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This year’s New York Comic Con looked remarkably different from years past. Or maybe it looked like a return to form, depending on what your definition of a “comic book convention” is. In the last decade, New York Comic Con has maintained an increasing focus on celebrity appearances from film and television (something that I, as more of a film and TV fan than a comic book fan, found welcome).
There’s certainly a ton of artists on display, and many people still come for the comics and collectibles, but the big names are usually the big draw. However, this year saw most of the big names skip the con, as the SAG-AFTRA strike was still in effect. (In fact, talks between the union and the studios broke down the night before the con began, though granted, even if the strike ended, it wouldn’t have changed too much.) Unlike San Diego Comic Con, which bore the full brunt of the strike, New York Comic Con at least had months to prepare programming. A larger focus on their comic audience was combined with the celebrity guests that had already signed on, and I was pleasantly surprised at how much there still was to see at the convention this year.
Among the big names that appeared at the convention included Chris Evans, Ewan McGregor, and David Tennant, all of whom got spotlight panels. Other panels took clear measures to toe the line. Two panels of actors “in conversation” were effectively Guardians of the Galaxy and Our Flag Means Death panels that couldn’t advertise themselves as such. At the former, the actors (Karen Gillan, Chukwudi Iwuji, Michael Rooker, Sean Gunn, and Pom Klementieff) went farther into their franchise than I expected, discussing on-set experiences and makeup, while never mentioning the Marvel name once.
While struck projects couldn’t be discussed, celebrity actors could still sign autographs, and quite a few were present in the autographing hall, including Katie Sackhoff, Susan Sarandon, Tim Curry, and Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse star Shameik Moore. That’s not to say that the strike affected every panel, though. In a surprising move, Kenan Thompson and Kel Mitchell made surprise appearances at the Good Burger 2 panel. Directors, however, weren’t on strike, so attendees John Carpenter and Matthew Vaughn could still discuss their careers to fans. Eli Roth was also scheduled to attend a panel on his new film Thanksgiving but cancelled the night before. What the convention lacked in celebrity appearances it more than made up for in heartfelt fandom and “con-araderie”. There was still a massive attendance, and cosplay was on full display. Thursday, normally more easygoing, was shockingly crowded.
However, some of the panels really demonstrated the appeal of the convention beyond celebrities. There were a few niche panels I attended on topics like Celebrating Trans Joy in Comics, Creator Owned Comics, and Mental Health is Health that really showed the healing power of art for both creators and fans. A panel on the Disney Channel series The Owl House, while declining to discuss too much of the series, went heavy into the stars’ voice acting experiences and journey to being on the show. In addition, the audience at the panel were clear on how much the show’s characters and representation meant to them. It wasn’t just a cartoon; it was a healing experience.
Artists Alley was still bustling, with both established creators and new discoveries alike presenting their works. A new section, cleverly named Writers’ Block, spotlighted various authors. The show floor was still loaded with collectibles that the con-goers were eager to get to first. With Hollywood on strike, the comic book and artist worlds once again rose to the surface, at least for this year.
Once the strike ends, I’m sure next year’s convention will likely return to its recent normal. The celebrities will become the focus once again, and while the comic book fans and collectors will remain, they may return to being overshadowed. At the very least, this year’s New York Comic Con managed to avoid disaster with an eclectic lineup of strike-proof programming, and even with the film and TV side being toned down, there was still a lot to do. In the end, New York Comic Con was still the Big Apple’s biggest weekend of escapism and artistic expression.
Click HERE to see our gallery of photos from NY Comic Con - Ed.
New York Comic ConOctober 12th-15th, 2023Jacob Javits CenterNew York
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