The Emerald City Comiccon is probably the US’ most underrated convention–but it’s word of mouth spreads. Although Seattle is not known for it’s graphic novel-friendliness, it has an impressive history in the field. Seattle sports one of the country’s longest running comic shops (Golden Age Collectables in The Pike Place Market), it also has several great shops that have been around for over 20 years (Zanadu and The Comics Dungeon). The Emerald City is also the birthplace of both Fantagraphics and Batman/HEROES’ artist Tim Sale. It’s also the home of SABLE/WARLORD creator Mike Grell. Seattle even has it’s own real-life superhero, Phoenix Jones, a local man who dresses as a masked hero and has actually prevented several crimes.
A perfect example of this comic friendliness was on display from March 4th to the 6th, with The Emerald City Comicon at the bustling Washington State Convention Center. What started out as two kids in Batman costumes at a card table in The Seattle Center now seems poised to give the West Coast’s other big Spring convention, Wondercon, a run for it’s money.
The Emerald City Comic Con is the perfect setting, as Seattle itself looks like it came out of a comic book. With a city of neon, gleaming spires, monorails, skyscrapers and impressive architectural oddities like The Pike Place Market and The Hammering Man, it’s not a stretch to imagine you’re walking through Metropolis, with this dreamlike design. The whole place smells like wet leaves and hot coffee. The town has also taken to the con even more readily than San Diego to the Comic Con. The street is packed with costumed characters. Seeing Batgirl in Starbucks or Superman eating at Tulio’s is surreal. What’s also funny is no matter what character they came dressed as, Poison Ivy, Supergirl or even one of Spider-Man’s more obscure enemies, The Rhino–they all had that wonderful pale skin that one can only get in the sunless Pacific Northwest. The costumes are uniformly clever–Seattle may be the only place in the world where you find two Velma Dinkleys!
Phoenix Jones showed up in mask and costume with his own group of Seattle Superfriends, which he called The Rain City Superhero movement, including a girl with blue hair and a guy wearing Kevlar. A kid in an impressively damaged V FOR VENDETTA mask and Rorschach hat who called himself ‘Murder’ told Jones’ “I have found my calling–I want to join you guys!” “Okay, but only when you’re old enough,” Phoenix Jones cautioned.
The convention itself is one of the most fan-friendly events I have ever seen. Topnotch comic creators like Brian Michael Bendis, Bruce Timm, Dan Jurgens and media guests like Felicia Day and BUFFY THE VAMPIRE SLAYER’s Claire Kramer all spent time meeting the crowd. William Shatner memorably spoke (Telling the crowd “Ask me anything”. When a female fan asked for a hug, he curtly said “No–and if that’s your question, give the microphone to somebody else and sit down!” Gotta love The Shat.) There were even live bands, including Seattle’s terrifically titled KIRBY CRACKLE. after the sizzling energy beams that Jack Kirby used in everything he drew.
“It’s a great convention to meet the people who read your stuff or for people to be introduced to your stuff,” says Mark Rahner, creator of Moonstone Comics’ cowboys v.s. corpses book, ROTTEN. “The con allows you to see old friends and spread the word on your own book.”
Joe Parrington, ECCC’s cheerful PR Director (and a dead ringer for the actor John Cusack), says that “2011 was the ninth year of Emerald City Comicon and we eagerly anticipate our 10th anniversary in 2012. Our first show in 2002 resulted in 2000 attendees. By comparison, 2010 saw 20,000. Our 2011 show broke all previous records by giving us 30,000 attendees. It’s never really exploded, rather, it just keeps growing significantly each year.
“Going from two days to three in 2011 was very satisfying,” he states. “The fans demanded it and the show proved that it was ready to take that step due to the continued success and growth each year. It’s always a risk to expand a show, but our leap of faith proved to be a smart move.”
The ECCC has increased attendance by thousands every year. Why? “I think our show is popular for two reasons,” Parrington explains. “First, and foremost, (ECCC Convention Director) Jim Demonakos and his brother George are incredibly smart businessmen. They have an understanding of what makes a venture work while at the same time they are grounded as people, coupled by being two fans of comics and pop culture themselves. In order for something like Emerald City Comicon to be successful, it needs the bosses to be folks that understand what fandom is all about. Over the last decade, they have made very clear decisions, looking at the whole picture as much as possible.
“Because of this, the end result is a product that fans have really embraced. The other primary reason is that it fills a big need in the Northwest. TV ratings over the years have shown that some of the biggest ratings for sci-fi / fantasy shows come from viewers in the Northwest. Likewise, comics are a huge industry in our area. Marrying the worlds of pop culture and comics into one show was a brilliant move because we have a massive built in audience living here, and the record breaking numbers each year prove this to be true.”
The 10th anniversary ECCC is March 30-April 1st. 2012. More details can be found at EmeraldCityComicCon.com
Article and photos by Pat Jankiewicz