What a difference a decade makes. New York Comic Con is now North America’s biggest comic book convention, attracting a reported 151,000 people to this year’s event, and surpassing Comic-Con International, which has been forced to cap attendance at about 130,000. In just eight years, producer ReedPOP has managed to surpass what San Diego organizers took 40 years to build.
It may sound like exciting news, but here on the West Coast, we’re crestfallen, heartbroken even. I’ve lived in Los Angeles for nearly 15 years, which virtually makes me a native. The city has a long-running rivalry with New York City, which always goes on about how it’s the best at everything. Well, you can have your best pizzas, but this was ours! OK, sort of. San Diego is close enough to LA to pretend as if Comic-Con International is ours. Let’s face it: Every other part of Southern California is essentially a suburb of Los Angeles, so it’s always been a point of pride that although modern comics were born in New York City, here is where they’re celebrated the loudest and biggest.
But no more. And what’s amazing is that this criminal robbery of our crown very easily could have been prevented. Comic-Con International has more than once stuck with San Diego on the promise of expansions that have yet to catch up to the convention’s growth, particularly the massive surges in the 2000s. It took six years to come up with the Phase III convention center expansion plans, and now those are dead in the water following a ruling that the hotel room surcharge designed to help finance construction is unconstitutional. Who knows how long it’s going to take to come up with a new plan. Meanwhile, Comic-Con International is locked into its contract through 2016. If only they’d moved to Anaheim, which is even closer to LA, or Los Angeles itself. Heck, even Las Vegas, which is basically LA’s weekend getaway. We could have still claimed it as ours!
To make matters worse, I grew up outside of Boston, another city with a long rivalry with New York City, so this makes the coup all the more painful. Not that Boston can really compete in this arena, as the city’s comic convention scene was essentially nonexistent when I lived there, although it’s improved some. There’s really only the Boston Comic Con, which just expanded to a three-day show for the first time in August, and the more small press-geared Massachusetts Independent Comics Expo (MICE), which looks awesome but is really a different animal.
Of course I don’t really take these rivalries seriously. It’s a fun bit of competition with no significant stakes in the outcome. It’s interesting to see the convention scene shift, and it’s fantastic news for comics to see them draw in unprecedented numbers at an event in this country.
One of the exciting parts of this year’s New York Comic Con was the addition of New York Super Week, a 10-day buildup that featured pop-culture events spread across the city. Ticketing for each event was separate from the convention, so it’ll likely be a while before ReedPOP has final figures. But combining the totals for the sold-out NYCC with New York Super Week, which almost surely brought in other people who couldn’t get tickets to NYCC, any haggling over Comic-Con International’s numbers are put to rest. Comic-Con International has also been expanding into downtown San Diego with events the week of the convention, but it’s hard to imagine those numbers would compete with 10 days of events all over New York.
New York Comic Con’s remarkable growth has not gone unnoticed by publishers. All the major houses came out to make sure they were seen. A few were surprisingly light on announcements, however. Image Comics has been increasingly stealing the show at these big national conventions, and yet it had just a few announcements at NYCC. DC Comics was also surprisingly light, although it did have a few choice moments, like plans for a Wonder Woman ’77 digital comic and a pair of new Vertigo comics.
Others were more aggressive and enthusiastic in bringing big news to the show. IDW Publishing made up for quantity with the announcement of a partnership with Disney to release classic and modern comics starring favorite Disney characters at a variety of price points, including their drool-worthy Artist’s Editions turning the spotlight on legendary duck artists Carl Barks and Don Rosa. The partnership also extends the publisher’s relationship with Marvel, where a variety of packaging and reprinting formats will be used on old-school Marvel material. That’s all really cool, but what did it for me was that killer Jem and the Holograms teaser. Dark Horse had a strong showing, too. Highlights included the year of Groo by Sergio Aragonés and Mark Evanier, a new miniseries starring Eric Powell’s The Goon, more Itty Bitty Comics by Art Baltazar and Franco, and reprint programs featuring work from Matt Kindt and David Mack.
But if one publisher seized the spotlight, it had to be Marvel, with its relentless barrage of strong announcements every day. The instant cult hit Spider-Gwen is getting her own comic by the same creative team of Jason Latour and Robbi Rodriguez. Guardians of the Galaxy screenwriter Nicole Perlman will have her comic book debut in the first solo series for Gamora. (I was surprised this hasn’t happened sooner. I thought Gamora, as played by Zoe Saldana, out-Black-Widow’ed Scarlet Johansson’s Black Widow.) Jeff Lemire is coming to Marvel with a new Hawkeye series, and he’s being joined by the fantastic Jim Henson’s Tale of Sand artist Ramón Pérez. And we’re all getting a dancing baby Groot for the holidays! Oh yeah, and some Secret Wars and Civil War redux thing(s) that have everyone abuzz. Somehow it seems really appropriate that the comics publisher that is the most New York had the best showing at the the biggest New York Comic Con yet. And that it was the show that pushed New York Comic Con to the head of the pack.
So fine. You won this round, New York. Congratulations. But the war isn’t over yet. Los Angeles still has Stan “The Man” Lee and his Comikaze Expo in the heart of downtown LA. And we’re stealing DC Comics from you. So take that. But yeah, OK, you totally nailed it.
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