The 2010 New York Comic Con is coming up in just a few days, and that means I'm juggling about a million different items on my to-do list. Between booking interviews, organizing a three-day schedule, and otherwise prepping for another iteration of one of country's largest conventions, everyone in the geek media is busy these days — and we're not alone.
Lance Fensterman is the Group Vice President of ReedPOP, an offshoot of convention giant Reed Exhibitions that's responsible for New York Comic Con, as well as other genre shows like Star Wars Celebration, C2E2, PAX, and the New York Anime Fest. With NYCC 2010 looming, I managed to track down Fensterman for a short conversation about this year's show, how it compares to previous years, and some of the most hotly debated subjects in the comic convention world.
To be honest, with everything going on lately, I'm not sure how we both found the time to chat — but I think you'll enjoy the conversation all the same.
MTV NEWS: Since we're both pretty busy these days, let's get right into it with some pre-show analysis. How does this year's New York Comic Con compare to previous years at this point in the prep?
LANCE FENSTERMAN: That's actually an interesting question, because the global boss is here on Monday to discuss 2011 budgets and such, so I have all of that data right in front of me right now. I don't even need to make it up! [Laughs] Basically, the show — meaning the show floor, all of the exhibits, all of those booths, etc. — right now it's about 25-30% larger than it was last year. It's like 120,000 paid square feet of exhibits.
But Artist Alley, we don’t even count into that, and that's now about 370 tables, where last year it was 250 — so the show in its heft, its sheer size and mass, has grown pretty significantly. We took the whole building this year for the first time, which is cool — the whole Javits Center is ours.
MTV: That's not all Comic Con, though — you're splitting that up between Comic Con and the New York Anime Fest at the same time, right?
FENSTERMAN: Yeah, we sort of jammed them together. Anime Fest has always been in the fall and we needed to move Comic Con to consistent dates, but it's really hard to get dates in that building. ... And it actually makes a lot of sense. It's sort of a "circle of life," because Anime Fest came out of Comic Con. At one point we said, "This whole Anime world could use its own event, so like let's make it its own event," and now we’re saying, "Let's put the rib back into Adam."
MTV: What are some of the big additions this year?
FENSTERMAN: IDW has a booth at the show for the first time, which is pretty cool. I’m excited about that. Capcom has a big booth, and I think it's their first time coming in. There’s actually a ton of new exhibitors, but Nintendo has a big booth for the first time, and video games are really there in general. Also we’re doing this thing called the Cultyard and it's like a collection of sort of pop-surrealist street art, subculture art. It’s a little more downtown than anything else we’ve done, which is cool. It's vinyl toys, art, a little bit of music, and it's just a little more stylized. Kid Robot is a really good mainstream example of what's there, but also Badge Bomb, Effigy Skateboards... It's a little bit edgier, a little bit more urban art, and that’s cool. It’s moving in a totally different direction and it’s appealing to a really different sort of crowd, which is cool. We’re making the show diverse.
MTV: Well, you mentioned the addition of Cultyard and the video game presence, but whata bout Hollywood side of things? There's always a lot of discussion when it comes to Hollywood presence at comic conventions. How do find the balance between comics and the movie and television worlds at a convention?
FENSTERMAN: Man, it's not easy. Honestly, when the Hollywood stuff works, you go for it. I mean, there’s a lot of Hollywood stuff that’s just not going to be at the show because the stuff wasn’t ready, or they didn’t have the footage the way they wanted it. But I wouldn’t have said no because I felt balance was needed, do you know what I’m saying? It’s exciting, it's big, people love it. I think what’s important is that you don’t cut back in other areas when you add Hollywood stuff. You don’t say "We’re going to put all these resources into the screenings and the Hollywood stuff and that means we can’t bring out as many comic guests" or that more Hollywood stuff means you're going to move some of the independent publishers to the fringe of the show floor. You've got to strike a balance.
We’d snap up all the Hollywood stuff that comes our way, because it's cool and the fans love it. That doesn’t mean we should marginalize anything else because of that. That, to me, is where you strike the balance, as best you can.
MTV: There seems to be a lot more guests coming in from overseas this year — at least, that's what it seemed like when I gave the guest list a once-over. Is this something you noticed? What's that about?
FENSTERMAN: We do well with Europe. There’s only an ocean instead of an ocean and a continent, and New York is just, well... I don’t want to generalize too much, but typically Europeans want to go to New York much more than L.A. or the West Coast. I’m not saying anything about any other shows, I just mean in my experience and other businesses I’ve run, Europeans are much more keen on New York City than other points in the U.S., because it's closer and there's a predisposition to like it a little bit. And yeah, I think we throw a pretty cool event that they want to be a part of, too — but I’m not so vane I’m going to discount a major metropolis like New York City.
MTV: What about you, specifically — what are you looking forward to at this years show?
FENSTERMAN: All of the Adult Swim stuff I’m pretty stoked about, and they have a pretty robust lineup. This sounds hokey and you can make fun of me if you want to make fun of me, but my favorite point is Saturday morning when we open the doors at 10 AM. That’s the best, because Friday is cool, it's sort of chill and then the fans come in, but it’s a weekday. Saturday morning we’ll have probably like 30,000 people queued up, waiting to get into the show, and the best moment is when you open the doors and they walk in — because we only get to do this once a year.
So you think all year (or in this case, 18 months) about what am I going to do, how am I going to do it, will people like it, is it going to be cool, etc. You think about all of that stuff and when you open the doors and people start racing in and they’re like “YEAH!”... That’s it, man. I’m happy, and that’s the high point for me, because that’s why you do it. I know it sounds hokey, but it's totally true. I get wrapped up in all sorts of different aspects of the show that excite me, but ultimately you're throwing them a party for your attendees, for the fans, and they’re happy and excited — that’s the best part, you know what I mean?
MTV: I can only imagine. And it feels like, of all the shows, this is your baby. Is New York Comic Con the event that you throw yourself into more than the rest?
FENSTERMAN: I don’t understand anime, I’m not going to lie. We have people on the team that are massive fans, but I don’t understand anime.
MTV: I understand that. Sometimes it's not about knowing the subject matter yourself, but making sure you know enough people who do that you can do the best job possible...
FENSTERMAN: Exactly. The thing about Comic Con is, this year we became kind of our own division of a big company, and we’re like the kids that get to run it — but the kids are doing really, really well. We ran nine shows this year, in all sorts of different pop culture genres, and it all started five years ago at the New York Comic Con. ... It's hard not to feel attached. It’s the biggest show we run, and it’s the one that started it all. We love this show.
It's like this show has been a reflection of the careers of everybody that has worked on it, and we built it up, and it built us up. We’ve been working with some of these partners and exhibitors for five years, which in some terms is not very long, but you look at an amazing show like San Diego that’s been around for 40-plus years, but for us, it's all we know. We’ve been with it from the beginning and yeah, it’s our passion for sure.
MTV: You recently made your Chicago debut with C2E2. How did that go? Can we expect another one next year?
FENSTERMAN: Oh yeah, C2E2 — Chicago Entertainment Expo — is slated March 18-20 and moving to a different hall in Chicago. We’re excited for it. It was a launch that we got off the ground with firm footing, and yeah, we’re there for the long term. Star Wars business is cyclical, so it’ll probably be a couple of years before we run another one of those, but there’s a couple of other projects in the works with LucasFilm that I think will delight the fans. UFC we’re in business with, and we’ve run three of those this year and we’ll run a few next year, probably two. We are actually launching another show that I can’t talk about yet, but we’ll launch that next year. We also bought the show in Singapore, so we’re looking at a couple of other international projects. We’re doing a show in the U.K. the weekend after New York Comic Con, so I’m going right from Comic Con to London. It's cool, man. There’s a lot of stuff popping with ReedPOP. It’s really exciting.
New York Comic Con is happening this weekend, October 8-10, at the Jacob K. Javits Center in New York, NY. You can find out more about the show at www.newyorkcomiccon.com. Keep it locked to Splash Page all weekend for New York Comic Con news, exclusives, and updates from the floor (and our swanky MTV News skybox).