Chaos ensues on the second day of the convention as many NYC comic fans' dreams are dashed in mere seconds upon arrival.
The moment I got off on 34th Street and 8th Avenue and saw the only bus on the bus line, the M34, packed, I knew something mischievous was heating up in the pot. It was cold, windy, my foot was hurting, and the air brought about certain uneasiness. And by the time noon rolled around, everything was boiling, reaching almost fever pitch. "It's breaking my heart" said a key staffer that was part of the convention organizational committee. "What people don't understand is that we can't do anything about this. The exhibitors did not buy up enough space!"
Statements like those were common on this day. In mere minutes human lines were forming, and an estimated 20,000 fans (10,000 above expectations!), quickly tried to occupy what little space was provided for them by days end. The Fire Marshall and State Police showed up eventually (more on that later). The exhibition quickly became a fire hazard. The space on the floor was overflowing with a much wider assortment of fans than usual. The artist alley had unimaginable and unbearable lines to most creators. There was barely any room to move. Everyone was suffocating, stepping on each others heels, and there was even a small wait in trying to get from one place to the other. At points it was a stalemate. The thin walkways in between exhibitor showcases were just not enough.
However, the people that did get in, and I will get to that later, did seem to have a good time.
"What do you think of the con so far?"
"It's great, I love it, I want to buy up as many comics as I can and leave."
"What do you think of this crowd?"
"Yeah, that is crazy, I think it could have been organized a whole lot better."
"What about the security?"
"I have no comment on that."
For the most part security did it's job. There were no injuries or chaotic fan outbreaks. One member of the security team simply stated "This is crazy! It's insane." And certainly that was the case around 1 o'clock when the Fire Marshall was called in.
People kept on buying up the tickets and waltzing right into the main show. Not enough of them, however, were coming out of the exhibitors' hall. The State Police eventually showed up and at some point, entrance was denied to everybody. Heck, the usually godly and untouchable press and industry professionals could not go in! Even Dan Didio, the VP of the DC Universe and Executive Director, Brian Bendis and Joe Quesada were left wandering the long and snakelike Javits center corridors. But the "fun" did not stop there.
Around four o'clock the lines to get in (TO GET IN!) stretched out for what seemed like five city blocks, if not longer. Fans were waiting, with visible anger seething through their veins, after buying their tickets, for almost 2-4 hours, just to get inside the showcase! At this point, obviously, the ticket stales were halted. Fans were turned away. It did not matter whether you had a VIP pass or advance tickets. You simply either had to wait a few hours, or leave. A key staffer said "There at least should have been a ticket limit", but unfortunately, too little too late.
Fans are probably the ones partially to blame as well. Many of the scheduled panels, sessions and screenings were not even close to being filled to full capacity. Some were however, for example, THE HIGHLIGHT OF THE DAY, was the Kevin Smith Q&A. An event that required advance tickets, but was not even close to being full. The staff eventually let everyone in and anyone that saw the show was treated to a couple of hilarious and titillating hours of entertainment from the director of Clerks. The first NYC Comic Con failed on its second day and may have put in jeopardy the notion of future Comic Conventions. However, one would be led to believe otherwise.
"We will learn from this", said a confident staffer before falling silent when looking at the still growing sea of people waiting to get in. "They should have made it as the whole place, man. That was unfair to many people that came across the country" said a rabid fan in search of elusive limited edition Futurama toys. A fan, who anticipated this convention for months, that was sadly being turned away. He has to get his Futurama toys from somewhere else now. Probably through online means, but the feeling, the rush of acquiring his hearts desire on the show floor, slowly reaching into his wallet for his hard earned money (he had to cancel both his jobs for this!), his hand shaking with fervent expectancy, before finally in victory and like a starving hunter proudly clenching onto his prize...well...that "old school buying-feel" moment was smashed into tiny pieces.
The same fan, however, would come back if certain things would be better. He understands that this is a first time for NYC. But the key to this entire fiasco is fixing something that seemed to have been broken and shattered during this day, fandom trust and dreams. Most fans felt like boycotting the entire convention. They simply were stunned. But if there is one thing that I can say is that NO ONE and I mean, ABSOLUTELY NO ONE could have predicted what would happen today. Everyone underestimated the power and desire of NYC Comic fans. What happened just seemed inevitable.
"It's breaking my heart", said the staffer. "Mine too." I sadly responded. But in my head I immediately thought that at the next convention (and there will be a next one, mark my words) the organizers will learn from all of this and it will be monumental experience. For now, these are growing pains.
- Pawel Goj