New York Comicon wrap-up

Finally back from the Big Apple, where we had a really successful NY Comic Con; way better than last year’s con in terms of sales and attendance (probably partially due to our primo location right up front this year), and I had an absolutely fantastic time!

Because of the high costs of attending this con, we cut every corner we could. My pal Jim Amash crashed here last Wednesday night, and we got up and left about 5am, driving my fully-stuffed minivan the 11 or so hours from NC to NY (saving shipping and airfare). We stayed with Barry Pearl, a friend of Jim’s (thanks for the hospitality, Barry!), and took the train in on Friday and Saturday, to save on hotel costs (I thought San Diego’s hotels were expensive, until I tried booking one in Manhattan!).

Got to meet some folks I’ve corresponded with over the years, but had never seen face-to-face. It was cool to finally meet Klaus Janson and Alex Jay, plus I managed to convince Mike Gartland to attend, and got to see him for the first time in beau coup years. (Thanks for the comics and companionship, Mikey!)

Jim Amash has spent years interviewing classic pros for Alter Ego, but this was the first time he’d gotten to see a lot of the amazingly talented elder statesmen of comics that he’s become friends with via phone. If it’s possible, I think Jim had a better time than I did at the con; the look on those guys faces when they realized Jim was there was priceless.

Thanks to the Kirby Museum’s Rand Hoppe for helping us find our way around the area and set-up our stuff, and taking us to some fantastic restaurants (best Thai food I’ve ever had was on Saturday night). He and his wife Lisa are two of the most delightful people you’ll ever meet, and they introduced me to Richard Bensam, who I really enjoyed getting to know a bit. Rand brought his large-format scanner to our booth, and scanned Kirby originals for the Museum all weekend.

Lessee… I finally got to meet Michael “Doc V” Vasallo, as well as Nick Caputo, both of whom have been longtime contributors to our mags. George Khoury was there helping out the whole time, manning the booth, and finding bargains for me on the show floor. Jon and Andy Cooke were everywhere, promoting their fabulous Will Eisner documentary, and we discussed some plans for things that we’ll reveal in the near future. As always, it was great breaking bread with Draw’s Mike Manley and his buddies (and thanks again, Scott, for the offer of a place to crash).

Our panel on Sunday was well attended, as was the Jack Kirby Tribute Panel, hosted by Mark Evanier (with panelists Joe Sinnott and Dick Ayers). Mark was signing his KIRBY: KING OF COMICS book at the Abrahms booth with Joe Simon, and had some of the longest lines at the con.

We debuted the new issue of ROUGH STUFF, plus the BEST OF WRITE NOW volume and MODERN MASTERS VOLUME 16: MIKE ALLRED, and sold a lot of copies. Plus, we had a couple of boxes of KIRBY FIVE-OH! hot off the presses, and those sold out by the end of the day Saturday. We also had our Con special KIRBY: DEITIES portfolio (limited to 200 copies), and sold most of the ones we brought, with no pre-release promotion. (We’ll be making the remaining copies available online within a week or so, so stayed tuned.)

All in all, a good convention. Even with the high costs, it easily outperformed WizardWorld: Chicago for us, and unlike WW:C (where you’re stuck in Rosemont, a sleepy suburb of the Windy City), there’s so much to do and see in Manhattan, that it’s a much more desirable show in terms of food and entertainment outside the hall.

Here’s the Pros and Cons from my vantage point:

Great weather (except Sunday, which still wasn’t so bad)

Big crowd both Saturday and Sunday (and Friday wasn’t too bad)

Free move-in assistance provided by the con for anyone in a non-commercial vehicle

Easy, fast move-out on Sunday

Getting to see friends that don’t usually make it out to see us at the San Diego Comicon each year

Parked my van on the street on Sunday, and it was intact at the end of the day

Seeing so many pros like Joe Simon, Joe Sinnott, Stan Goldberg, and Dick Ayers being literally mobbed by fans

REALLY expensive booth costs (we paid 150% of what we pay for a same-size corner booth at the San Diego Comicon, and SD delivers twice as many attendees)

Ridiculous rental charges for booth carpet, tables, electricity, and chairs (at San Diego, all that is included in your booth cost; for NY, we had to lug our own tables and chairs, and we skipped the carpet, but had to shell out for power)

Disgusting bathrooms at the Javits Center (somehow San Diego manages to accommodate twice as many people adequately in this regard)

The “professional only” Friday hours (10am-3pm), for us at least, are basically a waste of time. There’s plenty of time to chat with pros during the regular con hours, and by not letting the public in until 3pm, we’re losing 5 hours of potential sales. I personally hope they do away with this in the future.

Overpriced, weak food at the Javits Center (and the hot food court wasn’t even open on Friday or Sunday)

Manhattan parking is nonexistent on Friday and Saturday (unless you want to shell out $65 a day for a garage)

Panel rooms are kinda far off from the action on the show floor, and they embarassingly got our name wrong on the schedule signage. (Either that, or Pete Von Sholly was there causing mischief, and I didn’t know about it.) Thanks to Rand and Tom Kraft for their “Sharpie fix” of the typo.

Shoplifters: I’m continually amazed at how brazen these guys are. They just walk up, pick up a couple of books as if they’re going to buy them, casually look over our display for a couple of minutes, then wait till we’re busy and walk away without paying. They’re usually in packs of 3 or more, to make it harder to spot. I chased down one guy who walked off with a copy of KIRBY FIVE-OH! and some Alter Egos, and he pretended like he didn’t speak English, only saying, “I just grabbed!!” when I confronted him. (The guy was at least twice my size and coulda squashed me like a grape, but when somebody swipes a Kirby book, I see red and don’t think about the consequences…)

Will we be back next year? I’m 99% sure we will, although I hope they’ll find a way to make it more affordable. I know the San Diego Con is run by a nonprofit organization, and NY is all about making a buck, but if they want to continue to compete, they really need to consider ways to make it reachable by smaller publishers. It was weird to see companies like Top Shelf and Continuum sticking with the much cheaper, half-size small press booths in NY, when they’ve got huge double-booths (and probably much better sales) in San Diego. But I know where they’re coming from; it’s a great con, but it’s expensive to attend.