Believe it or not, our first post only took us through the first 36 hours of NYCC 2016. Our con was SUPER front-loaded this year, with Friday being our biggest day and our panel schedule lightening for Saturday and Sunday. (Thank GOD The Walking Dead is dead to us because I think another long day at Madison Square Garden would have been the death of us.) Even once we passed the main hump of our schedule, we still had plenty to occupy our time, from doing several laps around the show floor to studying all the gorgeous work in Artists Alley to observing the cosplay to taking full advantage of the wide varieties of programming. I like to think we truly soaked in everything New York Comic Con had to offer this year, in every respect. My Fitbit certainly thought so. Read on for the rest of our adventures. –Kim
1) No detail is too small in the Mr. Robot Universe
ReedPOP, the company that runs NYCC, has also run a Book Con event in previous years. Rather than fill the Javits for another weekend with authors, signings, and panels, Book Con was made considerably smaller and folded into NYCC for 2016. So after our morning at MSG with the BBCA crowd and a revitalizing lunch at Five Guys, we headed over to Hudson Mercantile for panel about the Mr. Robot companion book, Red Wheelbarrow. Or, in the parlance of the show: eps1.91_redwheelbarr0w.txt.
Book Con panels were all included with NYCC badges. But there was also an option to make purchases in the pop-up book store on one of the floors of the space. For the Mr. Robot panel, the first 150 audience members who wanted to buy the book could have it signed by authors Sam Esmail (also Mr. Robot‘s creator and showrunner) and Courtney Looney (one of the show’s writers). I got the VERY LAST BRACELET, because Comic Con was very good to me this year. And as I learned more about it during the panel, I burned off any remaining buyer’s remorse and was happy to fork over the $30. –Sage
- It was unseasonably hot that day and we were very reasonably cranky from getting up in the middle of the night to haul ass to MSG. But Book Con restored much goodwill lost during the outside wait when volunteers handed us some high-quality graphic tees on the way in. Yes, we CAN be bought.
- The Hudson Mercantile space is not SUPER conducive for panels since it’s not graded and there are view-obscuring columns everywhere. But it’ll do.
- Esmail was very forceful in saying that the Red Wheelbarrow book is NOT a promotional item. It is an original Mr. Robot story. And because it’s a part of the Mr. Robot, that story is not traditionally told. The book is Elliot’s journaling during the 30 days between the season 1 finale and season 2 premiere.
- Rami Malek and Christian Slater provided writing samples to the publisher, so the whole thing could be told in Elliot’s own hand.
- Even if you’re married to your Kindle, you probably want to buy this book in a physical copy. The notebook is stuffed with little Easter eggs (because that’s how fsociety does) – envelopes, take-out menus, and other ephemera are stuffed inside.
- “I mean, it’s fucked up.” – Esmail’s succinct and accurate description of Elliot’s inner life.
- Other characters appear in the book through Elliot’s interactions with and memories of them. As Looney said, “They all get shrapnel from being close to him.”
- Esmail, on his directing style: “I’m a huge fan of long takes, because it means you can just do it and move on.”
- The season 2 finale climax was BANANAS to shoot, with Christan Slater literally running from one side of the room to the other mid-take to his next mark.
- The moderator had to ask about the show’s insane ’90s family comedy pastiche episode. Esmail said he paid tribute to TGIF in that way because it was a comforting couple of hours for him as a kid. He felt very culturally at sea, stuck between his family life and the world he encountered at school and elsewhere. TGIF was the only place he felt at home. This is incredibly endearing, because TV doesn’t have to be great or groundbreaking to mean something profound to someone.
- Some poor bastard got up to ask what Esmail would do to end the story if USA CANCELLED the show. The whole crowd turned on him.
- Elliot likes drawing penises in his notebook, FYI. Just warning you if you flip through it at Barnes & Noble with someone looking over your shoulder.
2) Smaller Discussion Panels Have Restorative Powers
Marquee TV and Film panels with the stars are the bread and butter of Comic Con, but no con experience is fully complete without taking part in the smaller discussion panels. By luck of scheduling, the “Moving Beyond the Strong Female Character” panel was in the same room as the annual “Your Opinion Sucks” panel, so we able to make ourselves nice and comfortable in Room 1A18 for the rest of our Friday. (Sitting for 2 and a half hours is SUCH A LUXURY, Y’ALL.) It turns out that the discussion panel was as revitalizing for our minds and souls as it was for our bodies. Panelists Sam Maggs (The Fangirl’s Guide to the Galaxy), Jody Houser (Cupcake POW!), Jill Pantozzi (The Nerdy Bird), Amy Chu (currently writing the Poison Ivy comics for DC), and Jen Bartel (artist for Jem and the Holograms) led an hour-long discussion about our favorite female characters, what we can do to promote female driven stories and creators, and why the term “Strong Female Character” is incredibly limiting. It was like Gatorade for our tired man-splained souls. –Kim
- The panel immediately dove into how the stereotypical description of a “strong female character” (aka a “tough” woman who kicks ass) can tend to be one dimensional and limiting. “It’s not a STRONG female character I’m aiming for, it’s an INTERESTING one.” Strong means more than just physical strength. Strong can and should encompass flaws and intellect and complex human emotions, not just physical strength. This x 100.
- Favorite female characters shouted out: Imperator Furiosa, Catwoman, Sailor Moon, Dana Scully (YAS), Buffy Summers, and Xena.
- The panel also discussed the “Mary Sue” and how a character who serves as a stand-in for the audience is not always a bad thing. Audiences of all ages and genders need characters they can latch on to.
- When an audience member brought up the accusation that Star Wars‘ Rey was a Mary Sue, the panel scoffed. “No one ever watches James Bond and is like ‘UGH, he’s too good at everything he does.'”
- When asked about the recent boom of complicated female characters in pop culture, the panel posited that it was because of a new generation of writers coming of age. “Everyone who grew up watching The X-Files and Buffy are now at the age to create these types of characters.”
- Because the universe LOVES irony, the Donald Trump/Billy Bush scandal dropped while we were in this panel.
- The panel was asked about the Clarke and Lexa debacle on The 100 and they stressed that while the show DID drop the ball (“It was great…until they messed it up.”), it was very important that they attempted to tell the story. People aren’t always going to get it right but what matters is that the door for the discussion was opened.
- The panel was very pro-Skyler White when they were asked about how the wives of anti-heroes like Walter often get villified. “I think everything she did was justifiable if your husband were a psychopathic meth dealer!”
- Shout out to the few brave men who got up and asked thoughtful questions during the discussion. The one awkward moment came when a male writer expressed that he had trouble writing a woman dealing with attraction to someone else, essentially saying that he categorized female characters as either constantly pining or sleeping around. Yeesh. “I think you need to stop thinking of your character as a WOMAN and instead as a human being. How do human beings regardless of gender pursue partners?” YES.
3) The “Your Opinion Sucks” Panel is ALWAYS a Good Time
At our first NYCC in 2013, we attended the “Your Opinion Sucks” panel on a whim because it seemed like it would be fun. Now, at our fourth con, it’s a can’t miss panel for us. It ALWAYS earns a spot on our schedule. If the Strong Female Character panel was Gatorade, this one was a Red Bull. (Main lesson from this post: Stay hydrated at Comic Con, folks.) The premise of the panel is simple: there’s an open mic and a panel of movie and television critics. One by one, audience members get up to the mic and express what they think is an unpopular opinion about a movie or TV show (but usually movie). They get one minute to state their case, usually accompanied by shouts from the audience, and then the panel gets a chance to respond, either telling them they are wrong or agreeing with them. It’s basically a living and breathing internet comment section. Pass the popcorn. –Kim
- “I LOVE Jurassic Park III! It’s the Citizen Kane of Jurassic Park movies.” That’s it. That’s the panel.
- Given the nature of this panel, it’s usually dominated by fanboys wanting to defend or trash their favorite obscure comic book movie. If there is one thing we would complain about in regards to this panel, it would be that not enough women (and I’m counting us in that number because we’ve never stood up, even though we have PLENTY of unpopular opinions) are brave enough to get up to the mic. There WAS one girl this year who got up and defended I Know Who Killed Me and it was DELIGHTFUL. “Lindsey Lohan is a STRIPPER. OR IS SHE? That’s what’s beautiful about this movie.” Bless.
- “For once, we can’t blame Ben Affleck for something.” – The verdict on Batman vs. Superman. Honestly, that should have been the marketing tagline.
- “Are you asking the Fast and the Furious franchise to make sense? How dare you, sir!”
- Guy: I would like to discuss The Matrix. Us at our seats: Hoe, don’t do it. Guy: I hated that movie. Cue the fanboys chanting for his badge to be confiscated.
- I don’t know why we were surprised by this, but a DudeBro got up to trash the genderbent Ghostbusters. To the surprise of NO ONE, the guy hadn’t actually SEEN the movie nor did he realize that Rotten Tomatoes is simply a ratings aggregator and NOT the ones giving out the scores. Cue us screaming from our seats and the delightful dude who defended Jurassic Park III chinhandsing at us the whole time. The panel had the final word though. “Ghostbusters II ALREADY ruined the original, man.”
- “I genuinely believe Zack Snyder is an auteur.” *deafening groan from the room, thank GOD.* “That doesn’t mean he does good work.” Honestly, THIS GUY should have had his badge taken.
4) The Cast of Gotham Achieves Cupcake Status
Our only mainstage panel for Saturday was the first. Gotham made another appearance at NYCC – an easy jaunt, since the con happens IN Gotham City. Representing the show’s ensemble were David Mazouz (Bruce Wayne), Robin Lord Taylor (Oswald Cobblepot/Penguin), and Erin Richards (Barbara Kean). “Mad City” is my favorite season of the Batman prequel so far, and with Oswald’s bid for mayor running on tactics of fear and intimidation, it’s also the most timely. Basically, if you wanted to hear some actors TRASH Donald Trump, this panel was the place to be. –Sage
- Starting with Robin! “At this rate, the Penguin looks pretty freaking good, doesn’t he?” He called the Trump/Cobblepot resemblance “entirely intentional.” “Comics are created to reflect the world in which we live.” And the world in which we live is currently upside down.
- David said that the Bruce clone would end up helping Bruce to “use” the privilege that he was born with, in a way he hadn’t conceived of before.
- “He doesn’t have the balls to say it, but he LIKES Selina.” LIKE-likes her. Like…more than a friend.
- Our Nygma/Cobblepot hearts skipped a beat when Robin said that “Edward makes Oswald a stronger person.” (“Cause WHEN I’M NOT WITH YOU I’M WEAKER…“)
- We kind of lost our shit when the moderator didn’t introduce Erin at the top of the hour. Did she cancel?? Nope! Traffic was a bitch, but at least it made for a dramatic entrance. Drama Queen Bee Barbara would heartily approve.
- “Edward is in his head, Oswald is in his heart.” Every OTP worth shipping has a similar makeup, right?
- Moderator: “If I were in Sirens and I didn’t want to die…”
Erin: “Good luck.”
- Robin is so excellent in this show, because he GETS Penguin and ultimately empathizes with him. “He just wants the love and respect of the people around him.”
- The Billy Bush/Trump thing had broken the night before. Robin: “If Penguin were on a hot mic, he wouldn’t say anything NEARLY as disgusting or embarrassing.” When you’re less couth than a Batman villain, maybe it’s time to step off the campaign trail.
- Erin (a Brit) tells the crowd to get out and vote or they’ll regret it. Also: “I apologize for Brexit.”
- The cast shouted out the incredible production designers for their detailed sets. Robin specifically talked about how pleased he was to be back on the set of Oswald’s father’s house and seeing that someone on that staff had ripped his step-mother out of every single family photo before reframing them.
- “Whenever Oswald’s going into the GCPD, something’s going down.
- A fan asked Robin if Penguin really has an affinity for the birds. (Fair question.) “I don’t really see him decorating his place with Happy Feet posters.”
- Another fan thanked Robin for being a part of the fundraising effort for the families of Pulse victims at Heroes & Villains in Florida. He cited Mr. Rogers’s quote about looking for “the helpers” in a crisis and said he’d been honored to do his part.
- The cast would love to crossover with the CW DC shows, if that’s ever possible. David specially wants Grant Gustin to speed back in time for a cameo.
- Robin fielded a question about his cat, aka the star of his Instagram account.
Robin: “He’s doing well. He’s overweight.”
Erin: “Don’t say that!”
Robin: “Sorry, he’s big-boned.”
- David brought out his dog Starlette, who was A) DRESSED AS ROBIN and B) an attention-loving diva. She remained on stage, happy to pose for pics.
- Robin and David were excited to have just shot their first scene together in three years.
- Robin praised David for his dual performance as Bruce and clone Bruce and it was very sweet and supportive.
- Erin teased some upcoming scenes with Barbara and Nygma and we are PUMPED.
- Robin said he loves playing scenes with Erin because Oswald and Barbara are both connected through their link to Jim Gordon.
- Out of all the modern Batmans, Christian Bale is the biggest influence on David’s portrayal. That totally tracks.
5) Graham McTavish is a Gentleman and a Scholar
Next up: the Graham McTavish spotlight panel. Though Mr. McTavish has done everything from Rambo to Edinburgh Fringe shows, it’s a good bet that 70% of the audience was there to see the man who plays Dougal McKenzie in Outlander and the remaining 30% for Dwalin from The Hobbit trilogy. The breakdown was a surprise for the moderator who hasn’t been informed that girls like things and sometimes those things exist and succeed without actively courting a male audience. IMAGINE IT. –Sage
- The mod kicked off the panel with a question about Return to Treasure Island. Graham, baffled: “You watched it?”
- Graham spoke of Monty Python Terry Jones as a “lovely, lovely man” who is “generous in every way.” Jones is suffering from dementia now, which Graham says is “such a cruel thing to happen to a man whose whole life has revolved around playing with words.”
- On his role in Preacher: “I mean, if you’re from Scotland, you really don’t even dream of ever dressing up as a cowboy.”
- Graham doesn’t remember it, but apparently he’s voiced a couple of characters on Scooby Doo.
- He’s also done voice work for Marvel animation, playing Asgard’s trickster opposite Asgard’s hero. Face it: we all know who’s really the star there. “Without Loki, Thor is just SO insufferably dull.”
- If you ever meet Graham McTavish, PLEASE ask him to do his Stallone impression. You won’t be sorry.
- Speaking of Stallone: “Nobody worked harder on set than him.
- Working with Peter Jackson on The Hobbit films was “life-changing.”
- Apparently, Sam Heughan is a “true gentleman” and “very, very like his character, actually.” Since Jamie Fraser is a prince among men, this is hard to take in.
- “You have to lie down to put that on.” – Graham on the historically accurate Outlander kilts.
- He’ll start filming Preacher Season 2 in January.
- A fan asked about the secret to having such a long and varied career. “If I knew the answer to that, I’d be a very rich man.” His philosophy is to make every single role his biggest priority while it’s happening.
- Graham has done a lot of work in video games and calls motion capture “a combination of film and theater.”
- On his action figures: “I’m enough of a geek to know you leave them in the box.”
- The panel ended with a hilarious story about the barrel river scene in The Hobbit. “We were NOT joking” about the panic in that scene, Graham told us. Peter Jackson basically shoved his actors into barrels and set them down a river. New Zealand is wild.
- ONE question about Outlander. Be better, moderators. Also, be female sometimes.
6) Amy Heckerling and Martha Coolidge are HEROES
While it seemed most of the con was at the Marvel’s Iron Fist panel (with good reason, it turned out, since they paraded out the Defenders, Avengers style), we were soaking in some knowledge from Amy Heckerling and Martha Coolidge at the Brat Pack America panel. The panel was promoting the book of the same name, in which author Kevin Smokler pays tribute to 80s teen classics like Fast Times at Ridgemont High and Valley Girl. But what the panel REALLY was was the chance for us to sit at the feet of two trail-blazing lady directors and absorb their stories of misogyny in Hollywood and how they fought tooth and nail to carve out their places in the industry. Add these two to the list of feisty older women who take no shit that we want to adopt us. Can you imagine these two hanging out with the Classic Doctor Who ladies? Our heads would explode. –Kim
- “I wanted to make smart people cool.” – Martha on why she wanted to make Real Genius. This was just the first moment when we were like “TEACH US HOW TO LIVE.”
- Amy Heckerling told a story of a script she shopped around in the 80s about a female friendship that spanned decades. A Hollywood Exec’s response? “Two women wouldn’t stay friends that long.” Listen, I know we’ve got a long way to go with gender equality, but look at how far we’ve COME. Also, look how much hasn’t CHANGED.
- Heckerling also talked about a script she was working on that got turned down for being “too smart”. (I DIE.) Because she is a QUEEN she decided to then write a sarcastically dumb script just to get back at all the bigwigs. “Naturally, I turned to Jane Austen.” Thus, Clueless, a true movie of a generation, was born. Just because she was trying to spite a studio’s feedback. I can’t even.
- The studio giving notes on the Clueless script: “So what are the boys up to?” Heckerling remained steadfast in her position that EVERYTHING was being seen through Cher’s eyes and thus if she wasn’t there, it didn’t matter.
- “It’s Hollywood. It’s full of opinions that are full of shit.”
- Martha Coolidge couldn’t remember ANYONE’S names when she was asked who else came in for the Valley Girl auditions and it was precious. She assured us that all of them were amazing though.
- How does Martha know when she’s found her lead? “When I feel like taking them home and feeding them.” Quick, someone introduce this woman to Louis Tomlinson because I feel like she could end all this madness single-handedly.
- “So I’m on my treadmill and I’m watching Aerosmith videos…” Amy remembers the exact moment she saw Alicia Silverstone and she remembers how the execs automatically said Liv Tyler when she brought up the “Aerosmith girl”. She and Alicia still text regularly. “She’s pure sweetness and such an Earth Mother. She’ll text me and say she’s sending me these organic supplements because she doesn’t want me to die.” HOW CHER TAKING CARE OF HER DADDY I CAN’T.
- When it comes to writing dialogue that stands the test of time, Amy was incredibly self-deprecating when it comes to her genius. “You hope you’re writing a good line but you never go HA! I just came up with the slogan for the 80s.”
- On “I Melt With You” being a part of the Valley Girl soundtrack, Martha recalled that they got the song for incredibly cheap because it had tanked on the charts. Of course, we all know how that story ends.
- “It’s despicable. It’s inexplicable. It’s ridiculous.” – Martha on the lack of female directors
- Martha’s main focus right now is teaching and I’m just like SIGN ME UP FOR WHATEVER SHE DOES.
- Martha on approaching studios to work in the 80s: “I heard from Universal ‘We already tried a woman director. It didn’t work out.'”
- A guy in front of us joked “I’m feeling attacked right now, as a white male.” OH DO YOU?
- The last question of the panel came from a little boy who was clearly a massive fan of Ant Man because he asked Amy what it was like working with Paul Rudd. “He’s so smart and he’s so funny and for some reason he isn’t aging at all.” Ain’t that the truth.
7) Jon Bernthal is the Definition of “Good Ole Boy”
We missed Jon Bernthal’s grand entrance during the Iron Fist panel on Saturday night, but his solo mainstage appearance was our one-and-only priority for Sunday. Before that, though, I got to live out my dream thanks to a very early birthday gift. My solo Bernthal photo-op was everything I hoped for: a hoodie snuggle plus two casual endearments in a matter of 15 seconds. (Not okay to call me “sweetheart”: if you’re a client or a boss. Okay to call me “sweetheart”: if you’re my thirst trap and I paid stupid amounts of money to stand next to you for a brief amount of time.) Anyway, LOOK HOW CUTE WE ARE. –Sage
- The panel started off with an acknowledgement of the Netflix Marvel universe filming on location in New York City. Bernthal says NYC has the best film and TV crews in the world.
- Moderator: “If I saw Frank Castle walking down a set that looked like Vancouver…”
Bernthal: “Man, fuck that, right?”
- Is Frank Castle a villain? “It’s not about good or bad, it’s about punishing.” (Me: Never talk to me or my son ever again.)
- Bernthal shouted out fan artists and said that he benefits from seeing different interpretations of his character.
- Fan: “I love your beard!”
Bernthal: “Oh man, I hate this fucking beard so much.”
- Bernthal spoke a while about studying acting and process in Moscow before interrupting himself. “I sound like such a douchebag.”
- For his success, he credits his acting teacher. They were very close and she even performed the ceremony when he got married. She passed away a few years ago.
- Shane returned to the group when Bernthal hung out with his The Walking Dead castmates after their panel the day before. “They’re my family.”
- On the humble beginnings of TWD: “It was just a few of us running around in the woods.”
- “There’s nothing like a dog, man.” I could listen to Jon Bernthal praise loyal, four-legged creatures all day. (He has pits, btw.)
- On how Punisher benefits from the Netflix distribution model: “It’s a 13-hour movie. It’s not really episodic.” He also said that the delivery system enables writers to be more bold.
- Fan: “How would Frank Castle handle the zombie apocalypse?”
Bernthal: “Better than Shane? *laughs* Yeah.”
- A fan knitted Bernthal that beanie and he loves it. His wife isn’t a fan, thus it comes out when she’s not around.
- Fan: “Judith. Is that Shane’s baby?”
Bernthal, immediately and emphatically: “YES.”
- We knew from set pics that Karen Page would be a part of the Punisher series, but Marvel made it official at the Iron Fist panel. For his part, Bernthal says that days he knows he’ll be working with Deborah Ann Woll are “good-ass days.” And that Karen is an “incredibly fascinating character.” Okay, now kiss.
- He told a story about befriending a novelist he admires on Twitter and having a “fan moment.” Bernthal hung out with the writer and his wife, a teacher. He even visited her school to talk to her kids and see their play.
- Life lessons time: “You need to be respectful of everyone, but you don’t need to fear anybody.”
- As the panel was winding down, Bernthal turned the Q&A into a lightning round, like so:
Fan: “What draws you to dark characters?”
Bernthal: “The darkness, next!”
8) Always Know Your Limit
Out of all the lessons we try to impart with our con posts, this one is the most important: it’s okay to say “I’m done” and leave while you’re still having fun. (“GOTTA TEACH THEM HOW TO SAY GOODBYE…“) We had pondered going to the Sleepy Hollow panel, just to stew and side-eye and judge it, because how could we NOT go and hear them try and explain themselves? But then we took a step back and realized we didn’t need to go and steep ourselves in negativity. “We don’t owe Sleepy Hollow ANYTHING,” Sage said succinctly. And she was right. Comic Con should always be a happy place, filled with joy and celebrating the things you love. It shouldn’t be about doing things out of obligation because you feel like you should. Thus, we packed up our bags and left the Javits Center. We had a date with our Whovian family at Mother Burger anyway. Sitting with your fandom friends discussing your con over margaritas? That wins every time. Even IF Tom Mison remains to be the prettiest sunflower in all the land. –Kim
Were you at NYCC this year? Let us know YOUR highlights and con survival tips in the comments!