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Entertainment/Character

NYCC 2018: A Bigger, Badder Nostalgia Rush

By Karina Masolova. Contact the Editor at karina@plainlanguagemedia.com.

Now in its 13th year, New York Comic Con (NYCC) emerged bigger than ever before as an estimated 250,000 attendees occupied the Jacob Javits Center and off-site locations like the Hammerstein Ballroom and Madison Square Garden (for large panels) as well as 10 blocks north at Pier 94 (hosting Anime Fest @NYCC x Anime Expo). (Note: I didn’t attend any of these off-site events.)

The ReepPOP-sourced attendance figure of 250,000 is probably an over-exaggeration, however, as fellow con-goer Rob Salkowitz notes in a column for ICv2. The organizer is actually counting ticket sales, and many fans bought more than one ticket, probably two or three each. There were the daily convention badges (and I spotted quite a few attendees sporting a fan of four or more around their necks, one for each day) as well as separately-ticketed events off-site. Salkowitz also notes that the total capacity of the Javits Center is supposed to be 70,000 heads.

To put this into perspective: While the total area space of the Javits Center is larger than that allocated for this year’s Licensing Expo Las Vegas or the currently ongoing Licensing Expo Europe by around 2.25x more square footage, the actual head count of attendees was about 10x more. My point? It was really, really crowded. While most attendees seemed to be enjoying themselves—and most artists, retailers, and dealers were pulling in thousands in sales every day—ReedPOP will find it difficult to scale NYCC further given the city’s limited infrastructure.

Despite these drawbacks, NYCC is proving to be a more genuine ground for fan engagement than its sister conventions in San Diego and Atlanta, according to several con-goers I spoke with on the floor. For example: Although the space available in the Artist Alley for independent creators was smaller, it was also better-placed and better-organized. Ditto for the sprawl enjoyed by the collectibles dealers and retailers.

Speaking of collectibles, the undisputed all-star brand was Funko. In addition to its official booth, Pop! vinyl figures were selling throughout the floor from $12 to $25 for new and NYCC-exclusive releases to over $100 for collector’s items.

The optimal price-point, meanwhile, was the sub-$20 mark. There is an unfilled appetite among fans of traditional comic books and anime/manga alike for trinkets such as pins, key chains, posters, and mini figures. On the flip side, high-brow offerings also met strong demand, such as small leather accessories like wallets and hats as well as jewelry crafted from precious stones and metals.

What would consumerism be today without mystery boxes, though? It wasn’t just small, lower-priced grab bags. Most booths had big paper bags available priced at anywhere from $60 to $90 to $140—one put an assortment of merch into giant eggs (Hatchimals inspired?).

Although they are officially licensed, many exhibitors vending goods at NYCC only sell at conventions and may not have the right to sell into brick-and-mortar retail or online. Nevertheless, I saw some familiar faces who also make the rounds at trade shows. The funny thing is, that at those other trade shows, they aren’t swamped by lines of adoring fans.

Notable licensors, agents, and licensees doing brisk business included, but are no means limited to, and are not in any particular order: TeeTurtle, Rooster Teeth, Pin Club, Tasty Peach, Zen Monkey Studios, Cryptozoic Entertainment, Culturally, Mezzo Toyz, Moleskin (x Kelsey Wroten), New York Puzzle Co., Playmobil, Rubies’ Costume Co., Good Smile Co., Hallmark, Invicta Watch Group, National Geographic, Jelly Belly Candy Co., Valiant Entertainment, Bandai Namco, Banpresto, Blizzard Entertainment, Capcom, DC Entertainment, Nickelodeon, DreamWorks, Konami, tokidoki, Toei Animation, Topps, and Loot Crate.

Big-name publishers vending their wares included Simon & Schuster, Abrams Books, Dark Horse Comics, Quarto Publishing, Penguin Random House, Disney Publishing, Hachette Book Co., Harper Collins, Lion Forge, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, Titan Comics, IDW Publishing, and Insight Editions.

And finally, the big names among established and emerging streaming services targeting the fan community: Amazon Studios, Crunchyroll, FUNimation Entertainment, and Viz Media.

On the brand-specific side, nostalgia is still raging strong among fans. Almost-forgotten properties are being revived:

  • DreamWorks is bringing the Mattel toy-driven 1985 property She-Ra to Netflix,
  • Cult favorite comic Deadly Class (circa 2014 from Image Comics) is airing on Syfy thanks to Sony Pictures,
  • CBS’s Star Trek (52 years old) revival is getting a second season,
  • Dynamite Entertainment’s The Boys (2006) is coming to Amazon,
  • Marvel’s Daredevil is getting a third season on Netflix, and
  • DC Universe’s Titans is now renewed for a second season.

The name of the game is gritty, mature, and funny.

Classic anime/manga properties also featured prominently on the floor in rejuvenated form:

  • Toei’s Dragon Ball (30th anniversary in 2019),
  • Capcom’s Mega Man (30th anniversary in 2018), and
  • Viz Media’s Castlevania (32 years old) and JoJo’s Bizarre Adventures (it’s only 31).

And I also saw, oddly enough, merchandise for Disney’s Mickey Mouse (90th birthday this year) being sold on the floor. There was one big gap at NYCC, however: “Do you have Pokémon?” was the most common question I heard directed to retailers and vendors. Usually, the answer was no.

What NYCC lacked in authenticity, however, it made up for in terms of sheer experiential fun.

  • Geico (the car insurance company) handed out giant bags and tested your memory in exchange for your home and email addresses.
  • Topps promoted its licensed digital trading cards with, oddly enough, an unbranded baseball card game. (I got a Star Wars pin as a prize. Confusing.)
  • Viacom promoted a new season of South Park with a fun escape-the-room scenario powered by puzzles, riddles, and inside jokes.
  • Bandai indoctrinated new model-builders by creating a space for people to assemble Gundam robots (almost 40 years old) under the tutelage of experts.
  • NYCC was just one stop on a leg of the Dragon Ball North America Tour 2018—put together by Bandai Namco, Shueisha, and Toei—that allowed fans to pose in a series of elaborate sets.

And, of course, hundreds of meet-and-greets were organized with legends young and old.

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