In the past, if someone mentioned New York Comic Con, it would conjure visions of legions of fans dressed up as comic book characters. During this year’s NYCC the display of costumed fandom (cosplay) was out in full force, but along with it came some very prestigious company. Geekdom has gone mainstream. The biggest players (many self-proclaimed geeks themselves) chose to bring their projects directly to these passionate fans. The event’s guest list was a who’s who of entertainment; A-list actors, award-winning directors, top authors, and pop culture icons.

From the outside, the NYCC looks like your typical convention. Once you step foot inside the Javits Center, it is obvious this convention is bigger on the inside. The event is packed with things to do, watch, buy, touch and geek out over for fans of just about anything from rare comics to the latest teen dramas, like “Riverdale.”

NYCC’s size and scope are its strongest qualities. It allows for attendees to enjoy the show on their own terms. That could mean attending celeb-studded panels, meeting favorite comic book artists in Artist’s Alley, taking part in world-class cosplay or just browsing booth after booth of the unique merchandise. There is no wrong way to get your Con on.  The only problem is how to do it all without the services of a DeLorean or a TARDIS?

My time at New York Comic Con was mainly spent in panels listening to some incredibly talented people talk about their projects and Even as a person who rarely gets star struck, the sure volume of and caliber of talent I was privileged to meet at the four-day event was quite a thrill.

And The Oscar Goes To ….

Awards Circuit Guillermo Del Toro Glenn Close – 3Below – NYCC Panel

Guillermo Del Toro, fresh off his award-winning run with “The Shape of Water,” unveiled his newest project, “3Below: Tales of Arcadia.” The series is part of an animated trilogy which began with 2016’s “Trollhunters” and will conclude with next year’s “Wizards.”  3Below follows a trio of aliens disguised as humans (Tatiana Maslany, Diego Luna, Nick Offerman) who are trying to fit in after becoming stranded on earth. Even though its central characters are aliens, Del Toro explained that at its core this is “an immigration story.” The characters, who were royalty on their home planet, must quickly transition into their new existence as “invisible,” powerless residents of a strange land. Stripped of everything, they forced to rely on the only things they have left, the experiences that define them and each other.

During a sit-down interview, the Academy Award-winning director explained how he avoided the pressures of trying to top the success of his recent Best Picture-winning film. “I have the same kind of care-free approach on things that I like. You don’t replace instincts. I do what I want to do, whatever it is.”

The “Arcadia” trilogy came about as a result of following his instincts after viewing the very bingeable “Breaking Bad.”  He realized that “binge-watching and long-form give you an intimate relationship with the characters. I wanted to do that with the children’s format.”

The panel had many surprises including an unannounced appearance by Glenn Close and a birthday sing-along complete with cake. The biggest surprise, a screening of the entire first episode, received the biggest cheers. All episodes of the first season of the Dreamworks Animation series will be on Netflix this December. All three seasons of its companion series, “Trollhunters” are available now.

I’m The One Who Knock Knocks

Awards Circuit Bryan Cranston SuperMansion – NYCC Panel

Speaking of “Breaking Bad,” the show’s star, Academy Award nominee and Emmy award winner Bryan Cranston were in attendance. He was there to support the third season of the criminally under-appreciated “SuperMansion” (streaming on Sony Crackle). The show focuses on the League of Freedom, a band of subpar superheroes – led by the aging Titanium Rex (Cranston) – who are struggling to stay relevant in today’s world. The series stars a collection of great comedic performers including Keegan-Michael Key, Heidi Gardner, Chris Pine, Yvette Nicole Brown, and Seth Green.

Cranston, star and co-executive producer, kicked things off with comments that matched “SuperMansion”’s irreverent nature. When asked about the show’s biggest challenge he responded with a straight face, “I think the most fun is taking a mediocre script and turning into gold. That’s always a challenge because you know what you will read on the page is dreck.” His answer was met by laughs from show creator/writer Zeb Wells (“Robot Chicken”), co-star Breckin Meyer (“Clueless,” “Robot Chicken”) and Executive Producer, Matthew Senreich. The tone was set for the rest of the interview and press panel which included handstands, kicked over chairs, impromptu auction and plenty of bodily humor. The entire panel, like the show, became a continuous series of hilarious moments, one after another.

Story Over All

Between the sophomoric moments, they found time to praise Crackle for ordering numerous episodes right out of the gate. By doing so, it allowed the team to focus on the storytelling. Cranston explained the importance, “First and foremost. It’s got to be a strong story. As silly as it may seem, even in animation, that is the foundation of the show.” The focus on strong storytelling leads this season to have more complex story arcs and character moments. They culminate in a season three conclusion that Wells promises will be “super-epic and super dramatic.”

The series shows no signs of slowing down. “The storylines are expanding naturally. It’s not like we have to be diluted to create more storylines. It feels organic to continue. It feels more expansive,” said Cranston. The series is streaming free on Sony Crackle and will soon be releasing their first Thanksgiving special, “A Prayer for Mr. T.”

Awards Circuit Spider-Man Into The Spider-Verse Panel NYCC Panel

Does Whatever a Spider Can

Day three of NYCC brought included a jaw-dropping treat for all who attended the “Spider-man: Into the Spider-Verse” panel. Producers Christopher Miller and Phil Lord (“The LEGO Movie”) surprised the audience expecting to see a couple of film clips. The crowd was treated to the full first 35-minutes of the film instead.

During the panel, the producers explained that they wanted to create a unique approach to Spider-Man in both style and story. “It had to be something super fresh. We could not play it safe in any way,” Miller stated. “We said we would not do it unless it were the Miles Morales story.” The very mention of the Miles Morales (Shameik Moore) character was met by uproarious applause from the audience. In-the-know comic book fans instantly realized that the “Spider-Verse” wasn’t going to be your father’s Spider-Man film.

Just like your standard Spider-Man tale, Miles is bitten by a spider and is quickly transformed from a regular teenager to a wall-climbing superhero. Unlike all the previous iterations of Spidey, Miles comes from African-American/Puerto Rican parents. Telling the story from his perspective creates an opportunity to tell the story of characters, families, and neighborhoods that have not been well-represented in the past.

The film delivers exhilarating action, a refreshing mix of both heart and humor, and jaw-dropping visuals that perfectly emulate the feel of a comic book that has come to life.  When the screening had concluded, it was apparent the audience was ready for more. They will have to wait.  The film, starring Mahershala Ali, Jake Johnson, Brian Tyree Henry, Hailee Steinfeld, and Nicholas Cage opens this December.

Awards Circuit Jodie Whittaker Doctor Who NYCC Panel

Who’s There? 

This season of “Doctor Who” series may have been the most anticipated in the 55-year history of the show. In addition to an exciting new showrunner, Chris Chibnell (“Broadchurch”), Whovians (Doctor Who fans) were promised something unlike ever before… a new Doctor. Anyone familiar with “Doctor Who” mythology knows that when The Doctor dies, he regenerates as a new Doctor played by a new actor. Exciting stuff.  So why’s this regeneration different?  Well, to the delight of fans, the new Doctor’s name is Jodie, Jodie Whittaker – the first female Doctor in the show’s history.

Even though season 11 had a global-simulcast premiere, only the NYCC attendees had access to the best (or badge) in the universe. These fans were privy to the world premiere screening with The Doctor herself, Chibnell and the Executive Producer, Matt Stevens. As expected, the premiere was a smashing success, leaving fans and its star quite hopeful for what the new season and the new Doctor had in store. Before the season some fans (unfairly) voiced their concerns that Whittaker could not properly embody The Doctor. All concerns were dissipated by the end of the premiere episode. There is no question; she IS The Doctor.

During an often emotional and inspirational Q&A following the premiere, Chibnell explained the impact he hoped the show would have during these divided times.  “The Doctor is a great symbol of unity. When the Doctor can be male and female, and also, gender non-binary, as well.  I think the most important thing is for my kids growing up that they know they can look up to men and women.  And that heroes come in all shapes and sizes and genders and sexualities and ethnicities. And that’s basic. That’s rule number one for the world.”

Awards Circuit Bad Omens NYCC Panel

Double Stuffed

Other highlights included: The “Marvel’s Daredevil” panel brought together the full cast to screen some extraordinary footage. The cast teased a fight scene rumored to top the infamous hallway fight scene of season one. Netflix’s new She-Ra had fans wearing crowns and waving swords in anticipation for the return of the character. The showrunner made a concerted to deliver realistic body types and representation of the LGBTQ characters.  Neil Gaiman’s Good Omens” for Amazon, tells the tale of good and evil working together to prevent Armageddon. The limited series boasts an astonishing cast including David Tennant, Michael Sheen, Miranda Richardson, and John Hamm.

The guest list continued with Peter Jackson, Robert Rodriguez, Ellen Paige, Zachary Levi, Sophie Turner, David Habour and many more. If you are a fan of television, film or comics, this is the event for you.

Just Cos

Surprisingly, not everyone at NYCC is a celebrity. Ultimately, the true heart of the gathering are the fans. The positive vibe they create is evident across event venues. The energy is seen on the faces of fans as they are first entering the showroom floor, as they are overcome with giddiness upon getting a glimpse of their entertainment idols. Above all, it is most evident in the cosplayers.

Cosplay is a simple concept.  It is putting your fandom on display for the world to see through costume. Although the costumes range from simple to elaborate and encompass all genres, the more important aspect is to capture the spirit of character/show you are representing. Cosplayers are a diverse group that cannot be defined; they cover all shapes, sizes, colors, ages, and sexes. They are a physical representation of a theme that transcended the event – inclusion.

As a whole, cosplayers are quite welcoming, willing to discuss their craft, pose for photos and compliment other’s work.  Throughout the four-day event, I had the chance to meet and speak to numerous cosplayers. Their reasons for taking part in cosplay were as diverse as their costumes.

Awards Circuit Captain America Cosplay NYCC

Players Gonna Play

Norm Felker, a cosplayer and Captain America fanatic, believes cosplay is more than embodying a character. “Something I think people misunderstand about cosplay is that you don’t necessarily want to embody that character.  It’s not always about idolization.  It is about the challenge. Not only on how to bring a character to life but also what small details to add or change. I think that’s why I like it so much.”

For one cosplayer, known only as “Lady of Time Cosplay” (@LOTcosplay) partakes in the costuming is about having fun.

Photo by Katie Be Photography
@katiebe_photography on Instagram

She explained what has driven her to create twenty-eight different NYCC costumes since 2012. “Cosplay is important to me because it gives me a creative outlet. With every costume, there’s always something new to learn.  It makes me feel a bit more connected to the fandom and community surrounding the shows. I’ve met some really cool people thanks to cosplay!”

Tribute

New York Comic Con is a tribute to the new geekdom. The event encourages unity, inclusion, and acceptance.  If you have the chance, as the massive banner hanging high above the NYCC floor states, Drop-in, Geek out!