New York Comic Con brings ‘geek culture’ to Javits Center for 12th edition

Get ready to share the sidewalks with superheroes — New York Comic Con is about to take over the city.

Over the next four days, thousands of die-hard fans will flock to the Javits Center and other venues in Manhattan to see movie and TV stars, meet artists and snap up the latest comics, books, toys and other goodies.

And many of them will be decked out in elaborate, handmade costumes modeled after their favorite characters.

Despite its name, New York Comic Con is no longer just a convention for comic book collectors. It has transformed into a massive pop culture celebration that spans a number of genres including science fiction, fantasy and animé.

“This is not some small little clique of people,” said Jeff Ayers, manager of Forbidden Planet, a popular comic-centric Manhattan store. “It’s just about everybody these days. Comic Con has mass appeal.”

So-called “geek culture” has been infiltrating the mainstream for years with hit shows like “The Big Bang Theory,” and the success of superhero-based stories on the big and small screens such as “The Avengers,” and “Wonder Woman.”

“This is a community of people getting together and celebrating the things that they like,” Ayers says. “Geek and nerd has turned from a negative to a positive connotation.”

Once viewed as a runner-up to the vaunted San Diego Comic Con, New York has come into its own, attracting top celebrities and boasting attendance numbers over 180,000.

Mark Hamill, beloved by fans for his portrayal of Luke Skywalker in the “Star Wars” films and his voice-over work as the Joker in the animated “Batman” series, is one of the featured guests. He’ll be joined by the likes of David Duchovny and Gillian Anderson of “The X Files,” as well as “Family Guy” creator Seth MacFarlane who is promoting his new prime time show “The Orville.” The cast of “Gotham” is expected to come out in force for their show’s hometown.

“I love going to Comic Con,” said actor David Mazouz, who plays a young Bruce Wayne/Batman on “Gotham.” “The enthusiasm of the fans is a great inspiration for me as an actor.”

Mazouz, who was honored Wednesday with a permanent Ride of Fame seat on a Gray Line CitySightseeing New York Double Decker Tour Bus, said he enjoys the opportunity to “come out of the bubble of shooting and hear how others feel about our work.”

This year’s Comic Con will include additional off-site events at venues such as the Hammerstein Ballroom and the Theater at Madison Square Garden.

Some have said the show is rapidly outgrowing the limits of the Javits Center, but that could change. The convention center is in the midst of a massive $1 billion expansion project announced last year by Gov. Andrew Cuomo to add 1.2 million square foot of space to the facility that spans several blocks along 11th Avenue on the west side of Manhattan. A four-level truck garage and additional loading docks will also allow exhibitors to move in and out of the complex more quickly.

“It is going to create 500,000 square feet of contiguous space,” said Tony Sclafani, a spokesman for the Javits Center. “Within the industry, that’s a benchmark to entice larger events with a greater economic impact.”

Officials from both the Javits Center and ReedPOP, which runs Comic Con, said the expansion construction on the north end has limited impact on this year’s show.

“We’ve known that the Javits construction would be coming … so we really started to plant the seeds for our citywide expansion a couple of years ago,” said ReedPOP event director Michael Armstrong.

There is, however, one notably casualty. The beloved Artist Alley, where illustrators meet with fans and share work with colleagues, will be smaller this year.

“After talking to artists, exhibitors and fans we felt that it would be better if we kept Artist Alley in the building which unfortunately meant that we needed to cut it back by about 40 artists,” Armstrong said. “Regardless, we still have one of the largest artist alleys in the country!”

Comic Con veteran Joe Mulvey, an artist and writer from Queens, said losing that space will be worth it if the expansion provides a bigger venue for future Comic Cons.

“I know a lot of super talented people who couldn’t get into Artist Alley this year,” said Mulvey, who penned and illustrated the “SCAM” comic series as well as the book “Mummy’s Always Right.” “The renovation shows they want to put more people in there.”

Mulvey said accessibility is key to Comic Con’s success.

“You can’t normally sit down next to Brad Pitt when he has a movie coming out but here you can go up to creators of your favorite comics,” Mulvey said. “The ability to have that one-on-one with your fans and know that all the work you do in your office 12 hours a day is appreciated — it’s rejuvenating and fun as hell!”

New York Comic Con fans are being asked to tap into their inner hero and donate to a new relief fund for victims of Hurricane Maria in Puerto Rico.

The Puerto Rico Film Friends Relief Fund is a joint effort of Comic Con, actor Keanu Reeves, filmmakers from Puerto Rico and Hollywood as well as Cine.Org. They aim to raise $200,000 by the time the four-day convention closes on Sunday.

For more information, go to nyccpuertoricorelief.cine.org.