In addition to all of the comic book announcements and sneak peaks from New York Comic Con 2014, one of the things I was most looking forward to was seeing just how Reed Pop’s new system of clearing their main stage between panels was going to work out. It’s a crowd control measure that has been sorely needed at both New York Comic Con and the ever-growing San Diego Comic Con for some time now, but it remained to be seen if this was the answer to the long lines and wait times that the larger panels at these conventions attract.
Let’s be honest here, the system of not clearing rooms between panels sucks. If you want to see a single panel in a room, you’ve basically committed to spending the entire day up until that panel either waiting in line or room-sitting. It means missing out on everything else at the convention that day, and it’s never been a system that I’ve liked. However, I was skeptical about New York Comic Con’s main stage clearing policy.
The policy involved going down to the bottom floor of the convention center, or the “queue hall”, and lining up to get a wristband for the panel of your choice. Only a certain number of wristbands were given out, and attendees were free to leave the line after getting their wristband. Getting to leave the line is the part that makes this entire system worth it, because in the past, I’ve personally had to plan out convention days over whether I’d spend them waiting in line or actually getting to enjoy the convention.
NYCC’s policy appears to have been a success in a lot of ways. I noticed that on several days, it cut down on crowds waiting for the Main Stage. On Friday, I was able to quickly get my wristband, and not show up until several hours later for Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. panel. I got to enjoy the convention, walk the floor and Artists Alley, and not being chained to a single room to get to see the one thing I wanted to see was definitely an improvement over past cons.
However, the system isn’t without its flaws. It doesn’t prevent people lining up in the middle of the night to be the first inside the convention center for wristbands. If the success that NYCC had with this year gives Comic Con International the idea to implement a similar system in San Diego, camping out all night for Hall H will just become camping out all night for Hall H wristbands. Yes, the problem of having to room-sit could be solved, but that still means that fans not willing to wait outside at four in the morning will be completely out of luck. That turned out to be the case with the Walking Dead panel at NYCC this year– some convention-goers got in line as early as 5 a.m. to be first in line for wristbands when the Javits Center opened its doors at 10. There were also reports of volunteers offering to sell wristbands to popular panels. There’s also the problem of wanting to see two popular panels on the same day. With NYCC’s current system, you can’t grab a wristband for someone else, so the current system has the advantage there. It’s a win/lose situation, either way you look at it.
But with both New York Comic Con and San Diego Comic Con growing in popularity every year– NYCC actually surpassed SDCC in attendance in 2014– hopefully the organizers of both events will be able to find a happy medium that will let the fans enjoy the convention without being stuck waiting in line the entire weekend.