My Disney Top 5 - Disney at New York Comic Conby Chris Barry, contributing writer
Each Columbus Day weekend for the past several years the kids and I have been making our annual pilgrimage to Manhattan's West Side to spend an entire day at the largest convention of its kind. Sitting just off the banks of the mighty Hudson River is the equally mighty Jacob Javits Convention Center. New York Comic Con has convened inside this tremendous glass cavern each fall for the past 10 years, offering it's legions of followers four days of pop culture nirvana and frivolity. Indeed the Javits Center has become hallowed ground to those of us that proudly let our freak flags fly as we pay homage to the comics, movies, games, collectibles, television shows, and all around geekdom that tend to play such an important role in our lives. If you go every year, you know exactly what I'm talking about. If you haven't seen a major Comic Con yet, like New York, San Diego, or Chicago's C2E2, then trust me, you really need to. There's nothing else quite like it and there's no better time to be a fan of these mega gatherings. The world has discovered Comic Con and they're not letting go.
When I was a kid I was a major comic fan. My grandfather drove the delivery truck for several of New York City's long lost newspapers, delivering the dailies to newsstands throughout Manhattan. His newsstand buddies would always hand him a stack of unsold comic books to bring home to my brother and I. I still have many of those treasures from the early and mid 1970s. They were my childhood. How often did I get lost in the pages of the Justice League, Green Lantern, Batman, Superman, The Teen Titans, Archie, Richie Rich, Sad Sack, and of course the many different magical worlds of Disney.
When I was done reading the newsstand freebies, I would gather together my allowance and have my mom drive me over to Mike's Comic Hut in Flushing to add to my growing collection. Comics were cheap then and I have a fairly impressive collection of books from my childhood still in the plastic sleeves. They're not all in mint condition because, quite honestly, I read them a lot. I didn't collect comics to keep them pristine and tucked away. I collected comics because I loved reading them and escaping into the different worlds and possibilities that they represented.
Once my children came along, I began to share these interests with them. They happily obliged and along the way, developed their own love of the medium as well. It's something that we do together and enjoy together. And I've grown to cherish the moments we spend walking around together at these cons both large and small.
Of course for yours truly, it's more than Superman and Captain America. The Disney fan in me wants to be entertained as I walk around the massive convention floor. What I've noticed over the last few years though is that the Disney pickings have been pretty slim at NY Comic Con. Disney has definitely dialed things back a bit when it comes to their presence at these annual huge cons. They seem to be saving their big panels and fanfare for their own version, the Disney D23 Expo.
That's not to say that the Walt Disney Company and its intellectual properties aren't looming just around every corner. Indeed, Marvel and Star Wars are everywhere you look. The one booth on the show floor with the familiar Disney logo on it was the Disney Publishing booth which had plenty to promote but was mostly focused on showcasing the latest from Disney Channel's cult hit, Gravity Falls.
But as for straight up, good old-fashioned Disney, a fan does have to look around a bit. There's still plenty of Mickey to go around and if it was there, I found it. So let's take a look at the Top 5 things I found for Disney fans at New York Comic Con 2016.
5 – Disney Comics
New York Comic Con has developed over the years into the behemoth pop culture event that it is today. But it is, after all, a comic book convention. What I really, really enjoyed reading as a kid were the Disney comic books, especially the adventures of Donald Duck and his nephews.
Disney comics haven't gone away. They've only gotten more and more popular. Whether it's the truly exceptional Marvel adaptations from the world of Disney theme parks like Haunted Mansion and Figment or recent rebirth of the early 90's classic Darkwing Duck, you'll never find more Disney comics under one roof.
4 – Disney Collectibles
I had to really hunt for Disney treasures this time around. I could've bought Star Wars or Iron Man figures in just about every booth on the show floor, but I was on the prowl for something truly Disney. There's always one particular vendor with a great collection of imported Japanese toys and I scored in his booth on my second day at Comic Con. He had these fantastic die-cast vehicles from Tokyo Disney Resort that I've recently started to collect. I wrote a Disney Stuff article on them last summer and I was thrilled to add to my newest collection with a Main Street vehicle and a very limited Disney Dream Bus.
3 – Vintage Disney Art
It was hard to tear me away from one particular booth that featured original production art from the golden era of Disney animation. Many of these pieces were framed and signed by some of the biggest Disney artists of all time like Frank Thomas and Ollie Johnston. The price tags kept me from coming home with one, but it was certainly a pleasure to stop and really appreciate the works of art on display.
2 – Disney Cosplay
One of the true joys of New York Comic Con is watching the cosplayers, or those fans that go the extra mile and dress up in costumes. Some are truly exceptional and are a wonder to behold in person. There were dozens of Captain Americas, Batmans, and all iterations of Harley Quinns, but it was the Disney cosplayers that I was looking for and I wasn't disappointed.
1 – Disney Fan Art
It's great to see the original artwork from the Disney greats or the more modern Disney, Marvel, and Star Wars licensed artists like Robert Bailey displaying their craft. But, to me, Comic Con is at first, a show about fans and their passions. That's why I absolutely love looking at work created by fans. You can feel the creativity and love of the work emanating from these fans when you enter their booths. My favorite, perhaps of the entire show were these black paper carvings. This artist took a sheet of black paper and an X-ACTO knife and created extraordinary pieces of fan art. The level of detail and care could only come from a passionate fan and once again, that's who I feel cons like this are made for.
I really do love being a part of New York Comic Con. To me, it's all about the community. Sure, it's become a media sensation and there's a ton of commercialism involved. But if you scratch gently on that surface, underneath you're going to find a fascinating group of intelligent, creative, and passionate individuals. They're an amazing bunch. What I admire most about them is their unconditional acceptance. Anyone of any color, race, creed, orientation, or belief is welcome. You can be who you are when you enter that building and you will not only be accepted, you will be embraced.
Sure the panels, merchandise, and celebrities are a big draw to any of the major comic conventions that exist throughout the country. Who wouldn't want to meet Stan Lee, Carrie Fisher, and Adam West in the same day? If you're a fan of a particular TV show, movie series, video game, or superhero you will be in fan heaven. But don't just go for that. Go to be around that incredible group of people that call Comic Con home for a weekend. That's the heart of the experience. Trust me on this. You'll be very happy that you did. And, if you do decide to give New York Comic Con or San Diego a try next year, make sure to remember the number one rule, just like at Disney… wear comfortable shoes.