The major comic cons — such as Comic-Con International’s San Diego event in the summer and ReedPOP’s New York Comic Con in the fall — feature a large assortment of pop culture events and activities. That presents a challenge for people who are interested in multiple aspects of popular media — movies, television shows, comic books, and more. There’s a great deal to see and, given the scale of these events, a great deal will be missed.
With that caveat, here is an overview of highlights from New York Comic Con 2016 from my perspective, with links to additional photos.
This year New York Comic Con announced a record high in ticket sales, reporting sales of “at least 185,000 unique tickets,” up from 167,000 the previous year.
As discussed last year [see “New York Comic Con 2015: Recap and Photo Highlights“], because of the different ways in which attendance is tallied, these numbers do not provide a meaningful basis of comparison with events run by other organizations. San Diego Comic-Con’s attendance numbers (reported as around 130,000), tallies unique attendees, many of which hold more than one ticket for different days, making head-to-head comparisons with New York’s “tickets” count infeasible. Nonetheless, New York Comic Con’s ticket number does provide an indicator of the relative increase in the size of this festival year over year.
Another indicator of the growing scale of the event is the increase in venue space. Last year, New York Comic Con grew beyond the confines of the Javits Center to include panels in the 2,200-seat Hammerstein Ballroom. This year, the expansion continued further into midtown Manhattan with the addition of events at the Theater at Madison Square Garden and, for BookCon (a companion event run by New York Comic Con’s ReedPOP), the Hudson Marcantile venue.
Television Highlights: Marvel/Netflix, Mr. Robot, Hulu, and Amazon Prime
In recent years, New York Comic Con has become a major event for television programming including broadcast, cable, and streaming platforms.
While fans were thrilled that San Diego Comic-Con this year included material from Marvel’s Netflix series, New York Comic Con has featured panels on Marvel’s Netflix shows for several years, introducing the full cast of Marvel’s Daredevil at New York Comic Con 2014 and bringing the casts of both Daredevil season 2 and Marvel’s Jessica Jones to the 2015 con (along with a surprise showing of the entire first episode of Marvel’s Jessica Jones). This year, Marvel’s Head of Television Jeph Loeb again brought a powerhouse presentation to New York Comic Con featuring upcoming Marvel Netflix features.
First on stage were the cast members of Marvel’s Iron Fist: Finn Jones, Jessica Henwick, David Wenham, Rosario Dawson, Tom Pelphrey, Jessica Stroup, and showrunner Scott Buck.
Following the Iron Fist panel, Loeb welcomed The Punisher‘s Jon Bernthal to the stage. Bernthal was then joined by Deborah Ann Woll, who plays Karen Page in Marvel’s Daredevil the forthcoming series The Punisher and The Defenders.
Loeb then assembled on stage for the first time the central cast of Marvel’s The Defenders: Charlie Cox, Krysten Ritter, Mike Colter, and Finn Jones. The crowd, as you might expect, went crazy. As a final surprise, it was announced that the role of Alexandra, the villain in The Defenders, would be played by Sigourney Weaver, who then joined the other cast members on stage.
While the Marvel panel was a highlight of the con, other new television and streaming series were also well represented.
The session on Hulu’s Batman & Bill showed the first part of the forthcoming documentary about Marc Tyler Nobleman’s quest to get Batman writer and co-creator Bill Finger the credit he was long denied for his contribution to the character. The panel included Nobleman, longtime Batman fan and movie producer Michael Uslan, attorney Alethia Mariotta, the documentary’s directors Don Argott and Sheena M. Joyce, and Bill Finger’s granddaughter Athena Finger. [For more on Nobleman’s quest for acknowledgement for Finger, see Knowledge@Wharton, “The Dark Knight’s Dark Secret: Bill Finger’s Uncredited Role in the Story of Batman.”
The “Amazon Prime Video Presents” panel included the cast and creators of The Tick, Sneaky Pete, and Lore, including Producers Gale Anne Hurd and Barry Josephson, Lore podcast creator Aaron Mahnke, screenwriter Graham Yost, The Tick creator Ben Edlund, actor Giovanni Ribisi, and moderator Jamie Hector.
Additional Panels: Comic Books, Industry, and Culture
Marvel’s presence at New York Comic Con extended beyond the company’s large booth on the show floor and the celebrity-filled Netflix series panel to include its comic book properties as well.
On Friday morning, Marvel celebrated “50 years of the Black Panther,” with a panel featuring an impressive array of creators from different eras of the groundbreaking character. Byron Pitts moderated the session with current Black Panther writer Ta-Nehisi Coates and former writers Christopher Priest and Don McGregor, artists Brian Stelfreeze and Alitha Martinez, Run–D.M.C.’s Darryl McDaniels, stage actor James Monroe Iglehart (best known for the role of Genie in Aladdin), and Marvel Comics Editor-in-Chief Axel Alonso.
In the session “Celebrating Will Eisner and Jack Kirby: Two Centuries of Genius,” panelists Charles Kochman, Rand Hoppe, Paul Levitz, and Danny Fingeroth discussed the enduring contributions of two of the seminal creators of sequential art and narrative.
The panel on “AfterShock Comics: Past, Present and Future” included AfterShock Publisher and CCO Joe Pruett; Editor-in-Chief Mike Marts; SVP for Digital-Creative Mike Zagari; writers Brian Azzarello, Frank Tieri, and Adam Glass; and artist Juan Doe.
A session by industry trends and analysis firm ICv2 included Vivek Tiwary‘s inspiring talk about his graphic novel The Fifth Beatle, followed by ICv2 CEO Milton Griepp‘s discussion of the future of retail in the comic book industry. Heidi MacDonald then introduced revered industry veteran Karen Berger who gave an insightful discussion of the current state of the industry.
The large pop culture events like New York Comic Con and San Diego Comic-Con have become showplaces for large scale — and highly entertaining — marketing activities by major media companies.
As in past years, New York Comic Con was peppered with marketing booths by several brands unrelated to popular culture. Chevrolet was once again a featured sponsor. Geico‘s ubiquitous advertising has become a staple at several large cons, including New York Comic Con.
Many of the major marketing installations, however, were for popular television programs. Interactive environments set up just outside the Javits Center included the South Park 20 Experience, with life-sized standups of many of the South Park characters, and an Ash vs. the Evil Dead walk-though installation.
As we’ve seen in recent years, virtual reality was a major component of many of the marketing installations. [See Knowledge@Wharton, “Marketing at Comic-Con: Virtual Reality Gets Real” and “Marketing at Comic-Con: Virtual Reality Melds with the Real World“] A room in the lower level of the Javits Center, dubbed the Experiential Zone, was dedicated to immersive interactive environments.
Amazon’s The Man in the High Castle Virtual Experience, which was on display at San Diego Comic-Con over the summer, made a return appearance at New York Comic Con, although it didn’t include the large museum component seen at San Diego.
One of the most compelling marketing events combined an interactive virtual experience with an impressive physical reconstruction of the world of HBO’s Westworld. A short distance from the Javits Center a staid, corporate-looking building was marked with the Westworld logo. Inside, the white-clad “hosts” — playing the role of the show’s lifelike automatons — take you down a corridor that leads to a virtual reality experience that places you in universe of Westworld. This combination of a physical, constructed environment melded with a virtual experience is the high point of the marketing experiences at the con. [For a more detailed description of the Westworld VR experience, see Knowledge@Wharton, “Entering Westworld: VR Marketing at New York Comic Con“]
Comic Book Creators
A primary focus for me at Comic Con is photographing portraits of the men and women who create comic books. This year’s New York Comic Con featured a number of storied creators. I was pleased to have the opportunity this year to take a portrait of the great Frank Miller. And, in a moment of serendipitous Comic Con magic, I stumbled across a signing event with filmmaker Luc Besson, promoting his forthcoming film Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets, and artist Jean-Claude Mézières, who illustrated the original Valérian comics.
For a photo gallery of comics creators at this year’s show, see the Flickr album, “Comic Book Creators: New York Comic Con 2016“:
While I don’t typically focus on cosplay photography, it’s always fun to capture some of the creative costumes roaming the convention center. I’m particularly fond of seeing early Steve Ditko creations, like the Mac Gargan version of the Scorpion I spotted this year. Another favorite was the WW I version of the Red Skull.
For a full visual recap of New York Comic Con 2016 in 300-plus photos, see the Flickr album, “New York Comic Con 2016“: