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.

Bigapple 2007
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.

BUT: Val has a dissenting opinion.


  1. Had I known I would be charged $20 for admission, I would have stayed away. $20? For one day? On top of every celebrity and dealer charging? Is the rent that high?

    Yeah, I found some cool stuff, at discount. Yeah, I got to talk to a few professionals. But I think I spent maybe five hours there (which included two panels).

    Ugh… I can find similar dealers at NYCC. And better ways to spend $20.

  2. I didn’t go for budgetary reasons and because I frankly forgot about it. $20 is steep admission for that show. Has it always been that high? I seem to remember it being much less the times I’ve gone in the past.

    The only reason I’ve ever gone is because I always find some really great, great deals in the long boxes. But that’s really the only reason. I do the whole show in 90 minutes max., but my stuff and get out.

  3. As much as I dislike going over to west side highway Javitts Center for the NY Comic Con…the convenience of the Big Apple Con location succumbs to the claustrophobic, submarine-esq conditions of the Pennyslvania Hotel. The organizers mean well, and I agree there are good deals to be found (although the $20 entry fee probably negates that), It’s just the setting is so dreary…like the Roy Rogers/Nathans combo restaurant attached to it.

  4. They con charges way to much for admission, the room is too small, their tables are over price, it’s a hassle to get in to artist alley and they never send back e-mail for people who wanted to do the show. For almost 3 years, I’ve try to get into the show either with artist alley or even as a small press publisher. My Partner has e-mail them time and again to do the show. We haven’t sat as a guess in that show for almost 3 years now. For a while now, maybe 8 or more years they have been doing this show, they seem to get number of people but they never made it grow, it’s not much bigger then when they did it in that old church.

  5. Lets be truthful… even at big conventions… a lot of artists and writers sit at empty tables looking board and tugging on your heart string.
    I go to the Big Apple Con because it is “small” …if you want to talk to anyone, or get Chewbacas autograph without a line.. then you can. THE BEST part of the convention is all the classic B actors from the 70s that no one talks to. You can have a great time talking to them and listening to their stories. Of course you will be guilted into paying 25 dollars for their autograph, but you make them feel good

  6. For me, going to a comic-con is like rooting through the quarter bins: I might not like a lot of the stuff I see (and some of it might even smell a bit musty), but you get to see a lot of familiar faces, discover a few new ones that you might like, spot some things you somehow overlooked the first time around (but can now appreciate), and maybe even come across a golden (or silver or underground) oldie that really brings back some great memories.

    You learn to ignore the junk and focus on the occasional gems and surprises that make it fun! Also, it’s important to remember that the very same stuff that I dismiss as junk is the kind of thing that’ll totally make someone else’s day.

    I understand what Evan is saying (and there’s more than a pinch of truth in his descriptions), but even though the Big Apple conventions are far from my ideal vision of what a con could/should be, I’m pretty sure I’d miss them if they weren’t around.

  7. I agree with Val, H. Though it might not be the big budget some expect of comic conventions nowadays, a comic con, is good, no matter what.

    Not some endless and unabashed self-promotion, H! Such as hawking one’s own NYCC, by talking trash and ripping apart other conventions.

  8. Tom, ha! Indeed, & for different reasons.

    The Big Apple Con has been good to me & Joe Linsner throughout the years. Indeed, as noted above, I remember in particular Alan Rosenberg, fixing up the last-minute things that went awry. But the general description above definitely fits the last one of these we attended, about 3 years ago. Alan actually walked out yelling about how that was it, he was quitting. Right then & there. Guess it didn’t happen.

    We’re coming back to NY this winter, though.

  9. I already posted at the dissenting opinion’s site (Dorkin elitist? Um OK). I read this rant as a parent and husband. I think part of what fueled Dorkin’s rant was folks cussing around his small child and scaring the crap out of her in general. Also moments like the fanboy taking an unsolicited photo of his wife, Sarah Dyer. Sure this can happen at any con, but this con sounded like the perfect storm of bad con experiences.

  10. I will add to Eva’s praise of Alan Rosenberg. Even though the vibe of most NY cons leaves me feeling disenchanted, I’ve always found Alan and several other organizers of the these events to be solid individuals who go out of their way to keep things from going off the rails. It’s a pretty thankless job running a convention, so I’m always happy to give proper credit the people who have been doing for so long.

  11. Which reminds me: good news for those, like me, with fond memories of the charming Ramapo HS Cons that the justly-praised Alan Rosenberg used to run is that Alan’s similarly small-scaled and family-friendly Hawthorne HS Con reportedly will be back (after a one year hiatus) in May 2009. Nice guests, nice customers, an easygoing atmosphere, simple layout (in schools cafeterium)… and all for a great cause (raffle, etc. supports the school’s art department).

  12. I’m glad I chose to skip it. We were in town on Saturday to visit MoCCA for the Kim Dietch exhibit (Only a couple weeks left – see it if you haven’t) and to visit the Museum of Natural History. We met Danny Fingeroth’s family while there (they came up to us, seeing the MoCCA shirt my wife was wearing) who were doing things about town while Danny was at the national. Sounds like we all had more fun than he did.

    I toyed with dropping by the show, but there were no names on the guest list that leapt out at me, and the experiences from the show in the spring left me decidedly whelmed.

    Can’t wait for the NYCC again.