After 30 years, San Diego's Comic-con show is deservedly a legendary annual gathering for the colorful cast of characters (including its devotees) that comprise the comics industry. But after only one outing, the New York Comic-con is already, it seems, an institution unto itself. (The next show is slated for Feb. 23-25 at the Javits.)

Perhaps it's owing to the fact that the host city is the traditional home of the American comics publishing industry, or that the East Coast audience was starved for its own comics melee. But the fact that the state police had to be called in last year couldn't have hurt the new show's cred.

"Where were you when the police came?" is now a common question among the comics community. Last year's Saturday influx of over 20,000 attendees overwhelmed the show floor at Javits Center, prompting a call for the kind of action usually reserved for national disasters and bad movies. Thousands of fans were stranded outside the hall, along with comics luminaries like Frank Miller and Kevin Smith. A legend was born.

Indeed, the comics and graphic novel industry has embraced the show, and plans for 2007 are even bigger, with dramatic steps being taken to prevent a replay of last year's mishaps. The exhibit hall has been sold out for months, and organizers are keeping a close eye on advance ticket sales to avoid any potential shutdowns.

While the size of the crowds remains paramount, the show (organized by Reed Exhibitions, a sister company to Publishers Weekly) arrives at a time when graphic novels have become the toast of the literary world, and New York publishing houses look to the show as a place to present their wares to fans and a pop culture—friendly press. Since the show's organizers also put on the annual BEA, a crossover was inevitable.

Perhaps the biggest coup—and the clearest sign of the comics/book world crossover—is an appearance by Stephen King to promote Marvel's new Dark Tower comic. Based on King's long-running Gunslinger series, the comic is expected to draw intense interest. King, a longtime comics reader, is looking forward to meeting his fans, according to Marvel. Marvel v-p of development/publishing Ruwan Jayatileke says the plan to bring King to a comics convention this year was in the works for a while, spearheaded by himself and Marvel publisher Dan Buckley.

The first issue of TheDark Tower—which is written by comics veteran Peter David with art by Jae Lee—goes on sale on February 7. Jayatileke hopes the NYCC appearance will remind people that the debut issue is out and "drive viral buzz about how stunning it looks and how well it reads."

King isn't the only literary figure to make the scene. Scholastic didn't exhibit at last year's NYCC but will be on hand this year. Ann M. Martin, author of the bestselling YA novel series Baby-sitter's Club, will appear with comics artist Raina Telgemeier to promote Scholastic's Baby-sitter's Club graphic novel adaptations.

Mainstream publishers are promoting a mix of graphic novels and related prose works at their booths. Pantheon spokesperson Pam Mullin said Pantheon will be promoting comics—Kim Deitch's new book Alias the Cat—and a new superhero-themed prose novel called Soon I Will Be Invincible by Austin Grossman. Perennially hot book designer Chip Kidd will host a panel titled "Superheroes: Not Just for Comic Books," featuring writers Paul Dini, Tom DeHaven and Roberto Francisco. They will examine manifestations of the superhero literary aesthetic in media beyond comics, including tying in with TV shows like Heroes.

Over the last two years, Del Rey has significantly expanded its comics publishing, including branching into non-manga titles like the forthcoming thriller Elk's Run,which will be published under the Villard imprint. Del Rey, a longtime science fiction and fantasy prose publisher, is something of a pioneer when it comes to reaching the comics convention audience, and the house will be promoting both its ever-growing manga line along with science fiction prose authors China Mieville (Un Lun Dun) and Timothy Zahn (Star Wars).

Other publishers are also making their New York Comic-con debut, including Henry Holt/Roaring Brook's graphic novel line First Second. "We're very excited," said Roaring Brook publisher Simon Boughton, especially about Eddie Campbell's The Black Diamond Detective Agency, a dark detective tale based on a screenplay by C. Caby Mitchell, which is also being made into an indie film. "It's got crossover appeal," said Boughton.

On the comics side, Marvel superhero legend Stan "the Man" Lee leads the list as guest of honor, and will be the subject of a special exhibit at SoHo's Museum of Comic and Cartoon Art in conjunction with the show. The co-creator of such Marvel heroes as Spider-Man, the X-Men and the Fantastic Four, Lee is making a very rare convention appearance. Superhero rival DC will be launching its teen-girl imprint Minx, and will have writer Cecil Castellucci and illustrator Jim Rugg on hand to promote the publication of Plain Janes, the imprint's first title.

As with last year's show, there will be a significant amount of trade and consumer programming and lots of networking. Pop culture trade news site ICv2's Graphic Novel conference kicks things off on Thursday, February 22, and the show floor will be open to trade only for most of Friday, February 23. Booksellers, retailers and librarians get into the show for free, and last year's trade-only day was hailed as one of the best schmoozefests of the year. Expectations are high for this year's as well.

Chris Staros, publisher of indie house Top Shelf, is preparing for this portion of the show as he would for BEA or a library show, with handouts especially for buyers. "I really appreciate that kind of focus at the show. It helps expand the distribution for graphic novels."

As the guest list has grown and fan interest swelled, show director Greg Topalian has been taking care to ensure that there will be no repeat of last year's shutdown. The show floor is twice the size of last year's, and ticketing will be handled differently, with pre-registrants no longer needing to stand in line, a change that should alleviate lobby crowding.

However, Topalian strongly recommends getting tickets in advance. "We'll be keeping a close eye on the hall's capacity. It's like a Yankees playoff game. You can't just walk up to the stadium on game day."

Still, no one wants to dissuade the big crowds that made last year's show a financial highlight for many exhibitors. Said Staros, "I'm expecting things to run very smoothly—even though I'm hoping that it's busy as hell!"