If you are a comics fan anywhere in the world, the pull of the major US con circuit becomes something of a mystical entity. Particularly if you live in Australia, where there are effectively two major cons in Supanova and Oz Comic-Con, and a smattering of other regional cons and fairs. As wonderful as they are, time and distance means that some of the creators that regularly appear at US cons simply can’t make it all the way to our shores. So having been in the wonderful Portland, Oregon for a work conference, I took the opportunity to explore some more of the Pacific North West and pop up to Seattle for the first time to visit the EMERALD CITY COMICON (ECCC) for the first time.
The first thing that struck me about ECCC was the sheer size of it. This is perhaps unsurprising for a major con on the west coast of the United States, but coming from a place where most cons spill onto a second floor if they’re lucky, the staggering six floors of both the Washington State Convention Center and adjoining Sheraton Hotel initially takes one’s breath away. Naturally, I arrived on the Saturday morning where the event was gearing up for “peak con”.
ECCC was the first time in a few years that I’d attended a convention purely as a punter, rather than a member of the accredited media intending to interview and take photos. Snaking my way through the throbbing masses, it was actually quite impressive how crowds were managed, given that they reportedly topped their 70,000 figure from last year. The main hall for entry was about the longest line you were likely to be in all day (short of wanting to meet Kelly Sue DeConnick or Matt Fraction), which provided access to the main show floor. There were separate levels for the forums and panels, which admittedly was counter-intuitive to find initially, but became second nature by the middle of the first day.
At most Australian cons, with a few exceptions, you can expect only a handful of international comic creators, with the focus understandably being on the crowd-pulling international celebrities we wouldn’t otherwise get a chance to meet. For this weary travelling, meeting the likes of Gail Simone, Neal Adams, Geof Darrow, Rick Remender, Wes Craig, Terry and Rachel Dodson, Cullen Bunn, Ryan Ferrier, Paul Allor and more over the course of a couple of days. Personal hero Mike Grell (if you couldn’t tell from the 7-part History of Green Arrow I penned) was kind enough to chat with me for over half-an-hour as he sketched a magnificent Longbow Hunters era Green Arrow for me. There was a perfectly unreal moment a few years ago at Supanova where I found myself sitting between Chris Claremont and George Perez as I interviewed the former, and it struck me just how accessible comics creators are as compared with the film and TV talent. The same is true at ECCC, except Artists’ Alley is a misnomer: it’s several floors worth of artists, writers, craftspeople and vendors in a geeky pot pourri.
The panels were actually the best way to see the majority of these people for any length of time, including a few who didn’t appear on the floor much. The very first thing I attended was the amazing collection of humans known as writer Chuck Palahniuk,artists David Mack, Dave Stewart and Cameron Stewart and editor-in-chief Scott Allie at a panel promoting Fight Club 2. A chance encounter with Lady Anastasia (aka Communatrix, aka H.P. Loveshaft) while waiting to see Mike Mignola’s panel hipped me to the fine folks at the Incredible Girl webseries and their Geeks and Kinks panel they’d just run on “the correlation between loving sci-fi and fantasy and loving BDSM and other alternative sexualities.” Right on.
Seattle’s a terrific town to visit as well, with the 40-year-old Zanadu Comics down on 3rd Avenue, a mere 10 minutes walk away from the Convention Center. Was also incredibly lucky to get to go to the EMP Museum up near the Space Needle, which had a Star Wars costume exhibit on, along with exhibits on Nirvana, horror movies, fantasy and a permanent sci-fi collection.
Would I return to ECCC for future cons? In a heartbeat. As big as it was, there were plenty of opportunities to actually meet with the creators, and engage with new and existing content. Next time it would be lovely to be there as media too, for a different kind of experience. As a fan of comics, ECCC was the ‘con I’ve always wanted to attend. Would be a regular visit – if only it wasn’t quite so far away.
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