New York Comic Con 2023 Powers Up

The larger venue was full  even on Thursday. | Photo courtesy of the author

BY CHARLI BATTERSBY | I walked into October 12-15’s New York Comic Con with a simple goal: Buy a comic book. Keith Giffen, one of my favorite comic book writers, had died earlier that week, and I wanted to find an issue of his Justice League from the “Bwah Ha Ha!” era in the late 1980s. Actual comic books take a smaller portion of the show floor each year, but yes, I did find a mint condition issue of Giffen’s 2005 I Can’t Believe It’s Not The Justice League. This year’s Comic Con felt ominous, and different in many ways. Not only had one of the funniest men in comics died, but it was Friday the 13th, and this was the day that a terrorist organization had called for a “Day of Jihad.” A Comic Con full of idolotrous fans and immodest cosplayers was a great target.

Each year, my Comic Con begins before I even leave my apartment; I’m a cosplayer, and I make it a point to travel to the Con in costume. I wore my Disney Princess costumes each day this year. The subway station in my neighborhood borders on an Orthodox Jewish neighborhood, and the entire block near the station had police vehicles lined up—ready for a riot, or a terror attack.

Police were unusually prominent on the subway during the ride to the Jacob Javits Center. The city was tense, but people smile when they see a princess. I never worry about hate crime when I’m dressed as a princess.

When I exited the subway at West 34th Street, there was a pack of ticket scalpers loitering in front of the station, selling passes to the sold-out Con. Police patrolled the streets near the convention center, but there were still hucksters hawking bootleg merch to people waiting to enter Comic Con. The line of costumed fans stretched around the corner, and down towards 12th Ave. A group of smiling women handed out free samples of a new energy drink; they competed for sidewalk space with aspiring rappers trying to con people into buying autographed CDs.

The Mythical North Wall, which leads to the 5th Dimension. | Photo courtesy of the author

Inside the convention center were the usual metal detectors. Every Con is worried about shooters, along with cosplayers carrying real swords to lend an air of authenticity to their Deadpool costumes. The metal boning in my corset set off the metal detector, as always. I had a dozen steel shanks laced around my torso, but no one asked to frisk me for weapons; the security team here has experience with corseted cosplayers, and this weekend they had real concerns about suicide vests.

Policemen walked down the line just inside the entrance. They led dogs that sniffed out guns and bombs. Few people wore COVID masks this time around. The masks were mandatory two years ago, but this year the focus was on terrorism.

No terror attacks occurred that weekend, of course. And it was easy to forget the problems of the outside world once I was safely inside.

One look around the building and I could see that New York Comic Con had more than recovered from its growing pains. Before COVID, it had struggled to find space to fit all of the 250,000 attendees. The organizers back then held some of the panels in nearby venues like Madison Square Garden or 11th Avenue warehouses, and once even created an Anime destination 20 blocks away on a Hudson River pier.

After the forced lockdowns and vaccine mandates, the wounded behemoth struggled to get 150,000 attendees, many of whom didn’t even know that a new wing of the Javits Center was housing some of the content.

Now the construction on the northern wing is complete. The main concourse stretches several blocks long, and the show floor has been expanded northwards, bigger than ever. All of the content can be easily reached by those with the stamina to hike from the Dungeons & Dragons tables in the basement up to fourth floor panel rooms, three blocks away.

The author enjoys a cup of tea. | Photo courtesy of the author

We spoke to one of the Con’s long-time exhibitors, Daniel Meyers of Tea & Absinthe, a company that makes tea with flavors based on nerdy fandoms. “We were here for several years, even in The Before Times,” he told us about the pre-COVID days. Meyers explained that his booth used to be on the north side of the convention floor, but now he’d been relocated to the opposite side. He spoke about the missing wall of the show floor as though it were The Negative Zone, or the border of Narnia. He said he doesn’t mind the new location, noting, “We’re fans, and we want this. We express our joy in a way that other people understand. Some people do cosplay… we do tea.”

Anime literally dominated the showfloor. | Photo courtesy of the author

Absolutely dominating the new show floor was Dragon Ball. This anime and manga franchise had the most prominent booth at the Con, placed right near the front entrance, with a pair of 20-foot-tall inflatable characters. Dwarfed by the giant figures were fans playing the Dragon Ball collectible card game.

In the southernmost corner of the show floor was the Funko booth. This had lines of fans waiting all day for a chance to buy limited edition figures. Their booth was even bigger than the Marvel Comics booth, and this shows how comics merchandise is as big an industry as the print comics themselves.

A rowdy mob waits to buy Funko dolls. | Photo courtesy of the author

At a special industry event held on the first day of the con, Milton Griepp of ICv2 discussed the sales figures of comic books, and affirmed that the surge in sales during COVID has begun to wane—people aren’t cooped up inside anymore, and kids are back in school and can pursue other hobbies.

As the prominence of the Dragon Ball and Naruto booths showed, manga is still the biggest selling genre of comic, with traditional superhero comics falling behind. Batman and Spider-Man are the two most popular superheroes but, now that Disney has secured the rights to make movies based on the X-Men, the X-Men franchise has slowly regained in popularity in print.

Yes, conspiracy theorists seem to be right that Disney deliberately downplayed the X-Men while 20th Century Fox owned the film rights.

Despite the new, bigger, transformation, NY Comic Con still felt more manageable. There were fewer bombastic booths, and generally shorter lines to experience them. Because Screen Actors Guild is still on strike, the movie stars were not on hand for panels, so lines at many panels were smaller. More rooms were available for content, and this seemed to divide the large crowd up in a more even manner around the venue.

Only a few years ago it appeared that the live convention scene was on the way out; even Keith Giffen’s final social media posts were about having an excuse to not attend NY Comic Con (Bwah Ha Ha). But this particular Con is like The Unstoppable Juggernaught—plowing through every obstacle in its path.

Lucky fans could train with The Empire Temple Saber Guild. | Photo courtesy of the author
The rare sight of people buying comics at Comic Con. | Photo courtesy of the author


Chelsea Community News is an independent, hyperlocal news, arts, events, info, and opinion website made possible with the help of our awesome advertisers and the support of our readers. Our Promise: Never a paywall, no pop-up ads, all content is FREE. With that in mind, if circumstances allow, please consider taking part in our GoFundMe campaign (click here). To make a direct donation, give feedback, send a Letter to the Editor, or contact our founder/editor, email Scott Stiffler via

To join our subscriber list, click here. It’s a free service providing regular (weekly, at least) Enewsletters containing links to recently published content. Subscribers also will be sent email with “Sponsored Content” in the subject line.  That means it’s an exclusive message from one of our advertisers, whose support, like yours, allows us to offer all content free of charge.

You must be logged in to post a comment Login