New York Comic Con 2013: a convention report

I really had not planned to go to the New York Comic Con this year.  But at literally the last minute, i.e. Wednesday afternoon, Michele surprised me with a ticket for Thursday.  I knew that once again I was going to be on a really limited budget.  So I decided to just pick up a handful of comics and maybe a couple of sketches.  Mostly I brought along comic books I already owned to get autographed.  And I took a few photos.  My digital camera went bust a while ago, so I had to rely on my crappy cell phone camera.

The first person I went to see in Artist Alley was Joe Staton.  I actually did the exact same thing last year.  What can I say?  I’m a huge fan of his work.  This time around, I really wanted to pick up a copy of the E-Man trade paperback that reprinted the Charlton Comics stories from the 1970s.  This collected edition actually came out in 2011, but the last couple of years when Staton had it for sale at the show, I just didn’t have the money to get it.  So I decided that this year it would be the very first thing I’d purchase.  I ended up breezing through the book, it was such a fun, entertaining read.  I’ll probably do a post about E-Man sometime in the near future.

Joe Staton
Joe Staton

Scott Hanna was also at the show.  I think he does really great work.  He is one of those embellishers who usually attempt to stay faithful to the style of whatever penciller he is working with.  As such, I think that his contributions to the finished art are not as readily identifiably to the casual eye.  Nevertheless, as I’ve mentioned in my Thinking About Inking post, there have been instances where his impact is demonstrable, and always in a positive way.  At NYCC I purchased a page that he did for the miniseries Avengers: Celestial Quest, inking Jorge Santamaria’s pencils, which features one of my favorite characters, Mantis.

Two other people who had a table in Artist Alley were Art Baltazar and Franco Aureliani, the creative team behind Tiny Titans and Superman Family Adventures, as well as their self-published Aw Yeah Comics.  I think their work is so cute and funny and adorable.  Yeah, I know, I also like very dark and serious stuff, as well.  But the thing is, I’m into a wide range of material.  If everything in the comic book biz was grim & gritty, it would be extremely boring.  Diversity is the spice of life.  I got several comic books signed by Art & Franco, as well as sketches from both of them.  Art drew a cartoony version of the Teen Titans’ demonic foe Trigon.  Franco sketched a funny Darkseid vs Streaky the Supercat piece.


The one other piece of art I got at NYCC this year was a really nice sketch in my Beautiful Dreamer theme book.  It was drawn by Derek Fridolfs, whose work has appeared in Justice League Beyond and Batman: Li’l Gotham.  You can view it, and the rest of the art I picked up, in my galley at Comic Art Fans.

While I was at the show, I also had the chance to see several other creators, among them Bob Layton, Steve Ellis, Alex Saviuk, Amy Reeder, Brandon Montclare, Tim Vigil, ChrisCross, Jim Salicrup, Vito Delsante, and John “Roc” Upchurch.

Before I knew that I was going to be at NYCC, I had decided to get a ticket for a related event on Friday night which was being organized by Barnaby Edwards of the Doctor Who New York fan club.  Colin Baker, who portrayed the Sixth Doctor on Doctor Who, was doing a question & answer session and signing at the Stone Creek Bar on East 27th Street.  Also present was writer & actor Nicholas Briggs.  In addition to being heavily involved in the Big Finish audio plays, directing many of them, Briggs has famously voiced the Daleks, Cybermen, and various other aliens, both for Big Finish and on the television series itself.  I was really looking forward to meeting both gentlemen.  There was a third, surprise guest, as well: director & producer Jason Haigh-Ellery of Big Finish.  For someone such as me, a huge fan of the Doctor Who audio adventures, this event was a real treat.  I think that Baker has done extraordinary work reprising his Doctor at Big Finish, and both Briggs & Haigh-Ellery have really brought extraordinary levels of professionalism to these productions.   It was also a great opportunity to meet in person several of the people I know online from Facebook and WordPress.

Nicholas Briggs and Colin Baker
Nicholas Briggs and Colin Baker

Of course there were some amazing examples of cosplay at NYCC.  This is where I wish I had a proper camera, so I could have taken more pictures.  I even saw someone dressed as Walter White from Breaking Bad.  I was wondering if anyone was going to do that!  Anyway, here are a few photos of fans in costume that really stood out for me.

It’s always interesting when you see somebody cosplaying as a somewhat more obscure character.  This guy was dressed up as the supervillain Clock King.  In addition to a super-authentic costume, he actually had a working clock on his mask.  Now that is what I call attention to detail!

NYCC 2013 Clock King
Clock King

Here is a lovely lady who was turning heads on the main convention floor, dressed up as a steampunk version of G.I. Joe villainess the Baroness.

NYCC 2013 Steampunk Baroness
Steampunk Baroness

And for this one I really wish I had been able to take a much better picture.  Here were three gals cosplaying as the most famous female agents of SHIELD, namely the Black Widow, Sharon Carter, and Contessa Valentina Allegra de la Fontaine.  Jim Steranko was at NYCC, and I wonder if he had a chance to see his creation, sexy spy Val Fontaine, brought to life.  Sorry for the blurry quality.  Trust me, this trio looked fantastic in person.

NYCC 2013 Agents of SHIELD
Black Widow, Sharon Carter, and Val Fontaine

I had a good time at this year’s New York Comic Con.  After she got out from work, Michele joined me at the show and we hung out there for a few hours.  But, at the end of the day, I was exhausted and kind of broke, so I’m glad that I was only there for one day.  Anyway, thanks again, Michele, for the surprise ticket.  I really appreciate it.

Chicks, Chronology and Doctor Who

Lately I’ve been trying to make it to the Doctor Who New York events and get-togethers organized by Barnaby Edwards.  After years and years of being a fan of Doctor Who and really not knowing anyone personally who was also into the show, it’s great to be able to meet up with other local viewers and hang out, shooting the breeze about our favorite sci-fi series.  Best of all are the signings that Edwards organizes for DWNY.  Given that Doctor Who is a British-produced series, we American fans don’t often have the opportunity to meet too many people involved with the show, since they typically live on the other side of the pond.  So those events are really cool opportunities to actually meet some of these actors, writers, directors, and other creative personnel.

Last week I went to the latest DWNY event, a book signing that was held at a pub called The Churchill on 28th Street near Park Avenue.  The two books that the authors were there to promote and autograph were both published by Mad Norwegian Press.  The first of these was Chicks Unravel Time: Women Journey Through Every Season of Doctor Who.  A group of female writers from around the globe who are fans of Doctor Who wrote a series of essays analyzing each individual season of the television show, from the debut of William Hartnell in 1963 to Matt Smith’s 2011 series.

Chicks Unravel Time
Chicks Unravel Time

I have to say, as a white male viewer, Chicks Unravel Time was a very intriguing read.  The essays contained within offered up some very interesting alternative analyses and viewpoints of the series that I simply had never considered in my more than 25 years of watching Doctor Who.  Understandably, the majority of the essays are concerned with differing female perspectives on the series.  Other fascinating topics include the power structure in the relationships between the Doctor and his human companions, race & ethnicity, Cold War politics, music, spirituality, and the delicate balancing act of rooting the show in the past while continuing to move it forward in new directions.

The three writers from Chicks Unravel Time who were at the signing were Deborah Stanish, L.M. Myles, and K. Tempest Bradford.  Stanish’s essay “Anything Goes” observes the show’s early period of experimentation of format in the Third Season.  Myles essay “Identity Crisis” looked at how the show evolved in the Fourth Season when Patrick Troughton replaced William Hartnell as the Doctor.  Bradford examined the role of women, as well as their notable absences, throughout Season Thirteen in “The Woman We Don’t See.”  At the pub, each of them read excerpts from their pieces before the signing, as well as explaining what drew them to this project.  It was a very interesting session.

The other book that was being promoted that evening was AHistory: An Unauthorized History of the Doctor Who Universe (3rd Edition) written by Lance Parkin & Lars Pearson.  AHistory is an incredibly ambitious project on the part of its authors, an attempt to arrange in chronological order every single television episode of Doctor Who, Torchwood, and The Sarah Jane Adventures, as well as the Big Finish audio plays, the Doctor Who novels published by Virgin and the BBC, the Bernice Summerfield novels, the comic books published by Marvel and IDW, and probably a few other things I’m forgetting!  AHistory weighs about as much as your typical telephone directory, and clocks in at a massive 784 pages.


Lance Parkin was at the DWNY event to explain how AHistory came to life, starting out as a fan project many years ago that grew in size & scope with each revision.  Parkin describes it as “a parlor game,” i.e. an exercise in fun.  It certainly isn’t intended as any sort of serious scholarly attempt at a historical work.  Indeed, considering the Doctor Who fictional universe has existed for a half century in numerous mediums with hundreds of different writers having contributed to it over the decades, there really is no way to truly reconcile all of the contradictory continuity in a completely flawless manner.  Parkin & Pearson obvious intended it to be an enjoyable read for fans, a useful reference book for devotees of the series.

Unfortunately, I did not have $50 on hand, so I wasn’t able to purchase a copy of AHistory last week.  But I definitely want to pick it up at some point in the near future.  I see that it is available on the Mad Norwegian website for $39.95, shipping included, and is also on Amazon at a discount.  So I’ll probably order it online.

I was able to get a couple of other books signed by Lance Parkin, though.  He is the author of several Doctor Who novels, and I have two of these, The Dying Days and Father Time.  I brought along my copies to The Churchill, and Parkin kindly autographed them for me.  It’s been several years since I read each of them, but I remember that both were very entertaining, well-written books.  Unfortunately, both of them are currently out of print, but if you can locate inexpensive copies, I highly recommend them.

Doctor Who: Father Time
Doctor Who: Father Time

Parkin also wrote one of the Big Finish audio plays, Davros, which I have been meaning to purchase for some time now.  Colin Baker previously had an excerpt from that story on his website, and it sounded top-notch.  The only reasons why I haven’t gotten it before now are the usual: lack of funds and procrastination.  But, yeah, along with AHistory, it is on my short list of Doctor Who items to obtain.

So, while I haven’t had the opportunity to read AHistory yet, it sounds like a fun reference book.  And, as far as Chicks Unravel Time goes, I would consider that to be an indispensible read for any serious Doctor Who fans that enjoy differing interpretations & analyses of the series.

In any case, if you happen to be in the New York City area and are a fan of the series, I definitely encourage you to come by to future DWNY get-togethers.  The group has a page on Facebook where you can find out about upcoming events.

Doctor Who: How It All Began – An Evening With Waris Hussein

Last week, on April 10, I attended the event “Doctor Who: How It All Began – An Evening With Waris Hussein,” held at the Paley Center for Media in Manhattan.  Waris Hussein is the man who directed the very first Doctor Who serial, “An Unearthly Child,” far back in 1963.  In addition, he directed the majority of the seven part lavish historical epic “Marco Polo,” also produced during the show’s first season.  For a long-time fan of Doctor Who, it was a real thrill to be able to attend this event, to hear the reminiscences of one of the production personnel who were there at the very beginning.

The event was moderated by Barnaby Edwards, president of the fan organization Doctor Who New York.  It began with a screening of the very first episode of “An Unearthly Child,” with commentary by Hussein and Edwards.  Afterwards, Hussein discussed a wide variety of topics with Edwards.

The Indian-born, Cambridge-educated Hussein explained how he came to be one of the very first non-white directors at the BBC.  He explained how the BBC initially wanted to offer him a position in their foreign office, but how he insisted that he was keen to become a director in England.  I had to admire Hussein’s determination and confidence, in that he turned down a lucrative offer of a permanent, pensioned job with the BBC abroad to accept a six month trial run at the BBC’s home office.  Obviously that worked out well for Hussein, as he spent a number of years with the BBC before going on to a long, prolific career directing at various other television stations, both in the UK and here in the States.

In regards to his involvement with Doctor Who’s early days, Hussein spoke of his collaborations with series creator Sydney Newman and producer Verity Lambert.  It was interesting to hear about how he and Lambert went about courting William Hartnell for the role of the Doctor, and Hussein’s key role in casting Carol Anne Ford as his granddaughter Susan.  Hussein touched upon how there had actually been an unaired pilot episode, and the almost unheard-of decision to reshoot it, ironing out all the technical wrinkles, as well as tweaking the characterization of the Doctor to make him more sympathetic and mischievous.

During the program, someone observed just how unconventional Doctor Who’s origins truly were, for an era when the vast majority of creative personnel at the BBC were white British males.  Its creator, Newman, was a Canadian, its first producer, Lambert, a woman, and its first director, Hussein, an Indian.  Certainly I cannot help think that this must have played at least a small part in the show becoming such a distinctive, unconventional, groundbreaking series, one that has lasted nearly half a century in one form or another.

Unfortunately I did not have my camera with me, so I wasn’t able to take any photographs.  I did, however, get my DVD of “An Unearthly Child” autographed by Hussein.  The event was very crowded, so I only had an opportunity to talk with him for a few seconds, but he seemed like a pleasant fellow.

I do have to say, Hussein looks very good for his age.  According to Wikipedia (assuming, of course, they’re accurate), Hussein was born in 1938, making him 73 years old.  He looks at least ten years younger, and very spry, at that.  If I do make it to my early 70s I hope I age half as well as he apparently has!

As an aside, it’s worth noting that the entire seven-episode “Marco Polo” serial that Hussein directed is missing from the BBC archives.  This is somewhat odd, in that nearly the rest of the first season of Doctor Who, barring two other episodes, is intact, having been recovered from various areas around the globe where the BBC sold copies of the show before they wiped their master tapes.  As I understand it, “Marco Polo” was one of the most widely sold Doctor Who serials, which makes its total absence very mystifying.

It certainly is a shame that Waris Hussein’s second contribution to Doctor Who is presently lost.  I have read the novelization of “Marco Polo” written by original scripter John Lucarotti.  I’ve also viewed the half hour reconstruction of the serial created from original soundtrack, “tele-snap” images, and production stills that was included on the Doctor Who: The Beginning DVD box set.  Based on these, “Marco Polo” seems to have been an interesting, not to mention incredibly ambitious, production, and I would really like the opportunity to see an actual episode of it.  (Additionally, Lucarotti’s other serial from the first season, “The Aztecs,” is one of my favorite Doctor Who stories from the 1960s, giving me another reason to wish to view “Marco Polo.”)

It isn’t completely beyond the realm of possibility that somewhere, buried in some vault or attic, there might be at least one episode of “Marco Polo” in existence.  As recently as last year two previously lost Doctor Who episodes from the 1960s were rediscovered.  So we can hope that someday some actual footage from the story reappears.

In any case, “An Unearthly Child” is completely intact.  And it was certainly a pleasure attending last week’s look back on the early days of Doctor Who.  I found the Waris Hussein event to be very informative and enjoyable.  We’re very lucky he is still with us to share his memories and insights into the beginnings of the series.