When people think of New York Comic Con, they traditionally think of the show floor with its colorful hustle and bustle. Still, there’s a lot more to the Con — panels, screenings, workshops, and cosplay just to name a few. But, there’s one aspect that doesn’t get quite as much attention: Comic Con after dark. Exclusive events that can take place both on and off the Javits campus.
This year I got an invite to one, waited on standby for another, and finally checked out something I’ve been meaning to for years.
The first event to grace my cluttered Comic Con calendar was the Goosebumps after party at the Chelsea Factory. The invitation was scant on details, only offering a time and location. Luckily, it was a short distance from the Javits Center. The outside of the building was lit spooky blue and decorated with some full-sized window graphics. But, by far the most memorable moment came while waiting in line. From the entrance, a small troupe of figures emerged — dressed smartly in suits, their faces where obscured by sinister Slappy heads.
These individuals silently paraded past us patient party-goers, causing a quiet panic with their dead-eyed pantomimes. With a subtle turn of the head, the movement of a very specifically posed hand, these wordless dolls created the perfect creepy vibe which left me worried for what was inside.
And, though the lights were low and the table set with worms, bugs, and, of course, edible delights, the party itself was not scary. Loud, yes, but overall fun. Disney+ and Hulu spared no expense creating custom cock- and mocktails, complete with an open bar! Food, curated to fit moments in the show, floated around until at last pizza was presented as a main course of sorts. Gotta give it to the waitstaff, the presentation of the pizza boxes themselves was a physics marvel.
In addition to the food, drinks, and Slappies (who joined us on the inside with a more playful attitude) were other spooky elements. Two photo ops were presented to guests: one with an original creepy ventriloquist doll, and the other with a fortune teller. The tables, each end covered in worms, offered themed finger foods such as eye-ball cookies (delicious brownie cookies with gooey panna cotta eyes), witches’ fingers (chocolate covered pretzels, which I think is scary because it’s a culinary abomination), pumpkins (cheese balls with pumpkin seed “stems”), and various gelatin squares (Jell-O shots). Décor included a fridge of horrors alight in green, various deer heads on the walls, antler statement lighting, and seating fit for a classy cabin/mansion in the woods. Finally, any attendees who wanted to feel part of the fun had the chance to get their faces painted.
After a few words from our host, the party truly started. An eclectic mix of music videos intercut with scenes from the series played on a huge screen behind the DJ.
The second party I attended was less hush-hush, with signs appearing the day of all around the main corridors of the Javits Center (I don’t recall seeing any on the showroom floor or any of the downstairs or upstairs areas). Paramount’s Peak Screaming signage only listed a time. Those of the mind to find out where didn’t have to search far, and while the event technically required a ticket, it was also open to a standby line. Standby lines, for anyone wondering, are the saving grace of Comic Con. A kind of poor-man’s lottery, any hopeful ticketless rube simply needs to get in a line — the locations of which were cause for confusion depending on what you were trying to get a shot at — and wait with baited breath in anticipation of there being room once all the ticket-holding members were allowed in. To the standby line’s credit, I was able to get into every panel and this party, for which I waited.
Unlike Disney+ and Hulu’s atmosphere of terror for Goosebumps, Paramount+ opted to pave the road into the party with a foreboding air. Woods, graveyards, and signs with chilling messages lead fans into a massive space, black-lit and blasting music. For reasons unbeknownst to me, the theme was a mad-scientist lab. Where Disney+ and Hulu had Slappies and regular waitstaff, Paramount+ dressed their workers in lab coats.
To the immediate left, upon entry, was a huge set up that required a ticket to participate in (luckily these were given to every party-goer as they walked in). A healthy line took patrons past the giant DJ booth and the dance floor, though if you wanted to you could also just watch people doing the thing you were on line to do: play a claw game! Prizes for those successful included headbands, a $50 Paramount+ gift card, and a pack of eyeball gummies. But, no worries to losers like me, who have no claw-game game, because we got pins… which winners also got. So… yay?
Unfortunately, due to the delayed entrance for standby members, I can’t report much about the food. Similar to Disney+ and Hulu’s shindig, the Peak Screaming party featured open bars and finger foods passed around; I only got a glimpse of others eating French fries, and some kind of spicy salad. In fairness, as soon as a person would appear with a food tray, the poor lab worker was mobbed by hungry mouths. Oh well, that’s the advantage of having a ticket.
Lastly, and sadly without any digital evidence, I would like to bring up one more event I attended that I highly recommend: NYCC Karaoke! Unlike the exclusive parties and screenings that patrons can earn access to, karaoke is open to any and all. There’s no standby line, no ticket to pre-register for; it’s simply a come-and-play-with-us gathering that happens almost every night of the Con (sorry Sundays). This means if you miss it Thursday, you’ve got a chance to check it out Friday and Saturday, and I really really think you should.
Imagine a panel room filled with chairs but welcome to standing, a stage set somewhat in the middle with two enthusiastic hosts, and a single brave soul, mic in hand, ready to take the musical plunge. That’s NYCC karaoke, and whereas most karaoke forces patrons to listen to the whole song, Comic Con’s version is merciful enough to only allow singers a brief time in the spotlight. Granted, this can be a blessing and a curse, because in my short time there was one singer who showed amazing chops, and I would have gladly listened to her sing the whole ditty. Still, the other lovely aspect of this event is the group itself — the audience is happy to sing along, loudly and proudly and sometimes out of tune, but always in support of the individual on stage. I think this is the most important thing, to be honest, because there was no judgement that I could see. Even the bad singers got great backups from the crowd, making the experience a joy for all.
The show floor is a marvel, the panels and screenings a blast if you can get into them, and the after parties can be amazing should you be fortunate enough to gain entry, but for the rest of us, there’s always karaoke.