Living in Perth as I do, getting to things like comic book conventions is not something that is so easy to do. And even when I can, they often don’t have the same range of comic book guests or the cheaper comic deals that I find at the American events. Thus, if I’m at the States and there is something going on while I’m there, I’ll definitely make the effort to check it out.
And so it was that I journeyed from my mother’s house in Westchester County to New York City, to the New Yorker Hotel on 8th Avenue, to attend Big Apple Con, one of the major New York-based conventions.
But I wasn’t alone–my daughters Johanna and Laurelle, both comic book and science fiction fans, came as well, excited to attend one of these events for the first time.
The Big Apple Con wasn’t the largest convention I’d been to (apparently, it used to be bigger), so there weren’t really that many big marquis names present. The biggest was definitely Roy Thomas, a legendary writer & editor who has been there in the industry, at Marvel and DC, for nearly 60 years. I jumped on line to get his autograph, and had two comics signed along with my little autograph sketchbook. In the old old days I’d have piled on as many books as I could to get signed, but nowadays I’m trying to keep my collection as finite as I can, so I limited myself to the first issue of Infinity Inc. from 1984.
And an issue of Secret Origins for which Thomas had written an origin of the Golden Age Atom. This was pretty cool because Roy Thomas also drew a little Atom logo in the corner–apparently, that was supposed to be there but the people responsible forgot to put it in.
(But it turns out I don’t actually own that many books by Roy Thomas.)
We also jumped into a Roy Thomas panel where the old pro reminisced about his days in the business, including things like when he secured the Conan the Barbarian license for Marvel, or when he did the same thing with Star Wars. Apparently, he only bought into the Star Wars idea when he heard the cantina scene pitched, and he realized that the whole thing was more space-fantasy than hard science fiction. Everyone at Marvel thought they were going to lose money on the thing and kept trying to shrink the original adaption from six issues to two. The results of course were very different (they “took a a bath in money” Thomas said).
He also talked about co-creating the Vision, which impressed my daughter a lot because she’s a big fan of the Vision.
Roy Thomas also co-created Wolverine, and was part of the editorial team that originally conceptualised the All-New X-Men, (Wolverine, Storm, Nightcrawler, and so on). Thomas said that Wolverine came about because someone thought it would be good to have a Canadian hero, and so they needed a Canadian animal…and thought they couldn’t introduce a character called “The Moose”. And the idea for the X-Men revival was similar–get some international characters so they could pull in a bit of an international audience and thus make a few international dollars (although at the time nobody was imagining it would include characters from places like Africa or Russia).
Roy Thomas is such a chatty presenter that there wasn’t a lot of time of questions & answers. I raised my hand to ask what he thought of Crisis on the Infinite Earths and all the continuity changes he had to incorporate into his work at the time (he was doing All-Star Squadron and Infinity Inc. which both took place in their own corner of DC on Earth 2, which of course completely vanished during Crisis) but I never got picked, and so that was that.
Even though Thomas was the biggest name at the convention, he wasn’t the only one I was interested in. James Sherman was also there. James Sherman was an artist I know from his outstanding work on the Legion of Super-Heroes in the 1970s. He followed greats like Dave Cockrum and Mike Grill on the book, but I actually preferred Sherman’s work even more.
In the great anniversary story from Legion of Super-Heroes #300, Jim Sherman drew a six page alternate take on the Earthwar epic that I thought was amazing, so I was excited to get that signed.
That issue is one of the pride & joys of my small collection, since I’ve been able to have a few notable creators sign it over the years. James Sherman was doing commissions for $150 a piece, which is way too much for me to think about spending, even though I think it’d be worth it.
More affordable was a sketch from Jim Salicrup. Salicrup has written a few things but he’s best known as an editor, which includes among other things editing the Dark Phoenix story for Marvel in the 70s. Jim Salicrup was selling self-proclaimed “lousy sketches” for a modest fee, which all looked pretty fun.
After some thought, I asked him to choose between drawing two of my favorite DC characters, Green Lantern or the Flash. He chose to draw them both!
I also had Jim Salicrup (as well as the other guys) sign my little autograph sketchbook, in which he graced me with another fun little drawing:
He was a charming man and a fun to chat with.
Of course, the other thing that going to conventions allows me to do is to buy stuff. Not that I want to buy things just for the sake of it, but sometimes there are things that would be hard to find otherwise, or there are things that are on sale.
That was the case with one table where some comic dealers had a bunch of trade paperbacks and hardcovers on sale for half the cover price. And when I was willing to buy a few items at once, they also cut me more of a deal. So I ended up with…
Batman Year One – a classic four issue arc that I’ve read more than once before, but I no longer own the original issues of and I’d never gotten around to getting the collection.
Justice League: Midsummer’s Nightmare – the Mark Waid JLA story which served as the launching pad for Grant Morrison’s celebrated run on the title shortly thereafter. This was the book which pulled the “Big 7” back together (ie Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman, Green Lantern, Flash, Aquaman and Martian Manhunter) after the JLA had spent a number of years consisting of one or two A-listers alongside a bunch of more obscure heroes. My daughter looked at this cover and concluded that 90s art just isn’t her thing.
JLA: The Island of Dr. Moreau – a book which was packaged behind the JLA: Midsummer’s Nightmare mentioned above (so I didn’t even know what it was). It seems to be a mashup between the Justice League and you-know-who. And it happens to be written by Roy Thomas, which probably means I would have gotten it signed if only I’d bought it before I’d gotten his autographs earlier.
Batman: Fortunate Son – A Batman hardcover that I have never read, featuring art by Gene Ha, and apparently having something to do with popular music’s impact on Robin.
Superman: End of the Century – A Superman story I’ve never read, by the great Stuart Immonen, which seems to put Superman into an early 20th century context.
All of that for $25!
The same is true for the other books that I bought from other dealers, including Fantastic Four: Full Circle.
This is an oversize hardcover published by Marvel Arts (basically Marvel Comics plus Abrams ComicsArts). It’s a story of Marvel’s first family written and drawn by comic superstar Alex Ross–apparently his first long-form comic story.
While I was on line for Roy Thomas’ autograph, I noticed a table advertising a book called By Water – The Felix Manz Story, which was being manned by a man and his son. The man turned out to be James Landsel, who was the writer and illustrator of the book, which is all about a 16th century anabaptist martyr.
I thought the book looked both interesting and well done, so I decided to pick up a copy, but like most of the others listed here I haven’t read it yet.
Finally, I bought a couple of single issues from the 1970s, to use as part of my Comics from my Childhood series. More on those, and all the rest of these things, another time!
My kids had a good time at the convention, and also picked up a few things. The one daughter picked up this book:
Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: The Last Ronin. She’s a big Turtles fan and has heard that this is a good book.
My other daughter found a bunch of Star Trek action figures that someone had in a $5.00 bin, so bought these three:
A Borg drone, Seven of Nine, and Mirror-Universe Spock.
Here’s a picture of another set of Star Trek toys that we didn’t buy. They seem to be figures from Star Trek Generations. But I thought they were funny because while all the others are in some sort of action pose, the one of Counselor Troi has her looking so serene that she appears to be being held prisoner!
In addition to all the stuff we bought, there was other cool stuff to see or look at.
One of the displays that was out was from a group called the Museum of Interesting Things, which had some really early film-viewing equipment on display (complete with a highlight clip from Georges Méliès A Trip to the Moon.
We also listened to some of a presentation by an animator named Bill Plympton. He talked about his career and showed his Oscar-nominated short film from 1987 Your Face (which is well worth a look). He was quite interesting but unfortunately we couldn’t stay for the whole thing, as we needed a break for lunch.
We also tried to watch some trailers and short clips for upcoming films, but they turned out to be mostly extremely creepy horror movies, so eventually we ducked out of there.
I probably would have been ready to leave the convention by the middle of the afternoon except that the girls were interested in watching the cosplay contest. We’d seen a number impressive costumes throughout the event, including a very good Batman. The cosplay contest was fun but slow, with a category for children and another for all-ages. A cute little girl with a very good Thor costume won the contest for children, while the main event was won by a guy with a great Black Panther outfit that he had made all himself (it featured a magnetic helmet and various metal components that attached to his suit via magnets as well). Another guy with a good Captain America suit who spoke for a while about facing anxiety won the “audience applause” part of the award.
Finally, we also bought several prints by artist Jonathan Hallett, who specialises in selling Lilo & Stitch mash-ups. They bought several, in which characters from the Disney classic are re-cast as characters from other shows that my kids like (including one as a present for the girls’ older sister who wasn’t with us).
How to Train Your Dragon
Avatar: The Last Airbender
and Stranger Things
Ultimately, I think it’s good thing I don’t have these events at my disposal all the time, or I’d be tempted to spend way too much money. But for a one-off activity, it was a fun way to spend the day.
One thought on “Big Apple Con! – March 2023”
I really like the action figures. Thank you for sharing, Ben.