The 2015 edition of the New York Comic Con was the biggest yet, with 169,000 tickets sold–up from 151,000 in 2014. Along with even more people, the event—held October 8-11 at the Javits Center–saw more venues used, and the increased presence of branded sponsorships for products far beyond those associated with the world of comics and cosplay.
The increase in ticket sales was due to event organizer ReedPop making Thursday a full day–more tickets were sold–and selling more one-day passes instead of multiple day passes, according to ReedPop global senior v-p Lance Fensterman. Click here for photos of the event.
As usual with NYCC, there were crowding issues–on Friday a hallway leading to the popular Artist Alley area became so clogged that organizers had to shut it down to prevent any more people from entering. The result was a human traffic jam that lasted for half an hour. On Saturday, fans were routed outside the hall in one direction to allow more traffic, and things went smoothly from there.
As in years past, the crowding didn’t crimp the enthusiasm of the thousands of avid fans who showed up for panels, signings and spectacle. Panels were standing room only and even with only five minutes left in the show late on Sunday, thousands of fans were still roaming the floor. Issues around diversity in comics--from race to gender to sexual orientation—drove a lot of programming. There were panels focused on gay manga and others targeting black, LGBTQ, transgender and Asian-American representation in mainstream comics, and the ones attended by PW were all packed with the lively and variegated face of a new generation of comics fandom.
This year some of the TV programming was moved to the Hammerstein Ballroom a few blocks away on 34th St. “Almost everything we did there was at capacity,” said Fensterman. He also noted that a third larger stage, the Empire Stage, was redesigned this year, with 30% more space and larger screens. Between the three large stage rooms, they can now accommodate 11,000 fans.
Moving to the Hammerstein is part of NYCC’s gradual evolution to what Fensterman sees as an event taking place at multiple locations. Demand for the show has not plateaued or peaked, and the only way to get more people in is spreading it out, he says. “Over the next five years we want it to look like a city wide event. The Javits was designed in such a way that just coming up with usable space is hard. There are very few large venues in Manhattan but there are many great smaller venues.” He foresees a day when going to NYCC will be more like the CMJ music festival, where one badge gets you entrance to many events located all around the city.
This year’s show also saw an increase in branded “activations” throughout the Javits Center. The Jurassic World DVD release brought an impressive velociraptor puppet show that left the theme by John Williams imprinted on all who attended. Progressive Insurance was also a pervasive presence with workers dressed as unicorns who volunteered to hold attendees place in line—they also gave away a mini comic drawn by noted small press cartoonist Liz Prince featuring Protector-Girl, a new character.
If none of this sounds like it has much to do with comics, it doesn’t, but it is about reaching millennials who can rarely be bothered to look up from their video game or phone—if con goers are eager to see their favorite movie star at the con, brands are just as eager to try to reach this elusive audience via tie-ins.
“We’ve been courting those brands and we try very hard to activate in a credible, interesting and additive way,” says Fensterman. “We love sponsorships that solve problems” like Progressive offering locker space and line waiters.
Despite the proliferation of branded areas that had little to do with the event's comics roots, comics still seemed to be of interest to many fans. Publishers reported strong sales and interest. First Second editorial director Mark Siegel said they sold out of copies of Ben Hatke’s Little Robot and Mark Wicks’ Human Body Theater and there were strong sales of Gene Luen Yang and Mike Holme’s Secret Coders. At Abrams ComicArts, executive editor Charles Kochman said he sold out of Chip Kidd’s new Charles Schulz/Peanuts tribute, Only What's Necessary, and Adventure Time: The Enchiridion, and pointed to much demand for John Lequizamo’s graphic memoir Ghetto Klown (with artists Christa Cassano and Shamus Beyale.)
Marvel and DC panels were packed as usual, and as the crowding issues showed, Artist Alley–sponsored by Comixology–drew throngs of people and all the artists there PW spoke with had strong sales.
Perhaps the premiere event of the show for comics was a panel previewing Dark Knight III: The Master Race, the third in a trilogy of tales derived from Frank Miller’s acclaimed Batman series, due out next month. This time out, Miller is being aided by writer Brian Azzarello and artists Andy Kubert and Klaus Janson. While details on the story line were locked up tighter than Progressive’s locker area, everyone was excited to work on the project. Miller made a rare public appearance and a mini comic starring the Atom he drew and co-wrote was handed out. He also mentioned that he’s working on a new Sin City story.
The biggest publishing news of the show came out a few days before it kicked off: Dark Horse is collecting the work of Jean “Moebius” Giraud, one of the giants of the field, whose work has been unavailable in English for quite a while. No details were released beyond the announcement of a hardcover series, but it was enough to get readers buzzing.
It was also a big show for manga, which is definitely making a comeback in sales. Viz brought Naruto creator Masashi Kishimoto for a series of sold-out events, and Kodansha announced an oversized anthology project based on their smash Attack on Titan series with an international cast of creators including Scott Snyder, Tomer Hanuka, Faith Erin Hicks and Kate Leth.