Doctors, Jaegers, and Jedi are descending on Gotham as New York Comic Con kicks off on Thursday. But the heroes and villains of pop culture aren't the only ones making an appearance: Entrepreneurs and their companies will also be center stage.
The annual event, which runs from October 5 to 8, has long been known for its creative costumes, teasers, and vendors. But its also an opportunity for businesses to get in front of large audiences -- more than 180,000 badges were sold for last year's event, according to Reed Exhibitions, the fan events company that runs Comic Con.
Here are some of the entrepreneurs and businesses to look for at this year's Comic Con event:
1. Her Universe
Ashley Eckstein was inspired to create Her Universe after shopping for Star Wars apparel. Since there wasn't anything available for women, she searched in the men's and boy's sections--but still came up empty-handed. "I knew I wasn't alone," she said. "After some research, I found out that on average, 45 percent of all sci-fi and fantasy fans are women."
Her company, a women's line of sci-fi apparel and accessories for series like Star Wars, Doctor Who, and Star Trek, also offers customers a "community where women could show off their fandom with pride."
Launching a business in a male-dominated space like sci-fi can be tricky, but Eckstein said the key to being successful is surrounding yourself with the right people. "By building a strong team, I've been able to continue and grow my business regardless of my gender," she said.
Want to walk away from NYCC with a memento? Funko has you covered. Mike Becker originally launched the company as a bobble head venture in 1998, and then sold it to current CEO Brian Mariotti in 2005. Funko holds hundreds of licenses to make pop culture collectibles, toys, and consumer products.
At NYCC, the company will be selling collectibles like Eleven from Stranger Things, Jyn Erso from Rogue One: A Star Wars Story, and Lyanna Mormont from Game of Thrones.
3. Boom! Studios
Ross Richie founded comic book publisher Boom! Studios in 2005 from a spare bedroom in his apartment. The company has since created four imprints that focus on different readers, like children and women, which have become the backbone of the business.
"Targeting diverse and underserved audiences, that's where we really found great success," Richie said. "It really put us on the vanguard of comic book publishing, because we are always searching for the next thing."
Boom! publishes titles like Charles Schulz's Peanuts, Jim Davis's Garfield, and Cartoon Network's Adventure Time. Lumberjanes is another popular title that's written and drawn by women. "What we are seeing is more kids are reading comics, more women are reading comics," Richie said. "Millennials are moving in on the space and becoming a bigger part of the readership."