November 19, 2017

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The Five Coolest Things at New York Comic Con 2014

ComicCon_WonderWoman'77

Nicola Scott’s Illustration for ‘Wonder Woman ’77.’

The organizers of New York Comic Con (NYCC) put it front and center this year: Harassment will not be tolerated. With that bold statement, made on the New York Comic Con website, their app (with a button to immediately report problems), and signs at entrances to the exhibits, this felt like a more welcoming con for all.

The big picture: Women welcome!

“We made it easier to report incidents, yet we had fewer incidents reported,” ReedPOP senior vice-president Lance Fensterman, who oversees the show, told the comics and pop culture retailing website ICv2 in an interview. “I will take that as saying the program worked, or people just started treating each other as they should. Either way, it makes for a safer environment, and we’re happy about that.”

That’s an important step, not just because it’s the right thing to do but also because it recognizes what has become increasingly obvious: Women are a substantial and growing part of the comics audience, and many are cosplayers, who attend the Comic_Con_antiharassment signconvention dressed as their favorite characters. Unfortunately, some female cosplayers have been targets of harassment.There were eight reported cases of harassment this year, half as many in 2013.

At the ICv2 conference immediately before the con, Christine Bohle, a representative from the online ticketing service Eventbrite, showed the results of an Eventbrite survey of attendees of all types of conventions. It revealed that 45 percent are women, with a 50/50 gender split for those under 30. NYCC skews a bit more male, according to Fensterman—last year it was 59/41—but the percentage of women has gone up every year.

Comic_Con Cosplay is not consent

‘Rocket Girl’ artist Amy Reeder’s anti-harassment sign at Comic Con, commissioned by conference organizers.

While women and people of color still made up only a tiny minority of the show’s official guests, the panel schedule was a different story. Numerous events focused on various aspects of diversity, including LGBTQ comics, strong female characters, and sexual harassment issues.

Marvel and DC both hosted events spotlighting women creators. The audience for the DC panel nearly filled a room with a capacity of 700—a crowd that raised the roof with applause and cheers for the creators and for moderator Amanda Salmons’s opening statement, “This is our house. We have been here for decades, and there were others before us.”

So that’s the big picture. Here are five very cool things at New York Comic Con 2014:

1. Retro Wonder Woman is back!

DC announced a digital-first comic, Wonder Woman ’77, based on the 1970s TV show that starred Lynda Carter in the title role. This follows in the footsteps of the digital-first comic series Batman 66, which was based on that classic television show. Wonder Woman ’77 will almost definitely be the sort of comic that new readers can enjoy without having to understand the complicated continuity of DC’s other “Wonder Woman” comics.

2. Manga stays strong

At the ICv2 Conference, ICv2 CEO Milton Griepp presented a white paper on the state of the industry that showed that manga sales were up eight percent last year, and that manga now makes up about 19 percent of all graphic novel sales.

ComicCon_Pablo Hidalgo

Author Pablo Hidalgo with his latest book, ‘Star Wars Rebels: A New Hero’ (Disney Lucasfilm Press) in the Disney booth on Star Wars Reads Day.

That was very clear at the con, where attendees dressed as members of Attack on Titan’s Survey Corps, the teenage soldiers who defend the walled city from the man-eating Titans in the best-selling manga series, dominated the cosplay scene, and con goers flocked to see Takeshi Obata, the creator of Death Not (Viz, 2005), Hikaru No Go (Viz, 2004) and Bakuman (Viz, 2010), speak in two panels.

In one of the panels, Obata, who apparently had not realized how popular his work is in the United States, got a bit emotional when the moderator led the audience in a collective “thank you!” On the count of three, the crowd roared “thank you!” and “arigato gozaimasu!

There were a number of new title announcements, including Yen Press’s license rescue of Kaoru Mori’s “Emma, a romance between a maid and the scion of wealthy family set in Victorian England. The series was originally published by the defunct imprint CMX and has long been out-of-print.

3. Science Takes Center Stage

ComicCOn_BillNye

Bill Nye chats up the New York Comic Con crowd.

Bill Nye the Science Guy and xkcd webcomic creator Randall Munroe had a delightfully nerdy conversation spinning off the questions that Munroe answers in his new book What If: Serious Scientific Answers to Absurd Hypothetical Questions (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2014).

There are few people who are more articulate—and funny—about science as these two, and they had a ball discussing the logistics of building a billion-story building and turning your apartment into a ball pit. Nye also has a new book that’s about to come out, Undeniable: Evolution and the Science of Creation (St. Martin’s Press, November 2014), and he had a serious point to make about the rise of creationism. “What I’m concerned by is that if we raise a generation of kids who have no critical thinking skills, we won’t have the next iPhone, the next piece of tech, the next prop,” he said. Nye probably breathed a bit easier, given the hundreds of fans (including a cosplayer decked out as Ms. Frizzle, the teacher from Scholastic’s “Magic Schoolbus” series) who packed the room and cheered both him and Munroe on.

4. Librarians WEIGH IN ON stealth challenges

At the “Saving Indecent Comics” panel, sponsored by the American Library Association and led by teen librarian Tom Maluck, librarians discussed their personal experiences with book challenges, both some well known cases including Fun Home (Houghton Mifflin, 2006), Bone (Scholastic, 2005), and Dragon Ball (Viz, 2000) and something that doesn’t get talked about much: Challenges that come from within the library, in other words, when clerks, catalogers, or others intercept graphic novels and set them aside for additional review.

The panelists also had some stories to share about courageous administrators who stood up for controversial books, including one who announced “I don’t want to be on the wrong side of history” and ordered extra copies of Alan Moore’s Neonomicon (Avatar Press, 2010) after it was removed from a neighboring library system.

5. Books!

ComicCon_Big Marvel book

’75 Years of Marvel Comics.’

Publishers were out on the floor debuting new titles and showing off upcoming ones. Here’s a quick list of the ones that caught my eye:

Taschen’s 75 Years of Marvel Comics: From the Golden Age to the Silver Screen by Roy Thomas and Josh Baker, an oversized volume priced at $200;

Sing No Evil, J.P. Ahonen and K.P. Alare’s tale of supernatural doings among metal rockers, recently released by Abrams;

ComicCon_Lowriders

‘Lowriders in Space.’

Cory Doctorow and Jen Wang’s In Real Life (First Second), which touches on the intersection between gaming and, well, real life;

Lowriders in Space by Cathy Camper, illustrated by Raul the Third (Chronicle), a cheery middle-grade graphic novel about mechanics driving a lowrider through space that sprinkles Spanish liberally into its dialogue; and

Disney’ Lucasfilm’s “Star Wars” picture books, featured at the Disney booth.

Brigid Alverson About Brigid Alverson

Brigid Alverson, the editor of the Good Comics for Kids blog, has been reading comics since she was 4. She has an MFA in printmaking and has worked as a book editor and a newspaper reporter; now she is assistant to the mayor of Melrose, Massachusetts. In addition to editing GC4K, she writes about comics and graphic novels at MangaBlog, SLJTeen, Publishers Weekly Comics World, Comic Book Resources, MTV Geek, and Good E-Reader.com. Brigid is married to a physicist and has two daughters in college, which is why she writes so much. She was a judge for the 2012 Eisner Awards.

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