Saturday, November 7, 2015

The Artimus Gives His Lowdown on NYCC vs SDCC

East side vs West side... Well, you know how that usually goes!

Red Dot Diva has had the opportunity to experience both San Diego Comic-Con (SDCC) and New York Comic Con (NYCC) more than once, and because she has such a wide range of interests, she still has difficulty deciding which one she likes more! 

Both have their own unique advantages and disadvantages. It really depends what kind of fan you are, what your budget is and what you are really looking for.

Diva's geek pal, The Artimus made his way to NYCC for the first time this year. He has attended SDCC several times so here is his lowdown on what he thinks about the different aspects of the two biggest comic conventions in the USA.


Like Biggie and 2Pac, another East Coast vs West Coast battle is growing: New York Comic Con vs San Diego Comic-Con.

Up until two years ago, SDCC seemed to be the undisputed King of Cons, until NYCC announced that their attendance had grown to usurp the crown of most attended comic convention in America. There has been some debate about the validity of those numbers, but no one can deny that these events look like Godzilla and King Kong compared to the rest of the convention circuit.

I finally had the opportunity to attend New York Comic Con this year, after heading to San Diego for the last few years. I’m no convention expert like some, but I feel that I can offer a good side by side comparison for the average con goer.

If you think you’re just going to show up at a mega con and just walk in, you’re going to have a bad time. Planning begins basically a year out, when a con announces the dates for next year. You have to worry about getting a badge and saving up. For those coming from out of town, there’s the travel and lodging arrangements. Personally, I’ve had to make arrangements with work and find someone to take care of my dog. For everyone, there’s going to be some added stress, so let’s see how that stacks up.

SDCC: You have up to two opportunities to buy a badge - the preregistration for the previous year’s attendees and the general registration for everyone. Both sell out basically immediately. The same can be said for the hotel sale. This presents a problem for any potential con goers, who may need to take time off from work just to try to buy a badge or book a hotel. And if you whiff on the official hotel sale? Prepare to pay exorbitant prices to book a room through other outlets. Finally, you need to bring your barcode email to the event and wait in a line to get your badge. This helps cut down on scalping, but it can be a real pain.

NYCC: While there is only one main badge sale, it doesn’t sell out as fast. Additionally, there is at least one sale at Midtown Comics as well. This doesn’t help people travelling from out of town, but it can be useful for locals who have prior commitments during the main sale. When it comes to hotels, there are plenty of options in Manhattan, or from a bit further away if you want to take a train or subway into the city every day. There aren’t a bunch of hotels immediately surrounding the Javits Center like there are around the San Diego Convention Center, but there are enough options where no one needs to panic over not getting their first choice. NYC’s public transportation system makes staying a little farther away much easier. The con also mails your badge to you a few weeks before the convention. It’s nice knowing that you don’t have to wait in line just to pick it up, but it does lead to rampant secondary market sales.

Point: NYCC

Many attendees want to line up before the doors open for various reasons. Some want to make sure they get that can’t miss exclusive. Others have a panel that they NEED to see. Many just want to maximize their time to make sure they gets their money’s worth. Whatever the reason, the sidewalks of SD and NYC are loaded with people hours before the convention starts. So, how does lining up early compare?

New York Comic Con #NYCC
Posted by New York Comic Con on Sunday, October 11, 2015

SDCC: There are two lines to pick from when reaching the convention center: the infamous Hall H line and another for everything else. There is plenty of space for everyone to stretch out, and once the lines are condensed, it’s mostly an orderly experience. Sure, you’ll have some line cutters and whatnot, but you’re going to run into that at any large event. CCI keeps plenty of security on hand all night, so there’s always someone around to help out. Once the doors open, you are simply asked that your badge is face up so one of the many volunteers can see your badge. After doing this, you are free to head to the specific line that you need.

NYCC: There are also two lines outside of the Javits Center but for two totally different reasons. There is a VIP badge holder line (more on VIP badges later) and a line for everyone else. Since the convention center is in the middle of the city, the line runs several blocks and adds the real risk of traffic into the equation. Once they open the main gate, some issues arise. What was once a nice, orderly, most single file line degrades into a mob. There are a set of chutes that every attendee must go through. You bags are inspected and your RFID-enabled badge must be scanned. This slows down the process and causes a lot of shuffling and jockeying for position. This massive group is then funneled through a single set of doors at the far end of the convention center, creating a second choke point.

Point: SDCC

This is something I haven’t seen mentioned elsewhere, but it came as a huge surprise to me how different of an experience this could be. Some attendees stay at the convention all day, but many leave throughout the day. Whether you are looking to grab a bite to eat, drop some swag off at your hotel, or checking out an off site event, there are plenty of reasons to leave the building for a bit. Here’s what to expect when you do.

SDCC: To leave, you simply walk out any of the exits. Most doors on the front of the convention center are available as exits, so there’s really no worries. When you come back, there are plenty of doors to chose from. If you’re headed to Artist Alley, pick a door near that end of the building. Going a signing in Sails? Pick a door near the center of the building. Just keep your badge face up so security can see it, and you shouldn’t have to stop for any reason.

NYCC: There are some food trucks on site that reduce the need to leave the property, but if you’re still heading out, you need to go through one of 2 main exits where your badge must be scanned again. Upon returning to the building, you are required to scan in and have your bags searched again. Depending on where you are coming from and going to, these entrances can be pretty far out of the way, which can be a bigger problem than it sounds like, especially if you’re short on time.

Point: SDCC

One of the biggest things that sets SDCC and NYCC so far ahead of the crowd is the programming schedule. There are countless hours of panels. I don’t know of any con goer that doesn’t sit through a few at each event. What happens when you look at the schedules of the big two next to each other?

SDCC: The only complaint that can be made about the SDCC schedule is that it is overwhelming. It doesn’t matter if you are there for comics, movies, gaming, or all three. You are going to miss panels for something you like. There are just that many options.

Firefly reunion panel at NYCC 2015

NYCC: New York does have an ace up its sleeve: Netflix/Marvel. The last two years, NYCC audiences have been treated to Daredevil and Jessica Jones panels, and they both scored huge positive buzz because of it. There’s a host of other panels as well, including a little something for everyone. The schedule just isn’t as deep as San Diego’s, and it especially lacks in the realm of big tent pole movies.

Point: SDCC


LEGO booth at SDCC 2015

While you could spend your entire con watching panels, anyone that fails to hit up the floor for a few hours hasn’t had a full con experience. Part trade show, part interactive theme park, part flea market, both cons offer enough square footage for someone to spend a whole day out there.

SDCC: From the smallest toy store to massive Marvel set ups, San Diego has it all. The downside to all of the awesomeness is that there tends to be many logjams. As any attendee can tell you, the aisles surrounding spots like the Fox autograph booth, The Walking Dead’s photo ops, and Funko’s crazy corner should be avoided unless it’s on your “must do” list. And while the “Hollywood has ruined SDCC” debate is for someone else to make, Artist Alley and the Small Press area usually sport the thinnest crowds.

NYCC: While the variety is similar to San Diego, New York’s floor is definitely centered more on comics. There aren’t nearly as many big installations, but the Artist Alley is so massive, it’s housed in its own building. The aisles seems a bit narrower (or maybe I’m just getting a bit wider), causing just as many standstills. Thankfully, the crowd is spread around a bit more evenly, so they seem to clear quicker as well.

Point: Draw (it depends on if you’d rather bigger exhibits or more artists)


The Fun Stuff that happens off-site at SDCC

Ain’t no party like a nerd party cause a nerd party don’t stop. Just because the convention center is closing for the night, it doesn’t mean that you have to pack up and head home. There’s plenty to see and do offsite.

SDCC: Nerd HQ. The Nerdist CONival. Godzilla. Flynn’s Arcade. These are just some of the biggest offsite events over the last few years. That’s not even mentioning the actual parties, both public and private. With Comic-Con taking over the entire Gaslamp District, you could theoretically go to San Diego during the con without a badge and have just as much fun as someone with a badge. For me personally, all five of my favorite con moments happened at offsite events.

NYCC: New York Super Week has been growing the last few years, but the geographic layout of the area doesn’t help keep everything close by. One big advantage is that the Javits Center is in a kind of pit. Once you’ve been scanned in, but before you actually enter the building, there are a handful of exhibits set up outside. There were even a few food trucks, which was a nice touch.

Point: SDCC


There are some differences that need to be mentioned but don’t merit their own bullet point.

SDCC: The madness of Hall H is something that needs to be experienced once. Camping out for something nerdy should come with a merit badge, but camping out for Hall H and then camping out inside all day should come with its own bachelor’s degree. San Diego’s climate is wonderful, but July is especially nice. There are more exclusives to be had than most attendees can afford, but free swag is also plentiful.

NYCC: The greatest city in the world. While there aren’t as many official offsite events, someone attending NYCC from out of town could turn it into a two week vacation. I’m sure everyone would love to check out the museums, see a show on Broadway, or do any number of other things. The weather in October isn’t ideal, but Reed Pop could easily move the con to another time of year. There’s swag to be found, but there definitely isn’t as much as you’d find in San Diego. The same can be said about the exclusives as well. NYCC also seems to have a bit of an image issue. I’ve never heard one SDCC panelist mention NYCC, but in just four days of New York Comic Con, I heard three moderators and panelists take digs at San Diego.

Point: SDCC

If you can only afford to go to one con in 2016, it HAS to be San Diego Comic-Con. The throne for the King of Cons is safe, for now.

Unfortunately, not everyone can get a badge or travel to San Diego. For many, New York Comic Con is a fantastic alternative. NYCC is easily the second best show I’ve been to, and there’s nothing wrong with a silver medal. For those that have the opportunity to attend both, you’d be a fool not to go. Two weeks of the two best cons will always be better than one week of the best con.

The real winner here? The fans.


Thank you, Artimus, for the write-up!

If you want to discuss more about SDCC vs NYCC, feel free to tweet to Red Dot Diva or Artimus!

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