NY Comic Con (from The Batmom October 2012)

New York Comic Con is in the merch bag. Happily weary and Salem bound, brain not up to the task of spinning a coherent narrative. Instead I shoot bullets.

Pow Chicka Pow Pow.

• Everyone goes to comic con. The stereotypes spoofed on screen attend en masse, and so does your grandma, your babysitter, your dog-sitter, your dentist. All ages, all colors, all walks of life. And yes, people wear some crazy-ass costumes, a number of them scanty.

• Everyone comes off smart: the longtime Wonder Woman reader who patiently placed my concept of Wonder Woman in historical perspective, the 20-something guy who attended any panel that might help him grow as a writer, and the many comic creators (writers, artists, letterers, colorists, editors) who presented at panels.

These creators’ brains are cultural catalogues, and the compendiums astound. Wonder Woman artists Cliff Chiang and Tony Akins discussed character creation during a Friday panel. I jotted down every cultural reference they made. Check it out:

British footballer Wayne "Wazza" Rooney • Bruce Lee • the leviathans portrayed on antique maps • Victorian funereal photography • Hellboy artist Mike Mignola • Palestinian girls’ clothing from the 1920s and ‘30s • Father Christmas • Japanese hipsters • foxes in Dionysian tradition • Jack Kirby’s Orion • 1990s-era Superboy • Italian motocross racers • swimmers • old Thor comics • Through the Looking Glass •Google Maps • Kurosawa

Impressed? I was.

• Famous people are charming. Or convincingly fake it.

I attended a Q&A with Sean Astin (The GooniesRudy, and in LOTR as my favorite Samwise Gamgee). In the manner of a kind and scruffy history professor, Astin spoke lovingly about Tolkein’s language, which first drew him to the LOTR script. He explained how certain words grab him as an actor, then repeated the word “home” several times, and in such a manner that it became a poem. Home. Home. Home.

(Astonishingly and amusingly, he had never heard of Lord of the Rings before getting the script, and in fact had The Hobbit confused with The Phantom Tollbooth. Starring Elijah Wood as a guy who talks to a dog. Or is that Wilfred?)

Other writers and actors charmed and amused me, including Fables creator Bill Willingham and actress Jewel Staite (Firefly, The L.A. Complex), but only one made me swoon: Nathan Fillion (Firefly, Dr. Horrible, Castle). He showed up unannounced during a Firefly event. (If you haven’t seen Firefly, go rent it. Joss Whedon created the show, a sci-fi/Western hybrid bleeding clever and, accordingly, cancelled after one season.)

When Fillion walked in, my friend Rene and I screamed like 1960s teenagers at a Beatles’ concert. Rather, Rene screamed while I, laryngitis-riddled, aped The Scream. I know roguish charm is Fillion’s thing, and to some extent he’s playing a role, but his Firefly co-stars spoke repeatedly of Fillion’s kindness to everyone on-set, from bottom to top.

Fillion also impressed me by answering crowd questions creatively, rather than offering up glazed perfunctory quips; and by playing the kind of clown that everyone loves but no one fears — he’s not going to make the class laugh by poking fun at you.

• Marketers are brilliant and probably evil. A lot of this conference aimed to get we the people (who paid to get in) to promote stuff. We gathered loads of branded swag (including a Rubik’s Cube and a crown!) and were constantly being asked to tap into social media and share our pop culture happiness with the universe. (This ploy might have worked better had any of us been able to access the Internet during the conference.)

I’m 41 and while I love my twitter, I’m also old enough to take what I want from a marketing frenzy and leave the rest. Some of the marketing was fun fun fun: Rene starred as the heroine in a mini-movie, and we got to bust out of the cover of a comic book.

Had I been a gamer, good lord. There must have been hundreds of gaming stations set up on the show floor offerings conventioneers first-shots at updates and new games. I wasn’t inspired to start playing, but I am inspired to rewatch Felicia Day’s funny funny gaming-centric web series The Guild.

• Speaking of brilliant, New York. I lived in Manhattan long ago, for a mostly unhappy year, but had forgotten how every last block offers up something if you’re willing to look: patterened blue and white tiling; golden art deco detailing; a thick, simply handsome wooden door.

• Let’s just keep running with brilliant: my friends.

I spent most of my time with Rene of StrangerInAFamiliarLand. We laughed a lot, especially when she yelled “areola” on a crowded bus, and enabled one another’s comic book-buying excesses.

We had dinner with three college friends; though my memory’s double-glazed with red wine and Benadryl, I think one asked not to be mentioned online, so I won’t. But I will suggest you go buy “Salvage,” and note the evening was such that I now miss all three of them.

Yesterday, I trotted uptown to walk a lovely dog with a lovely friend in October-lovely Central Park. Best of all, my lovely friend sent me home with a new read: Lilian Ross’s Here But Not Here.

Now I’m on the train home, staring at New England out my window and anticipating the sweet faces of my kids, who are still young enough to thrill at my return before asking “Whadja get me?”

I’ll play Santa with a swag bag and then get back to it.

Home. Home. Home.

* P.S. @frogandcode rocks.

* P.P.S. For the real nerds, I heard speak or grabbed signatures from (among others): Tony Akins, Raphael Albuquerque, Brian Azzarello, Greg Capullo, Bernard Chang, Cliff Chiang, Joshua Fialkov, Franco, Aaron Kuder, Scott Snyder, Bill Willingham. I didn’t buy a lot, but I picked up a few recommends from a helpful guy at Midtown Comics – Rising Stars, Saga, Locke & Key - and have a list from random folks who recommended mid-con.