New Yorkers who love comic books, video games, action heroes and more have surely had this week circled on their calendars for some time.
New York Comic Con -- four days of panels, costumes, celebrities and shopping -- kicks off at the Jacob Javits Convention Center Thursday and organizers estimate more than 152,000 people of all ages will attend.
The event, organized by ReedPOP, has grown from 36,000 attendees in its first year in 2006 and rivals the size of the flagship San Diego convention.
Fans lucky enough to snag tickets before they sold out said the event is a rare opportunity in New York to indulge in some serious playtime.
"I don't know what it is, but seeing people dressed up as your favorite character, it makes me feel like a kid again," said Julissa Nunez, 31, a business analyst from the Bronx who is making her second consecutive trip to the event this weekend.
Among the highly anticipated events are the premiere of the revival season of "The X-Files"; a reunion of the voice cast of the DC Comics animated show "Justice League"; and new footage and news on "Star Wars: The Force Awakens" and "Daredevil."
Steve Motino, 21, an engineer from the East Village, said it's better to experience the reveals in person than later on the Web.
"Yeah, you could see it on YouTube on cellphone footage, but it's better to be right there too. You can see the excitement on everyone's faces when it comes up live," he said.
Diana Cotto, 40, of Jackson Heights, who works at a media company during the day but spends her nights and weekends as a face painter, said New York is a perfect place for the art of "cosplaying," or costume play, where attendees dress as their favorite pop cultural characters or create new ones.
"You don't have to feel silly or embarrassed. I get on the train looking like this and they ignore me. It's the norm," she said.
Of course, comics and pop culture have evolved to the point where the event attracts fans of all ages and backgrounds.
Gayle Horowitz, a New York City schoolteacher who is bringing her twin 8-year-old sons for the fourth year in a row, said the feelings of joy at the event are mutual among attendees and the professionals they've come to see.
"Joe Simko [a trading card illustrator] and my boys met three years ago and became buddies," she said. "He looks for them every year almost as much as they look for him."