About 12 years ago, my older sister showed me a photo of her and husband with their two young sons at a Star Wars fan convention, their family flanked by an old man in a brown robe on one side and a younger dude with a big glow stick on the other. One of my nephews wore a Power Ranger costume and the other was obscured by a Darth Vader mask. My sister was smiling like she had never had so much fun in her life. I will never do that, I remember thinking. I will never pay actual money to spend even an hour of my life inside a depressing convention hall surrounded by plastic merch and adults wearing costumes. What had happened to my sister? She used to be so hip and cool.
Fast-forward 11 years, and this weekend I’ll be dressing in a bizarre black and red cloak that my son tells me is the signature outfit of the Akatsuki clan in the manga and anime series Naruto and heading to a giant convention center for the Anime Fest at the 2018 New York Comic Con. The worst part? I’m pretty stoked about it.
While my twin sons never caught their cousins’ Star Wars bug, there is plenty for young George Lucas fans to be excited about at this weekend-long festival of, well, plastic merch and adults in costumes. At the Star Wars Fan Club Experience, kids can learn how to wield lightsabers from Jedis, create the next R2-D2 with the Droid Builders, and customize their armor with the Mandalorian Mercs. And, of course, you’ll be able to take family pics with Obi-Wan Kenobi and Luke Skywalker.
If your kids are into comics, they can meet the artists behind all of their favorite titles at the Artist Alley and, in some cases, even commission a customized illustration (like these or this) starring themselves as a superhero. Publishers including DC World, MGM, and Monarch Comics will have interactive booths with more comics and comic-related paraphernalia than you’ll be able to wrap your heads around.
And then there are the panels, such as the Riverdale Cast Interview with the stars of the Archie-based show; the Outlander Cast Interview; the Official Shonen Jump Panel with the voice actors behind Boruto; DC World’s Finest, where top comics illustrators talk about their process; Pop-Up Wizardry, where you can learn how to make 3-D books, like the new Harry Potter: A Pop-Up Guide to Hogwarts; Pokémon Feud, a Family Feud–style trivia game for Pikachu nerds; and a Create Your Own Comic Book workshop for kids led by professional graphic novelists and illustrators.
Though the bulk of the Comic Con panels, exhibitors, and events is at the Javits Center, my family will be headed to Pier 94 at West 54th Street for all the anime action. According to official sources, the Anime Fest “celebrates anime, manga, cosplay, artists, J-pop, delicious food, and more in Japanese culture.” Sounds fun, right? I can get down with Japanese culture, even if I have no idea who I’m dressed up as.
The best part of the whole production, though, is what I had originally disdained the most: the costumes. Cosplay is no put-on-cat-ears-and-paint-on-whiskers kind of thing, so it will be worth the ticket price just to see the elaborate, breathtaking, and wonderfully ridiculous getups.
And, yes, to fully enjoy the experience, parents should dress up, too. In fact, get your whole clan outfitted as the Teen Titans and show up on Saturday morning at 10:15 at the Hammerstein Ballroom for the Cartoon Network Costume Contest, which includes awards for the best family costumes. The first 500 kids who come in costume get a prize.
The general Comic Con tickets (they’re called badges and they start at $53) are selling out fast, but you can join my family at the Anime Fest for $25 per badge, per day (and on Sunday, badges for kids ages 6 to 12 are only $10).
Not Into Tights? Here Are 5 Other Fun Things to Do This Saturday That Don’t Require a Costume:
- Settle in for story time with author David Ezra Stein at Greenlight Bookstore in Fort Greene as he reads his new book, Interrupting Chicken and the Elephant of Surprise.
- Let your kids know you expect their artwork to be hung in one of the finest museums in the world when you visit the exhibition “P.S. Art 2018: Celebrating the Creative Spirit of New York City Kids” at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. The show features the work of hundreds of pre-K through 12th grade public school students.
- Remind the littles to wash their hands at the fascinatingly gross exhibition “Germ City” at the Museum of the City of New York.
- Bring all your single toddlers to Brooklyn Bowl in Williamsburg, because the Rock and Roll Playhouse is presenting the music of Beyoncé.
- Book a 45-minute session at the Brooklyn Children’s Museum’s new family design studio, the ColorLab, to learn hands-on about the artistic processes of African-American, Afro-Caribbean, and African contemporary artists.