For legions of comic book and superhero aficionados, New York Comic Con is a steadfast October tradition. Since it first emerged in one quickly overstuffed wing of the Jacob Javits Center in early 2006, the event now swallows up not only the Javits, but in the last two years spilled over into the nearby famed Hammerstein Ballroom and now the Theater at Madison Square Garden. Attendance has ballooned to the point where some say it rivals San Diego, the king of all Comic Cons. The simple truth: This is one massive geek throng.
Given that you might spend this weekend swimming in a sea of fellow fans, consider this both your preview and survival guide to the Con.
SEEING THE STARS
NYCC has seen its star power rising in recent years, and this year there will be plenty of Hollywood names coming in to premiere footage from and talk about their latest blockbusters: Keanu Reeves with John Wick: Chapter 2 and Matt Damon with The Great Wall (Saturday afternoon), Kate Beckinsale and Theo James with Underworld: Blood Wars and Milla Jovovich and Ali Larter with Resident Evil: The Final Chapter (both on Friday afternoon), and Andy Serkis and Meet Reeves with War For The Planet Of The Apes (Serkis Q&A today).
On the TV side, highlights include Guillermo del Toro and Ron Perlman with Trollhunters on Saturday afternoon, and the annual tradition of The Walking Dead cast and creator panel on Saturday late afternoon. Cast presentations of new and established shows include—let’s take a deep breath—Timeless, Once Upon A Time, 24: Legacy, The Magicians, Iron Fist, Westworld, Son Of Zorn, Outsiders, Doctor Who, Wynonna Earp, Stan Against Evil, Comic Book Men, StarTalk (with Neil deGrasse Tyson), Salem, Archer, Lost Girl, YouTube hit Carmilla and an Amazon Prime Video presentation featuring producer Gale Ann Hurd.
PUTTING THE ‘COMIC’ IN ‘COMIC-CON’
Celebrity events aside, there are panels about actual comics and books, meet-ups and parties, video game demos, anime screenings, artist and writer signings, toy exclusives, T-shirt and other merch sales and bins and bins of vintage comics, many at discounted prices if you know where to look. (Bring your list and do a little price comparison on the floor before buying.) Major and indie comics players will have booths too: everyone from Marvel, DC and Image to IDW, Dark Horse and Boom! And let’s not forget the hordes of colorful cosplayers roaming the aisles.
There also are some milestones for NYCC 2016. BookCon debuts through the event. It’s the 75th anniversary of both Wonder Woman and Archie Comics. And Marvel Comics icon Stan Lee will be making his final New York Comic Con appearance this year.
Then there are the lines. Long, long lines. Because of the plethora of activity, NYCC can be both a rapturous experience and an exasperating endurance test. Walking the main floor on the weekend can feel like driving through a human traffic jam, so it’s wise to space things out and work out a shrewd game plan.
Give yourself 10 to 15 minutes to get anywhere. If you’re like me, a fast-moving New Yorker who seeks the quickest short cut through any crowd, like skimming through bike lanes on the street, those tactics won’t work here. That army of Deadpools in front of you aren’t going to let you brush through them because it’s possible they may be going to the same place too. Make sure you map out where you want to go and estimate how long it will take to arrive. Also realize that you have to prioritize what you want to do and leave some things as secondary options.
The big panels in the Javits Center itself have increasingly required an advance ticket. In other words, you need to wait in line to get a ticket so you can wait in another line later to go to a panel. Find out what you might need to do ahead of time so you’re not blindsided and shut out of something you really want to go to. Make sure you get there a half hour early and nab a good spot in line. The same could be said of celebrity signings and photo ops (the latter can be pre-ordered). Learn when they are happening and get there as soon as you can for the big guns.
Artist Alley is a great place to meet famed comic book illustrators and possibly hire them to do a commissioned piece. If you want to get a piece done, get there early in the day. Many artists are very receptive to doing commissioned work, but their plate can get full fast, so try to position yourself for a better chance at a slot.
Finally, let’s not forget about actual sustenance. The snaking lines downstairs for the fast food fare can kill a lot of time, and I’m not sure the food is all that great. You’re better off going to a hot dog vendor a block from the Javits (the ones right by there will charge more), or simply finding a diner or fast food outlet nearby. This tactic might not necessarily save a lot of time, but the chow will likely be better and you’ll get some fresh air before diving back into the fray.
As ever, NYCC 2016 promises to be a gloriously fun clusterfuck that will overwhelm your senses and delight your geeky side. Just remember: organization, time management, and reasonable expectations will make it a more enjoyable Con. You can’t do everything, but you can make the most of your time. It’s going to be a wild ride. Suit up.
Playboy.com contributor Bryan Reesman is still perfecting the science of Comic Con navigation. His first book, Bon Jovi: The Story, comes out November 1.