I’ve been attending New York Comic Con for years. It’s gotten larger and larger, and more logistically intimidating each time, and I’ve often considered skipping it altogether. But when it comes time to buy tickets I jump onto the virtual queue without fail. This year I was only able to get passes for Friday and Sunday, and only for myself, not my daughters. So we plotted with my brother, who lives in Brooklyn, to do New York fun with the girls while I did the con. But as the con got closer things started to fall into place to make it my best NYCC ever. A month or so out, two con-adjacent but separately ticketed events were announced for Saturday, and three days before the con, my friend invited me to join her at a New Yorker event that was also taking place by Javits. Finally, Thursday morning, Sam offered me a four day pass to the con, a gift from her friend she couldn’t use.
The magic started Friday morning. Along with the 4-day Sidekick Pass Aeris and I got Reserved Seating for the Peter Capaldi Q&A. We were seated in the front row of the upper orchestra, so exactly level with the stage. A wide-eyed Aeris asked how this happened. I showed her the lanyard that came with my pass, indicating we were guests of BBC America, and she decided we were guests of the Doctor himself, and that ‘Sidekick’ meant I’m a companion for the day.
Capaldi is a magnetic personality. Half of what he said was about the craft of acting and directing, specifically for television, and he said it with a genuine appreciation for his collaborators from showrunner Steven Moffat and co-stars Jenna Coleman and Pearl Mackie, all the way down to the tailors who make his trousers, and the bloke who runs the fog machine in the TARDIS. The other half of what he said was about the deep abiding love of Doctor Who he’s had since childhood. He pitched absolutely hilarious ideas such as the Doctor and Jimi Hendrix saving the world from villainous flower spores who make everyone trippy, and his hair being a recurring monster after his exit. He explained he chose to leave the show when he realized he felt comfortable in the role. And he told a young fan he was so lucky to be coming into Doctor Who now, with Jodie Whittaker, that he can’t wait for her to be someone’s first Doctor. Truly, he was a delight start to finish, and a perfect way to start our con.
A Certain Point of View / E.K. Johnston
Saturday morning started with a panel of nineteen of the forty-three authors who contributed to A Certain Point of View. I’d intended to get coffee somewhere in between the subway and the venue but I didn’t pass any opportunities and the line had started so I joined it rather than go on a coffee quest. This resulted in a second row seat for the panel so it was worth it.
Lucasfilm’s Pablo Hidalgo hosted three “flights” of authors categorized as having written for the Dark Side (various stormtroopers and imperials), Light Side (Aunt Beru, rebel pilots, surviving and Force Ghost Jedi), and those who occupy the grey area in between (Lando, the occupants of the Cantina in Mos Eisley). Here are some highlights. I particularly connected with Claudia Gray’s take on the structure of the Jedi Order working for Obi-Wan and Qui-Gon, who were taken from their family as infants, but not Anakin, who was already attached to his mother — and that they could not understand that. She felt it was important to acknowledge that dissonance contributed to Anakin’s Fall, but also have the characters accept that, regardless of their guilt, it was ultimately Anakin’s choice. My kind of story!
E.K. Johnston described reading her story (a collaboration with Ashley Eckstein, featuring a character introduced in Johnston’s Ahsoka novel) and looking up to find the audience in tears. It was the first thing she wrote after Carrie Fisher’s death, and that reaction meant her feelings carried through. I relate strongly to this tale, as I’m certain many fans, and especially women, do. After the panel I introduced myself as she’d recently reblogged a video I made as a tribute to the animated women of Star Wars — I felt a little silly, but I was excited she’d seen it, and I’m so happy I didn’t let the silly feeling stop me because she knew my tumblr handle and pulled me into a hug because she’d been hoping we’d find each other at the con!
Apparently the New Yorker Fest was going on at the same time as NYCC, and in the same neighborhood. So in the middle of my Star Wars day I joined my BFF at a Q&A with Ryan Murphy, creator of Glee, American Horror Story, and much more. Again, we arrived as the line was forming and thus we ended up in the front row. I was dressed as Leia for the day, but a modern au version (and I’d switched my white boots for flats because So Much Walking) and the audience must have been such a cross section of interests — Gleeks, New Yorker subscribers, aspiring showrunners, AHS fanatics, other NYCC transplants? — I fit in fine.
As with Peter Capaldi, half of what Ryan said was about his craft and the business, and the rest was wild anecdotes such as the time Barbra Streisand hosted a dinner for him, John Travolta, and Lady Gaga (in a see thru macrame dress). I had no expectations for this event, I’ve seen most of Glee, but none of his other series, and was mainly there to spend time with my friend. But he was engaged and engaging and it was well worth my time and attention. I was most interested to learn Murphy has made a commitment to supporting women and minorities through strict hiring practices and paid mentoring programs in addition to his more well known collaborations seen on screen.
I’d purchased a ticket for An Evening with Mark Hamill the moment it was announced and, as a Skywalker fan and stan since age seven, this was the event I was most excited for. I arrived to the theater an hour out, but they started seating us right away, and the bar was open (they didn’t have coffee so I got a glass of wine). Both the security guard who checked my bag and the bartender called me ‘Princess’ because of my outfit, and I love them for it. My seat was in the lower balcony, five rows back, but I could see the stage and was in the room where it was happening, so it was good enough for me. I settled in to wait for the theater to fill and the show to begin.
“Leia? Are you here by yourself?” I look up to find three official type people in red and black uniforms, one with a giant camera. “Yes,” I answer thinking maybe I’ll be moved closer to fill in an empty seat in the front. Reality is even better: “Would you like to sit on stage with Mark Hamill?” My literal reaction was !!!!!!!!!!!????! but I somehow answered with a succinct “I would love to sit on stage with Mark Hamill!” I was given a green post-it with a ‘certified Mark Hamill autograph’ sticker on it and told to come up when called. I chirped, “Thank you!” The photographer took my picture — my grin was so wide I expect I look like a madwoman in it — and as they moved on to find someone else, one of them said “You wore the right costume.” Me, again: !!!!!!!!!!!????!
So, now I had this post-it and the promise of being on stage with Mark Hamill but I really did not know what exactly it entailed. I vaguely remembered that a post-panel signature and photo was included with a front row ticket and thought maybe I was being added into that. There was the possibility it was some weird prank, or that I’d imagined the entire thing, because all I had as proof was a post-it. I was afraid to even tweet about it. Instead, I put my white boots back on (so my Leia look would be complete!) and sat back to wait. Even when the announcement was made, and those of us with the golden tickets were asked to come take our seats on stage, I couldn’t believe I would really be on stage with Mark Hamill (LUKE SKYWALKER!!!!) until I was actually on stage with Mark Hamill.
Here is video proof that Mark Hamill is THE COOLEST and I am not at all cool about my love for him.
I was seated in a tall director’s chair, in the second of three rows, in between Mace Windu and Mustafar Padmé. When shaking our hands in greeting Mark mistook her as another Leia to which we both responded “No, Padmé!” and as an aside, this is clear evidence that Disney needs to step up Padmé’s marketing. But the point is he shook all our hands, called those of us in costume by character name, and that was the moment I realized it was actually real and I got to stay.
And the show that was (in his words) “not a show” began. Mark took center stage and proceeded to babble about his life and career for an hour and a half. It was amazing? He talked about his childhood, repeated conversations he had with Alec Guinness, described a twitter “prank” in which he was hacked and made to follow only William Shatner. He discussed auditioning to voice the Joker and the time he suggested to Carrie Fisher they visit their wax statues together but then she went without him. He told rambling stories, many of which included impressions, made off hand comments about pop culture (Riverdale‘s Jughead is the most attractive one, that’s just wrong!), stood up for the prequels and the value of escapism, sang a song, and played with his dog.
He interacted with my little group on stage a couple times. He asked a question to see if we were paying attention (little boy in the front row won the prize). Suggested maybe we should all come up with a question to ask — we were not asked but here’s mine: What if the Organas wanted a boy? What would be different if Luke was raised on Alderaan and Leia went to Tatooine? Would he have enjoyed playing the Prince? And he gave us each an autographed photo with a funny caption:
He was just as rambly in the Q&A session with the audience as in his presentation (not a show!) and barely ever gave a clear answer, but the unclear answers were all delightful. My favorite question was which of the new cast he’d like to adopt, and his answer started with Oscar Isaac, went through Gwendoline Christie and Domhnall Gleeson (is there anything he’s not in?), and rounded up with John and Daisy. Questions ended when he ran out of autographs to give away.
He finished the set with a tribute to Carrie (I cried), but kind of the whole thing was the tribute. He was just himself and wherever she is, she’s proud.
In summation: Best Con Ever
If there was a throughline between my Capaldi-Murphy-Hamill Q&A trifecta, and even the larger author panel, it’s that they are all fans, too. Peter grew up loving Doctor Who. Ryan wrote to Bette Davis as a kid. Mark reads, and has opinions, about comics. Meg Cabot wrote unauthorized Star Wars fanfiction years before she was invited to write it for an authorized anthology. There was an underlying message to my weekend: don’t be afraid to show how much you care about whatever it is you care about. I dressed like Leia, and I got to share a scene with Luke.