Conventions are springing up all over the place. Some are cash grabs, some offer unique fan experiences, and some have become so large and unwieldy it’s a wonder that anything is accomplished. And then there’s Emerald City Comicon (ECCC). Set against the backdrop of the Pacific Northwest, it manages its behemoth size deftly, feeling both intimate and grand.
Upon entering the convention, I was greeted with a large sign that simply read “Cosplay is Not Consent”. Even though I was clad in a simple shirt and faux leather pants, that declaration immediately set me at ease. When a convention boldly states something like that at the entrance it sets a tone; you are welcome and you will be safe.
I headed up to the 6th floor to Artist Alley and found another unique situation. Most large conventions have an exhibitors hall with the high-ranking talent signing or doing meet-and-greets at the publisher’s booth. According to Steven T. Seagle (Camp Midnight, Big Hero 6), ECCC asks that its guests also table in Artist Alley allowing you to talk with big names like Matt Fraction right along with indie publishers. And it’s not just about signing and selling. Everyone I met was more than happy to talk about everything from comics to their favorite TV shows. And while you might have to pay big bucks to get autographs or photo ops with big names, most creators were happy to sign stacks of comics and a few asked if you’d donate to their favorite charity, if possible.
As well as the casual camaraderie between creators and fans, ECCC fosters that feeling throughout the entire convention hall. Fan to fan, creator to creator, people are polite and interested in talking to each other.
For creators, it’s a class reunion; a chance to see people who you mainly interact with via email or Skype. For fans, it helps that lines aren’t overly long (once you get off the escalators) and in the ones that are, people are eager to say hello and find out what you’re interested in. There’s plenty of time to see everything and you can get on line for most panels about 30 minutes ahead of time.
Maybe it’s because it’s my first trip to Seattle or maybe it’s the fact that I got Girl Scout cookies outside of the convention hall, but ECCC has been the kind of experience you want.
Conventions ideally are about interaction and learning what makes the creative people behind your favorite comics tick. And ECCC offers that in spades.