Celebrating the Unpopular Arts

The Vendors of New York Comic Con 2021

nycc 2021
Thursday at NYCC, entranceway. Artist’s Alley was bustling and not so deserted. The Exhibit floor was also busy but far more walkable than in recent years. photo by Corrina Lawson.

New York Comic Con Returns!

New York Comic Con returned on the second weekend of October 2021 in a newly revamped Javits Convention Center. Attendance came with a whole host of rules designed to protect vendors, guests, and attendees from the pandemic that has literally plagued the world for over 18 months now.

It was a good time, though not without anxiety, given the circumstances. The good news: the cap on attendance allowed for the least crowded NYCC that I’ve attended in years. That, in turn, provided more time for me to stroll through Artist’s Alley and allowed the Exhibit Floor to be much less of an obstacle course and more of the industry showcase that it should be.

The safety rules: Everyone who entered the convention center had to show proof of vaccination or a negative Covid-19 test from the last 72 hours. In practice, this meant stopping a block away from the Javits center, showing proof of vaccination or negative test, and being given a cloth wristband that could not be removed for the duration of the con. These wristbands were checked every time I entered the Javits Center.

Additionally, the wearing of masks was strictly enforced by con security. Vendors were kicked out for ignoring those rules, required not just by ReedPop, who runs the con, but New York City as well.

With all that, it still was great fun to be back at a con again. My walk of the Exhibit floor and Artist’s Alley reminded me of Thursdays from years past, when it was the most pleasant and least crowded day of New York Comic Con. (That ended when ReedPop started selling single-day Thursday tickets.)

I had ample time to wander all corners of the con and discover everything I wanted. I put together a list of my favorite vendors/booths that I encountered during NYCC. You’ll notice they ran the gamut from the Silver Age of Comics to modern comics to non-comics finds such as the tea and jewelry vendors.

Bottom line: I felt safe, I attended a few awesome panels (more on that in another post), and I came home with great swag.

The Vendors of New York Comic Con:

Harriet Tubman: Demon Slayer

Harriet Tubman Demon Slayer
Five issues in, and this is terrific.

Do you want a comic where Harriet Tubman slays racist slaveowner vampires while helping escapees on the Underground Railroad? That’s a trick question, really, because who would not want a comic like this? Harriet Tubman: Demon Slayer is the brainchild of David Crownson, with art by Courtland Ellis. The first issue begins with the escape of a family and builds through five issues toward Harriet’s eventual confrontation with the Big Bad, a vampire bounty hunter who’s intrigued at the idea of taking down someone as powerful as Harriet.

The characters are great, especially the escaping family, the action sequences move and flow, and this should become a television mini-series.

Jack Kirby Museum

Stuff Said book, one of the many displayed by the Kirby Museum at NYCC
The Kirby/Lee words about the creation of the Marvel Universe as we know it.

I don’t have to tell Atomic Junk Shop readers about Jack Kirby, but for the later generations, his story is fading. The Jack Kirby Museum, located in Hoboken, New Jersey, is dedicated to preserving Kirby’s legacy. They had various books related to Kirby’s career displayed at their booth. I picked up Stuff Said, a detailed exploration of who really created what in the Silver Age of Marvel Comics. It’s likely a book with a limited audience, but I ate it up with a spoon. It’s a great read for anyone interested in the nuts and bolts of Marvel Comics history.

I also picked up a Kirby Museum t-shirt. Because who wouldn’t want to wear a t-shirt with a giant-size Kirby galactic floating head?

Tea & Absinthe

Confession: I’ve bought their tea before. Tea & Absinthe, which specializes in fandom blend teas, has been a staple at my local con, ConnectiCon for years I love their choices of flavors, yes, but I especially love that their tea holds up to at least two steepings. Many teas that I’ve purchased lose their flavors too quickly. Their blends hold it.

I purchased a favorite, Irish Whiskey Cream, my son’s favorite, Tardis Eleven, and a new flavor: Salted Caramel Blend. They do mail orders as well, so check them out if you’re a tea person.

Cathleen Abalos

I’m not good at describing art that I like but, mostly, what I’m looking for is a mood that grabs me. Abalos’ work is romantic and lush, with a touch of whimsy. My son said it reminded him a bit of the mood created by Studio Ghibli in their movies. Not that Abalos’s artwork is similar–but it’s the wistful yet happy mood that’s the same. I’ve inserted several pieces below so you can judge for yourself. I plan to purchase a few more prints from her online store too.

Cathleen Abalos prints from NYCC.
Abalos is West Coat-based. This was her first time at NYCC. She did a very steady business and sold out of several prints. photo by Corrina Lawson

Sparkle! Designs

Geeky jewelry, how I’ve missed you! Yes, you can find lots of vendors on Etsy but I like to look at and feel jewelry before I buy it. Sparke! Designs offered designs from many fandoms, everything from theater nerds to books (Camp Half-Blood), to superheroes, to Disney, to classics.

I ended up with a bracelet engraved with “What is grief but love persevering?” a Pitch Perfect charm necklace engraved with “I love you awesome nerds,” and nerdy necklaces for three of my four kids. (Not specifying those because one is a Christmas present.)

There is an online site, of course. Follow the link above.

Note on the presence of Sparkle!: they’re only the second vendor specializing in custom-made fandom jewelry I’ve encountered at NYCC. The last was Badali Jewelry, who was not at this show. I want to see more jewelry vendors at the next con. I realize there’s a space issue but this is a growing segment of fandom. Sparkle was doing a brisk business while I was there.

Next for NYCC: A report on the panels!


  1. Edo Bosnar

    Re: “racist slaveowner vampires.” The more I roll the term around in my mind, the more it seems to contain a bunch of redundancies…

    Otherwise, though, sounds like a pretty nice con experience. (One of my big regrets in life was never attending a con back in the ’80s/very early ’90s when I was still living in the US and before the major ones became monster mass-media events.)

  2. JHL

    I worked as a vendor at Anime cons for a couple of years before finally retiring due to disability and while it was a lot of fun (and not quite the same scene but a lot of overlap) I can’t say I’m surprised that some people in that business were kicked out due to ignoring mask rules. Sigh.

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