New York Comic Con set a new record for attendance at a pop culture event in North America attracting 200,000 attendees, up from 180,000 in 2016. Held Oct. 5-8 at the Javits Center and various venues around the city, the event presented pop culture and comics guests ranging from Batman writer Scott Snyder and celebrated manga artist Hiro Mashima to acclaimed authors-turned-comics writers Ta-Nehisi Coates and Jason Reynolds.
The massive attendance wasn’t without problems, according to ReedPop’s North American events director Mike Armstrong, who said the crowds created bottlenecks and “traffic flow spots that we need to re-evaluate for next year.” The 200,000 figure includes tickets sold, which included selling only one-day passes this year, which may have contributed to the throngs on the floor.
Security at the event was notably increased, with more third party security and police presence visible everywhere. Metal detectors were used for the first time, and street crossings in front of the Javits Center changed to allow more crowd control.
Due to construction of a new wing at Javits, Artist Alley, one of the most popular areas of the event, had to be relocated to Hall E, and reviews were mixed. Although it was always crowded with fans eager to buy comics, prints, and original art, an unseasonable heat wave taxed the air conditioning, athough conditions did improve. Artists complained about the heat and stuffiness, but mostly reported strong sales and an avid fan base.
The huge crowd also made finding restrooms a challenge, with 40-45 minute waits reported. Although a men’s rooms was converted and a gender-neutral and portable restrooms added, Armstrong said, “I’m sure we’ll be exploring some new options for next year."
This year’s show was spread out over the city. A partnership with the New York Public Library’s main branch added a full day of programming aimed at librarians and educators. NYPL’s Amie Wright, who organized the event, said about 1,200 people attended and she expected the programming to expand next year.
Armstrong said this outside literary programming was one of the highlights of the event. “We developed programming that had some really intimate and engaging conversations with authors that didn’t require a NYCC ticket.”
Still, the main news coming from the show was about comics, although Marvel managed to make headlines for all the wrong reasons. A panel promoting an upcoming Netflix show based on The Punisher, a violent vigilante character, was cancelled out of concern following the Las Vegas shootings. And at a presentation for comics shop retailers to promote Marvel’s new Legacy initiative, a relaunch of many of Marvel’s classic characters, a retailer loudly professed his distaste for female, black and gay versions of traditional Marvel characters. The outburst was met with pushback from Marvel editors and from other retailers, but it led to a quick ending to the panel.
Marvel did have positive buzz from a familiar source – TV and film projects based on its comics. A pilot based on the Runaways series, a comic about teens with superpowers who discover their parents may be supervillains, was greeted with glowing reviews.
DC managed to avoid major controversy, although the launch of Doomsday Clock, an upcoming 12 issue series by Geoff Johns and Gary Frank based on Alan Moore and Dave Gibbon’s superhero epic Watchmen, spurred questions. Moore is famously hostile to the notion of sequels or adaptations of his works. Nevertheless, DC copublisher Dan Didio described the new series as a “sequel” to Watchmen, and Johns walked the audience through the first issue. Didio described the series as “the culmination” of DC’s successful Rebirth series over the past year. And in more proof of the enduring power of Moore’s imagination, DC is planning a new comics series based on Moore's Tom Strong character, a superhero with an interracial family.
DC also finally revealed details of the return of Milestone Media, the pioneering 1990s African-American owned comic book line, which will relaunch with a mix of old and new characters. Look for a redesigned Static Shock series by Reggie Hudlin and artist Kyle Baker. There’s a new series by writer Greg Pak (Duo), and novelist Alice Randall (author of the controversial 2001 parody, The Wind Done Gone), artist Ken Lashley and Hudlin are working on a new series called Earth M.
Fast-expanding indie publisher Lion Forge offered a mix of original graphic novels (Katie Green’s Lighter Than My Shadow and Giacomo Bevilacqua’s The Sound of the World by Heart), kids comics (Valerie Vernay’s Water Memory), and superheroes via its Catalyst Prime science-fiction/superhero line. And Comixology Originals, Amazon’s digital comics publishing imprint, unveiled Marley’s Ghost, an impressive reconstruction project that created a full-color graphic novel adaptation of Dicken’s Christmas Carol out of 60 pages of thumbnails and notes originally created by the legendary comics editor Harvey Kurtzman in 1954. The 120 page book was created by Gideon Kendall, Josh O’Neill and Shannon Wheeler and will be released in November.
Image debuted a new science-fiction series by Robert Kirkman and Italian artist Lorenzo De Felici, called Oblivion Song, a kind of inversion of Kirkman’s The Walking Dead. It’s the story of a cataclysmic tragedy where 300,000 people are mysteriously whisked away to an alternate dimension full of monsters. Kirkman recently signed a TV development deal with Amazon, and although he said no media agreements have yet been announced for Oblivion Song, many speculated that it may be part of the Amazon development deal.
As usual, NYCC was a strong showcase for international creators. U.K. based Titan Comics debuted Statix Press, a new international imprint featuring licensed European comics, and previewed plans for its Hard Case Crime Comics line and plans for an upcoming 30 year anniversary celebration for its popular alt-comics series, Tank Girl. The French Comics Association, a trade group, and Europe Comics, a digital and licensing venture, both held signings and panels featuring artists with newly published U.S. titles (or offered rights to others). European artists on hand include Patricia Lyfoung (Scarlet Rose), Zep (A Story of Men), Fabien Nury (The Death of Stalin), Matthieu Lauffray (Valerian) and Valerie Vernay (Water Memory). (All of these artists were interviewed at the show for the PW podcast, More to Come).
Although the limitations of the Javits center are exposed under the pressures of such a huge gathering, NYCC was once again a bustling showcase for the best in fandom and entertainment. The event’s luster and popularity shows no sign of fading and NYCC plans to add new events and venues. “Our goal is to keep identifying new segments of fandom that we can incubate and grow outside of the building in an effort to continue our citywide expansion,” Armstrong said.
Additional reporting by Evan Phail