After missing out on NYCC for nearly six years due to weddings and other schedule conflicts, I decided to hitNew York Comic Con 2016 hard to and see what all the fuss is about. I went to NYCC the first four or five years and I was underwhelmed by the lack of vendors and the b-rated feel of the show. That said, the event has ballooned in recent years, attracting a ton of cool exhibitors and selling out consistently. This year I was not disappointed. After three days of nonstop geekdom, here’s my wrap up of the 10 coolest things (and five lamest) I saw at the 2016 New York Comic Con. Also, stay tuned for Mai Tai T.V. this week as we come to you live from NYCC with tons of interviews and commentary about the event.
- Stan Lee Creators Roundtable: Friday night ended with what was promoted as a creators roundtable featuring three of my heroes — Stan Lee, Chris Claremont and Walt Simonson — but what was actually a spectacular tribute to Stan Lee and all he’s done for the comic industry. I have to be honest, I teared up a bit as Claremont unintentionally referred to Stan Lee in the past tense a few times. At one point, Stan even said that this was supposed to be a funny discussion about comics, not a conversation about how great he is. To be honest, we don’t have a ton of time left with Stan “The Man” Lee and this was the most fitting way to honor his greatness.
- Stan Lee photo op: I owe a huge thank you to John “Hambone” McGuire for gifting us a photograph with Stan Lee on Saturday morning. We waited for a half hour, but the memory will last forever. I couldn’t ask for anything more. This was perfect. Also, a huge thanks to Stan Lee for doing the photo ops and autograph signings throughout the event. It couldn’t have been fun to sit there all day smiling.
- Carrie Fisher roaming NYCC: After spending an hour waiting in line to meet Mick Foley, Hambone and I headed to the GEICO booth to catch out breathe for a second. Around the corner came a pair of security cards escorting what looked like a French bulldog and a stunning older woman. Turned out it was Carrie Fisher taking a stroll of the show floor. Hambone got out one sentence, “I love you.” She turned back and said, “I know.” Hambone melted into a puddle of goo. It was priceless.
- Lucha Underground panel: New York Comic Con closed on Sunday with a brilliant panel discussion featuring the superstars and writing team of Lucha Underground, quite possibly the greatest wrestling on television today. Besides getting to hear Rey Mysterio, Taya and producer Eric Van Wagenen talk about creating a successful wrestling brand in today’s saturated market, we also found out that Lucha plans to do limited tours around the country starting in 2017. I can’t wait.
- Toys galore: I was always jealous because San Diego Comic Con had significantly more con exclusive toys. San Diego got all the artists, all the vinyl merchandise and way more booths pertaining to non-comic merchandise. That is no longer the case. Kid Robot, Super 7, Clutter and MyPlasticHeart all had huge booths with tons of exclusives and autograph signings. Funko had a raffle for their limited Pops, but opened it up to everyone after 4pm. I had no problem scoring con-exclusive Kitty Pryde and chef Deadpool figures.
- NYCC App Apple Watch integration: I have to give Reed Pop credit for an awesome app. Sure, it wasn’t super clear what the panels were about and it could have been better organized, but the mobile experience during the event with an Apple Watch was second to none. I was constantly getting updates on my wrist about which panels were available or sold out, what cool booths I was near and other great uses of proximity detection.
- Getting in: Trying to get into New York Comic Con was pretty easy this year. There was one security gate that scanned your tickets and bags, and then you were put into one of a few different holding areas. Each day we got in through a different gate. It was kind of insane, but I actually appreciated this method better than holding everyone outside of security until 10am and then having everyone get in late because of a one-at-a-time situation. This way, if you got to the con at 9am, you could get cleared, scanned and be ready to just head in when the show started.
- Cosplay for miles: The quality and quantity of next-level costumes on display at NYCC was beyond all expectations. Whether it was the Deadpool or Luigi flash mobs, the two-story mech creatures that lumbered about or the hundreds of Disney-quality princesses, I couldn’t get enough of the cosplay. Maybe next year I’ll finally dress up.
- Wrestlers everywhere: Wrestling and comics always seem to go together and NYCC was no exception. Sting and Zack Ryder where seem milling around and booths and Mick Foley, Christian, Joey Styles and the Legion of Doom where signing for a small fee in the main hall. My only regret was missing Ric Flair who only appeared on Thursday and Friday.
- Indie art: I’m not sure how long it’s been there, but Javits has a massive new North area that looks like an air force hanger. During NYCC it ad housed Artist Alley — hundreds of indie artists that spent countless hours sketching, signing and talking about their creator-owned work. It was a great place to meet new people and discover new books, and it was definitely a step up from the table tops in the back of the main room during NYCC’s early days.
5 Worst Things About New York Comic Con 2016
- Ash vs. Evil Dead: If you waited half an hour to take a weak two-minute tour of the Evil Dead log cabin you got a button or a beer cozy.
- Unannounced panels: There were way too many panels that were either announced late or had titles that barely explained what was going on. Case in point: The Stranger Things panel, which was not in early versions of the app and the name was Inside the Upside Down. I found out about it afterwards and was bummed to miss it.
- Endless panel lines: If you want to see your favorite panel at NYCC — and it happens to be a popular one — expect to wait in line for two hours only to find out that it’s capped because you didn’t scan your badge at the door first thing in the morning. Basically, it was Disney Fast Pass but without the fun and joy of Disney or a clear explanation of how it worked.
- $4.95 for a soda: ‘Nuff said.
- MSG security: NYCC had common sense rules. Don’t bring weapons that fire bullets, don’t engage in bad touching and don’t be an asshole. However, if you went to panels at MSG’s theater, you had to deal with security that forced you to check everything from your basic camera to that new sword you just bought at the show. This led to hour long waits to get your gear after the panel was over. If you tried to complain at all, some big old dude would jump down your throat and threaten to throw you out. Not cool at all.