Sometimes I have to remind myself, when I think about all the comic book and comic book-adjacent conventions around the world, that I’m lucky to be able to count the number of such events that I’ve attended on both hands. No, I haven’t been to San Diego Comic-Con, the one that most people probably think of when they hear the phrase “Comic Con” because that’s the one with all the TV and movie stars. Nor have I been to the Angoulême International Comics Festival, although I’d really love to someday, and not just because a lovely French woman told me about how magical it is.
Yet I’ve lived most of my life close enough to New York City to be able to go to the formidably sized and attended New York Comic Con a handful of times, and for that I am grateful. And this year – nearly a year after I finally moved to the city myself – I was lucky enough to go to another NYC-based comics-adjacent convention, the first annual Five Points Festival in lower Manhattan.
The “five points” of the name are not just a reference to the historically significant neighborhood itself, but to the supposed focus of the convention, as described by the convention’s promotional materials: DESIGNER TOYS + COMICS + STREET ART + BEER + NYC.
While it was the comics element that attracted me to the convention, their representation was equaled, if not surpassed outright, by the toys. I won’t get into that too much here, though our own Russ Dobler already did a great job discussing it in his own article. I will say that as an outsider to that whole scene, it was pretty cool seeing the passion and creativity on display. I’m not familiar with any other conventions that celebrate designer toys to such a degree, but I’m glad that at least one exists.
As for the street art…well, I’ve never been entirely clear on what that even means. When I think of street art, I usually think of graffiti and murals, but most of the art that I found at Five Points was not what I would think of as being part of that genre. That’s not to say that it wasn’t impressive, because it was, but I can’t imagine any of it being out of place at the average comic con.
I’ve never been much of a beer guy, either, but a “beer garden” was advertised, and that is most certainly not what it was. The friend that I went with and I both agreed that it was more of a “beer shrub” than anything.
So that brings us to the main event—not for the event itself, but certainly for me—the comics. I was proud of myself for spending just $40 on comics throughout the entire weekend (for comparison’s sake, I usually spend around $20 on single issues after work every Wednesday), but that has a lot to do with the relatively small number of creators that were present at the convention.
I bought the Guardians of the Galaxy: Mission Breakout one-shot from writer Christopher Hastings, the Big Moose one-shot from co-writer Ryan Cady, Sensation Comics: Wonder Woman #13 from writer Amy Chu, and a trade paperback copy of The Wake from artist Sean Gordon Murphy (which I later got signed by Scott Snyder as well).
I had conversations with each of these creators, and many others. Frankly, that’s always been my favorite part about comic book conventions. How many other mediums have anything like artist alleys, where there is literally a room full of people who make the things that you love, just waiting for you to talk to them? Better yet, this particular event, because of the different vibe from the crowd, made it so much less overwhelming to try to meet your favorite creators.
It was a bit more difficult, for rather obvious reasons, to have a proper conversation with creators during the designated signings run by Midtown Comics, but still, it was thrilling to meet Scott Pilgrim creator and Snotgirl writer Bryan Lee O’Malley (it says a lot about the Five Points Festival that he came here despite rarely doing conventions), as well as the Batman and Dark Nights: Metal creative team of Scott Snyder and Greg Capullo.
It’s at this point that I should talk about the location chosen for the event itself. I’ve never been particularly good with special relations, but I’d say that it’s surface area was roughly comparable to that of a football field, plus an open area outside for. That left plenty of space to be sure (a considerable amount of which seemed to be unused, making me think that the event may not necessarily have been as popular among exhibitors as hoped), but Pier 36 is certainly not the Javits Center.
It was much less crowded than the New York Comic Con too, and as such, significantly less stressful. I was impressed by how relaxed the whole endeavor was, and I could easily carry on conversations without having to shout. The low-key atmosphere is likely thanks to the fact that this was very much a festival and not a convention. There were no panels to speak of, and a ticket for the signings meant that you were guaranteed a chance to meet people like Dan Slott and Nick Spencer, so there was little need to rush to get anywhere.
The downside to this, though, was that ultimately, there wasn’t a whole lot to do. After about four hours on Saturday eating from the food trucks, walking through every aisle, playing some indie video games, and of course, talking to some amazing comic book creators, I had essentially done everything that I wanted to do. I came back the next day just to get a few more things signed, try some other food trucks, and take advantage of my weekend pass, but there really wasn’t much reason for such a thing to exist.
Yet I still plan on coming back next year. Unless they significantly change the way the festival works, I may only go for one day, but I’m sure that’ll be a day full of good food, good people, and some great art.