New York Comic Con more about comics than you thought

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With some perspective from really only following the show via the internet, this year’s New York Comic Con seems to have been another huge, hectic success. While crowding seems to have been an issue yet again, despite show promotion that featured media guests over comics, comics publishing announcements dominated the news cycle.

In fact, NYCC has really turned the tables on some of its critics. While my yearly critiques of San Diego’s media excess are often met with people pointing out that SDCC is still the biggest comics gathering in the Western Hemisphere, the same can be said of NYCC, despite the more pop culture aspects that get promoted every year.

Setting aside crowds and video games, you could have spent the whole NYCC experience just wandering around the huge, airy Artist Alley, that was so big that international superstar Juanjo Guarnido was just peacefully doing sketches. If it wasn’t catching up with artists from around the world in AA, you could:

• Listen to josei superstar Moyocco Anno speak

• Catch spotlights with Irwin Hasen, Neal Adams and Grant Morrison

• Listen to editors from Filip Sablik to Callista Brioll to Karen Berger talk about their work.

• Hear Brian Haberlin talk about new frontiers in digital painting

• See Becky Dreistadt, Evan Dahm and others talk about Kickstarter

• Listen to Cecil Castellucci, Lucy Knisley and others talk about comcis for younger girls

… and much more. Programming remains a bit of a puzzle at NYCC, with a “big box” approach that doesn’t take advantage of the incredible diversity of guests. Obviously, with the show sold out and then some, improvements are for aesthetics and not interest, but this is an area of huge potential.

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I’ll have more thoughts on this later but here’s a snapshot of some other views, led by Alex Zalben’s infographic on NYCC attendance:

- I went way further back with SDCC, mainly because at this point it seems like San Diego has maxed out pretty much since 2007. I don’t think that really tells the whole story, though, as SDCC has spilled over to the entire area around the Con center, with plenty of “attendees” not buying tickets; but showing up for the party.

– That said, as mentioned in the ICv2 article, NYCC is adding 90,000 sq. ft. next year, so has actual room for growth, where SDCC – other than being held officially on a bunch of boats or under the ocean – has ran out of room.


NYCC’s growth has been explosive, and has not maxed out, as Lance Fensterman discusses with Milton Griepp here:

What’s the construction situation going to be at the Javits next year?

It is done. Truth is, I feel like each year we do the show better than we’ve done it, and I’m not saying that as a compliment I’m saying each prior year we make mistakes, but each year we do it the best we’ve ever done it. And we’ve been doing it that way with this real hamstrung situation with the building. We’ve lost exits; we’ve lost upstairs; we’ve lost all kinds of ways to spread ourselves out. Next year I’m thrilled: we have the whole building; everything’s back in line; there’s no more scaffolding; there’s no more closed exits. We have the whole thing, so we’ll pick up about 90,000 gross square feet of space that we will utilize next year, which is fabulous.


Although security was a lot tighter this year, overcrowding remains an issue, as Emily Whitten reports:

• The broken escalators and bottlenecks. I know there’s only so much one can do when working with a set layout, but due to broken escalators, the wait to get from one floor to the next, particularly on Sunday, was claustrophobic and glacially slow. Also, the placement of the TMNT tunnel display, I am told, created a huge bottleneck and traffic jam. Very frustrating.


While basic safety issues are the single most importnt element of the show, as it gets bigger and bigger, so do expectations. For those who have complained about the “press entitlement” stories coming out of San Diego year after year, this whine about cell coverage may just be the ultimate cake taker:

While several fans and attendees were seen holding up their cell phones to get better connections, some of the worst wireless issues were found downstairs, ironically in the room that needed an Internet connection the most: The Javits Center's dedicated Press Lounge. Despite knowing how many thousands of press members would attend this convention, the Javits Center and Reed Operations simply neglected to create enough Wi-Fi hotspots for writers, analysts and reporters to publish articles and news stories throughout the day. With so many panels making news announcements each day, on top of the plethora of sights and artists' stories to share, the lack of wireless bandwidth becomes a serious communication issue to get content in and out of the Con.


Yeah ReedPOP! How DARE you not spend $100,000 so Geek Bleat can report on Andrew Lincoln’s bathroom breaks? Not to say that cell coverage at Javits isn’t horrific, but it’s a shit venue that only New Yorkers would put up with.

Whitten has some other complaints in an overall very positive piece.

Now, even though comics were the big news at NYCC, it seems that all the media PR hawks are circling and hoping to suck the oxygen right out of the room:

The turnout surprised and overwhelmed many entertainment reps who were visiting NYCC for the first time. But it should be eye opening as marketers look for more opportunities to speak directly to their customers.

It’s a crowd as rabid for fandom as you’ll find in Southern California. But surprisingly, NYCC attendees appear less jaded than their SDCC counterparts. They’re happier to take in what they’re being shown, not demanding to be impressed with crossed arms. They also appear more willing to dress up as their favorite character. That may be an East Coast thing, with Atlanta’s Dragon Con also notable for its cosplay.

The point, however, is that the faithful are gathering en masse in the country’s largest media market. What’s missing: the producers of their favorite properties.


The writer of this piece also complained about cell service and a lack of parties:

Not all’s rosy at NYCC, though. There’s a severe lack of cell phone service or working Wi-Fi, as well as a confusing layout and overcrowding of the show floor inside the Javits Center, which has seen better days. There’s also no party scene to speak of, although Legendary, Nerdist and the Kings of Con tried to rectify that this year. SDCC started generating more buzz when magazines like Entertainment Weekly, Maxim and Playboy threw lavish celeb-filled bashes. Such efforts would similarly transform NYCC.


We weren’t even there but according to Twitter, NYCC had tons of parties every night…oh but they were ones that cartoonists and comics people could get into. So that’s a problem now? Yes yes New York City needs more celebrity-filled bashes…that will really put the place on the map.

Hero Complex also assessed NYCC’s media showcase potential:

Though the major movie studios perhaps have a larger presence at San Diego’s Comic-Con International, a favorite venue for the promotion of tentpole releases, New York Comic Con is certainly not wanting for star power this year. This weekend’s lineup includes panels with the casts of “666 Park,” “Arrow,” “The Following,” and the upcoming “Carrie” remake, as well as appearances by filmmakers Guillermo Del Toro and Kevin Smith, author Anne Rice, and nostalgic favorites Carrie Fisher and Christopher Lloyd. Brian Lambariello, 22, of Warren, N.J., was “freaking out” to hear that 1960s TV Batman actor Adam West would be making an appearance at the Javits Center. But for Lambariello, who came dressed as Steven Stone, a character from “Pokémon,” the main attraction at Comic Con isn’t the stars or the snazzy new video games.

“It’s about the social aspect,” he says. “It’s about meeting up with people you only get to see online that live three hours away.”

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Adweek’s Sam Theilman also chimed in:

All right, video games. Sure, they’re not comic books, but we’re in the same neighborhood, right? That doesn’t explain the presence of toolmaker Craftsman. “We’re looking to target a slightly younger and more alternative crowd, and we know that these are creative people who are actually making their own costumes and stuff,” said Cristina Cordova, Sears’ manager of community engagement (Sears owns Craftsman). And do people care? “We’ve had non-stop flow,” she said of the crowded booth. “It’s been fantastic.” To get into the spirit of things, Craftsman commissioned its own comic book, featuring Technician, a branded superhero who saves the Hall of Justice from actual DC supervillain The Key, who breaks in while the Justice League is away.

The irony, of course, is that Comic Con has become so successful that you couldn’t find most of the comics’ artists on the show floor. Artists Alley, the few rows of folding tables and chairs that used to be called, you know, a comic book convention, was down a long hallway separate from the rest of the show. “Ordinarily I’d worry about an Artists Alley that was completely removed from the main room, but having been in the main room, I’m very happy to have our own place,” said Mike Mignola, who would normally be carried from booth to booth on a palanquin toted by adoring fans. Mignola is the writer and artist who created Hellboy, a series praised for both the depth of its artwork and the intricacies of its storytelling that was adapted into two popular movies by director Guillermo Del Toro. Granted, Mignola seemed to be available only by coincidence—by the time he’d given a two-minute interview, there were four or five fans waiting in line for autographs—but it was surprising to see one of the biggest artists there chilling out several hundred yards from the action of the show.


Some might call a convention where Mike Mignola can just chill out a success and not a situation to be solved, but we’ll be back with fan observations on the show in our next post.

Comments

  1. I’m pretty sure those “broken” escalators were turned off for a reason. Imagine what happens with a line of 100 people trying to get down an escalator when someone at the front of the line can’t step off due to a sudden circle of people taking pics of Poison Ivy. You can’t temporarily back up a moving escalator. Yes, it’s annoying to have to funnel into the escalator — and annoying to see it covered in detritus from postcards that were being handed out and dumped by attendees who have no concept of garbage cans (or likely toothpaste) — but it’s far safer than keeping the escalator moving.

    The better solution is more wide staircases. There’s only one of those at the far end of the covention center, and then it gets slightly crowded with people sitting on them. UGH

  2. “but it was surprising to see one of the biggest artists there chilling out several hundred yards from the action of the show.”

    I’ve often found that to be a double-edged sword. It’s great for fans to access their favorite, or newfound creators, but on the creator side we’d also like to have a *good* show, thus we do want the crowds / traffic. So it concerns me at times when artists get isolated too much. As always a balance is what everyone wants — and so hard to achieve. It’s as if the best show depends on which year a person attends a convention before it gets too far out of hand. A separate artist alley can work if nurtured well and NYCC looks like they’re doing a great job. On the other hand, SDCC might find a bit of resistance if they decide to up and move their Artist Alley off the main floor. Perhaps if they get the expansion they want… but that’s years off.

  3. For the amount of people employees had to coral and sort and the bottleneck construction, the organization and helpfulness of everyone working there was amazing. I hope tablers left some goodies for them!

  4. We had an awesome time at NYCC. Kids’ comics don’t fare that well in big media environments like these, with that horrible one-two-punch of celebrity seekers and free-stuff zombies, but we had a steady stream of interest and, “Thank you for being here” type conversations. It helped to have programming, both in panels (well, we had one panel) and at the booth, where we had free sketch sessions for kids, booth signings, sales, and free comics and posters. We saw a lot of smiling faces, and for that, I say, “Thanks, ReedPOP!”

    The cell coverage was abysmal but the paid WiFi was reliable enough to keep credit card payments rolling, but alas, no ability to simultaneously tweet (the WiFi is per-device). I would advise internet-dependent folks to always include a paid WiFi plan in their show expenses.

  5. Torsten Adair says:

    There are emergency staircases, but that would require more security (unless they were exit only).

  6. Torsten Adair says:

    I stood in three lines at Artists Alley:
    1) Amanda Conner. It moved quickly, as she was only signing and selling posters. Roughly ten people in front of me.
    2) Dan Slott. Three people in front of me. Signing only. When he saw my Ren & Stimpy comics, he then talked about ten minutes about his experiences. No big line.
    3) Peter David. Maybe a five minute wait.

  7. The layout this year was far superior to prior years — the Reed people did a great job with the new layout. I actually decided last year not to return after a frustrating time in the small press area last year. But I was invited as a guest by app maker Visionborne to appear in their booth in the main hall. Based on what I saw I would definitely give NYCC another try with my own booth.

    Were the crowds too much? Of course. Could they have been managed better? Yes — put some convention staff in the isle intersections to simply tell people to keep moving and not stop and pose and take pictures .

    I thought artis’s alley was a great space and a sanctuary for sanity after the madness of the main hall.

    I still think they could to do more to promote comic creators along with media stars, but it did seem like this year was a bit more about comics. Let’s hope this trend continues.

    Everyone I spoke to who was in artist’s alley or the main hall said they did well — many people sold out of all the books they brought. The general mood was very positive from a business perspective.

    It should be very interesting when that extra 90,000 sq. feet is added next year. Hooray for comics!

  8. Thanks for the link to my column, and the round-up of other reports. I enjoyed reading! :)

  9. Darrell Taylor says:

    This year they needed more people to keep traffic moving on the con floor. Because of the gluttony of Cos players stopping to have their pictures taken every five minutes it made being on the main floor unbearable for me.

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