In anticipation of a surge in programming and fans at this year’s New York Comic Con, set for October 6–9 at the Javits Center in Manhattan, the show’s organizers continue to move more events outside of the main venue.
Weekend and three-day tickets have been sold out for months, and ReedPop, the NYCC’s organizer, expects to see more than 150,000 fans at the annual pop culture convention. Though exhibitors, artist signings, and panels will once again be staged within the Javits Center, other kinds of programming are being moved to large nearby venues. Last year the show added the Hammerstein Ballroom on 34th Street; this year the show will add the Theater at Madison Square Garden, as well as Hudson Mercantile, a nearby event space that will house BookCon @ NYCC, the wildly popular literary fanfest and author event that usually takes place alongside BookExpo America. This will be BookCon’s first time appearing as an official NYCC event.
NYCC organizers are also rebranding New York Super Week, a series of unofficial ancillary events that traditionally take place during the week leading into NYCC. ReedPop has changed the name Super Week to NYCC Presents, and its events require separate tickets; the NYCC badge will not be accepted. The renamed event will avoid some of the confusion around just what Super Week involves, while linking the wide-ranging events of NYCC Presents—such as live podcast shows, screenings, dance parties, gaming events, and after-hours concerts at bars, bookstores, and other venues—more directly to New York Comic Con.
Indeed, as more NYCC events take place outside the convention center and fans are forced to travel between official and unofficial venues, NYCC’s organizers are focused on the need for effective communication in order to keep fans in the know (about where everything is and whether their badges will get them in, for instance) and moving freely, all while still having a great time.
NYCC badge holders will have access to events in Javits, as well as to official events in the Hammerstein Ballroom, Hudson Mercantile, and Madison Square Garden. Tickets for NYCC Presents events are being sold through a landing page on the NYCC website.
“We need to overcommunicate our communication,” jokes Mike Armstrong, ReedPop’s event director of NYCC, after a year spent organizing a new online ticketing system. In an effort to combat resellers and ticket scalpers, ReedPop instituted a system that requires prospective ticket buyers to register an online fan verification profile in order to purchase tickets. However, in early June complaints streamed in when “verified” fans realized they couldn’t buy tickets for their unverified friends and family members––even though this fact had been explained. In July, ReedPop reopened the verification system, allowing buyers to register guests.
“Now that our tickets are pretty much gone, all of our marketing and communication going forward is about experience and logistics, so our fans know what they’re getting into,” Armstrong says.
ReedPop is using the NYCC mobile app, email, Facebook,Twitter, and other communication platforms to drive convention goers to and from the Javits Center and NYCC’s additional venues. ReedPop has been working to promote programs slated at new NYCC venues such as Madison Square Garden, including panels focused on BBC America’s Doctor Who and AMC’s The Walking Dead.
Also new to the convention schedule is Hudson Mercantile, an event space on West 36th Street, barely a block away from the Javits Center, which contains studio and gallery floors. It will serve as a dedicated space for BookCon @ NYCC, which will host autograph sessions, panels, and meet and greets focused on traditional book authors. BookCon is a consumer-focused literary fanfest, and a staple of Reed Exhibitions’ annual book-industry trade show, BookExpo America. BookCon has developed into a popular marketing platform for book publishers. The event attracted more than 7,000 attendees at the last BEA in Chicago in May, and the two previous BookCons (which were held in New York) attracted even bigger crowds of young book-loving consumers.
Lance Fensterman, senior global v-p of ReedPop, says BookCon @ NYCC emerged in response to strong support from book publishers that have participated in the convention. “It gave us an opportunity to brand the publishing content that has always happened at NYCC,” he notes. “BookCon is a way to build that brand up. We need to continue to move content all over the city because we can’t fit it all in Javits.” BookCon @ NYCC will only host author events; publisher exhibition booths will continue to be housed on the Javits exhibition floor, NYCC badges are required for entrance to BookCon @ NYCC. And the event looks popular with publishers.
BookCon @ NYCC will feature more than 30 authors, among them children’s book author Ann M. Martin (Baby-Sitter’s Club), YA sensation Danielle Paige (Dorothy Must Die), YouTube book vlogger Christine Riccio, humorists Connor Toole and Alec Macdonald (Millenials of New York), and Chuck Wendig (Star Wars).
Bloomsbury, HarperCollins, Macmillan Children’s Publishing Group, and Penguin Random House are among the big trade book houses participating in BookCon @ NYCC. They will have exhibition space in the Javits Center, plus space for author events at Hudson Mercantile. Penguin Random House, with its fantasy and science fiction imprint Del Rey, will have a strong presence of authors at both NYCC proper and at BookCon @ NYCC.
Scott Shannon, executive v-p and publisher of digital content at Del Rey, says the publishing house anticipates a lot of young readers, especially young women, but also expects to see fans from across the pop-culture spectrum. Del Rey is bringing in three authors from its Star Wars line for a panel at BookCon @ NYCC, among them James Luceno, author of the Star Wars book Catalyst: A Rogue One Novel, a prequel to Rogue One, the Star Wars film slated to be released in December. Luceno will join Star Wars authors Chuck Wendig and Timothy Zahn in the panel, one of several that Del Rey plans to promote at its booths at Javits.
“The advantage here is there is more opportunity to showcase books,” Shannon says, hoping fans will make the trek a block over to Hudson Mercantile. “This show is so crowded, and there is so much going on there, that books can kind of feel lost. Breaking it out can only be a positive.”
While NYCC continues to move book, TV, and mass media programming to venues outside the Javits Center, comics publishers are still gearing up to welcome fans on the convention center exhibition floor and Artist Alley. Just a few of the many comics creators slated to attend are Adam Hughes (Betty and Veronica), Arielle Jovellanos (Fresh Romance), Amy Reeder (Moon Girl and Dinosaur), and Brian Stelfreeze (Black Panther).
First Second Books, the graphic novel imprint of Macmillan, is celebrating its 10th anniversary and its 10th appearance at New York Comic Con, which debuted in 2006. The comics publisher will showcase Tetris: The Games People Play, Box Brown’s new graphic novel history of the iconic video game, which profiles its Russian designers and the geopolitical business shenanigans that brought the game to computer desktops in the West. First Second will also host a panel with creators and a meet up with librarians and educators interested in graphic novels. And First Second creators such as Penelope Bagieu, Asaf Hanuka, George O’Connor, and Sara Varon will appear in panels across the convention.
First Second marketing and publicity manager Gina Gagliano says NYCC is reflective of New York’s leading role in comics and literary culture—New York is, after all, both the center of American trade book publishing and the birthplace of the American comics industry.
“Every show has its own audience, but I do think that the New York City comics community and New York City consumers tends to be a sophisticated one,” Gagliano says, noting the city’s overall media saturation. “We tend to meet a lot of people at the show who are diversely well-read. I think the show is attracting that local audience.”
NYCC will draw comics publishers and creators outside of New York, too. Black Mask Studios, a creator-owned publishing group based in Los Angeles, was founded by Brett Gurewitz, Steve Niles, and Matt Pizzolo, all known for their work in alternative comics. Black Mask specializes in creators who interpret political and economic events. In years past, Black Mask has supported affiliated creators who book tables in NYCC Artist Alley, where artists sketch, sign, and sell materials.
This year, Black Mask will look to make deeper connections with readers by supporting creators in the Artist Alley and hosting a booth of its own, Pizzolo says. The booth will be home base for limited-edition comics, meet and greets, and portfolio reviews. Pizzolo also says Black Mask has scheduled a panel discussion with his cofounders and the company’s creators. According to Pizzolo, one of several of Black Mask’s books selling well in the comic book market is Young Terrorists, the story of a vengeful daughter who bands with rebels to attack a shadowy government conspiracy, written by Pizzolo and illustrated by Amancay Nahuelpan.
“All of the artists and writers and different members of the team are flung out all over the country and different parts of the world,” Pizzolo says. “There’s a lot of camaraderie among the creators at the company, like an indie record label would have among the bands. All of them seeing each other at NYCC is really important for the collaborative culture of Black Mask.”
Of course the big comics publishers will be the focus at the convention center. DC Entertainment is planning to highlight the success of its Rebirth campaign, an editorial redesign of its superhero universe. At the moment, DC has considerable momentum after a watershed summer of book and periodical sales, reporting that more than 12 million periodical comics shipped after the Rebirth campaign relaunched such iconic series as Batman, Superman, and Wonder Woman. Rebirth is DC’s latest relaunch—the new campaign brought back some editorial aspects of DC comics that had been dropped or altered—and it has exceeded the sales success of the house’s earlier New 52 relaunch in 2011.
“New 52 was awesome, shook up the business, and brought in new readers,” says Jim Lee, DC’s copublisher and one of its most popular artists. “But in that deal to create something new, there were certain elements of the DC mythology that were overlooked. Rebirth really embraces its past while looking toward the future.”
According to Lee and copublisher Dan DiDio, NYCC is a place to preview what’s ahead for the company’s publishing initiatives. DC will discuss the next major Rebirth story arc, Justice League vs. Suicide Squad, a new crossover event series driven by the notoriety around the critically panned blockbuster Suicide Squad and the popularity of its characters, with the first issue slated to be released in December. As PW goes to press, DC hadn’t announced all of its programming, but DiDio and Lee say other highlights include events related to its mature-reader imprints Vertigo (which specializes in nonsuperhero-genre comics) and Young Animal, a newly launched experimental comics imprint under the direction of Gerard Way, the pop music star and former vocalist for the band My Chemical Romance, who is also an Eisner Award–winning comics creator (see “DC Tabs Pop Star Gerard Way to Launch New Comics Imprint,” p. 15).
DC has also scheduled a panel to mark Wonder Woman’s 75th anniversary, naming such creators as writer Greg Rucka and artist José Luis García-López as guests. On October 21, DC will release a Wonder Woman anniversary periodical with new material from a variety of creators.
“New York Comic Con has a great turnout every year, and we have a lot of our key talent there and a lot of people we want to work with,” DiDio says. “For us, it’s a great way to reach out to the best creators in the business right now and see what they’re interested in working on.”
Rich Shivener is a freelance writer and teacher living in Cincinnati, Ohio, who reports regularly on comics for PW.