Artist Alley at New York Comic-Con was probably one of the most stressful and amazing parts of the entire convention. Mind you, it was more stressful than the packed, seemingly never-ending show floor (where they sold merchandise and held brand exhibits) and running back-and-forth to different panels. If you love comic book art, Artist Alley is where you go to get lost in familiar art and new art alike. However, be warned: It could cost you a pretty penny.
If you’ve read my other NYCC content, then you know that this was my first time (and first comic-con ever). I went in with a handful of useful tips from my editor, who had gone multiple times, and a brave face. Nothing, and I mean nothing, prepared me for the madness that is Artist Alley. So let me help you if you plan on going next year and you don’t want to lose your brave face as quickly as I did.
1. Keep an open mind
Again, if you’re a comic book art fan, you’ll be in the right place. You’re more likely than not going to see at least one of your favorite artists, but try to keep yourself open to the possibility of finding new artists that you might end up liking. There’s a lot to see at Artist Alley, and you won’t be doing yourself any favors by being myopic and hyper-focusing on finding your favorites. Swivel that head and browse! There’s a lot of great art out there and you are at the center of it all with some of the coolest illustrators in the game.
2. When in doubt, walk straight ahead
If you’re going on a weekend (Friday-Sunday), prepare to be a sardine in a can. It’s a free-for-all on the floor, and there’s no clear pathway or direction when you’re walking. You’d think it would make sense to direct people with arrows like they do at IKEA, but they’ve opted for absolute madness. There are no clear walking paths and there are no sectioned areas for waiting lines — so for all you know, you’re not at a standstill, you’re waiting in line for an artist.
3. Do a run through, take mental notes (or real notes!)
This is more of a personal hack, so feel free to do with this tip what you will. I like to do a quick walkthrough of the space before committing time to specific artist booths. A walkthrough gives me some semblance of navigational sanity and spatial confidence so that I can move a little faster/easier. It also helps me create a little route for myself when I know exactly which booths catch my eye.
You can keep a mental checklist of the booths you want to revisit or make a checklist in a notebook if you’re the type to forget names and booth numbers easily.
4. Pad your wallet
Plan your finances in advance if you know you want prints or custom art from in-demand artists. This is not the time to just wing it and hope for the best. Prints tend to be on the more affordable side, usually ranging anywhere from $30-$300 (depending on how popular the artist is). Hand-drawn illustrations can be tricky because it depends on what you want, who is illustrating it, and how long it could take. All I’m saying is, if you only want artwork, stack your bread.
5. Multi-day tickets are on your side
Many people opt for one-day passes, but a multi-day pass might be your best friend if you are focusing on taking home custom artwork. I’m not saying that you have to go for the 4-day pass, but some of these artists have a lot of custom illustrations to do (Peach Momoko’s line was nearly 2 hours long for 3 days straight) and they might take more than a few hours to get back to you. Artists give you the option to pick it up the next day, so just keep in mind that extra cost if you are looking at popular artists.
Here’s what other merch at NYCC was completely worth it (and some not), and this year’s guests worth standing in those ridiculous lines for.
Photo via James Grebey/SyFy