The Year Of The Con

CON!!!

In the early 1990’s being a kid was all about Saturday morning cartoons: Batman, Superman, X-Men, Spider-Man, Iron Man, and the list goes on! These shows were the only way you could learn about comic book characters aside from… comic books.

But as I grew up, where did all of this cartoon-watching & comic-reading pastime get me? What did it all amount to?

So once I discovered the idea of a comic con, I was hooked! One of my first exposures to this kind of idea was Book Expo America 2005 in NYC.

Soon after, I was introduced to the 501st Legion, an international fan-based organization dedicated to costume as Imperials for charity, such as the Trooper above. So you can imagine my surprise when I found out that there are conventions all around the world where not only are there Star Wars enthusiasts like me, but costumers (cosplayers) and endless halls of vendors with rare & collectible items!

Fast forward 11 years to 2016, where I knew I would be attending my 5th New York Comic Con… yet, that didn’t stop me from hitting up more cons! Hence: The Year Of The Con… In total, I attended 9 comic cons! So if you bear with me for a moment, here are the ups & downs of each of them:

April 2 – L.I. Geek Con (Long Island, NY)

A smaller con that I had never heard of but I made the drive out to Long Island to meet Greg Grunberg, long time friend of J.J. Abrams and sci-fi extra of the decade! If you’re a fan of the sci-fi and/or superhero genre, chances are you’ve seen Greg in something (Alias, Star Trek Beyond, Heroes, Agents Of SHIELD, to name a few…). But I wanted to meet him to get my Temmin “Snap” Wexley figure signed from The Force Awakens. Really nice guy and if it weren’t for him, the con would’ve been a major bust. Plus, got to chat with a fellow fan while waiting on line, which always helps the time go by!

April 16 – East Coast Comic Con (Secaucus, NJ)

I was thoroughly impressed with this convention, especially after L.I. Geek Con. Having already attended New York Comic Con 4 times by this point, I knew the do’s & don’ts of cons pretty well. ECCC had the feel of a big comic con but was housed in a pretty limited space. But I must say that this one really got my blood pumping with excitement for NYCC (but still 6 months to go)! There were some great local vendors & artists, and some amazing cosplay to go along with it. And even though the size was “smaller”, it was easy to get engrossed in the show floor for hours. Oh, by the way, I met Jeremy Bulloch – THE Mandalorian himself, Boba Fett! Signed my rocket-firing Vintage Collection Boba Fett and our 8×10 photo by Sci-Fi Photo Guys (not the last time I’ll ever see them either). It’ll be great to meet Jeremy again one day. He’s a super nice guy and takes his time to share his favorite Star Wars memories and hear yours too!

May 1 – Undiscovered Realm Comic Con (White Plains, NY)

What an utter disappointment, and a waste of a drive. I drove 30 miles all for nothing because this newbie con messed up transportation details for the only guest (James Marsters) I was interested in. Now I’m a pretty understanding guy, and I’m well aware of cancellation policies for guests. But James was there all weekend and had to leave a couple hours early because Undiscovered Realm botched up his flight details. This would have been a great detail to post on their social media so that I wouldn’t arrive right when he went for a “lunch break” for 2 hours, aka he’s gone. After circling around a basement of 5 aisles for 2 hours (oh, hello again Sci-Fi Photo Guys!), I found out that James was actually never coming back.

There was a mini crowd of disappointed fans holding their James Marsters memorabilia (mostly Spike from Buffy) as one of the “managers” tried to control the situation by offering ticket refunds and pre-signed 8×10’s. What can you do? But all hope wasn’t lost because I got to meet him eventually… you’ll see what I mean later.

August 20 – Newark Comic Con (Newark, NJ)

This was another tiny convention but it was still more interesting than Long Island and Undiscovered Realm combined! They had some pretty out-there guests but still tons to look at. Plus, I walked away with some great purchases. We sat in on the Cosplay Panel, which was pretty lackluster, but it helped us to cool down since it was super hot that day and most of the con was outdoors (to the surprise of both the fans and the vendors)! But meet & greet #3, check! Phoenix James, one of the First Order Stormtroopers responsible for the capture of Max von Sydow’s character, Lor San Tekka, in The Force Awakens. Signed my carded FO Trooper, and we got this sweet photo together wearing our Star Wars shirts. I felt bad for some of the vendors/artists who I saw leave angrily before the con was even halfway through (might have to do with the fact that they weren’t guaranteed a booth, or even a table)!

August 27 – Monsters & Robots (Somerset, NJ)

If you’re like me, you’re probably thinking, “what an unusual name for a con”… especially once you find out there weren’t many monsters & robots! But I suppose you can consider Nien Nunb a “monster” and Darth Vader a “robot”! Again, a lot of “been there, done that” moments but meeting Mike Quinn & Brian Muir from Star Wars was iconic & memorable, so it was worth it! Plus we got to take photos with the Ghostbusters Ecto & Back To The Future DeLorean. But judging by the many vendors disappointed in the turnout & marketing flop of the con, I don’t imagine this one lasting very long (even though this is brought to you by the same makers as the successful East Coast Comic Con).

September 10 – Wizard World (Richmond, VA)

Officially the farthest I’ve driven to reach a con (350 miles, one-way)! But the stakes were high: Ray Park (Darth Maul, Snake Eyes, Toad) and, finally, James Marsters! Daniel Logan (young Boba Fett) was on the list too but unfortunately cancelled last minute. But being able to tell James Marsters the whole story from Undiscovered Realm made it totally worth the trip. He was so understanding and actually took his time to get to know his fans, compared to some other celebrities who breezed through the autographs.

But to be honest, I was expecting a little more from Wizard. I grew up reading their magazines in my local comic book shop, so I had higher hopes for this con. But I suppose in order for it to make sense to have multiple Wizard World conventions throughout the year, they need to be on a smaller scale. This is part of the joke that Jerome Blake made at NYCC.

Still, it was a great experience and they had some fun displays & giveaways set up around the show floor. Got to get a couple of Darth Maul things signed and took a photo with the man himself. But one of the highlights from the trip was definitely Mama J’s soul food with an amazing 4.5 stars on Yelp. More photos from Wizard World.

October 9 – New York Comic Con (New York, NY)

So you have comic cons, and then you have Comic Con. NYCC is the best I’ve ever seen & continue to see on a yearly basis. As my 7th con of the year, it still surpassed all the others! There was talk that the Friday queue to enter went on for blocks without moving (way past opening time), while latecomers just walked in through the front door. Luckily, I didn’t experience this on Saturday. Yes, the lines are longer and the crowds are bigger, but New York Comic Con is an unbeatable experience! Every year, just look at the long list of appearances & panels available… and that’s nothing compared to the massive show floor & displays. It was also when we got to meet Carrie Fisher (Rest In Peace, Carrie & Debbie…). Read more about NYCC specifically here.

November 12 – Rhode Island Comic Con (Providence, RI)

What a nightmare of a con… Some people there called RICC the San Diego Comic Con of the East Coast, but clearly they haven’t attended NYCC before. From navigation to execution to everything in between, RICC failed in so many ways. But I suppose it’s worth it since I got to meet Billy Dee Williams, John Ratzenberger, and Felix Silla. This place had the crowded feeling of NYCC but in the space of a smaller con. So much running was involved in order to make it to things on time (and there weren’t even that many things going on)! But in the end, settled down with the best bowl of ramen I’ve ever had at Ken’s Ramen.

December 3 – Wintercon (Jamaica, NY)

Last con of the year and what a year it’s been! But it was amazing to wrap up my year of cons by meeting some of the legendary Star Wars rebel pilots we’ve come to know & love: Chewbacca, Nien Nunb, Biggs, and John D. Branon. Plus, Tion Medon from Utapau in Episode III. Wintercon was very well-put together for the size it was. It wasn’t too crowded since the show floor was wide, and there were plenty of unique vendors to check out. I didn’t buy anything but I did score a cool Death Trooper pin + Yavin patch for asking an awesome question at the rebels panel! One of the best parts about this venue was the free parking. Because of the proximity & ease of getting there, I’d come again if the guest list was good enough!

Happy New Year, and many more cons to come!

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