Recap and Photo Highlights from NYCC 2019
Major U.S. comic cons typically cover a broad spectrum of content including comic books, movies, television programs, video games, cosplay, and more. Yet, whether by intention or happenstance, each convention tends to have a dominant attribute. At Comic Con International’s San Diego Comic-Con, the celebrity presentations for Hollywood feature films generate the greatest buzz, often overshadowing the extensive programming for comics and other media.
In recent years, ReedPop’s New York Comic Con has emerged as a leading venue for television programming. The fierce competition between broadcast, cable, and over-the-top streaming services has generated a battle for the attention of fans — one that plays out in the New York event’s programming sessions and show floor exhibitions.
This year New York Comic featured panels, screenings, and interactive experiences from broadcast channels (including ABC and CBS), cable networks (USA, SYFY, Nickelodeon, Cartoon Network, TBS, Fox, FX, AMC, TBS, CW/Warner Bros. Television), premium cable channels (HBO and Starz), and streaming services (Netflix, Amazon Prime Video, Hulu, and the forthcoming Apple TV+).
There was much more, of course. Movie presentations were also in evidence, with presentations from Universal Pictures (1917), 20th Century Fox (The King’s Man and Free Guy), and Sony Pictures (The Grudge). And there were programming sessions on comics, fan culture, and other topics.
Here are my personal highlights from this year’s New York Comic Con. Click on the images to view more photos in Flickr.
Television Abundance: Broadcast, Cable, and Streaming
The presentations for major media properties were hosted at NYCC’s largest venues: the Javits Center’s Main Stage, Madison Square Garden’s Hulu Theater, and the Manhattan Center’s Hammerstein Ballroom.
USA hosted an advanced screening of the first episode of season 2 of The Purge at the Hammerstein Ballroom on Thursday, followed by a panel discussion with series creator James DeMonaco; actors Derek Luke, Rochelle Aytes, Joel Allen, and Paola Núñez; writers/producers Krystal Houghton Ziv and James Roland; and moderator IGN’s Matt Fowler.
Later that night, in a separately ticketed (but free) event in the Hammerstein Ballroom, M. Night Shyamalan joined MTV News correspondent Josh Horowitz for a conversation about his upcoming Apple TV+ series Servant. An exclusive showing of an extended trailer was followed by a discussion with actors Lauren Ambrose, Toby Kebbell, Nell Tiger Free, and Rupert Grint, and series writer Tony Basgallop.
The Javits Center’s Main Stage was at capacity on Friday for the presentation for HBO’s upcoming Watchmen series. Series creator Damon Lindelof talked about how, at age 13, he first encountered the comic book series by Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons and the impact it had on him. The first episode of the HBO series was screened followed by a panel session with Lindelof; actors Regina King, Jeremy Irons, Jean Smart, Louis Gossett Jr., Hong Chau, Tim Blake Nelson, and Abdul-Mateen II; series director Nicole Kassell; and moderator Jen Chaney. Dave Gibbons, artist of the original Watchmen comics, subsequently joined the panel.
On Saturday in the Hammerstein Ballroom, fans of Angel, the 1999-2004 Buffy the Vampire Slayer spin-off, were treated to a 20th anniversary panel with actors James Marsters, Amy Acker, J. August Richards, Alexis Denisof, and Charisma Carpenter, moderated by Buffy actor and GeekNation host Clare Kramer.
Following the Angel panel, the presentation for TNT’s Snowpiercer series, scheduled to debut in 2020, included a clip from the initial episode and a panel session with actors Jennifer Connelly, Daveed Diggs, Alison Wright, Mickey Sumner, Lena Hall, Sheila Vand, and Steven Ogg; series showrunner Graeme Manson; and moderator IGN Deputy Entertainment Manager Laura Prudom.
Next up in the Hammerstein Ballroom was an exclusive first look at FX’s 2020 series Devs, created by Alex Garland, writer/director of the feature films Ex Machina and Annihilation. The session included an extended clip from the series and a discussion with Garland; actors Sonoya Mizuno, Karl Glusman, Jin Ha, Cailee Spaeny, Stephen McKinley Henderson, and Zach Grenier; producer Allon Reich; and moderator Damian Holbrook.
On Sunday, Warner Bros. Television dominated the Hulu Theater at Madison Square Garden with a four-and-a-quarter hour block of screenings and panel discussions.
Damian Holbrook moderated the Riverdale panel with series creator Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa and actors Mark Consuelos, Marisol Nichols, Skeet Ulrich, Mädchen Amick, and Molly Ringwald.
The Manifest session, moderated by TVLine’s Matt Mitovich, included showrunner Jeff Rake and actors Parveen Kaur, J.R. Ramirez, Melissa Roxburgh, Josh Dallas, Athena Karkanis, Jack Messina, Luna Blaise, and Matt Long.
MTV News’ Director of Social Impact Ella Cerón moderated the panel session for Roswell, New Mexico, with series creator/writer Carina Adly MacKenzie; actors Lily Cowles, Nathan Dean, Jeanine Mason, Michael Vlamis, and Tyler Blackburn; and producers Julie Plec and Chris Hollier.
Warner Bros. next showed a full episode of the upcoming DC Universe animated web television series Harley Quinn. While rendered in a kid-friendly Saturday-morning cartoon style, the show’s action and the dialog are very adult (as the audience was fortunately warned).
The Warner’s programming concluded with a screening of the first episode of Batwoman, which debuted on the CW television network later that evening. Following the screening, Laura Prudom moderated a discussion with series actors Rachel Skarsten and Meagan Tandy.
At the Javits Center on Saturday, Full Frontal’s Samantha Bee took the stage with segment producer Razan Ghalayini and product manager Adam Werbach, along with moderator Erin Ryan. The team introduced their new game for the 2020 election, Full Frontal’$ Totally Unrigged Primary with a Steve Jobs style video and a lively Q&A session with the audience.
In recent years, New York Comic Con has joined San Diego Comic-Con in including large-scale interactive marketing experiences — known as “activations” in the industry and often termed “offsites” by fans. In previous years, these included deeply immersive experiences promoting HBO’s Westworld in 2016 [see: “Entering Westworld: VR Marketing at New York Comic Con“] and 2017 [see: “The Westworld Experience at New York Comic Con“], and Mr. Robot‘s Ecoin launch event at NYCC 2017 [see: “Mr. Robot’s Multifaceted Marketing Experience at New York Comic Con“].
This year, the activations at New York Comic Con were largely on site — in the atrium of the Javits Center or in the limited open space immediately outside the building. As with the programming sessions, television properties dominated.
Inside the Javits, The Expanse — originally broadcast on the SyFy channel, now picked up for a fourth season by Amazon Prime Video — allowed fans to enter a reconstruction of the Rocinante, the show’s spaceship. Costumes and props from the show, as well as an interactive 3D model of the Rocinante, were on display for fans waiting in line to enter the activation.
Also inside the Javits were two installations from Comedy Central. Crank Yankers featured a large display with walls of phones. The more elaborate South Park Experience recreated the show’s creepy Mephisto Tech Lab.
Just outside the doors of the Javits Center, the Netflix Breaking Bad sequel El Camino offered fans the opportunity to create a multi-camera video clip in front of the show’s title vehicle. The queue for the photo op wound through a richly detailed series of props and other items relating to the original series.
Comics Creators, Cosplay, and More
Despite the prevalence of television content, comic books were also well represented, both in programming sessions and in the show’s large Artists Alley.
Todd McFarlane was the center of attention in the session, “McFarlane’s Road to the Historic Record-Breaking Spawn #301,” during which McFarlane was awarded the Guinness World Record for the “longest-running creator-owned superhero comic book series” for Spawn. McFarlane emphasized the award was not for the longest running independent comic but, rather, the longest running creator-owned comic. Before accepting the award, McFarlane called up on stage many of the other artists and writers who worked on Spawn. Following the presentation, McFarlane launched into his typically animated talk about what it takes to be a success as a comics creator.
New York Comic Con’s large Artists Alley provided fans the opportunity to meet comic book artists and writers. For me, it’s an occasion to connect with old friends and capture portraits of comic creators for my work with TwoMorrows’ Comic Book Creator magazine.
For cosplay fans, creative costumes were on display throughout the corridors of the Javits Center.
Broadway was also on display in the Hammerstein Ballroom on Thursday with actors and crew from Harry Potter and the Cursed Child. Demonstrations showed how cast members manipulate their capes and their wands. The cast also presented the show’s Wand Dance segment live on stage.
The Pop Culture Hero Coalition’s annual panel, this year titled “SuperheroIRL! Avengers of Bullying and Injustice,” was held, as in past years, near the end of NYCC on Sunday. This year, Chase Masterson was joined by cartoonist Tom Tomorrow (Dan Perkins) and others to discuss the toxic effects of bullying.
Also late on Sunday was the annual NYCC Team Q&A where ReedPOP Event and Sales Director Mike Armstrong and other staff members responded to feedback from attendees.
For the full gallery of photos in Flickr, see New York Comic Con 2019: