A lot is made of the “Comic-Con” namesake. Up until very recently, “Comic-Con” referred to the mecca of nerdery, San Diego’s Comic Con International. And why not? It’s the biggest, the most publicized, and brings in the highest profile of guests and programming. But SDCC isn’t the only game in town. Independent comic-cons are springing up across the nation on a weekly basis, and while none are in direct competition with Comic Con International, their existence shows the market of a comic-con fanbase outside of the line for Hall-H. Wizard World was previously one of the biggest names in fan conventions, but over-saturation of the market and the decline in quality of their shows has reduced the Wizard World brand to that of autograph flea-markets. Then there’s our good friends at ReedPOP, the boutique division from worldwide convention organizers Reed Exhibitions, responsible for shows like Star Wars Celebration, UFC Fan Expo, PAX, C2E2, and New York Comic Con. One week removed from the sold-out, record breaking 2012 edition of New York Comic Con, and looking towards 2013, could ReedPOP’s New York convention overtake San Diego as the event synonymous with “Comic-Con”?
New York Comic Con has undoubtedly benefited from the massive success and mainstream coverage of San Diego Comic Con over the past decade. In that time, SDCC’s attendance has nearly tripled in size, and became the go-to spot for the biggest studios, publishers, and companies to build a buzz behind their latest and greatest. NYCC is no slouch, either. In the 6 years the show has existed, attendance has grown by 350%, with the 2012 show selling out in advance and nearly 116,000 attendees accounted for. Consider that in the 6 years New York Comic Con has been at Jacob K. Javits Center, the facility has been undergoing a rigorous renovation, ensuring that at least a portion of the Javtis’ exhibition space has been closed due to construction.. The 2013 show will be the first since 2008 to allow ReedPOP and New York Comic Con use of the entire facility, freeing up an extra 90,000+ sq. ft. compared to the 2012 show.
Would ReedPOP be better off keeping the massive throngs of NYCC attendees limited to the previous year’s record-breaking attendance, or could New York Comic Con challenge SDCC ’12’s 130,000 comic-conners? ReedPOP Group Vice President Lance Fensterman, in a New York Comic Con Q&A at the end of the 2012 show, suggested that the 2013 show would consider spreading programming and exhibitions to the surrounding area of the Javits Center, much in the same way San Diego’s events utilize satellite locations for fan events.
Maybe attendance isn’t the best method of determining who wears the Comic Con crown in 2013? Both the Javits Center and the San Diego Convention Center are bursting at the seams, with legions of fans turned away due to sell-outs. Could the programming be the determining factor? SDCC has had the high-profile gets in recent years, most notably, the debut of Marvel Studios’ Avengers team in 2010. However, SDCC has had a tendency to stray from the comic and genre programming for Hollywood glitz, including events for Glee and Twilight. New York Comic Con has upped their programming and guest game, not only maintaining the content that makes a Comic Con a COMIC Con, but bringing big panels like 2011’s Avengers ensemble, and The Walking Dead cast now 3-years running.
The big intangible of the 2012 NYCC was the location of Artist Alley. At first glace, creators were wary of being so far removed from the busy show floor, but by the end of preview night, those fears were forgotten. The massive, well-lit hangar space reserved solely for Artist Alley could easily be considered the biggest and busiest Artist Alley’s in comic convention history. The response on Twitter has been overwhelmingly positive.
— Kittin Apparition (@KittinExploits) October 16, 2012
Hopefully NYCC & the entire artist alley hangar has proven there’s still great interest in creators connecting with fans…just not at SDCC.
— Ben Templesmith (@Templesmith) October 16, 2012
One big advantage SDCC has over NYCC is it’s proximity to Hollywood and all of the biggest media companies. However, it’s still not IN Los Angeles (at least for the time being), and outside of the convention center, bay, and world class animal parks, the city known as “A Whale’s Vagina” doesn’t have much going for it. New York, on the other hand, is the center of the universe. The City That Never Sleeps might not have the studio backlots of Tinseltown, but you can hop on the subway and end up at the New York headquarters of NBC, Fox, DC, Marvel, Comedy Central, and MTV. You can take in a showing of Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark, swing by the Ghostbusters firehouse, or troll the costumed characters population Times Square. Grab a bite at one of New York’s world famous restaurants, and rub elbows with creators at any of the city’s storied watering holes. And while a stay in the greatest city in the world might not be most frugal of comic-con trips, at the very least, the city doesn’t jack up hotel costs just because comic-con’s in town.
The best thing New York Comic Con has going for it, outside of the sweet location and the dedicated fans, is the brain-trust behind the show, ReedPOP. Having had the pleasure of working side by side with some of the ReedPOP team, I can attest that they aren’t in this for the money or the glory. This team works their fingers to the bone to make the best shows for the fans, and their blood, sweat and tears run through the very fabric of New York Comic Con. There was certainly an undercurrent of fear and uncertainty leading into what would be the biggest, most successful New York Comic Con, but they managed to make it out alive. In this day and age of social and comment chains, ReedPOP wouldn’t have to look far for feedback during or following the show, but they did something you don’t see from other comic-con organizers. In the final hour of New York Comic Con 2012, the ReedPOP team willingly submitted themselves to a Q&A panel to field comments, complaints, and criticisms. The Q&A could’ve easily turned into trolling and screaming matches, but outside of cell/wifi reception issues, a lack of anime content, and the show’s growing pains, the audience in attendance seemed pretty pleased with their Comic Con experience. I’d say that would be the majority opinion amongst the 116,000+.
Will New York Comic Con challenge SDCC for the Comic-Con crown in 2013? There are many intangibles involved that could tip the scales in either’s favor. The true winners are the comic-con attendees. If you’re on the East Coast, you can attend NYCC over SDCC and not feel as if you’re missing out on nerd-vana. If NYCC continues to up it’s game, expect San Diego to do the same, and this friendly competition will breed only the best content and experiences for the fans. We’re part of a billion-dollar industry, so why not enjoy being courted by the biggest of comic conventions as if we’re the belle of the ball? My bias towards New York Comic Con and ReedPOP is apparent, but if the folks behind SDCC want to bankroll The 11th Hour for a trip to their 2013 show, we’ll be happy to compare the two shows objectively (WINK WINK).
Filed Under: Features