MANHATTAN, NY—From recent reports, New York Comic Con has actually eclipsed San Diego in terms of attendance figures, making it the biggest comic book convention in America. That’s good news for East Coast fans who can look forward to the yearly event for years and years to come. Rather surprisingly, the floor felt a bit less crowded than it did last year, but I imagine that tightened security and requiring attendees to swipe their badges on entry and exit helped to curtail freeloaders.

A major turning point for NYCC this year was the surprise appearance of George Clooney at the Tommorowland panel (with co-star Hugh Laurie, writer Damon Lindelof, and director Brad Bird, among others), promoting the film and good naturedly apologizing for the nipple suit in the regrettable Batman & Robin film. It was the kind of star turn that the Con has needed for the past few years. While there were certainly plenty of packed and popular panels—ABC’s Once Upon A Time, Birdman (with Michael Keaton), Big Hero 6, and the annual Walking Dead showcase among them—having a star of Clooney’s caliber generated huge buzz on the Con’s first day. This was definitely the strongest talent showing for NYCC since 2009, when actors and directors associated with Watchmen (which had a 17-minute preview), the Friday The 13th reboot, Terminator: Salvation, Knowing, and The Hurt Locker appeared. NYCC has felt more TV-oriented in recent years, so it’s nice to see the movie side growing again.

Beyond the small and big screen stars that showed up for panels and/or made personal appearances, the true stars of NYCC were the fans in cosplay. Some of these people spent up to a year working on their outfits—you can some stellar examples in the photo gallery—and this was their day to get attention and pose for pictures, if they wished. On that note, a nice addition to NYCC this year were large, anti-harassment signs declaring “Cosplay Is Not Consent” that were designed by acclaimed comic book artist Amy Reeder. While its San Diego cousin has yet to publicly acknowledge the issue, NYCC recognized the sexual harassment problem from years past and took this positive step in dealing with the issue. They also designed a smartphone app for women to alert security if they were experiencing problems from men acting inappropriately.

One other aspect I loved about the convention was the plethora of vendors that sold vintage comics, t-shirts, toys, and all different types of merchandise. My mission this year was simple: to find a cool Star Wars t-shirt for my girlfriend and to complete my collection of the DC Comics Elvira’s House Of Mystery series from the 1980s. Both were accomplished.

If you’re like me and go every day, New York Comic Con can be physically exhausting, but somehow my inner child never ceases to be entertained, whether attending a panel, diving into the comic bins, or wandering through Artist Alley. Considering how uncool much of this was when I was growing up, it’s amazing how cool it is now. In some ways, it’s a good thing I did not grow up at a time when so many different toys, t-shirts, and tchotchkes were available. I probably would have gone broke.

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