Dee Snider with Halestorm at Z2 Comics' booth / Photo by Bryan Reesman

A Different Type of New York Comic Con

This year, in its subtly different and diverse glory, New York Comic Con was an 11 out of 10 experience. Given today’s date is 11/10, it’s the best time to review, recap, and revisit the most artistic, community-driven weekend of the year.

Ever since COVID-19 came into our lives, it feels like we have been getting New York Comic Con: The Variant Editions. The fan passion still remains, but there have been some changes to work around. And hey, variants keep things interesting, right?

The pandemic first presented challenges to New York Comic Con when it returned from a two-year absence in 2021. Attendance had dropped from 260,000 in 2019 to 150,000, but given that COVID was still very much a concern, those numbers were pretty solid. The last couple of years the numbers have grown back to around 200,000, which are healthy. The main floor was certainly crowded over this year’s NYCC weekend (from October 12 to October 15 at Jacob Javits Convention Center) as attendees, many dressed in the expected and entertaining cosplay, roamed the aisles in search of toys, posters, t-shirts, other merch, and yes, comics.

A new hurdle for NYCC to overcome this year was the dearth of Hollywood celebrities who usually make appearances on the main stage and in other convention chambers, and who also speak to the press about their latest endeavors. With the Hollywood writers strike having ended just two weeks earlier with a tentative deal and just coming to an end officially yesterday, studios brought in as many showrunners and other talent as they could to compensate. They are usually there, but they got more of the spotlight this time. (The Aquarian has coverage of the Futurama press roundtable and a Sandy King Carpenter interview now, as well, for example.)

It was weird to see that activity on the Main Stage ended early on Sunday when it’s usually busy all day, but in some ways it was nice to know that there was a little more time to explore different things. A break from the usual routine is not a bad thing.

Some name actors did manage to show up for broad, career-oriented chats on the Main Stage (that skipped discussing current or upcoming projects), including Ewan McGregor, David Tennant, Chris Evans, and many members of the Guardians of the Galaxy 3 cast. Meanwhile, The Walking Dead: Daryl Dixon star Norman Reedus was able to show up on a panel and press room because he also serves as one of the show’s executive producers. Other actors emerged downstairs to sign autographs and pose for photos. That’s always been a tradition, but for this year in particular, it was one way to show up (and make some money) while not running afoul of SAG-AFTRA’s strike regulations.

But as any die-hard NYCC attendee knows, Comic Con is not simply about promoting movies and TV shows, as much as those panels can pull in hundreds or even thousands of people. The fandom extends to many different things – interactive displays and experiences, video game booths, giveaways, comic book and book signings, previews of upcoming toys and action figures, the usual long line for new Funko Pops, and photo opps in front of giant representations of anime characters like Karuma the Nine-Tailed Fox (from Naruto) and Cell Max (Dragon Ball Super: Super Hero). Artists Alley is always bustling with fans seeking to engage with different comic book artists from across different generations – to take photos, buy some art, or requisition a portrait or specific image – and this year proved to be no exception.

Photos by Bryan Reesman.

There were a number of different personalities present on the main floor. Actor Sean Young appeared at the Playbill booth to promote her “new noir play” Ode To The Wasp Woman. Rockers including Halestorm, Dee Snider, GWAR, and Alan Roberts signed their new graphic novels at the Z2 Comics booth. Actor/singer Willow Smith signed copies of the Black Shield Maiden novel which she co-wrote with Jess Hendel. Rapper/comic book impresario Darryl McDaniels (aka the DMC in Run-DMC) appeared in Artist Alley to promote his comic book imprint, Darryl Makes Comics.

It’s interesting to note that comic books and harder music crossed over even back in the 1980s. McDaniels has stated how he loved comics as a kid and how superheros empowered him to create his rap persona behind the mic. Anthrax (who appeared at NYCC with Chuck D back in 2021) had their single “I Am The Law” tie in with Judge Dredd back then.Over time, more and more rockers and rappers have revealed their love for the medium. Guns N’ Roses guitarist Slash recently assembled a creative team to create a fifth (comic book) part to the low budget Deathstalker movie quadrilogy from the eighties.

Occasionally something fun took place outside of the venue, such as Audible’s Buffyverse experience to promote their Slayers podcast story (featuring original cast members) that transpires 10 years afer the original Buffy The Vampire Slayer television series. The two-room set-up featured a bar (serving virgin drinks), a list of objects to find in order to obtain a merch gift, fortune telling, a chance to strike a stake-bearing pose (see our photo gallery), and a separate room in which guests could step inside a glass booth for an immersive video presentation tied in to one of the story snippets. Things like this are just as much fun as being on the floor.

While attendance this year was not at the 2019 peak, it felt like just the right size. There were plenty of people, but the weekend crowd crush was more bearable. With the northern part of the Javits Center now full connected with the main floor, it’s a lot easier to move around. Deflecting some of the traffic to panels in another building makes things flow so much more smoothly.

Overall, while New York Comic Con felt a little more subdued than usual, between the entertaining cosplay, vendors, panels, and various guests, there was more than enough stimulation on hand and attendees still enjoyed mingling and shopping. Sometimes it’s fun to just soak it all in. Between media assignments and surveying the layout, this journo personally loves window shopping for Pre-Code horror comics he can never afford. It’s fun to peruse the decades-old covers and see them in real life. Maybe next year…