New York Comic Con’s buzz soars to new heights

Organizers say it will make a major impact on the city’s luster and economy.

For New York City’s fans of capes, pop culture and science fiction, it’s the best time of year. The city will host its ninth annual New York Comic Con starting Thursday and 140,000 people from around the world are expected to descend on the Jacob K. Javits Center for the four-day event.

Although the spectacle, costumes and out-there aspects of the convention may not appeal to all New Yorkers, organizers say the event has a major impact on the city’s image and economy.

“Comic books were born in New York City. It’s also the media capital of the world so the show is a reflection of the city itself,” said Lance Fensterman, the convention’s show manager.

Fensterman said the Big Apple convention is second to San Diego’s show in terms of size.

When the New York event began in 2006, there were about 15,000 attendees, which ballooned to 130,000 last year. The growth made movie studios, comic book publishers and other hosts boost their efforts to meet the  expectations of the growing crowd, particularly the 40% of attendees who will be first-timers.
Comic Con will include previews of movies such as “The Hobbit: The Battle of Five Armies,” video game demos and, of course, the latest scoop from DC and Marvel Comics.

“For the first six or seven years it was ignored a bit, but now it’s gotten to the place where you can’t ignore it,” Fensterman said.

One group that certainly hasn’t ignored Comic Con’s power is the city’s tourism wing, NYC & Company.

Although it couldn’t provide exact figures, the agency said the event is an economic boon for NYC.  The hotel industry, for example, is expected to have 8,000 nights booked during the conference.

Tony Sclafani, a spokesman for the Javits Center, said the event is one of many gatherings that helped to create 14,000 new jobs in and around the convention hall. Sclafani added that the fans will visit nearby businesses as well as the High Line and other area attractions.

“When Comic Con moves into the Javits Center there is a special buzz that spreads in the center and throughout the area,” he said.

This year, organizers bid to spread that energy throughout the five boroughs with “Super Week.” The 10-day promotion, which began Friday, features comic-related events such as Friday night’s Q&A with the cast of “Star Trek: The Next Generation,” and a Comic Con-themed concert Thursday night at Webster Hall.

In addition to the extra shows, fans can purchase a “Super Week” pass that gives them discounts to iconic New York fan bars — such as Barcade and the Way Station — bus tours, and comic book shops.

“It is a huge gamut of content that appeals to everyone,” Fensterman said.
He predicted the buzz for the convention will continue to grow, and reach New Yorkers who a decade ago would never think of attending a costume-filled convention. The con will also continue to shine a light on the city’s growing entertainment field, he added.

“This is the future of New York Comic Con,” Fensterman said. “We aim to make the entire city geek capital for a bigger period of time.”

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