Much like popular culture itself, the New York Comic Con, which will be held Thursday–Sunday, October 3–6, at the Javits Center in New York City, must continually reinvent itself in order to serve the fans, creators, and publishers that return to the giant pop culture show each year.
According to ReedPop, which organizes NYCC, this year will be no different. The 2019 show will again make use of a number of surrounding locations, such as Hudson Mercantile, Madison Square Garden, and the New York Public Library’s historic building on Fifth Avenue. ReedPop says it expects to sell about 200,000 NYCC tickets (last year the show sold more than 230,000 tickets), noting that most of that number had already been sold as of late August.
Standout developments include changes to ReedPop’s ticketing for the show, an extension of NYCC hours, and the relocation of Anime Fest @ NYCC, a ReedPop-organized Asian pop culture festival held concurrently with NYCC, from Pier 94 (where its inaugural show was held last year) to Hudson Mercantile, an event space much closer to the Javits Center. Additionally, comics and graphic novel programming and professional development events aimed at librarians will once again be held at New York Public Library.
New Hours, Venues, Ticket Programs
NYCC’s total tickets inventory is smaller than it has been in years past, says event director Kristina Rogers. The shrinkage, she notes, is due in part to ReedPop’s reintroduction of four-day passes, which were discontinued in 2017. She says that fan demand was high for the four-day offering.
ReedPop has also partnered with San Francisco–based Lyte to introduce a ticket exchange program that allows badge resales. In the past, ReedPop did not allow badge holders to resell, assigning each badge holder a unique, nontransferrable ID as a means to mitigate scalping, which can cause badge prices to skyrocket. This year, however, Lyte was of interest to ReedPop, because its badge reselling program is able to keep ticket sales at fair prices, Rogers says. Lyte’s program was piloted at Emerald City Comic Con in Seattle earlier this year.
“It does limit those crazy prices on third-party resellers,” Rogers says. “We were seeing four figures for one-day tickets, and that’s just ludicrous. We’ve seen a dramatic rise in the amount of fake badges that have been sold.”
Other changes are also in the air. This year’s NYCC will have extended hours, offering panels until 10 p.m. on Thursday, Friday, and Saturday. Last year, NYCC programming ended at 8 p.m. According to Rogers, this extension is based on studio content and Anime Fest @ NYCC (organized in partnership with Anime Expo). Rogers says that this year’s NYCC will host more content from TV and film studios. “This year we’re going to have even more TV and film content than we ever have, and the rate that we continue to grow that area is in double-digit percentage points,” Rogers says.
As noted, Anime Fest @ NYCC has been relocated to the Hudson Mercantile, a multifloor building where other NYCC-related events have been held in the past that is a block away from the Javits Center. NYCC ticket holders can access the first floor, which will be committed to interactive content and publishers, Rogers says. Events on upper floors require separate tickets (which are likely to sell out before October, she notes).
Last year’s Anime Fest @ NYCC took place at Pier 94, located uptown from Javits at West 52nd Street, which offered more than 175,000 sq. ft. of exhibit space. Fans weren’t happy about the distance between the pier and Javits, Rogers says. “That’s the first group of people that we listen to,” she says. “The biggest takeaway that we had was that it was just so far from everything.”
Hudson Mercantile is smaller than Pier 94 (the largest floor is 6,000 sq. ft.). ReedPop’s M.K. Goodwin is organizing Anime Fest and says that the new space, while smaller, will create more intimate and interactive experiences for this area of fandom. Featured guests include voice actors Charlet Chung, who voiced D.Va in the video game Overwatch, and Veronica Taylor, who voiced Ash Ketchum in the Pokémon animated series and films.
“It will be largely guest-focused,” Goodwin says. “We know what the fans want and what they told us. They want to meet and greet their favorite celebs.”
Literary content also factored into NYCC’s extended hours. At last year’s NYCC, book publishers’ panels and author signings were primarily hosted at the Hudson Mercantile space. This year, ReedPop has moved literary presentations and programming into the Javits Center proper. NYCC’s extended hours were necessary, Rogers says, so as not to slight the literary community. “Our literary program continues to grow every year,” she adds.
Penguin Random House, a major figure at NYCC, will host its first ever Penguin Random House Book Club, a book giveaway and promotion in which some lucky fans will receive a bundle of books worth more than $100; the prizes will be grouped into four genres: science fiction adventure, literary science fiction, occult and supernatural, and horror.
The program will offer four book club sessions to NYCC attendees who signed up for it and then received advanced copies of book club titles, which include Quan Barry’s occult novel We Ride upon Sticks, Rachel Harrison’s horror novel The Return, Simon Jimenez’s sci-fi novel The Vanished Birds, and Emily Skrutskie’s sci-fi novel Bonds of Brass. They are encouraged to read the books in advance so that they can participate in moderated discussions at separate sessions held during each day of the convention.
Penguin Random House will also host several author panels designed to promote forthcoming books and themes. On Friday, Robin Hobb will look back on her fantasy novel Assassin’s Apprentice, published 25 years ago, in a conversation with Del Rey executive editor Anne Groell. On Saturday, Rebecca Roanhorse, author of Resistance Reborn, and Kevin Shinick, author of Force Collector, will be on a panel about stories leading to the finale of the new Skywalker saga in Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker. In addition, Random House Graphic, the publisher’s recently launched middle grade/YA graphic novel imprint, will give away new graphic novels.
Powerhouse comics publishers Marvel Entertainment and DC, as well as major independents such as IDW Publishing, will have significant visibility at the convention, but the show will also feature some new independents, among them New York City–based Artists, Writers & Artisans, which will have a booth presence as well as previews of titles to be released for its 2020 launch. Launched earlier this year, AWA is led by CEO and publisher (and former Marvel president) Bill Jemas, chief creative officer (and former Marvel editor-in-chief) Axel Alonso, and chairman Jon Miller, who was formerly chief digital officer at News Corp.
AWA’s stories will be shaped by its editorial leadership, with input from AWA’s Creative Council, a group comprising such well-known comics creators as artist Frank Cho, writers Reginald Hudlin and Garth Ennis, and comics writer and screenwriter J. Michael Straczynski, among others. Alonso worked with these creators during his time at Marvel and as senior editor of DC’s Vertigo imprint. AWA plans to preview its titles, among them the science fiction series The Resistance, created by Straczynski with artists Mike Deodato Jr. and Rahzzah, which will launch AWA’s “shared universe” of company-owned characters and series. In addition to the shared universe, AWA will also publish creator-owned comics, with the Creative Council providing editorial feedback.
Alonso says AWA offers creators the ability to work with new company-owned characters, as opposed to characters with decades-long histories and story lines. “They’re not inheriting anything,” he notes. “We’re doing everything we can to put them in a position to just worry about writing and drawing while we worry about everything else.”
For Alonso, who has been a comics editor for more than 20 years, this year’s NYCC is a space to hype forthcoming comics and network with new and established creators. “You always want a ground-level view of the fans,” he says. “NYCC is a very good convention for publishing. San Diego Comic-Con has become geared toward multimedia, whereas New York Comic Con is a little more intimate, despite its size, in its focus on publishing comics and graphic novels. For me, it’s about going and hanging out with writers and artists that I’m working with or want to work with.”
TKO Studios, another newly launched comics publishing venture, will also attend NYCC. Based in Los Angeles, the company is led by copublisher Tze Chun (who also writes for TKO), CEO and copublisher Salvatore Simeone, and editor-in-chief Sebastian Griner. TKO offers a slate of comics created by top names in comics—and in some cases, from beyond comics. Among its new titles is The Banks, a heist story by feminist writer and scholar Roxane Gay and artists Ming Doyle and Jordie Bellaire. At NYCC, Chun will promote the second wave of comics and projects coming this fall and next year. He will also participate in an independent comics panel, and he’s looking to spread awareness of TKO’s business model (it offers its titles complete in every format—digital, periodical series, and trade paperback—and sells direct via its website) and recruit new talent.
At conventions, Chun says, TKO Studios is very upfront about page rates for author and rights. It is merging what he calls the Big Two business model, named for Marvel and DC (modified work-for-hire deals that allow some royalties for creators), with the Image model (creator-owned works published via a publishing co-op). Chun has written some of TKO’s series and has extensive experience writing and editing TV and film projects, including the prime-time series Gotham and Once upon a Time.
“I find that the comic book industry is very opaque about pay, and I don’t think that is fair to creators,” Chun says. “Most artists don’t really like to talk about money, but I think that is a very vital part of deciding what publisher to go with.”
NYPL and the Harvey Awards
ReedPop is once again partnering with the New York Public Library on programming for educators. Repeating last year’s structure, NYPL will host an educator’s day on Thursday at its Stephen A. Schwarzman Building on 42nd Street at Fifth Avenue. Programming will include panels that integrate publishers, creators, and educators from New York and beyond. NYPL school support and outreach manager Shauntee Burns is a member of the committee that vets program proposals, as is Emily Drew, youth materials selector for NYPL and Brooklyn Public Library. Other committee members include representatives from NYPL, ReedPop, and the New York City Department of Education. Burns and Drew note that the committee reviewed almost 300 proposals for 24 panel slots—“which is still a lot for us to review,” Drew says.
Burns notes that one theme featured in the NYPL’s comics programming will be “comics that help deal with strong topics.” The Black Comics Collective, a New York City–based community organization founded by Deirdre Hollman that organizes educational events focused on characters and comics of color, will present “It’s Not Easy Being Teen: Young Adult Heroes of Color in Comics and Graphic Novels.” In addition, comics scholars and mental health practitioners will come together for “Comics and the Clinic: Comics and Mental Health in Practice.” And the opening keynote speaker for this year’s NYPL program will be Ngozi Ukazu, creator of the wildly popular Check, Please!, a webcomic and graphic novel series about a gay college hockey player who also likes to bake. Check, Please! was reprinted in a trade book format in 2018 by First Second, Macmillan Publishing’s graphic novel imprint.
Burns says that the programming is perfectly timed to support educators. “I love that fact that it’s at the beginning of the school year, so it really does help educators think about how they’re going to use different materials in their lesson plans in the school year,” she notes.
And on Friday evening, ReedPop will host the annual Harvey Awards—named for acclaimed comics artist and editor Harvey Kurtzman and relaunched last year at NYCC—honoring the best comics and graphic novels of the year. The ceremony will once again take place at Hudson Mercantile. The Harvey Awards are the longest-running awards ceremony in the industry and are organized by ReedPop in collaboration with a steering committee that includes cochair John Lind, creative director of Kitchen Sink Books; cochair Nellie Kurtzman, Kurtzman’s daughter and v-p integrated marketing at HarperCollins; and Chip Mosher, head of content at Comixology Originals. Voting for the Harvey Awards is conducted by a committee of comics professionals.
“I think our nomination ballot speaks for itself this year,” Lind says. “It contains numerous titles that have garnered acclaim, as well as titles that some felt were overlooked and deserving. I’ve always felt that all comics professionals have a civic duty to vote for the Eisners and the Harveys annually. If someone does work that inspires you, why not give them some recognition for it? Comics are a labor of love for most professionals in this industry, and that recognition goes a long way.”
Rich Shivener writes about comics and pop culture.
Below, more on NYCC
Here are the titles that have been nominated for the 2019 Harvey Awards’ Book of the Year Award.
In conjunction with New York Comic Con, the New York Public Library will host a day of programming and professional development for librarians on Thursday, October 3, at its historic building on Fifth Avenue at 42nd Street.