Once upon a time, comic conventions were seen as strange niche gatherings that only the diehard would go to. Although the diehard will still go to these events religiously, they have become far more popular in the past 10 years due to the increasing celebrity presence, amazing cosplay, and friendly atmosphere. San Diego Comic Con is the undisputed king of the comic con world. However, it’s east coast sister from New York is gaining in speed and has grown from somewhat humble beginnings to a behemoth of an event.
What is important to clarify right out of the gate is that New York Comic Con is in fact not actually related to San Diego Comic Con. They share a similar name, but it is very much a competitor in the field. In fact, the people at ReedPOP who set up New York Comic Con every year actually set up the video game conferences at PAX East and PAX Prime. There are major financials behind the New York competitor to San Diego Comic Con, which can perhaps explain why it has gained in popularity so much since its first convention opening.
Start of New York Comic Con
The first convention was held in 2006 at the Jacob K. Javits Convention Center. What was at first expected to be a relatively modest event blew the expectations straight out of the water. ReedPOP, before this point, had a lack of experience in organizing comic conventions, and had focused on professional trade shows before 2006. At least 10,000 comic enthusiasts showed up to the even,t buying tickets and merchandise every step of the way. Some 4,500 more people bought tickets throughout the weekend the convention was held, and the convention center was so packed out that fire marshals had to lock down the main convention center for a fair portion of Saturday, when audiences peaked, meaning that comic figures such as Kevin Smith of Clerks fame and Frank Miller, the graphic novel godfather, couldn’t actually get into the convention.
The lines stretched around the convention center and it took attendees two hours to actually get in, with many more being turned away, with the event eventually having to decline selling any more tickets. The debut of the comic convention was a rousing success, and was only hampered by the modest expectations that ReedPOP had for it. Therefore, ReedPOP promised to buy more space for the following year's convention. They did so, and the lines still managed to be over two hours long and the attendance numbers only increased.
Crowding occurred in the famous Artists Alley and although they had bought out more than three times the space they had in 2006, they still suffered from crowding during the entire event. The show coincided with the American Anime Awards, which were held on February 24th in the New Yorker Hotel, bringing even more enthusiasts to the event. This is relatively unprecedented in the world of comic conventions. Usually they start from very humble beginnings and work their way up, with the speed of the build depending what famous figures from the industry they can get to show up. New York Comic Con had no such trouble, and seem to only become bigger and better every single year.
New York Comic Con Grows
The third con held in 2008 continued to grow, with more than 50 percent more space added, and almost taking over the entirety of the Javits Center. The comic godfather Stan Lee was awarded the very first New York Comics Legend award at the Times Square Virgin Megastore preceding the event, getting a fair amount of new coverage for the comic convention. In terms of giving out an award like that, there doesn’t seem to be a much better choice than Stan Lee. If fans didn’t think that the convention was credible, they certainly did now.
Starting in 2010, due to scheduling conflicts with Chicago Comic Con, New York Comic Con was moved from its annual April spot to Halloween weekend. This allowed joint marketing with the Halloween season, and the convention proceeded to grow even further as it merged with the previously separate New York Anime Festival, amalgamating into one of the biggest, if not the biggest comic convention on the east coast. The event for 2010 exceeded over 190 percent of the numbers that attended in 2009 and the convention space was expanded even further to accommodate 40 percent more of the Javits Center as it now had to accommodate in essence a whole second convention within its borders.
New York Comic Con Domination Begins
But the organizers of New York Comic Con weren’t finished yet. After they had conquered the anime world, they turned their eyes to the realm of competitive gaming. ReedPOP managed to get the Intel Extreme Masters Global Challenge to take place at the New York Comic Con in 2011 which featured world famous competitors playing StarCraft II, League of Legends, and the legendary Counter-Strike. So to recap, the New York Comic Con, which started as a modest comic convention, now encompasses all anime in New York as well as hosting the growing competitive gaming market.
Perhaps to accommodate for the additional activities, in 2011 the convention was expanded to four days and the very first day was limited to press, professionals, and fans that had bought a four day pass, keeping some sense of exclusivity. However, this changed in 2013 when single day passes were put on sale for those that wanted to attend that single day. Whether it was a result of this decision, or an eventual consequence of the ever-growing convention, over 130,000 people attended the convention, which officially put the event on par with San Diego Comic Con for the first time ever. New York Comic Con had quite literally challenged the king of the convention world. And then in 2014, attendance number reached 151,000, surpassing San Diego Comic Con and becoming the largest comic book convention in North America. From humble beginnings, to the king of the world, you’d hate to be the guy that snubbed the convention way back in 2006.