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Comic Cons Big & Small in NYC

NY Comic Con 2013

One of the most important aspects of comics is the sense of community. Whether it’s your local comic shop, that one person you like to talk to about what happened in the latest X-Men, following your favorite artist on tumblr,  or that most coveted gathering; the comic convention, comics fandom hinges itself on community to sustain itself. In the mid 90’s the cons I went to were usually in church basements or hotel ballrooms. Movie trailers were shown on small projection screens like you’d see in a classroom, and bootleg VHS’s of Do You Remember Love gave you a glimpse of that anime thing everyone was talking about.

Over the years, with the growth of comics having a presence in movies and tv (but how come no one ever talks about how Blue Is the Warmest Color was adapted from a comic?), and the rapid commercialization and commodification of “nerd culture,” we have seen the comic convention grow ever larger. The San Diego Comic Con (July 24 - 27)has gone from its meager beginnings to a colossal mega-event. Movie companies now have free reign of the space, and there have been grumblings that the comic industry is being steadily pushed out.

New York Comic Con (October 9 - 12 at the Javits Center) was started amongst a drought of large conventions in New York City. In past years the Javits Center was considered a logistical nightmare and conventions operated out of it usually went nowhere. But that was before “geekiness” was something being sold in malls and bookstores, on t-shirts and home appliances, and extending beyond small niche groups. “Bang, pow! Comics aren’t for kids anymore!” (I never liked that headline). Reed Pop, organizers of NYCC, must have sense that the time was right, and since it’s premiere in 2006 NYCC has been wildly successful to the point where tickets for this year’s con sold out in roughly an hour.

Similar to SDCC, NYCC attracts many exhibitors that operate outside of comics, and has a strong media presence, but there’s also range of exhibitors from small publishers, to niche vinyl toys, to media juggernauts like Adult Swim. It still feels like companies that are not media conglomerates still have a presence. But for those interested in comics and comics alone, it can lead to something I like to call “con fatigue.” Despite its wear on me, NYCC is still an event I always make a point of attending since there is nothing quite like it in the NYC area.

In June, ReedPop held Special Edition NYC, an offshoot of NYCC that took away anything not related directly to comics. No video games, no movies, no TV, not even publishing houses or non-comics vendors. It’s size as a convention was miniscule compared to NYCC, but it preserved a sense of intimacy that is hard to maintain with an event the size of NYCC. Guests included big names like Mike Allred (Madman, FF), Gail Simone (Batgirl, Secret Six), and Howard Chaykin (Satellite Sam, American Flagg) along with a small but dedicated indie presence. When I pulled up the the Javits, I was astounded to see a comic event there that didn’t have throngs of people spilling out onto the sidewalks (though that isn’t to say it wasn’t well attended).  SENYC cultivated a sense of intimacy and simplicity that made it a real joy to attend. But for those looking for an even more intimate comics experience there’s Frank Santoro and Santoro-Con.

santoroFrank Santoro exudes earnestness.  Author of the highly acclaimed comic Pompeii, Santoro is wiry and has a mane of hair that would be at home at a Quiet Riot concert. Selling comics in Pittsburgh, he also offers a correspondence course on how to make your own comics and in the summer he comes to NYC. In a slightly run down artist’s studio along the West Side Highway he organizes his own Santoro-Con, a one day event where the only advertising is done word of mouth through social media. Spread out on a fold-up table are several long boxes filled with everything from books from Marvel’s Epic imprint, to Hernandez Bros comics, to hand-stapled zines. Local artists will show up with their own prints, zines, or mini-comics. There is no pretense, no huge companies, no movie or TV star guests. It’s almost like an ascetic comic con. There is only a pure enthusiasm for the art form of comics. It reminded me of the Museum of Comic & Cartoon Art Festival (MoCCA), but placed into a crucible. The purity of Santoro-Con balances out the presence of the larger mega-cons.

It’s very easy to get cynical and say that larger cons are pushing out the smaller ones, but comics fandom has a way of surviving. Some cons give into the allure of Hollywood and mainstream media attention, some cons balance that out with genuine attention also paid to the craft, and some cons just keep things simple. Which type of con that ends up thriving depends on you attending them.

To learn more, go to:

New York Comic Con
October 9 - 12, 2014

655 W 34th St
New York, NY 10001

Special Edition NYC: Comic Con Condensed

The New York Comic Con is one of the best comic events in the country. It brings together top notch talent, fans from all walks of life, and it’s a great chance to meet with your favorite comic authors and artists. But it’s also a colossally huge con that covers movies, TV shows, video games, and everything in between on top of that so you feel completely exhausted by the end of it.
So the fine people at ReedPOP have developed a special convention for fans that want to rub elbows in artist’s alley with artists and writers, but without the New Years in Times Square sized crowds.

Special Edition NYC (June 14 -15, 2014) at the Javits Center (655 W 34th St.) is a convention for those looking to get the NYCC experience, but with a focus on comics. Special Edition NYC celebrates New York as the birthplace of comics in an intimate setting.

Attendees include:

  • Howard Chaykin (Satellite Sam, American Flagg)
  • Mike Allred (Madman)
  • Gail Simone (Batgirl, Wonder Woman)
  • Geof Darrow (Shaolin Cowboy)
  • Chris Claremont (X-Men)
  • Kurt Busiek (Astro City)
  • Peter David (X-Factor, The Incredible Hulk)
  • David Mack (KABUKI)

The NYCC has always managed to bring together a great collection of creators in the past and Special Edition NYC will be no exception. Special Edition NYC looks to have all of NYCC’s great guests, but with less of the con-fatigue.

To learn more, go to:

Special Edition NYC
June 14 - 15, 2014

Javits Center
655 W 34th St.
New York, NY 10001

Classical Concert Previews: Kremerata Baltica, American Symphony Orchestra

Kremerata Baltica's new Weinberg CD
Even in New York City, it’s sometimes difficult to hear different music in our concert halls, forcing a search to find obscure or underperformed gems: thus, two concerts this week—Kremerata Baltica at the 92 ndStreet Y and the American Symphony Orchestra at Carnegie Hall—are like manna from heaven.

The music of Polish composer Mieczyslaw Weinberg—who died in 1996 at age 76—is having a welcome renaissance, both on disc (CD releases and a Blu-ray of his powerful opera The Passenger, all on the Neos label) and onstage (Lincoln Center Festival is bringing The Passenger to Park Avenue Armory this summer).

Violinist Gidon Kremer and his stalwart ensemble Kremerata Baltica—which have recorded five of Weinberg’s haunting modernist works for a February 18 release on the ECM label—perform January 30 at the 92nd St Y. On disc, Kremer and his cohorts play Weinberg’s virtuosic but humane music with a lot of passion, which will surely be in abundance on the 92nd Street Y stage: in addition to Weinberg’s Concertino and Symphony No. 10, the concert comprises Arvo Part’s Cantus in memoriam Benjamin Britten, Britten’s Variations on a Theme of Frank Bridge, and Dmitri Shostakovich’s rarely-heard chamber opera, Antiformal Rayok.
Britten and Bridge, circa 1930
The American Symphony Orchestra’s artistic director, Leon Botstein, routinely curates the best classical programs in the city, and his orchestra’s January 31 Carnegie Hall performance is no exception. This England takes last year’s Britten Centenary as its jumping-off point to explore other avenues of 20th century British music, which is full of riches far beyond what’s usually heard from Britten and Edward Elgar.

Botstein has chosen carefully and well. Sir Arthur Bliss may have composed more memorable works than his score for the sci-fi movieThings to Come, but it’s certainly a tuneful diversion; Frank Bridge’s piano concerto Phantasm (with soloist Piers Lane) is a masterpiece, Robert Simpson’s Volcano is a solid left-field pick and William Walton’s Symphony No. 2, while not up to his glorious first symphony, is always worth hearing.

I for one would have loved to hear other eminent composers as Arnold Bax, Lennox Berkeley, Alan Rawsthorne or the seriously undervalued Malcolm Arnold and Edmund Rubbra, but Botstein’s picks demonstrate the depth and variety of England’s overlooked musical heritage.

Kremerata Baltica
92nd Street Y
Lexington Avenue and East 92nd St, New York, NY
January 30, 2014
American Symphony Orchestra
Carnegie Hall
7th Avenue and West 57th Street, New York, NY
January 31, 2014

Museum of the Moving Image Exhibits Indie Gaming

Gone Home

We live in a fascinating time for indie video game enthusiasts. Platforms like Steam and Good Ol Games have made distribution for small developers a cinch, while even monolith companies like Sony are championing games like Octodad: Dadliest Catch for their next gen systems. While the big titles will still grab up ad space and store shelves, small indie titles like Minecraft have shown the ingenuity, the power and the popularity of games developed outside major studios. What starts off as a bit of code on a computer one day becomes part of our cultural lexicon the next.

Highlighting these unique endeavors in electric entertainment, The Museum of the Moving Image (36-01 35 Avenue, Astoria, NY), in association with IndieCade: The International Festival of Independent Games, will be exhibiting Indie Essentials: 25 Must Play Video Games (December 14, 2013 - March 2, 2014).

These are games that reinvent classic formulas (Spelunky), encourage creativity and freedom (Minecraft), or completely subvert preconceived notions of what a video game can be (Gone Home and Quadrilateral Cowboy). Also featured will be past winners of the IndieCade Festival, which celebrates independent games and the designers behind them.

Other games being exhibited include:

  • Flower
  • Kentucky Route Zero
  • Diner Dash
  • Killer Queen Arcade
  • Dear Esther
  • Spaceteam

Jason Eppink, Museum of the Moving Image curator states that “the designers and developers of the games presented in Indie Essentials take daring creative risks to explore new forms and methods of play." “Independent games are a fountain of innovation and experimentation, advancing games as one of today’s most dynamic and important cultural forms.”

To learn more, go to:

IndieCade: The International Festival of Independent Games
December 14, 2013 - March 2, 2014

The Museum of the Moving Image
36-01 35th Ave
New York, NY 11106

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