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Five Points Festival: Comics, Designer Toys and Missed Cat-opportunities

By | May 26th, 2017
Posted in Longform | % Comments
One Alley of the Five Points Festival's Artist Alley

If the mess of badges hanging from my bookshelf are to be believed, I have been going to New York Comic Con since 2011. It was a very different set up at that time. I remember Artist Alley being located on the actual show floor, albeit still somewhat in the back. In the following years, it has been moved to a side wing of the Javits Center to a place that can only be described as a airplane hanger with about 200 bathrooms. Seriously – there are bathrooms like every five feet along the walls, it is crazy. Here we find the creators of those comic books we love oh so much. Writers, artists, people looking to show you their new self published book, people who have made it and people trying to make it (I am sure if you squint or look hard enough I think they even allow colorist and letterers in as well). This, to me, is and has always been NYCC.

I understand the business and dynamics of the show, and the industry, have changed greatly. I get why movies and TV have pushed themselves to the forefront of the convention. However, of late, it has felt like something is missing for me, even though it is literal crammed with everything you could think of. So what could be missing? This might come off as complaining or some sort of misguided nerd rage. It’s not that, well maybe a little, but I’m the one writing this. You might also be wondering what does this have to do with anything. Im getting to it. NYCC is what it is, and as Andrew MacLean (“Head Lopper,” “ApocalyptiGirl”)  put it when I talked to his the past weekend at this past NYCC: “it’s too big to fail.” I find myself looking for something different. Cue Five Points Festival (see I brought it around).

This year marked the debut of the Five Points Festival. Describe as “a collision of toys, comics, and counterculture curated by Clutter Magazine and presented by Midtown Comics.” The event took place over two days at Pier 36 in New York’s Lower East Side. Let me take it back to NYCC again quick – I will be doing that a lot so get used to it. In addition to Artist Alley, my second favorite part of NYCC is the area called The Block. This is where you can find designer toys, hand made local goods, and cool counterculture items you wont find on the rest of the floor. So, when I heard about Five Points Festival which was going to mix these two areas I knew I had to go.

Getting to the show I took the bus into Port Authority. From there I had to grab the F train down to East Broadway. At this point it was a quick walk down to the pier. Already the walk over you could get the sense this show had much more of a New York feel. Walking past towering apartment complexes, basketball courts, super small parks, and an insane amount of people running and riding their bikes gave me a far more genuine feeling than I get trudging out to Javits. When I got to the pier you could look up and see yourself sandwiched between between the Williamsburg Bridge and Manhattan Bridge. Inside it was bright and full of life. The festival actually took place where Basketball City is held, so you could look up and see scoreboards everywhere. More so, I instantly felt at home. It was Artist Alley and it was The Block but combined and it was awesome. It was everything I wanted.

Outside with food trucks and craft beer.

At the front of the building were some vendors, Midtown Comics with their army of people handing out 20 percent off coupons, and some indie video game developers. When I say indie I really mean Indie. It was cool to see them talking to people playing their games and inviting others over. The next section was the cluster of what you might see at The Block. Custom toys, designer toys, vinyl and plastic figures. Local retailers with handmade items and counter culture retailers. Each booth contained an insanely awesome new toy I wanted, but I happened to be with my wife who did not accept my 100 dollars for a toy is a deal argument. It was a joy to see this group of fans. There was a great sense of appreciation and respect for the toys, and you could see the fans who were pumped to see these tables. I talked to Ricardo Lopez Ortiz (“Civil War II: Kingpin,” “Wolf”) who noted it was a “pretty good set up. I like the designer toys idea…most other cons don’t really do that aside from mainstream toys.” From the cons I have been to, he is right. While you will definitely see designer toys, they are surely not the focus of the show like they were at Five Points.

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Next was Artist Alley: rows of booths filled with some great creative talent. People like Peter David, Andrew MacLean, Annie Wu, Ben Templesmith, Ivan Brandon, James Tynion IV, Joe Harris, Khary Randolph, Ronald Wimberly, Sean Gordon Murphy, Ricardo Lopez Ortiz, Cliff Chiang and many more. If you have ever been to a convention you know the deal. The show also highlighted signings at the Midtown Booth with Greg Capullo, Scott Snyder, Dan Slott, Mike Hawthorne, Matthew Rosenberg, Bryan Lee O’Malley and Nick Spencer that were all free.

For a first time show, it pulled it some pretty well rounded group of creators. I was stoked that Mike Henderson (“Nailbiter”) was there. Mike said the closest he has been to a show in New York was Rhode Island. Mike stated he had “been slammed all morning. When I talked to him about the type of traffic he was getting he said “a lot of “Nailbiter” fans.” With it being a smaller show, it was a bit easier to navigate and there were far fewer lines to see your favorite creator. I noticed a lot of conversations being had between fan and creator.

With a show focused mainly on comics and toys, the attendees seemed to be more focused and educated on the creators in attendance. MacLean said it seemed to be “an original art and art-centric show, with a lot of people getting sketches and art.”

Outside, you could find a selection of food trucks and craft breweries. It was nice to step outside and feel like you were in New York. Again talking to MacLean, we discussed how much it felt like New York and it really set a great tone for the convention. Andrew said, “I really really like it, I like the vibe of it.”

At NYCC, Javits is on the outer edges of the city, there is always construction going on (seriously for like 5 years now) and nothing that reminds you that you’re in one the worlds greatest cities. Also people vaping. Maybe I missed it at Five Points, but I did not see anyone vaping. NYCC is like New Vape City.

Maybe some people remember, a few years ago NYCC tried to do a show like this called Special Edition NYCC. I went, and it was great. It was exactly what I personally wanted out of a convention. I talked to Magdalene Visaggio (“Kim and Kim,” “Quantum Teens Are A Go”) and we both shared our love for Special Edition. She noted it being a great place for an up and coming creator to get the exposure in a setting like NYCC. It was eventually discontinued and I imagine those resources were funneled back into the main show. That show is what Five Points Festival felt like this year.

I was only able to attend Saturday because having a 3 and half year old and a 2 year means me and my wife don’t get to be away anywhere for more than a day. That said, I felt like I got what I wanted out of the experience in a day. I had enough time to talk and visit with creators, stare at toys I can never own, and enjoy a nice relaxing convention experience. I did not feel rushed or when I left have the feeling I missed something or maybe I did not get to see everything. I was able to take in the whole experience when I was there.

So what did Five Points Festival get right? I loved the mix of comics, toys, and food/beer. It felt like the perfect cross section of interests shared by anyone who likes one or the either. It felt genuine and real.  The focus was on the creators and the toys. Cliff Chiang (“Paper Girls”, “Wonder Woman”) noted it was “cool to see the mix of designer toys and comics. These are all the things I love to see when I go to cons myself. I love seeing the passion that goes into the toy design and I feel like there is a lot of parallels with comics too.” I thought the location was great. Now, if it were to ever grow it may be a problem but Pier 36 very much played to the tone of the festival. The crowd was great. People there seemed to understand each other. Every creator I talked to said they did not know what to expect going in and every single one was happy with the turnout and the experience.

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Where did it go wrong? Even with all the things about NYCC that I dislike, I don’t think they go wrong either. For every huge Walking Dead panel I rolls my eyes at, another person is shaping their whole convention schedule around that. So what would I like to see out Five Points in the future is probably a better question: panels. I think in the future, panels would be a great fit for this show. A show so focused on the art of comics and toys having a forum to talk to those individuals about them would be perfect.

As someone who loves designer toys, I want to know more about how they are made, the culture behind them and maybe a reasonable excuse I can then use to convince my wife 100 dollars for a vinyl figure is normal. Being there only one day, I felt I had a great experience. I could see the second day being too much without additional things to do like panels. Everything will grow in time.

A quick aside to where I went wrong. Five Points was right near the Meow Parlour and I didn’t even realize it. That’s my bad for sure. Sorry kitties!

Annie Wu and Cliff Chiang at their booths

So is this the new NYCC? Is this the real comic con for real comic fans? Nah. Well ok, first question, no it’s not the new NYCC because it is not trying to be. They specifically state that is not what this show is. They delivered on exactly what they promised. Is it the real comic con for real comic fans? That is a dumb question too, who thought these up? Me, ah fuck. Maybe it is, I don’t know. Its a show with comics that gives time and space to those comic creators. So in that sense, sure. There is no focus on movies or TV. There are no celebrity signing booths or Capcom booths. There are conventions all over the US that focus on comics just like this one because they want to. What made this experience one worth having was being in the city and at a show that felt like it was a New York City show.

The ultimate verdict comes down to will I be back next year. Drum roll please. BRRRRRRRRRRRR Fuck yeah, I will be back. I am excited to see where Five Points Festival can grow and what it can do to find its place in a city that every October is over taken by the giant that is New York City Comic Con. It’s also again not fair to continue to compare it to NYCC because like I said it is not that. There are several comic shows in the city. However Five Points Festival feels like it has the best chance at filling the gap between the juggernaut that is NYCC and the smaller indie focused shows we also see in the city. The more chances for fans to get out and go experience a convention the better.

Also next year I wont miss the Meow Parlour.

Walking into the Five Points Festival

Creators Who Helped Out with this Article

Cliff Chiang: Twitter

Andrew MacLean: Twitter

Ricardo Lopez Ortiz: Twitter

Mike Henderson: Twitter

Magdalene Visaggio: Twitter

Kyle Welch