New York Comic Con 2023, via ReedPop/EventBrite
New York Comic Con is not only the biggest event in New York City for fans of the industry — it’s probably the second largest comic event in the world, second only to the iconic San Diego Comic Con. It seemed to get bigger and bigger every year — until it all came crashing down in 2020 as the event was shuttered by so many others. When it came back in 2021, it was clear that it was a shadow of its former self that year, with few major companies or celebrity guests and strict health protocols to get in. That led to a much more laid-back event that still provided a lot of joy for comic fans. 2022 brought an event that was far closer to the previous version, with a mask mandate being the only remnant of pandemic times and a full array of panels and guests. However, it was clear that it was still a smaller event than previous times.
Then came 2023, and it was clear that the event was back in force. For those who attended in 2019 and before like yours truly, that’s both a blessing and a curse. I love a big, bustling comic con, but it can definitely feel overwhelming after four full days of exploring. I had a close friend in town from the UK during the 2023 event, and he was completely unprepared for just how packed not just the show floor, but the transition areas and Artist Alley would get during the latter days of the con. That being said, there was a sense of electricity during the 2023 event that reminded me of the event at its heyday. Not only did the fans seem happy to be there in the event at its height, but so did the creators — allowing the event to maintain the best of both worlds.
The show floor was absolutely chaos as it always was, especially on Friday and Saturday. The con made a smart decision to have the food areas scattered all around the perimeter of the floor, making it easier to get to without having to battle to a specific area of the floor. However, I’m increasingly convinced that the main show floor is where con fans should be spending the least amount of time. It’s heavily dedicated to multimedia and sales, with toy companies taking up a huge amount of real estate. I did find a few interesting things to buy there, but they were mostly things I also could have bought online. The real heart of the con was found on the lower floor.
If there was one area at the con that seemed the most improved this year, it was definitely Artist Alley. This is where it’s easiest to meet creators, pick up small-press books, and forge industry connections. This year, Artist Alley seemed as lively as ever, with everyone from legends like Kevin Eastman and Geoff Johns sharing space with small-press talents. I was able to get a book signed by popular all-ages creator Franco Aureliani, as well as have extended conversations with Jeremy Adams, Phillip Kennedy Johnson, and Club Kick-Out creator Steph Mided. I would definitely encourage comic lovers to prioritize their time here.
Panels were largely business as usual, and one of my favorite parts of the con. It’s impossible to overstate just how much better panels have been run since they moved to the adjacent five-floor building next to the main Javits Center. Lines are roomier and better organized, and panel rooms are more spacious. I didn’t attend any Main Stage panels this year, but I heard few complaints about the reservation system. I had an amazing time attending panels this year, with a great focus on creators. While all the DC panels I attended were a blast, the real highlight had to be the creator-focused panels such as Geoff Johns’ grans unveiling of his Ghost Machine studios or Scott Snyder’s round table with his son and many collaborators on his Comixology book. Then there was the most joyous panel of the weekend — the fan tribute panel to The Owl House, which saw three voice actors from the show interacting with fans in a celebration of the just-ended fantasy cartoon. This panel was distinctly NOT organized by Disney, which resulted in many cheers from the crowd.
Were there hiccups this year? Absolutely, but few of them seem easy to pin down as to the cause. The system was overwhelmed when reservations opened, causing chaos as many people saw reservations snapped up by bots. The con is no doubt working on better security for their online reservation system for next year. At the con itself, getting in could often be a challenge. For the first three days, the press entrance worked smoothly, but on day four it was seemingly eliminated without explanation and all press members were herded into the main entrance and placed in a large holding area — causing many to nearly miss early panels. Staff members were always helpful and friendly, but security could be less so and it was often hard to tell who to talk to when arriving.
As always, I came away from NYCC 2023 exhausted and full of love for the industry. Will I take a few weeks to recover? Yes. Will I be back in force in 2024? Beyond a doubt.