A first timers advice on picking panels for NYC Comic Con

New York Comic Con, an animated, colorful event that lasted four days and has more superheroes, more flesh and less booze than the Renaissance Fair in one day.

As a first timer to the New York Comic Con at the Javits Center, I had a rampage of ideas running through my head about how to “survive” and what to do that would be of interest to me. After my friend, a six-time attendee, dare I say Comic Con veteran, invited me to go, I told him I didn’t want to just tag along, collect free swag and stare at people’s costumes.

It was the first time this event had metal detectors along with the usual bag check, and after being handed a complimentary magazine with exhibitor, panel and important information listings, we found a place to plan what panels we were interested in seeing.

There was an impressive array of panels in a variety of topics that featured actors, artists, creators, editors, writers, and other people related to the industry. With the plethora of options to choose from and a panel happening nearly every 15 minutes, it can be overwhelming to choose.

So, where to start and how do you prepare for the comic con panels?

Choosing a panel at NYC Comic Con

Here are three things to know about panels:

  • Panels are one hour.
  • Panels are scheduled in 15 minute intervals.
  • There are multiple panels every hour.

By knowing these three factors, they will help structure how you choose to plan your day at comic con. There are a few tricks to grasp which panels you may want to attend. Two parameters you can work from are content or time.

Choosing a Comic Con panel by content

At first glance of the schedule the panels cover diverse themes and showcase different people. By reading through the titles and descriptions, you can choose which ones to attend based on your interests. If you like movie or an actor/actress, scope out those panels. If you like the art of comic books or are invested in a writer, go to that one. If you like history or more business-oriented panels attend those. Play to your interests so you are not overwhelmed and miss out on having an enjoyable experience. Regardless if you plan to come multiple days or stay for one whole day, you will need to plan appropriately because some panels will have longer wait times or are first come, first served.

To help plan your schedule, download the NY Comic Con app from your app store. There are live updates, push notifications, maps and a scheduler where you can save events you want to see and receive reminders about when they start. The app is useful as it will let you know of any cancellations, additions and updates better than an announcement, word of mouth and the print book. When I used it to schedule my day, I found it very helpful, and I did not have to lug around the magazine with me to remind where and when each panel was.

Knowing where to go and how to get there will help you in navigating the space. Use the map from the complimentary magazine or the map in the app. Most panels occur on the lowest floors of the Javits Center, in halls 1A, 1B and 1C. These rooms can be accompanied by long entrance lines with limited seating, so getting there at least 15 minutes early will help you secure a better place in the room. In addition, there are three other venues—The Theater at Madison Square Garden, Hammerstein Ballroom at the Manhattan Center and Hudson Mercantile. All are within walking distance of the Convention Center and panels are first come first served for attendees. I remember I walked out of Hammerstein Ballroom and there were lines of people three blocks long waiting to enter for the panel on “Orville.”

Choosing a comic con panel by time

If you are in a time crunch you can use time as your parameter to pick what panels you can attend. You can still choose panels based on interests or experimentation, you’ll just be limited to the number of offerings you can choose from within the time constraint you have.

Experiment and have fun at comic con!

If you just want an all-around experience, pick three panels, one about the smaller players in the industry, one linked to a tv show, known Hollywood figure or movie, and one either at random or a theme like diversity, women, etc. By using this method, you get a taste of everything without feeling overwhelmed.

How I picked my comic con panels

I used two techniques – my interests and experiment. Two panels I did based on my interests and one for the experience. I knew I would only be there for one day and was beholden to the train schedule, so in a sense I had a time constraint, but that was not a high priority because as long as I took the 11:13 p.m. train home out of Hoboken, I would not have to Uber, taxi, crash at a friend’s place or coax a family member to pick me up.

By focusing on my interests, which include the business market, history, entrepreneurship and storytelling, I was able to pick two panels that met my needs. The last panel I choose was for the experience. I opted for a panel of a popular TV show that featured one of the main actresses and two writers.

The panels were vastly different and of the three I attended I was only disappointed in one.

My first panel of the day was Skybound: Storytelling and Creating in Hall 1A in the Javits Center. From the title of the panel and the short description that the panel will feature “top creators and artists working in comics today,” I anticipated about learning the craft and process of how these creators crafted characters and story arcs. Instead, each one went through the latest issue of a comic and talked about what to expect. This was the panel that disappointed me the most. I learned that when choosing a panel, the description and title may not reflect the content that is presented.

The second panel was by far my favorite. The description was spot on and I was surprised about how much I learned, especially that there is a cloud-based home for thousands of comics and content from manga to graphic novels. The panel, The Real True Origins of ComiXology in Hall 1B of the Javits Center, described the company lifecycle from business idea to an The second panel was by far my favorite. The description was spot on and I was surprised about how much I learned, especially that there is a cloud-based home for thousands of comics and content from manga to graphic novels. The panel, The Real True Origins of ComiXology in Hall 1B of the Javits Center, described the company lifecycle from business idea to an Amazon.com subsidiary.

Knowing a minute amount about this niche in the publishing industry, I was stunned to learn that DC Comics and Marvel combined own 80 percent of thecomic book publishing market. To know of ComiXology’s origins and their struggle to attain funding and garner customers was refreshing because normally I only notice the glamorized, sexy and strong characters that are marketed in movies and shows.

The last panel of the day was ABC’s “Once Upon A Time” in the Hammerstein Ballroom. This was the one I chose to do just for the experience. I used to watch the show up until season three or four, so was relatively familiar with the characters and plot. I had anticipated just a sit-down chat with the actress Lana Parilla who plays the Evil Queen and the co-creators and executive producers Edward Kitsis and Adam Horowitz. Instead I was treated to a screening of the entire first episode of the upcoming season seven. As that concluded the three came on stage and chatted about the plot and what we can expect for 10 minutes. Then we saw a four to five-minute sneak peak of episode two. The viewing wasn’t disappointing, it was just unexpected to see an entire episode. A small part of me wanted the panel discussion to last longer and have more depth about character development, despite me not watching the last few seasons.

On the train ride home, I did wonder how the show got to this point in season seven. And I considered watching the seasons I missed to catch up. New YorkComic Con panels provide informative discussions, sneek peaks and genuine authenticity to the fans and the panelists.

I noticed that the smaller the panel with less Hollywood influence offered an intimate experience and one where fans asked questions, expressed praise and thanks.

Despite the Skybound panel disappointing me, my friend had whispered to me that that was what comic con used to be like. It was smaller and the panel offered a deeper connection between artist and consumer.

Knowing that little tidbit of comic con history made me appreciate it more, and also be perplexed at why there are lines for free SYFY swag like t-shirts that are longer than the line to get into that type of panel. Full disclaimer, I did get a free t-shirt.

I’m not an avid movie-goer, comic book reader or anime enthusiast. The closest experience I have with comics is rummaging through a comic book store in Pittsburgh, a few hours stint at Tekko (also in Pittsburgh), the tv show ‘The Big Bang Theory’ and watching Sailor Moon when I was a second grader not even knowing it was considered anime.

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