Ashleigh Heaton is a book marketer at Random House, a voice actress/part-time mermaid princess on Sirenetta & the Second Star and nerd living in New York City. She enjoys reading, gaming, and exploring new places. An avid cosplayer, she has worked New York City Comic Con for three years. You can see her attempts at being funny on Twitter at @ashleighdearest.
The subway car doors open up at Times Square. Tourists start shuffling out of the 7 train, casting confused looks over their shoulders as a crowd of Jokers, Reys, Narutos, and Sailor Moons funnel past them to take their seats. They wonder; “Is it already Halloween? Oh well—only in New York.”
When the doors ding close, the car practically bubbles over with excitement. Strangers turn to other strangers, chatting like old friends and complimenting each other’s costumes.
“I love the way you knitted your shell!”
“Which panels are you planning on going to?”
“Wait—you hand sewed that? No way!”
They’re all headed to the same place: the one, the only, New York Comic Con (NYCC).
For one weekend, the Javits Center is transformed into a funhouse of cosplayers, media, and artists. And I was lucky to be a part of the fun.
Unlike the convention goers beside me on the train, I was headed over for a slightly different reason: I had to work. I count my blessings every day that a shift at NYCC is a part of my job description, though it does mean that cosplay is off the table for me. But that doesn’t stop me from adding a small nerdy embellishment to my ensemble: a Leia bun wig, and a pair of Zora Sapphire earrings.
This was my third year to work NYCC, so I felt like an old pro walking through the entrance early on Thursday morning before the floor had opened (exhibitor perks.) The moment you walk in the doors, you’re greeted with an overwhelming amount of banners, advertising the next big thing. I head to my booth and help with a little setup, taking in the empty aisles around me and knowing that this calm will not last for long.
My view from the Del Rey booth
Suddenly, there’s a whoop from the entrance. The doors have opened. New York City Comic Con 2017 has begun.
It goes without saying—everyone brings their cosplay A-game to NYCC. It’s invigorating to be surrounded by so many talented and creative costumers! You know when you’ve stumbled upon a great cosplay when a crowd of people has formed amidst the chaos, phones and cameras raised and snapping away. Because of the nature of the con, it’s truly difficult to see everyone’s amazing work, which is why I’m thankful the internet exists to fill me in on anything I might have missed.
NYCC is a more mainstream convention, and much of the cosplay reflected that. The floor was rife with plenty of Marvel and DC superheroes. (I saw tons of little girls dressed as Wonder Woman and it made me tear up. Just a bit.) There were countless Captain Marvels, Guardians of the Galaxy team-ups, Jon Snows, Sailor Moon characters, and a sprinkling of Disney princesses. I also saw some truly lovely Princess Zelda cosplay, and some kick-butt Overwatch characters, as well (Ana’s Halloween skin was especially popular this year, since NYCC kicks off October.)
But mainstream doesn’t necessarily mean boring, or uncreative. I walked by a man I call “Party Thor”, who was dressed as the God of Thunder, and had rigged his costume with lights and a boombox hammer blasting oldies hits. A mother passed by dresses as Rey from Star Wars, carrying her 10-month old baby who was dresses as a tiny BB-8. (I’m not crying, you’re crying.) Intense costumers with stilts, large attachments, and moving components usually didn’t get further than the entrance hall before they were mobbed by fans with cameras, posing for endless photos.
While I wasn’t able to take as many photos as I would have liked (again, when you’re moving in a crowd this large, it’s hard to stop the flow of traffic), I did snap a few of my favorites. And when my camera failed me, the internet came through:
Pharah from Overwatch. I’m overwhelmed at this girl’s cosplay game—I have never and will never be able to pull off a cosplay this intense. Brava!
The Javits Center…INSIDE the Javits Center. Cue the Inception bass music, please.
Not the best photo, I’ll be the first to admit, but can we appreciate how these guys crafted their arms to look loopy and elongated? Incredibly impressive work.
As someone who was raised on the original “Sailor Moon” anime, this cosplay of a DIC VHS case made my nostalgic heart sing.
Yondu from Guardians of the Galaxy Volume 2: “I’m Mary Freaking Poppins!” I’m a sucker for gag cosplay, and this was one of the most charming on the floor.
Sunday is family day at the convention, which opens up the portal to maximum cuteness. Needless to say, I loved this spin on Marvel’s Moon Girl and Devil Dinosaur.
Much of the booth layout on the floor doesn’t change much from year to year—if you’ve been once, you’ll know how to make your way around pretty quickly. That said, I was always on the hunt for free swag, photo opportunities, and signings, which are happening all the time on the floor and easy to attend…if you plan ahead. If you plan on heading to NYCC in the future, I highly recommend looking up the schedules for the specific booths you want to check out and make a battle plan accordingly. Otherwise, it’s very easy to get swept up in the general chaos of the show floor.
My favorite treasure from the convention was a free advance copy of Renegades by Marissa Meyer (fittingly, the start of a new superhero series.) I also dropped by the Funimation satellite booth for Your Name. for a quick photo op (one without a line, no less!)
NYCC is second in size only to San Diego Comic Con, and continues to grow every year; this year, 200,000 people attended the 4-day event. While it’s great to have so many passionate nerds in the same place, it does mean that navigating the crowds can get…pretty overwhelming. (I oftentimes imagine that I look like a salmon swimming upstream.) Until the Javits Center finds a way to address the crowd control issues, a lot of exhibitors have responded by taking their showcases outside of the actual convention hall for a more intimate, offsite experience.
While I wasn’t able to attend any of these satellite exhibits, I was a big fan of the inventiveness behind HBO Westworld Experience (here be spoilers!) as well as the Audible pop-up for Andy Weir’s newest novel, Artemis (narrated by none other than Rosario Dawson). In the future, I’m curious to see if this “experience” trend continues—and what that means for NYCC.
In years past, Artist Alley has been housed in the northern concourse of the Javits Center, in a huge, spacious hall a bit separated from the rest of the craziness. However, this concourse was closed this year due to construction (for a huge renovation and expansion), which further exacerbated the over-crowding issues with the convention.
In lieu of the northern concourse, Artist Alley was moved to the southern basement area of the center, and I felt truly awful for the artists who attended. This hallway was much more crowded, and the air circulation left me feeling like I was walking through a humid jungle stuffed with people, shuffling their way slowly through the booths. Bigger artists with followings did fine, but newer artists looking to be discovered had much less visibility. Hopefully this change is just for this year, and we’ll be back at the northern concourse next year.
Since I was working during this convention, I wasn’t able to attend any panels on my bucket list—simply being, you had to line up for the panel looooong before the panel was set to start. That’s the trade-off at NYCC: the longer you wait, the better the panel and overall experience. (But, if you were lucky, Mark Hamill might have come by for a surprise selfie…)
My inner booklover was sad to miss the panels with Patrick Rothfuss, as well as the headliner panels from RoosterTeeth and Marvel. But, the good news is that the best panels usually have a way of winding up on YouTube not long after the event.
Much like exhibitors, some of the biggest panels of the convention were moved offsite to help accommodate larger crowds. Bigger panels got hosted in places such as the Hudson Mercantile, Hammerstein Ballroom, and even Madison Square Garden.
Despite the large crowds, long lines, and occasional pay-to-play experiences, it’s hard to not get excited about NYCC. Towards the end of the convention, I found myself wandering through familiar aisles, seeing familiar vendors and booths, and wondering, “Is this it? Have I experienced everything this convention has to offer?”
But then, I did a double-take as Tara Strong walked past me, a pleasant reminder that anything can happen at New York Comic Con.