My early relationship with comic books was defined by money and gender. When I was a little girl, I understood that my family’s economic situation was far from ideal. It meant not getting my hopes up about certain toys, but it also meant that I could forget about indulging my tomboyish nature. While other little girls were into Barbie dolls, much to my parents’ chagrin, I was into comic books and video games. Although comics were affordable (especially at the time), they remained on the “forget it/don’t even ask/that shit is for boys” list.
My father found what he thought was a grand solution: read your cousin’s books. Of course, my cousin was a collector, who would pick me up and allow me to see the carefully guarded collection (thousands of comics), already bagged and boarded, arranged in alphabetical order in rows and rows of boxes.
“Can I read one?” I would ask in a squeak, as he put me down.
I would have to settle for the occasional discarded double. Sometimes it would be Spider-Man. Sometimes it would be X-Men. No matter what book he would throw my way, however, I would read and reread until they fell apart, without caring that I had none of the preceding issues or that I would probably not be able to follow the rest of the story for who knows how long and thus settle for my cousin’s summaries (which just aren’t the same, damn it).
I still read comics and graphic novels all these years later, but this year, for the first time ever, I was able to attend the New York Comic Con. The crowds, the costumes, the writers and artists, the insane lines, and even the technical difficulties that prevented me from seeing one panel presentation by the awesome Jerry Robinson (although I still managed to get a few quick photos of him) left me both exhausted and deliriously happy.
I attended Friday, Saturday, and Sunday, getting there with my roommate—who bought his ticket as soon as they went on sale—well before the show opened and not leaving until everything on my list for each of the three days was crossed off. Despite the heavy backpack I hauled around for all three days (filling it with free comics, posters, pins, and books) I ran around completely uninhibited asking people in costume to pose for me; getting autographs; and attending panels for Dark Horse, Batman: The Brave and the Bold, Top Cow, Venture Bros., Robot Chicken, and Watchmen. I got to meet and briefly chat with David Lloyd, Dave Gibbons, and Garth Ennis. My longest conversation was with Mr. Lloyd, since he had just set up in the DC booth and no one had started a line yet—though I did return a few minutes later to request a sketch and had to wait about twenty minutes (I was thrilled when he remembered my name).
The lines got long and, in the case of the panels for Robot Chicken, Top Cow, and Venture Bros., wrapped back on themselves two or three times, leaving those of us at the back wondering if we’d be shut out for lack of space. Each time I was able to score a good seat where I could run up the sides and snap away with my trusty digital camera, making a mental note to bring a professional one next year (October). While waiting on these lines for sometimes more than an hour, I kept my eyes open for costumed folks zipping back and forth. It was in line for Top Cow that I got to snap pictures of Mario (Super Mario Bros.), Thor, and Scooby Doo. It was in line for Venture Bros. that I got to snap pictures of not one, but two Monarchs and a Dr. Girlfriend (well, Dr. Mrs. The Monarch). About an hour or so after having met Mr. Gibbons at the DC booth (where I was able to take a proper photo and get his autograph), I hopped in line for the Watchmen panel where I chatted away with a really nice guy dressed up as Superman. (Turns out this was the same Superman I had found and photographed at an independent artist’s booth just minutes after having gotten my Gibbons photo and autographs.).
The crowds got thicker on Saturday and even Sunday afternoon—it was kids’ day on Sunday, so there were a few parents trying to make their way from aisle to aisle and booth to booth navigating strollers and holding pint-size superheroes. I found a little Flash and a little Batgirl, among others. Normally, I’m not a fan of crowds, especially dense crowds that contain children, but somehow I was immune to my usual peeves and moved along happily, snapping away at artists in Artist Alley while they sketched (though some stopped to pose quickly and exchanged a few words with me) and taking photos of some of the art as well.
A couple days later, having had time to recover, I am delighted to find that I took nearly three hundred photos, of which nearly two hundred are usable; took pages and pages of notes; and have a sizable stack of free comics and posters (and a handful of pins), a few of which bear the signatures of men I view as living legends. Now here I am, staring at all the loot I collected in the course of three days, and laughing because I would have killed to have had it when I was a little girl, patiently waiting for my cousin’s discarded doubles. Now here I am, able to completely immerse myself in geek culture despite my dad’s mutterings and despite being a girl. And now here I am, still laughing about the conversation I had with my dad after the big weekend was over—I got a half-hearted wow after listing some names connected with projects even he would surely recognize. He then added, “Boy, is your cousin going to be pissed.”