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Geeks and the city: New York Comic Con draws record crowds

By Nicole Saidi, CNN

  • New York Comic Con is a new and growing convention
  • Thousands crowded the Jacob K. Javits Convention Center for most recent show
  • The convention has a uniquely New York feel due to publishing industry
  • Fans had mixed reactions about the event's size, focus

(CNN) -- New York Comic Con has only been around since 2006, but with crowds approaching an estimated 100,000 attendees, NYCC could turn out to be a major player in the fan convention world. That is, if it can manage its growing pains.

The convention took over the Jacob K. Javits Convention Center and jammed cell phone service around the building. Combined with the New York Anime Festival under one roof, the event drew massive crowds of diverse fans.

For voice actor Yuri Lowenthal of Cartoon Network Studios' "Ben 10," the con's wide reach and easy-to-attend events are an attractive combination. In particular, he likes that con-goers weren't camping out in convention halls just so they could save a place for panels later in the day, like at San Diego Comic-Cons.

"I love New York, so I'm partial, but the biggest difference that I noticed is that it was a little more manageable than San Diego Comic-Con has become. I liked that," he said, adding, "Our target audience actually made it in. Better for them, better for us."

Local fans had mixed opinions about the NYCC's size and growing list of guests. Pete Labrozzi of New York, a photographer and designer, said the event had gone through a noticeable "growth spurt." While he enjoyed the convention overall, he said he missed out on some panels because of long lines and had to show up early for the panels he was able to attend. He added that the venue seemed antiquated, walking turned to a slow shuffle on the show floor, and panel times were hard to pin down. Still, he says he had a great time.

See Labrozzi's photos of costumed fans

Lou Srygley of Madison, New Jersey, attended both San Diego Comic-Con and New York Comic Con. Srygley is a computer systems architect and a maker of fan films, which parody the genres favored by con-goers.

He noticed the NYCC's bigger-ticket guests but said he would rather make the trip out to San Diego because he prefers that convention's movie and entertainment focus over the TV, anime and comic books that were emphasized in New York. He also says the NYCC seemed disorganized.

One NYCC panel Srygley attended was about "Walking Dead," a new AMC series about zombie apocalypse. Robert Kirkman, creator of the comic book upon which it is based, made an appearance at the con to the excitement of many of his fans.

Watch Srygley's video from a panel

iReporter Tommy Yune of Los Angeles, California, has a steady day job as creative director for the "Robotech" series and also found quite a following at the con. He stopped to sign autographs for a pack of adoring fans that met him outside the panel, and a few more approached him and his rolling suitcase packed tightly with artwork.

Yune has been to many fan conventions, including San Diego. He said there are plenty of reasons why a West Coaster like him would want to attend a comics convention in New York.

"That's where all the publishers are," Yune said, walking briskly from his panel room to his next adventure. "A lot of the big publishers are in New York, and it only makes sense that they would be at New York Comic Con."

Fans converge in Times Square

New York is a publishing powerhouse for all kinds of media, and comic books in particular. Both DC Comics and Marvel have headquarters there. DC Comics, like Warner Bros. Television, Cartoon Network and CNN, is owned by Time Warner Inc.

NYCC has earned industry respect from television shows as well. Steve Pearlman, executive producer for ABC's updated incarnation of the "V" series, said that while the show's appearance at San Diego Comic-Con was a hit, it was really a catalyst for getting the show to New York. He said the cast and crew get excited about opportunities to connect with fans.

"We said we had to come to New York Comic Con and show off all three generations [of 'V']," Pearlman said.

Maggie Q of Warner Bros. Television's "Nikita" appeared along with other members of the show's cast. "Green Lantern" and "Young Justice" were among other franchises that made appearances. "Vampire Diaries" came to woo "True Blood" fans to vacation in Mystic Falls, Virginia.

On the film side, "Green Hornet" made heavy promotions, and "The Thing" had a huge panel in the IGN Theater at Javits.

Check out the rare issue with first appearance of Batman

Another possible draw for NYCC: Many entertainment franchises -- like "V" -- are set in New York. Spider-Man clung to its skyscrapers, and Superman's Metropolis bears many similarities to New York. Its soaring buildings and gritty urban setting give it an enchanting quality that has graced the pages of many a drawn multiverse.

So it follows that NYCC has a uniquely New York feel. Held just a week after the long-running Big Apple Comic Con, this new kid in town drew lots of local talent.

Marvel mastermind Stan Lee was a frequent fixture at the con, and he announced his new collaboration with MTV Geek -- another New York franchise -- to create a new comic series called "The Seekers."

Lee also stopped by a panel in which R&B singer-songwriter Ne-Yo showed off his new "Libra Scale" comic book that goes along with his album of the same name. Ne-Yo explained in a panel that he is following a path of comics themes and noir paved earlier by Michael Jackson.

Check out all sorts of great images from iReporters

Besides the cultural phenomenon that is New York, the city also has a big comedy scene, and that was reflected in the "usual gang of idiots" from MAD Magazine appearing to promote the new "MAD" sketch TV show from Cartoon Network.

Famed New York-based collaborators like Al Jaffee, Dick DeBartolo and Mort Drucker were there, pointing out they got their start parodying comic books in a comic book format before moving to the full-page magazine layout. To this day, it still bears signs of its roots in the New York comics scene.

"MAD" show producer Mark Marek said his East Coast life seemed to flash before his eyes as he made the trip to the con. He works on the TV show out west and relished the chance to visit favorite haunts in New York.

Marek joked about MAD's appeal to the geek and nerd crowd at first, but finally relented. After all, his show frequently mocks video games and various entertainment franchises of interest to the con demographic.

"Nobody's been cool their whole life," he said. "We like to be pretty goofy; get that out and get your geek on."