NYCC 10: There were crowds

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While we consider NYCC a complete success from where we stand, it wasn’t without problems — mostly in security and crowd control. While we’re working on our full write-up, Evan Dorkin has some comments that give the other side:

Saturday however, was, for me, a bummer. I really wished I had stayed home. My signing went okay but I really regretted not scheduling it for Friday as DHC originally planned. It was a nice hour. The rest of the day I was mostly bored when not driven nuts by the over-crowded aisles, filled with too many inconsiderate folks walking with their heads down while texting or talking on phones, jerks stopping to talk or take pictures of cosplayers in the middle of the aisles (the larger cons really need to have a Pathetic Masturbators Photo-Op Area, because that shit’s just out of control), cosplayers stabbing people in the necks, stomachs and elsewheres with prop swords, spears, and whatever-the-fucks they’re carrying from Final Fantasy Infinity, oafs knocking into people with their backpacks and not even having the common decency to say “excuse me”, etc.

The show is a huge success, obviously, good for them, but it’s overstuffed, I mean, they have exhibitor tables right outside the friggin’ bathrooms, fer corn’s sake, and fate forbid a fire ever breaks out while the cattle drive is in the halls. I realize NYCC does not exist to be entertaining or even palatable to one Mr Evan Dorkin, I’m not asking for more art comics or more Godzilla events or more whatever for me, personally — and I’m not asking anyone to change anything, or even wishing they’d change anything — except how they handle the flow of human beings in the hall, and how they communicate to some of those human beings that they need to act responsibly and sensibly while at the event.


We’ll have more on this later.

Comments

  1. My NYCC experience was much the same as Mr. Dorkin’s. There were plenty of comic book creators in artist’s alley, enough to keep me happy since I had zero interest in playing D&D, playing video games in the massive Intel field, trying out my Michael Jackson dance moves, or the dozens of other blaring, gaudy, distracting non-comics crap going on.

    But good god, the crowds. It made for a miserable experience if you just wanted to get from point A to point B.

  2. Rafael says:

    Up until recently I spent 13 years in the Event/Trade Show industry and I can say without a doubt that the ones organizing the rooms and traffic flow were not paying attention to simple fire safety codes. I had one woman who blocked my path from opening a door to exit the IGN theatre while they were forcing about 300 people to exit from 1 door.

    This is the kind of inexpereinced people that Reed had in management positions. The crap flows down in the Trade show industry. If people at the top don’t care it’s going to trickle down to the volunteers who take their marching orders from them.

    It’s great that they sold out Saturday. But the crowds were too insane. I was one of those taking pics of Cosplayers in the aisle. And while Evan Dorkin has a right to complain (it’s a free country) I have a right to take a picture of someone in an interesting costume. But lets put blame where it lies. With the organization. They underestimated the size of the crowds at this years NYCC. Artist Alley was a mob scene. The autograph area was mishandled from Day one. Reed needs someone in the programming area who cares about the attendee.

  3. Friday had a reasonably-sized crowd, and it was quite enjoyable. Saturday got insane, but I spent it mostly in panels. Have to agree that there needed to be better “crowd flow” management. For example, there were two walkways that joined both sides of the exhibition hall around the construction area. Why not make each one “one way only”? And while people do have the “right” to take pictures of people in costume, please please please don’t do it at the top of the escalator where people are trying to disembark. And a dedicated photo area would be a good thing… I’m pretty sure I accidentally photobombed many pictures this weekend.

  4. Heh… “One way only”… yeah… sure… So you walk all the way to the front or back of the hall, and discover it only goes one way. How do you feel then?

    I had no trouble using those walkways. The one up front was much to close to the actual entrance to be of use… it was easier to just exit the hall and use the public space to traverse the crowds. The one in back was less congested.

    Friday and Sunday was easy enough to navigate, Saturday I spent wandering artists alley, so avoided much of the crowds elsewhere.

    I agree with the “photobombers”. It’s worse with camera phones, as they usually don’t have a telephoto lens, and the person has to back up to get the photo, causing more traffic problems.

    Reed could designate “cosplay” zones on the show floor for photography, but I think most people will still want to take a snap of somebody walking by.

    It’s probably best to set out a rule that all photography take place outside the show floor, and then hire babushkas or Klingons to publicly berate those inconsiderate slobs to “take it outside”.

    Or just have every cosplayer stop by the Kodak photobooth located downstairs, where everyone gets a free photo of themselves, it’s posted to the NYCC/NYAF website, and everyone can download and share those photos.

  5. I have to say that, for every inconsiderate person who bumped into me there were two who actually said “excuse me.” Also, I found a surefire way to respond to the stupid photo-ops – just walk right in between the poseur poser and the person with the camera. Not polite, to be sure, but sometimes you have to fight fire with fire.

  6. I actually appreciated how enthusiastic the fans were at NYCC (and the hidden basement Anime Fest). It certainly felt like 95% of the attendees wanted to be there, compared to San Diego where I feel like these days at least 25% just show up because they think it’s the thing to do but really don’t care for most of what is on display.

    That said, I totally agree with Evan that crowd control was a big problem. With so few entrances there was much bottlenecking that seemed to spiral out into confused masses of people. And all the tunnels and construction did not help. So many people seemed lost and most I talked to had no idea where things like Artist Alley or panels were even located (all the way on the other side, keep going through the barren lands).

    I know this is a problem at all big shows, but the noise also seemed particularly assaulting. So many competing booths with loud music, microphones, prize giveaways, dancers, etc. There were very few places to have an actually conversation. And with no carpeting in the Artist Alley nothing to help buffer the noise pollution. Even people on the Variant Stage were completely drowned out from the IGN booth and surrounding chaos.

  7. Trish Mulvihill says:

    Speaking as someone who got seriously bonked in the nose with a fake sabre, I concur.

  8. see how easy it is to do some decent con coverage when you buckle down, remember that no one cares about late flights, hotel bars and bagels, and focus on what’s important, mainly…the actual convention?

    You’ve really grown.

  9. evan dorkin says:

    Heidi -

    How is my write-up from “the other side”? My blog post takes pains to note the event was obviously successful and folks had fun. I didn’t, strictly due to my own personal tastes in comics and ephemera. The write-up was about crowds and crowd control, different issues from whether the show was a success, however gauged, and in agreement with your short statement about show “problems”. Sounds like the same side, for all intents and purposes. Putting me in the adversary role on this one wasn’t necessary. When I bomb a convention (Big Apple), it’s obvious. Here I was attacking one particular aspect of the show, which quite a few others had a problem with as well. Meaning: I have no problem with Marvel and DC and Nikita puffery, it’s not for me. I have no problem with cosplaying — actually, I think it’s kinda cool — except when someone’s sword smacks me in the face. Security and crowd control. Only problem. Oh, that and general human indifference to others around them, but that’s beyond Reed to tackle.

    Thanks.

  10. I hate being jostled, and I don’t want to set up booths any more, so I’m pretty much done with big conventions.

    Lee Hester
    Lee’s Comics

  11. evan dorkin says:

    Oh, and Rafael – yes, I have a right to complain, thanks for that. And you have a right to hold up the aisle taking pictures of the chick in the Supergirl costume. Guess who’s the bigger pain in the ass to more people while expressing their rights?

    Just because you can do something doesn’t mean you have to. I saw low-rent paparazzi and their models holding up massive amounts of people, including old folks and people with strollers. Babies and old folks win out over people needing another shot of Harley Quinn, maybe I’m crazy to believe that. Common courtesy wins out over that as well, I’d like to think. But your needs for cosplayer costume pictures are obviously more important than letting folks get to where they’re going a little faster, I understand that. Taking pictures outside the hall areas just isn’t enough of an aesthetic option, and you might miss a few key costumes, I know.

    Thanks for letting me complain.

  12. Honestly the crowds, photos, and everything didn’t really bother me that much (although getting from one point to another wore my patients thin at times.) But thats ComicCon… what else are you expecting?
    Saturday was really damn crowded and I think there were more people there than they knew. I had spent some time waiting for someone at the south entrance to the show and it was like Woodstock. Security gave up trying to check badges as such a mass of people were coming and going and I saw a lot of people without badges going in or scooting under the rope barriers. I was standing next to a couple that were openly talking about which way was best to sneak in, under the ropes or the main entrance past the security. They opted for the main entrance and were in without a problem.
    It’s a work in progress and I think the show gets better every year. I’m looking forward to next year.

  13. The Beat says:

    Hey Evan:

    Sorry for my poor phrasing. Yours was the first time I had seen the crowding issues addressed in a post-show wrap-up, and provided a great way to introduce the topic. Of course you are not saying the show was a stinker.

    BTW show runner Lance Fensterman has addressed some of this here:

    http://www.mediumatlarge.net/2010/10/some-post-nycc-thoughts.html

  14. Dave Meikis says:

    I, for one, fully support Mr. Evan Dorkin’s position – that NYC needs more Godzilla-related shows.

  15. SLG went to the first two of the Reed New York Comic-Cons. I feel like these people never really got a handle on how to manage crowds or the show. The troubles with the first show were epic and the second one, while better, still had a lot of issues with poorly controlled aisles and a couple of exhibitors whose behavior created dangerous situations in the hall.

    Still, it seems like things have gotten better since then and one would assume the learning curve is pretty steep on these things.

  16. i’ve been to four out of the five nycc shows. this one by far was the best. was it perfect? no. saturday was a madhouse (i tried to do some shopping in the vendor area and it was next to impossible), but as bad as the crowds were it still wasn’t as bad as the very first nycc when the fire marshall closed the show down and would not allow anymore folks to enter (which included folks that left and wanted to get back in). that show was like a mosh pit. i too, also saw a real lack of security at the entrances and i agree that in that area things could be handled better. but the thing to remember about these shows is that even with tighter security there are gonna be CROWDS. here, there, and everywhere. i’m not a fan of big crowds,in fact i try to avoid them, but it’s the nature of the beast. gaming, comics, tv/movies, video games, anima/manga, all have their finger’s in each other’s pies (eww), and with shows of this scale they’re all gonna be represented in one way or another. if ya wanna comics show about comics hit the mocca, baltimore or charlotte shows (which are all great shows). if ya got a problem with shows the size of nycc with huge crowds (and yes, there will be rude a-holes at these show,so what else is new), there is something one can do to avoid the insanity: don’t go. i hang out mostly in artist alley and i have to admit that even on saturday it was pretty roomy in there. it was probably the most room i’ve seen for one of these shows allotted for artist alley. one of the wives of the artists was telling me that she heard that the folks in charge were gonna put a carpet down in artist alley, but for one reason or another didn’t get to it in time. and as always the artists were the coolest bunch of folks ya wanna meet.a show of this size is always gonna have unexpected problems pop up, but slowly and surely this show is coming along. i’m already looking forward to next year’s mosh pit. thanks for letting me rant!

  17. Don’t you think a viable small-press/altcomix presence is a necessary condition for characterizing a comic convention as “a complete success,” Heidi?

  18. 96K this year? Ziggy and Zonds!

    ’07 was still the best year. No con crud.

  19. Sean: I dunno, is the presence of Grant Morrison and Jose Luis Garcia Lopez necessary for a show like TCAF to be a “complete success”?

    I will be addressing this and other topics in my longer con write up.

  20. Tom Spurgeon says:

    If TCAF became TCC and modeled themselves after San Diego I think it’d be fair to criticize them for not having any mainstream comics talent on hand.

  21. Jim Caldwell says:

    I always thought the presence of Jim Caldwell is a necessary condition for characterizing a comic convention “a complete success,” but maybe that’s just me.

  22. Heidi, I can’t imagine you really think that’s a germane comparison.

  23. But even still, I’ll bite: Yes, I have no problem saying that I think a thriving alternative-comics presence is more vital to comic conventions, and comics in general, than that of Jose Luis Garcia-Lopez, or even Grant Morrison (and you know I bow to no one in arguing for his genius–well, to no one who didn’t post at Barbelith, at least), and therefore I also have no problem saying that a comic convention with a fantastic alt/art/lit/underground presence but without much in the way of superhero books and media-tie-in books is more of a success than the other way around, based on what I care about and think is important.

    Of course the only way I’d feel comfortable calling ANY con “a complete success” is if it featured me getting a David Bowie sketch from David Bowie.

  24. Sean: why isn’t it?

    Different shows are aimed at different audiences. If Chris Ware doesn’t go to Otakon can the show never be deemed “a complete success”? Can a show ONLY be a complete success if Fantagraphics and D&Q exhibit? Does that put Heroes Con, Emerald City, WonderCon and Baltimore out of the running, too?

    I would think — and I am beginning to emend my thinking on the topic — that the crowding and disorganization was more of what affected the “complete success” metric than the absence of publishers who were asked to attend in past years — and did attend in years past — but didn’t think it was the kind of show they would find financially viable for them at this time.

    I’m not going to speak for Lance Fensterman, but every time I’ve heard him speak on the subject he’s mentioned how much he would love to have D&Q and Fanta at the show. But it isn’t cost effective for them.

    The question of why attending big box comics shows isn’t cost effective for art comix publishers is a topic all to itself. But given all the great indie focused shows we have here in New York, and the indie-focused comics events that take place nearly every week here, it’s not like we’re lacking for stuff to do.

  25. I should mention that my response above was written before I saw Sean’s second post above. In which case, I’d have to say I disagree to some extent. Are Top Shelf, Pantheon, First Second and webcomics not part of a “thriving alt/art/lit/underground” presence? Or just not the part you are interested in?

    Would the show have been even more interesting and fun with everyone from SPX plopped down into the middle of it? Hell yes. But I understand the economic reasons why they weren’t.

    Don’t get me wrong, NYCC has a long ways to go to become an all-inclusive comics show. But at this point I think just solving the basics like crowding and scheduling is more important.

  26. I like tons of Pantheon and Top Shelf books and usually one book per First Second slate, but when I say “thriving presence” I don’t mean “are the individual publishers that are there awesome or not,” I mean “does that section of the show do well, attract attention, get press, draw attendees and creators.” I don’t think that segment *of this show* is thriving vs. the rest of the show, no. For example, did Pantheon have X’ed Out available at the show? If so, awesome, but did you read word one about it in any show coverage? I sure didn’t. That little group of publishers–which is mostly the alt-ish wings of gigantic NY publishing houses, not the alternative comics press per se–doesn’t reach the critical mass that it does at San Diego, let alone TCAF/MoCCA/SPX/APE/BCGF/etc.

    Again, I truly don’t feel comfortable using “complete success” as a rubric–I don’t think complete success is possible, for one thing, unless of course we’re talking about Acme Novelty Library #20. It was your word choice not mine–and actually, it was those words themselves that struck me at least as much as what it connoted in terms of what you think of NYCC and the mission of big shows like this. But I will say that I, personally, don’t have much interest in going to a big giant show with out much altcomix presence on the floor or in the programming schedule, and I think the proliferation of such shows is…get ready…Bad For Comics. I don’t know that it “rules out” Baltimore or Emerald City (Heroes Con’s Indie Island makes it a different beast), but it’s not like I’m hoofin’ it to either of them.

    Moreover I think NYCC has a really low bar to clear because its nearest competitor is Wizard’s late-model shows, and NYCC looks like something curated by Dan Nadel by comparison. It also gets a lot of free goodwill because half the comics press and at least 75% of its big-name publishers can booze it up and have a great time at karaoke and then take the MTA home, which isn’t true of San Diego, which I really do think accounts for a lot of the inevitable post-SDCC kvetching every year.

  27. Let’s face it: there’s a lot to be said for reliable, affordable mass transit.

    I have some other thoughts on these topics but I think I will fold them into my actual con report, from which this whole discussion is taking valuable time.

  28. Why not kill two birds with one stone and just recycle your half of the conversation wholesale like I just did?:

    http://robot6.comicbookresources.com/2010/10/why-i-didnt-go-to-the-new-york-comic-con/

    I was struggling with the idea of putting together a post of this sort all day and it didn’t come together until I had this conversation with you, so thank you for helping me make my thoughts a little more coherent!

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