entertainment

Chris Jones' life-long dream to become a superhero comes true at New York Comic Con 2019

The self-professed super-geek explores the gigantic Comic Con event.

2019-10-28

Words: Chris Jones

The date was October 3rd (seriously) and I awoke from my cute room at The Jane Hotel in Manhattan’s West Village.

It was a glorious sunny morning and the view of the Hudson was golden as I looked out of the window.

In that moment, as I sighed a sigh of content, but I didn’t know what awaited me just up the High Line at the Javits Center.

It was the first day of New York Comic Con 2019, and I simply was not prepared for what an overwhelming experience it would be.

I wrote about my love of Comic Books for Attitude Magazine back in the June issue and how, growing up, they were essentially my security blanket while being a confused and a bit of lonely closeted gay kid.

The X-Men, in particular, what with their thinly veiled metaphor for mutantdom being homosexualitydom, and their dream of a world where they are accepted really struck accord with me but also a generation of LGBTQA+ people.

This was my first American Comic Con and having been to MCM in London a few times I can safely say it was double the size.

The Javits Centre is massive and sits on the West side of the New York city, by the new and swanky Hudson Yards district which has been hugely gentrified.

After three days dipping in and out of the Con, I’m still confused by the Javits massive layout.

I don’t think I even touched the sides of the place! Over three floors, were geeks and nerds. It was a joyous sight.

There were couples as his and hers cosplay counterparts, whole families of Skywalkers, Sith Lords and Wookies as well as groups of friends as The Avengers or Pokémon trainers, and their Pokémon!

I ventured upstairs to where the stalls and vendors were. On the Thursday, it was busy.

By the Saturday, there was barely room to move let alone navigate around the occasional cosplayer’s wing or home made weapon that I was knocking in too.

The selections of rare comics and vintage action figures as well as more contemporary items seemed to go on for miles.

At one point a happy American guy in front of a table said, 'Hey! How are ya?! Having a good day? Wanna stop by this table?' and in my British awkwardness, I gestured that I was with the girl in front, as she was vanishing to the crowd and I quickly followed her.

Once a safe distance I turned around and saw the man was with a poster of his younger self in a tight red outfit and it was in fact Stephen Cardenas who played Rocky the Red Ranger in Mighty Morphin’ Power Rangers.

I then turned and on the next table was Kel Mitchell from Kenan and Kel.

He had a queue right around the corner and its when I saw other Power Ranger alumni, WWE star and Nichelle Nichols from Star Trek, who is on a far well tour of the Con circuit.

Being in her 80’s, I feel like she is perhaps one of the queens of the comic con culture ever since Star Trek had its first convention in New York in 1972, which was attended by 3000 people.

I’ve read interviews at how the cast were utterly bewildered at why people came out, especially dressed as their characters, to see them. Well, ‘fan’ comes from fanatic so, they quickly realised how loved their work was.

Seeing the cast of Star Trek: Discovery and the much anticipated Star Trek: Picard so at ease with their legion of cheering fans at the Star Trek: Universe panel was pure joy.

Sir Patrick Stewart, who reprises the role of Jean-Luc Picard said he was “unsure” about getting back out into space but once the team presented him with a four page document (which was in actual fact thirty pages) he saw the love that the Producers Michael Chabon and Alex Kurtzman had for the character, and for Star Trek. Total. Fan. Love.

NYCC features ‘Artist Alley’ in their basement level, which I feel like it’s a joke that the Javits Centre is pulling, that all comic book guys live in their parents’ basements (it’s NOT true, guys).

Artist Alley is exactly has it sounds - alleyways of artists who you can meet and chat too, while looking at their work and have the opportunity to buy prints.

I naively thought, ‘oh this will be a lot of newbies, ammaright?’ but down there was Chris Claremont, casually at a table singing covers of X-Men: The Dark Phoenix Saga, because he created it(!)

He is quite a big deal in comic book land.

Strolling on I bumped into writer Dan Slott, who has had successful run on ‘Spider-Man’ and bought back the ‘Fantastic Four’ in 2018. He said this year’s NYCC was ‘one of the busiest he’d ever seen!’

I stopped by artist Jim Chung’s table, whose book ‘Young Avengers’ was recently taken off shelves in Brazil for a kiss between two gay characters, Wiccan and Hulkling.

I had to stop by LGBT artist Kris Anka’s table and in a total fan boy way, tell him how much I enjoyed his run on ‘Star-Lord’, which is know as the “thirstiest Marvel comic” as Star-Lord pretty much wears ‘not much’ throughout.

I remember Russell T Davies taking pictures of the pages and posting on Instagram with a lot of “oh my” captions. Anka showed off Peter Quill’s best assets. Ahem.

It's a shame Marvel only ran that for one volume….I bought a badge of a water bottle from Kris that says ‘thirsty’ and ran away. There was a great representation of LGBT creators in Artist Alley.

I hung out with written Joe Glass as we headed into a panel together. He’s created a comic called ‘The Pride’ which revolves around the LGBT superhero team of FabMan, Angel, Bear, Frost, Sapphire, Twink, White Trash, Wolf and Cub.

Joe had previously reached out to me about turning me into a superhero, combining my body dysmorphia into a gift/curse type power for a character (he gets bigger and stronger the more confident he is in himself.)

My dream of being a Comic Book Superhero finally came true.

Access into NYCC wasn’t easy and I’m talking about the panels. I had to prep by entering a lottery for the panels I really wanted to see, knowing some of them will be hugely popular such as Star Trek: Universe or Marvel’s next big thing!

Even with a shiny press pass doesn’t guarantee entry.

The lottery’s go live about two weeks before the event itself so my tip for any one going next year is follow NYCC’s social accounts for info - they are hot on keeping you in the know.

The variety and diversity of the panels on offer are incredible such as:

Body Positivity And Intro Into Cosplay Fitness

Essentially, this inside of my mind. The panel consisting of some incredible cosplayers spoke openly about how, through cosplay, they’ve overcome self-esteem issues and more importantly the realisation that anyone is fit enough to put on a costume of anyone they want no matter your size, shape or background at all!

Gender, Queer, Cosplay

In a similar sort of message to the body positivity panel, cosplay can be a way to explore your talents as a costume maker but also allows you to be whoever you want to be, can can be used for the exploring you’re own identity.

For me personally, cosplay is a bit like Drag culture, in that one that mask or outfit is in you’re empowered - a bit like a superhero, with more confidence.

Around NYCC I saw a lot of ‘gender bending’ of characters. A female Hellboy, a queer Storm and Cyclops.

What I love and adore is that you can be whoever you want to be, and at comic-con it’s a total celebration of inclusivity.

A particular ‘yas’ moment for me was when I geeked out at the gender neutral bathrooms sign posted at NYCC. Yes, I am a geek of gender identity as well as The Avengers.

New York Times: OUT Presents LGBTQ+ in comics

Moderator Jude Bersdorfer speaking with panelists Jen Bartel (Blackbird), Vita Ayala (Xena: Warrior Princess), Sina Grace (Iceman) and Mariko Tamaki (Laura Dean Keeps Breaking Up With Me) while they discussed their careers as LGBT comic book creators and the portrayal of LGBT characters within the medium.

Essentially, the conclusion was “YES, we need more queer people behind the scenes and in comics!”

These three panels only scratch the surface of the inclusivity seen at NYCC. I feel that the majority of comic book conventions are a total celebration of all things different. Not the norm.

There’s an openness, acceptance and tolerance that you really hope the rest of the world could adapt from those safe hallowed halls, and the subject matter of course reflects that.

Here are multiple stories of hate, racism and homophobia wrapped up and packaged in different ways but our heroes - the people who aren’t the normal ones in society - win.

And what do we do? Dress up as our heroes, while writers make them relatable to the audience with real world troubles.

What is more fantastic than that?

Credits

Joe Glass - cosplay pictures

Spider-Man cover shoot by Kevin Freeman/ Edit by Lee Faircloth

Location, thanks to the W Downtown  New York Hotel for hosting