NYC: Nerd Mecca

Most nerds shun light and social interactions in favor of the safe serenity of their parents’ basements. The fact that thousands of them emerged from their hiding places, descending on New York’s Jacob K. Javits Convention Center like a swarm of zombies, shows just how big of a deal Comic Con is. However, it could be bigger.

First, an explanation: Comic Con is a four day celebration of all things nerdy. It’s held in San Diego every summer and New York every October. There are vendors selling everything from comics to action figures, celebrity appearances, artists displaying their skills, and corporations showing off new movies and video games.

An essential part of the experience is cosplaying, dressing up like a character from one’s favorite series. A big part of Comic Con is actually just people-watching, or maybe superhero-watching. I went last Saturday, bumping into: Captain America, Thor, Ichigo (the main character of the popular anime/manga Bleach), and the Flash (the original, 1930s version, in fact), and many others.

For all this, convention-goers pay $50 for a one-day pass. That’s the rub: it seems like a lot of money just to walk around, gawk at men in tights, and buy stuff. Things are different in San Diego, though.

At the San Diego Comic Con, major movies like Avengers and Watchmen are previewed, and their creators and stars hang around for more than a half hour. This year, the reality show American Chopper and the creators of Gears of War teamed up to unveil a custom trike based on the game. Nothing like that happens in New York.

That really doesn’t make sense. New York is, after all, the comic book capital of the world. Marvel and DC are headquartered there, and have been since time immemorial. Consequently, the “Big Apple” is the setting for many superhero stories. Spider-Man lives in Queens and studies at Columbia, Daredevil protects Hell’s Kitchen (aka Clinton), Dr. Strange lives in the Village, and anyone who saw this summer’s Captain America movie knows that S.H.I.E.L.D.’s base of operations is in Times Square.

The West Side is clearly less of a commute for the big wigs of comics, so why make all the important announcements in San Diego? It could be a sign of the times: comic book heroes are still popular, but the books themselves are not. The real money is in movies and video games, and the people who make those live on the West Coast.

I had a great time at Comic Con (this is actually my second year), but I still think it could be better. There must be a way to honor New York’s place in comic book (not just comic book-based entertainment) lore, and give fans their money’s worth. The Javits Center isn’t too far from the Marvel and DC offices in Midtown; perhaps they could take an office field trip.

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