This year’s New York Comic Con, an annual pop culture convention unfolding October 4–7 at the Jacob Javits Center and surrounding venues, will kick off with its usual selection of celebrity creators, major and indie publishers, a new Artist Alley, a newly relocated awards presentation, and a return to the New York Public Library. There’s also likely to be a bit of controversy around anime and manga at this year’s show.
Individual comics creators will find a relocated Artist Alley that is much larger than in years past. And for the first time, the convention will host the Harvey Awards, which partnered with NYCC organizer ReedPop in 2016 and relocated from Baltimore Comic Con to New York, taking 2017 off to organize. The Harveys are named after late cartoonist, editor, and legendary Mad magazine cofounder Harvey Kurtzman.
What’s more, during the same weekend, the show will debut Anime Fest @ New York Comic Con x Anime Expo at the nearby Pier 94 event space—a separate slate of programming focused on Japanese pop culture that is jointly organized by NYCC’s parent company, ReedPop, and by L.A.–based anime and manga show Anime Expo. (See “ReedPop Launches Anime Fest @ NYCC at Pier 94.”)
“Over the past three years, when looking at our postshow research, we’ve seen anime skyrocket in terms of content that people want,” says Mike Armstrong, NYCC event director. “We’ve seen companies like Netflix and Hulu make incredible investments to get that content. We’re looking to plant the seeds for another great event on the East Coast.”
ReedPop estimates it will sell 230,000 badges for its Thursday–Sunday programming (the show sold about 200,000 badges last year). The projected number doesn’t include hundreds of tickets sold for ancillary programming under the banners of NYCC Now, a variety of entertainment events held throughout the city leading up to the convention, or the Studio @ NYCC, smaller pop culture programs and workshops held near Javits that require separate tickets.
“Our goal has always been to the keep the attention as much as possible on the subject matter and source material,” Armstrong says, referring to comics, graphic novels, and their creators. “We make a big investment in bringing in comic talent, and we have great relationships with all the publishers, so the team is always thinking of ways we can accentuate the comics content that we have.”
As in years past, there was an organizational hiccup or two leading up to this year’s convention. The company spotted an error in its notification system for badge holders that accidentally rejected a number of well-known comics creators, among them Supergirl artist Jamal Igle and DC Comics letterer Taylor Esposito, which inflamed creators, several of whom took to Twitter to complain, before the glitch was corrected.
Below are the changes and additions to NYCC this year.
Artist Alley Expansion
For years, the location of NYCC Artist Alley—where individual artists can purchase tables, present their work, greet fans, and offer a variety of materials for sale or signings—has been in flux at the Javits Center. The alley lost its original home at Javits due to a construction project, eventually moving to Ballroom 1E on the lower level. This year’s Artist Alley takes place in Ballroom 1B, which is about 25% larger than the former space, Armstrong says. ReedPop reviewed more than 1,400 applications for the 300 tables available.
The review process “is a very extensive one,” Armstrong says. “We review every single person’s portfolio, website, and past works. It’s incumbent on us to make sure we’re identifying people who have great stuff but might not be known yet.”
Tess Stone, creator of the webcomic Not Drunk Enough, a horror-comedy about a repairman’s journey through a hellish corporate laboratory, has a table at this year’s Artist Alley. Not Drunk Enough is a nominee in the Harvey Awards’ digital book category. The first collected print volume of the webcomic was published by Oni Press in 2017. Stone’s relationship with Oni began in part due to a Kickstarter campaign.
“I was running a Kickstarter campaign for volume one of NDE, and amidst that my manager, George Rohac, established a connection with Oni Press to get it published,” Stone says. “It was totally amazing. I’ve been a huge fan of Oni Press and their content since I was 15 years old.”
As for having a table in Artist Alley, Stone says, “It’s always a blast, and I’m looking forward to it. There’s such a great community of creators and it’s hard not to get swept up in the excitement of it all.”
The Harvey Awards
The Harvey Awards ceremony will take place Friday, October 5. Since 1988, the Harvey Awards has honored comics creators for talents such as lettering, writing, and cover art. The awards have comprised more than 15 categories. However, this year’s awards have been streamlined into six categories: Book of the Year, Digital Book of the Year, Best Children’s or Young Adult Book, Best Adaptation from a Comic, Best Manga Title, and Best European Book. The Harvey Awards reached out to press, publishers, and other comics professionals to create the list of nominees. Professionals who attended 2016 and 2017 NYCC and other ReedPop-organized conventions were eligible to vote.
John Lind, designer, editor, and cofounder with Denis Kitchen of the Kitchen Sink Press comics imprint at Dark Horse, is cochair of the Harvey Awards steering committee, working with Kurtzman’s daughter, Nellie Kurtzman, and Comixology’s head of content, Chip Mosher, who are also cochairs of the committee. Lind says the format change is intended to honor books and the entire teams behind them. Lind also notes the change is also “very much in line with Kurtzman’s philosophy behind how he collaborated on projects, serving in various capacities as writer, artist, inker, editor, designer, and publisher.”
This year also marks the first time the Harvey Awards offer individual categories to honor Japanese comics, or manga, and European comics titles. Nominees include My Lesbian Experience with Loneliness, by autobiographical manga creator Nagata Kabi, and The Ladies-in-Waiting, by Spanish creators Santiago García and Javier Olivares.
“The focus on those books should help showcase the amount of talent in the comics community across the globe,” Lind says. He adds that the 2018 nominees, overall, “reflect the totality of the industry and showcase the diverse voices who are creating comics today.”
Also among this year’s Harvey Award nominees is Ngozi Ukazu’s webcomic Check, Please!, nominated in the digital book category. It embodies the diversity of this year’s creators as well as the wide-ranging subject matter of the nominated titles. Check, Please! is the story of Eric “Bitty” Bittle, a gay high school figure skating champion (who also loves to bake pies), who finds love and an unlikely group of new friends among his hypermasculine college ice hockey teammates.
Ukazu raised nearly $500,000 through Kickstarter to publish the webcomic in print. It remains one of the most successful Kickstarter-funded comics today. The book was so popular and widely admired online that First Second, Macmillan’s graphic novel imprint, acquired it and will release the first volume of a trade book edition in the fall.
“I understood how much enthusiasm was behind the book at the imprint,” Ukazu says. “It’s really nice to know that the people who put this book out there read this comic and were fans of it. The enthusiasm is real.”The First Second edition of Check, Please! Book One, #Hockey! arrives in stores on September 18.
Raised in Texas, Ukazu is the daughter of Nigerian immigrants. She says online comics and independent publishing have provided an important avenue to publication for comics by women, people of color, and LGBTQ creators. “In these marginalized realms, people are telling stories, and when these stories strike a note, they move on to mainstream publishers,” she says.
NYCC @ New York Public Library
Once again, ReedPop and the New York Public Library have partnered to coordinate a full day of professional development programming for librarians and educators. Beginning Thursday, October 4, NYPL will host panels and talks on using comics in schools, developing graphic novel library collections, and programming.
Image Comics will return to this year’s NYPL development day along with a number of to-be-announced comics publishers. Among the Image artists on hand will be Marjorie Liu, cocreator (with artist Sana Takeda) of the Eisner Award–winning graphic novel series Monstress, who will be keynote speaker.
Organizers will also host a series of workshops for which attending librarians and teachers can receive credit hours toward a continuing teacher and leader education (CTLE) professional development certificate sponsored by New York’s education department.
Last year’s programming, organizers say, attracted a mix of ordinary fans and professional educators and librarians, including many teachers who were nervous about adopting comics in their classrooms. Librarian Amie Wright, who helped organize the 2017 event at NYPL and will be attending NYCC on behalf of the ALA's newly organized Graphic Novels & Comics Roundtable, says the “nitty-gritty sessions” that focused on the details of combining comics and the curriculum were the most popular, as well as panels that featured well-known creators and comics publishers. Librarians and educators, she says, gained “insider knowledge in terms of how they can level up their comics programming and also become better advocates for their collections.”
Along with Wright, Emily Drew, youth materials selector for BookOps (a library technical service shared by NYPL and Brooklyn Public Library), and Shauntee Burns-Simpson, manager, school support and outreach at NYPL, are the key organizers of the NYPL program. Burns-Simpson says even one day of professional development can help librarians and educators gather insights and resources they might need in their facilities.“They can learn that comics and graphic novels come in different types of genres just like other books,” she adds. “If they can see how comics can be used in the classroom to engage different learners, then I think we can get that message across in a day. This will just be the opener for them to come and look for more professional development.”
Wright says the American Library Association will also be exhibiting on NYCC convention floor with a pop-up library and staff who can advise attendees on comics programming.
On the Exhibition Floor and at Other Venues
Publishers were just beginning to announce panels and programs for NYCC as of press time. DC Comics will host a panel commemorating Superman’s 80th anniversary and the 1,000th issue of Action Comics, the series that launched Superman in 1938. Marvel Entertainment will host another Women of Marvel panel, which has been wildly popular. Badge holders can also expect to see the cast and crew from the TV show Riverdale, based on Archie comics, as well as the cast and crew of the Into the Spider-verse movie, an animated feature starring African-American Spider-Man Miles Morales and several other iterations of the superhero.
Outside the main convention walls, the Studio @ NYCC series will present a conversation between designer and comics expert Chip Kidd and legendary superhero artist Alex Ross, as well as a master class on voice acting with Phil LaMarr, former cast member of Mad TV and voice actor on shows such as Justice League and Futurama.
Among trade book publishers at NYCC, Random House Children’s Books and Random House Graphics, Penguin Random House’s newly launched children’s and YA graphic novel imprint, will collaborate to create an interactive children’s graphic novel area within their booths. RHCB will also participate in the NYCC at NYPL.
Gina Gagliano, publishing director of Random House Graphic, says the interactive area will feature a variety of graphic novel–related activities for kids—among them, a ring toss game, temporary tattoos, giveaway pins, a mystery box giveaway, and a graphic novel–creation station. Authors Judd Winick (Hilo) and Matt Holm and sister Jennifer Holm (Baby Mouse) will be featured at the show. RHCB titles to be featured at NYCC will include Rickety Stitch and the Gelatinous Goo by Ben Costa and James Parks, Max and the Midnights by Lincoln Peirce, Cardboard Kingdom by Chad Sell, and Five Worlds by Mark Siegel, Alexis Siegel, Xanthe Bouma, Boya Sun, and Matt Rockefeller.
First Second will also exhibit, with plans to highlight graphic authors Nidhi Chanani (Pashmina), Ben Hatke (Legends of Zita the Spacegirl), Carey Pietsch (The Adventure Zone: Here There Be Gerblins), Ukazu, and Scott Westerfeld (Spill Zone). The imprint will offer a series of panels with Macmillan comics and prose authors. Among the panels will be “What’s So Great About YA?” featuring Ukazu and novelist Tomi Adeyemi (Children of Blood and Stone) on October 4, and at the NYPL, “NYCC 2018 Kid Comics Zeitgeist,” a panel featuring Gagliano, Matt Holm, Rafael Rosado (Giants Beware!) and Mark Siegel. And on Friday, October 5, as part of the Studio @ NYCC, First Second will sponsor a ticketed panel on The Adventure Zone: Murder on the Rockport Limited, a new graphic novel based on the wildly popular Adventure Zone podcast.
Perhaps it’s needless to say NYCC keeps growing. ReedPop is adding Sunday programming to the slate of film and TV events held at the nearby Madison Square Garden theater. “We’re adding Sunday because we have so much great studio content coming in that we need another room to house it,” Armstrong says. “We haven’t slowed down.”
Below, more on NYCC
News of the fest’s revival has generated mixed reactions due to the history of the original New York Anime Festival, which had its share of ups and downs over the five years of its existence.