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NYCC ’21: Is it still a comic convention without many comics?

Johanna Draper Carlson reports on attending NYCC '21 for one day, and what she found while she was there.

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The Maverick/Mad Cave Studios setup

For me, this New York Comic Con was a one-day show. I walked the show for three hours and I was exhausted. (Pandemic quarantine has not helped me with keeping up my physical endurance. Also, walking on concrete for that long made my feet hurt.) Nevertheless, I felt as though I saw everything I wanted to see. The rest of my weekend was spent meeting up for meals and exploring the city. I had forgotten you could do that! That you can venture out to a convention city and not spend all your time in the convention center.

I don’t like the show app, and I didn’t do much research ahead of time, so I came into this show with a list of only two artists I wanted to see. I did meet them and had great conversations with both. I also found a few more old favorite creators to catch up with and buy books from (For reference: Thom Zahler,Ryan Dunlavey, Fred Van Lente, and Jeff Rider).

Artist John Delaney and George Michail in Artist Alley

The proof of vaccination requirement was easily handled, since they had plenty of staff handling the checks and good signage directing attendees to the location. The convention staff was some of the most helpful and friendly I’ve ever seen, which was reassuring. While I only saw a handful of mask-holes who refused to wear their face covering properly, social distancing was non-existent. Crowds at tables, crowds on the show floor, lines with no spacing… It looked like a typical comic convention. It felt like a typical comic convention… until you realized that there weren’t many comics. At least on the main exhibition floor; Artist Alley (which required some seeking out) was better on that score. There were plenty of things to buy, but it was mostly toys and pins and jewelry and shirts… and even fandom-flavored teas.

The biggest US comic publishers set up that I saw were Scout, Maverick, Aftershock, and Source Point. Viz had a huge setup, while Yen Press had a table, which is typical for them. The big draw at the Viz booth, which drew moderately long lines, was the ability to take your picture with a life-size statue of an anime character that I didn’t recognize. There was a printed show guide, for those who didn’t care to use the app, but it risked being out of date since it was printed a month ago, and things have been changing quickly. For example, one publisher was listed as exhibiting that I couldn’t find at all. Oh, well. That was part of the “take it as it comes” approach that I was using for this show to minimize anxiety.

Cloudwrangler Comics

The lack of comic exhibitors, compared to the old days, meant that it was great to take time to learn more about some of these publishers I wasn’t familiar with. Mad Cave was launching a line of young adult graphic novels through their Maverick line — Needle and Thread is out now, with Nightmare in Savannah to follow. Source Point had a large presence, including providing the image on the Press badges, for The Winchester Mystery House comic. It’s an officially licensed book, with the marketing rep for the house also available on-site (who was very helpful in providing background).

Since I’m not interested in current comic trends — I’m done with superheroes, can’t read horror, and don’t like dark or fantasy books — sometimes it was difficult to find books to my taste. That’s ok. If you do like those types of comics, there are new and different perspectives out there now, with plenty to sample.

One attendee who has worked on a number of kid-friendly comics he was displaying was concerned that children basically weren’t allowed into the show; Since kids under 12 aren’t eligible to be vaccinated, they can only attend with a very recent negative test result, and many people understandably won’t want to go through that. Are these shows even good for kids anymore, though? The cosplay was strong while I was there, with plenty of varied outfits, and posing for photos.

The loneliness of the con floor sushi stand.

A brief, completely unscientific poll showed that Thursday was good business, Friday was a bit light, and exhibitors had high hopes for Saturday. Or, as a friend put it, “the die-hards come on Thursday, the die-hards with jobs come on Saturday”. I saw long lines in Artist Alley for James Tynion IV, Chris Claremont, and Rob Liefeld, and that was just in the four aisles I visited.

So, can you hold a comic convention safely these days? Remains to be seen, as we wait to hear if anyone got sick. You apparently can have one without many comics, though.

Miss any of our other NYCC ’21 coverage? Click here to check it out!

4 COMMENTS

  1. On the contrary, there was a huge amount of comics on the main floor — rows and rows of bad issues and trades for sale, both expensive collectibles and cheap bargains. For anyone interested in purchasing comics either for reading pleasure or for investment, NYCC had almost as much to offer this year as any other. Yes, the major publishers were missing, but their latest titles could be easily found from dealers. Unlike SDCC, where the number of back issue vendors has decreased year after year pre-Covid, NYCC has been and remains the best major shopping con for comic lovers in the Northeast, perhaps trailing only Heroes and Baltimore on the entire East Coast.

  2. Great point, and thanks for elaborating on an area to which I pay no attention at cons. Good reminder that we’re all aiming to get something different out of a show.

  3. As bad as the app is, it probably would have made your experience a bit better. Also, there was plenty of signage letting you know how to find Artist’s Alley. One thing a friend mentioned is that this year was probably the youngest Artists Ally line up ever, which I think allowed them more exposure. The increased spacing was awesome as an attendee, but as one artist in the alley put it, the more crowded it was the more time people had eyes on your booth as they waited to shuffle on past, which may have resulted in more sales. But that was Friday, which was pretty light compared to recent NYCCs. I know the traffic really picked up Saturday and Sunday.

    As for Disney/Marvel and DC not caring enough to show up, that’s fine. Their NYCC stuff hasn’t been about comics for years. So I don’t think they were missed in that regard at all.

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