Well, this is it, the first Mega Con of the Covid Era. And yes, I know we had the actual MegaCon, and Dragon Con and Rose City, but New York Comic Con is one of the behemoths of the year, dreaded and desired. As a friend put it, “Everyone who could be here, is here.”

As we gradually learn to live in our new world, events like NYCC are important milestones, as an industry and as individuals. I don’t mean to sound too pretentious, but everyone had their own ideas and anxieties about how to approach being inside a giant convention center with thousands of people again, and while some people are already road warriors of the Pandemic Times, for many of us, it was an adventure both endearingly familiar and oddly strange.

And in the end – of Day 1 at least – it was a con.  To be sure, everyone had a little ring rust, and we’re getting our bearings, but seeing familiar faces, and familiar lines and giant statues at the Funimation booth means that, for better or worse, this is how we live now.

As reported earlier, proof of vaccination is required for admittance to NYCC, and inside masks must be worn. The show was definitely not as crowded as shows in the before times, but there were still a lot of people, most of them wearing masks, but there are always people who take them off. There’s no way to make an experience like this feel entirely safe, but it felt under control.

But there was ring rust, as mentioned. Some panels didn’t have audio, this was missing or that. I’m not going to be too critical because I forgot all kinds of things. It’s been a while and everyone has been through a lot. We’re allowed some time to build up to ramming speed.

Many folks, myself included, had gone over on Wednesday to pick up a vaccination bracelet – a painless, swift process. I used the Clear app, which has a section for NYCC. Getting inside involved bag checks and a metal detector – I was able to bring in a bread knife, though, so not sure what they were detecting.

The layout of the con is similar to past years – I didn’t explore the main floor, but artist alley is spread out over two halls and the aisles are wide. Panels are off in the very spacious and airy new wing, and to get there you go through a little outside carnival that has a Sandman exhibit among other things. This seemed to be where a lot of people were just hanging out as well – honestly, many people still prefer to be outside. In short order I ran into Dynamic Forces’ Joe Rybandt, JHU’s Nick Purpura, Dean Haspiel, and Coach Beard. 

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OK it was actually comics writer Jeff Burandt (Killer Bad, Ghost Planet) but whenever I watch Ted Lasso I can’t stop thinking they are the same person.

My first panel of the con was “How to Sell Your Books into Schools and Public Libraries” – and my first entrance into the long dreamed of Javits Center expansion. I was so moved that I made a whole video about it.

The panel included Stephanie Anderson, Assistant Director, Selection, BookOps/NYPL, Melissa Jacobs Director of Library Services, NYC DOE and Christina Taylor, MSIS who works with Reading with Pictures and Texas libraries. These were smart people, and Beat writer Greg Silber will have a fuller write up, but the main message is that libraries want graphic novels, but still need more information about content (age ratings) and digital lending and metadata remain sticking points. 

About the metadata thing – librarians struggle with an inadequate Dewey Decimal system, and comics retailers and publishers are also facing challenges here. Someone on the panel (maybe it was me?) suggested that retailers should work with librarians to solve these metadata issues and that sounds like a pretty good industry task force.

The topic of printing shortages and shipping delays was also on everyone’s mind. Books are being delayed everywhere, and this is going to become a bigger issue with every passing day. More on that later.

After a breakfast, a lunch, a panel and a quest to find the Javits Center roof farm, it was already time to chill in the press lounge with Greg Silber, Jimmy Aquino, Riccardo Serrano Denis and Yael Tygiel. There were the usual complaints – not enough outlets, not enough wifi, not enough press rooms – but I guess the main thing is that we were hanging out.

Then it was time for an early dinner with the Four Women in a Hotel Restaurant, Deb Aoki, Brigid Alverson and Johanna Draper Carlson. United in person for the first time in more than two years!!! There was wine, burrata and lots and lots of happy chatter.

Happy. Most of the people I was around were happy. Happy to be together again.

Although the NYCC party scene is much diminished (I think?) there was a Funimation/Crunchyroll bash at a rooftop bar. Yes, the views were spectacular, and the drinks had flowers in them. Like the old days. There was also a lot of schmoozing and greeting and…wow, we’re doing this again and can still do it. Yet by the spectacularly early hour of 10 pm most of us were pretty Beat  – myself included – and I came home to edit videos and write this.

Reading the above, it’s not the newsy con report of old, sorry. After hunkering in my tiny apartment for 18 months, it was a lot to take in. Have I gotten my sea legs back? Will the industry survive the trucking crisis? Tune in tomorrow!

PS: Super huge thanks to Greg Silber for being my helper today. There was truly a Silber Lining to all of this.

And now the bad photos:

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Setup day on Wednesday. So much empty.

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Seriously, it was just kind of eerie.

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True Detective Season 4.

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Food court, lunch time. As you can see, it is not insanely crowded like it used to be, at least on a Thursday.

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I finally made it to the new wing!

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There are crazy statues again. Feels like home.

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Johanna and Brigid at the Funimation/Crunchyroll Party. A fortune teller told our futures using anime series, and I got Akira, and I am okay with that. Dystopic urban future? I’m already there, baby.