ML @ New York Comic Con 2009.

Kid Flash and Solomon Grundy stood behind me in line for the coat check posing for pictures. For every picture, Grundy threw out his arms and roared. It takes a lot to get a New Yorker’s attention, but after the second or third roar, I had to turn around and get a proper look at the guy; his hands and face were painted white and he was wearing a suit with an unbuttoned shirt revealing a white chest. His costume was meticulously detailed from head to toe. The only unavoidable breach of character was the giant kid-in-a-candy-store grin on his face.

Comic Con is where thousands of people come to celebrate their niche interests. And not just comics, but video games, anime and anything else that has ever been decried as “nerdy.” If you call something nerdy at Comic Con and you’re not being sarcastic, ironic or just a smart ass, then you’re the one who’s weird, not the guy dressed as Captain America. Comic Con is where the uncool are honored.

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This was my first Comic Con, so I hit up the exhibitor hall not knowing what to expect and feeling important with my press badge. The first booth I visited was Rockstar’s, who were showing Grand Theft Auto: Chinatown Wars for DS. I only got a little time with it, but make no mistake; it plays like you would expect a GTA game to play, only scaled down for the DS. I was surprised at how good the graphics are; I was expecting it to look more like the Game Boy Advance Grand Theft Auto. The guys I met from Rockstar were very cool and I’m trying to get some more time with the game.

Sega had the best games of the show, but they were working the crowd Al Sharpton style, trying to draw as much attention as possible. It seemed like Sega was trying extra-hard to get their games as much exposure as possible, probably because the M-rated games they’re pushing on Wii are going to be a hard sell. MadWorld, an action game with a slick black and white with red blood art style, was the best game I played at the show. The over-the-top comic violence is great and the controls were simple and straightforward. House of the Dead: Overkill for Wii also has a great style, a low-budget horror movie vibe with lots of dark humor, but constantly aiming the controller at the screen to shoot the oncoming zombies was tiring on the wrist. This might have been less of a problem if the rumble on the Wii remote were turned down. I briefly played the much-talked-about first person shooter The Conduit and I liked what I saw, but I felt like I needed more time to get used to the controls. Before I left Sega, I got an autograph from Atsushi Inaba from Platinum Games, a designer on MadWorld and a lot of other awesome games from last generation.

I wandered around the floor for awhile and I met Gabe and Tycho from Penny Arcade. I was talking to Tycho about ML and he told me he had to stop reading Pitchfork because it made him too mad. That’s why you have to read ML, where it’s just fine wine and rhyme.

Having been on my feet for a few hours, I sat through a demonstration of Magic: The Gathering – Duels of the Planeswalkers, in which had no interest whatsoever. The guy demoing the game for me had to tell me which button to press at every instance because I don’t know anything about Magic. It was awkward but I stayed for a little bit because they had an awesome couch. I checked out Activision, EA and Ubisoft where there wasn’t much going on except a looping trailer for the new Ninja Turtles fighting game which has piqued my interest because it’s being developed by Game Arts (Super Smash Bros. Brawl) and some guys from Tecmo (Dead or Alive). Then I headed over to a panel with Todd Howard of Fallout 3 and and Ken Levine of Bioshock. They both had some interesting things to say about game development and the state of the games industry. Todd Howard kind of shat on the Wii toward the end which I did not appreciate.

Atari had a very strong showing and was the most accommodating. A lead programmer from Red Fly demoed Ghostbusters for Wii for me, which has a slick, distinct art style and looks like a lot of fun. He also fielded all my questions about Wii development and the process of getting a game picked up and published. He was telling me that it’s really hard to get a budget for a game right now and also that they had just recently gotten the SDK for Wii MotionPlus and were just beginning to play around with it. Atari also had a little bunker set up for The Chronicles of Riddick: Assault on Dark Athena, which a designer from Starbreeze demoed for me. Where Ghostbusters is bright and colorful, Riddick is dark and gritty. Riddick  has very clean and realistic graphics. I would need more time with the game to get a better idea of how it plays, but the game is a powerhouse from a technical standpoint.

It was about an hour and a half before the screening for the Futurama: Into The Wild Green Yonder DVD and I was worried it would fill up early, so I asked somebody how early I should go. All he said was, “Dude, it’s Futurama and it’s Comic Con.” I had seen most of what I wanted to see on the show floor already so I decided to chill in the theater until the screening. I was early, so I caught the end of a panel about an anime called Yatterman that’s being made into a live action movie. I watched about half of Futurama, got bored and left. I had a cold that had me sneezing and constantly wiping my nose Steve Urkel style so I decided to head home.

I know I said I had three days of fun planned, but I covered most of it on Friday and the walk from Penn Staiton to the Javits Center wasn’t helping my cold, so I skipped Saturday and Sunday. And I wasn’t sure if I was down to line up early enough to see the Watchmen and Up previews anyway (that’s  a lie, I really wanted to see both).

Comic Con is an amazing event full of interesting people and fun things to do, though I’m sure it’s more fun for those with a more vested interest in comics. Expect ML to hit Comic Con twice as strong next year. I think I’ll go dressed as Busta circa 1997.

Check out more of ML’s pictures from Comic Con here.

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