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NY Comic Con 2008 Recap

Now in it’s third year running, the NY Comic Con has extinguished any doubts about whether or not it’s here to stay. And really, what better city for a comic convention than New York City, Spiderman’s hometown?

Now in it’s third year running, the NY Comic Con has extinguished any doubts about whether or not it’s here to stay. And really, what better city for a comic convention than New York City, Spiderman’s hometown?

No, it’s not as big as it’s elder sibling, the San Diego Comic Con, but this year it seemed bigger – and more crowded – than last year. Maybe it’s word of mouth advertising, maybe it was the warmer weather (last years was in February), maybe it was the bigger, better guest list (the cast of Hellboy 2, Frank Miller, and of course, Stan Lee), maybe it’s the anticipation of the upcoming Hulk and Iron Man films. Whatever it was, the Jacob Javits Center was even more packed with pop culture than it was last year.

My Saturday at the Con started with a panel called “Stan on Stan,” starring none other than Stan Lee, one of the industry’s founding fathers (who was leaving messages on fans’ voicemails in the days leading up to the Con – I still have mine saved). Exciting news for superhero fans – Stan’s currently working with Virgin Comics to launch not just a new super-powered crime fighter, but an entire new universe of them. So what made Stan want to come out of retirement? Simple, Virgin asked. And according to the legendary comic creator, it got him wondering why no one had thought to ask him sooner. No word on what the new heroes will look like, but Stan took plenty of time to answer audience questions, about his career, film adaptations, and comics as a valid form of literature. For a man who many would regard as one of the most influential pop culture figures of the century, Stan possesses an extra-ordinary sense of self-deprecating humor, and the ability to leave the audience rolling in the aisles from one moment to the next.

Next up was a panel for the upcoming comic adaptations Wanted and Hellboy 2: The Golden Army. Wanted is helmed by Russian filmmaker Timur Bekmambetov (Nightwatch and Daywatch), whose mise-en-scene of insanely over-the-top, f/x-laden action sequences is looking stronger than ever in his debut English-language film. It looks like the writers did a lot of tampering with the comic’s storyline, which was a wise move, as the source material is rife with ideas but adds up to little more than a sadistic adolescent power trip in the end. Looking equally appealing is Hellboy 2, from Gulliermo del Toro (Pan’s Labyrinth), who was there along with cast members Ron Perlman, Selma Blair, and Doug “Creature Boy” Jones, and Hellboy’s creator Mike Mignola. We were treated to a rough-cut trailer, which was filled with creepy things-that-go-bump-in-the-night and some wild sci-fi action (though, disappointingly, del Toro’s vision of a three-headed bulldog licking its privates will not be seen in the background of one of the scenes – I’m not kidding, he actually brought this up, offering a more graphic description of the creature’s bathing habits than I feel comfortable writing). Del Toro also dished on his preference for practical effects with digital tweaking, instead of pure CGI (ironic, as he was once slated to direct this year’s abysmal I Am Legend). He also mentioned another indie film in the works, about a boy watching the world end day to day as he walks to a grocery store.

But the best film preview I saw comes from paper-and-pencil animator Bill Plympton, who showed the first fifteen minutes of his new feature Idiots and Angels, which will be playing in its entirety at the Tribeca Film Fest this year. He finished by showing a 2 minute trailer that promises the film to be a brilliant, gruesome, and thought-provoking as its opening act.

The best part of Comic Con though, is the main floor, which is wall to wall with comic vendors, work by emerging artists and established pros alike, and lots and lots of hot girls in sci-fi and superhero costumes. Walking around, I snagged Timur Bekmambetov’s autograph, played the soon-to-be released Lost video game for xbox 360, got a few free comics, and spent a few days pay picking up interesting-looking indie-published series, a few original paintings (it’s a great place for impulse-shopping, and tons of semi-pro talent hocking their creations).

My only complaints? Walking around can be akin to dealing with those solicitors at the mall, begging you to try hand lotion, sign a scam modeling contract, or massage your neck with a block of wood. The people working the Top Cow table came on like desperate used car salesmen trying to get me to buy a t-shirt, complaining that they’d spent all their money on comics and would be broke till summer paying their credit card bills – annoying, and unprofessional. But Top Cow publishes awesome titles like The Darkness, so I won’t hold it against them. And the amount of money they charge for autographs is ridiculous. A meeting with Neil Gaiman and a book signing will run you $500, while signatures from the cast of Hellboy 2 and from comic scribe Grant Morrison (a brilliant writer who looks like a real-life Lex Luthur), will cost you $200 apiece.

Still, it’s a blast, and I can’t wait till next year.

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