• Dax J Martin-Cheeves

NYCC 2022 HIGHLIGHTS

ReedPOP returns to make a substantial impact for their biggest event of the year.



With the pandemic continuing to calm itself significantly since last year it was inevitable that ReedPOP would be facing an even bigger crowd of anticipated fans than before. My first time at New York Comic Con last year was a very memorable and milestone year. One would wonder whether this year would top it. The answer to that is a sounding yes in many significant ways. With a significant growth in attendees this year would have to be better especially when this year brought the return of San Diego Comic-Con (along with the return of Marvel Studios at Hall-H). ReedPOP would be a challenging task to give fans an equal and strong event that would help even the playing field. While Marvel did return to NYCC it was not on the same level as SDCC previously. The good news is that DC Comics made their presence known at this year's event with the return of legendary artist and CCO of DC Comics Jim Lee there along with the cast of TITANS, DOOM Patrol, and the cast from the upcoming movie "BATMAN and SUPERMAN: Battle of the Super Sons which fans attending that panel got a first full look at the movie followed by a Q&A with that cast.

But what really helped solidify this year's event was the presence of anime and gaming. NYCC provided fans with highly anticipated appearances and world premieres that had the community buzzing all over.

So much so that major news outlets like TMZ, PEOPLE, Entertainment Tonight, ACCESS just to name a few covered the emotional reunion of Michael J. Fox and Christopher Loyd during their Back to the Future panel.

This was indeed a major win for the company and the type of PR you want unlike last year with ANIME NYC who received a lot of negative press due to their lack of organization with lines and reports that claimed the new Covid variant known as "Omicron" was spread during that event which was also in the Javits Center where NYCC is held. We later learned that studies discovered that ANIME NYC was not a super spreader that we were made to believe. ReedPOP had to make sure that they would not have any of those issues during their event and they achieved it with an organized system that allowed attendees to get in smoothly not only for entrance into the con itself but also the major panels which they used the reservation system giving fans a "first come, first serve" format. Those who reserved were able to go into the Main Stage and Empire Stage (their version of SDCC's Ballroom 20 and HALL-H) and guarantee a good seat close to the stage. Those who didn't reserve would have to wait in the standby lines hoping to get in. The Empire Stage area can hold up to one thousand people, which fits everyone in. Whether you reserved the panels or not they were must see as well as everything that went on during those four days. But what really kicked NYCC off was the debut of everyone's favorite plumbers making it to the big screen.


SUPER MARIO MOVIE TRAILER PANEL (EMPIRE STAGE)

Never in my wildest dreams did I think I would be sitting front row in a huge exhibit hall to watch a Nintendo Direct live along with hundreds of fans as we watch Shigeru Miyamoto introduce the world (live simulcast) to the debut of the much-anticipated "Super Mario Bros. Movie" starring Chris Pratt (Mario), Charlie Day (Luigi), Keegan Michael Key (Toad), Anne Taylor Joy (Princess Peach), and Jack Black (Bowser).

But that is what happened, and the results led to fans in the Empire Stage giving an electrifying response to the trailer which saw Bowser and his crew take down an army of pinguins (seen in MARIO 64) and him retrieving the Invincible star. We then see Mario fall into the Mushroom Kingdom where he bumps into Toad. The mushroom headed hero leads Mario to his destiny and then the logo appears along a scene showing Luigi running from Skeleton Koppas followed by the premiere date of April 7, 2023. The trailer was met with a rockstar level response normally heard during trailers for Marvel Studios films. But that was not all for those attending. We got a surprise appearance by none other than Bowser himself Jack Black who took the time to talk a little about his role in the movie and his love for the game growing up.


The panel was a success, and it was topped with everyone who attended getting a commemorative T-shirt which has Bowsers hand in the front and the logo in the back along with the NYCC logo on the side. To say that this panel was a mega-success is an understatement. Like the Back to the Future panel this was all over gaming media with most of it being positive results. The one issue some had was the fact that Chris Pratt took over as the voice of Mario. Tara Pratt voiced her disdain for the idea and wanted her friend and iconic voice of Mario, Charles Martinet, to get the role many feel he deserves. Charles Martinet is cast to be in the movie but it is unknown what role he will play in the movie at this time so many could be in for a surprise when the movie arrives.

It should be noted that Chris Pratt will be the fourth actor to voice the role with everyone's favorite Autobot leader Peter Cullen (Optimus Prime) being the first to voice Mario in the 1983's Donkey Kong cartoon (as a part of CBS's Saturday Supercade), followed by the late great legendary wrestling manager Capt. Lou Albano playing and voicing the role in 1989's Super Mario Bros. Super Show, and Martinet voicing the character and becoming the iconic voice in 1992.


SUPER MARIO BROS. PANEL GALLERY


ONE PIECE FILM RED PANEL (EMPIRE STAGE)


Anime fans attending this panel got a real treat as they witnessed the appearances of the people behind one of the most popular anime series of this era in One Piece. Crunchyroll invited One Piece director Goro Taniguchi, producer Hiroaki Shibata, and executive producer Shinji Shimizu to celebrate the upcoming One-Piece Film Red coming to theaters everywhere on Nov. 4th. Along with the crew from Japan we also saw the appearance of the English cast of One-Piece including Chris Sabat (Zoro), Ian Sinclair (Brook), Luci Christian (Nami), Sonny Strait (Usopp) and Colleen Clinkenbeard (Luffy) to talk about what to expect from their characters in the movie. Fans who attended also got a first look at the English dub trailer for the movie.

A fun and entertaining panel which felt like a once in a lifetime moment when we got to see the Japanese Crew and American cast come together. A great panel that followed up with a very memorable night in Time Square.


ONE PIECE PANEL GALLERY


ONE PIECE FILM RED TIME SQUARE DISPLAY


The celebration for One Piece was far from over. Just hours after the panel Crunchyroll gave word that there would be a huge display advertising the coming of the featured film in Time Square. This is a huge deal for not only One Piece but also anime in its entirety. This display shown in one of the world's most prominent tourist districts once again proves the level of mainstream popularity of the anime industry which some denied its value.

Thanks to members of the A.C.M.G. Facebook group I was made aware are this event and made sure to be present to witness this milestone moment. This was also a great chance for my wife and I to check out the scene while hanging out on the infamous red bleachers in Time Square where many witnessed countless performances from music's and Broadway's best during segments on the TODAY show and GMA as well as the NEW YEARS EVE celebration. We were dead center in the direction of the display that would show our favorite Straw Hat gang appear in front of hundreds of people walking in the square. We arrived at the scene an hour ahead of schedule as I suspected that many would be attending this event looking to get a good spot.


Thanks to a very entertaining group of cosplayers at the top of the bleachers while holding a Straw Hat pirate flag we were able to find and get a great spot where all the action took place.

It was there we were in the middle of singing cosplay pirates blaring the theatrical and opening theme soundtrack to One Piece as we all waited patiently for the display. Time Square was packed as if it was Jan 31st. Along with the premiere of the display there were other events going on as well but there was an "Otaku" presence followed by the chanting of "ONE PIECE" and the appearance of Goro Taniguchi, Hiroaki Shibata, and Shinji Shimizu all there to bear witness to the presentation as well. All be it short and sweet, it did not disappoint. The sight of it was just surreal. Up until the last few years of doing the podcast and working on A.C.M.G. I always wondered how far this industry would get with an American audience. This presentation spoke volumes of that and while this is not the first-time anime has made a big appearance on a New York milestone event (we can't forget the GOKU float at the Macy's Thanksgiving parade) this continues to show the ever-growing (and billion dollars earning) popularity that this industry is having in pop culture.



FUN FACT: While there I managed to bump into the Japanese cast where I was able to grab a pic with the Marine loving Shimizu-san. The person behind my camera was producer Shibata-san. While not the best picture taken on my camera it's significant and will hold value to the moment and the memory.


One Piece wasn't the only anime to receive rockstar status that day. There was another.

BLEACH: THOUSAND YEAR BLOOD WAR PANEL

Another major panel came in the form of the returning popular anime BLEACH which premiered its first episode to the highly anticipated series.



Last year I had the pleasure of hosting the BLEACH virtual panel for ReedPOP's "Popverse" (formally known as the "Metaverse") starring main cast members Johnny Young Bosch, Stephanie Sheh, and Michelle Ruff as we talked a little about this new series and more. While they didn't say (or couldn't say due to NDA and such) speak on whether they were reprising their roles we did discuss the excitement for the coming of this new series. But one thing remained clear, we were all excited to see this and now we finally did. Those who attended the panel got our first look at the premiere episode which is now airing on HULU. The panel before the showing of the episode was fun as they provided fans with a BLEACH themed cosplay contest, and everyone enjoyed it. The reaction from the audience was electric. With fans cheering for the introduction of Ichigo, Orihime, Chad, and Uryū Ishida as it felt like we were watching Avengers Endgame. Kudos to the production of the episode that really nailed it knowing how fans would react. Being in a fully packed huge exhibit hall (not one seat empty) watching an anime was an experience I will never forget.

I've been to movie theaters to watch world premiere anime movies before as well as smaller conventions that showed anime on a panel before, but this was unlike anything I ever seen before. The crowd cheering was so intense, and the excitement was exuberating one could hardly contain their emotion in the mist of this moment. It was there that I knew this was something special. When I arrived home and finally settled down, I decided to watch the episode again on HULU. While the obvious element of hundreds of fans behind me watching and cheering was missing, in the words of Metalica, the memory remains as I felt that moment again when watching that scene and instantly reminisced those great moments in the Empire Stage.

OSCAR ISAAC PANEL


In what many considered as the marquee panel of the event. The one and only star of Star Wars and Moon Knight guest starred to talk about his experience working on both projects. As expected, Oscar was very captivating, and the crowd ate it up. Of all the panels that I had the time to check out this was the only one to provide a few minutes of fan Q&A's. Along with the discussion of his work on Moon Knight and Star Wars fans got to see his latest project as he (along with writer Brian Buccellato and artist Christian Ward) introduces their new graphic novel called "Head Wounds: Sparrow" complete with a trailer and discussion on what to expect. To no one's surprise this was yet another packed crowd in the Empire Stage with fans there to see their favorite hero complete with Moon Knight cosplayers all around the hall. Isaac came off as a complete class act throughout the panel and even gave fist bumps and autographed a fan's Funko Pop before leaving the event.


OSCAR ISAAC GALLERY



OVERALL:


Another fantastic year for the people of ReedPOP who once again should be commended for the challenging work that went into this. While not all perfect NYCC made a strong impression that events like these are here to stay post pandemic and should only get better from here. With the return of Marvel back at the helm one can only hope that we will see improved things in the company. The east coast has been hungering for that west coast experience and NYCC is on the path to taking the throne once again.

My compliments to the staff and volunteers that helped make this event an exceptionally smooth and flowing process throughout the four days, especially when it came to entry into the convention which went off without any issues. While I did hear from friends regarding some issues with the autograph and photo op set ups it's safe to say that is something that can be troubleshooted for next year. Considering that is the only issue I heard about is a plus and a win. It will be interesting to see how they will follow up with what they accomplished already.


If you aren't convinced by the video and images shown here that NYCC is a must for all fans of A.C.M.G. I don't know what will convince you. NYCC is an event that all should go out of their way to go to and enjoy. GRADE: A