It's a rainy October morning, barely past 9 a.m. in New York City, and already there is a line stretching five blocks from the heart of the Jacob K. Javits Convention Center on 11th Avenue.
Huddled under umbrellas and outstretched jackets, Captain Marvel, Black Panther, Harley Quinn and several Pokemon trainers stood in line, waiting to be the first to buy collectibles, score autographs and get into another line for upcoming panels, some not until late in the day.
For the 14th year, the Javits Center has played host to New York Comic Con (NYCC), an annual event launched by ReedPop, an offshoot of event organizer Reed Exhibitions.
At least 200,000 tickets were sold for the four-day event, Lance Fensterman, CEO ReedPop, said. It's a far cry from the 12,000 attendees the convention saw during its first year of operation in 2006.
At that time, attendees often swapped comic books for cash. Today, the event has many vendors. Artist Alley is a section of the Javits Center filled with 500 artists selling everything from hand-drawn portraits to enamel pins.
2019 also marks the first year that ReedPop is testing out cashless pay. Fensterman said the company has been talking about adding the feature since it introduced RFID badges five years ago. Partnering with CitiBank, ReedPop was able to create a pilot program with several vendors at the convention this year. Cashless pay is a way to make New York Comic Con a more seamless event for fans.
It also hosts a number of major merchandisers and comic book vendors like Funko, Dark Horse Comics and Marvel. And then there are the small business vendors selling vintage toys and other memorabilia.
It's estimated that New York Comic Con brings in more than $100 million to the local New York economy, as attendees pay for hotel rooms, travel on public transportation and dine at nearby restaurants.
That impact has likely grown as ReedPop has expanded the convention beyond the 840,000-square-foot exhibition space at the Javits Center to a number of nearby locations.
Madison Square Garden, the Hammerstein Ballroom and Hudson Mercantile, among other venues host panels, screenings and even karaoke events during the convention.
New York Comic Con wasn't always this massive. In 2006, Fensterman rented one hall that could accommodate 10,000 people in the Javits Center. The company had only presold 4,500 tickets.
However, around 12,000 people showed up for the event, prompting fire marshals to shut down the main exhibition hall due to overcrowding.
Realizing that the demand was there for a convention like this in New York, ReedPop quickly adapted and doubled its rental space in Javits center in 2007. A year later, it merged with the New York Anime Festival.
Then, in 2009, ReedPop acquired the Penny Arcade Expo in Seattle, and signed a deal with LucasFilm to run their bi-annual Star Wars Celebration.
These days, ReedPop runs 44 different shows in 10 countries. Shows like Emerald City Comic Con in Seattle, Keystone Comic Con in Philadelphia and Comic Con Paris.
And it's not stopping there.
In addition to looking for more shows to add to its catalog, ReedPop is also venturing into creating its own original content. Already, the company has launched a website called DiceBreaker, which is entirely committed to reporting on the tabletop gaming community.
The site has news, reviews and product demos for fans of games like "Settlers of Catan," "Forbidden Island" and "King of Tokyo," as well as newly released games.
ReedPop also plans on launching a cosplay website. Cosplay, also known as costume roleplay, is a massive part of comic conventions. Fans spend thousands of dollars crafting intricate outfits of their favorite characters to showcase at events like New York Comic Con.
The cosplay site will be a forum filled with photos, news and videos, Fensterman said.
Fensterman said that as its shows continue to evolve, so too will ReedPop itself. He said fans can expect the company to go beyond the convention in the future.