Feature image courtesy of New York Natives, Photographer: Enrique Grijalva Feature image courtesy of New York Natives, Photographer: Enrique Grijalva
By Enrique Grijalva

It was like marching down the geek’s road to Zion on Thursday, October 10th. On this eccentric path, I was caught between two iconic worlds as I witnessed Ewoks and Hobbits traveling side-by-side and shoulder-to-shoulder. New York Comic-Con was back!

It was the first of the four-day festival, which brought in roughly 116,000 attendees in 2012. (And, as a business owner, while you might find yourself annoyed by having to cater to a ridiculously costumed adult on more than one night in October, keep in mind that the convention and its attendees are estimated to bring in $70 million to spend in the city. Not bad for business.) This year, however, NYCC was looking to topple the attendance record (133,000+ attendees) set by their west coast contemporary, San Diego Comic-Con.

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Image courtesy of New York Natives, photographer: Enrique Grijalva

In an attempt to discourage counterfeiters selling phony badges, NYCC employed RFID (Radio Frequency Identification) Badges for this year’s convention, presented by the digital comic provider, Comixology. Fully equipped with a microchip that’s unique to each individual badge, guests were encouraged to activate it online before the event with the incentive of unlocking special features and exclusives. Plus, you could sync it up to your social networks. Great for those who want to share what or whom they’ve seen with their friends online.

In my nonsensical approach to exploring unfamiliar territory (walking aimlessly everywhere I go), I happened to stumble upon Explosm’s booth, which was occupied by Kris Wilson & Dave McElfatrick of the popular online comic series, Cyanide & Happiness. They were accompanied by their buddy and collaborator, Joel Watson, creator of the online geek comic Hijinks Ensue. I got my friend a commissioned sketch by Watson and he was blown away by my idea for it, but only after I described my friend’s unfortunate accident in a bathroom bodega, which involved a mop, a bucket, and a broken sink. (I won’t get into details, but I’ll say this: just use your imagination.)

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Image courtesy of New York Natives
Photographer: Enrique Grijalva

“Wow, that guy should have stopped at life right there,” said Watson of the incident. “That’s the only story you ever need to tell,” he continued.

“Elementary, my dear Watson—hijinks ensue,” I replied.

As a fan of the popular, ongoing comic series and television show, The Walking Dead, I sought out the much hyped “10 Years of Walking Dead” booth at the convention. It was surrounded by fans of the post-apocalyptic zombie series, and they were looking to buy exclusive merchandise and limited editions of the comic. Meanwhile, others looked to have themselves transformed into zombies by a makeup artist at a nearby exhibit featuring an abandoned house and a custom-built vehicle prepared to run down a hoard of zombies. Unfortunately, I missed The Walking Dead 10th Anniversary panel featuring creator, Robert Kirkman, which took place a day later. As Butters from South Park would say: Oh, hamburgers!

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Image courtesy of New York Natives, photographer: Enrique Grijalva

Speaking of the small town in Colorado…

South Park’s much anticipated return to the world of gaming hit its apex, as a stealthy gameplay preview of South Park: The Stick of Truth was played for fans at NYCC. Groups of six people were escorted into one of four dimly lit rooms, inside of a realistic version of South Park’s post office and Tom’s Rhinoplasty. The real-life adaptation of the show’s real estate was suspiciously fitted with an alien spacecraft protruding from its roofs. (Could this possibly be an Easter egg?) The game follows the traditional RPG formula balancing gameplay and cut scenes with graphics so remarkably improved from 1998’s self-titled game that one would not be able to differentiate between the two at a glimpse. The plot appears to put the children of South Park back into their recreational pastime of playing out Lord of the Rings, similar to the classic episode, “The Return of the Fellowship of the Ring to the Two Towers.”

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Image courtesy of New York Natives, photographer: Enrique Grijalva

Aside from getting closer to the forms of media which keep this writer entertained, what I most enjoyed about NYCC was exploring the section known as “The Block”. As the description on NYCC’s website declares, this section “brings together art, design, collectible toys, pop-tech and fashion of the underground culture scene along with the tastemakers, trendsetters, artists, thinkers and the brands that they create.” In other words, they placed the bat-shit crazy motherfuckers in one small area, with little room to breathe.

Personally, I feel like each city block should have a section like The Block at NYCC. The visuals alone can get the creative juices flowing. And most of these guys are not only artists, but they’re entrepreneurs who don’t limit themselves to one form of artistic expression.

For example, ZeroFriends is an Oakland-based store/gallery working with artists like Alex Pardee, who are looking to sell and/or exhibit their clothing, accessories, toys, or other artwork. Other artists, however, achieve this goal independently, like the eccentric New York-based illustrator known enigmatically as Scarecrow Oven. A lanky white guy enamored with the skateboard culture of the 80’s and whose art is evidently influenced by comic books, sci-fi, and horror movies, Scarecrow Oven runs his own website and blog where he sells his own merchandise, including a pair of custom boxing gloves spray painted with his artwork.

So, while the four-day celebration of nerdom might be over, at least I have my Cyanide & Happiness plush doll, my Alex Pardee and Scarecrow Oven t-shirts, and a few comic books to keep me company until next year. See you nerds in 2014!

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