Tag Archives: New York City

NYCC 2014: From Albuquerque to Artist Alley in Record Time

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Since the first show in 2006, the New York Comic Con is the comic book related event that I look forward to the most each year.   I still can’t believe that only eight years ago it started as a one room event that took up a fraction of the Jacob Javits Center.  And while I tend to complain about the crowds in the exhibit hall each year, I am very happy that the show has grown in popularity into one of the premiere comic book conventions with an attendance (over 151,000 attendees) that has now surpassed the San Diego Comic Con.

I’ll admit I don’t take as full advantage of the show as most of the attendees do.  I don’t cosplay (though I am tempted to break out the stormtrooper armor each year), and I avoid the larger panels for the less crowded sessions, but that’s because I choose to maximize my time in Artist Alley to meet the creators that have written and drawn my favorite stories of the last four decades.  This year was no different but that was because I had less time at NYCC than previous years.  My faithful sidekick and I had set up a two week vacation in Arizona and New Mexico that overlapped the first three days of NYCC and I didn’t think I would be able to attend this year.  But when I found out we were flying the red eye from Albuquerque to JFK I knew that I could make the last day of the show.

While I may have missed New York Super Week and the first three days of NYCC, I made up for it by buying some comic related merchandise during our stop in Albuquerque.  First stop was the amazing Astro-Zombies comic shop where I got a great deal on copies of X-Men #90 and Fantastic Four #92.  I also found Days of Future Past HeroClix that sold out at my New York comic and game shops (Storm, Blob, Pyro and a Sentinel!).  If you’re ever in Albuquerque, I highly recommend a visit to Astro-Zombies.  They have a great selection of new and back issues and a friendly staff.  I also picked up a few Marvel Comics themed wall decorations at a local art store on sale.  Buying these items that I would have picked up at NYCC softened the blow of not attending the first three days (and probably saved me a few bucks!).  Heck, even the Albuquerque Hot Air Balloon Fiesta had a con feel with a huge crowd and members of the local chapter of the 501st Legion in attendance as the Darth Vader and Yoda hot air balloons ascended!

The 501st Legion at the 2014 Albuquerque Hot Air Balloon Fiesta (image copyright 2014 Fante's Inferno)

The 501st Legion at the 2014 Albuquerque Hot Air Balloon Fiesta (image copyright 2014 Fante’s Inferno)

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Stormtroopers prepare the crowd for Yoda at the 2014 Albuquerque Hot Air Balloon Fiesta

Yoda prepares for liftoff at the 2014 Albuquerque Hot Air Balloon Fiesta

Yoda prepares for liftoff at the 2014 Albuquerque Hot Air Balloon Fiesta

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Darth Vader gets ready for the mass ascension at the 2014 Albuquerque Hot Air Balloon Fiesta (image copyright 2014 Fante’s Inferno)

But no sooner than I had gotten home from JFK Sunday morning, I was pulling together every book I wanted autographed, my sketch book for commissions, and of course The Captain America Project to (hopefully) complete.  I arrived at the Javits Center around 9:15 that morning, and I was surprised to not see a crowd gathered in front.  But reality soon set in when I realized the thousands of attendees were lined up in the lower level of the convention center prior to the 10:00 start time.  Overall it was a good system, and even though I was towards the back of the line I made it into Artist Alley by about 10:15.  Thankfully most of the attendees were heading to the exhibit hall and Artist Alley was practically empty when I walked in.

My top priority at NYCC was completing the Captain America Project: a jam page of 20 drawings of Captain America by 20 different artists.  After four years, 17 of the 20 spots on my Captain America jam page had been filled by artists like Jim Lee, David Finch, Herb Trimpe and even Golden Age artist Allen Bellman.  I had put a lot of thought into which artists I wanted to finish the page, and even though there were more artists to choose from than spots available on the page, I decided they would be filled by three of my favorite artists of the last 30 years.  My first two stops were Lee Weeks’ and Bob McLeod’s tables.

Weeks’ art has been a favorite of mine over the last ten years, most recently his work on Daredevil: Dark Nights #1-3, and I’ve been a huge fan of Bob McLeod’s work since the early 80’s, particularly his run on The New Mutants.  So as long time fans of their work, they were “must haves” on The Captain America Project.  I had originally planned on posting scans of their Cap sketches in this post, but then I realized they would be major spoilers of their individual posts for The Captain America Project, so I decided to hold off.  But in the meantime, here are a couple of pictures of them sketching on the page:

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Bob McLeod adds a Captain America sketch to the Captain America Project

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Artist Lee Weeks adds a Captain America sketch to the Captain America Project.

Unfortunately, the third artist that I was hoping would cap off the page (pun intended) wasn’t able to attend Sunday, so I’ll keep that one a surprise until I’m able to get that sketch at a future show.

After collecting autographs from artists Rob Liefeld, Allen Bellman, Howard Chaykin and former Marvel writer/artist/editor Al Milgrom for my copy of Marvel: Five Fabulous Decades of the World’s Greatest Comics, my last stop of the afternoon was The Artists’ Choice table for a sketch from artist Jerry Ordway (Superman).  Going into the show, one of the items on my wish list was a full sized sketch of Superman from Ordway, and he didn’t disappoint with this gem:

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Superman by Jerry Ordway

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Artist Jerry Ordway and his Superman sketch.

I had every intention of staying until the end of the show to hit the exhibit hall and get a few more sketches, but by 3:00 I realized that I hadn’t slept in over 30 hours (maybe that’s a con endurance record?) and it was time to head home before I passed out and the attendees swiped my sketches.  But this year’s NYCC was definitely worth the red eye flight and sleep deprivation.  Looking forward to next year!

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Grand Central Terminal on Film

February 2, 2013 marked the 100th anniversary of one of New York City’s architectural treasures, Grand Central Terminal.

In my opinion, it’s the most  beautiful structure in New York City, and even after ten years of living here I’m still in awe each time I walk through this iconic station.  At one point after I moved to Manhattan I reverse commuted from Grand Central Terminal to Connecticut every day for four years, and the highlight of each day was taking that first step back into the Main Concourse after a long day at work.

I first started taking the train into Grand Central from the suburbs back in the early 90’s.  It was grungier back then, and after several years of cleaning and maintenance the station was returned to its pristine former glory in 1998.  In honor of that rebirth, the MTA provided a set of commemorative post cards on each seat of each train that departed from the terminal that day.  I still have mine.

One of my favorite memories of GCT was during the 1994 World Cup when the MTA set up a large screen TV in the Main Concourse.  Keep in mind, there are no seats in the Main Concourse, so everyone watching was simply standing near the TV as they waited to board their trains.  I forget which teams were playing that first round game, but the crowd gathered around the TV was enjoying the game and showing emotion as the teams battled it out.  And then out of nowhere some schlubby guy, completely clueless, walks up to the TV and changes the channel!  A riot almost broke out and he’s lucky he got out of there alive!

Grand Central Terminal is incredibly cinematic, and I’m a sucker for a movie that’s shot in that station. IMDB lists about sixty films that have been shot in Grand Central, but I have to think that there have been more.  Some of my favorites over time include The Freshman, Carlito’s Way, Midnight Run, Seconds, and Amateur.  However when I look back at some of these films, the first thing that crosses my mind is how under-utilized Grand Central Terminal was in most of them, particularly one of my favorite indie films, Hal Hartley’s Amateur.  But then I have to remind myself that I’m biased by the fact I walk through Grand Central Terminal a couple of times a week and still can’t get enough of it.  And while there’s an incredible amount of beauty in every corner, stairway and path in the station, too much of it just for the sake of showing it on film can disrupt the flow of a scene.  But when done right, just one shot from the right angle of the Main Concourse is enough for someone to remember a scene shot in GCT.

There are three films in particular that stand out the most in my mind for their directors’ use of Grand Central Terminal.  These are the films I’m reminded of every time I walk through Grand Central.

North By Northwest (1959)

North By Northwest Movie Poster

Alfred Hitchcock’s North By Northwest is a great example of how a director can utilize Grand Central Terminal to give the audience the experience of the Main Concourse at rush hour.  Cary Grant’s walk from a phone booth on the East end of the Main Concourse, past the information desk, and to the ticket booth on the Vanderbilt Avenue side captures what thousands of people go through on a daily basis.  This was the second film Hitchcock shot in Grand Central Terminal, the first was 1945’s Spellbound with Gregory Peck and Ingrid Bergman.

Superman: The Movie (1978)

Superman The Movie - Poster

If you’ve been reading my blog for awhile now, you would know that Superman: The Movie is one of my favorite films of all time and the comic book movie that I measure all others against.  In the film, New York City was Metropolis, and Lex Luthor’s underground hideout was built on a soundstage, but several sequences were actually shot in Grand Central Terminal.  One of the shots of the Main Concourse (with the giant Kodak Colorama photo) may ahve actually been my first introduction to Grand Central Terminal, and I always enjoy seeing what GCT (and New York City) looked like back when Superman: The Movie was shot during the summer of 1977.

The Fisher King (1991)

The Fisher King Movie Poster

I’m a huge Terry Gilliam fan, and The Fisher King is my favorite of his films.  It was released in 1991, and this was the Grand Central Terminal that I walked into to the first time I took a Metro North Train in from the suburbs.  Gilliam’s amazing sequence in the Main Concourse as Parry (Robin Williams) follows Lydia (Amanda Plummer) as hundreds of commuters break into a waltz is in my opinion the greatest depiction of Grand Central Terminal on film.  Ever.  That scene changed how I saw Grand Central Terminal, and I still think of that sequence every time I walk past the information booth in the Main Concourse and wonder how Gilliam and cinematographer Roger Pratt were able to get the light to reflect off of the clock in that amazing scene.

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Cloak and Dagger #1 (1983)

Cloak and Dagger #1 (October 1983)Cover by Rick Leonardi and Terry Austin

Cloak and Dagger #1 (October 1983)
Cover by Rick Leonardi and Terry Austin

Recently I opened up the old box o’comic books and rediscovered an old favorite of mine from the early 80’s: Cloak and Dagger #1 from the 1983 mini-series written by Bill Mantlo and drawn by Rick Leonardi and Terry Austin.

Cloak and Dagger, introduced in Peter Parker the Spectacular Spider-Man #64 (March 1982), were created by Bill Mantlo and artist Ed Hannigan.  Runaways Tyrone Johnson (Cloak) and Tandy Bowen (Dagger) meet in New York City and are tricked by an offer of shelter from strangers that prey on runaways.  Tyrone and Tandy are forced to take a synthetic version of heroin, and the side effects of the drug provide them with their superpowers: Cloak creates a dimension of darkness in which he can consume people’s energy to feed his “hunger,” Dagger creates and shoots daggers of light that drain the energy of her enemies and are also used to feed Cloak’s constant hunger.

The first  of the four issue Cloak and Dagger mini-series opens with a splash page of the New York Port Authority on the corner of 42nd Street and 8th Avenue.  It’s July 20, 1983 and the neighborhood in the opening pages bears little resemblance to the Hell’s Kitchen/Times Square of today.  Father Francis Xavier Delgado, a priest born and raised in Hell’s Kitchen, walks among the pimps, prostitutes and lowlifes of the neighborhood in an effort to save them.  That night’s attempt proves fruitless and he returns to the Holy Ghost Church on 42nd street.  He kneels at the altar of the empty church  praying for God’s guidance when Cloak and Dagger appear seeking sanctuary.

Several blocks away at the 21st Precinct, Detective Brigid O’Reilly observes a group of “chickenhawks,” lowlifes that victimize newly arrived runaways at the Port Authority, as they shiver in a jail cell.  Doctors and cops have seen others in their condition and chalk it up to bad drugs, but when questioned by O’Reilly, one of the thugs tells her about  the “angel” of light and “devil” of darkness that put them in their condition.  O’Reilly connects their story to reports of vigilantes attacking criminals and drug pushers, then takes to the streets of Hell’s Kitchen.

After a debate with Father Delgado over the ethics of their “mission” to punish the criminals that prey on runaways, Cloak and Dagger attempt to save a pair of brother-sister teen runaways from a group of chickenhawks.  Gunfire leads Detective O’Reilly to their lair, but before she can act, a stray bullet strikes and kills the brother.  Dagger’s light makes quick work of the lowlifes, but O’Reilly refuses to accept their methods.  To her, Cloak and Dagger’s methods make them no better than the criminals.  She attempts to arrest them, but Cloak teleports them back to the Holy Ghost Church.  Later that night, Father Delgado sees Dagger in tears as he takes a phone call from the 21st Precinct requesting last rights for the dead runaway.

It was usually the art that would draw me to a particular comic book, and this was no exception when Cloak and Dagger #1 hit the stands in 1983.  Seeing Terry Austin’s name on the cover was all I needed to plunk my 60 cents on the counter to buy this issue.  His inks were a great match for Rick Leonardi’s pencils, and an original page from this mini-series has always been on my want list.

But it was Bill Mantlo’s writing, particularly his use of 1983 New York City as a backdrop, that got me to buy the subsequent three issues of this mini-series.  Combined with Leonardi’s pencils and Austin’s inks, Cloak and Dagger brought the seediness of early 80’s Hell’s Kitchen to the comic book page.  Looking back, I’m surprised at how much of that atmosphere they were able to include in their stories.  This was a comic book with a significant readership under the age of 18 that showed pimps, hookers and drugs.  These were dark stories for the time, years before “dark and gritty” would become overused in comic book stories.

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