Kathleen O' Donnell / Uncategorized

Learning the Ropes at Comic-Con (Kathleen O’Donnell)

I never really cared about comic books. Yes, I thought Batman was awesome and that Superman was a charmer, but I didn’t actually know anything about their histories. Apart from Hollywood films, they never crossed my path. Then one day, everything changed.

At the end of September, I received a newsletter from my honors college calling for students interested in learning television production basics with local PBS station WNET/Thirteen. This was the chance I’d been looking for — to gain experience in television without taking a boring “this is iMovie” course. It was a chance to work in the field. The clincher? The project would allow me to cover New York Comic Con. I may not have known what I was getting myself into, but Comic Con!? I was in.

I sent my application materials and interviewed. In a few short days, I learned that I had gotten the job and was propelled onto a grueling path to finally getting my foot in the door of broadcasting. Four intense training sessions and then, all of a sudden, it was Thursday October 13th, day one of Comic Con. I was ready to start my new job as a Production Assistant. Well, I thought I was ready. Walking into the doors of the Jacob Javits Convention Center, I was instantly overwhelmed. And this was just the beginning. The only people allowed at the convention on Thursday were professionals, exhibitors, press and 4-day pass holders, but it was packed. I haphazardly met up with an associate producer who dumped a tripod in my hands and we were off.

I entered the showroom floor only to be transported to another dimension. From floor to 50-foot-high ceiling, I could only see stuff. With my mouth hanging open, I gazed at walls of T-shirts with superhero logos, Star Wars characters and lots of Doctor Whos. Booth after booth of Japanese toys, old comic books and gamers lining to test new prototypes covered thousands of square feet. How could I not have known that these pop cultures industries could offer so much stuff to buy and play and wear? This entire subset of American culture was completely lost on me. All I could think to do was shut my mouth and get to work.

Our more specific assignment was to cover local artists, comic writers and illustrators from the greater tri-state or metro area. Over the next few days I fought my way through the crowds (in the thousands each day) carrying equipment and taking notes. I spent all of Saturday shut up in the press office writing articles about a few artists and a writer I had the pleasure of interviewing earlier that morning. By far the most interesting experience was spending hours fighting my way into the Avengers panel that evening — the one place everyone wanted to be. After finally getting in, thanks to my fellow PA’s connections, I couldn’t believe how excited I was. Just a few days before, if someone had asked me to name the mighty Marvel Avengers, I would have drawn a blank. But there I was, screaming my head off when the cast walked on the stage. Comic Con was transforming me into a fan.

I had planned for four intense days without sleep: shooting, editing, collaborating, the works, but my producers were gracious enough to let me go free much earlier than expected each night. Maybe the life of a PA wasn’t so bad? I’ll try and remember that at my next job when I’m holding a boom pole above my head for three hours straight. Getting the chance to work at Comic Con was not only a learning experience in TV production, but also a real lesson in pop culture. Now I can name all of the Avengers, I certainly know the difference between Marvel and DC superheroes and I also met the amazing citizens of far off world.


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