The big news of the fall for comics fandom is that the New York Comic Con, held this year October 9-12, knocked the San Diego Comic Con International off its throne as the biggest comic-con in the country (perhaps in the world). Big news but not much of a surprise: New York is the most populous of our nation’s cities, so events staged there should be attended by the largest crowds. But it’s taken a few decades of limping listlessly for the Big Apple to finally get around to putting on a funnybook show worthy of the city’s size and influence. Even Entertainment Weekly has taken notice, running a short article about the NY Comic Con in a recent issue. Look for longer pieces in the future: the magazine’s editorial office is, conveniently, in The City.
New York registered, it is reported, slightly over 151,000 geeks, nerds, and other happy personages; Sandy Eggo, limited by the size of its venue — the San Diego Convention Center and the city’s fire marshal, who cuts off attendance when it exceeds what he deems a safe number for the facility — has been registering 125-130,000 for the past decade or so. It could be bigger, we suppose — and Sandy Eggo factotums are likely to claim — if the fire marshal were a less risk averse official. Not that we’d like that either: we’re all for safety.
While New York’s roaring success ought to be gratifying to funnybook fans everywhere, it actually isn’t. Comic-cons, New York’s included, are no longer events for those who dote on comic books. Sandy Eggo long ago became what its organizers call “a popular culture festival” — movies, games, toys and other cultural detritus that may have originated in the four-color fantasies of comic books but now eddies in ever-widening circles throughout our culture, from books and magazines to television, from stuffed dolls to the big screen. And vice versa.
Hollywood, as many have observed (sometimes cynically), invaded Sandy Eggo years ago and imparted to the annual shenanigans a distinctly tinsel-town gleam. As comic book superheroes have taken command of the nation’s movie theaters, so have they influenced the once humble comic-con. Movies not comic books are the medium. Actors not cartoonists are the celebrities. And superheroes in colorful costumes are the enviable icons.
At New York, the center of gravity shifted a little. Guests from the realms of comic books exceeded those from the entertainment universe: the NYCC website lists nearly 350 comic book artists and writers vs. only about 250 actors and screen writers.
While the roster of comic book creators is long — longer, I suspect, than a similar list in San Diego — we must remember that New York is a publishing mecca for comic books, and the chances are that finding nearby comic book creators who’re willing to guest at the Comic Con isn’t difficult; by the same token, finding movie stars on the West Coast near Hollywood probably isn’t as hard as finding comic book creators out there.
Still, the New York Comic Con apparently didn’t want too many cartoonists. No New Yorker cartoonists (who almost all live near the City) were guests; and apart from Joe Staton, who now does Dick Tracy but started out in comic books, no syndicated comic strip cartoonists, many of whom live near New York, were among the guests listed at the Con’s website.
Whether these developments are good or bad only the future can tell. Based upon simple demographics alone, we may see Sandy Eggo tilt more and more into the movie and tv realm with New York emerging as the better site for comic book fans.