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Sometimes life throws you curveballs.
I had my trip to NYCC all planned out. I would fly to New Jersey, spending the first night at the house of Erica Friedman, the genius behind Yuricon and Okazu, and one of my favorite people. Erica and I would then spend the next three nights sharing a hotel room and attending New York Comic-Con. I'd be dressed as one of my favorite fictional heroes: the indomitable Stephanie Brown, Batgirl version, and while I was there I would rub shoulders with countless others dressed as their favorite heroes. Afterward, I would fly home again.
That was the plan.
When I arrived in New Jersey, I got a text from Erica saying that she was in the hospital, and her wife, Pattie, also a good friend, would pick me up instead.
Once Pattie picked me up, I learned that Erica's symptoms suggested that she'd had a minor stroke. We headed over to the hospital to see her and hang out there with her for awhile. She and I talked about the things going on in our lives as I did my best to distract her.
The next morning the results from her tests came back. Her symptoms were not the result of a minor stroke, as the doctors had originally thought. She has Multiple Sclerosis.
My friend expressed her relief.
That's right, while I was silently hoping the doctors were somehow wrong, Erica said she was actually relieved at the diagnoses, because MS was at least 'manageable', whereas a stroke would inevitably lead to more and more severe strokes. Upon further reflection I suppose I can see her point.
I called the hotel and canceled our reservation.*
Obviously, we didn't do much that day. When Erica was released that Thursday afternoon, we all went back to her house. She hadn't gotten much sleep in the hospital, so she took a nap that afternoon. I was rather tired and headachey myself, so I was actually kind of glad to have an afternoon to rest rather than trying to get to "Pro and Press Day" at the convention.
Friday was again spent mostly at my friend's house. She had to go in for a certain treatment every day in the mornings. In the afternoon we drove into the city and had dinner and did a bit of shopping at the Mitsuwa.
On Saturday Erica decided she was up to going to the convention. It was an hour's train ride to Penn station, plus a walk of several blocks to the Javits Convention Center, but not too bad overall. I went in costume. Batgirl again, though I think this may be the last time I wear this costume, or at least the last time I wear this iteration of Batgirl.
The convention center was horrendously crowded. It was unfortunate that crowd management was so poor. SDCC always gets crazy crowded, but the space is very different: there are surrounding hotels and outdoor areas at the San Diego convention center that simply can't exist in the space available to New York. With everyone crammed into the available space, traffic jams were inevitable, but it really felt dangerous to me. At SDCC, they have Fire Marshals patrolling the Exhibit Hall to make sure that lines don't get too long or block exits. If someone had yelled "Fire!" at NYCC, I suspect people would have died.
Crowds at NYCC by Sonia Harris, used with permission
We met up with some people at the Prism Comics booth. One woman there grew very excited when she realized that I was the San Diego Batgirl. She told me that the furor resulting from the questions I'd asked in 2011 had been instrumental in getting a "Queer Women in Comics" panel greenlit at NYCC 2011. Obviously, it made me feel very good to hear that. Erica chimed in, expressing disappointment that there were far fewer panels focusing on queer representation in comics this year than there had been at NYCC 2011.
I got to meet up with a few people I knew from online and in real life. Erica was getting tired and decided to head back, but she suggested I stay and return on a later train, so that's just what I did.
I wandered a bit, then went to DC's Justice League panel. It was unexciting and didn't inspire me to ask any questions. Then I took walked to the train station and headed back. A couple of people on the train complimented me on my costume, so that was fun.
I didn't sleep well that night, but I was determined to make it back to the convention the next day anyway. Erica's medical treatment was scheduled for later in the day this time, so I went on my own (I also wanted to give her and Pattie some time to themselves, because having a guest is already stressful enough without all the other crap that was going on.) I decided not to go in costume. I took the long train ride into town, walked to the convention center, and headed straight for the Batman panel. The convention staff sent me into the room early, which meant that I got to sit through most of a panel about 666 Park Avenue, a television horror series that interested me not at all. Doing so at least meant that I got a great seat for the following panel, though.
At this point I started to feel light-headed; from exhaustion, I thought at first. Soon after my throat really started to hurt. I'd picked up a cold, either the usual con-crud or perhaps during my visit to the hospital. I made sure to wash my hands, but I fear I may have been a vector anyway. If I got anyone I interacted with sick, I am truly sorry.
Anyway, the 666 Park Avenue panel finally ended, and the participants in the Batman panel filed into the front of the room. I saw Scott Snyder and went to talk to him for a few moments before the panel started. He recognized me out of costume! I wonder what gave me away – my voice? The fact that I'm really short?
At SDCC Snyder had asked me to let him know what I thought of Batman #12, so I took the opportunity to tell him that I liked it very much and that I also liked the fact that he'd made Martha Wayne an actual character in the "Court of the Owls" arc. I didn't mention that I'd disliked the "Court of the Owls" storyline for other reasons – I only had a few seconds to speak with him and it wasn't the appropriate time for criticism, even polite, reasoned criticism.
He told me that he hoped I would ask a question, and I told him it would depend on if the panel inspired any, and sat down.
There's always a l
ot of energy at the Batman panels. I considered getting up during the question portion and asking about Stephanie Brown and Cassandra Cain, but I knew I would get the same answer I did at WonderCon: "We'd love to include them, but we don't have the power to." (Scott Snyder told me this at WonderCon, and confirmed it again at SDCC). Later I wished I had gotten in line, though. One of the things stated in response to a questioner was that all of Gotham's history as detailed in the comics has happened. Everything. I muttered, "Except for Stephanie Brown and Cassandra Cain," and the two women sitting in front of me overheard and turned around and one of them said, "Yes! I wish someone would ask about them!"
I blinked at them and said, "Why don't you get in line?" They shrugged, looking at the long line, so I got up. It was far too long a line at that point and I knew there was no way I would make it to the front before the panel was over, but I got up and got in line anyway.
As expected, I didn't have the opportunity to ask about the two Batgirls. Something interesting happened after the panel, though. I approached Grant Morrison afterward and reached him at the same time as a young woman dressed as Cassandra Cain. She patiently waited until he had a moment, then asked him if he was going to be bringing Cass back.
I should mention that he'd been asked this at SDCC 2011, and said "Certainly". Now he spread his hands and said, "I tried. I wrote her and Steph interacting in one issue, and they wouldn't let me use either of them." I'm paraphrasing him from memory, since I wasn't recording this, but I'm certain that the gist is correct.
The woman looked disappointed and said, "I was just wondering, because she's my favorite. I love her."
Morrison nodded and said, "I love her too, but they wouldn't let me use her."
This honestly surprised me. Morrison had been allowed to use Stephanie Brown in an earlier issue of Batman, Inc, and at SDCC 2011 it seemed that he was going to be allowed to use Cassandra Cain as well, with editorial's blessing. I also have the impression that Morrison is given a huge amount of creative leeway. The fact that even he was not allowed to use these characters anymore frankly shocked me.
By this time I was feeling pretty awful. While standing in the question line I'd felt faint, but thankfully did not actually faint. Now that the panel was over I was dizzy, my nose was getting stuffy and my throat hurt a lot, so I decided I'd better get back to my friend's house. I walked back to the train station and got on the train. On the hour long trip back I checked Twitter from my phone and learned that Stephanie Brown had appeared in an episode of "Young Justice" which had been pulled before airing that week. Feverish, exhausted, and still a bit in shock from what Morrison had said, I speculated that the reason why it was pulled was Steph's presence in the episode. Later, after more rational thought, I realized that this was unlikely. While I have no doubt that DC Comics would exercise their power to pull an episode of Young Justice at the last minute to prevent such an appearance (after what they did to the Smallville comic, nothing surprises me anymore), I don't believe that they have that kind of power. It would be the tail wagging the dog to a tremendous degree. I think it's far more likely that DC's loss of its license to use Milestone characters, which happened the day before the episode was to air, was responsible for getting the episode pulled at the last minute.
The episode was available on iTunes despite being unaired, so I begged people on Twitter to record the episode in case it was pulled before I was able to purchase it. When I got back to the house, I fired up my laptop, downloaded iTunes, and bought it. I didn't watch it right then, however, since iTunes wasn't working well on my laptop and also because I haven't been following the series and need to catch up.
After purchasing the episode, I spent the rest of the afternoon limply sitting in an armchair and talking with Erica and Pattie, discussing everything from online piracy to the new BBC show, Sherlock.
The next day I got to spend the morning with Erica, then she and Pattie drove me to the airport and I began my trip home. The flight wasn't too bad, but the two hour drive back from my destination airport was hellish because I was so exhausted. I spent the whole drive alternately whining out loud and giving myself pep talks.
I'm still trying to process how I feel about everything that happened during my trip to NYCC 2012.
My friend is sick. One of my very best friends. She's an extraordinary person. She always speaks her mind, and this upsets people sometimes, but she's someone I have a tremendous amount of respect for and love very much. She and her awesome wife have been in a loving, committed relationship for decades. In many ways, she is a person I look up to. We have different ways of dealing with people and situations – she is far more direct and often more aggressive than I. (The other day she made me laugh out loud when she tweeted, "Someone told me I had tact! This has never happened to me before.")
She's sick, and I'm trying to figure out what that means. For her. For me. She's still herself, after all.
I don't regret the missed days at the convention. Of course there are few people I would have liked to meet. I missed meeting Si Spurrier, who I wanted to thank in person for being a part of the "Panel Parity" movement. I wanted to say 'hi' to a couple of creators like the marvelous Dustin Nguyen. I'd hoped to meet a few other people I know only from their online personas.
But spending time with Erica and Pattie, both of whom I have known for over a decade, was what I really flew out to do, and I feel lucky and grateful to have had the opportunity. I don't regret a minute of it.
I had it all planned out. But life doesn't always go according to plan. Sometimes it throws you a curveball right in the middle of everything. And as I continue to grow as a person, I begin to understand that it's how you handle the curveballs that both shapes and reveals who you really are.
Erica is handling a nasty, unexpected curveball thrown her way, and she's handling it with grace and strength. I have admired her for years, for her dedication, her brilliance, and her honesty. After my trip, my admiration has only grown.
NYCC 2012 is about fictional heroes.
I got to spend my trip with a real one.
*Shout out to Hilton: I'd booked our room with points, and originally they weren't going to fully refund my points, but the manager of the property subsequently okayed a full refund. This is an example of good customer service.