I went to Emerald City Comic Con this past weekend for Saturday only. It was the first convention in, count ‘um, nineteen conventions, where I wasn’t behind a table. The last convention I attended without a table was MomoCon 2008 — apparently four years ago! o_o To be sure, I would have been tabling if I had known about it sooner, but I didn’t know I’d be local for the con until September, and tables had been sold out a while by then.
Not that I’m complaining. It was really refreshing being able to attend a con as just an attendee again, if still ridiculously exhausting.
I guess this was also my first time as a normal attendee at a comic con (as opposed to an anime con). One of the things that kind of surprised me was the relatively short hours. ECCC’s Saturday hours were from 10am to 7pm — just nine hours. The sun wouldn’t even be down when the show closed! Meanwhile, many anime cons run twenty-four hours over the course of the weekend, with mostly-video and gaming programming running late into the night. I mean, ECCC had plenty of after-hours, unofficial happenings, mostly at local bars, but those don’t really count. This basically highlights the difference in demographics, I guess. Anime cons = high school and college kids partying it up with minimal supervision. Comic cons = fans and professionals of a wider age range, 20’s-60’s and beyond, coming together to geek out, make connections, and… buy a ton of things.
This report is just shy of 5,000 words long.
So Saturday morning, I took a 9:30 bus downtown. It was drizzly and windy, but not too unpleasant a spring morning. It was only about three blocks from the bus stop to the convention center anyway. There were a pair of Browncoats on the bus; their lanyards gave them away by proclaiming them as such. There weren’t very many people in costumes on the streets, but con-goers always have a way of being obvious, plain clothes or not. I mean, after all, plain clothes is what, an Avengers shirt? A Batman baseball cap? An arrow to the knee? Gratuitous zombie make-up? And apparently ECCC was giving away these bright green bandanas with every badge, so there were a ton of those to be seen.
The main floor of the con was on the fourth floor, so it was quite a ways to get to registration from the lobby of the Washington State Convention Center. The staff were pretty good about directing traffic, though signage was pretty poor on the lower floors. I think part of this was because it was still the beginning of the day?
Registration was in a large vestibule area with about a dozen volunteers processing lines split into cash, credit, and pre-reg. Of course, the latter was the longest line — more than double the length of the other two combined. But while things were busy, the crowd was calm, and the lines moved very fast. Can’t speak for later in the day, but it seemed to me that the con had a good handle on things that morning. After registration, there was a large open area (the skybridge) where a ton of people were taking cosplay photos, and beyond that was the main exhibition hall, which opened right at TopatoCo‘s large Artist Alley presence.
And so, within ten minutes of getting my badge at ECCC, I’d already dropped a significant portion of my budget on Wondermark books. It was an accident. ._.
But man, it is so much harder to resist pretty books when they’re standing so nicely stacked in front of you. Online, you browse through the stores and look at the price and go, “I don’t need to be spending that much money right now,” but when you’re standing in front of the table, it’s like “Hey, I have this amount in my wallet right now. I could buy this and own it, right now. No delays! No shipping! I can get it signed! INSTANT GRATIFICATION. Goddammit all.” I actually had to resist buying everything on the table because all of it was good stuff, man. And it was presented so well.
David Maiki ! was a really nice guy, too! Prior to making my purchases, I chatted with him briefly about working on the comic, how he amassed his picture archive, what percentage of each comic he drew himself, and stuff like that. I also requested that the one-fifth starhorse make another appearance in the future, because that was an awesome little storyline. :3
After that, I stumbled upon Tiny Kitten Teeth‘s table. I didn’t even know they were going to be there. :o I admit I’ve only skimmed the comic and couldn’t really get into the story, but Becky’s art is still freakin’ gorgeous. :| It’s just so nostalgic and technically sound. And her prints were super nice as well, printed on heavy stock with watercolor paper texture, which made it hard to tell they were prints at all. So I got the Samurai Axolotl. Because axolotls. U_U
In case you could not already guess, most of my time at the convention was spent talking to artists and buying things (often that I did not intend to buy, dangit). I might have mentioned that the creators of at least half the webcomics I read and revere were there, many of which I do not yet own things by, so it was really hard to resist. It’s funny that conventions are things that you spend money to go to and most of what you get is the privilege of spending more money. There were other things to do of course — panels and gaming and such, but mostly, these aren’t things I’m nearly as interested in.
I picked up an adorable Doctor Who magnet and a raven button from the Gorgonist, then ran into fellow SCAD grad, Ian Jay, who was tabling with his friend Rochelle. Ian draws some pretty super comics and recently funded and printed a huge collection of his comics from the last several years, so I picked that up! We talked a little about the ill-fated SCAD Sequential anthology, the last edition of which we both contributed to, other conventions, and book printers. I really need to start writing these sorts of things down though, lol. I think I talked about book printers with a dozen different artists and for some reason thought I could remember them all in my head, along with all the day’s events. HA. Self-publishing research: failed.
Artist Alley was laid out mostly in islands, though there were also tables along the left and far walls. To the right (from the main entrance), the Alley eventually hits the Exhibitors’ Booths, though there’s no real distinction between the two spaces since everything is in one giant room together. It might have been obvious when one section crossed over to the other because the exhibitors’ booths had huge, often towering, displays, but while most artists had relatively modest displays, there were at least a handful that went the extra mile. In particular, Girl Genius‘s booth really stood out. It encompassed an entire half island. o_o
It is interesting to note that because most artists at ECCC were promoting and selling their own comics, most tables looked like this: simple book stands with books on them. I know, right? At anime cons, the trend is to build taller. PVC and wire grid cube displays allow artists to display dozens of prints, making their tables little caves with artwork plastered all over the exterior. Apparently, most comic artists don’t carry a lot of prints. Some did, sure, but even then, selections were small. A few would have portfolios to show off their original pages, but mostly it was their books, and that’s all they needed.
ECCC’s Artist Alley did not only feature comic artists though. There were a good number of character designers, animators, illustrators, jewelers, and even a couple of musicians. Even so, for almost everyone with a PVC/grid cube display, you can tell that they hit anime conventions primarily, haha. The designers, animators, and illustrators mostly had artbooks and sketchbooks featuring their work; a few of them had a small selection of prints. In fact, one illustrator (who did not have a business card :|) had a grand total of three 11×17 poster-prints available at his table. That was it. They were really gorgeous pieces of art though. I chatted with him a while — if I recall correctly, it was his first con selling, and he was doing pretty well!
I wasn’t making my way through the Alley with in any particular path in mind. In fact, I didn’t even look at my con program/map until hours later. There were a ton of people I was familiar with in the area nearest to the entrance though, so I think I probably spent the first two hours just there. x_x Jhonen Vasquez made an appearance at the TopatoCo block around 11:30am. Invader ZIM and Johnny the Homicidal Maniac remain some of my favorite things, but I had completely forgotten to bring my crusty old single issues of JtHM. I would have been okay with re-buying issue #1 to get signed since they didn’t have the compilation book for sale, but I wasn’t particularly interested in spending an hour in line, and one about a mile long formed as soon as the dude sat down. U_U
I did, however, remember to bring in the two volumes of Johnny Wander that I already own! Yuko and Ananth’s table was pretty crowded the first couple of times I wandered by, but I eventually came around when they weren’t being mobbed. :3
And then I found Kel McDonald (also a SCAD grad; I don’t know why I feel compelled to point all of them out), picked up a copy of As We Were+Strange Someone, and talked to her about… book printers! None of which I remember now! Kel was tabling next to Evan Dahm. I already own a signed copy of Rice Boy, but it was my first time seeing him at a con, so I said hello anyway! I am getting better at this talking to other artists thing. *_* He had a few short issues of Vattu, but I will probably pick up something up once it’s far enough along for a full book.
Also found Cari Corene (blix-it, SCADDIE), whom I met formally and hung out with at San Japan last year, chatted a while about… I dunno. Prints or something?? Sakura-Con? (She’s going, so I’ll see her again next week.) My random move to Seattle? And then she gave me a muffin! (This might have been the only food I ate at the entire convention, oops.) It was really, really nice being able to talk with Cari at length since previously, we were both chained to our tables, but this time, only one of us was! I’m pretty sure I talk to artists a lot more online because we’re always so busy and/or exhausted at conventions themselves. Eventually wandered away when she got hit with a wave of customers, but what can ya do. ;3
Had a similar run-in with Kevin, whom I saw a lot on the Texas con circuit, but he does cons all over the place, so I wasn’t surprised to see him there even if he was surprised to see me, haha. This surprised me though: Kevin recently got into Doctor Who and Sherlock, so we got to geek out over that. He isn’t going to be at Sakura-Con next week as he’ll be at Anime Boston instead (hello, there are six anime cons going on next weekend; what is this madness). Apparently one year, he and his girlfriend did an experiment to see whether Sakura-Con or Anime Boston was the more profitable show and AB won out. :O They’re similar-sized and similarly-run, as far as I know, so this is interesting information.
I was not expecting to see Enfu at ECCC, but there he was! For once, this was an artist I discovered in the meatspace instead of on the Internet. A shore in Chinatown selling Japanese decorative goods carries some of his prints, and I was pretty tempted when I encountered them the first time. Cross-heritage oddities is something I can identify with, after all. I picked up this awesome print.
Though I hadn’t completed a full round in the Artist Alley, I crossed over into the exhibitors’ area at some point. Most of the booths in this area didn’t really interest me. Most of them were huge publisher booths promoting various properties I didn’t read and wasn’t enticed by. I know there were portfolio reviews going on somewhere, but I’ve more or less settled on the idea of self-publishing and was indifferent. There were a lot of merchandise vendors; rows and rows of longboxes occupied some booths, while others had racks of shirts, hats, hoodies, action figures, plushies, and the like. A couple of anime vendors had the standard stock of dakimakura, artbooks, blind boxes, as well as old DVDs and manga. Was surprised to see some fanart poster-prints of Bleedman‘s work at one booth, but didn’t look much into it. I don’t think they were there without his permission, anyway.
Then I ran across Sofawolf Press‘s booth! Had a very nice time chatting with the Sofawolf staff dude there about selling at a con with a rather different crowd. It was nice to hear that things were going well for them, even though a lot of folks at the show weren’t really interested. Also got to talk a few minutes with Kyell Gold about writing and editing. It kind of blows my mind that he writes most of his novels in a year or so. Few writers have that kind of focus, I think. Ended up buying some (too many) things I’d put off before, including Nordguard #1, and what do you know, half of Blotch (Tess) showed back up just in time to sign it for me. :D Wandered back to the Artist Alley shortly after.
Bruce Timm (artist, co-creator, producer of Batman: The Animated Series, etc) had a table in the Alley, but he wasn’t there at all that I saw all morning. I’d brought my trade compilation of various Harley and Ivy comics that DC had published, including one by Timm. Not gonna lie, I circled back a lot to check if he was there, lol.
I didn’t know most of the artists nearer to the back of the room, but I ended up having conversations with a number of them anyway and it was a good time all around~.
By early afternoon, the show floor was getting oppressively crowded. The place was already pretty difficult to navigate because of its sheer size, but with a few thousand other people hanging out, it took a very long time to get from one end of the hall to the other, no matter which way you were going, or trying to go.
It was just as well though, because one of the few panels I did kind of want to check out, the Batman: The Animated Series 20th Anniversary panel, was at 2pm… even if I didn’t remember until a quarter past. The panel room was across the skybridge from the exhibition hall, which meant traversing across the area where various unofficial cosplay photo ops were taking place. Really though, I didn’t see too many super impressive costumes over the course of the day. There were probably a dozen Harley Quinns and twice as many Doctors (Ten and Eleven seemed equally popular; I’m pretty sure I’ve never seen anyone dressed as Nine, anyway, sadly), and a lot of superheroes I don’t know much about. Oh, also lots and lots of Adventure Time people. But it was mostly meh. If the cosplay to normally-dressed person ratio at an anime con is 1:2 (probably an exaggeration, but it sure feels like that sometimes!), then the ratio at ECCC was something like… 1:15, if that.
Discreetly made my way into the Batman: TAS panel room from the back and found a seat in the fourth to last row, lol. It was a huge panel room, so I didn’t have much of a view, but that wasn’t really important anyway. Bruce Timm, Kevin Conroy (voice of Batman), and Tara Strong (voice of Batgirl, though not in B:TAS; voice of Harley in Batman: Arkham City) discussed a variety of topics, most of which were prompted by audience questions. To be honest, it wasn’t a very interesting or terribly informative panel aside from a couple of fun one-liners. Many of the questions were prefaced with proclamations of admiration and appreciation to the panelists, and while this wasn’t a bad thing in itself, some of these proclamations got rather lengthy and ate up a lot of time. <_<
One thing of interest: a fan brought up that DC is planning to make a The Dark Knight Returns movie and wondered if Conroy had been approached about being the voice of Batman. Conroy was unaware there was even such a thing in the works and responded with mock offense. It’s kind of sad, I guess, since for me, like many others, Conroy is the de facto voice of Batman in my head, but Conroy wasn’t cast for his most famous role in last year’s animated Batman: Year One either. As an aside, Conroy’s normal speaking voice sounds pretty similar to his Bruce Wayne and I think this is hilarious.
Another thing of interest: Bruce Timm talked a little about the creation of Harley Quinn and how she was never meant to be more than a one-shot, walk-on character, but the writers liked her and ended up putting her in virtually every Joker episode. Tara Strong also talked a bit about taking up the role of Harley in Arkham City and how she worked to find a medium between channeling Arleen Sorkin (Harley in B:TAS) and adding her own spin.
The panel ended at three, and I made my way back to the Artist Alley… to hover around Bruce Timm’s table because now there was a con volunteer there with a “this is the end of the line” sign, which surely meant that the guy was going to show up to sign random things thrust at him by fans, right?! The middle of AA is a pretty inconvenient place for a signing though, and while Timm’s presence at the con was relatively downplayed and not too many people were there, lines forming in the Alley = blocking other people’s tables = bad. So the poor volunteer kept telling people to disperse and to line up when the man was actually there.
So I wander through the Alley some more and kept finding tables I hadn’t stopped at before.
Like Nate Powell‘s. This whole encounter was kind of surreal, really. x_x There was no one else browsing at his table, but he was really friendly without being over-attentive when I approached. I flipped through a couple of his books and really, really liked his inkwork. Strong black and white work with no color or tones is always really impressive to me. And hello, Eisner Award winner I’d never heard of. How did that happen? (Okay, so I don’t really pay as much attention to the Eisners as I could.) We chatted about the tools he uses and the prevalent themes in his books. And then I bought both Swallow Me Whole and Army Empire because I couldn’t decide. This almost never happens. o_o Prints maybe, but I rarely, rarely buy comics or books that I hadn’t read (at least parts of) beforehand or at least know a lot about already. And here, I didn’t even know Nate Powell’s name before stopping at his table. And though I won’t have time to read them until at least after Sakura-Con, I’m still sure that both books I bought are gonna be phenomenal. o_o
Stopped by a lot of other artist tables while checking back to Bruce Timm’s table every so often, but I was getting really, really tired. It was almost four. I had been on my feet for at least six hours, and I was carrying like fifty pounds of books I didn’t mean to buy. :| Artists behind tables wish they had more time to walk around. Attendees in front of tables just want a place to sit down a while. C’EST LA VIE.
I remember suddenly that I still needed to go hunt down Claire Hummel/Shoomlah, who was not in Artist Alley, but somewhere down in the bowels of the Gaming area with her various video game and tabletop brethren. Going from the show floor to Gaming required taking escalators down to the third floor, where the media guests were doing photos, then going down two more escalators. The Gaming area on the ground floor was mostly video game demos and large booths selling tabletop and board games. I couldn’t find escalators to the basement level, so I just took the elevator… which was shockingly empty. A-kon, with 14-15k less people, had lines 15-20 people long to get onto the hotel elevators, but here was ECCC with completely empty ones. (There are lots of reasonable explanations, but still.)
Basement-level Gaming was a whole bunch of tables with tabletop and board game demos in session. It was a very busy area, but not crazy crowded or anything. There were a handful of artists along the far wall, and among them, the elusive Shoomlah~. I got to have a nice conversation with her about conventions and such before buying the set of her Disney princess postcards. I’d asked her if she would be at Sakura-Con next weekend and she said no — Norwescon is the same weekend. She’s interested in doing Sakura, though she isn’t sure if she’d do well with the crowd there. I told her I think she’d do fine. U_U So her stuff isn’t very anime; any fool can tell she’s just good. Besides, she has Doctor Who stuff. That’s all you need to do well anywhere these days. U_U;
Went back upstairs after that, and lo! Look who’s finally at his table! :D :D :D
The line at his table was really quite short and moved really fast, haha. Timm wasn’t really having conversations with people, though it was hard to tell whether that was because people were being pressured to move on quickly, or because the fans in front of me just didn’t have speeches they wanted to give like the fans at the panel. For my part, I was good with just saying, “I really enjoy your work” and “Thanks very much.”
After that… after that, I was really ready to just sit down for a long time, lol. But I made one more sweep of the Alley to find Britney Lee again. I’d stopped by her table earlier in the day, but had a really, really hard time deciding what I wanted because all of her work is amazing, and even more amazing to see up close. Her prints, like Becky Dreistadt’s, were printed on thick, textured, watercolor-like paper, so even though her work is almost exclusively digital, it looked like gouache or something. And so very, very pretty. When I’d been by her table earlier, I saw someone buy one of her original cut paper pieces. It must have been the only one though, because I didn’t see any other cut papers, and understandably, she didn’t have prints of those (photographs could never do them justice).
…I spent the last of my cash at her table and left the convention shortly after at about a quarter to five, haha. NOTHIN’ ELSE TO DO IF I’M DONE SPENDING MONEY. >_> Though really, at that point, I’d already overspent my budget because of people with danged card readers. <_< Mostly I am okay with this though, because my expenditures at ECCC have made up for relatively sparse spending at my last nineteen conventions! Yep. That’s how I’m gonna look at it. U_U I am determined to regret nothing.
ECCC was a blast!
It was great being able to walk around leisurely and talk to as many artists as I wanted without a table to rush back to. It was great being able to finally meet so many of the artists and writers for webcomics I’ve been reading for many years now — though there are actually a few, like Erika Moen (DAR!, Bucko, etc) and Danielle Corsetto (Girls With Slingshots), that I didn’t get to speak to directly because they were always being mobbed by other fans, ahahaha. And of course, it’s always nice to see con friends and old schoolmates — it’s one of the reasons I’m super excited for Otakon this summer. East coast again! Folks I haven’t seen in a few years!
I also really like making continued observations about the differences between anime and comic conventions, particularly where Artist Alley is concerned. I think I probably spend too much time thinking about everything related to Artist Alleys though. If you are (un)fortunate enough to follow both S-girl and I on Twitter, you’ve probably experienced more than one random tweetstorm on the matter. 8D
The convention seemed very well organized for the most part. I never had much of a reason to interact with volunteers or staff, but they had an obvious presence and were easy to spot in the crowd. The convention center staff were also pretty friendly, if obviously overwhelmed in some instances — many of the people checking badges at the entrance seemed to be convention center staff instead of con staff, and on my way out, I saw one dude walk in very quickly without getting his badge checked. The badge-checker called out, but the guy apparently didn’t hear, and the badge-checker kind of exasperatedly gave up and just let the guy go because it was too busy and crowded to bother.
I wonder if compared to ECCC, the convention center staff have an easier or more difficult time with Sakura-Con? They both take place there. More total attendees at ECCC, but many more teens at Sakura-Con. Hmmm.
And yeah, it was nice being able to support artists I’ve long admired by finally buying things. Man. So much buying of things. Look at this crazy pile. It’s good I had the foresight to bring an extra bag. I guess?? >_> Would I have bought less if I hadn’t had a way to carry it?! The world will never know.
I will probably look into getting a table for next year, though I really need to haul ass on drawing more comics, even if they’re just a bunch of oneshots. I have actually produced far, far more art in the last few months than I have in ages, but most of it is sketches. Need to convert some of the output to finished stuff, I guess, though I don’t want (can’t let) the sketchwork to lessen. It’s inspiring to see so many people with their finished products, their bound books, their pages and pages and years and years of work. Gotta do more. Always gotta do more. I still don’t really like working on stuff, but I still really like having stuff done.
Next weekend is Sakura-Con. I will have things in the Art Show, but no table in the Alley. I will be the official table lackey of a friend though, so I will have a place to sit down for breaks (YESSSS). Cari actually suggested that I bring my stuff anyway and see about grabbing a no-show table, but I don’t think that will happen, lol. (Okay, so I actually emailed the AA staff just now and they said they don’t do walk-on claims for no-show tables. XD) Oh well!
tl;dr ECCC WAS PRETTY AWESOME AND I KNOW ALL OF YOU ARE JEALOUS OF MY LOOT. ♥ HERE IS THE FULL GALLERY: