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.
Galleria and River Pavilion (Fourth Floor)
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!
Any suggestions for improvement of that Con are welcomed, in my opinion. That place was so packed on Saturday, it was very hard to get around and find what you were looking for. Sure, I got to where I was going, but it was such a hassle, it was like pushing through rush hour crowds at the subway. Not an experience I want to pay $50+ for.
Well you certainly gave this a lot of thought. Many of your recommendations I also sent to them in their survey.
One thing you did not cover was Sunday. Sunday is broken and needs a rethink. At this point we will not be going there on that day. Its not worth it, unless like last year they have good panels, then we will just hide downstairs. People who buy Sunday only passes get screwed in my opinion. I wonder if they should stop that. Years ago they needed the traffic so they gave tickets away for kids…think they should only sell weekend tickets and control the traffic, if not people are not going to bother.
I think some of your off site ideas won’t work. The time it would take to get there and back the day is shot. With traffic and getting in and out of the off site locations would cost most of the day. The idea of a convention is have it one place. Look at how E3 was busted a few years ago or PAX prime in comparison to Boston’s PAX. Honestly I wish they would build a hotel connected to Javits. Its a more immersive experience.
If they do all the things you recommend then they need to expand to first a full four days and then to a five. No way you can experience all of this, especially if Saturday and Sunday are starting to get to be wash outs.
Maybe the big panel or shows need to have multiple runnings during the con. Possibly run these things later in the evening after the floor closes.
Do not move the anime fest. I am not a fan but I do like having them around and I am starting to enjoy some of the manga stuff. I think going up to their area is good for an experience. Kind of like visiting the moon sometimes. Some of it is amazing and love their positive outlook but some of it makes me feel really creeped out. I agree its a wonderful space for them, especially after the dungeon they got last year.
Agree with the artist alley layout. I also suggested to them in using those queue halls for autographs, what a mess that makes out on the floor. Getting them out there may really help weekend crowding.
Love to see the table top gaming section expand. Nice if they did a Pax like thing and let those games run much later into the night.
The panels were not as good as last year. Not even close. They need to include more podcasters doing their shows live there. I don’t understand why the panels were so weak. They must have had some problems because they had some Star Wars crafting panel like twice or maybe even more…why?? That is going to be an issue going forward.
There were outside venders for food. Con food sucks, bring your own. They need to lose the chevy take a car for ride bit out front, very dangerous. Need to have people on the escalators to avoid disasters. You worry me about the ticket bit, mine did arrive in the mail. Bar coding would slow things down…but maybe its needed. Truthfully sleep in an hour and show up about 1/2 or an hour after opening and you walk right in. The lines are fun because the best thing about cons like this are the people you meet.
The Ultimate Access VIP badge was a complete mistake for me and I didn’t feel as a VIP. (Not talking about the VIP lounge on Saturday … yuck !)
I also would like more directions (clearly displayed) as I couldn’t get to the North Pavillon and was quite lost on the Comics floor (much more lost than previous years).
Good article. A few things:
NY Anime Fest was on its own date and was only recently folded into NY Comic Con.
I don’t believe food trucks are allowed to park in front of Javits due to Union rukes (aka so they protect the inside vendors.) But that said, they really need to pressure Javits into managing the food court better. It was (and has always been) woefully inadequete and poorly run. It also didn’t help that on Friday their credit card machines went down and they were only taking cash. There were only two ATMs in the building, creating a nightmare for people who didn’t have cash onhand.
Agreed with previous poster that offsite events (especially primary ones) are a bad idea. You split your audience and lose the impact of having a big celebrity-driven panel at the convention, which hurts the fest overall.
I was at the show and have no idea about half of the stuff in here! I thought I had to walk through the main show floor to get to Artist Alley, and on Sunday I figured out that I didn’t actually have to do that.
I went to one panel, and it was a little confusing because there was a line outside for the following panel before the first one had even started. But otherwise, I barely left Artist Alley!
I don’t even know what the technical name for my section was… but I do know what you mean by the Great Wall. I found it to be an incredible waste of space. If they get rid of that, then they’ll add a HUGE chunk of space to the main floor and make it easier for everyone.
Frankly, I was confused by the whole Anime Con vs. Comic Con thing. I think it should all be mixed together. Why separate it?
When my wife and I arrived on Saturday, we could not find a program book/guide. We spent the weekend lost in the currents of rude basement dwellers.
Oh, a common courtesy reminder to all attendees would have been nice. Something like, “don’t try to run over or slam into pregnant women.”
Fortunately, the ultrasound we had on Monday didn’t reveal any problems.
And definitely separate the Anime fest. There’s nothing like getting stabbed in the face with a seven-foot cardboard sword carried by some unaware douche who thought it’s perfectly fine to spontaneously (and poorly) dance in the aisle with his friends.
The video games should have their own separate room so their tunnel of 180db noise can be avoided.
Some vegan/gluten-free food options would be nice. The food available there is just horrible.
How about addressing the woefully inadequate Internet and cell reception on the show floor?
Wifi seemed almost as if it was jammed or something. AT&T was useless. Tweeting was ineffective. Merchants were forced to take credit cards manually which is a risk on big ticket items.
I was told by volunteers and paid staff there was no designated handicapped seating in the IGN theater. That seems to be something that needs fixed.
For me, the staff was a nightmare. There were some *really* nice, sweet volunteers, but they didn’t know anything. The paid staff were all jerks. The volunteers who were informed were also jerks. Compare that to PAX or SDCC where nearly all the staff and volunteers are awesome and it seems inexcusable. Maybe it’s because New Yorkers are mean people? I dunno….
There’s no way I’m going back. PAX is *way* more fun for my annual big con experience and the indie focused shows are better for comics.
What was wrong about Sunday? Too many people? That’s not going to get fixed… they raise the prices and sell fewer tickets? Then the retailers suffer and fans complain, even if the aisles are less crowded. The exhibitors want lots of people to sell to, either with freebies (like the publishers) or with actual product (retailers). Fewer people also means NYCC must charge less per square foot, which means they must find other ways to make the money, perhaps by raising table fees in Artist Alley.
They do offer a Kids Con on Sunday, which I think is very important… get the kids involved, and eventually you’ll have happy energetic fans as seen upstairs at the Anime Festival. That’s why there was a Star Wars crafter panel…activity for kids.
Also, how long do people wait in line now at Hall H or at the IGN Theater, with no guarantee of getting inside? If the big panels are held before or after the show floor closes, then it’s less of a problem. Fans already have to add time to panels, since most have lines forming an hour before hand. Instead of waiting in line, you’re walking to MSG to a reserved seat. Less stress, less uncertainty. Registered attendees can reserve four tickets before the show, picked up when they badges are. Any unclaimed tickets are handed out at 6 AM, just like at Book Expo.
The “Great Wall” was there because the ceiling of the Javits center is being renovated. It’s an indoor version of the “sidewalk sheds” you see on Manhattan sidewalks, to protect convention goers underneath. It will be gone by next Fall.
The Anime Festival was independent for the first three years (December, then September). The fourth year, it was originally scheduled a few weeks after NYCC, but then ReedPop managed to get the entire building, and decided to merge the two. This is the second year they have been twinned.
I was disappointed that they didn’t print the show map separately from the program book. The PDF online looks like it was designed for such, but even the program guide didn’t allow for it to be torn out like a centerfold. The Android app I used was very handy.
No signal on your AT+T phone? Call AT+T (if you can get a signal!) and suggest they improve their service. Wi-Fi, that’s a Javits complaint. Someone should sponsor that signal, perhaps PaxEast (which is run by ReedPop). My Sprint phone worked well.
And if someone wants to make money or fill seats, buy some power strips and let people charge their cellphones while they watch your movie trailers or whatnot.
Just wanted to chime in and say Torsten’s NYCC piece here and Heidi’s Marvel/Ike piece are outstanding. Must reading.
@Torsten: Thx for the knowledge. I just assumed the Grat Wall was always there for structural purposes. This was my first time in the Javits.
@AndyG: I have Verizon and my reception was fantastic on the show floor.
However… as for the Javits wifi… that price if fucking ridiculous.
This was my first major con. It was a mess and I will not be attending another NYCC. My wife was good enough to come with me. She will not ever let me forget this.
I bought the 3 day badges. They were not checked at all, and in fact, on Sunday we experimented by clipping our subway passes to our lanyards. Walked right in with no problem.
There were far too many people crammed into far to small a space. Saturday, particularly, was extremely over-crowded. Is this how most of these larger conventions are run?
Chris Hero is correct regarding the paid employees, but that’s par for the course in New York, where 90% of the people whose job is to deal with the public seem to hate either their jobs or the public.
It was definitely an experience. At least I was able to sell my passes to a couple guys after leaving Sunday.
@Aaron, I’ve worked eight Holidays in retail here in New York City, so I know how … challenging customers can be. When dealing with anyone in a service position, I always index my patience with the employee’s demeanor to how many people the employee has to deal with that day.
If you want a smaller convention which is comics-centric, I recommend the Baltimore Comic Con. Their reputation among professionals is outstanding, the convention center is compact and easy to navigate, and the inner harbor offers other distractions.
I’m still wondering why a Chinese publishing company had their Book Expo America linked booths (most of them unmanned) set up right next to the small press area instead of on the “main” show floor with the larger publishers.
It created a cattle run that made people race past the small press booths that were at the end of it (like mine). The people from ComixTribe had it the worst, shoved into a corner with their booth right against the cattle run so that most people never even noticed they were there. And nobody puts ComixTribe in the corner!
Reading some of these complaints, I think some people would’ve been better off NOT attending the show at all!
Unless you lived under a rock the past few years and didn’t know ALL the NYCC were like this…
Me I really loved the NYCC, This was my third one and I’ll definately be back in 2012. My only gripe was the crowd capacity in some of the events such as the masquerade which I couldn’t get into at the last moment since I was meeting a friend for dinner having the several hall LCD monitors broadcasting the masquerade like they’ve done at the SDCC might have been a good idea at the time IMHO.
You’re right, I would have been better off not going. I had an *awful* time. After going to SDCC and PAX multiple years and having wonderful times at those shows, I thought NYCC would be run professionally. It wasn’t.
They don’t have the room for the people who are there. You do more damage to the con by not providing a good experience. If you got in by 10 and the con closed at 5. With the lines and mass of people what could you get out of that while with getting your kids thru that mass of people? My youngest is now 15 so its not a big issue but when my kids where younger large crowds like that are difficult/stressful (and dangerous).
Anyone who is only coming on Sunday for free is most likely not buying a whole heck of a lot. Why hurt the folks who pay? My group has decided that we use Sunday for traveling home. That sucks.
If they really want to get kids involved, which I agree with, take one of the queue halls and have some notable folks speak to them, show some trailers, get some characters in there, on the big screen have an artist of two show digital drawing, maybe some of the game companies can do something and hand out free comics. Or take what you saw up at Anime and move it into this ‘kids’ room?
I think we agree about after hour panels. PAX does that and I think it works quite well. Actually so does NYCC. Just not enough. Maybe videoing the panels and showing them in multiple rooms would help. They just did that at Blizzcon for some of their events and it works very well. I would think marvel and dc would like to have more people see their panels so I am thinking win win. But I honestly don’t know what space could be used.
MSG would only work if you did something on Wed. It could be special events and a great preview party while the venders/exhibitors still are setting up.
Go to any other con where they break it up into different venues and it fails. Have you ever been to any that were successful? The new expansion to the Javits should be better able to handle things.
I like the idea of the reserved seats but I think they would have to go from volunteers to paid folks. They can’t get rooms emptied, I understand why, not sure how the ticket thing would work, really slow down the process…did Jay and Silent Bob work out okay? Seemed like there was some issues, they moved people a few times while waiting. They had tickets for that event.
I a would also hate to see the door open to having to pay for these tickets. But its probably coming, how about a package? I have been to conferences where you get a pass for a series of talks and your badge says which talks you can go to. I would pay for that. Could that work?
Maybe they should just ustream the panels and let me watch them later. :)
Even though I am griping I still had a great time and always meet fantastic people at NYCC.