By 2013, it will be a decade since attending a comic book show in a church.
I'm not sure why that is - if anyone out there knows of any shows/conventions in NYC set at churches, feel free to chime in. How about Temples? Mosques? Scientology Centers?
The last church show I attended was at 9th street and 9th avenue, at St. Paul Church, on the same block as my college, John Jay College of Criminal Justice (shameless alumni plug). Between 1999 and 2003, there were about 15 Big Apple Con shows held there before Big Apple moved to the Penn Plaza Pavilion across the street from Madison Square Garden - where it stayed until it became Wizard World Big Apple Con in 2009. 1998-2003 were my college years, so the juggling of the Saturday class schedules were the stuff of Blake Edwards movies. Sit in class, class ends, time for 'break', attend show, exit, attend another class, leave, go back to the show. Of course, anyone noticing the stamped hand would know what I was doing...
Anyway, back to religion. there was no holy water offered, or conversions. The shows were often held in the Basement - a very large basement. One time the show was rescheduled without anyone knowing and I wound up walking in on a ballroom dancing competition! I did notice that the space provided looked a lot brighter and cleaner when it's not jammed with tables and boxes of comics. I'm sure if this were a Blake Edwards film, I would've had to have made dancing shoes of my sensible sneakers and try a pasa doble wishing it was a quick step instead...
The first church show I attended was near Sullivan St. in the Village (aka NYU) and there was no basement for that one - they cleared out the benches and devoted the main space to just a few tables with only a few dealers and guests. It looked a bit like a Clean House yard sale caught in a dry spell. It was dark and stuffy in there, so the front doors were kept wide open, with the benches stacked on the sides, like the bleachers in the high school gym when they're cranked back in place against the walls. I bought a great copy of Spider-Woman #1 (this was in 1998, before Bendis made her seem like a big deal) for two bucks. I bought it because the idea of having an old comic from before my time in mint condition was cool. I really wanted to get an autograph from an inker (yeah, an inker - any name that appears in your comic collection showing up to a sigining can attract a mob of autograph hounds)...who didn't show up. I also bought some other comics from half-dollar bins - mostly early 90's stuff like Trencher, Next Wave, Troll - all never-read and brand new because they were kept finer than fine china. I was there for about 15 minutes - that record was broken after I attended a show at the Holiday Inn that I spoofed in the last entry.
Church shows are low-risk when it comes to spending for admission and finding/not finding what you're looking for. Are they a thing of the past? Are they being swallowed by a new generation of Big Comicon wannabes? Hard to tell. Are people still getting hand-stamped? Nowadays they use disposable bracelets that are color-coded for each day of the show's duration. When I went to the Brooklyn Lyceum in fall 2010 for King Con, I felt like I was walking into a church, but it turns out it used to be a public bath. Now THAT'S a scene in a Blake Edwards film. :)
Be good everyone.