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New York Comic Con Brings Out Superfans, First-Time Attendees

by Michael D. Nguyen /

Superheroes, mutants, dinosaurs, aliens, villains, robots, and more--the main promenade at the Javits Center in midtown Manhattan contained characters from every imaginable walk of life.

Among the endless throngs at this year's New York Comic Con were many Asian-American attendees who braved the crowds to attend the four-day event.

NYU Student Susanna Duong, 21, told NBC News she was exposing her friend and fellow NYU peer Cindy Qi to Comic Con for the first time. This was Duong’s fourth Comic Con.

"I think geek and nerd culture is becoming more mainstream," Duong said. "Tickets four years ago--I could buy a month in advance…but now they go on sale in May online and they sell out within a few hours, and it’s insane."

 Attendees are seen during the New York Comic-Con 2015 at The Jacob K. Javits Convention Center on October 11, 2015 in New York City. John Lamparski / Getty

The influx of new Comic Con attendees could be attributed to the explosion of superhero films in the mainstream, such as the "Avengers" franchise and runaway television hits such as AMC’s "The Walking Dead."

“We love watching movies and we thought it would be fun to come check it out and broaden our own experiences, too," first-time Comic Con-goer Praveen Chelli told NBC News.

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Claire Huang and William Yu, both 20, are also Comic Con newbies, but the two admit they are long-time geek culture aficionados.

"I watched cartoons as a kid, I was a big fan of [Hiyao] Miyazaki films and Disney Pixar—just animation in general. I also do a lot of drawing and illustration. I really like being involved in the online art world,” Huang told NBC News as she and Yu, who were dressed as characters from the Japanese video game "Steins;Gate," stood in line to meet professional cosplayer Yaya Han.

"This is just like a world I love," Yu added. "All the characters, the creators, the imagination required to make this happen is just incredible it puts me at awe to be around all these content creator."

Jerry Ma, an illustrator and owner of Epic Proportions, a T-shirt company with ties to Asian-American comic artists and projects, shared with NBC News his thoughts on the appeal of Comic Con to the many Asian-American convention-goers.

“It’s part of our culture. I feel like in Asia in particular…in Taipei, the comic stores, you go there, you hang out, there are couches and bean bags, they serve coffee tee, snacks, and you just sit there and read the books, you rent the books. And everyone is just hanging out…and then you go on the subway and everyone’s reading comics. It’s not a big deal,” Ma said.

Raymond Chow, who was also manning the Epic Proportions booth, added his perspective to the growing appeal of "geek culture" to the mainstream.

"I feel like as video game and comic book and all this subculture has become much much more mainstream you’re seeing the crowds kind of change. It’s even friendlier, it’s bigger,” Chow said.

Pressed as to why might Asian Americans be drawn to comic books, Chow offered one theory: “Often, superhero characters are these disaffected, alienated characters who--because they’re special, because they’re different--they feel they can't relate [to the mainstream].'

He added, "Well that parallels quite often into the Asian-American experience."