While trying to describe the size of Special Edition: NYC relative to New York Comic Con today, several of us likened SE:NYC to the younger, smaller brother of NYCC. That comparison was especially true last year when SE:NYC was held in Javits North, where you could see it was only a fraction of the size of NYCC. This year, an expanded SE:NYC moved uptown to Pier 94, a bigger venue that came with some unique challenges. Despite the growing pains of the new space, there were also some really fantastic moments where it became obvious that SE:NYC is a great convention in its own right and well on its way to stepping out from NYCC’s shadow. There’s a lot to talk about, so hold on tight!
I arrived at Pier 94 (at 54th Street) right around 10 am on Saturday only to find that there was a line. A long line. A line that stretched all the way up the greenway to 59th Street before wrapping around on itself. Members of the media were supposed to pick up their badges on-site, and I asked several staff members where I should pick mine up. I was told each time that press or not, I had to wait in the line. So I did. After about ten minutes, the line started moving pretty quickly, which was great until I got to the entrance of the building. At that point those who had their badges (including Frenchie, who purchased hers) went directly in. The rest of us were told to wait in a “Will Call” line to pick up our badges. Again I asked if there was a different line for press, and again I was told no. Fine. Ten more minutes of waiting, and just as I was pulling up to the front of the Will Call line, a different SE:NYC staff member came through asking if everyone was press. When I said that I was, he pointed me to a different stall where the Exhibitor badges were being given out. And then, at long last, I got my press badge. And I got to wait in line again to go enter the main hall, although fortunately the line had shrunk considerably while I waited for my press badge.
The overwhelming sense in the hall immediately after it opened was chaos. I heard fellow members of the press also grumbling that they’d never dealt with disorganization like that before. Literally (and I mean that in the actual, literal sense) the first thing I heard when I finally got into the hall was someone at the information booth asking for their money back, I believe because he’d purchased his SE:NYC badge as a way to get NYCC tickets (a limited amount were on sale), and the NYCC line was already capped. People were irritated in a way you generally don’t see until late in the day. I don’t know if the staff members working SE:NYC were just not as comfortable dealing with large crowds as the Javits Center staff is, or if the change of venue was solely responsible (there are bound to be problems the first time any event happens in a new location, particularly one as big as this), but it was a bad way for a lot of us to start the con. I will say that the line to get in was much shorter on Sunday, although I don’t know if that was because less badges had been purchased or if because many of the Will Calls had been picked up the day before.
Because of the amount of time that it took for me to get into the venue, I had to go to the Image Comics panel (the article covering that panel will be up soon) almost immediately. It was then that I noticed another problem with the venue: sound baffling. Last NYCC, sound-bleed between the rooms on the lower level of Javits was a big issue when some panels would get rowdy and drown out what was going on in another room. After this weekend I can say, “At least Javits has floor-to-ceiling partitions up between the panels.” Because Pier 94 is a warehouse space, there were no real rooms for the panels to occur in. Instead there were two curtained “theater” spaces, but the curtains didn’t go up to the high ceilings and there was a lot of sound-bleed between the two areas when panels were happening simultaneously. Moderators, panelists, and techs adapted a bit as the weekend progressed, but as late as the last panel on Sunday, noise between the two areas was a problem.
For all of those snags, however, I had a blast at Special Edition. I hung out with my friends, I met new people, and I had some great discussions about by the standout events for me at SE:NYC this year: the panels. Adopting the model of some of the bigger cons (looking at you, DragonCon) SE:NYC had “tracks” of panels, grouping them by subject matter. There was a diversity track, an indie comics track, a techniques track…you get the picture. In addition to the Image Comics panel, I attended three diversity panels (you guessed it, there will be another article about them). In contrast to the NYCC diversity panels, the SE:NYC panels had three things going for them: they were an hour long, they weren’t all stacked one on top of another, and they were actually diverse. It’s like miracle of miracles, someone at ReedPOP heard my complaints about the NYCC and learned from them. Whoever that person is, I thank them. I also want to thank the moderators, because I know putting panels together is hard and managing the flow of conversation is harder still, but these panels were interesting, engaging, and attracted diverse audiences. The hunger is there, ReedPOP. We showed you this weekend that if you build it, we will come.
It wouldn’t be a My So-Called Geek Life article without the pro-tips, so I have them for ReedPOP and for con-goers alike. First, some suggestions for ReedPOP:
Pro-tip #1: Lines are soul-crushing and ruin the otherwise pleasant buzz of impending con. You must do something about the lines if you’re going to stay at Pier 94. Either open the Will Call booths early, or if you can’t do that, have a line for the Will Call (and Press) that is separate from the one for people who already have their badges. Don’t wait until everyone gets to the front of the building to separate the sheep from the goats. Put up signage, or at the very least make sure all staff members know the same information about what’s happening where and how to direct people.
Pro-tip #2: Don’t sell the NYCC passes at SE:NYC. I know you did well with that last year, but both cons have grown and it just added to the chaos this year. Find a better model for selling NYCC tickets online and you won’t need to sell them at SE:NYC.
Pro-tip #3: Embrace the space. It’s a warehouse. Use that to your advantage and separate the “theaters” where your panels are. You have all the room in the world, they don’t need to be on top of each other. In fact, it’s better that they aren’t just in terms of soundproofing.
And now for the con-goers:
Pro-tip #1: Go with a group of friends who are on the same page as you on what they want to see/do/experience. That being said, don’t be afraid to split up and regroup as needed to make sure everyone sees who and what they want to see. We had eight people in my group of friends on Sunday, and we would all meet up for a while, then some people would wander off one way, some another, and we’d touch base a half hour or so later. It worked out great for all of us.
Pro-tip #2: Within that group of friends, get yourself a con buddy. Your con buddy is the person whose interests at the con are closest to your own, the one who will save you a seat at panel or hold your stuff while you’re washing your hands. My con buddy is nearly always Frenchie, who hits cons just as hard as I do (we’re there from open to close every day of con), likes a great panel as much as I do, and will talk fanfic with me when we’re waiting on lines. She also likes taking crazy pictures in front of the ReedPOP wall and is not afraid to go into stalker mode with me, as the need arises.*
Pro-tip #3: Embrace the cosplay. While I did the lamest cosplays ever at SE:NYC this year (relying heavily on t-shirts from Titan and We Love Fine with certain key accessories), the cosplay game was definitely there and I can see the possibility of it getting bigger every year. Bust out your Ms. Marvel, your Matt Murdock, your Twelfth Doctor, your Spiderman, and have fun with it. Just remember, gentlemen, dance belts should not be optional when you’re in spandex. I still have the image of someone who did not heed this advice seared on my retinas and would like to purchase some Clorox for that now, please.
Pro-tip #4: Talk to the artists. They want to tell you about their work, really. Really. Really. These people are trying to make a living on their talent in a world that frowns on the arts as a job. Help a brother or a sister out: talk to them and buy their work. The world needs more art. And you need another comic/graphic novel/print more than you need that cash in your wallet.
That’s it for now. Until next con…
*Not actual stalking. This is a turn of phrase. Stalking is bad, m’kay?