Tuesday, June 18, 2013

ComicCons Arrive on Long Island

The big ComicCon in the New York area these days is certainly the annual NY ComicCon, the four-day festival that takes over the Javits Center in New York City, drawing the second biggest pop-culture crowd in the U.S., second only to the iconic San Diego ComicCon. Though attempts were made to compete, like Wizard World's New York presence, and smaller shows, like the Big Apple Comic Con, crop up here and there, getting to the city and battling the near-claustrophobic crowds isn't for everyone. For the first time in pretty much anyone's memory, Long Island received its first ComicCon on June 16, 2013, as Frank Patz kicked off the first EternalCon at the Cradle of Aviation in Garden City, NY.

As someone who attended every NY Comic Con from the first (missing last year's only because it conflicted with the Presidential Debate I was working) I've learned to hold off on criticizing a new con too much, as lessons can be learned and improvements made, so there's no reason to slag a newcomer. A smaller first-time, one-day con, it would be easy to criticize this show, but expectations have to be curbed and there has to be context. But no matter how you view it, Patz and company chose a great location, placing the show inside a museum dedicated to aircraft and space exploration, two topics with plenty of crossover with pop-culture fans. Pay the cost of $14 ($10 in advance) and you got to enjoy the show and the museum, making for an enjoyable day, and a cool environment that was better than your usual industrial convention hall.

The vendor floor, which snaked through the main lobby and cafe area of the museum, was small but varied, offering a mix of products, from bargain comics to action figures, interesting trinkets and anime accessories. You weren't going to find everything you might be looking for, but there were enough options to let you walk away with something good, and prices were reasonable on average (personally I picked up a somewhat open Raven (Teen Titans) figure for just $5.)

On the second floor (accessible by stairs on either side of the building) sat Artist Alley, with a number of big comic names (including Jim Shooter, Sean Chen, Arthur Suydam, Nelson Decastro and Billy Tucci (sadly, Larry Hama had to cancel)), along with an assortment of talented indie artists and small-press companies. Original art, prints and more were available at solid prices, along with the opportunity to chat, afforded by the show's smaller scope. In addition, a few pro wrestlers and Taimak from The Last Dragon were on hand  to sign autographs and take pictures. It was more comic-heavy than most shows these days, which, depending on your tastes, is welcome or disappointing.

 As with most conventions, there's got to be panels and cosplay, or else you go to jail or something. The panels were limited, just four in all, but three focused on the business and art of comics, so they were of actual value to those who attended (a small number for the 10:30 a.m. drawing workshop, as attendees focused on the vendors early on.) The cosplay attendance was very strong, with representatives from local cosplay groups specializing in Star Wars characters, Star Trek, the Ghostbusters, and G.I. Joe, with a very impressive (and obscure) Alley Viper on hand.

But that's not all. Being a museum, it was fitting that there were three exhibitions, a selection of pop-culture cars (including the Batmobile and Knight Rider's KITT), a display of mega-collector Billy Simon's memorabilia, including many Planet of the Apes pieces (not to mention Beetlejuice), as well as a small display from the Long Island Art group. The last two were positioned on a futuristic walkway that looked over the museum floor, again adding a special touch to the proceedings you don't normally get from a ComicCon. In addition, two short films were shown in the museum's IMAX theater, one by Tucci, the other a G.I. Joe fan-film.

The success of the show will mainly be judged by whether there's a second edition in 2014, but with a reported 3000-plus attending, one expects the show was not a failure, and may result in an annual comic convention on Long Island. The problem though is a limited amount of room for growth, as this show already seemingly maxed out the museum's floor space. Perhaps the Nassau Coliseum convention hall is the next step, but it would be a shame to lose the sci-fi feel of the museum.

Take a look at some pictures from the first-ever EternalCon.

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