Mike Gold: True Convention Thrills!
Great Caesar’s Ghost, my first comic convention actually was 38 and one-half years ago. I thought about that a lot this past weekend. I recall hearing about 300 people attended that show; we were completely astonished by the huge turnout.
It was one of the late Phil Seuling’s first Fourth of July shows in New York, and he established the standard by which I measure all comic book conventions. I helped run the Chicago Comicon for ten years, and I tried to hold us to that same standard. Phil’s shows were absolutely great, and of course they grew in size and importance with the times.
It’s been a long time since New York has had a comic book convention (emphasis on the term "comic book," as opposed to "media") of that size and caliber. Last year, a professional convention company — Reed, here in Connecticut — started up a huge thing called the New York Comic Con, or NYCC for short. Reed wasn’t very experienced at running consumer shows and had no background in comics whatsoever, and despite their hiring a few good consultants the show was — in my opinion — a huge fiasco. Tens of thousands of show hungry fans descended upon a space built for tens. You couldn’t move, the line to get in ran three hours long most of Saturday, people like Mort Walker were manhandled. It was, at best, unfortunate. And that’s the nicest thing I’ve ever said about the 2006 NYCC.
I’m glad to say the 2007 NYCC was better. Just that — better. Not good enough for the east coast, and not good enough for New York City, the roots of the American comic book medium. But better.
Reed booked twice as much space at the Javitz Center, but then they decided to have maybe four times the events. Stephen King, an anime festival, Stan Lee, all kinds of bells and whistles that would make for a great show if they only had the space.
Friday was restricted to paying professionals until 4:00, and by 4:30 we knew there was going to be trouble on Saturday. At 10:30 Saturday morning, well after the show had opened, the line outside of the center was a half-mile long: fans standing in line, many in costume, in freezing temperatures. With the wind whipping off of the Hudson River, the wind chill was in single digits and people were standing out in it for hours in order to pick up their pre-paid tickets and get in to the show.
Once again, armed New York State troopers were called out for crowd control.
But this time things started settling down around 2 PM. It was still overcrowded and getting around Artist’s Alley was a real bitch, but you could get in and you could get around. With a little perseverance, I think most people had a great time.
Next year, Reed will be holding the NYCC in April instead of February, and they say they have secured more space. I hope they don’t expand their programming or their promotion proportionately. If they stay the course, New York City will finally have the comic book convention it deserves.
And it’s about time.