Despite a major construction project at Manhattan’s Javits Center, where New York Comic Con will be held Thursday through Sunday, October 5–8, the show’s organizers are gearing up for a record number of fans, creators, and publishers at the convention center and at a variety of nearby locations.
The construction affects Artist Alley, which will move to a new location within the center. In addition, this year’s show will feature a partial return of the Harvey Awards, an annual comics awards ceremony previously held in Baltimore, which will be officially relaunched as a gala awards event at New York Comic Con in 2018. This year’s show is also adding a new off-site venue, the New York Public Library, which will host a day of professional programming on comics and graphic novels for librarians and teachers (see p. 32).
Pop culture trade news site ICv2 will host a new version of its annual trade-focused networking event at NYCC, this year to be called New York Comic Con Insider Sessions. The half-day conference will be held on Thursday afternoon in the Javits Galleria. ICv2 CEO Milton Griepp uses the event to deliver his annual white paper on graphic novel sales. This year, Griepp says, Insider Sessions will be a “learning and networking event with an expanded focus and exciting speakers.”
Once again an extensive (and growing) schedule of ancillary pop culture events of all kinds, part of the NYCC Presents series, will be held at a variety of locations around New York City during the week leading into NYCC. As in years past, both badge-only and separately ticketed NYCC Presents events will take place in such locations as the Hudson Mercantile event space across the street from Javits, the Hammerstein Ballroom, and Madison Square Garden.
The Hudson Mercantile event space (which will require separate tickets for meet-and-greets and signings) is hosting some of the biggest book- and entertainment-related names at the show. Look for a conversation between National Book Award finalist and Marvel comics writer Jason Reynolds (Ghost) and National Book Award nonfiction winner (and Marvel comics writer) Ta-Nehisi Coates (Between the World and Me) about black superheroes at Marvel and other publishers. And actor John Leguizamo will debut his new comics series, Freak!, based on his one-man performance show, in a presentation with Edgardo Meranda-Rodriquez, artist for the comic.
The Hammerstein Ballroom will host events with Walking Dead creator Robert Kirkman, and Seth MacFarlane will discuss his new Star Trek parody-tribute show Orville on Fox. And, in a rare U.S. appearance, Japanese manga artist Hiro Mashima, creator of the global bestselling manga series Fairy Tale, will discuss his long career and hit series in a presentation organized by Kodansha Comics and Funimation.
Much of the television-related content, such as panels on AMC’s The Walking Dead and Netflix’s upcoming series The Punisher, about Marvel’s antihero superhero, will take place at Madison Square Garden. Concerts by nerd rockers such as Nerf Herder and musician and graphic novel author Jonathan Coulton will require separate tickets.
Last year’s New York Comic Con sold a record 180,000 tickets over the four-day event. Mike Armstrong, ReedPop’s New York Comic Con event director, says: “The demand for our badges is high. We’re selling tens of thousands of tickets per day, but that doesn’t mean that they are necessarily available when someone decides they want to see content. For those who weren’t able to get a badge but still want to be a part of the show, we want to offer alternative activities over the course of the weekend. Frankly, some things that we want to do are expensive and require an additional ticket. If content is good, our fans understand there might be an additional cost for something extraordinary.”
Relocation of Artist Alley
“There’s a wrench thrown in the works every once in a while,” says Armstrong, describing construction prompting the relocation of Artist Alley, a popular space where individual artists exhibit at the show. ReedPop is working around a construction project that will close and demolish Javits North, a separate 80,000-sq.-ft. structure abutting the north end of Javits, where Artist Alley used to be held each year.
This year, Artist Alley will move to a downstairs hall within the Javits Center proper, which is much smaller, at about 45,000 sq. ft., and will have 50–75 tables fewer than in years past. ReedPop accepted 422 creators for the Artist Alley this year, as opposed to 460 in 2016, Rogers says.
“Artist Alley is so critical to the overall event,” Armstrong says, noting that exhibitors there often coordinate with their publishers to have signings at their tables. “Artists want to be close to their publishers, and our fans have the expectation they will be close by. After talking to a number of artists, publishers, and people within the industry, we decided that it would be best for everybody to keep artists in the building. But that hinders our ability to put other things in the building, which necessitates us going outside the building for content.”
“I love being part of Artist Alley so much,” says Rod Reis, a Brazilian artist who has attended the show for a several years. Reis is handling cover art and penciling for Marvel’s latest Guardians of the Galaxy comics series, written by Gerry Duggan, and received critical praise for his work on Image Comics’ science-fiction series Hadrian’s Wall. “I believe it’s the heart of the show—we can meet the fans and talk to them,” he adds. “It’s the best place to connect to the readers.”
Traveling from France, Margaux Saltel also has a table lined up in Artist Alley. Saltel illustrates covers for independent comics and is working on a soon-to-be-announced creator-owned series with Elsa Charretier and Pierrick Colinet. Last year she attended NYCC and met with editors and creators to shop around her work, she says.
“Being an artist is a lonely life, and we don’t have that many opportunities to meet with readers and fellow comic book pros,” Saltel notes. “Having Artist Alley closer to the main hall sounds like it’ll be easier to access. Hopefully the new location will attract even more fans to the tables.”
Graphic Novels at New York Public Library
This year ReedPop and NYCC have also collaborated with the New York Public Library to offer programming for librarians and educators with professional badges at the NYPL’s iconic Stephen A. Schwarzman Building on Fifth Avenue. On Thursday, the NYPL will host panels and networking sessions that bring librarians and educators together with creators and publishers. Unlike many other NYCC panels and events, this slate of programming will require an NYCC badge (pro-badge holders get priority).
Publishers Boom Studios, First Second, Scholastic and Valiant are confirmed to have creators and editors on hand to participate. Graphic novel artist Laurie Halse Anderson, creator of the forthcoming title Speak, and Ngozi Ukazu, creator of Check, Please!, a popular self-published LGBTQ hockey graphic novel (to be published in a new trade edition by First Second), will talk about young adult comics and teen life in a panel moderated by Heidi MacDonald, PW’s graphic novel reviews editor.
Amie Wright, manager of NYPL’s school outreach program, is overseeing the day of professional events. She anticipates anywhere from 200 to 300 attendees. Wright says the exclusive programming is designed for librarians and teachers who are looking for a day of professional development. By booking the Schwarzman Building, NYCC and NYPL have been able to triple the amount of programming for librarians and educators.
“One of the biggest objectives would be for librarians to walk away with a refreshed understanding of the titles coming out,” Wright explains, and a “refreshed understanding of titles they are already familiar with—how to use them in new and interesting ways.” She adds, “For so many librarians, especially school librarians, it’s hard to get out of the classroom, so we want to give them a day that is meaningful.”
In terms of comics and education, Wright notes “a lot of fantastic research on the marriage of text and image” and its ability to produce better learning outcomes. “Comics have been a good investment for us,” she says, pointing to the March Trilogy, John Lewis’s graphic memoir of the civil rights movement created with Andrew Aydin and Nate Powell. “It’s a great example of the true power of comics that connect with people across many levels.”
On the Exhibition Floor
Manga publisher Viz Media is emphasizing its line of Legend of Zelda manga. NYCC named the two creators of the Zelda manga series—A. Honda and S. Nagano, whose shared pen name is Akira Himekawa—guests of honor of the convention to mark their first appearance there.
Tokyopop, the pioneering (and controversial) manga publisher that ceased U.S. operations in 2011, continues to reestablish its North American presence. Publisher and founder Stu Levy plans a number of promotions for this year’s show. Among them is a collaboration with Disney to produce a sequel to The Nightmare Before Christmas, which will be launched at the Disney manga panel on Thursday. Levy also says Tokyopop plans to announce its first new Japanese manga licenses for North America, since the company ceased U.S. publication in 2011.
And finally, Tokyopop plans to announce a new campaign aimed at “the next generation of women in manga. ” Levy says the new campaign will highlight women manga creators of diverse backgrounds whose original work will be introduced into the U.S. market by the company in 2018.
Independent comics house IDW Publishing will debut its new creator-owned imprint, Black Crown, directed by Shelly Bond, a former DC Entertainment and Vertigo editor. The debut series is Kid Lobotomy, which revolves around strange happenings and people in a hotel. Writer Peter Milligan and artist Tess Fowler will attend NYCC to promote the launch. The house will also use the show to launch a new Ghostbusters comic book series which, in a nod to the recent film, will have a new all-female creative team. Titan Comics will offer panels on comics based on such gaming franchises as Dishonored, Evil Within, and Wolfenstein, featuring Michael Moreci, Ryan O’Sullivan, Alex Paknadel, Ram V, and Dan Watters. And on Saturday, look for Titan panels on its Doctor Who and Torchwood series.
Lion Forge, the independent St. Louis comics publisher, is looking to showcase its expanded line of original and licensed kids and adults graphic novels. The house will feature Catalyst Prime, its recently launched science fiction superhero line of comics, and its creative teams. LF will bring artist Gacomo Bevilacqua, creator of Sound of the World By Heart, a new graphic novel published by Lion Forge’s Magnetic Press adult imprint; kids author Abby Boeh (Mer); Ray Anthony Height, Sheena Howard, Alita Martinez, and David Walker (Superb series); Jamal Igle and Brandon Thomas (Noble series); and others.
Among New York trade book houses, Abrams says its presence will be greater than it has been in years past. The house is planning to promote children’s and young adult prose works as well as its graphic novels. The company is launching fiction series based on DC characters and CW shows The Flash and Supergirl, as well as new YA fiction series based on the Boom Studios series the Lumberjanes, written by Mariko Tamaki. Abrams’s ComicArts division will focus on two titles: a movie tie-in edition of Derf Backderf’s graphic novel My Friend Dahmer, a story about going to high school with serial killer Jeffrey Dahmer, and a new edition of Mark Evanier’s Kirby: King of Comics, about legend Jack Kirby’s contributions to the medium. Both titles will feature new artwork and material.
Asked about Abrams’s increased presence at NYCC, publisher Andrew Smith says, “As NYCC and the number of attendees continue to grow, so do our opportunities to create awareness and excitement for our books among a growing number of very enthusiastic fans and readers.”
Other New York trade book publishers in attendance will include HarperCollins, Macmillan, and Penguin Random House, who are expected to bring in a number of authors and offer giveaways at the convention. Macmillan science fiction and fantasy book imprint Tor Books will feature author V.E. Schwab, who is making waves with her fantasy series Shades of Magic. The bestselling author is scheduled to sit on a panel and do signings, and Tor will have several giveaways and promo events at its NYCC booth. Asked about the emphasis on Schwab, Patty Garcia, Tor’s executive director of publicity, says, “Her fans are the best kind of rabid and we want to give them a little something extra to have fun with, in addition to panels and booth signings.”
Independent house Fantagraphics will not attend this year’s NYCC. Jacq Cohen, Fantagraphics’ executive director of marketing, explains: “There are so many great comics festivals on the East Coast, and, as a West Coast publisher, we can’t make it to all of them. With both Comics Art Brooklyn and the MoCCA Festival in New York, we focus our energy and time making a big splash at those shows. Our cartoonists and our books are more suited to alternative art comics–focused fests, as opposed to mainstream entertainment conventions.”
The Harvey Awards
Earlier this year it was announced that the Harvey Awards, an annual ceremony and reception that honor the best comics and graphic novels of the previous year, will relaunch at New York Comic Con 2018 for the 30th anniversary of the awards. The awards are named after the acclaimed cartoonist, editor, and founder of Mad magazine Harvey Kurtzman, and they were a staple of Baltimore Comic-Con from 2006 to 2016.
ReedPop, the Kurtzman family, and the Harvey Awards executive committee agreed on terms and decided this year they would hold a reception celebrating the industry and Kurtzman’s work. Kristina Rogers, a ReedPop event manager, explains: “They wanted to take a year to focus on the voting process and the awards and how it shapes up behind the scenes. The timing works out well for the 30th anniversary.”
Amid all the comics, bookish, and pop culture happenings and professional work at NYCC, one area ReedPop will be keeping close watch on is security. Like other convention organizers, ReedPop adopted a more robust antiharassment policy in recent years to help convention-goers, including women and cosplayers, feel safer.
The stakes for security were raised earlier this year after an armed man was arrested trying to enter the Phoenix Comicon. His actions prompted other convention organizers, including ReedPop, to reevaluate their security practices and relations with local police departments. (For more on security measures at conventions, see “Staying Safe at San Diego Comic-Con 2017” in the July 10 issue.)
“The security and safety of our fans has always been our #1 priority,” Armstrong says. “We have been working closely with the Javits Center, the NYPD, and our own in-house security professionals to adjust and execute our plans where appropriate. The support from NYPD has been tremendous over the past couple of years, and we’re very grateful to them. We’re opening a second fan entrance this year in an effort to get fans into the building quickly and safely.”
Armstrong notes that ReedPop plans to continue looking for opportunities to expand the show into new spaces in the Hell’s Kitchen and Hudson Yards neighborhoods surrounding Javits. The construction around the Javits North pavilion will likely continue through 2021, he says, and ReedPop will continue to move things around inside and outside of the convention center. The goal, Armstrong says, is for “people to understand that there is more to New York Comic Con than Javits.” He adds, “I think we’re set up really well for the future.”
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