New York Comic Con held an exhausting but exhilarating annual celebration of comics and pop culture October 12–15 at the Javits Center in New York City. While final attendance count is still pending, estimates are that crowds surpassed last year’s 200,000.
The show floor presented a psychedelic mash-up of pop culture, with manga and anime dominating. Massive character balloons of Goku from Dragon Ball and Luffy from One Piece loomed over the throngs, while immersive 3D manga displays from Shueisha and impressive activations from Crunchyroll, Manga Plus, and Bandai drew long lines. The prevalence of manga and anime-inspired costumes amongst cosplayers made clear just how much younger fans are riding the manga wave.
For publishers, it was a transitional year. Marvel was the only major comics publisher to invest in a prominent show floor presence, as DC, Dark Horse, and Image mostly sat it out, while IDW set up in Artist Alley on the lower level. But the gap left an opening for such upstart exhibitors as Vault and Mad Cave to shine. And other new imprints, partnerships, and brands dotted the show floor.
The splashiest announcement was for Ghost Machine, added as an imprint at Image Comics led by veteran writer/producer and former DC Comics executive Geoff Johns. The brand promises a creator-owned line of comics with a shared universe and media development; creators involved include artists Gary Frank and Bryan Hitch and novelist Brad Meltzer. Also from Image, creator Rick Remender (Deadly Class) promoted his new Giant Generator imprint, sporting an international cast of creators including Daniel Acuña, Paul Azaceta, JG Jones, and Bengal. Another new player, Massive Publishing, serves as a publishing partner for various entities, such as collectibles auction app WhatNot and existing music-to-comics label Behemoth.
This buzz rose above reports of slower industry sales, discussed across the dedicated professional programming held Thursday. Direct market distributor Lunar kicked things off with a retailer breakfast, where Ghost Machine debuted. Retailer organization ComicsPRO followed with a slate of presentations, including updates on a metadata project that brings together an unprecedented mix of publishers, distributors, and retailers aiming to standardize industry metadata—with an eventual goal of sellthrough sales charts, now unavailable for the direct market.
ICv2’s presentation by Milton Griepp showed graphic novel sales strong and overall sales higher than 2019, but periodical comics sales slipping—even as the book market in general continues to soften following its pandemic highs. Concerns over inflation cutting into discretionary spending were also noted.
Yet the mood at the show was optimistic. Despite the high costs that prevented other publishers from exhibiting, Vault CEO and publisher Damian Wassel noted that Vault’s many readers in the NYC market made it worth their investment. “Attendance was incredible, and our sales were up dramatically over last year,” he said. “It's our best con ever.”
Mad Cave debuted recent licenses with Winx and Gatchaman, setting up their largest booth to date to showcase their expansion. “We got to show off Papercutz for the first time at NYCC [and] all the new things that we're doing, including more creator owned or licensed projects,” said CMO Allison Pond.
Abrams ComicArts editor-in-chief Charles Kochman was pleased to see major book trade houses—including Penguin Random House, Macmillan, and HarperCollins—and comics publishers united in one area on the main show floor. “By putting us together, you give people a sense of comparing and contrasting, but also there's a community among publishers,” he said.
PRH highlighted its many genre imprints, along with new arrivals Ten Speed Graphic and a look-ahead to Inklore, a new imprint publishing manga, manhwa, and webtoons. According to PRH director of brand events Lindsey Elias, “people are super excited about Inklore and want to buy the [not yet released] books now,” adding: “We're able to do sales, marketing, and publicity all in one go.”
With fan hubbub on the floor, dealmaking went on behind the scenes. Ernest Woo, co-founder of Korea-based mobile comics app Tappytoon, met with established partners—such as Inklore, who signed a deal to bring Tappytoon webcomics to print—and new ones. He noted that it was a fertile time for experimentation in formats and cross promotions, despite the challenges of an uncertain economy. “It’s a place where a lot of different ideas across the industry are being exchanged.”
Nothing showcased those new ideas more than the success of Lore Olympus, the groundbreaking and bestselling webcomics property by Rachel Smythe, who proved one of the biggest stars at the show. Smythe won the Harvey Award for Digital Book of the Year and was feted at a launch party for Inklore, whose name and model takes inspiration from Lore Olympus. (The first volume in the series was published by PRH’s Del Rey, with Inklore set to publish all forthcoming volumes.) During remarks at the launch, Inklore editorial director Rebecca “Tay” Taylor praised Smythe and thanked Random House for “recognizing the readership for this kind of material with its own imprint.”
NYCC has “transformed into a true pop culture phenomenon,” said Elias, pointing to a Barbie cosplayer walking by. “It’s more than just comics or graphic novels, but it’s all tied together. It’s world building.”