When it comes to cons in the U.S there are the obvious giants—San Diego and New York City. Unarguably these two feel like the Mecca and the capital of geekdom: major announcements about movies and TV, high concentration of star power, etc. Third on the podium in terms of attendance is Emerald City Comicon in Seattle. And as the attendance of these super-powered conventions grows every year, con culture is on the rise everywhere. From Denver to Chicago to Phoenix a lot of them are called COMIC cons. But are they still truly about comics?
Big conventions are a buffet. And to fully embrace the analogy, let me “render onto Caesar the things that are Caesar’s,” as I stole the image straight from Dave Accampo’s post about big conventions. And all big conventions offer an amazing way to unite the tribes of fandom to form a geek nation. Whatever your happy place, you will find it at a big con and that is amazing. And along these lines there is a lot to like at Emerald City: famous TV and movie stars—including in this last edition Clark Gregg, Stan Lee, Jewel Staite and Gina Torres; Dungeons & Dragons room and other gaming promise lands, panels about building a career in Geek culture, costume contest and cosplay stars… You name it, it’s there.
The reason why I love ECCC so much is that to me it feels like a giant comic show! The sheer size of the artist alley alone is nothing short of amazing. With names like Kelly Sue DeConnick, Kieron Gillen, Jeff Lemire, Mike Mignola, Charles Soule, Jamie McKelvie, Gail Simone, Babs Tarr… I’m not going to make an exhaustive list, but you get the idea! A lot of the exhibitors are artists selling their art and comics. There is still your occasional tower of tee-shirts, but the organizers manage to make this show feel like a comic convention before anything. The signing areas of your favorite movie stars, the panel rooms, and the photo booths are all on different floors, and if like me you would rather spend your days ignoring these parts of the con you can! The space dedicated to comics is not a dark hall at the end of a corridor. It is the main floor of the convention center and it even includes a sky bridge with actual and real natural light. I spent almost three full days on that level without paying much attention to anything else.
The show includes so many of these people who make a great name for comics in general. If you have never met Kelly Sue DeConnick, don’t be afraid to if you ever get the chance. She is amazing, and will treat you like the most important person in the world for the few minutes you will get to interact with her. And when we mention people making a good name for comics, Matt Fraction is also a wonderful example. Just one anecdote— At some point on Friday (first day of the show) an exhibitor friend of mine and I went to the DeFraction table to talk to someone who was volunteering there. My friend had crossed almost the entire continent but was separated from her baggage in the process. She was therefore at the show with nothing to sell and no clothes other than the ones she had traveled with. In short she was not having a good day. She was explaining the situation when Matt Fraction reached in a box behind him and just put a book (The Big Hard Sex Criminals Hardcover) in my friend’s hands while continuing to interact with the fan he was signing a book for. He gave it to her because she was having a bad day. This was just what she needed to feel like her day and her con weekend was turning around. Just in case any of you doubted that the DeFraction family is one of the best things in comics.
Emerald City is one of my favorite cons because it feels like everybody, on either side of the table, seems happy to be there. It is of course a big con, with its crowd and its lines to get into panels, but it does more than paying homage to comics. It makes comics the heart of the entire convention.