Convention congestion came to the New York Metro area on the weekend of June 14-15, with three shows being held in the area: ReedPOP's Special Edition: New York City, Long Island's EternalCon and Westchester's New York Comics Fest.
The most high profile was Special Edition, a new and smaller comics companion to New York Comic Con, also organized by ReedPop. The debut drew moderate crowds to the Javits Center June 14-15—the show organizer declined to reveal final attendance figures. ReedPop said Special Edition had proved “the overall event concept,” emphasizing that the show is not tied to New York and may be used as a template for launching small ReedPop-organized comics shows around the country.
Held in the smaller Javits North hall, Special Edition attracted somewhat heavy traffic Saturday and much lighter traffic on Sunday. The show featured an artist alley-style setup for signings, publisher exhibitors and book sales, lots of back issue and toy vendors, and a two-day programming slate featuring Gail Simone, Howard Chaykin, Kurt Busiek, Amy Reeder, Greg Pak, Marguerite Bennett, and many others.
Show organizer Mike Armstrong declined to provide precise figures on the show’s attendance, “We’re not going to release numbers for the show. SE:NYC was designed to be a smaller, more intimate event, overall attendance is probably not the best measurement of success. The show did what we wanted it to do. It had the right number of fans and the right number of creators.”
He also acknowledged that Special Edition is an experimental concept and the show is likely to be used as a template for organizing comics shows in “underserved” markets around the county. Armstrong said feedback from fans, publishers and artists has been “overwhelmingly positive.” Armstrong said, “fans want access to creators in a more intimate environment,” he said, and creators have expressed “satisfaction in being able to have meaningful and less hurried interactions with their current fans and new readers.”
Armstrong acknowledged that the show as scheduled competes with the two other local comics shows over the same weekend—EternalCon in Garden City, NY and the New York Comic Fest in White Plains. But he also emphasized that no decision has been made on where or when the next Special Edition will be held, or even if it will be in New York.
“We’re in dialogue with the other events about the schedule,” Armstrong said. He emphasized that, “no decision has been made on venue or location. The show is not tied to New York. We may move it around, looking for underserved comics markets.” Indeed, Armstrong said that “multiple locations around the country, even all at the same time, are also possible.”
The conflict in schedules of the three shows led to some grumbling and definitely split creator and dealer resources among the three—some creators commuted between two of the shows. Eternal Con, a more toy and celebrity focused show held at Garden City's Cradle of Aviation Museum, drew a crowd of cosplayers as well as comics fans. Organizer Frank Patz told PW that the show was a "huge success, beyond my expectations," drawing more than 3000 people each day. He observed that conventions are becoming a regional thing, as shows in smaller markets get bigger and better known. "The only shows that draw people from outside their region are the 'supercons,' San Diego and New York. You won't travel to go to a different Six Flags but you will go to Disney World. The only thing that it really affects is competition for guests." Patz plans to hold the show again next year.
New York Comic Fest's Cliff Galbraith also declined to give an attendance figure but told PW the show had "a great turnout, a fantastic response from pros, fans and dealers alike." Next year's New York Comic Fest will expand to two days and be held May 30-31, and his company, Crucial Entertainment, plans to expand their convention schedule, as well. The Asbury Park Comic Con, also put on by Crucial, will be evolving into the East Coast Comicon, to be held April 11-12, 2015. "We outgrew Asbury Park," he continued, "and while we love the town, it's difficult putting on a con in a hotel or an old convention hall. We haven't given up on Asbury Park, we like to think that like Frosty the Snowman it'll 'be back again one day.'"
First announced in February this year, Special Edition was described as an effort to launch a spring show on a smaller scale than the mega-sized New York Comic Con that would offer better access to comics creators for fans and a less frenzied and crowded exhibition floor experience for everyone. For the most part, the show appeared to deliver on those promises. Attendance on Saturday was brisk and steady throughout the day. The atmosphere was relaxed; lines for autographs or simply to chat with an artist or writer, were short and manageable. However, by any measure Sunday traffic was very light and a number of vacant tables suggested that the artists and publishers decided to take the afternoon off.
Nevertheless, publishers, artists and vendors PW talked with seemed pleased overall, although they were somewhat perplexed over the nature of the show and its future. Most exhibitors PW contacted said they were happy with the Saturday sales, and all of them said they would exhibit again next year. The reaction to business on Sunday was mixed: some exhibitors complained about the lack of traffic but a number of individual artists noted very good sales.
“The team is thrilled with how Special Edition turned out,” Armstrong said. “We will be deploying extensive surveys to our fans, creators and retailers and using that to determine their overall satisfaction with the event. Early returns have been strong and we’re excited to see what’s next for the concept.”