New York Comic Con was a very fascinating experience. For one, It was my first time going, and it was my first time going to a big convention as press. I helped out in both the exhibition hall, where I had a friend with a booth, and in artist’s alley, where another friend was always dealing with a mega crowd. I wandered the floor with BuzzFeed as they worked on their cosplay stories, and I interviewed a dozen or so actors, writers, and producers in the press rooms. I was anything but a regular attendee, and as someone who usually is just that, it was a whole new world. I also went alone, and while I met up and met lots of lovely people, I found myself alone on the floor a lot, which both added and detracted from my experience.
What I had heard about NYCC, in comparison to SDCC which I’ve been going to for the past two years, was that while the numbers were only a bit less, it was smaller. It’s more contained and there’s a different focus. Everyone was right. NYCC is a different beat all together. It welcomes anywhere from 120-130k people every October and is a full celebration of the comic world.
New York Comic Con differs from San Diego Comic Con is many ways, but the most prevalent is the amount of comics on the floor. NYCC is comic books… everywhere. I’d say a good 80% of the floor is comic book oriented, whether it’s indie companies or Marvel or web comics, they’re everywhere. The panels also reflect this, with a host of comic book panels. At NYCC comics are the stars, and if you love comics, you’ll be in heaven.
As someone who isn’t a comic book reader, I found wandering the floor a bit lackluster and not to my taste, but I know I’m in the minority in that. I dabble in web comics, but it’s definitely dabbling, and the only comic books I actually own are ones I’ve been given as gifts. For those who are comic book fans, NYCC is a joy and a gift, while other big scale conventions are more pop culture, NYCC sticks to their original roots.
NYCC is also home to the largest Artists Alley in the country, if not the world. It’s a massive warehouse that is filled from corner to corner with artists. We’re talking everyone from indie comic book artists to the colorists of Deadpool to Alice X Zhang, who does official art for Doctor Who. It was open later than the main exhibition floor and was always crowded to the brim. People at NYCC love art. They love comics. They love everyone from the unknowns that they’ve just discovered to the big wigs, and that’s kind of nice to see.
Wristbands were introduced this year to NYCC, as well as clearing out the Main Stage between panels. When wristbands were introduced for Hall H this past July at SDCC, it was a bit of a scandal and a bit of a disaster in that there was never any real clarification on when things started being handed out (it was always a last minute dash once they were), and lines were at their most ridiculous. The idea of clearing out Hall H and Ballroom 20 between panels has been broached for SDCC, but people didn’t know if it’d work. Having talked to some attendees at NYCC who went to the Main Stage… I’ve got to say, I think it will.
Every morning, you could line up for the Main Stage panel of your choice. This was usually around eight in the morning. Once wrist banded you could either go and enjoy your day and show up for your designated panel, or get in line for another panel to get THAT wristband. This allowed people not to spend their whole day waiting in a panel room for that ONE panel they wanted to see, and it just made everything very smooth and orderly. One issue was that if you had two panels back to back, you did lose your seat and had to get back in line to re-enter the room. However, it was a system that worked. It cut down on queues, it was orderly, and it seemed to really run without major hitches. The Empire stage didn’t have wristbands, but those in line said they figured it would next year. I don’t know if this system would work at SDCC, as clearing out Hall H takes an age and a half, but I think it’s a better system than the horrible wristband system they have now where it’s so stressful and you have to camp out on the grass overnight.
NYCC is located in the Javits Center, so called the “crystal palace” by the volunteer worker who guided me towards the press entrance. It’s a megalith of glass and metal along the river as the far west end of Hell’s Kitchen. It’s also one of the worst designed pieces of architecture in the world. A labyrinth of staircases, elevators, and hidden halls with rooms above and beyond, it’s plain impossible to find anything. While I know this was my first go at it, I’m usually pretty good and figuring out where I’m going by following signs and looking at maps… but not at Javits. I had to ask for directions every single time, and I still tended to get lost. However, there’s no other place for NYCC in NYC, is there? A city that built to the brim, where can it host over 100,000 people? Unless NYCC goes out of the city, it will remain at Javits and maybe one day people will be able to navigate it.
I adore SDCC with my heart and soul. It’s the epitome of the summer for me, but I also know it’s not to everyone’s taste. Not everyone is as obsessed with movies and off-site events, not every wants to wait in lines overnight for an hour panel for their favorite television show, and some people would prefer to be contained to a single building than have an entire city’s downtown to navigate. I get that. Under normal circumstances, I’d be that person, but the magic of SDCC captured me, and I don’t think anything will beat it in my book. But that’s just me, and I know more than enough people will hold NYCC in the highest regard.
And ranking doesn’t matter. These conventions are great because they bring together nerds of all walks of life, and they’re celebrated here. NYCC has got a lot of things right, and to many, it’s the best convention of the year. I can understand why. It was a fun time and a really interesting time, and I encourage everyone to go, especially if you’re a comic fan.