The first time I went to New York Comic Con was in 2008. My friends in college had gone to one or two of the first NYCCs before that, and so I came back from all three days with a few interesting stories and free swag. I remember getting in earlier than my friends on Saturday that first time, back in the day when it wasn’t anywhere near as crowded as it is now and had more free giveaways from the publishers, that someone handed me a poster going, “Would you like Jim Lee’s autograph?” I had no idea who he was and there wasn’t much of a line (there were like five of us total when it was my turn), so I just got two posters signed (one for me and one for my bro) and thanked him. When I found my friends, they were shocked that I got Jim Lee’s autograph but missed the signing cut-off. I tell that story now and people are still shocked because he’s such a bigger deal now. I have a signed card from Brandon Sanderson too, before he started writing for Wheel of Time under the same circumstances, stashed somewhere in my desk drawer. And now this is my fourth year going, and due to life changes the group I normally went with wasn’t the group I’m spending most of the time with this year. Instead, I have not one, but four NYCC virgins. The first two were with me today, and there are a fresh two for tomorrow, and it made me realize that I didn’t quite realize how much they didn’t know.
After three consecutive NYCCs, I went this year saying that I wasn’t looking for freebies. Last year, I managed to snag a TON because I wasn’t into any of the panels and killed time seeing how many books and freebies I could get. Somehow, today I came home with 4 novels, 8 pins, 2 postcard things, a cute bag, 3 posters, a free shirt and an entire deck of Twilight playing cards. My friends weren’t sure how the whole thing worked (it’s a long story, but we got separated early on) and when we circled back, there wasn’t much left. There’s more free stuff for girls than there is for guys these last few years, so a girl will almost assuredly come away with more stuff. Also, you’re not going to find stuff if you don’t know where to look.
So here are a few tips and tricks I’ve learned over the years:
1) Buy your admission ticket in time to be mailed to you (disregard if you physically get your ticket at time of purchase). You don’t want to waste time in line to pick up your ticket. Previous years, there was more of an advantage to buying early, but picking up your ticket at the con is a hassle.
2) Get your NYCC program guide. It’s the best way to know what’s going on, where it’s going on (the map of the floor is in it!) and maybe let you see some other events you might have missed when you checked the site. One year we didn’t get one and regretted it. Remember to check the panels and listings online too. There is really poor cell phone reception at the Javits Center, so it’s not worth it to use the app.
3) Know which booths give stuff away and when. There’s a lot of things to be scored, so definitely keep your eyes open. There were more gift bags from the comic publishers in previous years, but due to the economy there’s not as much.
4) Don’t get caught up with how much you’re unfamiliar with. For a lot of folks, the con is overwhelming. It’s supposed to be the geek holy land, but so much of it is very niche. Keep a strong focus on what you want to see and do there, and it’s likely you’ll accomplish your goals.
5) Account for how extremely crowded the place will be. I would describe it as being like Grand Central Terminal during rush hour with multiple train delays. Sometimes the poor cell reception (due to how many people are there with phones and the basement not having reception at all) can delay calls and texts. If going with friends, pre-plan certain meeting points if you split up.
6) Have fun. Embrace the chaos. My bro went one year with my pass and he absolutely hated it.