Panettiere’s ass stops me dead in my tracks. I’m on the phone, standing outside the Special Events Hall at the New York Comic Con Saturday night and this vision in blue shimmies by, the globes of her butt cheeks rolling back and forth together as she walks through the corridor, flanked by red-shirted Comic Con volunteer goons. They gave her the wrong superpower on Heroes, but whoever put her in that cheerleader outfit is a man after my own heart.

In many ways this was the highlight of the New York Comic Con, but that’s not a dig on the show – how do you top an ass that is so perfect? And I know that sounds like a set-up for an even cruder joke, but it’s true. Panettiere’s the real sex deal. Later on I’m in the green room, interviewing the Masters of Horrors and she comes in. It’s almost adorable how she just ignores Jeffrey Combs. Doesn’t she know that he reanimated dead tissue? He beat brain death!

This year’s Con was a big improvement over the inaugural edition last year. For one thing, the fire marshal never shut the joint down. The show occupied twice as much of the Jacob Javitz Center, with Artist Alley having its own area upstairs – a nice change, since it meant that lines for sketches weren’t clogging the rest of the show.

I have to admit to a certain level of Con ennui – you’ve been to 30 of them, you’ve been to all of them. New York’s show floor doesn’t offer much that you don’t see in San Diego or at Wizard World – Marvel and DC have the same set-ups, you have the same comics being sold, the same toys overpriced, the same smelly nerds clogging the walkways (the best one at the whole Con was a guy who looked EXACTLY like a short Harry Knowles, covered in sweat, wearing a tight white t-shirt with a fanny pack bravely hanging on around his girth and a pair of ratty sweatpants. I was talking to Greg Rucka and he came over and said, in a high pitched, weaselly voice, ‘Is there anything free at this table?’ Loved him). One thing that I like about New York is that it seems to make space for local talent – t-shirt printers from Brooklyn, a New York City crafts group, stuff like that.

As for the panels… well, frankly I skipped them all. But I will say that I was disappointed by the lack of studio support for this show. None of the major studios even had a booth on the floor; I can understand not bringing their big movies to the show (although all the big movies this year will be out before San Diego), but you would think they could find an intern to sit at a booth and hand out posters. Maybe next year – people were wondering if the big turn out for the first Con was a fluke, but this year had lines around the Javitz Center – which is pretty fucking huge – at 8 in the morning on a sub-zero Saturday. This show is here to stay, and it’s only going to get bigger with the right support. And next year it’s going to be in April, which means Con-goers won’t be fighting with the arctic chill… and the big summer movies will be primed to promote the shit out of themselves.

Why was I at the Con at 8 on a Saturday? Glad you asked. I wondered the same thing as I walked against the knife-blade wind. I had roused myself at an ungodly 6 am to get to a breakfast for The Hills Have Eyes 2, which would be attended by Wes Craven, his son Jonathan, and a couple of hotties who take the loss in the film. Fox Atomic ran the trailer on a loop, and there’s nothing that helps your omelet go down like shattering screams. Eventually the guests of honor came in, and I sidled up to Wes and asked him the big question.

Me: At what point in the production process did you decide to not tell the film from the dog’s point of view?

Wes: You’re cruel. You’re never going to let me live that down.

The breakfast was nice. I got more stuff from Wes, including info about the remake of The Last House on the Left, as well as a remake of Shocker, which was news to me. And not good news either. I mean, who wants to watch the original, let alone a remake of it? Of course there’s the argument that remakes should only be of films with good concepts that didn’t work… which excludes Shocker anyway. We also saw a comprehensive chunk of footage from The Hills Have Eyes 2, which is about a National Guard group doing their training on the wrong patch of irradiated wasteland. The clips we saw seemed to encompass the whole film, and there were some good kills and blood-lettings on display. We also saw a gory mutant birth sequence that I dug, but would have made gorier (the baby should have come out gripping all of the mother’s internal organs. But that’s just how sick I am, I guess).

And company at breakfast was killer. Alex from our very own Creature Corner was there. I ran into the MTV girl from my London trip. Johnny Butane, one-time Corner maven, had driven down from Boston for the event, and it’s always great to see young Joshua. And of course the usual suspects were all there – Dan Epstein from Suicide Girls, Ed Douglas from Coming Soon, Tom Chau from CineCon, Jenny Karakaya from JoBlo. One of the nice things about this job is getting to hang out with folks like these, even if Ed keeps getting really mad all the time. Also at breakfast was Ryan Stewart, the new editor-in-chief of Cinematical, and a guy who seems completely unwilling to be any fun at all. He won’t even talk to the rest of the regular junket crowd, and I damn well know he knows who we are. Thankfully the nice Cinematical guy, Erik Davis, was around at the Con as well. I went to London with him, and he’s just a genuine dude with a good sense of humor. Maybe Stewart will one day learn from the better liked Davis and one day lower himself to be friendly with the rest of us. Actually, it’s probably far too late for that anyway.

Dan and I wandered the Con for a while. I had come by on Friday night to see him chair a panel – Star Wars: The Men Behind the Masks, which had Chewbacca and young Jango Fett on it. All of the geeks in costume showed up, my favorite being the exceptionally chubby young man in a modified Anakin outfit from Revenge of the Sith and with a genuine Mark Hamill haircut. He announced loudly that he wasn’t just any Anakin, though – he was Anakin Starkiller from the unused original Star Wars treatment. Actually, he wasn’t my fave – there was a cute girl with dreadlocks in one of those “sexy girl” storm trooper outfits. I would have shown her my blaster rifle.

Dan was good enough to bring me by the major comic publishers and introduce me to their publicity guys. The upside of this is that you should expect some more in-depth comic coverage on CHUD, including more interviews, in the months ahead. I think this will be a great addition – the world of movies and comics are less separate than ever.

After a while it was time to go to Sci Fi Channel’s Battlestar Galactica press event. I got exclusive one on ones with James Callis, aka Gaius Baltar, and Tricia Helfer, aka the sexy Number 6. Not a lot of spoilers were divulged – these guys are tight lipped – but I think there’s good stuff in here.

More time passes, with more wandering of the Con going on. Highlights included the guys dressed as Blue Beetle (Ted Kord – the real, and dead, one) and The Flash who stood at the entrance to the main show floor, taking tons of pictures. Over time they accumulated other DC heroes who had come to the Con – Batman, Superman, Green Lantern. Even Aquaman showed up – but I imagine someone had to call their friend at home and make him come. Who the fuck goes out in public dressed as Aquaman? It was interesting to watch this ersatz Justice League in action, enjoying the attention for the weekend before heading back to their cubicle jobs on Monday. Sad trombone.

Eli Roth was next at a roundtable for Hostel II. He’s a great interview, so full of energy and jokes, and Heather Matarazzo showed up to say hi. He told us that she’s naked in the film – is that a scoop? Eli had a ton of great stuff to say not just about Hostel II but also about Grindhouse and his trailer, Thanksgiving, as well. I’m working on getting all this transcribed, but some of it loses flavor in print, especially Eli’s Quentin Tarantino imitation.

The rest of the day is a blur. I had some time to kill before interviewing the Masters of Horror, so I wandered around the city for a bit. It had warmed up nicely, so I wasn’t miserable. I also took the time to read Recess Pieces, Bob Fingerman’s fucking BRILLIANT zombie comic that I got at the Dark Horse booth. Seriously, if you have not read this book and you like zombies and you like humor and you think the idea of a zombie outbreak at a grade school with all the attending carnage is hilarious, there’s no reason not to click here and get this book for just 10 bucks. A bargain at twice the price, as they say.

Eventually I made my way back to the Con, and this was when I was caught in the hypnotic beams of Panettiere’s ass. Even now, thinking about it from two days ago, I get a full body reaction. Don’t ask what that reaction is – it’s best that you don’t know.

I sat through the Masters of Horror panel, the only one I saw the whole show. I’m glad I did – Mick Garris, John Landis, Stuart Gordon, F. Paul Wilson, Jeffrey Combs and Dennis Paoli were all on stage, talking about the season 2 DVDs as well as the latest dip of Re-Animator. Usually these panels are dry ass-kissing sessions, but Landis was lively and contrary, arguing with his fellow Masters all the time. It was a blast to see spirited discussion about the meaning and value of the horror genre from people who actually know what the fuck they’re talking about.

After that I met the men in the green room. I talked to Gordon, Combs and Paoli all at once, and then Landis and Garris together. Landis was just as candid in the interview, calling Brian Grazer, who is doing a Spies Like Us remake, a sleaze no less than three times. Mick Garris was kind enough to give me a copy of his new novel, Development Hell, which I started reading on the train ride home and have been devouring since – it’s got a very Clive Barker meets James Ellroy thing going on, and so far I dig it.

And that was Comic Con. I didn’t go back on Sunday – I was just too defeated. I guess this means I need to start training for San Diego now, especially since there was no partying for me at New York this year, and San Diego is all about the boozing. I also should start getting my sleeping in the streets skills honed, as CHUD is one of the many groups who didn’t secure rooms for the Con before everything booked up. But at least it’s warm there!

Next year I may not be living in New York when the Con happens, but if it grows the way I think it will, and if it attracts more studio support like I suspect, then I’ll gladly JetBlue it back to town.