As one of the biggest geek conventions in the United States, New York Comic-Con (NYCC) has been going strong since 2006. Most years, the attendance surpasses expectations, and geeks from all over swarm into New York City. Pictures are taken, cosplays are seen, body odor is experienced, panels are held, autographs are signed, and most of all, money is spent! No matter what your primary geekdom is, it is probably represented at New York Comic-Con. This year’s New York Comic-Con was a testament to how this convention has evolved. Reedpop, the event organizer, always does a fantastic job of trying to tweak and alter every inch of the Javits Center. As a gaming-centric writer who has managed to attend NYCC at least 5 different times, this year’s con really worked to turn the lemons of the SAG-AFTRA strike into lemonade.
As a result of the strike, actors could not promote films and do interviews. Instead, many of the NYCC panels featured the writers, creators, and/or directors of the projects. Some actors, like Norman Reedus, were allowed to do their panels given their additional involvement in their task as producers and such (I’m guessing here). With many different types of SAG-AFTRA contracts, it is hard to keep track of who can and cannot do what in which situation. As we all do, I hope this strike can be resolved soon to benefit the union.
Day 1 of NYCC starts on Thursday. Usually, when I attend NYCC, I use my first day to explore the show floor as much as possible. Since this part of the event typically becomes the hardest to walk around later in the show, I visit what I can to plan out what lines I may want to stand in going forward. Also, I look around for what freebies and giveaways exist as well as the legendary ‘who is giving out the biggest bags’ hunt!
The first thing I noticed touring the show floor was the absence of regular attendees Midtown Comics. As a famous New York comic book store, collectors usually hope for as many different book vendors as possible to snag variant covers. Other fans would visit Midtown Comics at the convention hoping to get a good deal on collections and graphic novels. Dark Horse Comics and DC Comics did not have a booth or presence as well. Even though my eyes were trained to search out for gaming-related booths, it was hard to not notice that for a second year, neither publisher had a sizable booth or a booth at all. Marvel, however, looked like they recycled the same booth and location from NYCC 2022. While there were no surprise actor appearances at the booth that I noticed that day, there was a seemingly random Eli Manning appearance at the Marvel booth!
Once the comic book publisher shock wore down, I noticed that Bandai Namco and Hoyoverse have become the dominant gaming representation for NYCC 2023 recently. While there was a Lords of the Fallen preview truck at the entrance, the show floor was dominated by Bandai Namco properties. Everything from Digimon cards, Dragon Ball Z Xenoverse 2, Naruto x Baruto Ultimate Ninja Storm, and My Hero Ultra Rumble had playable content in the massive booth area. They also showed off their new manga-based video game called Sand Land. I didn’t partake in any of these, but there seemed to be decent interest in all of these games, with the Nartuo and Sand Land games having the most extended lines.
Elsewhere on the floor, I noticed Hoyoverse’s booth, which had playable demos for their free-to-play games Honkai: Star Rail and Genshin Impact. I managed to play about 5 minutes of Honkai: Star Rail as they were providing existing players with in-game rewards. On the Genshin Impact side of the booth, I was able to see promos for the new area that was recently released called Fontaine. I didn’t stay in line to play the game and get the little bit of in-game rewards after gameplay but at least that existed.
Not too far from that booth was a surprisingly small booth by Hypland (clothing company) selling Sonic coats and shirts in their new collab. Behind their store were two stations to play Sonic Superstars a few days early. Before Day 1 was done for me, I went down to The Gaming Zone. There were lots of tables set up for TTRPG gameplay as well as card and board gaming. There was a booth for Gloomhaven promoting their new expansion Frosthaven and a Marvel booth promoting their recently released TTRPG rulebook called Multiverse RPG. Elsewhere in the Gaming Zone was an area for console gameplay where a few fighting game tournaments were held throughout the weekend.
Friday is typically the day when the cosplay steps up, and the crowds get more significant. I spent most of the day ensuring I didn’t miss anything gaming-related on the show floor, as sometimes there are smaller booths. In the past, I’ve seen and met indie board game creators promoting their game or even indie devs showcasing their games as well. Instead, it seemed that much of the floor was dominated by anime-related booths and vendors. It brought to mind the early days of NYCC when part of the upper floors were dedicated to the NY Anime Con (which required a separate badge for access back then). This year, many vendors were dedicated to anime toys, Crunchyroll, and other anime-related toys, clothes, and figurines.
Once I began to understand what Day 2 would be, I quickly realized that my plans to visit a panel or two were unrealistic as the reservation system seemed to extend to EVERY panel rather than just the ones in the largest panel rooms. Typically, if you got in line for a smaller panel around 30 minutes or so before it started, you could get in. This time, the more popular panels were announcing that if you didn’t reserve your space, you wouldn’t get in. There were stand-by lines for every panel (where people did get in), but my few last-minute selections filled up quickly.
Before I left, I took a quick trip through Artist Alley. While I’m not too familiar with that many artists, Afua Richardson is one that I see virtually every year. Afua Richardson has worked on Spiderman: Enter The Spiderverse, Lovecraft Country, World of Wakanda, Genius, and many more. After she quickly spoke of her upcoming project called Aquarius: The Book Of Mer and the literary research she’s doing to assist in writing it, I wrapped up my second day.
Saturday was my last day at NYCC 2023, and long story short, it was a whirlwind. After trying to get in line for Chris Evans’ panel and a Star Trek panel, most of my morning at NYCC was uneventful. It was interesting to see that some freebies at NYCC were tied to scanning your badge, visiting various parts of a larger booth, sharing on social media, or playing a demo. Unfortunately, the ‘big bag’ hunt was foiled. Not many people had big bags as the Dragonball Z and Marvel store bags were most commonly seen throughout.
I did manage to sit in on an impromptu interview by Black Girl Nerds of David Crownson, writer of the comic Harriet Tubman: Demon Slayer. There, he discussed the origins of the concept for the book. He also spoke of getting a TV series with Disney Plus for the book soon to reach the development and scriptwriting stage.
Shortly after I witnessed a host of Mandalorian cosplayers descend upon two of the Mandalorian stunt people (Tait Fletcher, Brendan Wayne, and Lateef Crowder).
Later on, I noticed that AEW superstar Danhausen and the original actors from the Power Ranger series were also in attendance on the NYCC show floor. As usual, the line was so long, and the showfloor was so chaotic that getting pics was impossible. On the comics side of things, I did come across an exciting booth for Kwento Comics. Kwento Comics is the first all Asian, all woman-led comic book publisher. They were featuring a series called The Mask of Haliya. The Mask of Haliya is a demon-filled story of a heroine in a world based on Philipino mythology.
Lastly, one of the biggest and loudest booths on the show floor was an exhibit forSHUEISHA XR Manga Dive. Described as a joint collaboration between SNK (makers of the King of Fighters video game series), Shueisha XR (a VR/AR company), and Manga Dive (an immersive manga museum), this booth was displaying a massive movie/experience meant to explore the King of Fighters universe.
All in all, New York Comic-Con 2023 was still a great event. While I could not do the usual networking and connecting that I typically do, the con is still an excellent opportunity for big and small vendors alike. In the future, I would love to see more publishers of board games in attendance. The Gaming Zone and the Show floor are great opportunities to display and speak on various things in this golden age of board games. The Gaming Zone has a tone of space and opportunity for that. Also, there was a lot of interest.