Maybe it’s that it was Sunday and everyone was chugging vats of coffee to stay awake. Maybe it was just three days of horrible eating catching up with everyone. Whatever the cause, wherever I went the Sunday of this year’s New York Comic Con, everyone was talking about going to the bathroom. Planning a visit, waiting in line, or even fleeing the con in search of an available facility.
As I was walking to the show on 38th Street Sunday afternoon I passed a lone man with an anxious demeanor. As I passed him I overheard him yapping into his cel: “Look, I just want to go to the bathroom.”
I had hardly stopped chuckling from this when I ran into a pair of comics luminaries on the corner. “Where are you off to?” I asked.
“We’re trying to find a place to go to the bathroom.”
Since I was among the coffee chuggers, I’d have to say that I spent a combined 40 minutes or so waiting in line to go on Sunday. When I got to Artist Alley, I ran into an artist friend I hadn’t seen all show. “What’s up?” I asked.
“I’m on my way to the bathroom.”
“Yeah, you gotta plan ahead,” I agreed.
“The secret is to go to the gender neutral one on the second floor,” he confided, as I walked with him. “They have urinals and most guys won’t go where people can see them. So I’ve been using that. Although one time, I did lock eyes with a girl I knew and it was…weird.”
Some people resorted to even more unusual methods:
Although one would assume this was a homeless person, given all the troubles, it could have just been a frustrated con goer. We’ll never know.
The Bathroom Crisis of ’17 wasn’t anyone’s fault. Even though NYCC set a record for tickets sold, you’d assume that every day had a similar number of tickets. As Mike Armstrong, the show runner, told me in my piece for PW,, it seems that when people had only a one day pass, they were more inclined to use it, as opposed to four day pass holders who might go do something else for one day.
I was planning to make a video of the show like I did last year, but so far I could only cut together a trailer.
The photos of the con don’t look any more crowded than in the past, but somehow it just seemed more crowded. I mean maybe we blocked out the memories of last year, or maybe it was just the heat. Or maybe it was having Artist Alley back in the main Javits area. It was definitely hot down there. I ran into yet another artist after the show and asked how he’d fared. “It was so hard., The heat. The crowds. The claustrophobia,” he said, clearly in the throes of some kind of PTSD.
This year’s con was excellent in terms of content, I think. The panels were all on point, without any of the beer/dating/trivia panels of days past that spoke to a more fratty vibe. I know this kind of programming is fun and people like it, but with time and space at a premium, choosing to concentrate on the high calibre creators of comics, prose and media, seemed a better use of time.
There were a LOT of diversity panels, but I did hear some comments among POC observers that maybe they overlapped a bit. 10 panels on the black comics experience and one on the Asian experience. I also heard some comments that maybe it’s time for women, POC and LGBTQIA speakers to be OTHER kinds of panels instead of always being on diversity panels. A larger matter than the focus of this piece, perhaps.
The programming at the library was a hit, with about 1200 people attending – they’d expected perhaps 500. I finally got to go to part of a panel at the Theater at Madison Square Garden and that’s a fine venue for Hall H types events. Overall, I felt there was a stronger attempt at really making NYCC a bookend for SDCC, with exhibitors, activations and programming that hit right at the core of the nerd-toy-movie-Netflix-comics connection.
But the crowds.
There isn’t a thing ReedPOP or anyone can do about it, of course. I think I write this every year, but the Javits Center was simply not designed for 70,000 people a day to cram into it. It was built for B2B trade shows, and a few outliers like the Auto Show – that draws a million people over 10 days. It’s hard to see how packed it is since auto show attendees don’t seem to chronicle every second of it, but there are good crowds. Still, it’s a different experience, more of a hit and run things than the immersive world of NYCC.
As in past years, the crowd was young, diverse and cosplayed to the hilt. The cosplay at NYCC is a lot more vibrant and authentic than some other cons. The Beat’s intern, Megan Fabbri, went as Bucky on Saturday and it was a lot of fun listening to her plan and execute her most excellent costume.
So anyway, solutions – there aren’t any! Maybe when Hudson Yards opens up and there are more hotel ballrooms. The activations are starting to creep out into the streets of New York, and thought the grit, grime and rough and tumble of the Lincoln Tunnel make this a less desirable location than San Diego’s balmy hotel balconies, once again, when the Hudson Yards complex is up and running all of this will change.
I understand they did add some port-a-potties somewhere outside, but next year, just a giant, Glastonbury style row of them out back. The food trucks where the bus stop used to be were a great addition (as were food carts at the top of the escalator from the subway) so more offsites. It doesn’t have to be a trash can.
They COULD raise ticket prices, but then you wouldn’t have as many spunky kids saving up to go to the show. Hardened realists will suggest that people who have more money to spend on tickets will have more money to spend on other things, but NYCC seems to have become as much a branding exercise as a marketplace. (Although a lot of people were selling a lot of things.) This is really one of those it-is-what-it-is things, although I’m sure there will a lot of tinkering for next year.
With this in mind, let’s take a look at the convention center situation nation wide. Here’s a 2013 listing from Tradeshow Executive. I screen shotted the biggest.
Past the top 10 you see something amazing:
As in this list I ran a while back, this shows that the Javits is larger than the San Diego Convention Center. HOW CAN THIS BE? Well this chart shows exhibit space. Here’s a table from Wikipedia with TOTAL space, which I’ve annotated.
As you can see, when you add in TOTAL square footage, SDCC is larger than the Javits.
Two other things about this chart: McCormack Place is still in a class by itself as far as space goes. C2E2 is the one comic con that will never, ever run out of space.
From this list you can also see that the Pennsylvania Convention Center in Philadelphia has a bit more exhibit space than the San Diego Convention Center. As recently announced, ReedPOP is going in there with a fall show, Keystone Comic Con. This is a sizable facility with ample accommodations and large audience to draw from, and I expect to see this show beefed up as a major event on the schedule.
Now a few more things and we’re done! I ran across this piece begging for bigger names on SF con badges:
I have a favor to ask of conventions: please design your badges so that names can be easily and clearly read. I’ve never been good with names. It’s frustrating as hell, and it’s become a bigger problem as I travel to more conventions. I get introduced to so many people, and within 24 hours, a lot of those names escape my brain like Batman villains from Arkham Asylum.
If there’s one thing that I would really love to see at NYCC it’s names on badges! I’ve been saying that since year one. I know it would add an extra layer of bureaucracy, but it adds a sense of ownership, and when you’re standing talking to a crowd of people, it really does help to know who you are talking to. We can’t all be Michonne.
We’ll wrap this up with a few outside reports.
Hannah Means Shannon has a look at the crowds, coming to many of the same conclusions as I did, but she reports feeling unsafe at times.
This one is from a college newspaper, I believe and it’s a frank, funny report that also covers the annoyances and crowds:
This year also introduced metal detectors you had to walk through to get to the convention. I understand it was for safety, but you had to walk through the metal detector then stop again to scan your badge before walking into the convention. This meant a lot of struggle to get people into the convention quickly, because you had to keep stopping. Speaking of stopping, attendees just didn’t care about the huge signs posted all over the show floor telling people not to stop in the hallways for photos. It would take 20 to 30 minutes to cross the show floor because you had to walk at a snail’s pace. The huge crowds didn’t help either. Good luck having a huge prop or complicated costume, because the risk of someone shoving you or stepping on part of your costume was insanely high.
OTOH, here’s a glowing report on the library programming, which was a highlight!
The power of graphic novels as tools for change was a common thread throughout the day. Panelists addressed the need for social change (“Books as Flint: Using Graphic Novels to Inspire Political Activism”) and for uncloaking the stigma of sex health education (“Graphic Sex: Comics, New Media, and the Queering of Sex Education”). Panelists offered support for educators and librarians in dealing with difficult situations and topics. The session “Handling Challenges and Bans” (organized by the Children’s Book Council Graphic Novel Committee) addressed how graphic novels are often singled out because of the “power of the static image,” according to moderator Charles Brownstein, executive director of the Comic Book Legal Defense Foundation. The reality of challenges and bans was addressed from many angles, including discussing suggested age ranges for specific books and talking through challenges with parents.
And a comment on demographics: This Year’s New York Comic Con Proves Why We Need More Black Retailers
I feel there is a major need for more black, POC, and women retailers now than ever. It is hard to walk into a comic shop and feel like you don’t belong. Those days should definitely be behind us. Keeping current readers and drawing new eyes is what we all should be focused on. We hear every day” Comics are dying”, “Nobody is buying comic books anymore”, and there some truth to that. Comic sales are on a decline but they always have been. Right now is the prime chance with the popularity of comic book characters at an all-time high. We need to move those eyes from the silver screen and the television back to the page. With new readers coming in, they will want to have something different to keep their interest and they want to see themselves in the books they pay $3.99 a pop for. Having a person who understands what you want to read and not just going by a pull list is valuable to your experience. Seeing a face behind the counter that looks like yours or at least can make you feel comfortable about asking for your books is also needed along with the diversity on the pages we read.
Here’s a very nice report from a college paper about the success of anti-harassment policies.
This year, I once again did not have any problems with harassment, and everyone I met was cordial and polite. People would ask permission to take my photo, and were very respectful of my personal boundaries. In addition to my experience, I did not witness any types of harassment with other con-goers. Nobody made inappropriate comments in regards to somebody’s costume nor made sexual advances toward an individual. There was a level of maturity that I observed in each individual, and I hope this same level of sophistication will be continued when they leave the convention center.
And finally, an old school, con report!
At one point, Captain Jack Sparrow and Davy Jones showed up. Captain Jack must be a professional Jack Sparrow because he was just too good. He sounded like him, all the mannerisms and I’ve swear I’ve seen him before on videos or in other people’s pictures. Another costume that impressed me was this big lion looking thing, no idea what it was for though. I saw a Jawa on the floor and I asked to take a picture of it. I jumped when the Jawa spoke like a Jawa because I didn’t realize it was going to sound like that haha.I’ve noticed during this time, around 1pm that Javits Center was beyond packed. I ended up going to the press lounge to use the bathroom and rest a few minutes. I overheard from other press that the floor was the most crowded it’s been in 3 days. I’m kind of surprised Saturday wasn’t more packed. After resting a few, it was back down to the floor for more of the same. I was beyond exhausted of doing Comic Con for 2.5/3 days and needed much sleep. I still had the panel to go so I went down around 3:40 to wait on line for the Batman panel, which started at 4:15.
Bathrooms. It’s always the bathrooms.
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.