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Emerald City Comicon Report

A column article, Comics Bulletin Soapbox by: Zack Davisson

Big.  If there was a single word to describe the 2012 Emerald City Comicon, it would be big.  As in enormous.  As in massive.  As in—announcing in no uncertain terms—the Emerald City Comicon is a Con to be reckoned with. 

Everyone was surprised at the attendance.  Supposedly—I don’t have the exact numbers—there were more attendees on Saturday alone than on all three days combined of last year’s Con.  There were so many people that the Fire Marshal had to limit entries, and people were lined up outside the door well into the afternoon waiting to get in. (Seattle, by the way, is not a very nice place to be stuck outside in line.) Inside everywhere was a full house as you fought for space against numerous Captains America, Joker and Harley Quinn sets, and butterfly wing wearers—both Monarch and Pixie style. 

I don’t even know why attendance exploded this year. I secretly suspect the bad weather had something to do with it; the constant drizzle made it a great day to stay indoors— there was less general advertising around Seattle and less over -all leading up buzz..  In previous years I saw signs all over the busses and downtown in the months leading up to the Con, but not so much this year.  

And while there was a larger number of guests, there were fewer “Big Name” draws.  George Takai was probably the most famous name, but compare that to two years ago when both Stan Lee and Leonard Nimoy were there.  For comic companies, Image was the clear king.  They had the Center Square with a massive booth and plenty of talent on board.  DC’s booth was tiny in comparison, and I don’t think Marvel represented at all.  Their loss. They missed a chance to touch base with tens of thousands of comic fans.

The word form Con staff and pros alike is expansion.  More space.  More booths. More comics.  Next year, the Con will grow to three full days instead of two and half days, and probably take up another floor of the Seattle Convention Center (the Con currently occupies two floors).  Pros are realizing they need to bring more stock—I talked to a few folks who sold out of everything they brought, and knew they could have sold more.  It’s going to be awesome.  The Con is barely over, and I am already excited about last year.

Here are a few of my high points of the Emerald City Comicon:                                                      

1. The Multiverse Crowd

I was really impressed by the diversity of the crowd.  Anyone’s whose image of comic conventions includes a bunch of fat, white, middle-age men would be shocked to see the genetic blend of the Emerald City Comicon.  Every age, race, style, and body type was represented.  And it was all just so positive. A black Wonder Woman? No problem.  Parents pushing babies in superhero onesies around in strollers? Tons.  Dads and daughters, whole families in matching outfits, a “George Takai Pride Parade,” couples on a date, foreign exchange students, just curious people dropping buy; everyone was represented. 

We all talked about that mass of humanity, and wondered how many of them were actual comic book readers, or how many just came by as something fun to do on a gray Seattle Saturday.  There were just SO many people, far more than you ever see haunting the isles of local comic book shops.  The hope was that—even if they didn’t arrive comic readers—they would pick up the free books, give them a try, and leave as comic readers.  With all of the kids present, it would have been nice to see more all-ages stuff available, especially from DC as almost every kid there was in a Batman, Supergirl, or Wonder Woman outfit.   They all should have walked out with a comic in hand.

And speaking of kids, it was sad after to learn that comics still carries some of that old-fashioned stigma.  When talking to co-workers on the Monday after more than a few expressed the opinion that they were interested in going to the Con, but didn’t think it would be an appropriate place for kids.  I showed them all the pictures of families in costume together and they vowed to go next year.  Win.

2. It’s All About the Comics

When talking to the pros, one thing I heard over and over about the Emerald City Comicon is that it is still all about the comics.  Some had even given up on attending the San Diego Comicon, which is far more about movies and TV shows than comics nowadays.  The gang at Image expressed that during their panel, where they said that Image really wanted to focus on making great comics, and to get away from the idea that getting a Hollywood deal was somehow a Stamp of Approval. 

There were less comic dealers, which was too bad, but I talked to those that were there and they were all making good cash with plans to extend for next year.  I think a smart dealer would put together some cheap “Kid’s Packs” of appropriate back issue stock for all those parents walking around. Just a thought.

Comics for comics sake was the rallying cry. And even though the media guest list has been growing larger every year, I hope the ECCC never loses that comic focus.

3. Tony Harris and Steve Niles

 

Two fantastic talents at the top of their game, Tony and Stephen also happen to be two of the coolest guys you will ever meet.  Genuinely good people with a deep passion for comics. You will get to hear more about it when we get the interviews posted, but suffice it to say that these two made the Con for me.  Keep an eye out for some exciting stuff coming from both of them!

 

4. Matt Wagner

Hey, it's Matt Wagner!Another genuinely nice guy who is also incredibly talented. Matt Wagner was happy to talk, sign a stack of comics, and even did a Grendel sketch unasked for in one of my hardbacks he was signing.  He is everything you want a pro to be when you come up to meet them as a fan.  This was in stark contrast to another person I was looking forward to meet, who was off-putting and demanded a pretty stiff cash fee for signing books.  I don’t want to name names, but I had a bitter taste in my mouth that was washed away by the easy-going Wagner.

If you haven’t checked out Matt Wagner’s stuff, you definitely should.

5. All the Other Cool People (and there were many)

Everything I said above also holds true for Jim Valentino, Brian Wood (who was nice enough not to hold a grudge about my Conan the Barbarian: Queen of the Black Coast review), Dark Horse editor Patrick Thorpe,  the gang at Archaia Comics, Scott Morse, Phoenix Jones (Phoenix Jones!!!), the ever-amiable Kurt Busiek who I wish a speedy recovery to, Jay Faerber, Joe Keatinge,  Natalie Nouriga, and probably a million others than I am forgetting.

Because it is the people that make Cons great.  Getting a chance to transform that name on a piece of paper into an actual person is magic.  Cons are not just “conventions,” they are “connections.”  And I am proud to live in a city that has a world-class Con like ECCC.

The Cons of the Con

There had to be a few right?  It wasn’t all sunshine and roses.  So here are a few low points, and some suggestions for improvement.

1. A Lack of the Old Guard

If there is one thing the early months of 2012 have shown us, it is that the founders of our shared universe aren’t going to be around forever.  Jerry Robinson. Sheldon Moldoff. Mobieus.  Many more.  So I was disappointed to see so few of the Golden, Silver, and Bronze age luminaries at the Con this year.

In years past I met Len Wein, Marv Wolfman, Ernie Chan, and Stan Lee at the ECCC.  In the earlier years of the smaller Seattle Con I met Dick Sprang, Marie Severin, and Sheldon Moldoff.  Those are the memories that really stick with me.  Those were the people who had been there, who shared desks with Jack Kirby and remember what it was like when there were no Conventions or even local comic shops.

And there are still hundreds I have never had the chance to meet. George Perez.  Roy Thomas. Jerry Ordway. John Byrne, Chris Claremont.  Granted, these guys are hardly knocking on death’s door, but it would still be fantastic to meet them and I think the ECCC needs a better balance of creators from different eras. 

2. Local Comic Shops Representing

I don’t know if ECCC has any control over this, but I would love to see more Seattle local comic shops with a presence at the Con.  The Dreaming always has a booth, which is great, and Corner Comics was there as well, but where was Golden Age Collectibles or Zanadu?  I have talked to some of these shop owners, and it chalks up mainly to short-sightedness; they don’t sell enough at the Con itself to make the booth cost and transport worthwhile.  But what about advertising?  What about establishing a comics community here in Seattle?  What about handing out flyers for your shop to those tens of thousands of potential comic readers milling around?

The Con is a great opportunity, and one that I would have jumped on if I still had my comic shop. 

3. Too Much to See, Too Little Time

As the Con gets bigger, it gets more difficult to see everything.  As I was looking at other people’s pictures after the Con, I realized how much I missed.  That awesome duo in the Cloak and Dagger costumes?  The Legos? The whole gaming section?  I would be surprised if I managed to catch 20% of the Con in two days.

That’s the price of success though.  In the times I went to the San Diego Comic Con I would be surprised if I only manage to see 5% of the Con, and the Emerald City Comic Con just keeps growing and growing.  I can’t even imagine what it is going to look like next year, but I think it will be worth taking Friday off work to go spend the full three days and try to fit in as much as possible.

After all, the Emerald City Comicon only comes once a year, and now that it is done for 2012 all we can do is sit and ponder what wonders await us in 2013. 

I will be there.

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