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AICN COMICS: Nutmeg reports in from Wizard World NYC!

Hey guys, Nutmeg here with another convention report. As much as Matt and I enjoyed the Philly con, Wizard World NYC, held June 28th through the 30th at Pier 36 on Manhattan's South Street, was every bit as much fun-- perhaps even more. While Philly is the place to go to pick up new and unusual merchandise, Wizard World NYC was all about the panels and the cruising. No, not THAT kind of cruising.

On Friday, we came just in time to catch the end of the Pam Grier panel. It was really cool to see a living legend of the big screen in person. Besides her seminal blaxploitation roles in COFFY and FOXY BROWN, as well as Quentin Tarantino's JACKIE BROWN, comic fans may know her from her turn on the small screen as Amanda Waller on SMALLVILLE. She talked about her career, and mentioned that in many cases she doesn't fit certain parts because of her impressive stature (5' 8") even without heels! She also joked that several times it's come down to her and Morgan Freeman for the role of God, but that Morgan usually wins.

Following that, we went to see artist Amy Reeder (MADAME XANADU, ROCKET GIRL) teach a room full of fans and aspiring artists how to draw faces. This was by far my favorite panel. Amy was very personal throughout the panel, and her demeanor was pretty calm despite being put on the spot by having to demonstrate her craft for a bunch of strangers. She seemed at first a little nervous, but when she started to get more input from the audience, she began to light up the room.

As she began to draw the first sketch, Amy showed the audience the basics; the frame of the face, the eyes, the nose, and the mouth. Following that she began to show different perspectives the face could be viewed from, and how that would affect the appearance of the different features. For instance, she didn’t just show a face positioned upwards, but also how the eyes would look if you saw them from that perspective. She followed it up with demonstrating different emotions and facial expressions, and explained that the key to the face’s emotion is in the eyes. She recommended Gary Faigin's book "The Artist's Complete Guide to Facial Expression" for anyone who wants to learn more.

Amy also took questions from the audience, and someone asked her if she preferred inking and coloring her own work. She confirmed that she did, and explained that was one of the reasons she had left DC to focus on her own creations, including the recent Kickstarter for her new series Rocket Girl, with writer Brandon Montclare, which will be published by Image Comics. Towards the end of the panel, someone suggested that Amy draw a Facebook duck face with Batwoman, a character she drew for several issues in the New 52. This exercise got a lot of laughs, particularly when Reeder suggested that her rendition of Batwoman was saying "Hey ladies…".

Since we were on the subject of the Batbooks and facial expressions, Matt couldn't resist asking Amy to render the Joker laughing. Reeder emphasized that her approach to drawing the Joker’s long, inhumanly-proportioned face was different from normal human faces. She broke down everything from his arching eyebrows to his pointy nose to his gaping smile, and demonstrated how although the mouth shows a smile, the Joker's eyes show anger, rage, even insanity. The result was truly awesome, as you can see from the scan, and although Amy graciously offered to give it to him for free, Matt insisted on paying for it as it was well worth the money. She even autographed it for him.

Matt and I had the chance to speak to Amy the following day at her booth. We both told her how much we enjoyed her panel and how talented she is. Amy was so happy with the way that her Joker sketch came out that she asked if we could send her a scan, which we did, and she promptly posted it on her Twitter account (@amyreeder). Watching Amy draw was mesmerizing. She is really talented and I can’t wait to pick up some ROCKET GIRL comics.

From there, it was time to board the Love Boat…. ok, not really. But one of the newest features of Wizard World NYC is the addition of a celebrity cruise (this one featuring the Dixon brothers, of THE WALKING DEAD fame) around lower Manhattan, and we couldn't resist checking out what was scheduled to be a three-hour tour. Yes, a three-hour tour. As we got on line to board the ship at the pier, I saw Henry Winkler from the corner of my eye at his booth. I promised a friend an autograph from the Fonz for her aunt’s birthday. Henry Winkler was super nice and super sweet. He autographed a special message for my friend’s aunt and told me to give my friend’s aunt extra hugs and kisses from him. He even posed for a picture with me. “'Eyyyyy!”

While boarding the ship, it started to drizzle, but it was a warm summer night, so that came as welcome refreshment. Matt and I went on in to the middle deck where the party was starting. The DJ was playing music and the lines to the bar and buffets were already forming. When we finally sat down at the dinner table, we could see the cityscape lighting up the night sky. As the ship started to move, we headed to the top deck, where the weather was already clearing up. After having such a hot and humid day, being on top of the ship felt like natural air conditioning. It was so comforting and so relaxing. I felt like I was on vacation. The view of the city was just breathtaking. It's true what they say; you can live in the New York area all your life, but until you do these tourist-y things, you don't really get an appreciation of how beautiful the city is. After everyone had their fill of wining, dining, and sightseeing, guests were invited for photo ops with the Dixon boys in the lower deck. Norman Reedus and Michael Rooker are quite a pair, and they really got in the mood. You can't beat an open bar, I guess!

The cruise ship sailed past many big NYC sights including the Statue of Liberty, the Empire State Building, Freedom Tower, and the Brooklyn Bridge. When we finally came full circle, I never wanted to leave. Matt and I were among the last of the guests to exit the ship. It got us talking about renting a boat to go on our own cruise sometime. I highly recommend anyone to go on a Wizard World cruise. You’re bound to have a good time, enjoying the sights with your fellow comic fiends and friends.

On Saturday, we had the funny coincidence of running into one of our co-workers who was leaving just as we were arriving. It's a small world, considering that our office is all the way out towards the eastern end of Long Island, but I guess a love for comics brings everyone together! We then headed to the outdoor stage for the Patrick Stewart panel. Patrick Stewart had a glow about him as he walked into the room. He looked very happy and content. I think maybe it has something to do with his upcoming nupitals. Stewart was enlightening to listen to as he talked about his experiences on the set of X-MEN, STAR TREK, and his move to Brooklyn's Park Slope neighborhood, where he maintains a home as well as one in London. Stewart said that moving to Brooklyn was wonderful, because everywhere he goes, everyone is very friendly to him. Hearing him imitate a Brooklyn accent was hilarious and, I might add, dead-on.

When asked about his relationships with the cast of STAR TREK: THE NEXT GENERATION, Stewart brought up how nice it was to discover that Wil Wheaton was also at the convention. Stewart also talked about his friendship with his X-Men archenemy Ian McKellen, who will be officiating at Stewart’s wedding. He and McKellen will be co-starring with American actors Billy Crudup and Shuler Hensley in a Broadway double-feature of NO MAN’S LAND and WAITING FOR GODOT, something Stewart is very excited about. Talking about the upcoming X-MEN: DAYS OF FUTURE PAST movie, Stewart said he thought it would be the best one yet, and teased the audience with the question of how Professor X can be in this film when he was seemingly disintegrated by Jean Grey in X-MEN: THE LAST STAND. Compared to seeing Stewart last year at the Star Trek Captains reunion, this was so much better. It was nice to listen to Patrick Stewart talk about his career and his projects without William Shatner stealing the limelight.

We then attended a panel celebrating the 35th anniversary of Will Eisner’s A CONTRACT WITH GOD, hosted by Danny Fingeroth and featuring Paul Levitz, former president of DC Comics, Denny O'Neil, the famed Batman writer and editor, and Chris Couch, Eisner's longtime editor. The panel discussed how Eisner’s comics were shaped by his personal beliefs and experiences, as well as influenced by movies, as Eisner was an avid moviegoer. Levitz noted that Eisner wanted to see the boundaries of storytelling pushed, not just "a movie where a bunch of buildings are leveled", an interesting comment following the recent release of Warner Bros.' MAN OF STEEL blockbuster. Asked what Eisner would think of the way many comics today are written to be turned into movies, Levitz suggested it depended on the property, citing KICK-ASS as the sort of comic-based movie that probably would not have interested Eisner.

The panel agreed that Eisner never intended to push his beliefs on others through his comics, but rather use the comics medium to examine important questions and perspectives. The panel noted it was not until many years after its publication that Eisner would admit that A CONTRACT WITH GOD was in large part autobiographical. Couch remembered Eisner was always very interested in the latest goings-on in the comics field, and frequently attended comic conventions where Couch, who was 30 years his junior, had a hard time keeping up with him.

Saturday night’s Adult Costume Contest brought in all kinds of characters from movies, TV shows, and comics. The judges included Jason David Frank (formerly known as the Green Power Ranger), Nicole Marie Jean (cosplaying as Red Sonja), Ruby Rinekso (who had an amazing Man-Bat costume), and Shemika Berry (cosplaying as Storm). From the start, Jason David Frank was trying to steal the show. He messed with the MC of the contest, Jarrett Crippen (AKA The Defuser from Stan Lee's Who Wants To Be A Superhero?) by encouraging the audience to make noise whenever he raised a piece of paper that read "Clap", "Boo", "Yell", or "Aww". Contestants walked around the audience, hitting different marks to pose on their way to the stage. When they reached center stage, contestants posed for both the audience and the judges. JDF regularly interacted with the contestants. When a contestant dressed as the Green Power Ranger came up, JDF and the contestant got into a classic Power Ranger pose together (JDF was subsequently disqualified from voting for this contestant). When the contestant dressed as Wolverine came up and aimed his claws at Jarrett, JDF egged him on. When a lady dressed as Starfire came up, Jarrett came over to cuddle on her shoulder, which prompted JDF to raise the "Aww" sign.

Once all the contestants strutted their stuff, it was up to the judges to make a decision. Judgment was made based on originality, creativity, and the difficulty of creating the costume. The judges had a really tough decision because most of the contestants had great costumes. There was even a home-made Iron Man that looked like the real deal. The judges took almost a half hour trying to settle on their picks before finally coming to a decision. The winners were broken up into heroes and villains, male and female, plus an award for best group. They included Mr. Sinister for Best Male Villain, the Green Power Ranger for Best Male Hero, Starfire for Best Female Hero, Poison Ivy for Best Female Villain, and Best Group went to Joker and two henchwomen who I think may have been inspired by Sugar and Spice from Batman Forever. I thought all the contestants looked great. They certainly have more guts than me to dress up and get on stage like that. Kudos to them, they’re all winners in my book.

On Sunday, we attended the Michael Rooker panel. Rooker was really laid back. He let everyone ask questions from their seats instead of making them line up, which was awesome. Rooker believes that Merle and Daryl could have made it on their own without the group, but that Merle ultimately believed that Daryl had a better chance with the group, which is why he freed Michonne; he saw her as a valuable ally who could help protect Daryl. He also does not believe Merle would have missed the shot when he was aiming to shoot the Governor, but said that a mistake in editing prevented them from showing that the zombie who attacked him was actually the cause of the miss. Rooker is of course slated to appear in the GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY movie as Yondu Udonta, but was very tight-lipped on the subject and laughed off a question about it.

The Norman Reedus panel that followed wasn't quite as enjoyable, as the audience was told up front that AMC had banned active members of the cast from talking about THE WALKING DEAD past, present, or future, at least for panels. The audience was warned not to even bring up the show or their mic would be cut. The audience was allowed to ask questions about THE BOONDOCK SAINTS and other things Reedus has been in. Reedus looked somewhat uncomfortable on stage, perhaps with the elephant in the room on everyone's minds. Mercifully, the panel was only 15 minutes.

Wil Wheaton was our last panel. I recognized him primarily as Sheldon’s arch-nemesis on THE BIG BANG THEORY, although those older than me were introduced to him in his roles in Star Trek: The Next Generation and Stand By Me. Wheaton spoke about his past and how he got into an acting career. He spoke at length about his love for games, both online and tabletop, the latter of which he hosts a show about on Felicia Day's YouTube channel, appropriately titled "Tabletop". He also discussed Wheaton's Law, which he said essentially boils down to "Don't be a dick" and applies primarily to online interactions in the gaming realm (though that sounds like a good rule for real life too).

As we wrapped up our trip to Wizard World NYC, I found a spider-web necklace at one of the convention vendors. Matt got a Rocket Girl poster from Amy Reeder and had it autographed by her as well. So even though there might not have been quite as much to buy as at Philly, we still made out pretty good. And really, the fun memories of the cruise and the many entertaining panels are worth more than any merchandise.

Editing, compiling, imaging, coding, logos & cat-wrangling by Ambush Bug
Proofs, co-edits & common sense provided by Sleazy G

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