement of the day, we walked through Chelsea on our way home, where only a few of the leather- and latex-clad passersby even knew what Comic Con was.