Dragging myself out of bed in the wee hour of 10 AM hardly seemed like sleeping in, having not settled down to sleep till nearly the crack of dawn a mere five hours earlier. Despite no panels on my docket until later that afternoon, I’d set aside in my schedule Friday morning time to do some shopping in the Village and Nolita, particularly one of my personal favorite outfitters, Space Cowboy.
Making my way down Broadway, I passed the Museum of Sex, and thought about taking the tour, but settled for a selfie out front and soldiered on. Hopefully I’ll be allowed a private tour for free should I decide to do a book signing of my memoirs there. Little did I realize as I walked past that later that night would make for a particularly juicy excerpt from such.
Arriving at Space Cowboy, I discovered it would not open till noon, and decided to do brunch around the corner to kill some time. That fine but forgettable burger from some bistro in Nolita would prove that last food I’d be able to keep down for fifty some odd hours until my Sunday evening steak. When the western apparel store finally did open its doors, I was waiting outside, and walking in I immediately proceeded to try on every hat they had, finding two new pieces of headwear that made perfect compliments to my preexisting wardrobe. Moreover, I finally found a pair of leather cowboy boots that I met with unbridled enthusiasm, having worn my old pair out years ago and not seeing any satisfactory replacements since. At under $600 altogether, all three articles of attire I purchased for practically a song.
While hiking back to my hotel I stopped in John Varvatos in need of a new bottle of cologne. Upon entering my eyes fell upon the most gorgeous leather jacket I’d ever seen. Such is usually an annual purchase for me, and having forgone getting a new coat the year prior I was ready and willing to drop a bit more money than usual for so resplendent a raiment. Looking for a size tag and seeing the price instead, I did not even don to try it on. I’d have gladly spent $500 dollars for such; I’d even be willing to have gone as high as $700 and change. But at nearly two grand I was suddenly and painfully reminded that there are certain luxuries that – though I could technically afford them – are far from affordable. I made the financially responsible decision, dismaying as that may be. Despite not having any children (at least to my knowledge, and certainly none that I’m paying child support on), I still sometime wish that I could have even less offspring still so that I could have even more disposable income than simply being single affords.
By the time I did arrive at the convention, I was unfortunately a few minutes late to “The True Origins of ComiXology”, but being such a fervent fan of the app, I’d made a point of attending similar panels put on by the digital comics provider in the past, particularly at a few Baltimore Comic Cons back when I lived right outside of Charm City. I asked the final question allotted, inquiring whether there’d been any serious consideration of re-implementing in-app purchases for iPhones and iPads, first disabled circa their buyout by Amazon back in April of 2014. Prior to that I’d made frequent impulse purchases through my phone while listening to a comics podcast turn me on to some indie series I’d never heard of, or on my iPad when reaching then end of a back issue and being prompted to purchase the next with one-click. I had anticipated them to cite a corporate mandating coming down from their parent company, which likewise prohibits purchases directly through the Amazon app, but much to my surprise the president cited recent internal discussions of restoring functionality. While nothing had yet been decided, the possibility is on the table, which is itself cause for celebration.
Afterward, I spoke one-on-one with co-creator and current president of ComiXology David Steinberger about my personal efforts to expand comics readership, and brainstormed with him regarding one way to grow the digital and physical markets alike. After receiving my iPad at Christmastide of 2012, I’d quickly became a digital only reader, even repurchasing the vast majority of my physical collection. I’ve barely been in a comic book shop since, despite living directly above one (which would have been a dream come true for my childhood self). Knowing that the bubble has burst on the secondhand resale of comics, and that they’d not accrue any great value over the years, and further that I’d not re-read the physical copies that I’d replaced with the superior digital versions, I long ago began giving away my collection. Every time a new superhero movie debuts, I make a point to be first in line at the premiere, and right alongside me is a longbox full of issues from that franchise (all bagged and most in decent condition). As theatergoers arrive, I allow them to peruse the box and take one free issue each (For my philanthropic efforts, I earned the moniker “Marvel Man” at my local cinema, as well as a cardboard cutout of Charles Xavier from X-Men: Apocalypse, which I placed at my kitchen table and refer to as “my roommate Chuck”).
I suggested a similar charitable program could be extended nationwide. Comic collectors like myself could donate their collections to ComiXology, which would in turn provide them with a free digital download code for each issue. ComiXology would then distribute the back issues to participating theater chains, which would give them out for free at select screenings of superhero or other comic book movies. The incentive for the various parties to participate is this: the demographic most likely to start reading digital comics through ComiXology are those already interested enough in the medium to be buying physical comics, and the demographic most likely to begin reading any comics – physical or digital – are those especially interested in superheroes, such as those attending the premier for their favorite character’s latest cinematic outing. Ideally, such a charity would grow both the total number of digital and physical comic readers alike, but even if the result was merely to siphon regular readers away from local shops and to digital instead, so long as the net number of new digital readers generated more revenue than the cost of logistics, it would still be in ComiXology’s interests to execute upon.
Making this case to ComiXology President David Steinberger resulted in me missing my much anticipated panel “DC Metal / The New Age of DC Heroes”, but as much as I’m loving DC’s latest event – as evidenced by the fact that in my semi-retirement from reviewing I’m still covering every issue – the trade-off of getting to pitch to such an influential industry figure was well worth it.
This left me with plenty of time to line up early for “Writing God(s): The Creation of Modern Mythologies and Post-Modern Theologies in Comics.” Regular readers of the Hub City Review will know that theology and mythology are among my most frequently explored topics in my coverage of comics, as evidenced by such articles as Christology in the Superman Franchise, The Secret of Superman’s Identity, Black Liberation Theology in Marvel’s Luke Cage, and The Goddamned, to name just a few. Indeed, the intersection of religion and comics is the sole subject I deign to have a modicum of claim to expertise in. But if the nonsensically babbling panel members are representative of the other experts, then I am the absolute authority in the field. Time did not permit me to ask any questions of the panel, but that was as little loss to me as Einstein not getting to inquire after high school physics teachers. Needless to say, such was the most disappointing panel of Comic Con.
My Friday formally ended with “Marvel Legacy: X-Men.” It was far more promising than the other Legacy panel from the previous day. In attendance was Charles Soule, the writer of Astonishing X-Men (which, alongside The Unworthy Thor, is among the few ongoings from Marvel I’m reading these days). He previewed an upcoming arc for the series, which I recall having promise. The other noteworthy announcement was a Rogue & Gambit mini-series set to debut early next year (the former of whom, alongside the Planeteer Linka, being my boyhood waifu). Irritatingly, most of the questions were requests for the creators to reveal plot points for the series featured at the panel. Not only were these obviously not going to receive a response, but I can’t imagine wanting to be spoiled instead of reading the actual issues; where’s the enjoyment in that? Far better but equally futile was another convention-goer’s inquiry into the well documented feud between Fox and Marvel with respect to the X-Men franchise, with the predictable denial of any tensions ringing with insincerity.
I myself wish I’d been more deliberate with how I’d worded my own question. I critiqued the constant hyperbole in every era of X-Men comics that “things have never been worse for mutants than now,” and asked if at any of the writers’ retreats over the years there’d been any discussion of possibly exploring a future in which Xavier’s Dream is fully fulfilled, with the race relations between mankind and mutantkind wholly healed. The context I ought to have added to such was that – especially since Charlottesville – there seems to be a need for speculative fiction that suggest real and lasting progress can be made with respect to race relations; for fiction that inspires in us hope on that front. I’m not sure the panelist quite got what I was getting at, as a result, and from their dismissive response I don’t anticipate we’ll be seeing such a scenario explored anytime soon.
My day done, I rendezvous in front of the convention center with a close friend from Rutgers that was also attending Comic Con. Autumn had historically been an unwilling wingwoman and teetotaler, but I somehow convinced her to pop-in with me to one of the cosplay after-parties at an Irish pub named Carragher’s. It was at that point still early in the evening, and the crowd was correspondingly sparse. As there were then not yet any lovely ladies in attendance whose acquaintance I wanted to make, and after only a single cocktail Autumn and I left and parted ways, her back to Hub City and me to my hotel for another power blackout.
Upon reviving I was once again starving and sought sustenance. I’d passed my time between panels scouring Yelp for highly rated restaurants, and found a particularly promising tapas place with different offerings than the night before. However, much like the previous evening, I once again arrived sans reservations and finding no seating available. Knowing that they serve small plates at the Skylark – a favorite rooftop bar right in the heart of Midtown that I was planning on going to anyway – I made my way back to the same spot as earlier, as Skylark is located directly adjacent to Carragher’s. Having taken the elevator thirty stories up only to find the kitchen closed, I decided to have a cocktail while I was there before sojourning in search of a steakhouse. I ordered a Fort Knox (Elijah Craig Bourbon, Mezcal, yellow chartreuse, and honey syrup over a grilled lemon ice block), not realizing as I sipped that this would be the first entree in what would ultimately be a liquid dinner.
Still intent on finding a proper restaurant eventually, I again popped in to Carragher’s given its proximity, this time finding the place packed. Despite not being in costume myself, I blended in quite well; you know you’re succeeding at life if you’re everyday attire is mistaken for cosplay. As I sauntered up to the bar, I scoured the room, with one beauteous brunette utterly in a league of her own above the rest. She was in street attire, but was clearly a cosplayer, a fact she confirmed when I walked up to her. She’d spent the day on the show floor as a gynoid, and was wanting to enjoy the evening without being blindfolded. I impressed her by piecing together from these factoids that she must have been 2B from Nier: Automata, and we hit it off from there.
I was cautious not to be overly forthcoming about my own nerdom, at first revealing only that I was covering the convention as the culture writer for one of the sites I work for, The Hub City Review, which was, per Obi-Wan Kenobi, “True, from a certain point of view.” I immersed myself in the persona of a jet-setting journalist covering pop culture, interviewing celebrities, and rocking the classy cowboy look – all accurate, if a somewhat overly romanticized version of a single slice of my life. But as I figure it, any amateur can cosplay, but to wholly become a character that both is and isn’t you in such a way that fact and fiction intermix indistinguishably is a thrill on a different level entirely, not dissimilar from the protagonists of the Persona series summoning their titular true inner selves. Either way, she was digging what I was putting down.
Better yet, she had made a friend on the show floor that day, one who’d be meeting up with her at the afterparty and who she wanted to introduce me to. And even better still, this friend was a kind of curator for a famous artist – she did not know it when she told me, but he happens to be my favorite artist alive today, a fact I impressed upon her when she told me his name and I immediately took out my phone to show her both the background and lock screen to be iconic paintings of his. Needless to say, when her friend finally arrived and turned out to be a blonde bombshell from Vegas, I felt just about the closest thing to love at first sight that the remaining pieces of my long-broken heart are still capable of experiencing. At the very least I felt whatever it was that Han Solo had when Luke divulged to him, “She’s rich….” Which this blonde was as well, as I’d later learn.
(Their names and identifying details are being omitted in the interest of privacy.)
After hitting it off with the Blonde every bit as well as I had with the Brunette, and learning that neither had been to the Skylark before, I proposed that the three of us abscond away from the after-party and adjourn there – at least to start the night. They were more than amenable to my proposition, and we headed next door. Waiting for the hostess to come and seat us, the Brunette opined that the Blonde and I would make a very cute couple. I was of course highly attracted to both beauties, but given her professional proximity to a living legend and veritable hero of mine, would probably have picked the Blonde were I forced to choose then and there. I could have concurred, of course, and done so with confidence enough that it would not have come across as awkward is it might otherwise in so strange a scenario. Instead, I demonstrated uncharacteristic quick wit, correctly replying, “Actually, I think the two of you would make a cute couple.” This paid great dividends later that evening.
Our table was right at one of the corners of the building, offering us one of the best views of Midtown at night anywhere in the city. I ordered three cocktails to start, allowing my dates to sip from each and decide for themselves which they preferred, taking the remaining drink for myself. The Brunette selected the Grape & Thyme 75 (Beefeater Gin, lemon juice, green grapes, thyme, simple syrup, and champagne), the Blonde partook of the Harvest Collins (Titos Vodka, Mathilde Pear Liquor, pear puree, lemon juice, and a splash of soda, garnished with a sprig of rosemary), while I myself was left with the Applejack Sazerac (Laird’s Bonded Applejack, simple syrup, peychud’s bitters and a lemon twist). After the first round, both were eager to try The Coco (a stylized fruit and botanical infusion of peach and violet with chartreuse, St. Germain, and Nolet’s Gin, sparkling with prosecco and garnished with floating strawberry pearls), so I ordered three for the table.
It was while luxuriating in these libations that the Brunette divulged that she was living in D.C. these days. I was flabbergasted to find that a local like her had never been to my favorite watering hole in the world, Barmini, and vowed to rectify that, promising to take her there for their famous cocktail flight the next time I’m in D.C. I imagine I’ll concoct a reason to visit the nation’s capital again quite soon.
From there we Ubered over to Death & Co., a speakeasy I’d been wanting to try for years (the one other occasion I’d previously tried to get in my butler at the time was part of my entourage, and because he was not then 21, the bouncer turned us all away at the door). I recall being there for quite some time, but the details start to get a bit hazy. I want to say my first cocktail was an… Easy Rider, maybe? That’s one of the ones with absinthe, which when I’m already that drunk (I had quite a few drinks at Carragher’s that didn’t merit mention), for some reason I think absinthe is exactly what I need. I’m fairly positive one of the girls ordered the Hawaii Five-O (Tanqueray Gin, JM VSOP, agricole, macadamia, passion fruit, lime, and hopped grapefruit bitters), but as to all my subsequent drinks or those of my dates, only my bar tab could tell, and I don’t recall whether I paid that or not when they evicted us from the bar. I do remember the wait staff threatening to throw us out, but it wasn’t until the Blonde and I were piecing together our patchwork memories the next morning that she told me they actually did kick us to the curb; a first for me.
I do remember quite vividly why we’d upset the staff and fellow patrons. Fueled up on liquid courage and lacking all inhibitions, I started making-out alternatively with the Blonde, then the Brunette, the Blonde, the Brunette, and back and forth and back and forth, interrupted only by them frequently and fiercely making out with one another. Indeed, I saw the way the Brunette was starring at the Blonde, and have no doubt she was more into her new girlfriend than she was me. If part of me was jealous of the fact, the greater part of me absolutely agreed with her assessment and entirely understood. And watching two incredibly stunning women go at it is a wonderful thing to watch in and of itself, made all the better by being tagged in. Who am I to complain about that?
Now speakeasies are renowned for a more respectable and reserved ambiance, and in our Dionysian drunkenness we did not realize how rowdy our revelry had been. Such was certainly why we were forced to leave (so far as I can surmise); given the state that the Blonde and I found ourselves in on Saturday, there is a minute but non-zero possibility that our server – whether out of annoyance or, more likely, jealousy – poisoned our drinks. I’m not even claiming that it’s probable, only that few other explanations so fully fit the facts.
I have images in my mind of ordering an Uber and of all of us gathering in. I don’t recall actually arriving at the Blonde’s hotel, not where we lost the Brunette. My memory of the evening ends abruptly with both the Blonde and I stripping off our clothes before climbing into bed together. If there’s anything more to the story of one of the best night in my life, no one that was there can say for sure.
Next time on NYCC Reviewed: At Death’s Door!