New York Comic Con: From Niche To Mainstream
New York Comic Con (NYCC) wrapped up last Sunday, and though I wasn’t able to track down attendance numbers, it seems likely that this year will eclipse last year’s figures of over 180,000 people. Indeed, NYCC has come a long way since its inception in 2006 where its crowd of 33,000 attendees pales in comparison to modern figures.
One of the first things worth noting about NYCC is that, despite nominal and thematic similarities, it is a completely different entity to San Diego Comic Con. SDCC is the larger of the two conventions, giving NYCC the title of largest pop culture convention on the East Coast. Ironically, though SDCC has been going on since 1970, its modern attendance numbers are actually slightly lower than those of NYCC. However, both are favorites for fans looking for the latest on pop culture and boast many famous guests every year.
NYCC’s success may be based in part on its experienced organizers. However, when ReedPOP, a division of a company that primarily worked with trade conferences, set up their first convention in New York, they vastly underestimated the popularity of the event, and attendance far eclipsed the capacity of the space they had rented. However, the company soon learned from their mistakes, and were able to better regulate ticket sales and acquire more convention space the following year.
Even with these efforts, the event continued to grow to an unprecedented degree, leading to many waiting in two-hour long lines to enter the main hall. In fact, some of the guests that had been invited to speak at these early conventions couldn’t even enter the main hall to speak!
This rapid expansion by NYCC was a rarity among conventions, explaining ReedPOP’s mistakes in underestimating interest. With conventions of any kind, the expectation is for the event to start small (The first SDCC had an attendance of only 145!) and gradually gain popularity over time. Sometimes, conventions can even be a losing gamble, as evidenced with the poor organization of Dashcon and the Fyre Festival, both cautionary tales for any intrepid event organizers.
And NYCC was an ambitious undertaking. Had the organizers not had their previous experience in trade conferences, they may not have been able to expand the event to the extent that they did. While the convention being dedicated to comics was pretty much a given, it assimilated the New York Anime Festival in 2010, leading to even more space becoming necessary. It then turned its sights to competitive gaming, a logical move given ReedPOP’s involvement with PAX gaming conventions. NYCC then began to play host to several competitive gaming tournaments, including League of Legends and Counterstrike.
Since then, the convention has expanded to four days to account for the sheer number of events and appearances that continue to draw fans. For instance, the popular Eastern Champions of Cosplay event, held since 2014, celebrates a practice that has become a staple of any pop culture event. Featuring several categories dedicated to recognizing the most skilled craftspeople in cosplay, the winning costumes are often intricate and incredibly authentic.
Though NYCC has hit hurdles on its way to becoming the juggernaut of culture that it is today, there is no denying that its scope is impressive. Though its beginnings did not stay humble for long, the convention is adored by both hardcore and incidental fans, with enough going on to appeal to all audiences.