Culture, Comics and Representation at NYCC 2015


Last weekend I attended New York Comic Con 2015 and it was fabulous. There’s something thrilling about being surrounded by hundreds of other geeks and some of the biggest names in the industry. Now, this wasn’t my first convention and it wasn’t even my first time at NYCC. I went four years ago in 2011 with my sister, when she attended school in New York.

Back then NYCC was large but not in the same sense that it is today. I remember buying my tickets a month after they went on sale and still snagging a three day pass. This year the four day passes were sold out after a few hours and nearly all tickets were gone by the end of the day. So, if you were planning on going next year, buy those tickets as soon as possible. The Convention has grown a lot, but to be honest, geek culture has grown a lot. This is clearer than ever when you visit the same convention four years later and see what has changed.

For starters, Funko Pop was one of the most popular booths, selling out of tickets every day. Sailor Moon and Naruto were big names that drew in the anime crowd and I noticed even book nerds had a place among the vendors, with HarperCollins and Penguin Publishing giving away special sneak peeks. The most noticeable change though was when I walked into the Artist Alley.

Four years ago, the Artist Alley was full of big wig names in the comic book industry. Sean Phillips (Marvel Zombies) was there, as well as Brandon Peters (Uncanny X-Men), and so many others. Mostly all of them were male. I remember strolling down the aisles and seeing a total of two female artists present. Two.  Surrounding me were images of nearly naked Emma Frost, a voluptuous Powergirl, and a flirty Jean Grey. It was… uncomfortable to say the least.

I admit that at the time I was still very knew to comic books in general and felt unwelcomed (the way many women do) when I tried to navigate a world that didn’t seem to think much about its female characters. I mean, they thought about them, but not in the same sense that I did.

This time, it was a completely different environment. Brooke Allen (Lumberjanes) was there along with Amy Reed (Batwoman),  Annie Wu (Black Canary) , Karen Hallion, and so much more. Roughly 17% of Artist Alley Exhibitors were women, and yes, I combed through all 463 artists on the list. That may not seem like a big number but it sure beats having two female artists total.

It’s great to see some of the leading female artists and storytellers of modern comics present. Female fans at conventions have always been very visible, so it makes sense to have women in the industry at these cons as well. Conventions like NYCC and SDCC are just as much for the big name industries as they are for the fans to enjoy them. The people who appear at these conventions and what they talk about often reflect the upcoming trends in fandoms. Which is why I was so excited to not only see great women artists selling their work, but also women hosting panels relevant to our desires.

It’s important when coordinating a fan event to keep in mind that you should make it a healthy environment for all of those involved; Men, Women, and children. Honestly, it makes the event that much more enjoyable. I should also mention that these changes don’t just show NYCC reaching out to women, but all minorities and all fandoms. The inclusion of book publishers, gaming companies and nerdy fashion means NYCC is growing into an overall fandom experience, one similar to SDCC.

After seeing such a drastic change in only a few short years, all I can say is I’m excited to see where our efforts will bring us in the future. And of course, I’ll be excited to go back to New York for another great time!

Cara Averna is a movie nerd, an Otaku, and known bibliophile. She writes about Fandom studies, Anime, and Manga on her blog year around, but during fall she watches way too much horror movies and consumes everything pumpkin. Follow her on twitter.