The transition into and out of New York Comic Con is always a jarring experience. The contrast between your normal life of work and/or school and being at a convention is the difference between night and day. It breaks your routine in fantastic and disruptive ways every time. In many ways it is like a gorgeous succubus (or incubus) that lures you in with a pleasurable otherworldly experience and then it drops you back in the ordinary world feeling with a surreal satisfaction, drained of all life, and possibly with some sort of infernal sickness.
The fact that the convention has become a four-day affair makes New York Comic Con both an epic vacation and an endurance run at the same time. You feel simultaneously refreshed as fan even if you need a relaxing vacation for your mind and body at the same time. A single day con feels like a little walk in the park for a little change of pace, a weekend convention is a full marathon, but a 4 day convention is doing the Ironman Triathlon while wearing a weighted training suit. It is an experience only for the hardcore and the masochistic.
I can’t even imagine the fierceness needed for day 5 hard battle like San Diego Comic-Con. But I am sure it is coming. It is just a mater of time.
Until then we shall recount our time at New York Comic Con.
This year at New York Comic Con I did a few things differently. First, I attended my first Main Stage event (two in fact) which meant braving the crowds in order to secure a wristband which guaranteed entry. Second, I concentrated more effort on meeting creators and getting autographs. And third, I tried to stay away from the show floor to an extent. All of those things worked out great in a way I wasn’t expecting. These things, plus great comrades in arms, ended up creating an unforgettable four days.
This was my first time as a regular attendee as opposed to have a press pass. I was pleasantly surprised how efficient the regular entrance was handled. It took slightly longer to get through the bag and badge check at the regular gates as opposed to the press entry but the difference in time was no more than a 5 minute difference. Unless you’re trying to run in for some super exclusive item or get an extremely hard to get wrist band the difference between the two doors was entirely negligible. If nothing else that speaks volumes to the efficiency at which the front gate could process the unruly nerd herd that swarms that passageway. I’m not sure how more advantageous a VIP package would be but I never had a major problem getting a wristband or getting in anywhere as long as I planned for it and were willing to make some small sacrifices. I never felt like Kate was able to attend a general interest event with a professional badge that I could find a way into myself. I never had to leave the house at 4:30 in the morning, or camp a seat for four hours to attend a popular panel, so even the regular badge feels like a solid purchase.
But the most remarkable event at the convention was without a doubt the presence of free Wi-Fi at the convention all weekend long. Last year the Javits Center gave out free Wi-Fi for 20 minuets every day but once that ran out you were out of luck. This year there was a constant connection from DC that billed itself as a LexCorp server. It was occasionally a little hard to connect to but that is the case with any free Wi-Fi at a convention. The fact that I could tweet and get text messages all weekend without having to run to the local McDonald’s was a godsend. If Batman v Superman does nothing else for anyone than it at least got me an Internet connection at NYCC 2015.
When someone says that over 160,000 people showed up over four days for NYCC, it just doesn’t register as reality even though it is true. Was the con crowded at times? Sure, like anytime Robert Kirkman made an appearance on the Show Floor or when dancing Deadpools blocked traffic in the Artist Alley. But still nothing feels as bad as before the implementation of RFID badges. Creation of the wristband system for Main Stage, and the new layout of the Empire Stage this year, have also helped disperse massive lines.
Having done two wristband events, I somehow feel closer to fandom. There was a lot of energy that you could either feed off of or run screaming from. I was able to find something very euphoric about it. Maybe because while I showed up a little early (8:30AM at the earliest), I didn’t feel like I had to do anything unreasonable to achieve the coveted wristbands.
I have to say that the wristband system works. It really makes attending a panel at the Main Stage something that does not require you to sacrifice a large chunk of your time for a single event. I was able to leave my house a little earlier than usual and get a wristband to see the Masashi Kishimoto. Past that point I knew I could get into the panel and could enjoy the rest of my day. It was extremely fair in my opinion. I know some people were upset that they could not go to all the Main Stage events they wanted to but I feel like if you made your priorities clear you were easily able to attended the panel that was the most important to you on any of the four days. I know space concerns don’t make it easy but a similar system for the Empire Stage would be excellent. It would not eliminate all the issues with panel accessibility but it would make it far better.
Also while I know some people were salty that the main Walking Dead panel was not directly a part of the convention I can’t say that I miss it as all. Even the convention feedback panel was far calmer since the Walking Dead panel was its own event run by AMC. The less I have to hear about minor riots and trampled old ladies in wheelchairs the better I feel about the whole event.
The comic guests and Artist Alley at NYCC have always been stand-out and this year was no exception. No matter how crowded it got, there were still so many chances to talk with creators, buy wares, and/or get autographs. Everyone I was lucky enough to interact with was warm, friendly, and quite humble. It is deeply meaningful to be able to express to a creator how much you enjoy their work and for them to make you feel like they genuinely appreciate your words. Or to simply share a laugh or discussion about how the con was going. These are stories from the con that I’ll carry with me.
I think I’m not as dazzled by the show floor as I used to be. The show floor is still amazing. You will rarely seen anything with so many exclusive items, nerd and geeky booths, and giveaways. If you have a wallet full of cash and willingness to part with that legal tender than it is a fantastic wonderland. My roommate is testament to that fact. With a full panel schedule on Thursday, an increasingly cluttered apartment, and a lack of cash flow make it that I generally don’t spend as time on the show floor as I used to.
That does not mean I don’t check out the show floor. It is a great place to see what titles manga publishers are promoting, see some cool merchandise, and maybe discover something you would have never normally knew about. If nothing else I always check out the anime figures, scope out any exciting exclusives at the Good Smile booth, see the one non-porn doujinshi table, and check out what I can find beyond what I expect. Part of me wonders what I could have discovered if I committed to more of a deep delve of the show floor but I think I was overall better off experiencing the guaranteed entertainment of the panels I attended as opposed to glimmer of possibility maybe hiding in some obscure corner.
I did take advantage of the Wikia food truck again this year. It was a long and hard battle but I finally got my Mable Juice. The tale of getting the snack was one of humiliation, greed, and disappointment which later turned to a parable of kindness, justice, and triumph. It was probably the most epic tale of trying to get lime and cherry gelatin you will ever see.
I did notice that there were far less video games this year. It was not that there were no games. The Bandai Namco and Square Enix were large and in charge. It was that there was just less presence from games overall. I wonder if the rise of conventions like Penny Arcade Expo have convinced video game companies that they don’t to attend comic conventions as much or if they are just scaling back from conventions in general. Or maybe they were just less interested this convention in particular.
Also I’m not bitter that a woman in back in me in line at the Book Walker booth won the Saber figure even though she had no idea who she was. I’m not bitter at all.
I’d be remiss not to mention the new 7 train station at Hudson Yards. To be concise, it was a godsend. Obviously, this has been an ongoing project in NYC for many, many years, and its completion isn’t directly tied to NYCC itself, but it still made an impact on the enjoyment of the con.
The NYCC was on point directing traffic from its massive entrance which spit you out just a block away from the Javits Center. Every morning I was greeted with shouts of “Welcome to New York Comic Con!” On Thursday and Friday, I wasn’t sure if everyone had gotten the memo about the new train stop but by Saturday morning that was a different story.
The million dollar question is will I come back for New York Comic Con 2016. My answer is: I’m not sure. It is not that I had a bad time. If anything I had a fantastic time. I saw one of the most popular manga artists in the industry today, got an original sketch for a noted anime animator, saw some friends I normally never get to hang out with, and attended some thought-provoking panels. It would require me finding my true love, winning a million dollars, and getting a job with Type-Moon for the weekend to go any more pleasantly. That is not the hang up. I’m just not sure I will be able to get a ticket next year.
This year I was only able to attend because someone sold me a ticket at cost. It not for the generosity of a fan of the site I would not have been able to attend. I am already mostly shut out of PAX East because while I really enjoyed that event I just don’t have the crazy devotion to get those tickets before they sell out and I’m not rich enough to buy a ticket from the secondary market. I have to wonder if I will have the same luck next year? The convention might just be getting a bit too popular for me to attend. I want to go. NYCC gets great manga guests and has so many of the media franchises I love. I’m just no longer guaranteed a ticket like I might have been in the past. I feel like a victim of the popularity of the convention. But maybe that is the sad fate of any large convention.
I know that I am prone to exaggeration, but believe me when I say that this was the best New York Comic Con I’ve experienced. Somehow the weekend seemed to just go my way and I walked away each day in awe of my good fortune. Even at the end of it all, exhausted and happy, I couldn’t come up with a problem at the con itself for the feedback session. (My feedback ended up being that the Android app was garbage, and it was!)
In a way, NYCC was almost too good; will I ended up comparing every year to the epic that was 2015? Only time will tell, but this year reinvigorated me to wishing to attend for as long as I can. However, like Al said the future of getting badges is unclear. If I can’t enjoy the con with my friends, then I can’t imagine going.