Another year has come and gone and with it the Emerald City Comicon, quite possibly Seattle, Washington’s second-largest attended convention after PAX (Penny Arcade Expo). This year an estimated 70,000 people from all parts of the Pacific Northwest and beyond attended the event that seems to be the highlight of the year for most seasoned con attendees, artists, writers, and exhibitors. Why? Because Emerald City Comicon continually embraces every aspect of fandom while emphasizing the relationship between fans and creators above all else.
Of course that’s just one Washingtonian’s biased opinion. I don’t have the monies to attend all of the big conventions around the country, and even the world, but it always appears that ECCC is a favorite of the comic book industry and the media. I think there are a few reasons for this: One, ECCC creates a safe environment where geeks and nerds can dive straight into their fandoms. Two, fans get quality face-time with artists and writers through panels and signings. Three, a sense of community, whether it’s via the umbrella of the con or specific fan communities, is highly encouraged. Four, corporatization is as far removed from the con as it can get. Five, there’s probably something in the coffee and doughnuts. Okay, that last one might not be true, but I at least stand by the first four.
Most of those reasons tend to overlap with each other. Emerald City Comicon has grown exponentially within the last few years; so much so that, this year, the Washington State Convention Center had to move outside of the main building in order to accommodate the growing fanbases, moving the gaming exhibition to the Seattle Sheraton’s Metropolitan Ballroom, just a quick walk down the block, in order to make a big enough space for people to game, interact, demo, and learn without feeling like an afterthought. By giving the gaming section its own specific space, smaller areas of the convention center could then be devoted to exhibits like the Winter is Coming Gallery exhibiting works of art inspired by or based on George R.R. Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire series, Brick Nation, a display of Lego artistry, and plenty of child-friendly activities in the ECCC Kids! area. After hours, the convention center kept the doors open until midnight for late-night gaming sessions.
Surrounding the con were several parties and fan events that emphasized the communal aspect of geek and nerd culture that need more exposure, rather than the growing amounts of nerd rage we see on the internet. The Carol Corps and the newly formed Kamala Korps were in top form organizing the Carol Corps Celebration at the Museum of Flight where ticket holders could mingle with Kelly Sue DeConnick, G. Willow Wilson, and Christopher Sabela, as well as many other special guests while viewing the museum’s vast collection of aeronautical history that would make even Carol Danvers squee with delight. The newest hit book amongst comic readers, Rat Queens, had its own Social Club at the Raygun Lounge where fans of the comic gathered to show their love for Kurtis J. Wiebe and Roc Upchurch’s all-female, RPG-inspired sensation and raise money for the Gay City Health Project. There were several screenings of classic films at the Cinerama with the media guests settling in for a little Q&A, two shows featuring the combined powers of The Thrilling Adventure Hour and Welcome to Night Vale, and, like any good convention, costume contests and musical showcases. Like I said, Emerald City Comicon provides a space that allows fans and creators to interact.
In addition, there were plenty of panels throughout the con. I must confess, I wasn’t able to get to many panels this year, but from the program schedule, ECCC offered quite the variety of panels for industry experts and novices while giving greater attention to issues of gender, race, and sexuality, the changing state of comic books, video games, and nerd culture, as well as spotlight series for influential creators and media guests. It’s about as balanced as you can get for a growing convention that could easily push into emphasizing media above all else. What continues to strike me whenever I attend ECCC is how non-corporate it feels. Don’t get me wrong, I know money’s going into the convention and food prices rise when massive amounts of people show up, but when you’re walking the floor and visiting the gaming section you never feel the presence of corporatization looming over. It’s less of a schmooze-fest and more of a big damn party where fun and friendship are the main goals.
So, you might ask, what exactly did I do while at ECCC? Honestly, I walked the floor. For three whole days, and I mean WHOLE days, I wandered around the convention center, walking down every aisle, looking at every exhibitor, and it still feels like I missed something. It’s one of the things I like about geek-oriented conventions in general, the discovery process. I have my fandoms, but being at a convention exposes you to all of the fandoms, opening up new avenues and experiences. There’s also all of the bits and baubles for sale that draw the eye or that t-shirt that just screams, “Buy Me!” My favorite part, however, was getting to meet or reconnect with many of the writers and artists whose books I’ve reviewed for Word of the Nerd. This is, above all else, why I go to ECCC. It’s one thing to read comics, review them, and occasionally interact with the creators on Twitter or Facebook; going to the convention allows me to meet the people whose work I admire and gush all over them with reckless abandon. The nerves never go away, but as over the moon as I am towards people like Gail Simone, Kelly Sue DeConnick, Matt Fraction, Kurtis J. Wiebe, Roc Upchurch, Tyler Jenkins, Kyle Higgins, Joshua Williamson, Chip Zdarsky, Jim Zub, Andy Suriano, Jock, and the cast of The Thrilling Adventure Hour, they were all just as humble and courteous. There’s always a level of indulgence on both ends of fan and creator interaction, but there’s also genuine love and admiration. Most creators I talk to often express how surprised they are at the amount of people who read and enjoy their work, so it’s as much of an experience for them as it is for the fans. We’re their barometer and they’re our outlet for escapism.
So that was my experience at Emerald City Comicon this year. Granted, it’s not as detail-oriented as last year’s but I figure a laundry list of things I did isn’t all that exciting. I can tell you with great certainty, however, to be on the lookout for future podcasts where we’ll hopefully be talking to some of the fine people I met at the convention. So, stay tuned and hopefully I’ll see some of you at ECCC 2015.
And here are some more photos from the convention!