Hobby Hole: 10 Ways to Make New York Comic Con Better

Last weekend, I attended New York Comic Con for the sixth time and while I remain absolutely enthralled with the show, it’s ever-increasing attendance and mismanagement has dwindled my enthusiasm somewhat—to the point I’ve debated whether or not I want to attend next year’s. Though I’m certain now that I will (in some capacity), there are a number of ways NYCC could improve.

1. Deploy better signage to direct the flow of traffic.

There are a few parts of the show floor and the convention at large that had overwhelmingly lighter traffic compared to other sections. The heaviest by far during most days was the area between the two sets of escalators (whether on the show, main or panel floors), while the area near DC Entertainment’s “booth” and the entrance to Artist Alley were, at times, nearly vacant. Clearly indicating further attractions are available outside the show floor could help alleviate some congestion while allowing fans to see things they may otherwise miss.

2. Require exhibitors to plan for, and clearly label the direction of, long lines.

Exhibitors clearly had no idea what to do with the surplus of fans this year. Marvel’s line Thursday stretched across half the show floor before being quickly wound back to snake through the main aisle, while on Friday it was closed entirely before noon with promises it would reopen in “maybe half an hour.” Other vendors created ad-hoc signs marking a line’s end and/or impeded traffic with feverous fans bunching in the aisles for a chance at a celebrity or exclusive. Although they would temporarily eat up some much-needed aisle space, clearly designated waiting areas outlined with movable markers would keep those waiting from blocking the flow of traffic.

3. Open more ways to leave and clearly mark all exits from the show floor.

An issue Saturday afternoon caused one of the down escalators to stop working, creating a bottleneck across the northern half of the convention as attendees slowly surged down the immobile steps to panels downstairs. Though I’m uncertain if it can be done, having an extra set of wide stairs openly accessible (think of the massive flight on the south end) would make this a non-issue.

4. Organize the exhibitors.

Though already present to an extent, organizing exhibitors by their wares, interests and/or size would give attendees better indication of where they should be headed at any given moment. For instance, instead of having retailers selling used comics spread across six or seven aisles and forcing those looking for such to trudge past cosplay and anime booths (creating additional bottlenecking), put them next to each other. Do the same for those cosplay, clothing, anime and miscellaneous booths. I get that the current setup encourages fan to discover new exhibitors and my suggestion clearly rebukes my argument for better signage above, but inevitably the fans will find what they’re looking for while ignoring the other areas, particularly when their cash is already allocated toward planned purchases.

5. Require all exhibitors to accept a standard type of currency (cash or credit) for payment.

While waiting in line at the Marvel booth Thursday afternoon, I passed the time talking with a Canadian family that had already exchanged their currency for American cash. Some time into our wait, Marvel announced they would only accept credit or debit cards as payment, much to the Canadian’s chagrin (they would now be charged extra for the processing). Meanwhile, many of the retailers only accepted cash and pointed to an (at times empty) ATM if you didn’t have enough cash. Requiring all vendors to accept a payment standard will allow those purchasing to better prepare and keep vendors from losing a potential sale.

6. Use the Queue Hall for something other than waiting in line.

One of the largest spaces in the building, the Queue Hall did little throughout the convention except allow those waiting in the morning a dry, warm place to sit and those clamoring for a spot in the Main Hall an area to fervently moan. Converting the hall into an exhibit hall, or even into a simple theatre offering feeds of various panels (such as those already in place to offer a glimpse at the Main Hall panels) would make the room something much more useful.

Thursdays now suck.

7. Kick people out of the Main Hall after each panel.

VIPs and Press would be immune to this, but requiring fans and exhibitors to vacate the Main Hall would allow those who truly wish to attend a panel the chance to do so rather than struggle to find seating among those camping solely for the Walking Dead panel. To tie in with my suggestion above, allowing different lines to form for each individual panel and letting those attendees enter before others would make for a much more enjoyable experience. Given it would take some time to empty the massive hall, the time between panels would likely need to be extended to half an hour and a smoother course from exit to entrance would need to be erected, but surely that’s doable.

Waiting three hours in line only to NOT get into a panel sucks worse, though.

8. Spread out the ”main” content.

In the spirit of the above, why must all the “best” content be on Saturday? For instance, this year’s convention had the Walking Dead and Agents of SHIELD panels back-to-back at the close of Saturday. Why couldn’t one of those have been Friday night instead? That would relieve some congestion in the Main Hall and drive more traffic to days other than Saturday. Having panels such as the Person of Interest and X-Files Reunion on Sunday was a great start, but more could definitely be done.

9. Put names back on badges.

This one’s a stretch, as I completely understand the decision to originally remove names from badges. While it’s much easier to mass produce a badge without any such variables, within the dense crowds it becomes difficult to distinguish professionals, fans and celebrities. Even people who frequently collaborate but have never before met in person have difficulty finding each other. I spoke to one man at the Marvel booth I believed was a volunteer or intern only to discover he was an assistant editor just helping out for the day. Adding a name, even just the first (forego the company name if you must, though it was nice when those were available as well) would make the show seem just that more personal.

10. Clearly mark the shuttle stops.

The shuttles are a God-send after a day’s worth of trudging across the show floor carrying a stack of comics or a four feet long katana, but finding them isn’t particularly easy. In fact, three different employees could not tell me where the shuttles stopped. The official show guide described an area a block long (and mistakenly noted the Grand Central stop as being across the street). Marking the locations with a temporary sign would help those who have difficulty walking the city find a shuttle without attempting to follow cosplayers to the stops.