During New York Comic Con, I spent three days at the Javits Center. (Thursday was spent attending the professional programming at the New York Public Library!)
This is the TWELFTH NYCC I’ve attended (yes, all of them!), so you might be wondering what I thought this year…There were no major mistakes by ReedPOP running the event, but this is New York City, this is the Javits Center, and when you have more than 150,000 people attending, there are going to be challenges and surprises. [Edited to add: official tally is 200,000 tickets sold.]
The biggest challenge and change was announced in January 2016, as Governor Cuomo announced a long-overdue expansion of the Javits Center. This affected the show this year, as the North Hall, site of Artist Alley and many spacious and clean restrooms, was completely demolished by the end of September.
That 80,000 square feet of space was not available, and ReedPOP, facing a smaller legal occupancy, had to eliminate the sale of multi-day tickets. The stated reason was to allow as many different people to attend, since fewer tickets would be available, given the smaller space. Another possibility: with fewer tickets sold, income is also reduced, although costs remain the same. This can be mitigated by selling higher-priced single-day tickets instead of a cheaper (by the day) multi-day ticket.
While ReedPOP didn’t oversell the show, it did come close to selling out, with only Thursday tickets left when the show opened.
Fans who would be spread out to the North Hall and the connecting hallway, were instead concentrated into the Javits Center itself, creating crowds and lines in certain areas. I was able to navigate well at Javits, even finding empty pockets I could powerwalk through. I rarely did the Comic Con Shuffle of taking a few steps, stopping, then shuffling again. Noon on Sunday, there was a line outside the Food Court for the escalators leading upwards. There were bottlenecks at checkpoints, specifically Artists Alley at Hall 1E, where the escalators fed almost directly into the security checkpoint. Javits’ escalators are never sufficient, and with this amount of attendees, were woefully inadequate.
The other problem with the loss of the North Hall: the bathrooms. This was always one of the hacks of NYCC: always use the bathrooms in the North Hall. They were as new as the North Hall, they were numerous, AND they were clean.
Instead, Hall E had the two just outside the entrance. which are both smaller than those found in the North Hall. (Did the Artist Alley exhibitors have “green room bathrooms” located in the back of the hall?)
This forced ReedPOP to flip one bathroom on the show floor for women, and it was common to see the uncommon sight of men standing in line outside a restroom!
Overall, this was a good show for me. Not great, as I didn’t get to see enough, but I chatted with interesting people, and bought some stuff, but I didn’t go long box diving or buy any old stuff.
I was giddy with anticipation when the New York Public Library announced an expansion of the professional day programming, to take place at the Schwartzman Building on 42nd Street! FIVE tracks of programming (where before there might be two, and then only in the morning). 23 separate panels, some standing-room only! Publishers brought creators to talk about their books, librarians and educators shared strategies, and there was networking galore! NYPL also offered refreshments throughout the day, ending in an after-party upstairs.
Friday, my goal was to spend it in Artist Alley, since I knew the show floor would be crowded. AA was crowded as well, and muggy. The air conditioning couldn’t keep up, the space was … intimate. I had flashbacks to the first NYCC in 2006, when the fire code kicked in, and the State Police monitored the crowd size. It wasn’t that bad this time, as the crowd was very similar to previous years… one could maneuver down the aisles, and RP did add extra space for anticipated queues.
But then I met a colleague in the aisles, and I hung out with him as we made our way upstairs, killing time on the show floor before the IDW Black Crown/Full Bleed panel. We discovered Mark Evanier at the Abrams booth, signing paperback copies of “Kirby: King of Comics“. Nick Meglin stopped by, which added to the conversation. Eventually, we headed over to Shattered Comics, where iconic comic book covers are translated into mosaic tile! The artwork isn’t for sale (yet), but his store commissioned a Marvel Legacy variant using his mosaic’d version of Amazing Spider-Man #129.
Saturday, I got an early start, meeting a friend for breakfast, and we wandered the show floor mostly. Again, not too crowded, and I bought a few things, but not a lot. Pretty laid back, generally. I finished perusing Artist Alley, introduced my friend to some cool stuff he normally doesn’t see (he’s more into anime and modeling, but he reads comics and geeks over all sorts of stuff). Bar-Con was spent with another geeky friend who didn’t attend, but lives nearby on Tenth.
Sunday, I deliberately wandered the small press area, as there were a few titles I was curious about. I tried to hit some booths I overlooked, but I still missed quite a few. The Q&A panel started earlier, so that ended my perambulations. The panel wasn’t contentious, and it ended on time. Bar-Con was spent at two different bars, discussing a variety of topics.
I don’t know why, exactly… maybe I’m getting old, maybe I’m tired and jaded… I enjoy chatting with people about comics, but I think the Zeitgeist just seeped into everything at the show. I slept in most days, because I didn’t have the excitement or anticipation to jump out of bed at 7 AM to get there as the doors opened. I wasn’t eager to see stuff. There was no urgency.
I’ve seen it all, I don’t really need more comics (although, seriously, I’ll still buy stuff, as I did in Artist Alley).
New York Comic Con is Nerd Homecoming, small college town style. It’s all familiar… you meet old friends, make new ones, eat and drink stuff you normally wouldn’t or shouldn’t, indulge in a little nostalgia, maybe watch the game. It doesn’t change much, really. It’s comfortable, to me.
My friend and I, we brainstormed a business plan: Virtual Fandom. A college student is hired, and outfitted with a streaming camera and headset. He/She wanders the show floor, perusing each booth. The client then watches the live stream, and sends instructions to the show walker for close-ups of merchandise, questions to ask, and things to purchase via a temporary credit card. The client acquires stuff, the walker earns an hourly wage plus expenses and food, the show and exhibitors still make money, as the attendee is now an avatar, not an actual fan.
Maybe I’ll Kickstart it next Fall…. Maybe we’ll expand it into other areas as well… tourism, concerts… call it “Yoy-Your”?