Earlier this year, I learned that author Sarvenaz Tash had set her book, The Geek's Guide to Unrequited Love at a Comic Con. Not only that, but it was objectively a better book than my own con book. I immediately dispatched my thugs to smash her car windows and slash her tires. Upon being informed that as a New Yorker, Tash probably does not even own a car, I decided to conduct a Between Two Lockers interview instead.
Oh, such consequences. Tash later contacted me. She was interested in putting together a panel at New York Comic Con about geek culture and cons as portrayed in YA literature, and asked if I'd be interested in participating. I agreed, figuring it was doubtful anything would come of it.
But it did. Her panel was approved. Tash, myself, and three other amazing YA authors, Laurent Linn, Lily Anderson, and Danika Stone were going to be on the 'Geeky YA FTW' panel, moderated by booktuber Kristin Hackett.
My ID. That's a terrible photo of me.
After convincing my employers to give me the two days off (It's completely different from the con I went to last weekend!), my wife Sandra and I were off to New York!
Sandra refused to let me book one of those hotels where you share a room with strangers, so I was forced to sell a kidney to get a room in Manhattan. After checking in, we walked to the Javits Center to see this con in person.
Keep in mind, we'd only ever been to medium sized cons in St. Louis and Kansas City.
I have to admit that the size of this place was rather intimidating. This was probably the largest crowd I'd been in since I went to ALA in 2011.
They say over 180,000 people attended the con, and I believe it. After visiting Artists' Alley and autographing some of my books on the main floor, we took an early night, determined to make the most of the three remaining days.
After dropping Sandy off at the center, I left the con for a lunch appointment with my editor, Claudia Gabel. Claudia was the person who gave me my first book contract, as well as three others. She singlehandedly made my literary career, and it's no exaggeration to say that she's had more influence on my life than anyone outside of my family. And yet, after eleven years of working together, we'd never met in person.
The memory of our lovely lunch, however, was spoiled when I returned to the con to discover that my beloved wife of thirteen years had been unfaithful to me in my absence. While I was dining, Sandra attended the MAD Magazine panel without me.
'Oh, honey, I was in a room with Sam Viviano, John Ficarra, and Al Jaffee while you were gone.'
After being informed that a divorce would only hurt our daughter, I attempted to enjoy the rest of the day.
We stopped and listened to an interview with the non-Seth MacFarlane cast of The Orville.
See it before it's cancelled.
Then we hiked about ten city blocks to see the sneak preview of the newest season of Once Upon a Time (seriously, we got to see the whole episode), followed by an interview with Lana Parilla and series creators Edward Kitsis and Adam Horowitz.
After discussing whether we should drain Sophie's college fund to buy Hamilton tickets, we returned to our room.
We spent most of the morning shopping on the massive show floor. The highlight of my day occurred when I unexpectedly ran into cartoonist Bill Plympton, who's always been an idol of mine.
He was really, really excited to meet me.
In case you're not familiar with his work, Plympton is a cartoonist and animator noted for his subtlety.
Sandy, still miffed about an author's comments at the last con we attended, asked the panelists about their feelings on censorship in YA literature.
Tell her teen literature needs to be censored. I dare you.
Finally, we went to a sneak preview of the Psych movie, followed by a Q & A with the entire cast, minus Timothy Omundson, who is recovering from a stroke, and Dulé Hill, who is producing a musical based on the life of Nat King Cole.
The movie, incidently, looks hilarious.
We then went to see an off-Broadway play. After deciding Sophie would never forgive us if we saw something she wanted to see without her, we settled on The Play That Goes Wrong, which was quite funny.
Well, this was the big day. Unfortunately, due to ticketing limitations, Sandy didn't get to attend this day. I went in alone and met my fellow panelists. It was somewhat daunting to be grouped with talent like this, but of course they were great people.
Sarvenaz Tash, Laurent Linn, Kristin Hackett, me, Lily Anderson. Danika Stone was still on her way.
Brian, was that you?
The panel, moderated by book blogger Kristin Hackett, was a lot of fun. Of course, all these people have had amazing experiences, both at cons and in real life.
Tash told us about how, on her honeymoon, she and her husband inadvertently wound up in Dusseldorf, at the largest Star Trek convention in Europe. She also let us in on the original ending to Geek's Guide, which I found fascinating (she was right to change it, though).
Linn, who once worked with Frank Oz, admitted he wants to know the backstory of that most mysterious of Muppets: Grover. I have to agree. That's a character with a lot of unplumbed depth. Linn also talked about a gay character in his book Draw the Line. Not a book about a gay kid, but a book about a kid who happens to be gay.
Stone discussed how fandom has become popular and is glad to move beyond the trope of the girl who is beautiful once she takes off her glasses.
Anderson discussed the need for more people of color in literature and promised we'd be seeing a lot more of that in her future books.
Me, I ranted about my con memories. At the request of an audience member, I did my impression of my favorite cartoon character.
In retrospect, I shouldn't have used the microphone.
And so ended the con. After bidding farewell to the other panelists (and finalizing our plans to start a detective agency), I rendezvoused with Sandy. We took a shuttle to the airport. After an hour in New York traffic, listening to a fellow passenger make fun of the driver's Puerto Rican accent, we arrived at LaGuardia where we were informed our flight was two hours late. We returned home at 2:00 AM on a day we had to work.
I'd never seen anything like it. Twenty blocks from the center, you'd see people dressed like Sailor Moon, Mario, or zombies. Many of them were probably going to the con.
There were also quite a few Pennywises.
Mark Hamill, William Shatner, Jodie Foster, Daisy Ridley and Kevin Smith were just a few of the people on site.
My first reaction on learning our panel had been approved was 'Sandy, we're going to New York Comic Con!' My second reaction was 'Sandy, I'm going to New York Comic Con.' As it turns out, tickets sell out within two hours of going on sale. I couldn't get a pass for my wife.
Fortunately, Kristin Hackett had already purchased her badge and was nice enough to sell it to Sandy (panelists get in free). I understand the need for this, with the size of the event, but the metal detectors, badge checks going in and out, and having to stand in line for a chance to stand in line later, made me miss the smaller cons.
Because Banks Have Locks:
Want to get an autograph or snap a selfie with a celebrity? Just get in that line. Sixty bucks for Jason Isaacs. Three hundred for Mark Hamill. And a lot of the events with bigger names, such as Rainbow Rowell, cost extra.
Plus a couple of chicken tenders, fries, onion rings, and a small soda: $20. Fortunately, the food carts outside were much more reasonable.
The huge surge of humanity kind of put the kibosh on the parties, gaming, and drinking you see at smaller cons. Plus it can be damn uncomfortable and a little scary. I literally lost my wife on Saturday.
We were shopping, and I looked up to realize she was no longer in my line of sight. I shrugged it off, knowing she'd text me if she needed me. Twenty minutes later, I came to a horrible realization: I had her phone. And her wallet. And her hotel key. I could wander this place for five hours and not find her.
Fortunately, we ran into each other after about an hour, but that was kind of frightening.
So that's life, the universe, and everything. Hopefully someone will invite me to a panel at San Diego Comic Con next year.