One week past, and most have recovered from the media spectacle that is New York Comic Con. A slight breather is in order as the convention season glides into hibernation, with just King Con III and the Brooklyn Comics and Graphics Festival remaining here in New York City.
As soon as the Con ended and attendance was announced, comixologists began to ruminate upon what they had witnessed, what went right and wrong, and what to anticipate if the Con keeps growing at an annual rate of 14,400 people a year.
What Went Wrong
Nothing major, if the lack of news reporting is a guide. There were no Fire Marshalls or State Police counting heads. Aside from a topless (if there’s no costume, is she cosplaying?) and other scantily clad cosplayers (Mr. Stonewall Bear 2011), there wasn’t much of note.
Convention badges were checked haphazardly by security staff, yet no incidents were reported.
Line management was faulty, especially during the geek doubleheader of Walking Dead followed by The Avengers.
A trade show which used Javits Halls 1B and 1C on Wednesday and Thursday neccessitated the need for moving the line outside on Friday morning. Providently, a massive rainstorm ended that morning, before the majority of fans arrived to queue.
What Went Right (or Almost)
105,000 people showed up, 15,000 more than last year, and everything worked well, despite new layouts.
Last year, the New York Anime Fest was coupled with the New York Comic Con, allowing ReedPop to utilize the entire Javits Center. However, the “Artist Alley” segment of that festival was “cornfielded” to Hall 1E, far from everyone else. Regular comics fans experienced culture shock as these “immigrants” added their unique culture to the Con, wearing strange clothes, talking in tongues (“Kawaii” is not an island), eating weird snacks, and exhibiting an exuberance somewhat at odds with the predominant grim-and-gritty viewpoint of American comics.
This year, the Anime Festival was moved upstairs to the fourth floor Galleria (which had closed to renovation the year before). This space had previously hosted the comics Artist Alley in 2007 (crowded and inaccessible) and the Kids Comic Con events, with tabletop gaming placed in the more spacious River Pavilion located behind. The River Pavilion continued to host a sea of tables, but this time it was for the Manga Kissa cafe. The two outdoor balconies hosted smokers and a cosplay version of Fight Club (using SCA rules). The Artist Alley experienced lots of traffic, even though the entrance upstairs was obscured by scaffolding, and the big manga dealers were once again located on the show floor, like last year. There was a large stage for events, as well as smaller panels held downstairs with the other comics panels.
The space can host 13,100 people for cocktail receptions, according to the Javits website. This layout worked marvelously, and should be repeated next year. ReedPop took one of the biggest complaints of last year and created a spectacular solution. There is still some prejudice among American comics fans, but the spectacular cosplay, growing acceptance, and amazing diversity of attendees has placated most of that animosity.
The North Pavilion, newly constructed in 2010, offered a lot of the miscellaneous segments of the Con. The pavilion hosted:
- Table top gaming
- NYCC Kids Con
- Photo wall for celebrities and everyone else
- Beyblade competitions
- Celebrity booths
- Auto cosplay (featuring Doc’s Delorean and Batman’s Batmobile)
- Non-profits (NYC’s OEM, Vader’s Own, Toys for Tots)
- Lots of empty space and lots of restrooms
Along the walkway leading to the Pavilion were more booths, but most were vacant. Given the foot traffic and the wide hallway, this space offers lots of potential, and can be exploited if there is a larger draw northward. (See below.) The Pavilion also has its own plaza and entrance, as well a nice foyer which separates the floor from the entrance. Crowds can be queued along 40th Street towards the ferry terminal if necessary. The Pavilion, according to Javits, can hold 5200 people in a meeting configuration, which suggests an event hall layout.
Hall 1A once again hosted the majority of panels, including the major panels not scheduled for the IGN Theater (Hall 1D). This remained unchanged from past shows, and will most likely continue for the foreseeable future. It seats 3815 in a meeting room configuration, usually in the 16-room layout which allows for a large central hallway.
Hall 1B hosted a different trade show on Thursday, along with Hall 1C. It remained empty during the Con. During the first two Anime Festivals, it served as the show floor, connected to Hall 1A. If memory serves, it also served as the show floor during the first New York Comic Con, along with Hall 1C. It has an occupancy of 2,670.
Hall 1C was also used on Thursday by another trade show. Saturday and Sunday, it was used to line up attendees (I call it “The Stockyards”) before the show opened, as well as being used for some autographing and overflow lines to the IGN Theater. It has an occupancy of 2,670.
Hall 1D, the IGN Theater, has always been used for the largest events. It seats 3,045. It is the largest event room, although Hall 1A holds more people. (More below.)
Hall 1E was used this year for Press and Special Events. Like Hall 1A, it can be configured into a variety of rooms, and holds 3,090. Last year, it was used for the Anime Festival, with disastrous results. Previous cons have seen it used for panels. The largest room would hold 340 (345 for Hall 1A). Was all of that space necessary for press? Were various news agencies given private rooms, similar to the press up in the Fourth Floor Terrace Suites?
Upstairs, the entire space is used for the show floor. The “Great Wall” passageway will be gone by next year, allowing for the entire space to be utilized. The big question: who gets in, and who gets left “outside”, relegated to other less traveled areas of the convention center?
What Could Be
So, if New York Comic Con is to expand, what might a future layout at Javits look like?
First, the Third Floor Show Floor:
This should continue to hold all of the comics exhibitors, including the perfected Artist Alley and Small Press booths seen at the 2011 show. Push the Artist Alley towards the back of the show floor, running it two rows, similar to the 2.5 layout of the 2011 show, but with the same amount of tables and spacious aisles. Create a “creativity zone” by placing the Cultyard nearby.
I liked having the retailers situated towards the back of the floor. This was probably due to booth rates, as the front of the hall is more lucrative. The number of retailers was numerous, and the variety seemed better than previous shows. It’s also a refuge from the mass of humanity around the publisher booths, allowing for browsing and lingering, which promotes retail sales. Encourage traffic back there by placing NO booths along that back wall, creating a wide aisle for people who want to move quickly north and south.
Although it takes up more real estate, I would include another extra-wide aisle towards the front of the show floor, to provide better traffic flow. There were many large booths towards the front, but the aisles were not larger, unlike the one which ran in front of Marvel and DC and fed directly into the Artist Alley. A wide aisle on the western side of the Hasbro booth would have helped funnel the influx of entering and exiting attendees.
Will movie studios show up like they do at San Diego? That takes a lot of staff, and costs extra. It’s not impossible, as every studio has a New York City office which handles publicity, marketing, and production. As a fan, I was impressed with the Legendary Pictures booth. It was well sized, displayed movie props from popular films (300, Inception, The Dark Knight, Superman Returns), and had a basic desk for event signings. I was not there when Frank Miller was signing, but during other times, it was easy to move around.
There are two possibilities for this space:
1) Event Hall
If the windows in the North Pavilion can be covered, Hall H the Pavilion would make an excellent event hall. It seats 5200 people in a meeting configuration, and has its own entrance. Line maintenance can be run along 40th Street towards the river, especially in the early morning, removing some pressure from the other lines. With the foot traffic walking along the passageway to Javits proper, the booths in that hallway would be lucrative to smaller media companies who could not afford a booth on the show floor, or to film/media schools looking for new students. The outside plaza would become a bit of a circus, similar to the street teams which paper the streets surrounding the San Diego Convention Center.
Or, big events are ticketed and moved off-site, perhaps to the Theater at Madison Square Garden, which seats 5600 people. (The Theater is best known for hosting the NBA Draft.) There are other spaces near the actual theater which can be used to host VIP and exclusive events. Using the Theater’s facilities, reserved seating tickets can be issued, eliminating both seat camping and line waiting. (The Expo Center can also be used for crowd control, as well as booth publicity.) Since the Theater is off-site, events can be scheduled late into the night (or earlier in the morning), accommodating the time needed to clear the Theater between events. Since Madison Square Garden is readily accessible to subway, and designed to handle crowds of 19,000 fans, it is ideally suited for the hordes of fans which would descend upon it. (Can anyone picture a comics event which would fill the Arena? Would that be the ultimate Hall H?)
2) Media Hall
Since the North Pavilion needs to be a destination to attract attendees and pull them from Javits proper, then the exhibitors in the Pavilion must be big. What’s big and flashy? Video games. Movies. TV shows. Maybe even toys. Big booths for noisy video games? Not a problem. Video championships? Set up an enclosed space with seating for spectators. Big movie booths with show exclusives and autographing? Quite easy.
Since this space will pull in a large crowd, smaller related booths like the celebrities and cause-players would also benefit. With the separate entrance, crowd control is easier. The connecting hallway can also host related booths, attracting the attention of passersby. It can also have different hours than the main show floor, since it is self-contained.
As previously stated, the Anime Festival is perfectly situated up on the Fourth Floor. Fans do have to travel to the First Floor for panels, but then so does everyone else. Keep that the way it is. Once the scaffolding is removed, the event becomes even more visible. With the Crystal Palace space at the entrance to the Galleria escalators, there’s a visible space for Otaku to congregate, which adds to the excitement when people enter the Javits Center.
Terrace Suites and Offices
These host the show offices and various media outlets. They overlook the show floor.
Was the 4E Terrace Lounge used during the show? Could that host the Press? Or is it a food space? Perhaps it can be used for VIPs?
Yes, there’s are rooms located on the Second Floor. They bookend the space of Hall 1D below, and seem to be used as off-floor offices for the larger exhibitors. They are a bit isolated, and wouldn’t work well for public events. Exhibitors and Press would be best suited for these rooms.
1A If the big events are moved to the North Pavilion or Madison Square Theater, then Hall 1D can be used for those events which have caused overflow in the larger panel rooms of Hall 1A. In turn, smaller events can be upgraded to the larger 1A rooms, and so on.
1B This room hold lots of possibilities. If the North Pavilion is used for Events, then move the Media booths here. Gaming, video games, movies and everything which was in the North Pavilion in 2011 can easily fit here, as this space has 80,000 square feet, compared to the 54,400 square feet of the North Pavilion. Media booths would draw attendees downstairs, thinning the herds elsewhere.
Noise would be a concern, as it shares a wall with the 1A rooms, which tend to be just as loud, as they host the larger panels. Either move those louder exhibitors over to the 1C wall, or install some soundproofing, or let them fight it out.
1C This was used as “the stockyards”, holding general attendees who were waiting in line to enter the convention each morning. It is the same size as Hall 1B. During the show, it could easily be converted into autographing lines, as well as lines for people waiting to enter Hall 1D. If tables can be set up quickly, it could also serve for table top gaming each day.
1D This is the theater, and as was seen this year, is woefully inadequate for the mega events. Here’s another radical solution to the Theater problem: Hall H. Or, for Javitz, Hall 3D/E. Hall 3D can be divided into meeting rooms. IF the northern 3D wall can stand by itself, then that combined hall can old 5,610 people. Of course, the problem arises, where do you place those exhibitors displaced? The North Pavilion? Does a split show floor (Hall 3A/B, North Pavilion) make NYCC less appealing if attendees have to walk two blocks from one hall to the other? Myself, I see moving the Event Hall North or East (to MSG) as a more elegant solution.
1E This year, Hall 1E was the press office. I was not registered as press this year, so I do not know how that room was organized or utilised. Was it effective? Where was the press corraled in years previous? Could the press be moved to the small panel rooms along Eleventh Avenue (on the same side as the food court), and those displaced panels consolidated to 1E, where they might gain more visibility and larger crowds?
And here’s a big fuzzy question:
If New York Comic Con continues to grow, might ReedPop spin off the Anime Fest to a separate event held on a different date (perhaps in the Spring) to gain more space? Those fans would still be welcome, but there would be a smaller emphasis placed on anime and manga.
1) ReedPop should return to the barcoded badges of past conventions. Currently, if an attendee does something to be banned, how does ReedPop keep that person from registering again? Security also needs to be more alert, and attendees need to wear their badges at all times.
Pre-registered badges were mailed. Neither I or my co-worker received those badges. Were they swiped in the mailroom? Were they lost in the mail? Scalped on eBay? Unknown. But it was quite easy to visit Javits on Wednesday to pick up my badge. Registration just notated my barcode printout and gave me a badge.
With barcoded pre-printed badges, not only are shenanigans reduced, but booths can even scan the barcode with a cellphone camera and register that attendee for raffles, mailing lists, and other uses.
Most importantly of all, other people would know who you are at a glance!
2) Encourage (or at least suggest) that food trucks park near Javits to bolster the variety of food available. Those trucks usually charge prices similar to those found inside Javits, but the option would pull people from inside, helping to diminish crowding.
3) Host a school day on Thursday, inviting high school classes to attend special programming. Also set up a speakers bureau of sorts, sending out professionals who are in town to schools or libraries the week of NYCC.
4) Encourage exhibitors to submit their daily booth signings and events to the Show Office, who will then send out a consolidated text blast to registered convention attendees. Signage can also be posted near the panel rooms.
So, faithful Beat readers, what do you think? Any suggestions? Would you schlep back to Madison Square Garden if you had a reserved seat for a Big Media Event? Did you schlep to the North Pavilion? Up to the Galleria for the Anime Festival? Let us know!
I’ve been writing for The Beat since July of 2010.
I’ve been reading comics since 1974, collecting since 1984, and spreading the graphic novel gospel since 1994.
I’m a bookseller, a librarian, an amateur scholar, a cool uncle, and a comics evangelist.
Ask me anything!