What are the biggest comic-cons in North America?

Heidi MacDonald -- June 19th, 2013

It’s no secret that comic cons are getting more popular world wide—I just covered the triumph and occasional growing pains in this week’s Comic Con Culture on the Rise. These carnivals of comics provide fans of all ages with a chance to see celebrities, meet cartoonists, buy old swag and dress in elaborate costumes.

We all know that next month’s Comic-Con International: San Diego is the largest show in North America, and that New York’s own Comic-Con (held in October) is a fast rising #2, but what comes after that? Is it long established WonderCon or upstart Phoenix or something else? Using attendance figures from news sources and show-runners, and with the design wizardry of PW’s Matt White, we put together an infographic to show how shows rank and just how many Stormtroopers and Minecraft cosplayers are streaming through the halls of cons in the US and Canada.

Looking at the numbers,the #3 show is Toronto’s Fan Expo Canada, which yearly draws a huge guest list of “nerd-lebrities” (aka stars from movies and TV shows like Doctor Who and Star Trek) from Nathan Fillion (Firefly, Castle) to David Hasselhoff (do I really need to explain?).  It’s followed by the fast growing Emerald City Comic Con in Seattle, which draws attendees from a local crowd that includes nerd-friendly companies Microsoft and Amazon.

Any way you slice it, more people are dressing up as Luffy from One Piece and marching around than ever before.

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PS: if you think these numbers are big they still don’t touch the biggest shows in Japan (Comicket) Europe (Angoulême) which both draw more than 200,000 fans and readers yearly.

23 thoughts on “What are the biggest comic-cons in North America?

  1. LAmeOcON

    Smaller conventions are still better for comic book fans and collectors or people looking for local comic art and comix. The article is right a lot of people at these giant cons are dressing up and walking around and that is all they are doing. Not shopping and supporting comics and indie comic book creators. They should be called pop culture cons rather then “comic cons.”

  2. David

    Where did you find the #s for WonderCon? I have been looking for official attendance estimates for both 2012 and 2013, but could not find them anywhere.

  3. Heidi MacDonald

    Wizard World and some other shows contacted did not provide numbers in time for this chart—90% of which were publicly reported or available in press kits. I’m going to make an updated and annotated list later on.

    I did whiff on Dragon*Con, to be sure, although it’s not exactly a comicon or an anime con.

  4. melbert

    You overlooked Dragoncon which had around 52,000 in attendance last year. A controversial convention, but easily beats several on that list

  5. Mindy Hicks

    I feel some of the groups were completely misrepresented in this study. Not only Otakon, but others like Anime Boston. Many of these cons are reporting number of guests by turnstile entry, counting one guest multiple times throughout the con. Others, like Otakon and Anime Boston, report numbers as how many memberships were purchased, one membership lasting the entire con. If they were to be counted as Comic Con’s population is counted, they would need to be multiplied to even the data, or be put into two separate categories by the way they record population. I feel this is a gross misrepresentation of the actual populations of these conventions, and that research should be done more carefully and thoroughly before presenting data to the public.

  6. Jim

    While I enjoy seeing the numbers, you list is sadly missing some really large shows.
    Megacon (Orlando, FL)
    Dragon*con (Atlanta, GA)
    Baltimore Comicon (Baltimore, MD)
    Pittsburgh Comicon (Monroeville, PA)
    Motor City Comicon (Detroit, MI)
    Wizard World Philadelphia (Philadelphia, PA)
    Wizard World New York City (New York City, NY)
    Wizard World Chicago (Chicago, IL)
    Wizard World Ohio (Columbus, OH)
    Wizard World Nashville (Nashville, TN)
    Wizard World Austin (Austin, TX)
    Wizard World Portland (Portland, OR)
    Wizard World New Orleans (New Orleans, LA)
    Wizard World St. Louis (St. Louis, MS)
    Awesome Con DC (Washington, DC)
    And before you mention that Megacon and Dragon*con are not comic book conventions, I suggest you take a serious look at Otakon which is also not mainly a comic book convention.
    Looking at the shows that you missed for your article, there are some very large shows which were not included for some reason or another. I would love to see your updated list with all of the shows listed with their attendance numbers to compare.

  7. Thomas Hanks

    You are missing a few cons there, one specifically Dragon Con in Atlanta which had over 52k attendees in 2012. Just sayin’ :)

  8. ProfessionalAttendee

    Were DragonCon, MegaCon, Sakura-Con (as I see two Anime-centric cons on the list) & (as much as it hurts to admit, but have to be fair) at least one or two Wizard Worlds left off intentionally? If not, the bottom half of this graphic may need an overhaul.

  9. Erika Yvette Figueroa

    Some on the list aren’t really ‘Comic’ cons, so I’m curious why Dragon*Con with 55k+ (and that’s lowballing it) isn’t on the list.

  10. Lee Whiteside

    FYI, since this is the PW site, I’d like to note that some of them do also have a number of author guests in addition to the actors, comics, and anime guests. This year at Phoenix Comicon we had roughly 40 published authors (almost half of them non-locals) and had involvement from several major publishers at various levels. I’m looking to expand that for 2014.

    Lee Whiteside
    Books & Authors Manager, Phoenix Comicon

  11. Jill Valentine!

    Nice list! I plan to attend most of these. :)

    Quick question, though. Is there a reason you’re excluding Chicago Comic Con? In fact, I notice that you’re excluding all of the shows Wizard World does. Chicago Comic Con gets around 80,000 people now, doesn’t it? And from what I heard, Philadelphia had around 50,000.

    Just curious as to why they’re not included.

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