Last night, the comics community revolted against New York Comic Con and its organizer, ReedPOP, when a variety of notable comics professionals including the legendary Peter Milligan learned that their applications for pro badges to this year’s show had been rejected. However, this morning, according to ReedPOP event direct Mike Armstrong, all of this controversy was caused by a glitch:
NYCC Pros: we are trying to figure out where the glitch is and will be working on it today. Many of you are getting rejections but shouldn’t be, clearly.
— Mike Armstrong (@armstrongmike) June 1, 2018
According to Armstrong in a statement to the Beat, the rejection of creators including Tom Orzechowksi, Chris Eliopoulos, and Jamal Igle– who has been accepted as a pro to every New York Comic Con since its inception prior to this year– tipped him off to an issue in their approval system.
I got turned down for a pro badge at @NY_Comic_Con. That’s the first time since the show started. I didn’t meet their criteria in spite of having multiple published projects come out in the past year and being a special guest at the show multiple times. Huh. pic.twitter.com/rRVAPsnG6L
— Jamal Igle™ (@JAMALIGLE) May 31, 2018
Armstrong continued by saying that the pro badge approval process is a “super manual” one where ReedPOP employees work “out of a shared Excel spreadsheet and at some point towards the end [of the process], something got sorted incorrectly and things turned from approved to denied. It’s embarrassing that something as trivial as that gave the creator community the impression that they weren’t as valued as they are.”
While New York Comic Con has historically been friendly to the comics community, sporting an enormous artist alley as a defining feature that separates itself from San Diego Comic Con, last night’s rejections sparked fear that NYCC’s cultural dynamics were shifting away from comics in a way that SDCC’s did long ago. Last year, Reed was forced to compact Artist Alley after the annex it was traditionally hosted in was shut down for expansive construction. Now, this year, a Twitter search shows that many who claim to have received pro badges largely come from emerging markets outside of or adjacent to comics such as education and cosplay. However, addressing those fears, Armstrong said that “We have a half dozen different categories that we use for professional registration. Creators are one part of that (and the only category that we’re having tech issues with at the time). We have always offered professional registration to Librarians/Educators, Publishing Pros, Licensing Pros, Movie/TV/Agency execs and Retailers.”
In regards to the issue at hand, Armstrong to the Beat that he “would expect that creators have responses by the end of today.” According to him, the system that ReedPOP uses to approve Pro badges is the same one Reed had been using since he joined the company 8 years ago. In that time since 2010, New York Comic Con has doubled in size from an estimated 96,000 attendees in 2010 to over 200,000 last year. It’s clear from this debacle that this manually managed system is no longer able to keep pace with the volume of applications received.
“To be clear,” Armstrong said, “this was not a Showclix issue. What we gave them was incorrect. I assume we’ll start working on a better way to [approve pro badges] over the course of the summer.”
The Beat will continue to look into this issue and post developments as they come to light.
Alex is the New Media Editor of the Comics Beat. He is also a freelance comics editor with previous credits at First Second, Top Cow, and Papercutz. He primarily covers DC Comics and Magic: the Gathering.