New York Comic Con 2013 – Approaching “Peak Geek”

2 min

The Jacob Javits Center on Manhattan’s west side has folded up its cape and taken off its tights, changing back into its secret identity as a humble convention center. The New York Comic Con 2013 is over, leaving in its wake an internet filled with cosplay pictures and a ripple of fluff pieces in the 24-hour television news cycle. Yet the convention has had some lasting effects on comic books and geek culture.

Once “The other comic book convention” when compared to the San Diego Comic Con, now the NYCC has reached 130,000 attendees over its four-day span, equalling numbers typically seen in San Diego. The NYCC remains at the same venue used in previous years, but began using an expanded four-day schedule two years ago, and has officially engulfed the New York Anime Festival which used to run as a separate event that ran concurrently at the Javits Center. A smaller allotment of three-day passes also help contribute to the increase in the total number of people in attendance with more coming for only a single day.

The New York Comic Con is also more feminine now. Last year thought it was strange to see a nail salon on the convention floor, but this year there were numerous booths dedicated to beauty and cosmetics. Sometimes these had a clear geek theme like nail polish patterned after superhero color schemes.

The three major comic book companies have stepped down their presence at the New York Comic Con. In years past the show floor was dominated by massive booths announcing the presence of Marvel, DC and Image, but this year Marvel had a relatively small footprint dwarfed by nearby booths. Attendees could still buy limited edition Marvel collectibles, or have their picture taken with “Lola” the car from Agents of SHIELD, and there were frequent giveaways and costume contents on the Marvel stage.

DC occupied a section of the Javits Center away from the show floor. To celebrate the 75th anniversary of Superman’s creation they had a display of Superman costumes from the various movies and TV shows. DC also had a playable demo of the upcoming Batman game Arkham Origins, as well as their Injustice: Gods Among Us game.

Image Comics has been slowly heading down a path where the Walking Dead franchise obscures their other intellectual properties. This year the trend continued with an interactive booth dedicated to The Walking Dead where fans could have their pictures taken with a Hyundai car tricked out for the zombie apocalypse (As with their Chop Shop app). One of the most effective booths at the con it not only promoted the franchise but also the car company that sponsors the TV series.

With the proliferation of e-readers it is possible for comic fans to find entire runs of most series. This has caused a decline in collectibility of back issues, and it is growing harder for collectors to buy and sell their paper comics. Luckily the New York Comic Con still has a section of the floor dedicated to old-fashioned comic book stores that are still proudly advertising that they will buy collections. A few hardcore fans could be seen hauling stacks of longboxes through the convention center even in this age of iPad ubiquity.

Another effect of technology was the use of RFID tags in the badges issued to convention attendees. Intended to prevent counterfeiting they also gave attendees the option of “Registering” the badge online and linking it to social media accounts. Unbeknownst to many attendees the badges were making postings on social media site using language that sounded like it was written by the attendees (Even this humble reporter discovered some unexpected posts on his Facebook page).

Each year the organization ICv2 holds a conference on the comic book industry the day before NYCC begins. A topic of discussion this year was the concept of “Peak Geek.” In a panel moderated by Milton Griepp, experts discussed the rise of “Geek Culture” and how traditionally nerdy themes like superheroes and sci-fi have begun to dominate film, TV and video games. How long this trend can continue before the general public looses interest in zombies, robots and capes wasn’t quantified but based on the increasing size and scope of the New York Comic Con it seems that we are still a way off from hitting Peak Geek even if print comics are becoming less relevant.

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