With some perspective from really only following the show via the internet, this year’s New York Comic Con seems to have been another huge, hectic success. While crowding seems to have been an issue yet again, despite show promotion that featured media guests over comics, comics publishing announcements dominated the news cycle.
In fact, NYCC has really turned the tables on some of its critics. While my yearly critiques of San Diego’s media excess are often met with people pointing out that SDCC is still the biggest comics gathering in the Western Hemisphere, the same can be said of NYCC, despite the more pop culture aspects that get promoted every year.
Setting aside crowds and video games, you could have spent the whole NYCC experience just wandering around the huge, airy Artist Alley, that was so big that international superstar Juanjo Guarnido was just peacefully doing sketches. If it wasn’t catching up with artists from around the world in AA, you could:
• Listen to josei superstar Moyocco Anno speak
• Catch spotlights with Irwin Hasen, Neal Adams and Grant Morrison
• Listen to editors from Filip Sablik to Callista Brioll to Karen Berger talk about their work.
• Hear Brian Haberlin talk about new frontiers in digital painting
• See Becky Dreistadt, Evan Dahm and others talk about Kickstarter
• Listen to Cecil Castellucci, Lucy Knisley and others talk about comcis for younger girls
… and much more. Programming remains a bit of a puzzle at NYCC, with a “big box” approach that doesn’t take advantage of the incredible diversity of guests. Obviously, with the show sold out and then some, improvements are for aesthetics and not interest, but this is an area of huge potential.
I’ll have more thoughts on this later but here’s a snapshot of some other views, led by Alex Zalben’s infographic on NYCC attendance:
– I went way further back with SDCC, mainly because at this point it seems like San Diego has maxed out pretty much since 2007. I don’t think that really tells the whole story, though, as SDCC has spilled over to the entire area around the Con center, with plenty of “attendees” not buying tickets; but showing up for the party.
– That said, as mentioned in the ICv2 article, NYCC is adding 90,000 sq. ft. next year, so has actual room for growth, where SDCC – other than being held officially on a bunch of boats or under the ocean – has ran out of room.
NYCC’s growth has been explosive, and has not maxed out, as Lance Fensterman discusses with Milton Griepp here:
What’s the construction situation going to be at the Javits next year?
It is done. Truth is, I feel like each year we do the show better than we’ve done it, and I’m not saying that as a compliment I’m saying each prior year we make mistakes, but each year we do it the best we’ve ever done it. And we’ve been doing it that way with this real hamstrung situation with the building. We’ve lost exits; we’ve lost upstairs; we’ve lost all kinds of ways to spread ourselves out. Next year I’m thrilled: we have the whole building; everything’s back in line; there’s no more scaffolding; there’s no more closed exits. We have the whole thing, so we’ll pick up about 90,000 gross square feet of space that we will utilize next year, which is fabulous.
Although security was a lot tighter this year, overcrowding remains an issue, as Emily Whitten reports:
• The broken escalators and bottlenecks. I know there’s only so much one can do when working with a set layout, but due to broken escalators, the wait to get from one floor to the next, particularly on Sunday, was claustrophobic and glacially slow. Also, the placement of the TMNT tunnel display, I am told, created a huge bottleneck and traffic jam. Very frustrating.
While basic safety issues are the single most importnt element of the show, as it gets bigger and bigger, so do expectations. For those who have complained about the “press entitlement” stories coming out of San Diego year after year, this whine about cell coverage may just be the ultimate cake taker:
While several fans and attendees were seen holding up their cell phones to get better connections, some of the worst wireless issues were found downstairs, ironically in the room that needed an Internet connection the most: The Javits Center's dedicated Press Lounge. Despite knowing how many thousands of press members would attend this convention, the Javits Center and Reed Operations simply neglected to create enough Wi-Fi hotspots for writers, analysts and reporters to publish articles and news stories throughout the day. With so many panels making news announcements each day, on top of the plethora of sights and artists' stories to share, the lack of wireless bandwidth becomes a serious communication issue to get content in and out of the Con.
Yeah ReedPOP! How DARE you not spend $100,000 so Geek Bleat can report on Andrew Lincoln’s bathroom breaks? Not to say that cell coverage at Javits isn’t horrific, but it’s a shit venue that only New Yorkers would put up with.
Whitten has some other complaints in an overall very positive piece.
Now, even though comics were the big news at NYCC, it seems that all the media PR hawks are circling and hoping to suck the oxygen right out of the room:
The turnout surprised and overwhelmed many entertainment reps who were visiting NYCC for the first time. But it should be eye opening as marketers look for more opportunities to speak directly to their customers.
It’s a crowd as rabid for fandom as you’ll find in Southern California. But surprisingly, NYCC attendees appear less jaded than their SDCC counterparts. They’re happier to take in what they’re being shown, not demanding to be impressed with crossed arms. They also appear more willing to dress up as their favorite character. That may be an East Coast thing, with Atlanta’s Dragon Con also notable for its cosplay.
The point, however, is that the faithful are gathering en masse in the country’s largest media market. What’s missing: the producers of their favorite properties.
The writer of this piece also complained about cell service and a lack of parties:
Not all’s rosy at NYCC, though. There’s a severe lack of cell phone service or working Wi-Fi, as well as a confusing layout and overcrowding of the show floor inside the Javits Center, which has seen better days. There’s also no party scene to speak of, although Legendary, Nerdist and the Kings of Con tried to rectify that this year. SDCC started generating more buzz when magazines like Entertainment Weekly, Maxim and Playboy threw lavish celeb-filled bashes. Such efforts would similarly transform NYCC.
We weren’t even there but according to Twitter, NYCC had tons of parties every night…oh but they were ones that cartoonists and comics people could get into. So that’s a problem now? Yes yes New York City needs more celebrity-filled bashes…that will really put the place on the map.
Hero Complex also assessed NYCC’s media showcase potential:
Though the major movie studios perhaps have a larger presence at San Diego’s Comic-Con International, a favorite venue for the promotion of tentpole releases, New York Comic Con is certainly not wanting for star power this year. This weekend’s lineup includes panels with the casts of “666 Park,” “Arrow,” “The Following,” and the upcoming “Carrie” remake, as well as appearances by filmmakers Guillermo Del Toro and Kevin Smith, author Anne Rice, and nostalgic favorites Carrie Fisher and Christopher Lloyd. Brian Lambariello, 22, of Warren, N.J., was “freaking out” to hear that 1960s TV Batman actor Adam West would be making an appearance at the Javits Center. But for Lambariello, who came dressed as Steven Stone, a character from “Pokémon,” the main attraction at Comic Con isn’t the stars or the snazzy new video games.
“It’s about the social aspect,” he says. “It’s about meeting up with people you only get to see online that live three hours away.”
Adweek’s Sam Theilman also chimed in:
All right, video games. Sure, they’re not comic books, but we’re in the same neighborhood, right? That doesn’t explain the presence of toolmaker Craftsman. “We’re looking to target a slightly younger and more alternative crowd, and we know that these are creative people who are actually making their own costumes and stuff,” said Cristina Cordova, Sears’ manager of community engagement (Sears owns Craftsman). And do people care? “We’ve had non-stop flow,” she said of the crowded booth. “It’s been fantastic.” To get into the spirit of things, Craftsman commissioned its own comic book, featuring Technician, a branded superhero who saves the Hall of Justice from actual DC supervillain The Key, who breaks in while the Justice League is away.
The irony, of course, is that Comic Con has become so successful that you couldn’t find most of the comics’ artists on the show floor. Artists Alley, the few rows of folding tables and chairs that used to be called, you know, a comic book convention, was down a long hallway separate from the rest of the show. “Ordinarily I’d worry about an Artists Alley that was completely removed from the main room, but having been in the main room, I’m very happy to have our own place,” said Mike Mignola, who would normally be carried from booth to booth on a palanquin toted by adoring fans. Mignola is the writer and artist who created Hellboy, a series praised for both the depth of its artwork and the intricacies of its storytelling that was adapted into two popular movies by director Guillermo Del Toro. Granted, Mignola seemed to be available only by coincidence—by the time he’d given a two-minute interview, there were four or five fans waiting in line for autographs—but it was surprising to see one of the biggest artists there chilling out several hundred yards from the action of the show.
Some might call a convention where Mike Mignola can just chill out a success and not a situation to be solved, but we’ll be back with fan observations on the show in our next post.
Heidi MacDonald is the founder and editor in chief of The Beat. In the past, she worked for Disney, DC Comics, Fox and Publishers Weekly. She can be heard regularly on the More To Come Podcast. She likes coffee, cats and noble struggle.