NYCC Guide for Parents of Younger Kids

Three years of New York Comic Con visits. Three years of trial and error. Three years of family additions to NYCC. How do you negotiate that kind of insanity? Why yes, after explaining all the new additions, there is a guide to “How To Keep From Losing Your Child or Your Sanity.”

Let me first convince you as to why you want to take the littles. Then, learn from my experience as to how to make it fun.

“It’s 2012, New York Comic Con time!”

As post after post would travel through my feed showing me pictures of amazing cosplay, panels that seemed to be once in a lifetime experiences, and limited edition items or free swag that seemed incredible, my sitting-at-home-on-the-couch-with-a-baby self moped.

It’s too crowded, too expensive, too loud, too overwhelming to do with a child, I thought. Then, in 2013, back in those Jurassic days of being able to buy a Sunday ticket a month in advance, we decided to drive down for the day. One bright Sunday morning, we packed the two adults and one four-year-old into the car, expecting an epic adventure. The adventure was epic, complete with New York City parking ticket.

However, in 2013, even the kids’ day family friendly events were few and far between. Overwhelmed, we focused on the the main exhibition floor and on The Block. In a nutshell, we shopped. A lot. Last year, there seemed to be a few more family events. However, finding a place to bring an overwhelmed kid proved difficult. Again, shopping, shopping, and more free swag. Continue reading NYCC Guide for Parents of Younger Kids

NYCC’s Batman Promotional Poster

Batman Francis Manapul
Batman Francis Manapul

DC released a promotional poster this week for the upcoming New York Comic Con this fall. The art is by Detective comics artist and co-writer, Francis Manapul.

I’d love to have this poster available as a print but I suspect only attendees will have a chance at it. If you want to go to the con, better go over to their site and snap up the last few remaining single day tickets ($35) for Thursday. I highly recommend going on Thursday—it’s the least crowded day and also the day many exhibitors tend to hand out freebies.

The Search for Kids’ Comics at NYCC

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Our haul from this year’s NYCC. Photo: Amy Kraft

New York Comic Con is an increasingly popular event, and kids day sold out faster than anyone could believe this year. But what happens when you take an 8-year-old voracious reader to her third consecutive NYCC? Comics are hard to find.

GeekMom Nicole showed us awesome cosplaying kids, and GeekMom Jackie talked about all the great toys, costumes, and clothes to be found for the young ones, but I went with wallet open ready to take home kid-friendly comics. And lots of them. Much of what was available for kids was in the form of graphic novels from reliable sources. We already owned everything my daughter wanted in the Abrams booth, including Surprise Attack of Jabba the Puppett, the latest in the Origami Yoda series.

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George O’Connor signs his books for my little Leia. Photo: Amy Kraft

Our biggest stop every year is First Second books. This year we grabbed the handful of their books that we didn’t already have. In particular we were seeking Hades: Lord of the Dead and Poseidon: Earth Shaker, the two books in the Olympians series that we don’t have, and were delighted to happen upon George O’Connor signing them. We also bought Zack Giallongo’s Broxo, which has a princess and a young warrior battling the walking dead. I also grabbed Delilah Dirk and the Turkish Lieutenant, thinking it was good for my daughter. It was a little racy and complicated for her, but older kids may enjoy this badass heroine as I did.

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Gorgeous Adventure Time compilations from Boom Studios. Photo: Amy Kraft

But what of straight-up comic books for kids? I’ll admit that my daughter isn’t so interested in the traditional superhero stuff, so booths like Marvel held no interest for her. We did pick up the first few Adventure Time comics because she’s just started getting into the show. Beyond that, though, there wasn’t much for kids on the main floor. We headed to what is usually the promised land for finding stuff for kids—Artist Alley.

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Gary Fields signs Rocko. Photo: Amy Kraft

Yehudi Mercado was there with his new Pantalones, TX, but alas we have that one already. Vendors we saw last year didn’t have much that was new for kids, but I was able to pick up a few vintage copies of Rocko’s Modern Life signed by Gary Fields himself.

My plea to comic creators is to look at these adorable faces of kids at NYCC and think about making things for them. They’re a hungry, enthusiastic audience. And my plea to NYCC is to court more kids’ content. We hope to come home richer in new comics next year.

New York Comic Con Has Changed…In a Good Way

All photos in this post by Jackie Reeve.
All photos in this post by Jackie Reeve.

I’ve been to New York Comic Con (NYCC) once before, in 2008. That was the first year they held a kids day, and at the time I remember it being pretty disappointing. A lot has changed in five years.

At the time of my first visit I wrote a pretty disheartened post on my personal blog about the kids day misadventure with my brother and eight-year-old nephew. Lots of disorganization, cosplayers who didn’t really want to talk to kids, and a general lack of stuff for kids to do made me write off this con. There were some definite highlights, including panels with Mo Willems and Stan Lee, and an awesomely kid-friendly drawing session with Paolo Rivera. But I haven’t been back since, so I was curious what would be in store going back this year for GeekMom.

I spent two days at Comic Con; Friday on my own, and Sunday with my 18-month-old daughter. There was so much stuff going on for Sunday’s kids day, and I saw lots of happy faces having a great time. My daughter was definitely young for the kids day activities, but she still got a kick out of the atmosphere. She even had her picture taken with Batman.

All photos in this post by Jackie Reeve.
This cosplayer loved photo ops with kids. He was camped out by the main entrance all day.

There were also lots of stalls and shops selling kids’ clothes, costumes, and toys. The publishers who turned up with books had some great stuff to look at and preview, and there were pretty good sales happening on the last day from other vendors. The shops in general were pretty hard to maneuver with a stroller (no big shock there), but The Block section of the convention had some great softies and toys for kids. I stocked up Hannah’s toy chest with these adorable Monster Factory dolls. They’re a Canadian line of dolls that’s just launching in the United States.

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We only stayed for a couple of hours on Sunday; it was way more packed than my first NYCC visit, and we were both exhausted after a while. I got a lot out of my solo time on Friday, though. I knew the crowds were intense, but having been to a much more low-key version in 2008 I wasn’t quite prepared.

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NYCC 2008 (left); NYCC 2013 (right)

I sort of stumbled around for a while on Friday, taking it all in. Then I found myself at the I “Nail” NYCC nail art booth and decided a manicure was in order to get the weekend started. I love my Harry Potter nails; I’m still sporting them a week later. Amy Vega (follow her on Twitter @ElSalonsito!) did an incredible job, and we talked about daughters and the Tumblr she started highlighting her crazy good nail art. I have never had anything but plain polish on my nails, and I am now addicted to nail art.

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I also spent some time talking to Lisa Judson, the General Manager for AMC’s new streaming movie service Yeah!. I’ll be going into more detail about their service in a separate post, but I’m in love with what they’re doing. Think a cross between Pop-Up Video and DVD extras for streaming. And their marketing campaign, “WTF is Yeah!” was pretty genius. It was one of the first things I spotted when I hit the convention floor, and all I could think was, “WTF is Yeah!?”

So I checked it out and loved it. I saw t-shirts and tote bags with that slogan all through the weekend; they were a big highlight for me.

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See the Yeah! banners in the top right of this photo? I was too busy capturing my daughter’s excitement for Transformers, but Yeah! was everywhere.

I was really impressed with the weekend. There were a few GeekMoms at NYCC, and we all came away with something different. There were endless ways to experience the convention, depending on what draws you in. I’ve definitely changed my mind from my last visit.

The Geek Kids Of New York Comic Con

Image: Nicole Wakelin
Image: Nicole Wakelin

This is the fourth New York Comic Con that I’ve had the joy of attending and this year, more than others, the number of kids and parents enjoying the convention created some of my favorite moments of the weekend.

There were so many adorable cosplaying kids! Sometimes it was just one little kid in a costume with her parents, but there were also groups of kids who had clearly worked together and a few parent-kid cooperative outfits. The one thing they had in common was that they were all having fun.

Who doesn't like a good Cheese Doodle? Image: Nicole Wakelin
Who doesn’t like a good Cheese Doodle? Image: Nicole Wakelin

It’s as difficult to go to a big convention like NYCC with kids as it is to go to an amusement park. There are lots of people and lots of things to see and it’s loud and crazy and in your face. It’s easy for parents to forget that everyone is supposed to be having fun. Fun. Not stressing out because everything isn’t perfect, because the fact that you’re sharing this time with your kid means that it is perfect.

Image: Nicole Wakelin
Image: Nicole Wakelin

Let them wander and see what they want to see. Don’t worry if they miss Stan Lee walking two feet away from them because they are completely immersed in the booth with those little electric cat ears that move. The ears are cool.

Image: Nicole Wakelin
Image: Nicole Wakelin

Take joy in the things they find and love, even if this means they discover they cannot get enough of the wonder of Batman and you hate Batman. I don’t know why anyone would hate Batman, but if you do, and your kid loves the guy, get over it and go along for the ride.

He Found Carl! Image: Nicole Wakelin
He Found Carl! Image: Nicole Wakelin

That’s really the key to taking your kids anywhere. Relax. Let them go. Find joy in their discoveries. Oh, and teach them how to cosplay because parent-kid cosplay done right is the most adorable thing on Earth and you’ll have the most embarrassing pictures ever to show their prom dates some day. No. I’d never do that. Just sayin’ it’s an option.

Check out all of my photos of New York Comic Con 2013 on my Total Fan Girl Facebook page.

ComiXology: The Changing Face of Comic Book Readers

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Screenshot of the ComiXology app. Take note of the “New to Comics?” section.

comixology-300x277Yesterday I peeked behind the digital curtain at ComiXology, the cloud-based multiplatform digital comics reader, as co-founder and CEO David Steinberger talked through what’s new for ComiXology, what’s been working well according to a recent survey of over 16,000 readers.

ComiXology just passed the milestone of 200,000,000 downloaded comics. A good handful of those have been downloads in our household. As someone relatively new to comics, ComiXology is my favorite way to read them. I like the shopping experience of having comic book discovery at my fingertips, and the guided view technology used make comics so beautifully cinematic. I’ve been pleased as well with their nice selection of independent and kids’ comics.

It turns out, I’m part of the changing face of comic book readership. In their survey of readers, they found that the core customer of ComiXology is who you might expect:

  • Male
  • Age 27-36
  • Has been reading print comics for a long time

But a new customer is emerging:

  • Female
  • Age 17-26
  • Newer to comics, with many reading comics for the first time digitally

Of buyers new to ComiXology in the last three months, 20% are women. That’s up from less than 5% when they started the app, and it’s a number that Steinberger says is changing rapidly. Comic book publishers, take note. The survey also found that of the readers who were reading their first comic digitally, many went on to buy comics in print. Again, comic book publishers, take note.

I suspect that the ComiXology Submit program is helping, and will continue to help, cultivate new comics readers. In fact, since its launch, Submit has become a top 20 publisher by revenue. Content creators can deliver their independent comics to ComiXology, and if it’s professionally-created, it will likely get approved. (Unless you use Comic Sans. Be prepared to face certain rejection.) Browsing through the independent comics, you’ll see a huge range of voices and styles represented, including many underrepresented voices in mainstream comics. It’s great for creators. Steinberger said he sees much more risk-taking here than in mainstream comics. And these creators can go from having their comics in a few shops to having an international marketplace to find their readers.

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Selections from the Guided View Native content, and new offerings from DC.

Here’s a handful of things I learned about ComiXology:

*  The average ComiXology customer spends about $100/year. A quarter of readers spend over $400/year. A single reader has spent $63,000 and counting. Is it you?

*  There’s a line of comics that are Guided View Native (GVN). These comics take deeper advantage of the deeper platform with cool effects on lighting, focus, etc. Motorcycle Samurai is a good example worth checking out.

*  Your local comic book shop can have a digital storefront that allows you to still give your business to the small guy while buying digitally. Stores can even run deals and keep pull lists for their customers.

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Infographic from ComiXology’s reader survey

Naturally, ComiXology also has some launches and deals to align with New York Comic Con, too:

*  There’s a new Android Holo release with a refreshed design. HD content will now be offered for the first time on Android.
*  Apps have a new Fit to Width function that helps the reading of portrait pages in landscape view.
*  DC graphic novels and collections are now available.
*  If you’ve ever thought about reading The Walking Dead, now’s the time. Issues #1-114 are on sale for $99.99, or $0.99 each.
*  Ape Entertainment is coming to ComiXology, with titles like Sesame Street, Kung Fu Panda, and game-based comics like Cut the Rope. Hurrah for more kids’ comics!

If you’re at New York Comic Con this weekend, definitely check out all that’s new with ComiXology. And have a look around and all of the different types of comic book readers you see.

Grumpy Catbus is Out of Service

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Out of Service by artist Tim Doyle. Image: Spoke Art

I fell in love with Spoke Art last year at New York Comic Con when I bought two prints from their Wes Anderson-inspired Bad Dads show. Then today I discovered this marvelous mashup of Grumpy Cat and My Neighbor Totoro, Out of Service by artist Tim Doyle. This lovely limited-edition print can be yours for a mere $40. I’ll add it to my shopping cart with my pink Mr. T.

The Weekly, Geekly Rewind – October 23, 2012

Image by: NASA, public domain

Science & Fun:

We’ve written before about the fantabulous joys of oobleck, but look what happens when one curious videographer puts the non-Newtonian liquid into a speaker (see video below):

Astronomers have found that Alpha Centauri, our nearest star system neighbor, has a planet! Bad Astronomer does a great job explaining how they found the planet and why this discovery is important.

Tomorrow is the last day to buy the Humble eBook Bundle. It contains 13 eBooks by big names in the geek scene, at name-your-own-price for charity.

Helene put together this absolutely adorable Timmy for her husband’s trip to Antarctica (no, seriously!). Couldn’t be cuter. Ah, geek love!

Image: Helene McLaughlin

Halloween:

Dak shares easy costumes with… t-shirts!

Kris takes a look at the spooky new interactive book Horrible Hauntings.

Marziah gives us 10 things to read instead of Twilight.

Kelly shares a plethora of pumpkin patterns (and some awesome alliteration).

Sarah lists 13 very important safety tips for Halloween. Bookmark this one and refer to it annually!

USA Today reports that Big Bird costumes are flying off the shelves this year. Why not make your own? The duck costume on our 10 Last-Minute Halloween Costumes from a Paper Bag post can easily become Big Bird with a yellow bill instead of an orange one.

NYCC:

Did you miss the GeekMoms at NYCC? Worry not! We’ve got a bunch of link love to share.

First, check our panel, “Raising Young Padawans” — We share all the apps, movies, comics, and games you’ve asked for.

Corrina shared her adventures: NYCC with the Minions — Day One, Day Two

Rebecca was simply inspired by NYCC.

The Geek Mom Book:

Our four editors’ book, Geek Mom: Projects, Tips, and Adventures for Moms and Their 21st Century Families is coming out just before Halloween. We’ve been sharing some of the scoops behind the book, among other things.

Parade.com interviews me (Natania) about the book.

Jenny talks about one of our mutual heroines, Ada Lovelace.

 

This Week With The GeekMoms

Judy Berna is gearing up for her youngest child’s 11th birthday party, which may or may not involve herding a pack of fifth grade, candy fueled boys through a crowded movie theater. She also is excited about interviewing a new ‘leg guy’ in Colorado, since her bionic leg is due for some tweaking. Time to get in top form, to be able to tackle those mountain biking trails with her boys.

Dakster Sullivan is gearing up for her college midterms. After midterms are over she will be preparing for her first Vulcan Event – Away Mission Orlando.

Patricia is enduring her two-week Air Force Reserves tour working night shifts, but couldn’t believe she was on a flight from Pensacola to Atlanta Sunday night with the members of the band Jane’s Addiction (whose new album, The Great Escape Artist, was released this week)!  This GeekMom is a huge late 80s/early 90s Grunge Rock fan and to not only see the band, but get five minutes of their time chatting in the gate waiting area was AMAZING!  They apparently looked so ordinary when not wearing their costumes and makeup, a couple people came up to her after talking and taking pictures to ask: “Who are those people?”

Michelle McCrary has been working on her “Homecoming Queen Zombie” costume for a charity zombie race this weekend. She’s also busily making three costumes for her sons and a friend’s son for their middle school Halloween dance next week. Michelle is also hoping to get her hands on tickets to see an encore of Fantastic Mr. Fox, an interactive puppet experience, before it leaves her town.

Chaos Mandy is not doing anything this weekend! This Autumn has been chocked full of things to do so she is going to enjoy a well deserved weekend off, perhaps watching some scary movies since it is nearly Halloween.

Nicole Wakelin plans to break out her best Welsh accent as she becomes Gwen Cooper to her husband’s Jack Harkness at the neighborhood Halloween party.

Corrina attended New York Comic Con–her very first comic con!–with her two sons on Sunday. She was part of the Geek Parenting panel with other GeekMoms and Dads and then wandered all through the artist’s alley and the dealer’s area. Favorite swag: Gotham City Police Department t-shirt. Since then, she’s been rushing to finish edits on her superhero novella, Luminous, that’s coming out next May, so she can clear her desk and begin work on the GeekMom Book

Sarah is pondering how different she feels at 22 weeks pregnant with this son than with the firstborn. She isn’t at all sure that the Nutella and Glitch addictions don’t have something to do with the significantly different shape she is in. While pondering this at the weekend, she plans to seek out New Hampshire craft sales, libraries, and relatives, while the husband stays home putting together flat pack toddler furniture and dreaming of getting into the Star Wars beta.

Laura’s offspring introduce dinner table conversational starters like “squid have ambiguous genitalia.” She’s wondering if there’s too much science at her house. This week she’s writing about advancing learning (ours as well as our kids’) using Fun Theory.

Introducing Your Kids to Graphic Novels

My little graphic novel-reading machine

The GeekMoms and GeekDads would like to thank everyone who came out to our Geeky Parenting NY ComicCon panel. We had a lively discussion with our audience about raising our geeklets in our own geeky image. During the panel I talked about the booming world of graphic novels for kids.

The impetus for my deep dig into graphic novels for young readers came one day when Raina Telgemeier’s Smile was sitting out on my desk. My daughter gravitated toward the big smiley face on the cover and asked, “What’s this?” I explained it was a graphic novel that I was going to start reading, and she asked if we could read it together. All I knew about the book was that it was about a girl getting braces. Seemed fine, so why not? We got about halfway through and an earthquake in the book made me stop for the night (my daughter is terrified of natural disasters). While my daughter slept, I read ahead in the book and decided it wasn’t for her. The earthquake wasn’t so dramatic, but it was so full of the issues surrounding puberty that I thought it would be much better for her in a couple years. I mean, she’s only 6.

I searched bookstores and comic book stores finding more that were age appropriate for her. We already knew Captain Underpants and the entire Dav Pilkey oeuvre as well as some of the Babymouse series. These are like the gateway drugs into graphic novels, with their broad appeal to the elementary school set. But what else is out there?

There are some books that my little avid reader has already outgrown, like the adorable Toon Books. With leveled titles like Benny and Penny and Otto’s Orange Day, these are amazing books for young readers. Then there’s the brilliant new Nursery Rhyme Comics. You can share these with toddlers, but the art from over 50 comic book illustrators will keep anyone older interested in reading them. (Read my full review here and GeekMom Melissa’s review here.)

There are a bunch of graphic novels that are overloaded with appeal for younger kids, with fantasy characters like Sidekicks, Magic Pickle, The Secret Science Alliance, and Zita the Spacegirl. One of my favorite recent books is Sara Varon’s Bake Sale about a Cupcake who owns a bakery and is in a band with his friend, Eggplant (Read Rebecca’s review.) My daughter devoured this book.  And the Amelia Rules! series is a great substitute for Smile for the early elementary set.

After a good dose of lighthearted fun, kids can eventually graduate into darker territory with dead or missing parents, alternate universes, monsters, and battles, with titles like The New Brighton Archeological Society, Mouse Guard, and Amulet. I wish I could tell you that we waited another year or two to read Amulet, but when Scholastic sent me a package with the first two books my daughter saw the pink bunny and the robots and read the first book cover to cover before I had a chance to take a look. In the first few pages it’s got both a parent killed and parent in need of rescue, but it also has a very capable girl and her younger brother.

There are tons of graphic novels that feature great role models for boys and for girls. The list above just scratches the surface and doesn’t include the giant stack that I found while at ComicCon, so stay tuned for more. In other exciting news, Stan Lee is launching a kids’ imprint called Stan Lee’s Kids Universe. I’ll be keeping an eye out for those!

Got any graphic novel favorites to recommend?

In Defense of Cons and Cosplayers

They Aim to Misbehave, Image: Nicole Wakelin

One of my favorite parts of attending a con is the cosplay. Seeing people dressed like Superman or Batman or Princess Leia is a big part of the experience. You don’t have to wait in lines or hope they’ll stop long enough for you to snap a picture because they want to have their picture taken and are happy to strike a character appropriate pose. Some spend months creating the perfect look, scouring stores for the right fabric for their shirt or the perfect buckle for their belt. These cosplayers stand out and draw lots of attention, but even the guy who just throws on a Superman cape is a part of the fun. It’s all about celebrating the things we love, no matter how we look. Or is it?

I just read an article over on Men’s Fitness called “NY Comic Con: Flabby Versions of Your Favorite Superheroes!”. (Note: I removed the link because Mens Fitness has pulled their post!) It started with a brief write-up about how cons are a “bully-free zone” but went on to showcase photos of cosplayers complete with snarky captions that turned the author into the con’s biggest bully. I understand that the site is all about getting those six-pack abs, but going out of the way to make fun of people who don’t have them, that I don’t understand at all.

A con should be a bully-free zone. It is the one place where anyone can be a superhero. You don’t have to have six-pack abs nor do you have to be tall, dark and handsome. And honestly, no one really cares if you’ve got the physique to perfectly replicate Thor or Slave Leia. Well, the bully at Mens Fitness cares, but his words and his attitudes have only the power we allow them.

If you’re a geek or a nerd or whatever you want to call it, then you’ve likely been dealing with guys like this your whole life. He was the one who looked down on you for no other reason than that you were being you. Your hair was wrong. Your jeans were wrong. You were too smart. You liked the wrong movie. You hung out with the wrong crowd. The reason doesn’t matter because no matter what you do “this guy” is always out there ready to rain on your parade and ruin the fun. But we’re not kids in high school anymore. We’re adults and these cons belong to us.

They belong to anyone who ever brought a Star Trek lunchbox to school. They belong to guys who say “Engage!” as they pull out of the driveway. They belong to parents making Star Wars pancakes and kids running around with lightsabers. They belong to the people in line for midnight showings of Iron Man and Spider-Man, people who watched the final shuttle launch with tears in their eyes, and to everyone who is currently bleary-eyed from playing Batman: Arkham City for two days straight. They belong to anyone who wants to celebrate what they love not some guy who thinks it’s cool to make fun of us.  They belong to us.