Wednesday, October 16, 2013

My First Con Experience

Photo credit: Andy Oakden
     I've had a lot of New York firsts recently, but last Thursday I had a completely nerdy first experience at the New York Comic Con. Andy mentioned months ago that it was happening in October, and I thought, "Yeah, that might be interesting." So by the time October rolled around and he brought it up again, my curiosity wouldn't let me resist.

Obi Wan striking a pose.
     Now, I know some of you may be disappointed that I didn't wear some sort of awesome cosplay outfit, but I had neither the time nor money to put something together. (I knew I should have purchased that vinyl cat suit like I always joked about it in college!) Instead I opted to wear one of my many nerdy t-shirts and just enjoy taking in all the creativity that others had put into their apparel.

     My initial impression upon entering the con was, "Well, thankfully I'm not claustrophobic because it is packed in here!" There were so many people, and this was only the first night! I don't even want to think about how mobbed that building got on the weekend. Let's just say it put my crowd navigation and dodging skills to the test...and all while trying to read the hefty program/map and to stay out of Andy's way when he was taking photos of comic book heroes and heroines. I must say it's a miracle I got out of there without getting jabbed by a katana or clocked by a Go Go Gadget Propeller Hat (an awesome costume by the way).

I could definitely use a Time-Turner.
      My next impression was, "I am way out of my depth here." I'm not really a comic reader or into anime, and I haven't played video games seriously for many years. I'm a nerd for sure, but my nerdy obsessions consist mainly of opera, musical theater, and books. The former two of these obsessions were not featured at the con at all (obviously), and while latter was represented, I had to work hard to seek out literary nerdiness in the chaos.

     My main fandom has always been Harry Potter, and of course it was the easiest to find. Don't worry. I resisted the urge to purchase more Slytherin apparel. (I already own a tie, a t-shirt, and a scarf. Pretty soon I'll have a whole outfit.)

     Of course, I got my Dr. Who fix while I was there too. I refused to strike a pose next to the giant Dalek pictured above much to Andy's frustration, but he also refused to pronounce Dalek we're even.

I couldn't find the real Alan Rickman, Aliese, but I found the next best Snape lookalike?

      Once again, Andy's interests led me to experience aspects of Comic Con that I otherwise would never have given a chance. The preview of the American Museum of Natural History's new exhibition, Dark Universe, turned out to be one of my favorite activities. It reminded me of all those elementary school trips to the science center where we'd learn about the constellations. Hopefully we'll get a chance to go check out the actual exhibition, and I'll be sure to share that with you.

     As I mentioned before, I am primarily a book nerd, so as soon as I saw the list of literary guests in the program I was determined to find some authors! And what a frustrating quest it was! We ventured down to the first level to both the autograph section and the panels (That's right there were three levels of con!), but authors were nowhere to be seen. So we acted practically and consulted the information desk...this was not helpful. All the guy did was tell us that the authors were in the big empty autograph room which we had already checked and then showed us the NYC Comic Con app which Andy had already been using. Ugh!

     I was tired, hungry, and limping (an unfortunate step ladder and ankle collision the day before). All these things in combination with being thwarted in my quest produced an epic sulk on my face. We persevered, however, and tried to console ourselves by heading over to the Artists Alley. After wandering down a few aisles and glancing at exquisite fanart and original comic creations, I spotted a banner that made me jump with glee: Peter S. Beagle's The Last Unicorn.

Photo credit: Andy Oakden
(Seriously when have I ever taken
a photo that looks this good?)

     I had found him completely by accident!!! The literary gods had finally looked upon me favorably. If I could only meet one author on that list, I was so thrilled it would be him.

     For those of you who don't know who Peter S. Beagle is...Google him immediately! He's written great stuff, but he is best known for his fantasy novel, The Last Unicorn, which was turned into a cartoon movie in 1982. If you haven't seen the film, it is worth the watch. It is trippy and strange and in retrospect creepily sexual in a hilarious way, but it captivated me as a kid. The evil Red Bull freaked my toddler psyche completely. Peter S. Beagle wrote the screenplay for the film as well which makes it even better.

     I was surprised by how giddy and nervous I was to meet Peter S. Beagle. What was I supposed to say? I didn't have anything for him to sign! I think Andy found my panic amusing.

     There were a few people at the table, but they all seemed to busy talking to the man selling various editions of The Last Unicorn rather than the author. In fact, Peter S. Beagle looked downright BORED. So when I did work up the nerve to approach him, I reconciled my awkwardness with the fact that he looked relieved to have something to do other than stare off into space.

Photo credit: Andy Oakden
     HE. WAS. AWESOME. I cannot stress this enough. It was fascinating to learn more about him, and he didn't just talk at me. He was so sweet and genuinely interested in conversing. It felt like talking to a kind friend. He asked me tons of questions about myself, my move out to New York, my Iowan homeland, and opera.

     I am so glad to have met such an amazing literary figure. Plus he is fond of Iowa, grew up in the Bronx, and loves opera and theater. Apparently he used to sing French songs when he worked at a restaurant. I even dragged Andy into the conversation, forcing them to bond over being baritenors. Luckily Andy managed to document this great experience for me since I was too busy geeking out, or I would have nothing to show for it! The author also dutifully showed me how to sign up for their website after the salesman chastised him, so I'm looking forward to getting more Peter S. Beagle related news (provided I didn't screw up my email address because of my nerves...seriously, I struggled with typing).

     Also, the opera nerd was super intrigued to learn that Peter S. Beagle wrote a libretto for an opera?!?! He collaborated with composer David Carlson on an operatic version of his short story, "Come Lady Death." The Midnight Angel premiered in 1993 at Sacramento Opera, Opera Theatre of St. Louis, and Glimmerglass and had a recent revival in 2007 at Skylight Opera Theatre. I want to see this opera so bad! Nerd worlds collide! 

Photo Credit: Andy Oakden
     Also, because I couldn't resist...the trailer for The Last Unicorn:


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