I’ve been attending New York Comic-Con for years and I’ve watched it grow so it’s not surprising to me when I get asked about it more frequently than previous years. And even though I’ve always kept up with coverage of other conventions, such as San-Diego Comic-Con, PAX East or E3, to name a few, it is somewhat surprising to me when someone hasn’t heard of any of them, especially considering the media coverage and now social media. I remember the days when I used to have to walk to NYCC uphill both ways and…wait, wrong story. I do remember being able to go to NYCC and not being required to plan ahead of time because there were no issues with being able to do what I wanted or see what I wanted, even if it was last-minute. And this could be done in two days. But with the attendance now exceeding 130,000 over 4 days, it’s no longer possible for me to attend without planning, and do everything I want to do in less than 4 days. And with so many attendees, not only would everyone’s experience be different but the reasons for even attending could be different. And with the attractions growing every year and some of the features, such as the Walking Dead, being such a huge mainstream hit, the number 130,000 doesn’t tell the full story about who attends NYCC and why. It could be a family member, a friend, a neighbor, or a coworker. So I’m hoping to shed a little light on that, and as a result give a fuller picture of what NYCC is outside of my own personal experience. This is the first of a 3-part series about NYCC attendees.
The official description for NYCC is “the East Coast’s biggest and most exciting popular culture convention” but to those attending, NYCC is a little bit more specific for them. There are various passes for NYCC and not just for the number of days one is attending. There are press passes, pro passes, exhibitor passes, as well as VIP passes. Each one affords different benefits and leads to different experiences. The different types of passes aren’t the only things that lead to different experiences because some cosplay one or more days and some don’t. Some go just for the panels, to meet celebrities and artists, to get exclusive items or a combination of all NYCC has to offer. Considering there were record numbers in attendance this year it goes without saying that there were first-time attendees as well as long-time attendees. One first-time attendee, Desiree Domer, was lucky enough to get a Special Access VIP pass, and to give you an idea of how coveted those passes are just know that they sell out within hours and are only available afterwards through contests and such. She wasn’t able to attend last year because all tickets were sold out, so she wanted to make sure she would attend this year especially since her best friend and cousins attended last year. She was only about to attend 3 out of the 4 days but because of the VIP pass was able to enjoy just about everything she wanted. She was able to “meet John Barrowman(Torchwood), Kristin Bauer (True Blood), Jason David Frank (Power Rangers), Jason Narvy (Power Rangers), Liam McIntyre (Spartacus), WWE Wrestlers Sheamus & Kane, and the cast of Sleepy Hollow.” With so many things going on during the weekend she missed a few panels but was able to attend the Anthony Daniels (C-3PO) & WWE Studios panels. Even though this was her first NYCC, she said her motivation for coming was she was newly addicted to attending conventions in NY/NJ area because of her best friend, and her “love of meeting celebrities, seeing cosplay and (enjoyment of) comic books, graphic novels, shows and movies.” She’s not shy about her love for these things and even her coworkers know how passionate she is about this and she stated that her “ex boyfriend was a huge comic book fan as well, so that helped me in a sense of going to these and appreciating all of the nerdiness.” And it wasn’t just about doing things and meeting people, she was able to buy an old Lost Boys figure she couldn’t find anywhere else even though she’s been looking for years.
Even though Desiree was able to find an item she couldn’t find anywhere else, any attendee of a convention that has exhibitors selling items will tell you that it’s not always so easy. There are items that are NYCC exclusive, whether it’s a variation of an item to be specifically sold at NYCC or an item that’s only available at NYCC in any form, and the hunt for them can be pretty intense, time-consuming, and physically draining in some cases. I was able to get a few exclusive items during the course of my 4 days there but that wasn’t my primary focus with my schedule. This is another aspect of NYCC that draws attendees and Kay Footes, who has been attending NYCC for over 5 years, is one of those attendees. She attended all 4 days and spent about 50% of her time trying to acquire these exclusives for her and others who couldn’t attend. When asked about her experience with that, it went well overall except what she stated about the part of “standing in line at the Marvel booth for 3 hours on Thursday (10th). Only to be annoyed that they did not take cash. This is something that truly put a dent in my overall enjoyment. Actually (they) are kind of douchebags for it.” But even when there is an experience that puts a damper on things it’s just as easy to find something to enjoy just like that in another area. Kay’s highlight from NYCC was talking to Chris Claremont, who is known best for his 17 year work on the Uncanny X-Men and not only writing classic stories in the series but creating so many characters who are well-known today. In her own words, “He is one of a handful of people I had to meet in my life. I have been a reader of Uncanny X-Men since I could read. Having a chance to speak with him and share my thoughts on how much influence he had on my childhood was something I will always cherish. It was amazing that I was able to talk to him and over the entire con get his permission to have a drawing done, which he then took a picture with. I haven’t felt like a child in such a long time. This is very different from my every day life. I am normally not as passionate”
And with a lot of movies and shows being wildly successful, and the actors and directors taking front stage, it’s easy to overlook the source material as well as the ones responsible for the source material. One thing I love about NYCC, and especially Artist Alley, is those behind the scenes can be just as celebrated as those in front of the cameras.
And speaking of behind the scenes, I became familiar with other members of the press, who in previous years I might have just seen as attendees, but I knew were press and working hard during these 4 days because I saw them in the press lounge ahead of time. Justin Wingate, host for The Crow’s Nest, a weekly radio show covering just about all things nerdy on Union County College radio, knows what that’s like. This was his 4th year attending and this was his first year attending all 4 days. He stated that he was barely able to attend panels this year because he was running around getting as many interviews as possible for his radio show. I could definitely relate, although there were panels I needed to cover as well. Another great thing about NYCC is that even work is enjoyable and despite Justin missing panels, he wouldn’t change it because as he puts it “everything I loved was in one convention…and I’m glad I went because it lets out my inner nerd, my inner geek out .. and I love every minute of it.” It also changes things when you can dress as the Blur while working.
Although my body let me know after NYCC was over just how much I exerted myself over 4 days, I wouldn’t want to attend less days or try to do less because there were so many other things I could have done (and I already know what to improve on next year). This was something that first-time attendee, Melissa Campo, learned this year because she only attended on Saturday. She said she always loved seeing the coverage of it and the cosplayers in previous years, although she didn’t cosplay this year. Her biggest reason for wanting to attend was she’s a huge Walking Dead fan and the Walking Dead panel is one of the featured events, and she was hoping to meet some of the stars of the show. She didn’t get to attend the actual panel (an experience that will be addressed in part 2 with another attendee), but she still had an incredible time and “liked that NYCC provided more than 1 big panel at the same time” since it gave her “an option in case one thing didn’t work out.” She ended up going to the John Barrowman Q&A instead. But it wasn’t just the Barrowman panel that served as consolation for being unable to get inside the Walking Dead panel because she won tickets for a private autograph session for Robot Chicken on Facebook through the official NYCC page. Desiree Domer could explain how big a deal that could be because in her experience she felt the communication in the room for autographs should have been much better between attendees and the staff working there with only some of them knowing answers. My words can’t capture Melissa’s excitement from this so it’s best for her to describe the experience. “I got there about an hour early and was about 10th in line, not too bad. The cast was SO nice and friendly, I was a bit taken back that they were asking me how my day was going! They also took pictures with me on top of signing my autograph, which was really great. I asked Seth Green and Clare Grant for a picture together because I didn’t want to hold the line up and after we took the pic, Seth said ‘one more pic’ and took a picture of just the two of us. Then as I was leaving, I almost forgot my autograph, and he reminded me and said ‘I wouldn’t let you leave without it.’ I wish all celebrities was as fan friendly, it truly made my whole day! I also met Doc Hammer and Jackson Publick of the Venture Brothers. They gave the first 50 people in a limited edition sketch, which I thought was awesome! I was one of the 50 who received it and asked them to sign it. They were very nice and SO funny, I asked if I could take a picture with them and Doc goes ‘get on back here!’. It was a great experience.” When asked if others in her life would understand this experience she said, “it’s separate from real life, as in taking care of the kids and going to work, but I am a very proud fangirl. I don’t hide it and am very proud of it! I feel like a lot of people my age look at me like I am crazy and they don’t get it.”
This is only scratching the surface of NYCC attendees because there are also exhibitors, pros, and of course cosplayers. Lots of cosplayers. So many that I had to have Jenn Morton double as my photographer often. There are some attendees who spent most of their time on the Show Floor where the majority of exhibitors were, in Artist Alley, or camping out for panels. And they all had different experiences and come from different backgrounds. I never cosplayed in all my years of attending NYCC, and this year the closest I came to doing so was a Clark Kent impression from the Man of Steel but apparently the black dress shirt with the glasses I usually wear and a press pass wasn’t obvious enough. But seriously, I’ve always wondered what it was like for cosplayers attending NYCC and I delve into that in parts 2 and 3 and some of the answers might be surprising.