5 Ways to Comic Con
By George Rose
November 7, 2018
The biggest convention of my year has finally arrived as New York Comic Con proves, yet again, that God is beside me on this epic journey. It’s funny how some people say the hand of God isn’t wasted on trivial matters such as comic book conventions. I beg to differ. The Maker is there for the big things and, as tsunamis have shown us, he is also NOT there for the big things. In my case, God is also there when it comes to Comic Cons.
I rarely drink at my age (33) and, these days, it also seems like I seldom write. This Fall Comic Con season has taken a toll on me. It’s not easy or cheap attending several Comic Cons in the span of a few short weeks. In August, I did major damage on the smallest convention of my year, Monster Mania. Small Cons still cost major cash, especially if they’re the first in a series of money munching madness that’s to come. If that event is then followed by a mid-level convention like Keystone Comic Con in September, funds are quickly spent before they’ve even recuperated from the prior Con. If a small and mid-level Con are then followed up by the massive New York Comic Con in October, it becomes a futile effort just to stay afloat.
After August’s Monster Mania and September’s Keystone Comic Con, I started to wonder if I had the funds or interest in even attending October’s New York Comic Con (NYCC). I didn’t have much money left to my name and the friends I usually attend NYCC with were unavailable this year. I have gone to the event for six consecutive years and was thinking I might skip out on the seventh. NYCC has grown so big and uncomfortable over time that I now find it’s worth spending more of my resources on the smaller, more local conventions. Last year my friends had a baby and could not attend, and this year they opted out again to focus on their child’s first birthday ever. I didn’t feel like going without them but, as many of us know, God laughs at the things we want and plan for. He has His own agenda.
To play my hand at fate, I decided that I would apply for my first ever NYCC Press Pass since this has been my first year chasing such a dream. Despite the luck I’ve had over this amazing year, I assumed NYCC was too big and too desirable for a schmuck like me to get approved if I applied on the last day possible for the applications. Well, I applied an hour before the deadline and I actually was still approved. Odd thing is, that’s still not where fate played the biggest part.
On Tuesday, September 25th two major things happened, the second of which is the NYCC Press Pass approval. The first? Well, early in the day I caught wind on Instagram that a rare 10” Funko Pop of the Hulk was getting a small restock at Target. I woke up early and I actually got my hands on one. I never thought I’d find such a treasure and I definitely never expected the same day to bring approval for a NYCC Press Pass. It meant so much to me because, until that day, I wasn’t sure if I would attend NYCC and, if I did, which day I would go. My plan was that I’d only go if I got a NYCC Press Pass. As for whether I went Thursday (to see Mark Ruffalo, the Hulk) or Sunday (to see Danai Gurira of Black Panther), that was up for debate.
Ruffalo would cost me $180, whereas Gurira would cost me $110. If I went Thursday, I would go alone. If I went Sunday, I could at least travel with a local friend that was attending the event. Then, as fate or God or whoever is listening decided, I would be approved for a weekend-long Press Pass and would find the epic collectible needed to make a Thursday trip most advantageous. The gods, or God, had spoken. Despite finding myself broke and without much disposable income, I would commit to going to NYCC on Thursday, by myself, to meet Mark Ruffalo. Honestly, I’m surprised it came down to a decision or fate to help decide. If an Avenger comes to a local Con near you, that’s who you go see.
The Hulk is not just any Avenger, either. He’s one of the Big Four. If Iron Man, Captain America, Thor or Hulk shows up in your neighborhood, you are a fool to pass on the opportunity. As a weaker man, I required a very obvious and blatant sign from God that I should attend on the Thursday of the four-day NYCC festivities. A richer man could have shown more flexibility but I was down to just one day after the season of Comic Cons that had already dominated my life in the recent weeks leading up to this legendary moment. Lucky for me, NYCC was pretty light on the celebrity guest list this year so it was easy trimming down the fat to a modest, affordable goal. Aside from Mark Ruffalo, I would target Richard Horvitz and Walter Jones.
On Thursday, October 4 I found myself waking up around 7am to catch an 8:30am train that would get me to New York around 10am, just as the convention was starting. Waking up early and traveling for two hours all alone isn’t the best way to start the day, especially after only getting two hours of sleep the night before. NYCC is like Christmas and I rarely get sleep on Christmas Eve. Excitement and anticipation are terrible ingredients for a good night's rest. If God hadn’t basically demanded that I go to NYCC to meet the Hulk, I might have cancelled last minute to save some money. Then again, I had just learned a few days prior that this convention featured another first for me: the Press Lounge. My first Avenger autograph and my first Comic Con Press Lounge?! YES PLEASE! No sleep? No problem.
I got through the necessary entry lines by 10:30am and decided to immediately check out the Press Lounge in case there were any fancy gift bags. Well, this lounge was more like a few tables for a quiet seating area for Press to take a break during their day. There were two private option for food so we wouldn’t have to wait in the lines everyone else has to but, otherwise, there wasn’t much going on and there definitely wasn’t a gift bag to be found. There were, however, special NYCC journals we could take for free. This alone justified my stop at the lounge and made me feel like a small lottery winner. YAY PRESS PASS!
Around 11:00am I decided to head down to Ruffalo’s first autographing session scheduled for 11:30am. I was told the line was already full because of pre-ordered autographs (which I skipped on since I wasn’t sure if I was even attending) and was asked to come back around 2pm for his 2:30pm signing. Since I was already in the crowded autographing area, I decided to get Richard Horvitz over with. Only after researching the NYCC guest list did I learn this man was the voice behind Alpha-5 on Power Rangers. I had already met Romy Scharf, the actress inside the costume, earlier this year at a convention and saw this as the opportunity to get both signatures on the same Funko Pop. I was tired and on a mission, so I kept the chit-chat to a minimum. After all, it’s a bit disheartening when a D-list celebrity has a half-hour wait time. Since he only charged $10 for a selfie, I decided this would be my one celeb picture of the day.
Afterwards, I went upstairs to the main show floor for shopping. I had barely any extra spending cash and the vendors were pretty much the same as all years prior. Without friends to slow me down, I sped through the whole floor in an hour. In other years it has taken me several hours to complete the shopping. Without money or friends, it was over in a flash. In years past I would leave NYCC with almost a dozen new t-shirts. This year, I allowed myself only one. Luckily, I found a great Avengers shirt with the Infinity Gauntlet making that hand gesture that gives you the right to punch someone… or something like that. If you’re only getting one shirt and it’s on a day you’re meeting an Avenger, you get an Avenger shirt. I’m all about creating a theme.
While on the show floor I came across the vendor hosting a few of the old Power Rangers. Most I had already met and gotten autographs from but I was missing the original Black Ranger, Walter Jones, on my Megazord Funko Pop. $60 later and I had it. I couldn’t afford another $40 for a selfie but will get one next time I see him at a convention. I didn’t chat with him because there were crowds waiting and I didn’t want the other Rangers to get mad I only paid for his autograph. I assumed they wouldn’t remember me from last time I met them, so for now I was just this guy blowing them all off to only get the Black Ranger’s autograph. Maybe I overthink things but, for some reason, I care what these TV star strangers think of me.
After a quick break for some fresh air and a snack, it was about 1:30pm. I was told to go back to the Hulk’s line around 2pm for the 2:30pm signing but decided it couldn’t hurt to go even earlier. With no money left and Ruffalo’s $180 price tag looming, I figured I’d go camp out and waste time on my phone. I got to his line just after 1:30pm, saw the woman who earlier told me to come back later, she recognized my silly shopping cart and flagged me down. She gave me a post-it note that indicated it was ok to wait in line and said, “You and this lady are the last two people without pre-orders allowed to get in line… for the rest of the day.” That’s right, I got a rare Hulk Funko Pop, got approved for a Press Pass the same day, hauled my lazy ass to NYC by myself on a two-hour journey and was the second-to-last person allowed in line to meet the Hulk. Readers, I’d like to introduce you to God. God, I’d like to introduce you to my readers. This, my friends, is destiny and the ultimate justification of my entire nerd existence.
I didn’t even care that I would then have to wait TWO HOURS in line to pay a stranger $180 for 30 seconds of time getting Mark Ruffalo to scribble on my toy. It’s not that long of a wait, though, when you spend most of it thanking fellow fans for their kind words and jealousy over my amazing collectible. Some people had pictures, others had DVDs, and some even had standard 4” Funko Pops. I only saw one other person all day with the mega 10” Hulk Funko and all eyes were on us. The other guy was ahead of me in line and I saw how great Ruffalo’s autograph looked on it. I was glad to go after that person because I asked for something a little more enhanced. If you plan ahead, you can use your 30 seconds with the star to possibly request something extra. Given the space available on the box, I asked Ruffalo to write, “No Banner, only Hulk.” It is the only thing the Hulk says while wearing battle armor during the fight scene in Thor: Ragnarok, which is the movie this particular Funko Pop is made for. Ruffalo, who proved to be nothing short of incredibly kind and gracious to his fans, obliged without question. He chuckled at my suggestion and was very gentle with my collectible, something I appreciate.
I was quickly ushered along and then stopped by an employee for trying to sneak a quick picture to authenticate my autograph. I wasn’t able to get one but didn’t really care. I don’t need proof that the internet trolls of the cyber world might demand. I have the greatest autograph from one of the greatest Avengers from one of the most fateful, God-driven Comic Cons I’ve ever been to. The stars had aligned and I was somehow able to get this massive collectible to-and-from NYCC without a spec of damage or any smudging of the autograph. God spoke, I followed the signs and I’m here now to finally pass this story off to you. It was now close to 4pm and I had no money left. This was the earliest I have ever left a NYCC but I completed my main mission and nothing else mattered.
By the time I walked back to the NY train station and traveled home to PA, it was almost 7pm. I immediately fell asleep, satisfied with another epic adventure to a nearby Comic Con. My first year of Press Passes was complete. I would then take a few days to digest what happened and then… got sick. Sickness was followed by my birthday, which was followed by living a normal life again for a few days. That’s the thing about Comic Con; if you give yourself entirely to something, it has the ability to take everything from you. I had no money, hadn’t seen my friends in weeks and needed to work my ass off to get my bank account balance stable again. I spent a year writing my 5 Ways to Prep articles for BOP to get the chance to earn Press Passes for Comic Con which, as it turns out, is a rabbit hole you might not rerun from.
Three Cons in just over two months is a ton of work and money. I needed a break from 5 Ways to Prep and then I needed a break from 5 Ways to Comic Con. I needed rest, dang it! Picking which celebrity you can afford to meet over another is like picking a favorite child or parent. It’s not easy yet it can be done, but at a great cost. For every smile my new autographed Hulk Funko Pop brings me, there’s a sadness in me for being so poor and pathetic that I couldn’t meet everyone else. Choices come at a cost and I often allow sadness to consume me, but I just keep trying to remind myself that God sent me on a nerdy mission and I accomplished it as best as I could. If this is what I was able to accomplish after all this time writing for BOP and my first year of Press Passes, imagine what else is in store for me (as a fan) and you (as readers of my adventures). All I can do it keep my faith, look for signs, follow a good path and thank the Maker for the many blessings I received this year. It’s not everyday fans get these opportunities and even less likely a website wants to publish the story. For all of this, I am eternally grateful.
Now, my post-convention season rest is over. For the rest of the year I shall return to my regular, weekly 5 Ways to Prep articles focusing on the amazing holiday season of films to come (Wreck-It Ralph 2!!!) and prepping for next year’s Comic Cons. Thank you to my readers for caring about conventions as much as I do; thank you BOP for giving us all a place to be ourselves; and thank you God for this blessed life. Should I ever become famous for writing a blockbuster book, I can’t wait to attend NYCC as a celebrity guest that can repay the favor to all the fans that come. At this point, that’s where I hope the circle of my life takes us.