New York Comic Con is the center of the pop culture universe, but when it comes to picturing where the operation originates from, chances are Norwalk, Connecticut is not on your short list. For over a decade, ReedPop, the company behind the largest entertainment event on the east coast has made the southwest Connecticut city its home.
Mike Armstrong is the Events Director at ReedPop, and he’s has been with the company for 10 years—nine of which he spent working on New York Comic Con. Armstrong, a native of Norwalk, thinks the location of ReedPop headquarters is something that’s not on the minds of the quarter of a million attendees at the convention.
“To be honest with you, I don’t know how important that is,” Armstrong said. “I think [the fans] care about having a fun experience and being able to see the things they want to see when they get here. I think the Norwalk connection is great. And I love where we are. I love our office, I love the community that we’re in. Norwalk is our home and we’re happy about it.”
The massive pop culture convention has been held on the west side of Manhattan at the Jacob Javits Center since 2006. It’s filled with thousands of attendees, most in costume, walking shoulder-to-shoulder to get a peek at their favorite comic, actor, artist, writer, or even a glimpse of an exclusive trailer. From October 4-7, the 13th annual show was the biggest event yet. But it wasn’t always the mecca of pop culture.
“Nine years ago, you could have bought a ticket the day of,” said Armstrong. “You could’ve had just walked up, bought a ticket and walked right in. Now we sell out three months in advance, and we continue to grow outside of the Javits Center.”
Today, ReedPop runs 30 other events all over the world; all with a niche focus: PAX, a video game event in Boston, San Antonio, and Melbourne, C2E2 in Chicago, Emerald City Comic Con in Seattle, and dozens more in Paris, London, Mumbai, and Johannesburg. And there seems to be no end to their growth.
This year, the estimated attendance of NYCC was 250,000—up 10 percent from 2017. Armstrong said the growth is due to ReedPop’s ability to listen to their fans. Many costumed attendees, cosplayers, returned this year for their third or fifth time, and chances are they’ll be back again next year.
“Getting to be someone else for a day and being recognized for how awesome it is—it’s really cool,” said Stephanie Greenfield. It’s her second year attending NYCC, and this year she’s Harley Quinn from Suicide Squad. For her, the attraction of the event is dressing up. “I’ve been working on this costume slowly throughout the year,” she explains.
The same rings true for Lucas Goly, who’s dressed as a Mandalorian from Star Wars. “You can’t beat this,” he said. “Everyone is dressed up in their alter egos. Everyone wants to be these characters in their normal life, but this is the way you can actually do it. If Star Wars was real, I would probably be this.”
Armstrong says it’s an arduous 16-month process to create one New York Comic Con, meaning the team is already working on next year’s show. What can fans expect? More exclusive content, more celebrity guests, and events that will span its reach beyond the Javits Center and all over New York City.
But what about a ReedPop event on Connecticut soil? As recently as this summer Terrificon and ComiCONN held weekend-long events at Mohegan Sun and the XL Center respectively. Both events attracted big crowds, notable guests, and of course, hundreds of cosplayers. Armstrong said those events are just helping grow the fan base.
“It means we’re just getting new fans in the pipeline,” he said. “I really love strong local shows. When you’re an emerging fan in a local convention that might be easy to get a ticket to, they deliver a good fan experience. It means that one day those fans are going to want to go to one of the biggest shows in the country. I go to those shows myself and I think it’s so enjoyable to see fans in that low key atmosphere.”