My throat is so scratchy I’m not sure I’ll ever be able to speak again, I got stopped at the airport because the massive stack of comics in my backpack looked suspicious, and my calves feel a lot like linguine. All signs of an incredible weekend, filled with wonderful people and astounding amounts of talent.
At one point during the weekend, I was in a taxi and when the driver found out that we were in town for NYCC 2015, he started telling us exactly how he felt about comics, “I just can’t get behind that dumb stuf- not that it’s dumb, no wait, I do think it’s dumb. I like things that are logical. I like things that make you think. Like taxi driving. Taxi driving is a puzzle you have to solve.” Little naive me in the back seat tried to pipe in a couple times during this rant, “Well actually, comic-,” but I did not get very far because the driver was determined to see how long he could talk without taking a breath, I’m pretty sure.
A similar experience happened when I was trying to get into Artists’ Alley. Do to some traffic control issues, I was corralled into a corner at the mouth of the hallway while streams of people walked by. As they passed, their nerd rage boiled over and they yelled things like, “It’s not even worth it to go in there!” “Don’t go in. Just don’t go in.” In between my bouts of laughter due to the ridiculousness of the situation and my general annoyance that people were being people, I explained to those waiting around me that it really was worth it to go into Artists’ Alley and that they would be happy they waited. I mean, without the people in Artists’ Alley, we wouldn’t have comics, right?
The reason these two occurrences stuck out to me so much was because they were the only times in my entire seven days in New York that I experienced any sort of negative reaction to comics and Comic Con. And that is amazing. These responses are the leftover beetles, crawling out of a bygone era where comics were considered thoughtless kids’ things and fans of comics were capital ‘D’ dorks. Around their wriggling, scrambling legs grows a garden of creativity, support, and storytelling. This garden not only survives, it flourishes, it runs rampant, it is difficult to control as it spreads its beauty to all those who encounter its foliage.
I realize all of that sounds incredibly cheesy, but believe me, it’s true. Throughout NYCC I had so many moments where I just had to stop and breathe in the excitement and kindness that filled the entire convention hall and spilled into the streets of New York. Yes, it was crowded. Yes, there were a lot of people there who had never read a comic in their lives. But that’s kind of the coolest part about it. The most important thing that the people breathing life into our comic industry realize is that the more people we can get enthused about comics, the more people we can get talking about their favorite new series and recommending titles to their friends, the stronger comics will be. It is not an exclusive club for the people who have the time and money to read every single book that has ever been printed. If that person is you, that’s super awesome and I’m happy that you were are to do that! But it’s time to open the doors to everybody. If someone is only reading one title or has only ever seen a Batman movie or an episode of The Walking Dead, it speaks volumes to the impact of what we are a part of that they were moved to come to Comic Con based simply off of the joy they felt from their glimpse into the comics world.
Comics and the stories they tell speak to people and the more people we have in our community, the more diverse these stories will be and the more people they will reach. I was blown away this weekend when talking to creators, publishers, press, retailers, and fans as it was clear that we were all there for one reason. Passion. Comic Con meant something powerful to all of us. There is no way on earth that we would have all put up with the hassle, the noise, and the chaos if we didn’t deeply care about what we were doing.
We’ve reached an exciting time in comics where stories like Sex Criminals, No Mercy, Young Terrorists, Mayday, Batman, Negative Space, Lumberjanes, God Hates Astronauts, Arcadia, and so so many more can all exist on the shelves together meaning different things to different people, but all having the support they need to exist. And not only exist, but question and challenge us with every panel. The conversations I had while at the convention went far beyond plot and art and delved into issues of race, sexuality, and morality, all of which are difficult topics to bring up organically in conversations, but with the aid of comics, intelligent and fruitful discussions happened everywhere I went.
It wasn’t only the comics themselves that sparked these talks, but the community as a whole. Multiple times I’d be on the show floor and hear someone say, “Oh hey, did you see [insert latest thing that everyone is freaking out about] on Twitter last night?” which would launch everyone into a discussion of whichever controversy happened to be big on social media at the time. Though these conversations stemmed from (god forbid) those tweeters and twitterings, they were some of the most productive debates I’ve seen in a long time.
Our community is in a time of growth and that growth comes from a lot of missteps and bumps in the road, but, as Ms. Marvel said this week in Last Days of Ms. Marvel #19, “Yeah. I think there is still hope.” I think there is still hope that comics will survive through the digital age and changing tastes. I think there is still hope that comics will continue to diversify and tell stories that impact readers on a very personal level. I think there is still hope that we are building a community of thinkers. I think there is still hope that we are involved in a medium filled with logic, filled with emotion, filled with inspiration, and filled with passion.
I wish I could have videotaped the interactions I had all weekend and shown them to that silly cab driver. I wish I could have convinced those people who did not think Artists’ Alley was worth the crowd to talk to just one creator for more than a minute, as I’m sure they would have started to see the genuine care each writer, artist, and editor puts into their work. But the good news is, perceptions are changing. The more people experience the excitement and fun surrounding events like conventions, the more they’ll want to be a part of them. The more the media and culture embrace comics, the more people will realize that there is so much more out there than spandex and super villains.
Next time you’re at a convention and you feel that nagging exasperation creep up on you as you try to barge your way through the crowd for the twelfth time in an hour, remember that these crowds exist because each and every person in them was affected positively by the community we have been building. Not only is it a community making important strides in the constant fight for acceptance and caring, it is also a whole heck of a lot of fun. It is a good thing that conventions are continuing to grow exponentially every year. No, it’s a great thing!! Each year there are more people to laugh with, more Deadpools to dance with, and more people to roll your eyes with when you’re pretty sure you’re going to scream if you have to wait twenty minutes for a hot dog ever again.