I don’t have any grey hairs yet, so I’m marking the aging process by how tired I get when someone even MENTIONS Comic Con. Some people’s bodies show evidence of long-term damage from playing sports or running a marathon. I want to know about the long-term effects of standing on a cement floor in a pair of Toms for five hours straight.
But New York Comic Con is a tentpole event of our year and endure, we must. Once again, we headed back to the Javits for four full days of fandom fun. (I usually say “nights” too, but we left the after-parties to the kids this year. Your grandmas had to go home to watch their shows.) As ever, NYCC was a learning experience. And we’re here to pass those lessons along to you. –Sage
1. Tapping in Is the Way of the Future
The principle difference between New York Comic Con and San Diego Comic Con is the fact that they clear their mainstage hall between each panel. (Would that SDCC could figure out a way to clear Hall H between panels, honestly.) For the past two years, NYCC has had a wristband system for their mainstage panels, where each panel had a chute in the queue hall and you would have to pick one to wait in until 10 AM, at which time harried volunteers would then put wristbands on impatient nerds one by one until the panel was capped out. Then, if you wanted to do another panel, you would go into that chute to get another wristband if that panel had not capped out. This system worked because it FORCED you to prioritize your mainstage panels but at the same time it was a sloooooooow process and human error was a big factor. (Notoriously last year, the volunteers gave out wristbands for the Jessica Jones panel to the standby line first, cutting off people who had gotten there much earlier.)For NYCC 2016, a new system was implemented. Instead of wristbands, volunteers tapped the RFID chip on the badges, which registered your spot on the panel. Then, when it came time to load people in for panels, you would have to tap your badge to gain admittance into the room. I had some doubts about how this system would work at first, but let me tell you…it worked BEAUTIFULLY. First of all, they started tapping our badges almost as soon as the initial rush got settled into the chutes, allowing the crowds to either go get in the line for the show floor or another mainstage line. Second, you got an email confirmation from the system as soon as your badge was tapped, leaving no room for doubt that you would indeed be attending that panel. Third, it allowed the NYCC app to give constant updates on the status of each panel and whether or not they had capped. (For example, we got buzzed that the Iron Fist panel had capped before we even made it into the queue hall on Saturday morning.) Fourth, it slowed the crush of humanity and the race for good seats when they were loading everyone into the room for the panels because every single person had to have their badge tapped. It was all dignified and organized and dare I say CALM which was refreshing as hell. Well done, NYCC. Four for you.
I also have to give a bonus shout-out to the staff of NYCC for choosing to allow the crowd to be loaded into the Javits Center on Sunday morning MUCH earlier than normal due to inclement weather. A little kindness goes a LONG way, especially on the last day of a long weekend. Snaps. –Kim
2. “Native Stories” Are Maybe Not Ethan Hawke’s Area of Expertise
Our first panel was our most problematic one. Well. Nice to get it out of the way.
For Reality Bites/Before trilogy/Dead Poets reasons, we checked out the panel Ethan Hawke was speaking on, along with artist Greg Ruth. They were talking about a black-and-white graphic novel they collaborated on called Indeh: A Story of the Apache Wars. The panel was titled “Native Stories.” Guess how many Native people were sitting on the dais. Goose egg.
I haven’t read this book. And both Ruth and Hawke seemed to be passionate about presenting a quintessentially American story from a history that’s shamefully ignored. I won’t make a judgment about who can tell whose stories, though I have many, MANY thoughts about it. What I want to talk about is the collaborators’ responses to serious and frankly obvious questions about strapping on the ol’ cultural blinders. Moderator Abraham Reisman from Vulture introduced the elephant in the room, asking if Ruth and Hawke ever had any qualms about being two white men writing and framing a Native American narrative.You guys. The mental and verbal gymnastics that these men did. It was almost inspiring. Tone-deaf and drowning in privilege, but inspiring. The answer pinged back and forth between Ruth and Hawke and lasted for nearly ten minutes. The conclusion Hawke came to was this: “We’ve given ourselves a harder time for this than anyone.” OH OKAY. Great news, y’all. An artist accused himself of cultural appropriation; thought about it long and hard; and then found himself not guilty. The justice of it all. The ability of white cis straight men to forgive themselves while outside criticism ricochets off them like bullets off Luke friggin’ Cage is truly amazing.
Oh, Hawke mentioned that he’d given the galleys of the book to two of his castmates on The Magnificent Seven: Martin Sensmeier, who grew up in a Tlingit community in Alaska, and Jonathan Joss, who was born in Texas and has Comanche and Apache blood. He told the audience that the actors “and their entire families” had a LOT of feedback for him. And he didn’t volunteer the nature of that feedback, so I’m guessing it wasn’t positive.
That conversation came about when an audience member asked the panelists if they’d spoken with any indigenous people while working on the book. Hawke went on and on about how “inviting too many” people into the creative process “dilutes” it. (???????) The whole first half of the panel was all about how these two poured blood and sweat into this book in their selfless effort to tell this story accurately, but a couple of notes from an ACTUAL Apache would have derailed the whole exercise? And how is handing over a finished copy to the only native folks in your immediate vicinity so they can tell you how great it is comparable to responsible cultural storytelling? I hope they recorded this and reviewed the game tapes of this one later, because GEEZ. –Sage
3. Matt Smith, Jenna Coleman, and Alex Kingston Like Each Other A Whole Lot
NYCC 2016 was overflowing in riches when it came to Doctor Who. (About time, really. This is our fourth year going and other than a Big Finish panel in 2013 and a Q&A with Arthur Darvill in 2014, Doctor Who has been incredibly absent from NYCC.) Not only did we get a panel with the current TARDIS team (more on that later), we got a nostalgia panel with Matt Smith (The Eleventh Doctor), Jenna Coleman (Clara Oswald, queen of our hearts), and Alex Kingston (River Song). We have had the pleasure of seeing Alex and Jenna on panels at other conventions but we’ve never had the pleasure hearing Matt Smith talk about his time in the TARDIS in person. All three of these cupcakes are great on their own but putting them together on one panel? That is something special, friends. It was such a delight to see the genuine affection they have for each other and the way they played off of each other. That hour FLEW by. –Kim
- Want a lesson on how tabloid reporting works? Matt quipped that he was on a panel with his wife and his girlfriend and MINUTES later there was an article on Radio Times proclaiming “Matt Smith calls Clara The Doctor’s Girlfriend!!” (They even pulled one of our tweets as proof of this statement, thanks guys!) Never mind that Matt totally said it tongue in cheek.
- Jenna is fresh off the success of Victoria and Matt made no bones about fawning over his former co-star? “You’re getting a Christmas Special? Bloody Hell!” HE’S SO PROUD OF HER.
- Matt also has done the math for the character he plays in Netflix’s The Crown and Jenna’s Victoria. “Great-great-great-son-in-law. So TECHNICALLY we could get it on.” Okay, we’re all agreed that everyone was a little bit in love with Jenna, yes? Yes. Moving on.
- There was a LOT of discussion about Arthur Darvill’s role on Legends of Tomorrow. “To me, he’s always Silly Old Rory with his strange face,” Matt quipped when asked if Arthur was better at playing a Time Lord-esque character than him. Alex added to the brain melting Whovian family tree by factoring in HER role as Sara Lance’s mother on Arrow. “My daughter on Arrow is now on Legends with my father. Technically, Rip is Sara’s grandfather?” THAT MAKES SHIPPING THEM PROBLEMATIC, WHOOPS.
- Not seen in any of these pictures: Alex’s IMPRESSIVE statement ring.
- Alex prefers Capaldi’s TARDIS to Matt’s. I also think she said this to rile Matt up because he was notoriously jealous that she went back to Doctor Who because he’s more than a little possessive of River as Eleven’s person. She also said that Ten’s TARDIS “felt a little like being inside a pumpkin.”
- Jenna originally auditioned for Mels. “They were never going to cast me as Karen Gillan’s best friend because I’m just too short for her!”
- Matt was asked when he would be following Karen and David’s lead by joining a Marvel franchise. “My question is…when will they ask me?” SOON PLEASE AND THANK YOU.
- As tends to be the norm on panels like these, there was a lot of love for Billie Piper and Rose Tyler. Matt picked her as the companion he would have liked to have worked with (“She’s my friend and I like her.”) and Alex told a story of getting smashed with Bills at a bar after they did a convention together. Add that tidbit to the tales John Hurt told of drinking with Billie while they were filming the 50th and you have the person WE most want to party with from the Doctor Who family.
- “It was amazing…I shit my pants though.” – Matt getting real about shooting the TARDIS arriving in Trafalgar Square for the 50th Anniversary.
- Matt commented that some of his favorite scenes he filmed with Jenna were the more domestic scenes between Clara and Eleven. He specifically pointed out the scene in “The Bells of St. John” where Eleven set out a platter of Jammy Dodgers for a sleeping Clara which OUCH. Clara and the Doctor is SO REAL.
- Drinking often proved the only way to battle the cold Welsh weather…or so Alex claimed when Matt called them out for drinking red wine all while filming “The Time of Angels” and “Flesh and Stone.”
- Alex is in complete favor of River Song joining forces with Torchwood if the reboot happens. YES PLEASE OH MY GOD.
- “He’s like a jazz musician. But in space.” – Matt perfectly summing up his interpretation of The Doctor.
- “I quite like that one with The Devil.” – Matt picking his favorite RTD episode and proving that his taste is exquisite because “The Satan Pit” is FLAWLESS. Fight us.
- The moderator dared to suggest that Clara was a bad teacher because she missed so much time on her adventures with The Doctor. Jenna shut that shit down IMMEDIATELY, reminding him that Clara’s agreement with The Doctor involved taking her back to the moment she left so she WOULDN’T miss anything in her normal life. Queen.
- “Doctor Who, at its core, is a show about love. In all forms. So put that in your pipe and smoke it.” – Alex Kingston, gloriously shutting down all the Noromo Whovians.
- When the panel was asked if anyone ever broke anything on set, both ladies turned and pointed at Matt. “I am Matt and I am clumsy,” he said ruefully. The Drunken Giraffe is a real thing, y’all.
- Jenna: “I broke the TARDIS on my first day. It was awful.” Matt: “You just broke my heart.” WHY IS HE LIKE THIS?
- Alex hopped to Matt’s defense when one fan accused him of leaving the show too soon. “Do you KNOW how hard they work the Doctors?” Then she recounted Capaldi’s exhausting schedule while they were filming “The Husbands of River Song” and it made me want to take a nap.
- “That’s one of my great regrets. That I didn’t get a full season with Jenna.” He also called her “Coleman” at one point, really we’re fine.