2013: The year when, at 130,000 attendees, New York Comic Con officially outgrew the Jacob Javits Center. And unfortunately, because of its awkward location, I’m not exactly sure how they’re going to solve this one.
The lack of space affected several aspects of the overall experience this year from the floor feeling more claustrophobic than it ever has in the past, to lines for panels being capped up to 40 minutes in advance of the actual start time. It’s genuinely hard to believe that last year I only had to wait in line for a half hour to get into the Teen Wolf panel and was able to save a seat (a good seat!) for my friend who rushed in at the last minute. This year I avoided that room –1-E, the New York version of Hall H– entirely only to be treated later to horror stories about waiting in line for two hours only to be told later that there was no way you were getting in.
It wasn’t only the Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D and The Walking Dead types of panels where line waiting and lack of space turned ugly. Those panels were lucky to have the space they did. Smaller panels, including the five (we found one more; last year’s Hip Hop and Comics panel made a return on Sunday at 2:30) on race, diversity, representation, and generally marginalised voices, weren’t always given that space luxury and when the lines were capped well in advance of their start times it meant that a significant amount of people were locked out. I arrived about an 50-60 minutes in advance of the Minorities in Fandom panel after learning the hard way for The Mary Sue panel earlier that day that 20-30 minutes wasn’t going to cut it. Captain Marvel writer and Marvel panelist Kelly Sue DeConnick tweeted out about 30 minutes before the Women of Marvel panel was due to start that the line was about to cap. Since these were the only four options available for discussions in this vein it’s all the more disappointing that this was an ongoing theme.
Last year’s NYCC Hip-Hop panel was incredibly well attended, and The Black Panel at San Diego Comic Con this summer was one of the events to make. Combined with the lines and space issues this year, the draw and presence of an audience for these panels is clear, no matter what NYCC might think as they’re selecting what to feature. I heard several people muse and infer that the NYCC staff made a conscious decision this year to not be known as a convention with a heavy emphasis on “issues”. The few reports I heard of late commers (and by late, I mean people who were standing in line for up to 40 minutes) to the Mary Sue Panel being addressed as “hopeless idiots” by NYCC staffers aligns nicely with that mindset.
We needed more panels, yes, but if there were going to be so few selections those selections needed to be held in rooms large enough to accommodate the women, POCs, LGBTQ, and ally fans who just wanted to spend one hour hearing about something that directly concerned them. There are more of us than those organising the con thought.
One suggestion tossed around in conversation was the idea of satellite locations– using a variety of locations throughout the city to host off site events and panels. SDCC and Dragon*Con both do this by utilising several hotels in San Diego and Atlanta respectively while NYCC sticks solely to the Javits Center. Of course, the Javits Center basically being located in the middle of the West Side Highway, and across multiple expansive construction sites (the walk from 8th avenue to the Javits was murder this year) makes it difficult to imagine how satellite locations would work. The closest and largest hotels that might have the space for off site events are blocks away (New York City blocks; they’re longer than you might think) and it would be difficult to get back and forth without some sort of provided transportation. It could all be done, but I suspect we’d be looking at higher badge prices for future cons.
It’s a lot for Lance Fensterman and the rest of the NYCC team to consider, but it’s at least worth talking about if the ‘issues’ panels aren’t going to be automatically given the space they need.
Between the space and panel issues, the lack of wifi, coming home one afternoon to see several suspect tweets under my account, and the fact that this harassing camera crew got press passes when several legitimate media outlets didn’t, there wasn’t much to be impressed about with the way the con was run this year. With apologies issues concerning the tweet-jacking and the harassment, two of the four issues have been addressed. I’m very curious to see what –if anything– they’ll have to say about panels and space.
Aside from the above, I took away a few other stray observations from this year’s Con as well:
- Was anyone else rather bemused at DC’s lack of booth this year? Instead of a full booth setup on the con floor like every other major competitor (including Marvel, Darkhorse, Valliant, Archie, and Image) they regulated themselves to the south end of the convention center lobby with a small (in comparison) display of Superman costumes and a signing booth for creators. It was almost as if they didn’t want to have to answer any questions concerning their recent public relations misteps.
- Artists Alley felt actively diverse on both gender and racial lines. I don’t have a breakdown of the numbers, but I spotted (and bought quite a few things) from several female artists and artists of color. Notably I was excited to see Yasmin Liang, Dustin Nguyen, Newsha Ghasemi, and Karen Hallion with tables this year.
- Attendees were also diverse, which makes sense in a city that’s only 33% white. That number actually makes the lack of panel diversity all the more striking. Why such an effort to push aside those sorts of topics at a convention in a city with such a varied ethnic makeup?
- Depth of Field Magazine along with the Nuyorican sponsored their own series of NYCC complimentary panels in an effort to make up for the lack of content at the con proper. While they also ran the Hip Hop Panel on Sunday, On Thursday and Saturday nights they hosted “Seeing Ourselves in Comics” where panelists discussed creating work that appeals to diverse audiences.
- We asked our readers what panel topics they’d like to see at future events like NYCC and SDCC. Some of the answers we received are storyfied below:
- Coincidentally, my Rainbow Dash friend spotted this clever piece of vandalism on an Agents of SHIELD advertisement on the subway on her way down to the con:
- And as always, the cosplay game was tight. You can check out some of the best POC cosplays (including one very tired yours truly at #3) here.