Convention Report: NYCC 2015

 In conventions

New York Comic Con (NYCC) has become the largest comic convention in the country (as of last year, 2014). It continues to be a beast of a show (in a good way), with some of the most amazing and exhausting experiences of my creative life. It’s an experience to strive for, an experience to love, an experience to fear (there’s nothing wrong with a healthy amount of fear), and an experience to cherish forever.

Without fail, every year at NYCC gets bigger and better. I meet fans, new and old, I make new friends, I see creators I’ve idolized or always wanted to meet, I learn new things about comics (and myself), I see good friends, I explore New York City, and I have a life-changing experience every year I attend. It is not a show to be missed. And this year, it all started after 3 days away at a work-summit in Lake Tahoe….

I couldn’t sleep during my flight from LAX to JFK, which wasn’t a surprise to me. I have difficulty sleeping in ideal conditions, and a plane is far from ideal for sleeping. My flight from Reno had been delayed 5 minutes, in an already tight connection in LAX, and we spent another 15+ minutes taxiing to the terminal. Everything had been working against me to catch this connecting flight, but despite all of those odds I had made it with 2 minutes to spare before they closed the doors.

Since I couldn’t sleep, I decided to watch movies. Terminator 5: Genysis and Avengers 2: Age of Ultron kept me company during the flight. I was tired, but also excited. NYCC is always a trip, and I got to stay with my good friends Karl Custer (Uncle Yo) and his gal, Cat.

The flight landed at 6:30am local time, and I walked to the AirTram to catch a train to Queens. I had sent a box of books to Karl earlier in the week, and I needed to drop my stuff off before I made my way to the Javits Center to set up for the con. Thankfully, New York City has extended the 7 train to arrive pretty darn close to the Javits. In previous years, you’d have to get off at Time Square and walk 8+ blocks (like, the long blocks) to get to the show, which would have been a pain with luggage and a 30 lbs box of books.

So I dropped off my stuff, grabbed the books, and was off to the Javits.

The Javits Center

The Javits Center is on the other side of Manhattan from Queens, but with the install of the new stop at the end of the 7 line, it has become extremely easy to get to now. While on the train, I even ran into Josh Elder (Scribblenauts: Unmasked), my good friend and the founder of the Reading with Pictures non-profit I was there to help. Josh and I got in together and got our badges, and began setting up the table and talking about goals and initiatives for the weekend. Before too long, the doors were opening and we were a go for business.

The Reading with Pictures table, ready for sales

The Reading with Pictures crew, Trevor and Josh, ready for a weekend of awesome!

The sales started and started strong, which is always encouraging. And with this being the first NYCC for Albert the Alien volume 1, it was super exciting to see readers old and young respond so positively to the book.

As the day went on, our volunteers eventually showed up. They were coming from UNICEF, and had been working with Josh and others at RWP to set up some very special events for the show. The volunteers were young, eager, and very enthusiastic about being at the con and learning how to pitch the books. They were also experts at talking about the UNICEF initiative we were doing, and directing people to our panels throughout the weekend so they could learn more about it.

Trevor and the UNICEF team, running the table

As the day went on, I received a special delivery from my printer for Albert the Alien volume 2: An advanced copy of the book! I finally had something to show people for pre-orders, and also to show editors the quality of the book we were putting together.

A special surprise delivery: Albert the Alien v2 advance copies

After the show ended, there were a number of after-parties I was invited to. However, since I hadn’t slept in over 48 hours, the thing at the top of my mind was sleep. We took the 7 train back to Queens and grabbed a bite before drifting off into a much-needed sleep.

I got up much earlier than I wanted to (but hey, someone’s gotta run the booth), and jumped on the train with Karl to the show. We made a quick stop to grab some breakfast at a little place he knows called “Butcher’s Bakery,” which has these amazing meat-filled breakfast sandwiches. Super filling, and exactly what you need before you start a long day on the floor.

Breakfast of champions…with high cholesterol

After a very hearty breakfast, it was time to get selling. We had some volunteers show up early, so it was game-on from the word go! It was a good thing I had that filling food, too, because the opportunities to get away from the table (even for a quick break) were very small. Sales were through the roof! We were moving copies of the books left and right, driving e-newsletter sign ups, and telling people about our latest projects left and right. Josh was running the panels, and as they ended the traffic to the table increased significantly! It was almost a breathless experience, where you were constantly talking to people about the books and the organization. People were THIRSTY for it. And the kids were super excited about the anthology, as well as the Albert the Alien book.

The view from the table – when traffic was light

After a whirlwind of a day, the group decided to walk to a near-by diner and grab some food. The place was close to the convention center, so it was packed with cosplayers. Somehow they got us seated rather quickly, and before we knew it we were munching on burgers and fries. Unfortunately, there was some confusion with our orders, and the staff charged us for things not ordered (or didn’t deliver food that was ordered). After fixing the bill, we all went our separate ways.

I headed back to Karl’s, thinking I may hang out with a friend who lives in the city that night. I was looking forward to seeing her and catching up, but at the same time I was still recovering from not sleeping the other night. Thankfully, we rescheduled for the next day and I was able to get to bed early.

By now, Karl and I had our morning routine down to a science. We got on the train, and I went to the convention center to set up while he grabbed breakfast. Cat came with me to help volunteer at the booth, and also to check out the con a bit. As soon as the show opened, it was absolute chaos – commerce chaos! Albert the Alien sold out before noon. We were quickly running out of copies of Reading with Pictures. Whoopie Goldberg walked past the table. It was nuts!

Reading with Pictures and Unicef – partners in comics! Comics Uniting Nations is coming soon (for free)

Eventually we had enough volunteers at the table (and enough books sold), I felt confident to walk the floor for a bit. I took some time to walk through Small Press (and I saw some actors from Marvel’s Agents of SHIELD signing at their booth), said hi to some friends, and then made my way down to artist alley. Artist Alley is a place where I can spend tons of hours without wasting any time, because I know so many people in there. It takes me hours to get through a single isle sometimes. This time I tried to keep it quick, though, so I could get back to the table before close. I stopped by several friends’s booths, including my Albert the Alien artists who were attending.

The Albert the Alien team. From left to right: Ali Cantarella, Trevor Mueller, Ashley Erickson, Gabo

Around the time the main floor closed, I headed back to close up the table and headed back to Queens to grab some dinner with Karl and Cat. We ordered Thai food in and relaxed, watching a few hilarious episodes of some TV shows on Netflix. Eventually I got a call from an old friend who wanted to catch up, and I met her for some drinks before heading back to Karl’s for much needed sleep.

Morning came much too soon on the final day of the show, but adrenaline and the promise of sleeping in my own bed that night kept me vertical and got me through the day. Also, most of the books were sold out at this point, so that was a positive. I stayed at the table for a few hours, but eventually turned it over to the volunteers so I could say my goodbyes in Artist Alley.

I gave myself a little more than two hours to say goodbye to everyone I knew in AA, and it was just enough time (after I skipped 8 tables, since I didn’t want to interrupt any sales). I also got to meet a few new faces, including Laura Braga! I’m a huge fan of her work on Witchblade, and I’m so happy for her success on Invincible Iron Man and some of the new DC titles she’s working on.

Hanging out with the very lovely and talented Laura Braga (Witchblade, Invincible Iron Man)

After making my way through AA, it was time to go back to the table and pack up. Thankfully, just about everything was sold and I was able to fit the few remaining books in my luggage before taking off for the airport. The train and bus was much easier than my normal method of trying to grab a cab downtown (and much less expensive, I do admit), and before I knew it I was at my terminal and through security. I have a post-con relaxation ritual, which involves a meal and a drink at a place in the airport. Mostly, it involves not standing (I rarely if ever sit during a con).

Post-con airport food and drinks…because HUNGRY!

After a short plane ride back to Chicago, I took the train to my stop and walked the rest of the way home (since the buses weren’t running; thanks, Chicago).

New York Comic Con is and continues to be the biggest and best show I attend all year. It’s a madhouse of sales, celebrities, and good people. It’s an expensive show to attend, don’t get me wrong, but worth it in every way possible. Thank you to UNICEF, Reading with Pictures, our volunteers and helpers, the entire staff of NYCC for putting together such an incredible event, and all of you – for making this weekend another unforgettable experience.

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