New York Comic Con, which began its 2013 event yesterday, is young compared to its West Coast counterpart, San Diego Comic-Con International. It’s only eight years old as opposed to San Diego’s 44, and yet it has managed to approach the popularity of the San Diego event within a mere few years. NYCC drew around 33,000 people when it debuted in New York City in 2006. Last year’s attendance was 116,000 and this year is expected to have an even bigger draw of around 130,000 people. The massive growth of NYCC goes to show just how rapidly the scene has been changing. Comics of all sorts, once considered a stronghold of a smaller niche culture, have now become more popular than ever, officially entering the mainstream in the past decade especially. Even as the convention expands to meet the increased interest in comic books, it remains equally appealing to its core constituents.
The event itself is overwhelming, to say the least. Located in the Jacob K. Javits center on West 34th street, NYCC is a well-crafted, carefully organized gathering of all things pop culture. Despite the sheer size in the Javits center, the place still gets packed. The main lobby brings a NYCC attendee into a well-lit space of latticed metal and glass. Straight ahead lies the heart of the convention, the showroom floor where the buying and advertising happens. There’s a “Just Dance” stage where players compete with one another in the dancing game, video game stations, and booths for many of the bigger comic-book publishers including Marvel, DC, and Image.
To the north, a capacious hangar-like room called “Artist’s Alley” hosts rows upon rows of fold-out tables where comic book artists sit and meet with the fans, signing their autographs and talking about their latest projects. Panels and discussions with various writers, artists, directors, businesspeople, and comedians all occur in various rooms on the lower levels of the center. This year's line-up includes a wide variety of guests including Sylvester Stallone, Janeane Garofalo, Max Brooks, and Scott Snyder, to name a few. To see all these stars from such divergent backgrounds can be thrilling and disorienting — it's hard to imagine any other reason for Stallone and Garofalo to be in the same place (except for a completely unnecessary Cop Land reunion).
Regardless of the inherent craziness and commercialization that accompanies the rising popularity of superheroes and comic books, NYCC still remains a celebratory event that appeals to its core base . This massive convening of costumed fans (nicknamed Cosplayers), the press, more mainstream fans, and artists and writers shows just how far Comic Con has moved from its niche origins. While SDCC International remains the original, NYCC has taken off in it’s own right. It’s come a long way in eight years. NYCC, if its growth rate continues at such a rapid pace, may have to take a cue from San Diego and bring the Con out into the streets.