The Walking Dead Take Over New York Comic Con (NYCC 2012)

AMC's The Walking Dead infected New York Comic Con 2012.

With teems of bodies held captive in the queues of the lower level at the Javits Center and even more located just outside the main expo floor with the booths in sight, frothing to get in and play the game Halo 4 or Tomb Raider, one might think I was describing some of the zombies of The Walking Dead. As a societal critique, zombies have been connected with consumerism many times before — it clearly makes sense. The number of fans lining up at 7 am (or even earlier) for the 10 am daily opening of New York Comic Con is substantial. Without a doubt, those opportunity to see some of your favorite artists (Yoshitaka Amano), storytellers (Robert Kirkman), comic legends (Stan Lee) or booth babes don’t come around too often so its worth fans’ time to get there early. And without a doubt, the amount of free swag or exclusive event memorabilia is a draw too. So the event has to outdo itself again and again to be novel and attractive. With all that in mind, the event planners attracted a bigger audience for 2012 NYCC than the previous year.

However, the overall experience did not seem as big. Unlike 2011’s Con, where Marvel’s The Avengers seemed to have an equal presence alongside The Walking Dead, this year no other single brand came close. The two final, largest panels on Saturday were for Walking and Firefly a show that hasn’t been on air in a decade.

The Walking Dead showed its superiority in every way possible. From the admission badges with cast and characters from the show on them (the Sunday, kids’ day, pass featured Carl Grimes) to the zombies outside the venue near the replica RV from the show to the giant banner in the entry, the show was everywhere. Perhaps this helped the premiere episode of season three, on the night NYCC ended, surge to a massive ratings record of ten million plus viewers for a cable show (or whatever it was) — even more than AMC’s critical darlings Mad Men or Breaking Bad. Or more people realized they like watching zombies’ heads blow up (probably a welcome relief from all the campaign ads running at this time). Even I indulged in the show and attended the press round table prior to the panel — but more on that later.

As I spent a bit more time at NYCC this year than last, I noticed some more variety on the floor and the one new console. Nintendo’s forthcoming Wii U was prominent and I enjoyed the multiplayer Nintendoland game, or the specific mini game rather. I, and three others, were tasked with hunting down a fifth player, the ghost, who could see us with her controller display, and would succumb to our flashlights. The challenge was fun and having lost, I only wanted to play it again, improve the teamwork and win. Other major titles were present too. Microsoft had Halo 4 multiplayer locked and loaded, and the lines grew quickly enough that I avoided it. Capcom and Square Enix had multiple titles between them including Resident Evil 6, Marvel vs Capcom Origins, Hitman Absolution and Tomb Raider. Playing each one could earn you some unique swag.

On the edges of the convention floor, I found booths serving up a newer addiction, art prints. Spoke Art Gallery featured work by artists around the theme “Bad Dads” in tribute to filmmaker Wes Anderson. Acid Free Gallery had prints based on G.I. Joe and Transformers brands — likely a cross-promotion with Hasbro. But the biggest name in art prints was Mondo, whose licensing and work in the realm of film posters has built them a huge following. Their booth exclusives included prints based on Lord of the Rings, The Iron Giant and Shaun of the Dead. I don’t know if art galleries had much presence last year but to see so many new exclusives coming right to NYCC must have meant those companies realized this event would be big for them.

But back to the BIG name. The Walking Dead. If you caught the teaser at the end of the second episode of season three, at this point, there are no spoilers — new cast members and one old one return. Guests from The Walking Dead included Kirkman alongside old cast members Andrew Lincoln (Rick Grimes), Chandler Riggs (Carl Grimes), Norman Reedus (Daryl Dixon), new members Danai Gurira (Michonne), David Morrissey (The Governor) and returning cast member… Michael Rooker as Merle Dixon — the last glimpse of him in the show was his bloody hand on the roof.

As the folks rotated between press tables, Kirkman and Rooker spoke they joked about continuing the show for “ten or twenty seasons” and how Merle is a “dynamic”. Merle (and his brother Daryl) is a character created for the show and not based on the comic. So for anyone who has read the story, they will be interested to see the dynamic Merle brings to the town of Woodbury, ruled by The Governor, when the original crew led by Rick Grimes comes upon it.

With Lincoln and Riggs at the table, they actors reminisced about the first season and how it has evolved and the characters have grown. The survival skills they have learned put the group in stark contrast to the prisoners in season three. Lincoln also spoke about his friendship with Morrissey, and the “clash of two camps” that will occur. When Morrissey and Gurira sat down, we learned about the formers’ preparations to become The Governor, how the latter had come from a background as a playwright to the badass role of Michonne and what the two experienced upon joining the ensemble. With the third episode coming up fast, audiences can look forward to seeing more of Michonne and the first sight of The Governor.

View a full gallery of high res images of attendees and more from New York Comic Con over at PopMatters’ Facebook page.

Adrienne Curry:

Stan Lee:

The Walking Dead roundtable: