Michael Davis: The Great New York Con
I’m from New York.
I’m a New Yorker who has lived the last 20 years in Los Angeles or LA, as it’s commonly called. LA is where my life is now; driven here quite literally by an offer I couldn’t refuse.
Despite the often-racist policies of City Hall and its Choke-An-Unarmed-Black-Man-to-Death police force, NYC will always be my home. Every New Yorker will tell you that the city becomes part of you. There’s something about growing up in New York that taints your view of any other city. When New Yorkers leave New York, they may move, but they don’t relocate.
My body may live in LA, but my heart and soul still reside in New York.
When the towers fell, I spent the entire day on the phone with Denys Cowan. We were both in LA less than 10 minutes from each other, yet we were so shocked and heartbroken about our city that neither one of us could muster the brainpower to think to go to the other’s home.
The offer I couldn’t refuse was made by Motown, who left Detroit in 1970 and has operated from Los Angeles ever since. I made a case to keep my main offices on the east coast and Motown agreed. I so loved my city, I endured a weekly flight to LA, and I absolutely hate to fly. After a year I was told to move the business to Los Angeles.
I did, but kept my NYC residence and have that still. I was not happy leaving my cherished city and made no secret of my dislike of all things Los Angeles when I arrived.
My New York egotism is seldom, if ever, modified. Undoubtedly a wise thing to do in many situations, but I can’t seem to make that leap no matter what the setting. I once proudly wore a New York Knick hat during a game between the Knicks and the Lakers played in Los Angeles. Not a big deal – any die-hard New York fan would do that. However, I wore my Knick hat to a Laker game while in Magic’s Johnson’s suite.
But wait, there’s more: I did this during the time I ran a division of Magic Johnson Entertainment.
I worked for the most famous Los Angeles Laker of all time, yet there I sat wearing my Knick hat.
You can’t get much more New York or more stupid than that.
20 years after LA made me leave NY, my answer is the same now as it was then when I’m asked to compare New York and Los Angeles. New York is the greatest city in the world and LA stands for Lower Alabama.
New York is also home to the New York Comic Con (NYCC), billed as the largest pop culture event on the east coast. I’m sure that’s true. It’s a huge and impressive show to be sure. Held at New York’s Javits Center, the convention sold out this year doing “San Diego Comic Con numbers” according to Business Insider.
What’s even more extraordinary is that NYCC has been around just nine years, and SDCC more than forty. It’s no wonder-people are comparing NYCC to SDCC. When you throw up those kinds of numbers in that short amount of time, you’re a major playa, no doubt about it.
Before, during, and especially after this year’s show, the word coming out of the Big Apple was that SDCC is done.
The king is dead, long live the king!
My dear friend Lucy Valerio, who knows full well of my doings at SDCC, told me a good friend of hers said, “San Diego Comic Con has jumped the shark.”
I wondered two things: had this expert on all things pop culture ever been to Comic Con? Secondly, was Lucy high? I bet her friend was, or he was drinking the Jim Jones Kool-Aid hype social media is selling.
Most don’t know I also have history with NYCC, and believe it or not, I had a small hand in helping them established themselves when they started. Long story short, they reached out to me and I put them in business with two major companies they were unable get to.
After doing so, I was asked to bring The Black Panel to NYCC and I did. So imagine my surprise when the next year, I’m told The Black Panel did not fit the criteria, although I had an open invitation to bring it back anytime I wanted.
The Black Panel has been profiled in the Wall Street Journal, The Guardian, The New York Times, and Entertainment Weekly, to name but a few. The panel been invited to major universities, film festivals, and just recently Japan.
Damn, that must be some fucking criteria.
The woman from ReedPop, the NYCC promoter, who informed me could not have cared less about my open invitation to bring the panel back, nor did she care about what I had done for NYCC.
Fast-forward seven or eight years and the NYCC has put up some extraordinary numbers, but were not really SDCC numbers. They count ticket sales as people. In other words one person buys two tickets that counts as two people. Nevertheless, their numbers were damn impressive and they did sell out.
That sell out and those ticket sales are going to be the first thing ReedPop, the company behind the NYCC, will show future strategic partners, investors, advertisers, exhibitors, and attendees, and they should – those numbers are an incredible achievement, and as any CEO in corporate America will tell you, numbers don’t lie.
Those numbers are reason enough people are listening to the loud voices proclaiming NYCC as the new king of pop culture events.
Numbers don’t lie, but those voices are. Those voices are lying like any husband when asked, “Does this dress make me look fat?”
“No honey bunny.” That’s the lie hubby will tell his spouse.
“No Porky, you’d look fat in any dress.” That’s the truth he’s smart enough to keep from his wife.
The NYCC is a well attended comics and pop culture convention. SDCC is a world-famous pop culture event on a whole other level. Put another way, it’s akin to comparing Jay Z and your cousin Sal who likes to rap.
The numbers NYCC put up this year are undeniably great numbers for attendance to their show. However, the selling out SDCC is assured, not to take anything away from New York, but those are easy numbers to put up for San Diego. The show has sold out completely for over a decade and is still growing in ticket requests.
But, being the new king of pop culture is about a lot more than ticket sells.
More than attendance revenue, SDCC is a pop culture mecca, a place fans from all over the world must visit at least once in their life. Like any Super Bowl city hundreds of thousands of people come to San Diego without tickets. Some hope to somehow attain tickets once there, but for most, just being in the city where Comic Con International is being held is the goal.
The City Of San Diego is number 11 on the 20 most visited cities by international visitors and number 10 on the Forbes list of America’s most visited city. Clearly New York is on both those lists, but I’m damn sure the City of New York will not build new hotels and new convention centers (plural) to keep the NYCC show there.
Undoubtedly, because of Comic Con’s financial impact, San Diego would want to keep them happy by any means necessary. By comparison New York is much bigger and has much more to offer than just one event, True, but just as true, long before SDCC became the monster it is now, San Diego was already one of America’s top tourist destinations.
The economic significance of the SDCC on the city is not measured just in yearly revenue boost but in future investments and growth in the city. The worldwide importance of SDCC is not just a boon to San Diego, but to America as well. SDCC more than any other event in the 21st Century has cemented America’s place as the pop culture capital of the world.
That kind of clout is not what puts SDCC at another level. I was just pointing out the difference between Jay and cousin Sal.
NYCC is a for-profit business. Nothing at all wrong with that… except, in my opinion, in the world of geeks. To look at geeks simply as paying customers at a geek convention is no way to build a pop culture dynasty the likes of SDCC. A recurring issue to many fans and pros is the less than pleasant way convention personnel deal with fans.
To be fair, ReedPop is not running the Javits Center and has little or no control over how Javits security talks to and otherwise deals with fans. But Reed picked the venue, and year after year this seems to be a recurring topic.
SDCC is a not-for-profit educational organization run by a bunch of geeks, and in the world of comic book conventions, geeks rule. The people at SDCC are in the business of conventions, but they are not a convention business.
SDCC Mission Statement:
Comic-Con International: San Diego is a nonprofit educational corporation dedicated to creating awareness of, and appreciation for, comics and related popular art forms, primarily through the presentation of conventions and events that celebrate the historic and ongoing contribution of comics to art and culture.
Regardless of my past dealings with the convention, I want NYCC to succeed. It’s in my city and they are good for the industry. They and every other pop culture event have a ways to go before they can claim to be on a par with SDCC. For my money, Stan Lee’s Comikaze is the convention with any hope of ever doing what SDCC has.
The SDCC show is a pop culture worldwide happening generating much more than revenue and at its core are the fans, geeks, nerds and growing the industry.
This above all else is why Comic Con International: San Diego is on a different level.
A level that the New York Comic Con is, as of yet, nowhere near.