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

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

New York Comic Con

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:

In the wake of Malcolm Young's passing, Jesse Fink, author of The Youngs: The Brothers Who Built AC/DC, offers up his top 10 AC/DC songs, each seasoned with a dash of backstory.

Editor's Note: Originally published 30 July 2014.

10. “Bedlam in Belgium”
(Flick of the Switch, 1983)

This is a massively underrated barnstormer from the boys off the much-maligned (unfairly, I think) Flick of the Switch. The album was missing Mutt Lange, but the Youngs did have his very capable engineer, Tony Platt, as co-producer in the studio at Compass Point in the Bahamas. Tony’s a real pro. I think he did a perfectly fine job on this album, which also features the slamming “Nervous Shakedown”.

But what I find most interesting about “Bedlam in Belgium” is that it’s based on a fracas that broke out on stage in Kontich, Belgium, in 1977, involving Bon Scott, the rest of the band, and the local authorities. AC/DC had violated a noise curfew and things got hairy.

Yet Brian Johnson, more than half a decade later, wrote the lyrics with such insight; almost as if he was the one getting walloped by the Belgian police: He gave me a crack in the back with his gun / Hurt me so bad I could feel the blood run. Cracking lyrics, Bon-esque. Unfortunately for Brian, he was removed from lyric-writing duties from The Razors Edge (1990) onwards. All songs up to and including 2008’s Black Ice are Young/Young compositions.

Who’ll be writing the songs on the new album AC/DC has been working on in Vancouver? AC/DC fans can’t wait to hear them. Nor can I.

9. “Spellbound”
(For Those About to Rock We Salute You, 1981)

"Spellbound" really stands as a lasting monument to the genius of Mutt Lange, a man whose finely tuned ear and attention to detail filed the rough edges of Vanda & Young–era AC/DC and turned this commercially underperforming band for Atlantic Records into one of the biggest in the world. On “Spellbound” AC/DC sounds truly majestic. Lange just amplifies their natural power an extra notch. It’s crisp sounding, laden with dynamics and just awesome when Angus launches into his solo.

“Spellbound” is the closer on For Those About to Rock We Salute You, the last album Lange did with AC/DC, so chronologically it’s a significant song; it marks the end of an important era. For Those About to Rock was an unhappy experience for a lot of people. There was a lot of blood being spilled behind the scenes. It went to number one in the US but commercially was a massive disappointment after the performance of Back in Black. Much of the blame lies at the feet of Atlantic Records, then under Doug Morris, who made the decision to exhume an album they’d shelved in 1976, Dirty Deeds Done Dirt Cheap, and release it in-between Back in Black and For Those About to Rock.

In the book Phil Carson, who signed AC/DC to Atlantic, calls it “one of the most crass decisions ever made by a record-company executive” and believes it undermined sales of For Those About to Rock.

8. “Down Payment Blues”
(Powerage, 1978)

This is one of the best songs off Powerage -- perhaps the high point of Bon Scott as a lyricist -- but also significant for its connection to “Back in Black”. There are key lines in it: Sitting in my Cadillac / Listening to my radio / Suzy baby get on in / Tell me where she wanna go / I'm living in a nightmare / She's looking like a wet dream / I got myself a Cadillac / But I can't afford the gasoline.

Bon loved writing about Cadillacs. He mentions them in “Rocker” off the Australian version of TNT and the international release of Dirty Deeds Done Dirt Cheap: Got slicked black hair / Skin tight jeans / Cadillac car and a teenage dream.

Then you get to “Back in Black”. Bon’s dead but the lyrics have this spooky connection to “Down Payment Blues”: Back in the back / Of a Cadillac / Number one with a bullet, I’m a power pack.

Why was Brian singing about riding around in Cadillacs? He’d just joined AC/DC, wasn’t earning a lot and was on his best behavior. Bon had a reason to be singing about money. He was writing all the songs and just had a breakthrough album with Highway to Hell. Which begs the question: Could Bon also have written or part written the lyrics to “Back in Black”?

Bon’s late mother Isa said in 2006: “The last time we saw him was Christmas ’79, two months before he died. [Bon] told me he was working on the Back in Black album and that that was going to be it; that he was going to be a millionaire.”

7. “You Shook Me All Night Long”
(Back in Black, 1980)

Everyone knows and loves this song; it’s played everywhere. Shania Twain and Celine Dion have covered it. It’s one of AC/DC’s standbys. But who wrote it?

Former Mötley Crüe manager Doug Thaler is convinced Bon Scott, who’d passed away before the album was recorded, being replaced by Brian Johnson, wrote the lyrics. In fact he told me, “You can bet your life that Bon Scott wrote the lyrics to ‘You Shook Me All Night Long’.” That’s a pretty strong statement from a guy who used to be AC/DC’s American booking agent and knew the band intimately. I look into this claim in some depth in the book and draw my own conclusions.

I’m convinced Bon wrote it. In my opinion only Bon would have written a line like “She told me to come but I was already there.” Brian never matched the verve or wit of Bon in his lyrics and it’s why I think so much of AC/DC’s mid-'80s output suffers even when the guitar work of the Youngs was as good as it ever was.

But what’s also really interesting about this song in light of the recent hullabaloo over Taurus and Led Zeppelin is how much the opening guitar riff sounds similar to Head East’s “Never Been Any Reason”. I didn’t know a hell of a lot about Head East before I started working on this book, but came across “Never Been Any Reason” in the process of doing my research and was blown away when I heard it for the first time. AC/DC opened for Head East in Milwaukee in 1977. So the two bands crossed paths.

6. “Rock ’N’ Roll Damnation”
(Powerage, 1978)

It’s hard to get my head around the fact Mick Wall, the British rock writer and author of AC/DC: Hell Ain’t a Bad Place to Be, called this “a two-bit piece of head-bopping guff.” Not sure what track he was listening to when he wrote that -- maybe he was having a bad day -- but for me it’s one of the last of AC/DC’s classic boogie tracks and probably the best.

Mark Evans loves it almost as much as he loves “Highway to Hell". It has everything you want in an AC/DC song plus shakers, tambourines and handclaps, a real Motown touch that George Young and Harry Vanda brought to bear on the recording. They did something similar with the John Paul Young hit “Love Is in the Air”. Percussion was an underlying feature of many early AC/DC songs. This one really grooves. I never get tired of hearing it.

“Rock ’n’ Roll Damnation” was AC/DC’s first hit in the UK charts and a lot of the credit has to go to Michael Klenfner, best known as the fat guy with the moustache who stops Jake and Elwood backstage in the final reel of The Blues Brothers and offers them a recording contract. He was senior vice-president at Atlantic at the time, and insisted the band go back and record a radio-worthy single after they delivered the first cut of Powerage to New York.

Michael was a real champion of AC/DC behind the scenes at Atlantic, and never got the recognition he was due while he was still alive (he passed away in 2009). He ended up having a falling out with Atlantic president Jerry Greenberg over the choice of producer for Highway to Hell and got fired. But it was Klenfner who arguably did more for the band than anyone else while they were at Atlantic. His story deserves to be known by the fans.

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