NYCC Kicks It Old School

So. First impressions of New York Comic Con: let’s start with our dark and menacing venue, the Jacob Javits Center. It basically looks like Darth Vader’s summer home (which I guess is rather fitting in a certain way). Once you get past the feeling that the whole building might be insulated with guys frozen in carbonite, though, it actually seems rather homey. The other major problem yesterday was that I encountered some difficulty figuring out exactly what was cosplay and what was just Casual Friday for the leather corset set. I have learned that you really don’t want to compliment someone on an awesome costume only to be told that they wear pasties and a mirrored loincloth around town on a regular basis…take my word for it: it’s awkward. For everyone. (But mostly me).

As entertaining as it is to walk the floor and be molested by various guys dressed as Mario (and, oh yes: they are legion), I did finally manage to make it to my first panel of the day, which featured veteran artists Jerry Robinson and Irwin Hasen on the topic of “WWII and Comics.” The discussion also included comic historian Christopher Couch and moderator Arie Kaplan, who provided some helpful context for the freewheeling reminiscences of Hasen and Robinson as they exchanged anecdotes and affectionate banter about their long friendship and early careers. The conversation led from Robinson’s tribute to his friend and mentor, the legendary Bill Finger, to the origins of the Joker, Hasen’s experiences in post-war Europe, Communism and the politics of the comics business during the Red Scare of the 1940s, and the creation of Robinson’s historic 1941 comic “London,” soon to be reissued by Dark Horse.

While there may be flashier events going on throughout the weekend, the WWII panel provides a fine example of the way that NYCC seems to function at its best. As the contained chaos of the main floor raged on up above, Robinson and Hazen provided a window into a time of frantic deadlines, paper shortages, a sometimes complete lack of funding and other trials and tribulations that seem almost unimaginable today, but which inspired creative minds to artistic and narrative solutions that continue to impact the world of comics even in the present moment. All in all, it served as an excellent reminder that the inspired madness above would be impossible without the roots established by people like Robinson, Hazen, Finger, and their compatriots…and, to be perfectly honest, I can’t think of a better way to kick off my first New York con than sitting three feet away from the man who created the Joker. So far, so good.

Now all I have to do is avoid Mario for the rest of the weekend and try not to end up in the Sarlacc pit that’s almost definitely lurking beneath the food court, and this might all turn out okay…

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