How to Fix New York Comic Con

Banjo Kazooie Cosplay
Mike and his nephew, who cosplayed as Banjo from Banjo-Kazooie!

Now that the smoke has cleared and the dust has settled, I’ve had enough time to digest everything I did at New York Comic Con 2014. As always, the quality of the vendors, panels and cosplayers were amazing. Mike and I have acquired a ton of swag in the form of posters, artwork, plushies and t-shirts and this year was no exception. New York Comic Con is really a mecca for the best geekdom has to offer.

When I attended NYCC 2013 for the first time, I was left with a really great impression of the event and Con’s in general as it was my first one. My only complaint was the way that main stage panels were organized, which evidently was a sore spot for many other attendees as New York Comic Con changed their line policy for the 2014 event.

As the event has gained popularity, and may or may not be larger than San Diego Comic Con, there are still issues and kinks arising in the way the event was run this past year. Here are the biggest issues I found with 2014 New York Comic Con and some helpful suggestions for making this event more enjoyable in the future.

  1. One Hour Food Truck– The dining options at the Javits Center are pretty lackluster to say the least. I was excited to see a cool food truck right in the lobby. It was only open from 2-3 p.m., so we came back a little bit before 2 to find the line for the food truck wrapped around the escalators and beyond. Obviously, the demand was high for free Nuka Cola and Bacon Pancakes. I would have gladly paid for delicious food truck fare rather than cramming into the Javits Center food court where not all cash registers could even accept credit cards. When you charge me $4 for a small soda and even more for a hot dog, do you think people are going to have that much cash on hand? San Diego offers a bevy of food truck options, why couldn’t NYCC, especially with all the amazing mobile food options in the city that never stops eating? Sure, there were the normal halal and shwarma carts on the streets around, but a designated food truck rodeo on the Javits Center grounds would be a safe, fun and convenient option and would help take some of the heat off the already overcrowded cafeteria.
  2. Welcome to New York Line Con!
    Welcome to New York Line Con!

    Do You Like Waiting in Lines? Come to LineCon 2014!– The 2013 Main Stage queue experience was incredibly frustrating, so I was glad that NYCC was going to clear the Main Stage after each panel. However, the process was still not flawless or really fair. We arrived an hour early on Saturday, hoping to get a decent place in the line outside and maybe be able to finagle our way quickly inside and to the queue room. It was cold, raining and early when we arrived at 9:00 a.m. to find the doors were already open and the Walking Dead panel already full. I was okay with my second choice for a main stage panel (until it got canceled, but that’s another story), but mostly frustrated that I never had a fair chance to get on line. No one announced that the doors were opening early because of rain. I feel that an online lottery system would be the most fair way to queue for these main stage panels, or to simply hold multiple sessions of panel, especially for something with huge mainstream appeal like the Walking Dead. The advertised room where the panels would be broadcast was not really well communicated either.

  3. The Venue is Too Damn Small– You expect to get jostled around a bit at a Con of this size, but holy crap, let’s talk about the instant agoraphobia you develop trying to shimmy through the show floor at New York Comic Con. There are so many fantastic vendors, but not every one has a booth with space for you to mill about in and talk to the vendor, browse their wares or just window shop. On Friday, the crowds were manageable, but Saturday was a shit show, if you’ll pardon my French. Moving up and down the aisles was nearly impossible and you really were just moving with the hive, being pushed and shuffled along by other people, making it hard to stop and look at vendors. There were some I never got a chance to see because crowds prevented it. Previously, there were a few dead spots where you could stand and catch your breath, but this year the flow of the crowd was constant. Solution? More space via a bigger venue. In general, the Javits Center feels too small, but this is evident on the show floor. I feel that NYCC has outgrown it.
  4. The super-accurate Spock asked for donations to a charity for photos, which I feel is much better than paying someone directly for autographs or pictures.
    The super-accurate Spock asked for donations to a charity for photos, which I feel is much better than paying someone directly for autographs or pictures.

    No Such Thing As A Free Autograph (Unless You’re Bill Nye)– I was thrilled to meet the Misfits in 2013 and say hello, get their autograph and picture for free. They were already one of my favorite bands from my teen years and to meet them and find out how cool and down to earth they were was thrilling. This year, I noticed Jerry Only was back, but you could only get his autograph for $40. A number of interesting guests were signing autographs, but almost all of them required a purchase of a book or other merch or cost a fee. I tried to take a photo of Marky Ramone and his booth from the side and got called out for doing so because it was a paid session. I’m sorry, but I don’t think Marky Ramone is going to be hurting for cash because I took a photo of the back of his head. I understand that the talent has to make an appearance like this worth their while, but the idea of being at a Con like this out in the open at a booth and trying to prevent people from just saying hi by adding a fee seems to take away from the whole idea of the comic/nerd community. I don’t care so much about autographs, I’d rather just talk to them and let them know the ways that they’ve influenced my life in a positive way. I get that A-List, high profile talent has designated autographing areas and costs because of the high demand and security concerns, but it ruins the experience for me to not be able to rub elbows with influencers in the geek and comic community. Accessibility was definitely an issue for me this year. How they could fix it? Well, stop nickel and diming fans so much.

  5. Inclusive Genderbending Racially Sensitive Cosplay for Beginners and Other Niche Panels– We were very disappointed with the selection of panels this year, this becoming especially apparent after we couldn’t get onto the line for the Waking Dead, waited for Sir Patrick Stewart, found out that his panel was canceled at 1:15 p.m. and I had missed the only other panel I was interested in seeing with Max Brooks. I found that as a general comic, geek and gaming fan, there were very few panels that appealed to me (and probably many of the other attendees since the queue for mainstream panels like the Walking Dead were incredibly limited). I was lucky to be able to see the League panel and thought it was time well spent. The full cast was there, we were shown an exclusive episode and the panel self-moderated stupid questions from the audience. I felt like many of the smaller panels throughout the day were geared towards people who are already very into the comic industry and the cosplay community. But for the casual observer, I felt a little left out. I’d like to see more panels with mainstream appeal or more general topics that I can relate to.
  6. Ticket Purchasing Needs Total Overhaul– Our frustration with New York Comic Con 2014 began months before the event even started with the new ticket purchasing system. My boyfriend waited in the online queue (hey, more lines!) for over an hour, the Comic Con website crashed and tickets were showing up as being sold out that there was still remaining inventory of. The biggest issue was how easy it was for scalpers to scoop up tickets over actual fans. As soon as the ticket queue opened, there were passes for double the price on StubHub. In 2013, we bought tickets maybe a month or two before the event with no problem, we never had to wait in a line due to demand. The best solution would be to link passes to an identity so that the attendee’s name needs to match what is on the pass, no exceptions. It would make it difficult for friends or family who might share passes, but there needs to be zero tolerance for ticket scalpers.
  7. What Happened to Starcraft?- One of our favorite things about New York Comic Con 2013 was that there was a Starcraft qualifying tournament going on right on the exhibit hall floors. There were benches and space on the floor to sit, watch the games on a giant screen and take a rest. This year? Not so much. The Blizzcon Qualifying events were moved to a different event, New York Super Week, which I never really figured out what it was. I would love to see more of a gaming presence at New York Comic Con, but it might make the event even more crowded. Maybe ReedPop should look into New York Gaming Con? No one does it better than PAX & PAX East, but why not the city that never sleeps?

I’m still unsure if I will be going to New York Comic Con again. I think the one day Friday pass is the best way to go and just forget the panels all together. I really enjoy the show floor and being smooshed all over the place even ruined that part of the experience for me this year.

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