When I got the opportunity to attend the Seattle-based Emerald City Comic Con this year, I was mildly trepidatious. In terms of the big comic conventions across this country, ECCC is one of the larger cons, being right below the giants of SDCC and NYCC, but still large in scale like C2E2. Having this be the first con I covered as a member of PCU (as well as first convention in the Northwest), I wanted to take in as much of the con in as possible, and a con of this scale can make that difficult. As soon as I walked in the door on Friday, any nervous impulse I had went away, and the convention placed itself as one of the most inviting and pleasant experiences I’ve had at a con.
Firstly, the Washington State Convention Center is an absolute monolith of a building, and the convention took up numerous floors. While this might seem like a detriment in terms of getting around, this had the opposite effect, as even hugely dense areas flowed at a fairly quick pace, and there was little getting stuck in the aisles. Also, this space allowed all the aspects of pop culture covered within the convention to get their own space, with games having a full room to breathe, and publisher booths and some retailers spread out among two large rooms spanned by a sky bridge. Depending on your passions represented, everything was nicely organized for the optimum experience.
The big kicker for me was that artist alley took up the entire top floor, becoming a mini convention in itself. As someone that goes to conventions to meet and see as many creators as possible, this was perfect. Even as lines were occasionally large, the breadth of space allowed traffic to continue to flow smoothly. Also, as will be touched upon later, if you wanted to chat to any of the creators, the spacial environment presented accommodated that.
The only knock I could place on the floor plan was the panel situation, as they were fairly all over the place. In fairness, this is absolutely not a problem on the part of the convention organizers, as panel rooms are merely laid out this way in the building architecture. This is fairly nit picky, though, and there was no sense of losing enjoyment from it.
As I said before, the floor plan nicely spaced out each niche market, which was not only a smart move in terms of floor plan, but also in content cultivation. There’s no doubt that whether you were there for panels or just to hang out amongst comic creators, there was a huge amount of stuff to do, easily filling out at least 3 days of “conventioning”. Also each publisher’s universe or world was represented well in terms of panels and signings, with convention organizers spacing these out appropriately throughout the weekend. While the retail (comics) section wasn’t all that large, it was very quickly apparent that this wasn’t really a “buyer’s” convention, so it never really felt like we fans were being short shrifted.
Since I am not personally all too involved in the cosplay world (not for any reason of negativity, I greatly admire those that participate), it was hard to gauge exactly how this convention covered that. From just walking around, I saw a decent amount of great cosplay and pictures from all over the weekend tend to show that it was a good crowd.
This was the real sell for me. I have been to other conventions that have done the above two categories well, but few have matched the level of positive atmosphere that this convention did. In many ways, heavily populated conventions can be stressful, especially if you have any modicum of anxiety, but the overall feel of ECCC allowed everyone’s passion to flourish. Even with massive crowds, there was rarely a time where the floor felt tense in any way. The publishers and retailers there were incredibly welcoming, and in many cases, appeared to be much more interested in either chatting to you about some books or products rather than trying to push anything on you.
In addition, the artist alley floor of the con fostered a feeling of commonality amongst creators and fans, even with big names like Dan Slott and Scott Snyder. While there were occasionally long lines for big name people like the two previously listed and the Milkfed Criminal Masterminds crew (Kelly Sue Deconnick and Matt Fraction are the big name creators there), you always had a chance to either just get a signature or briefly have a conversation with them. In terms of specific examples for me, I got a chance to chat with Ma’at Crook about her work, who is doing excellent and important work on some self care comics that are very important in the current social climate. The near overwhelming guest list became very accessible as it was very apparent that all involved were there for a much more casual feel rather than the formal monoliths like an NYCC. If there were ever huge crowds/lines, or any needed guidance, the convention staff were very helpful (at least in my experience) and very pleasant to interact with as well.
In retrospect, Emerald City was the perfect convention if you are a comics fan looking for a convention that’s incredibly comics-centric. It was a perfect encapsulation of creators and publishers from large to small, all being inviting to all fans. From the perspective of a comics fan, you cannot get better than this. The folks at ReedPOP who put this together should pat themselves on the back.