NYCC 2015, Day 1

The first day of NYCC, as always, bore very little resemblance to my posted schedule, but was also highly entertaining. It began with even the press line outside and going around a block, but there was no issue making it to my first panel, which was about needing diversity in comics. The moderator was a librarian, and the audience seemed to be composed primarily of librarians as well. The panelists were Karen Green, a curator at Columbia University; Eric Dean Seaton, who has directed numerous TV comedies, including That’s So Raven; Vishavjit Singh, creator of Sikh Toons, who came to the panel wearing his own Captain America outfit – with turban; Ivan Velez from Milestone Comics; and, arriving late, Alex Simmons from Archie Comics and Blackjack.

It was noted right away that most comics – still – are white males, and that most of the panelists didn’t see themselves reflected in any comics they read as a kid. It reinforces the idea of the minority reader as Other. This is mostly referring to Marvel and DC Comics, of course, as well as the very white Archie Comics. Even children’s books back in the 60s and 70s weren’t all that diverse. And, of course, there’s still the problem of people of color being written in only to be killed off. Even science fiction in the future is very white. And male, as women have little to relate to as well. Karen mentioned Little Lulu, but pointed out that’s for young kids.

The creators were also asked if they suffered prejudice in the creation of their work from others in the business? There was an obvious reluctance to get into specifics, but it was described as being like the only minority in a white office – you feel “surrounded by the enemy”. There’s also myopia by choice – one creator was told their title would only sell in Bed-Stuy and Watts.

Vish Sihngh also talked about his experience in a post-9/11 world, where he could not even leave the house for two weeks without getting screamed at by others, just because of his beard and turban. He wasn’t even a cartoonist then, but when he saw the famous ‘spot the terrorist’ editorial cartoon, he decided to try his hand at it. He discussed dressing as a Sikh Captain America after a piece in the Seattle Times when he discussed a Sikh superhero was met with anger. He dressed in his costume and walked around Manhattan – people loved it, even people in uniform. When the costume came off – e was attacked with slurs again.

So, how do we diversify? This is a media problem – the world is diverse, the media is white. Alex discussed Archie Comics interviewing him and talking about diversity – they had “that one guy” for every minority. Alex pointed out that all of their background, nonspeaking characters were white kids. Creators these days have the imagination, it’s editors and publishers that are reluctant. And readers, even at NYCC, sometimes want only Marvel or DC or they don’t care.

Q&A brought up the old “there are only 7 stories” myth, and how that’s a load of bull – and patriarchal. DC and Marvel continued to come under fire, particularly for the lack of financial and copyright support they show to creators. Karen pointed out that back in the 30s, these companies were all created by Jews trying to assimilate, which is one reason they tend towards the whitebread. Crowdsourcing was also mentioned, though it was recommended you try to build a body of work first. Some audience members ran into the “SJW” problem – they felt when they started to discuss diversity they were tuned out as making a political statement. Lastly, the panel did note how far they’ve come – there are villainous people of color, allowed to be evil. And there’s also Ms. Marvel. A very satisfying start to the con.

After that, my ankles hurt, so I found a room and collapsed into it. It turned out to be Dark Horse, though I arrived late. They did have an announcement of some interest to manga fans – Lone Wolf and Cub is getting a new 2100 series, by Western creators, along the same lines as the manga but with a modern bent. There’s a new Tomb Raider series by Mariko Tamaki, author of This One Summer. And they’re teaming up with Kitchen Sink to do giant Sin City omnibuses with more art and extras. They also announced they have licensed the Moebius Library, though actual titles are not ready yet.

Tor’s panel, moderated by John Scalzi, was less about the books his panelists had written and more about a “Would you rather” style game show. John is an excellent raconteur, so this was a fun change of pace. There were elephants.

Dark Circle, formerly Red Circle, is Archie Comics’ superhero line, currently being rebooted with darker, grittier stories. The creators were quite happy to be allowed to get as dark as they like, and allow the old titles such as Black Hood and The Shield to deal with more up-to-date issues like obsession and patriotism. They’re also starting a new YA comic called The Web, about a teen cosplayer who finds she has superpowers. I’m not a dark and gritty fan, but it did sound interesting.

Then came the big Attack on Titan announcement panel, which was standing room only. And for good reason. No, not a 2nd anime season; an anthology of Titan-themed stories, done by Western creators. Just the fact that Kodansha in Japan signed off on this is amazing. The creators already announced will boggle your mind – Faith Erin Hicks. Gail Simone. Scott Snyder. Cameron Stewart. This will be out in the Fall of 2016, and will have a broad remit – prequels, humor, tragedy, the main cast, original characters – it’s a true anthology. Oh yes, it’s also full color. This was a truly big announcement, especially for this con, and I can’t wait.

After that I felt a bit under the weather, so sadly missed a few panels, including Crunchyroll. They had some manga announcements. Gugure Kokkuri-san already has an anime on CR. The manga runs in Gangan Joker, and is a supernatural comedy. Cuticle Detective Inaba, a GFantasy title, is also a supernatural comedy, and as silly as its name implies. The big news for me, though, was Arakawa Under the Bridge, a truly bizarre comedy from the creator of Saint Young Men Arakawa is a seinen title from Young Gangan, and had two anime series. I can’t wait.

That’s it for today, and I hope to be feeling better tomorrow, as there’s lots more to do.

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  1. Gugure Kokkuri-san yay! The anime was a great oddball comedy (with hot fox-sprits and weird, snarky little girls). Cuticle Detective Inaba…. huh? I guess the digital format is relatively low-investment, but I don’t see that one being a success… way too oddball, even for me.

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