According to reports, it’s the biggest U.S. comic con ever. Figures quoted by comics news sites Newsarama and others indicate that attendance at this year’s New York Comic-Con has grown by 20,000 to 151,000 people, making it even bigger than San Diego Comic-Con.
The growth was quickly absorbed on the floor of what was already a huge and action packed show. At the 11:30 opening, fans surged through the Javits Center, hitting publishers' booths, catching movie panels and buying t-shirts, costumes and other pop culture themed tchatkes from a plethora of vendors. Traffic was heavy throughout Thursday and aisles were crowded without becoming clogged or stalled.
The growth was reflected earlier in the day at the annual Diamond Retailer Appreciation breakfast, held by the main distributor to direct market comics specialty shops. Diamond director of marketing Dan Manser said it was the largest breakfast field they’d held at New York Comic Con. According to statistics delivered by Diamond v-p of business development Chris Powell, graphic novel sales are up 4.3% for the year, periodicals are up 2.7%. The number of Diamond accounts has increased by 2.1%, indicating more comics shops are opening. Periodicals had a slow start this year, so the overall growth is an impressive catch up.
At the breakfast, it was also revealed that Archie Comics would be joining Diamond’s “FOC” or Final Order Cut-off program, a comic shop ordering system which allows retailers to adjust orders closer to pub date based on advance buzz and previews of the titles. Archie made some more headlines along with Dark Horse when the two publishers announced an Archie Meets Predator crossover, to be drawn Archie style by artist Fernando Ruiz and written by Alex De Campi (Grindhouse).
Titan ramped up its original comics publishing with a number of new projects, including the comedic Stan Silas’s Norman, about a typical eight year-old boy who is also a psychopathic killer, and Charger by Andrew Gaska and Mika, described as a “Scott Pilgrim-like adventure” about a young man who goes on a quest to return a phone charger to his girlfriend. They also announced Made Man by Fred Van Lente and Denis Calero, an epic crime story set on the mean streets of Brooklyn.
Valiant announced a new push for The Valiant, a mini series by Matt Kindt and Jeff Lemire with art by Paolo Rivera, which kicks off a new line of comics for 2015. Publisher Fred Pierce noted that NYCC will be a good place to get new fans on board with their line of books.
Dark Horse reported that they would be continuing such successful series as Avatar: The Last Airbender by Gene Luen Yang and Guehiro. In an announcement that highlighted the importance of building strong backlists, Dark Horse is also bringing back earlier works by several established creators, including two books by Kindt, Pistolwhip and 2 Sisters, both originally published by Top Shelf, and Kabuki, by David Mack which had has many publishers, from Image to Marvel.
IDW is launching some cheaper paperbacks to entice readers, including $9.99 collections of The Winter World, and hardcovers at the same price for already popular licensed properties such as My Little Pony and Skylanders. They also announced an expanded relationship with Marvel for their oversized Artist Editions. Even more intriguingly, they are doing artists edition of Disney artists Carl Barks and Don Rosa. “There’s a ton of existing material from Disney and we’ll have an aggressive trade program coming soon from Disney,” said marketing director Dirk Wood. The biggest response in the room came for another nostalgia title: a comic based on Jem and the Holograms, a popular 1980s animated series, that will tie-in with the movie announced earlier this year.
DC’s v-p of sales Bob Wayne made his final appearance at the New York event, noting he’s been in the business for 40 years. The new Batgirl title, which features a more Tumbler-friendly art style and costume, has been a success. The bestselling Earth Two series of graphic novels is also coming back with a third volume in the Superman series, written by J. Michael Straczynski and a second volume for Batman by Geoff Johns.
DC’s massive presence on fall TV has also had an effect on sales. Gotham Central, an earlier book by Ed Brubaker and Ed Rucka focused on the Gotham police force, is being reprinted to capture fans of the Gotham TV show, and the long running Constantine comic has seen “massive reorders” leading up to the NBC program’s debut later this month, Wayne said.
Marvel skipped the breakfast, and saved their big announcement for a special event at the Avengers S.T.A.T.I.O.N. Times Square attraction: Secret Wars, an all-the-heroes fight all-the-villains concept that first appeared nearly 30 years ago, is coming back from writer Jonathan Hickman and artist Esad Ribic next year.
Besides the Diamond retailer breakfast, libraries and librarians were the highlight of Thursday programming. Comics and library marketer John Shableski hosted a panel of librarians (along with comics educator and Kids Comic Con founder Alex Simmons) that discussed the rising use of graphic novels in public libraries and schools, in a room jam-packed with several hundred attentive teachers and librarians. And celebrated librarian academic Dr. Carol Tilley, who exposed the fraudulent and dishonest research underlying Dr Fredric Wertham’s notorious 1950s anti-comics screed “Seduction of the Innocents,” gave a presentation on the destructive impact of that book on both the American comics industry and on American reading. Prior to Wertham's report, 95% of American kids 18 and under read comics, but today it is only about 10% to 15%. (PW interviewed Dr. Tilley live from the show for the More to Come comics podcast.)
Elsewhere, the con’s showbiz element was upped significantly when Disney held a huge presentation for two fall movies, Big Hero 6, inspired by a Marvel comic, and Brad Bird’s Tomorrowland, inspired by the amusement park. George Clooney appeared on the Tomorrowland panel, saying it was his first ever appearance at a comic con. “Since my Batman, I’d been disinvited from Comic-Con,” he joked.
Judging by the crowds, Clooney is just about the only person who wasn’t already an enthusiastic Comic-Con participant.