NEW YORK CITY (WABC) -- It seemed almost unimaginable just a few months ago that amid the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, so many would be able to come in costume back to New York Comic Con.
First in line to enter was Hung Tran, a first responder from Brooklyn who works for an ambulance company.
"It's good to have the Con back," he said. "I've seen a lot, been through a lot, and it's good to have this to kind of detox and enjoy."
Covering Comic Con can be tough because the aisles get so crowded, but fewer entrance badges are being sold this year, which is just one of the health protocols designed to keep everyone safe.
Everyone above the age of 12 has to show proof of vaccination and get a bright green wristband. Children under 12 must show a recent negative COVID test.
Adam Moore, who was second in line to get in, urged his fellow attendees to "make some noise."
"Everybody, they all vaccine'd up and everything," he said. "So let's do this."
Fallon Prinzivalli is the marketing director for ReedPOP, which puts on the event, and she noted 140,000 badges are available this year -- almost half the previous number before the pandemic, when 250,000 was the norm.
"We worked directly with local authorities and the Javits Center to make sure we were hitting a capacity limit that was safe for everyone in attendance," she said.
Last year, the pandemic forced organizers to stage a virtual event online.
"Oh gosh, I'm not paying to do that," Gabriella Nadeau said, but the Upper West Side resident who works as a nanny liked what she saw this year.
"I noticed that it was less crowded, and they still have badges available," she said. "But in a way, it's kind of nice to know that it's a little bit calmer because I don't think I could handle the rush of the past years."
The event came back smaller and less flashy, perhaps, but still most welcome.
"There's nothing like being in here with people who love the same things that you love," said Kyra Greene, of Jersey City.
The Jorgensen family came in costume from Pennsylvania.
"It's awesome," mom Jorgensen said. "We've waited so long for this. We do this every year, and I'm just excited we can bring the kids."
Her daughter Isabella said it's a family affair.
"We like Cosplay," she said. "We can do it as a family."
Cosplay is a big part of Comic Con.
"The word stands for costume play, so it's a mashup of those two words," Prinzivalli said. "And honestly, it's our fans' way to express themselves."
Fans like Aaron Rigodon, from Queens, who came dressed as The Riddler from the Batman comics.
"I was kind of sad last year, but now I'm happy that I can finally go to Con and meet some new people," he said.
Fewer people and fewer exhibitors mean more opportunities for the gaming industry, because "comics and video games go hand-in-hand," said Nate Caldwell, standing in the big booth of Fluid Gaming.
"A lot of video games are inspired by comics," he said.
Everything I know about gaming I learned from a college freshman, my pal Luke Dentel. But I am still pretty clueless. Many, many others here are not, and vendors see opportunity in this captive audience, smaller though it may be.
Badges are still available for New York Comic Con. CLICK HERE for more information.
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