In a few short years, the New York Comic-Con has changed from a medium-size show with a densely crowded floor to a huge show with a densely crowded floor. Now in its sixth year, NYCC, to be held October 13–16 at the Javits Center, will take up the whole facility and has added an extra day as an industry day for professionals and a preview night for fans.

In addition, the show has added White Space, a three-hour invitation-only summit of key players in the comics, video game, film, TV, and other fields that cater to the pop culture market. White Space is a joint presentation of ReedPOP, NYCC’s parent company; ReedMIDEM, a sister company that runs rights conferences; and GeekChicDaily, a daily pop culture e-mail.

Organizers are expecting more than 100,000 attendees this year, swelled by a resurgent interest in comics due to DC’s New 52 program. Despite part of the Javits’s main show floor being blocked off because of construction on the roof—as it was for last year’s show and for this year’s BEA— there are more exhibitors and more exhibit space than ever, says Lance Fensterman, group v-p of ReedPOP. Exhibit space is up 35%, from 105,000 sq. ft. last year to 140,000 sq. ft. this year, and the number of exhibitors is up about 30%.

The extra space is housed in the upstairs Galleria and the new North Pavilion. The Galleria will hold many of the exhibits that used to make up the New York Anime Festival—now part of NYCC—including an artists’ alley, screenings, and room for fans to simply hang out. The North Pavilion will be used for signings and such attractions as a Lucasfilms-sponsored flight simulator.

Using all that space will also help manage what has traditionally been NYCC’s biggest problem: crowd control. In its first year, a jammed show floor was closed down for much of a day by the National Guard. Last year’s show was much criticized for lax security and milling mobs of costumed congoers and frantic photo snappers. Even the locals are wondering how all of these and possible new fans curious about the New 52 hubbub will all fit in. “We’re concerned about how they’re going to handle a lot of new people,” says Gerry Gladston, CMO of Midtown Comics.

Fensterman is well aware of the concerns: “We want the show to be vibrant and busy and so do our exhibitors. But we felt it was a little too vibrant, if you will, last year,” Fensterman acknowledges with a laugh. “But this year we’ve made a significant investment in human infrastructure to keep things running smoothly.” Somewhere in the mid six figures has been spent hiring more security and temp workers, and training more volunteers to keep things manageable, he says.

The move to a four-day show and more spread-out floor will also help keep people moving around, he says. “With Friday now a full day, it’s a much more attractive ticket buy.”

Pros, press, and VIP fans will get an early peek on Thursday, October 13. Professional programming runs from noon until 4 p.m., and then a traditional preview night for fans begins. Diamond Comics Distribution is hosting a retailer breakfast that day, and there will be several retailer-themed panels.

The first White Space will also be held on Thursday, although details are still behind a white curtain. Fensterman hopes that the summit will be a way to foster discussion at a time when delivery and format changes are affecting all media. “We really want to help generate new ideas and opportunities for people,” he says. “We’re making a fairly significant investment, even though it’s only three hours, to get it going.” Both Fensterman and Peter Levin, CEO of GeekChicDaily, see the White Space as a yearly event, one that will be much bigger next year.

The changing face of the entertainment business can’t help having a trickle-down effect on a show that reflects the up-to-the-minute passions of one of the world’s biggest consumer markets. Video game presence is up significantly this year and, as there was at this year’s CCI: San Diego, TV programming is on the rise while movies will have a smaller footprint.

The anime aspect of the show is another that came in for some criticism last year—the artists’ alley was located on the lower level of the Javits Center, and some anime fans thought they had been pushed into the basement. This year’s location, in the fourth-floor Galleria, should help change some of that, says Fensterman, but it’s still a difficult market. “The new challenge is that the anime industry has kind of disintegrated—but the fandom hasn’t,” he says. Anime and manga were always present at the show before being split off into the separate New York Anime Fest; about 80% of NYAF fans also attend NYCC. With the implosion of anime and manga companies in the U.S., NYCC is emphasizing bringing in artists and voice actors, “but that’s not the same as seeing the 3,000-sq.-ft. booth at Marvel,” he says. “It is an imperfect and always changing solution. We know we’re not getting it 100% right, but we’re trying and we listen.”

While the NYCC party seems to be getting bigger every year, it’s still a very expensive and logistically complex show to attend, and several publishers are sitting it out. IDW sometimes has a booth, but this year will be represented only by CEO Ted Adams and COO Greg Goldstein. “Reed does an amazing job with the show, but, as a San Diego–based company, we decided to focus our attention on the West Coast shows this year,” says Adams.

Support among traditional New York publishers also remains low-key, although various Random House imprints, including Del Rey and Pantheon, will have a big presence, as will the Macmillan consortium of First Second, Hill and Wang, and Tor. First Second marketing associate Gina Gagliano has put together presentations for various titles, including Nursery Rhyme Comics, and an e-book giveaway, Between the Panels, that spotlights all three imprints’ graphic novel authors.

“With the big video game presence, and Reed’s connection with the PAX gaming conventions, this seems like a good place to experiment with new kinds of digital publishing,” says Gagliano, who thinks the wide consumer base is a diverse audience to promote a variety of projects to. Although Nursery Rhyme Comics’s intended audience of very early readers might not be the sweet spot for NYCC’s White Queen and Naruto-clad crowd, she says the big tent makes it viable. “It’s a cutting edge of people who are more concerned with graphic novels and visual media, all the interesting stuff that’s happening, and less concerned with back issues.”

For local retailers, the show also presents various opportunities. Midtown Comics, a three-store chain among the nation’s biggest, will have a huge booth with top-name creator signings—and tons of promo for the New 52 books. “For us, it’s branding,” says CMO Gerry Gladston. “It’s such a high-profile event that we think we have to be there and have our biggest and best.”

For Forbidden Planet, a long-running store located in the Village, things are too busy at the store during con to set up space there, says manager Jeff Ayers. Although sometimes a local show filled with dealers selling back issues can cause dips at local retailers, the opposite is true for NYCC. “So many people come to town from New England and even Florida, we’re swamped at the store,” says Ayers. “A lot of people who are visiting go out of their way to come by after the show.”

Ayers agrees that all the attention from the New 52 may spill over. “We also sell NYCC tickets, and in past years, a ticket was sometimes all a customer could afford. This year, they’re buying stuff along with a ticket. The fan base is re-energized.”

Despite all the current economic problems, comics conventions and pop culture shows remain a booming business, with attendance growing in many markets. Fensterman characterizes ReedPOP as being in “growth mode,” with several new international shows nearing announcement. “We’re aggressively and actively expanding both internationally and domestically, in terms of new ideas we’ll be launching and spaces we might not think of. I think I’ve been to 11 countries this year—really working to understand different markets and where we might go next and build communities for geeks in different time zones.”

In a few short years, the New York Comic-Con has changed from a medium-size show with a densely crowded floor to a huge show with a densely crowded floor. Now in its sixth year, NYCC, to be held October 13–16 at the Javits Center, will take up the whole facility and has added an extra day as an industry day for professionals and a preview night for fans.