This was my third NYCC; I’m also a veteran of two San Diego Comic-Cons, a half-dozen Wizard Worlds in Philly and Chicago, and about three dozen horror, toy, pop and comic conventions of various sizes at other locations.
The perceptions of what it means to be a comic book fan—or a fan of similar lines of pop culture—has changed a lot in the last 25 years. It’s easy to see in the numbers—we’ve gone from a direct-to-video release in which Captain America has rubber ears to A-list talent assembling a film that can gross a billion dollars worldwide in under three weeks. It’s possible to love all of these elements of formerly-marginalized geek culture openly, and still be considered part of the mainstream.
This explains the record attendance of upwards of 130,000 attendees across the four days of NYCC. Think about that number for a second. That’s larger than the town I grew up in. That’s an army. Literally. If we set our minds to it, we could probably take over Albania via a slow-march of determined, frenzied cosplayers. I’d be down.
The popularity of NYCC also required a shift in tone this year—in ways both good and bad. Let’s take a look at that.
First and foremost, whether it was intentional or not, each day sort of had a “theme” of the kind of fan it attracted.
Thursday ended up being the best night to hunt for exclusives; with the lightest attendance, and with many of the popular convention-exclusive toys, prints, books, comics and props rationed in equal amounts across all four days. It became almost impossible to nab these goods on Saturday, for example, but just about everyone I know who went hunting on Thursday night got what they were looking for. Me? I’m bummed I didn’t get the Stan Lee Funko Pop I was jonesin’ for, but I did get a series of awesome prints—including a rad steampunk Ghostbusters piece and a creepy one of Harley Queen adoring Darth Vader—for a donation to the Stan Lee Foundation.
Friday is what one of my good friends calls Buddy Day. Because it’s still a work day, attendance is on the lighter side until the evening, and the diehard fans of NYCC are the ones who come out to play, kibitz, shop, and connect with one another. There’s a sense of camaraderie and fun that amps up into the serious business of con attendance as the best panels start on Friday evening.
Saturday is the Mega-Day, or the apocalypse; it was by far the heaviest attended, selling out over a month in advance, and by midday, there wasn’t room to walk the aisles of the convention floor. At one point, I got poked in a very uncomfortable place by a Gandalf cosplayer’s staff, but it’s all good; we were just so jammed up amongst the crowds. This is the day for the best panels, with every buzzed-about panel filling up past capacity. The Archer panel was the first of the day (more on that later), with over 800 fans turned away at the door after the hall filled. And it only got worse from there; the Superman 75th anniversary panel later in the day filled up quickly. I talked to a half-dozen mainstream journalists who were shut out of it, because they didn’t line up for the panel three hours in advance. Saturday is pure pandemonium and love for the genre.
Sunday is designated by NYCC as Family Day; it’s got kids’ programming, some light child-care, and guests and contests that cater to a younger set. Attendance is also nuts on this day, but it’s generally a different kind of geek; seeing families enjoy this wonderful chaos together is great.
The monstrous attendance on Saturday did put a little bit of a damper on the interactive fun of NYCC for me; it’s just impossible to move in the Javits Center with that many bodies present. There was still a whole bunch of magic moments though, like sitting down to eat lunch and realizing that revolutionary Batman and Vertigo artist Paul Pope was sitting next to me. He’s done some really amazing things with what’s possible in page layouts and formatting of graphic novels; I turned into a speechless dork for a few minutes. It’s nice to know that, even amidst the super-polished commercialism of the event, the human connections and moments of sheer geek bliss are still possible—hell, they’re encouraged.
We also played my favorite con game of “Deadpool, Sexy or Substantial.” The rules of this are simple: you count up the number of people in Deadpool costumes (Saturday count: 36) and spot “sexy” versions of characters not ordinarily seen as such, and plus-size men and women proudly and awesomely. wearing substantial variants of their favorite characters.
Sexy versions spotted (all female): Buzz Lightyear, Link, The Doctor, The TARDIS (eight sexy versions), Borg, Captain America, Han Solo, Spider-Man, Deadpool (okay, that’s 37), the Ninja Turtles, a Stormtrooper, and Optimus Prime (the hubcaps made a bra).
Substantial versions spotted: Captain Marvel (female), Green Lantern (male), Eric Northman, Brave, Lumpy Space Princess (male), the TARDIS, Gandalf, Hawkeye.
The best moment of this game came when I spotted two female Magnetos, one sexy, one substantial, having a conversation about where to find the best food vendors. My favorite cosplay of the day was catching two young parents dressed as Green Lantern and Wonder Woman, pushing their twin kids in a stroller…and the kids were dressed as Wonder Twins. D’awwwwww.
I love comics. I love pop culture. I’m always going to be a fan of NYCC and what it represents. The attendance this year was a mark of how well-run it is; that said, Saturday was daunting, based on numbers of people alone. And I’m hearing from my friends that the oft-rumored Con Crud is in full effect this year, with a bunch of us suffering from a light post-NYCC flu.
But hey, we’ll get over it. And next year, we’ll be back, fortified with Vitamin C and ready to go for it all over again.