2013: When NYCC Became THE Comic-Con

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.

New York Comic Con’s 2012 Artist Alley

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.

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).



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Jason Knize, K-Nice if you're nasty, is a co-founder of PanelsOnPages.com, resident News Editor, and one-half of the World Tag Team Champions, The 11th Hour. You can usually find him in the most wretched hive of scum and villainy...The PoP!ulation Forums.


Comments (17)

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  1. Z-R0E says:

    My only very small disagreement is the emphasis in the title. SDCC is still, and will remain, THE Comic-Con. NYCC has become the COMIC-Con.

    • Jason Knize says:

      I think fans and studios alike have grown complacent with SDCC, and if that show keeps on the same track, it won’t be a huge feat for NYCC to become the COMIC-Con as well as THE Comic-Con.

  2. Juggalojohn says:

    there was talk about moving SDCC to another location. they are out growing that space. the next biggest is the one in flordia that Star Wars Celebration is held in, (out by you knize) but that would move it to the east coast, and they don’t want that, the next up (and biggest venue) the Las Vegas Convention center. so i think NYCC will make a stide to be the big Con, seeing that they have alot of space still to use. but that itself may make SDCC move to keep up. and if it moves to Vegas, then thats a game changer

    • Jason Knize says:

      I’d say if SDCC has to move, whether up the coast or further inland, it loses. At this point, as bloated as SDCC is (and NYCC, for that matter), any more growth will only hurt. They will hit a wall. I’d wager that outside of travel, a big reason more PoP!ulation peeps don’t go to SDCC is because of the crowds. Waiting in line all day for Hall H doesn’t a full con day make.

    • Torsten Adair says:

      The largest convention center in the United States is in Chicago, and ReedPop has already claimed that for C2E2 (I can just imagine when all four buildings are used!)

      After that:
      2. Orlando (ReedPop: Star Wars Celebration)
      3. Las Vegas [sic it’s not part of the city] plus Sands and Madalay Bay (and numerous other hotels)
      4. Atlanta (unlikely… Dragon*Con fans would cry foul.)
      5. Detroit

      Most likely, Anaheim, site of the current WonderCon, and San Francisco, host of WonderCon, could be used to remove some of the crowds from CCI:SD, as they are much bigger spaces. Instead of one Nerdy Gras, you have three, at different times of the year, but offering the same experience.

      CCI still has the Hyatt which kinda hates CCI. Lots of exhibit space in that hotel not currently used.

  3. Tito says:

    What makes NYCC special to me (besides being in my backyard) is the folks at ReedPop. The one thing I’ve consistently said is that NYCC always improves and listens to their fans. While the show will never be perfect I’m confident that they will work hard at getting it as close as possible.

    What we can’t forget that while this is a play land for us running the con is still a business. I don’t care for the bottle neck that the video company booths create at the entrance but I understand that they pay a premium to get those spots. I’ve learned to avoid those spots as much as possible.

    I’ve never been to SDCC and NYCC has made it so that I never have to go. The one thing I hear a lot from creators is that NYCC still has it’s focus on comics. Yeah there are panels on TV shows and video games do have a presence there but comics are still front and center. Artist Alley was it’s own little con and I loved it.

    Already looking forward to next years NYCC!!

  4. MythicMage says:

    That’s one gorgeous thumb’s up. I’ve attended NYCC since it’s first and stayed through its brief growing pains. Now it’s worthy of any geek or entertainment fan with a yearning to be immersed in all the media forms they love.

    Not so focussed on competition with SDCC except where celebs and retailers might choose one or the other. So far I don’t see anything lacking in my east coast backyard geek fest.

    And yes, that NYCC panel with THE man, Lance Fensterman himself on the hotseat, was awesome and a phenomenal nod to the fans. Very true that we didn’t have major gripes with the epic weekend and to see the small crew he worked this magic with, who would bash them? Not me, nor did they deserve a spanking. Just want them to do it up again next year!

    Great piece, agree all the way.

  5. Shaun Manning says:

    I like NYCC. A lot. But I think there’s an important difference with SDCC that, for me, will always make San Diego a better show: community. As you say, New York is “the center of the universe” whereas San Diego… isn’t. But in terms of a mass gathering, that means that once people leave the Javits they’re spread to the four corners of the winds. There’s so much to *do* in New York, everybody’s got different ideas and wants to take utmost advantage of the opportunity; that’s great, individually. But for San Diego, the entire downtown *becomes* Comic-Con, and that is, frankly, an amazing thing to behold. There’s a spirit of community that New York can’t maintain outside the convention center. Further, whatever people do for dinner, or whatever parties or events they might attend in the evening, there’s a reliable meeting place in the Hyatt bar (or, lately, a few other locales). Catching up with friends I only see a couple times a year is the major appeal of cons for me these days, and NY’s lack of central meeting ground is one of the major reasons it falls short of SDCC in my eyes.

    • Jason Knize says:

      I think that’s a decent point. Even C2E2 has the Hyatt as “ground zero”. A hotel connected to the Javits could be a game changer.

    • Mirna says:

      Couldn’t have put it better. SDCC takes over Downtown San Diego and the Gaslamp District. Everywhere you turn is Comi-Con and that is huge when you are sharing 4 days with the Comi-Con community.

      I will try to check out NYCC next year to make a fair comparison. Just like if you haven’t been to SDCC is kind of hard to just judge it based on numbers.

  6. Torsten Adair says:

    1. CCI:SD is near the movie studios. NYCC is near the publishers. Of course, every major (and minor) studio has an office in NYC, ready to handle press junkets and herd talent, as well as screening rooms for press and invited guests.

    2. CCI has lots of nearby hotels, but no theaters. NYCC has no nearby hotels (but easy to get to), but The Theater at Madison Square Garden is nearby. (Site of the NBA draft.)

    3. CCI is less likely to become Angouleme, more likely to become New Orleans. (Less organized public events outside the convention center, more carnival atmosphere.) New York is known for their “weeks”, offering ancillary events to the public in conjunction with private events (fashion week, Spider-Man, New York is Book Country). Plus there are the UN consulates, and numerous cultural societies (Romania was there last year, Japan shows up almost every year) ready to offer a popular exhibit to draw attendees.

    4. Reed knows how to talk to publishers, having run BookExpo for decades. (And Reed is experimenting with letting the public attend BEA.) That will always be the core of NYCC, until the publishers stop attending. (Every major book publisher was there, as well as many smaller presses like Abrams and Taschen.)

    5. Javits has two floors of exhibition space. Media could be placed downstairs, leaving more space upstairs for traditional media and vendors.

    6. The 7 train starts serving Javits in 2014, making it a five-minute journey to Times Square (Marriott Marquis), Bryant Park (former site of the Fashion Show), and Grand Central (Grand Hyatt).

  7. RAGGEDT says:

    Torsten’s absolutely correct about the train serving Javits in two years. However, I personally like walking the four blocks from 8th Avenue to the convention site. Something kinda wonderful watching the trail of fans all heading to the Promised Land. Maybe that’s just me! 😉

  8. Benjamin J says:

    I’ve been to every NYCC since it began in 06, and I’ve exhibited since 08. It’s definitely a great time, and very quickly has come to rival CCI (it’s virtually it’s east coast equivalent, and IMO that’s how it should be), but there are a few MAJOR problems from this year that will hopefully be addressed next year. A lot of that has to do with the construction and the way everything was spaced (I had my reservations about Artist Alley and it was a bit of a pain to make one’s way through the sea of people to get there, but it seems to have ended up working out). I’m interested to see how the construction’s completion and having the ENTIRE building will impact the con’s growth.

    The other thing that was an absolute killer for virtually everyone in attendance, particularly on Saturday and Sunday, is that for whatever reason, the cell phone signal in the Javits Center was positively crippled. This impacted not only convention goers trying to make and receive outside calls to people they may have been trying to meet up with, (and god help you if you were trying to find anyone in that convention without being able to know where they are) but it was also the first year that vendors and exhibitors were scanning credit cards through mobile devices, which requires a WiFi signal of some kind to work. This created massive problems and probably lost a lot of people a lot of money through the course of the weekend, in addition to the general headache.

    These are not insurmountable problems, but if they persist, they’ll start affecting who visits, and who exhibits, and how. That said, I’ll be back next year, and I’m optimistic that it’ll be better than ever.

    • Jason Knize says:

      The Cell/Wifi signal was addressed at the end of con ReedPOP Q&A. Problem is, the Javits is such an old building that it’s like trying to get a signal in a bomb shelter. It’s going to require some serious improvements from the Javits management to bring that place up to 2012/3.

  9. ZombieNightingale says:

    I know one thing, C2E2 and NYCC are the two I want to go to for 2013. I’ve already been working on the costumes for them since last C2E2.

  10. Bunnies says:

    This year I was a crew member at NYCC. I can tell you the biggest issue with the Javits is crowd control. It would be a bigger and better benefit to limit the crowd it what it is (not selling more once the construction is finished)and spreading out the content they have. This year they completely eliminated the anime section they had the years previous and combined it on the show floor.

    Autographing should really be in a separate space from where the events (quidditch and the like) as well as the unbound and variant stages were because the lines get crazy. There needs to be more organization surrounding the special photo op ticketing and autographing. Lines were a real problem there.

    The show floor is simply too small now. There needs to be a separate section where they do the demos and gaming and things. That really needs one big space of it’s own because it creates a lot of problems in moving through certain areas of the floor. Same is true for the other big draws now on the show floor, they need their own sections because they’re such big crowd attractions. There are so many people at NYCC now, you really are moving like the walking dead, shuffling along. Spreading out the events, booths and the like to ALL available space while keeping the number of people the same would make it much more manageable…and much less smelly.

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