More than comics at comics convention

Movies, TV, video games, and collectibles are all a testament to comics' legacy--even if they have nothing to do with comics. Photos: Anime's alive at ComicCon

NEW YORK--The first thing I saw upon picking up my press badge at the New York City Comic Convention was Heroes actress Hayden Panettiere: perky, chatty and accompanied by a security detail of Star Wars stormtroopers.

Panettiere and her Darth Vader-worthy entourage soon disappeared, but it was a fitting start to the day. NYC ComicCon, which ran Friday through Sunday, might not be as massive or iconic as its famed San Diego counterpart, but it was certainly a spectacular event. Celebrity appearances ran the gamut from Stephen King to Stephen Colbert; mascots in Pikachu costumes bumped elbows with Star Wars fans dressed as Boba Fett; and posters for the Kevin Smith movie Clerks 2 were displayed side by side with Superman memorabilia.

The ComicCon was less a geek fest than a pop culture overload, with the cumulative forces of comic books, television, movies, video games and art all thrown together inside the massive glass walls of the Jacob K. Javits Convention Center in midtown Manhattan.

And that was what I, as a comics convention neophyte, found most surprising. Yes, plenty of aspects of NYC ComicCon fit right into my preconceived image of such an event: hordes of people, many in costumes, lined up for autographs with luminaries like Stan Lee, perusing stacks of vintage comics and brand-new graphic novels, or checking out the latest Japanese manga titles.

Yet I was struck by how many of the booths were stocked with merchandise and memorabilia that didn't seem to have a whole lot to do with comics in the traditional sense. There were trading cards for TV shows like Lost and Veronica Mars; figurines of horror movie villains from A Nightmare on Elm Street and The Texas Chainsaw Massacre; and test runs of the new massive multiplayer online role-playing game Pirates of the Burning Sea.

And unlike the American International Toy Fair, which had taken over the Javits Center several weeks earlier, NYC ComicCon did not shy away from video games. Visitors could play anything from Karaoke Revolution: American Idol to Guitar Hero II to the latest Pokemon titles for Nintendo's DS console.

In short, at NYC ComicCon, the definition of "comics" seemed a bit liberal.

"I would define comics as just words and pictures together," said Austin English, an employee and artist at the pop-culture outlet Giant Robot, one of many exhibitors that strayed quite a bit from the comics-convention archetype.

Words and pictures, however, didn't really come close to describing it. Giant Robot, which was founded in 1994 as an Asian pop-culture zine, has since expanded to a full-out magazine, an online store, and art galleries in Los Angeles, San Francisco and New York. Its NYC ComicCon booth was stocked with colorful toys, stuffed Uglydolls (a big hit), and back issues of Giant Robot magazine.

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