If you attended Wizard World’s first “Comic Con NYC Experience” last weekend expecting something more akin to Wizard World’s own large-scale Chicago Comic Con, you’d be surprised by the sheer intimacy of what awaited you.
Held at Manhattan’s Basketball City at Pier 36, the con was a smaller New York City experience where creators and vendors shared one room in close proximity to the celebrities from TV and film. Instead of recent convention mainstays of massive displays or installations from publishers, studios and networks, this was dominated by normal folks.
For some con-goers, size matters. And there was much to keep the size kings and queens happy; put Norman Reedus in any room, and you’re guaranteed to encounter extreme fan devotion that includes marriage proposals and, um, other kinds of proposals. Then add Patrick Stewart, Stan Lee and Wil Wheaton in that same room, and you get a cross-section of true believers who want a pic (or several) or an autograph (or dozen).
And the NYC Experience wasn’t lacking for other traditional convention elements such as cosplay and costume contests. Without always realizing they were the same people, I inadvertently became a creeper taking multiple pictures with cosplayers Nicole Marie Jean and Spencer Doe as Black Cat and Batman, or Emma Frost and Snake Eyes.
But for me, I was drawn in by the fact that I didn’t have to fight to be a fanboy here. While light years bigger than the strip mall cons I grew up with, I dug that I could mosey around aimlessly. I didn’t need the laser-focus so often required at cons to simply traverse the floor. Instead, I had room to walk, to stop, to talk. I bounced around, chatted with well-known names from comics like Neal Adams, Larry Lieber, Humberto Ramos or Greg Pak, then went outside to grab tacos at the food-truck-court and chilled out, watching panels.
The environment allowed me to take more time to meet creators and titles new to me.
For instance, I’m a big dork for “The X-Files” and made my way over to speak with Joe Harris, the writer behind IDW’s new “The X-Files: Season 10” book. We nerded out a bit over the show a bit, I picked up a signed variant cover of the first issue, then turned to talking about his title “Great Pacific.”
Though I know the Kickstarter campaign backstory behind Harris’sci-fi book, published by Image, about an oil heir who settles the Great Pacific Garbage Patch (which is a very real, very gross thing), I hadn’t gotten around to reading it. Now I’m definitely into it and count myself as another of Harris’ readers.
Harris himself said he acknowledged, for the first year of the NYC Experience, that it’s “a feeling out process” but crowds were a lighter than he’d prefer. Still, he said the energy and enthusiasm were present at the con, and though the exposure may not have been as large as at other events, the connection he could make with potential supporters was strong.
It can be easy to get so caught up in the massive corporate installations at a con that I may miss the indie companies. But, as a zombie fan, I was delighted to talk at length with start-up comic creators such as Sarah Braly and David Phillips behind the new social commentary funny book “High Fructose Zombies” (welcome to the “sugarpocalypse”). And I watched as people discovered, and got excited over the motivational posters from the just-launched “Dilbert”-meets-“Fido” webcomic “The Zombie Office.”
These were small moments from a cozy con. No major news broke and it was an overall laid back time. I am certain that if attendance was high and Wizard World met whatever internal threshold it set, the NYC Experience will return next year as a bigger event with more of everything.
But I kind of hope that, while it may experience growth, it doesn’t outgrow the smaller con vibe.