They come as Vikings, superheroes and extraterrestrials. As all sorts of Spider-Men and Spider-Women, and at least one Mermaid Man and a Barnacle Boy.
Once a year, these fans delight weary commuters on the subway and wrest smiles from the cubicle-oppressed office workers on the streets of Manhattan as they head to the Jacob K. Javits Convention Center, home of New York Comic Con.
At the Javits, thousands — many, alas, clad as mere civilians — roam nearly every public corridor of the sprawling convention hall over four days. (On Saturday, two paused for a special event: A Batman proposed to a Catwoman after a group cosplay photo of colorful DC heroes and villains.)
But only a handful of visitors make it to an inner sanctum, where they trudge not in search of an autograph from a comic book creator or a photo op with a celebrity, but for something far more personal.
The Javits command center, where multiple display screens monitor the facility, fed by more than 2,400 cameras, is also the lost and found. If a visitor arrives here, it can mean bad luck (something was lost) or maybe good luck (an item was found). Waiting to greet them at the command center is Edwin Gomez.
“Everything is logged in right away,” said Mr. Gomez, the manager of the command center. The Javits Center hosts 150 to 200 events every year — boat shows, travel-industry shows and the New York City Marathon Expo, among others — so Mr. Gomez has seen a wide variety of items in many sizes, homemade and not.
He and his co-workers have a playbook for each type of item that is left under their supervision. “If it is money or jewelry, it is logged in and put into a safe,” he said. With cellphones, if they are unlocked, he will say “Call Mom” or “Call Dad.”
And he will look for IDs in any unclaimed wallet, hoping to find an address so he can mail it back to its owner. He will even use the phone numbers on medical prescriptions, calling the providers and asking them to contact the prescription holders.
During Comic Con, the businesslike command center blooms with copy-paper boxes, lined up side by side, each housing some of the more colorful lost-and-found items of the year: toys, posters, costumes, swords.
As of mid-Sunday, the command center’s haul included some IDs and wallets, a pair of glasses, Beats headphones, phone chargers, a Batman action figure and a bobblehead-like Funko Pop of Moon Girl, one of Marvel’s newer and younger heroines.
“We then wait for the phone calls to come in,” Mr. Gomez, 45, said. If the caller correctly identifies the item and can provide proof of identity, a reunion between property and thankful owner occurs.
Each day of Comic Con ends with the event’s office and security rooms bringing to the command center items that have been found. Mr. Gomez said that one of the funniest items turned in was a single shoe. (How do you lose one shoe?)
It was a Cinderella story in the making, but one with a more generous deadline than the folk tale: “All lost-and-found is donated in 90 days,” Mr. Gomez said. Unclaimed items are donated through the JavitsCares program. According to the center’s 2022 annual report, the program has donated more than 174,000 pounds of furniture, plants and food items to nonprofits around the city.
Loose cash, which cannot be so easily identified by the person who lost it, is donated to charity. Last year, the Javits donated the found cash to the Bowery Mission, which serves the homeless of New York. (Other items, including liquor, are discarded.)
Mr. Gomez has been with the Javits for 20 years. He first spent six months as a security guard, before making his way to the command center as a monitor technician. In August of last year, he became manager of the center, which gives him a special vantage point.
“I watch everything from here,” he said. “I can zoom in and say, ‘That looks great.’” At Comic Con last year, one of his favorite sights was a cosplayer who dressed as Iron Man in his very bulky Hulkbuster armor. Mr. Gomez was also impressed with an Aquaman cosplayer, who was wearing a metallic costume. “He had the blond hair and the body for it,” he said. “You’re good. You pulled it off.” This year, he noted characters from “Demon Slayer,” an anime he watches with his family.
Mr. Gomez is proud when he gets to return property to its owners. He made a surprise trip to the convention floor on Saturday to visit Jacob Juarez, an exhibitor who had lost his wallet. “I brought it to him because I knew he would be busy,” he said. “He showed it to all his buddies. He was ecstatic.”