You will never read anything funnier — or more painful — than Evan Dorkin’s description of this weekend’s National convention here in NYC:
Equally depressing was the state of the comic book guests and professionals, or former professionals. Maybe it was the room, the gloomy weather, the heat, the lack of crowds, the utter joylessness and perfuctory mercantile, table-selling dealer’s room attitude of the entire affair, but seeing ex-Marvel staffers long removed from the Bullpen Bulletins pages hawking comic-related books or Golden Age comics just bummed me out. One-time Rascally Ones, Jazzy Ones, and Sizzlin’ Ones looking bored and nonplussed at their rickety tables, I’ve never seen people like Carmine Infantino spend so much time doing nothing in my conventioning life. I started making notes of what guests were doing to pass the time: reading comics, eating, tapping their pens, arranging and re-arranging books, staring at the ceiling, praying for death. Lines that did form were small, guests were forced into long conversations with blowhards with opinions on how everything in comics should ahve been handled, along with reflections and opinions on the economy, the election, and sports. Not much on personal hygiene, interpersonal relationships, or the evils of massive backpacks.
That’s just one paragraph. Every other one is just as good and sad. Is Evan overreacting? Maybe a little — we know several people who do go and find bargains and enjoy going through the back issue bins, but the truth is, “The Big Crapple,” as many people call it, is an atavistic embarrassment to the town and the business. Look at these photos from a show from 1974. Nothing has changed except that the people in 1974 look happier and cleaner than most of the people at the most recent Big Apple Cons we’ve been to.
Although there are some very well meaning folks associated with the Big Apple Cons, notably Alan Rosenberg, there are also epic cock-ups. For instance, at least one of the guests at the show this year asked not to be put up at the Pennyslvania Hotel, a once-proud but now festering swamp of a hotel threatened with demolition. While he was told he would stay at a different hotel, he ended up at the Pennsylvania anyway.
Much of the problem with the Big Apple Cons is the venue — a grim, post-industrial vista of ugly blue ceilings and peeling linoleum that leaks when it rains. But even when it was held at the much posher Metropolitan Pavilion, there’s only so much feng shui can do to help the mix of aging child stars, aging porn stars and those New York cartoonists with the intestinal fortitude to put up with it.
At this point, the Big Apple Cons are what they are — they seem to serve the audience they have created, and with its busy schedule of signings, exhibits and slideshow, as well as New York Comic-Con and MoCCA, New York is not exactly lacking for comics-based activities. As long as Big Apple flies in the occasional guest that we want to see, we may make the trek over, but in the meantime, they are definitely a clear reminder of comics’ primitive past, not their promising future.