No Reason to Be Afraid: Emerald City Comicon 2011

A column article, Comics Bulletin Soapbox by: Jason Sacks
Every year I approach the Emerald City Comicon in my native Seattle with the oddest sort of trepidation. There's never anything wrong with the convention – it's always extremely well run and friendly. The problem is that every year around convention time I seem to have something frustrating going on in my life. One year I was sick, another year I felt I was about to lose my job (I did end up losing that job, and losing that job was the best thing that ever happened to me), one year I had a sick kid, and one year I received a very frustrating phone call from one of my writers while I was walking the convention floor.

But if just to prove I was insane, I decided to do the same thing again and hope for different results. And to my great surprise, I had a fantastic time at this year's Emerald City Comicon.

Now before I go on, let me say that your mileage may vary. Just because I had a good time means that you needed to, or that you'll have a great time if you go to ECCC next year. But from the buzz I heard from my friends and on the Interwebs, an awful lot of people had great times at ECCC.

The convention, now in its 9th year, seems to be right on the cusp of being too big but falls nicely on the right side of that equation. The con's just the right size for me – it has a huge and vibrant Artist's Alley, some exciting creators attending, a great set of dealers selling diverse content, and a slew of really fun cosplayers, including these two adorable kids who I saw on Sunday!

This was the first year that the convention moved to three days, and the convention Friday had a great feel to it. I was one of the many people who obviously headed down to the convention right after work, and the energetic and excited vibe in the room was contagious. One of my friends who works Artist's Alley, Rebecca Hicks of the wonderful Little Vampires comic, said that she more than made back her booth feel on that Friday – and by the end of Sunday's session, she had nearly run out of everything that she had to sell.

I heard this from other professionals as well. Sketches and sketchbooks were selling in a frenzy, comics were sold out, and money seemed to be made by the creative people. Lots of vendors and professionals returned home with much lighter loads than they came with.

I heard a slightly more mixed report from the dealers. The dealers' tables seemed to clear much less quickly than the professionals' tables. Perhaps this was due to peoples' changing priorities or the ubiquity of back issue collections. One of my dealer friends, Steve, told me that he thought many people showed up to the convention for "the convention experience" and not to buy books. He felt that back issue sales were down compared to previous years and previous conventions – an assertion that seems logical but maybe was also due in part by the relatively high prices that some of the dealers were asking. Though I was really delighted to finally find copy of the notorious Amazing World of DC Comics #9, the famous Legion of Super-Heroes issue, in perfect mint condition.

There were many stars at the show, but thankfully none of them caused the incredibly disruptive line that Stan Lee's presence created last year. William Shatner was the big celebrity guest this year, and he apparently was very nice and gracious to the folks who helped him out. My friend Chris, who shuttled Shatner to and from the airport, reports that Shatner gave him an autographed photo for his hard work. Nice indeed.

Here are some of my favorite moments from the show...
  • Meeting Brian Hurtt of Sixth Gun fame and having a half-hour chat with him about my "Essentialized" collection of his old Hard Time series. That book is one of the prides of my collection, and I had a great time talking with Hurtt about how much I enjoyed the series while he told me some funny behind-the-scenes stories of the book.
  • Sharing drinks with Frank Cho, Nathan Edmondson and others at the Image Comics party. Cho was a super-nice guy – we mostly talked about the struggles he had with buying a foreclosed house extremely cheaply. I know that wasn't the most glamorous conversation, but it was really pleasant to have a real, human conversation with a creator whose work I admire. It's fun to see these creators as regular human beings.
  • Geof Darrow was super chill. He seemed like the calmest, most pleasant and most easy going guy. When I bought one of his giant (2x3 or so) prints, he not only drew a little sketch on the back, he also drew a giant sketch on the back – completely without any prompting from me. (Now how do I frame it??) But here's my better Darrow story: while I was up at his table, this young family comes up to the table, including an adorable little three-year-old. Darrow looks the little girl in the eye and asks, "would you like a donut?" The girl of course nods her happy little head, and her day was made by the very nice man with the funny sketches.
  • Getting to interview Nick Spencer, who seemed completely happy and humble for the fame that's suddenly come his way. It's obvious that Spencer is living the dream that he's wanted to live for a long time, and is glorying in the pleasure of the moment. He may get big one day, but on this day, he was very wonderfully humble.
  • Picking up an autographed Rat City Rollergirls poster for my daughter. She's roller derby crazy, like a lot of people in the Seattle area!
  • Getting to interview a slew of creators. I think Pete Wood might have been my favorite. The artist of Action Comics is clearly having the time of his life working with Paul Cornell on the adventures of Lex Luthor - and his wife is a terrific artist, too.
  • Okay, that girl in the Cthulu mask? I got a mad crush on her!
  • The Dwayne McDuffie panel was a really sweet and wonderful tribute to a man who clearly touched many peoples' lives deeply. I could really feel the affection emanate from the entire panel that was discussing his career, which of course makes his passing even more bittersweet.
  • And of course getting to hang out with my friends - Charles, Laura, Chris, Zack, Becky, Nic and Nick and the guys from MTV Geek. This was a great con for socializing, and I had a great time.
This year was kind of a transitional year for the ECCC but I hope it keeps its warm and friendly feel. One thing I heard over and over again was how well-organized the convention was, and how much people were looking forward to attending again next year.

I'm looking forward to attending it again next year, if only to see if my streak of good times at the con can continue.

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