New York Comic Con set another attendance record with 180,000 tickets sold over the four day pop culture event held at the Javits Center, October 6-9, according to ReedPOP senior v-p Lance Fensterman. That’s up from the 167,000 tickets sold in 2015, a rise Fensterman attributed to selling more individual day tickets as opposed to three-day badges.
New York Comic Con counts attendance by tickets sold; one person buying one ticket for one day counts as one.
Despite the somewhat larger crowd, the mood on the crowded exhibition floor and atrium areas was mostly calm. It seems attendees have gotten accustomed to navigating the jammed aisles to find whatever treasure they’re looking for.
Moving some events to two new off-site venues – the Theater at Madison Square Garden and BookCon @ NYCC, held at the close-by event space, Hudson Mercantile – in addition to continuing to use of the nearby Hammerstein Ballroom, also helped draw some people off the show floor in Javits. Together the three off-site venues hold 11,000 people, and moving events out of the Javits Center is a trend that Fensterman expects to continue because it helps alleviate crowding on the main exhibition show floor.
Panels at BookCon @ NYCC were reasonably well attended—despite the need to leave the wild spectacle on the floor of Javits in the rain to reach the event.The Hudson Mercantile building, just down the block from the Javits Center, was exclusively used for panels and signings. Lisette Serrano, director of school and library marketing and conventions at Scholastic, said turnout was "up and down throughout the week,” but “pretty busy,” over the weekend. She described sales from the event (Word bookstore was onsite) as "moderate, pretty fair," and driven by crossover fans.
Fensterman said to expect more offsite efforts like BookCon @ NYCC to keep fans off the exhibition floor and spread the show beyond Javits. “I really think we can create a festival all over the city. The offsite venues all worked, and there are more venues we can move into and we can spread out and we will,” Fensterman said.
One of the most talked about news items of the weekend among comics publishers was the statistic from pop culture analyst Rob Salkwoitz at Thursday’s ICv2 Insider Talks event, which suggested that only 6% of NYCC attendees are primarily interested in comics. Fensterman challenged that figure, citing ReedPop internal polling that show that the top four reasons for fans coming to NYCC are great experience, friends, love of comics and great panels.
Data also show, he said, that fans budget to buy comics, among other items. Fensterman said interest in comics among attendees is higher than Salkowitz’s research would indicate. “If its only 6%, a lot of people selling things here should be out of business.”
Indeed, in the popular Artist Alley, where individual artists can set up tables, books and art flew off the tables. “This was my best show ever,” writer Amy Chu told PW, a comment echoed by many. Sadly Artist Alley, now located at the north end of Javits, will be torn down, and the new location of next years Artists Alley is not yet set but Fensterman says relocation of the section is a priority. For publishers set up on the show floor, where there was competition from video game displays and a constant parade of cosplayers, the general feeling was that sales were softer.
There was a robust interest in printed materials of all kinds. April Whitney, senior publicist, entertainment at Chronicle Books, one of many mainstream publisher set up at the show, runs a booth at both New York Comic Con and the San Diego Comic-Con, and considers both valuable places to connect with readers.“There’s a liveliness you don’t get other places,” she said.
In publishing news, the biggest splash at the show was by Lion Forge. Founded in 2012 as digital-first comics publisher, the St. Louis based publisher has been working to build a full service comics and graphic novel publishing program. The house has hired a number of well-known professionals—v-p of sales, marketing Rich Johnson, executive editor Mark Smylie, and senior editor Joe Illidge are among recent hires—and just prior to the opening of the show announced the acquisition of Magnetic Press, an indie house founded by Mike Kennedy that is focused on French graphic novel licenses.
Lion Forge announced two new lines. The company added CubHouse, new imprint for younger readers pre-k to 12, to its Roar kids comics imprint, which will now focus on comics for teens and young adults. And LF also announced Catalyst Prime, a new and diverse superhero line featuring seven series that will include a focus on heroes of color.
Elsewhere the news was relatively light. Marvel announced a Howard the Duck/Deadpool team-up, and DC announced a few additions to their Rebirth line, including new titles for The Justice Society, Batwoman and the Super Sons. DC copublishers Dan Didio and Jim Lee announced Wonder Woman Day (October 21), and the return of the Wildstorm imprint, a line of comics originally owned by Lee and shutdown in 2010. The imprint is returning in 2017 with four series.
Dark Horse is adapting Neil Gaiman’s American Gods novel into a comics series, written by P. Craig Russell with art by Scott Hampton and bevy of guest stars including veteran artist Walt Simonson.
And Nick Landau, publisher of the U.K. based Titan Comics, was showing off its lines of Dr. Who comics, graphic novel adaptations of popular gaming franchises (Assassin’s Creed, Dark Souls and others), and Hard Case Crime Comics, a new line of hardboiled comics/graphic novels launched this fall by Charles Ardai’s award-winning crime imprint.
As more of the logistical issues seem to be getting under control, New York Comic Con is becoming an ever greater part of the New York cultural scene. Super Week, a series of events held around the city early in the week leading into the opening of the show, was renamed and rebranded as NYCC Presents, in an effort to clarify it’s connection to the show and promote the events. Fensterman cited the change as part of their efforts to expand New York Comic Con into even more of a broad, almost city-wide pop culture festival.
“There are ways in which we can mimic the SXSW model [the popular Austin, Texas technology and culture show] for our own geeky ways. I think that’s really what we want to work towards.”
Additional reporting by John Maher.