Emerald City Comic Con, which was March 1-3 here in Seattle, took the “biggest show I’ve ever done” title from last year’s Otakon, and was a huge jump up from Comicpalooza, the next biggest comic convention I’ve done. Last year, I went as an attendee for Saturday only and had a fabulous time, but tabling is another story entirely, and I was more than a little apprehensive that this would be my first con of the year.
Comic cons are still outside my comfort genre and demographic! I don’t know very many others going! 60,000 attendees is a lot of freakin’ attendees! Aaaaaaaaa!
This report is 6,704 words long.
A work emergency Thursday morning meant I ended up not sleeping between Wednesday and Thursday before the convention. I managed to take care of issue pretty quickly, but I still had a full afternoon of errands to run on fumes and irritation. ECCC had pretty generous setup hours from noon to 9pm Thursday, so that wasn’t really affected, except that I was just in a really bad mood by then, hahaha. <_< On the up side, Jer had agreed to help me move my stuff to the Washington State Concention Center so I didn’t have to worry about dragging my weight in suitcases onto a bus, etc.
We got there around 5:30pm. The show floor has doubled between this year and last, so it was great that both convention center and ECCC staff were extremely helpful in directing us to where we needed to go, because I was confused the second we got up to the fourth floor. Last year, the south side of the skybridge had consisted of panel rooms and registration. This year, almost all of that was now additional exhibitor space, though registration was still somewhere in there.
I usually study con maps pretty thoroughly, but man, with an area that big, it’s hard to mentally map a 2D blueprint to a 3D space. It didn’t really help that if you came up from the north lobby, huge, looming dealer and industry booths blocked the Artist Alleys on both ends of the map. Once we figured out where it was though, exhibitor check-in was a very painless process, and we were able to find my table easily enough from there.
We started to set up, but I soon realized that I’d forgotten to pack my PVC connectors. I couldn’t even remember where I’d put them last?? IKKiCON was my previous con, but I have a separate set of PVC stashed in Texas so I don’t have to fly them back and forth from Washington. This meant that the last time I used my WA set of PVC and connectors was at Aki Con and that was like five months ago. I had no idea where they were. Bah!
We’d planned to hit up the con-sponsored Drink and Draw that evening, along with others in SICAGA, so going back to my apartment to find the connectors and then re-parking downtown would have been inconvenient and roundabout. We decided to just go get dinner with Jer’s Danish exchange student friend Maria before going to Drink and Draw. But Maria got stranded in Fremont, so we ended up leaving the area anyway to meet her up there for delicious curry and headed back downtown afterwards.
ECCC Drink and Draw
The event took place at the Daily Grill, right across the street from the WSCC, and they had it set up in its own room. I think there were maybe ten tables, each comfortably sitting 6-7 people. Some tables had more than that, but those didn’t leave people a lot of elbow room and made it difficult to actually draw. The room seemed pretty small at first, but I think that was because we showed up right around 7:30-8pm, when it had just gotten started, and a lot of people showed up who didn’t end up staying.
The SICAGA guys that showed up were mostly all at one crowded table. Jer, Maria, and I ended up at another table which included Sara, who runs the Bellevue half of SICAGA, J. James, W.P. Morse, and several others who did not have business cards on them. We, the newcomers at the table, all ordered a round of drinks and proceeded to dig out our sketchbooks and drawing utensils.
I…am really pretty awkward in the meatspace when I’m not sitting behind an Artist Alley table. The Drink and Draw sounded fun to attend, but when I got there, I had no idea what to do, haha. I had to draw to distract myself! But while I don’t have a problem with people watching me draw, I have a big problem with coming up with things to draw while being watched, which usually means I end up drawing what I see in front of me, which is everyone else at the table.
I felt a lot better after I filled a page or two and got through most of my first Long Island Ice Tea.
They had large sheets of paper over the tables, so I drew unicorns and monster wolves on them. We talked about conventions and drawing and business and ponies and other easy go-to subjects for a table full of nerdyass artists. I had more drinks and drew more people and felt progressively more optimistic as the evening progressed, lol.
Yeah, I was pre~tty drunk by the time we left around 11pm, but that’s all the more reason to declare the Drink and Draw a rousing success, I guess? I came, I drank, I drew, I talked to people I otherwise wouldn’t have, and I felt significantly better about facing the weekend when the night was through. (And don’t worry, Jer was an excellent designated driver. <3 I got home fine.)
Despite not sleeping at all Wednesday night and passing out drunk around midnight Thursday, I woke up suddenly and inexplicably at 4:30am with the knowledge of exactly where my stupid PVC connectors were. That was all well and good, but I couldn’t get back to sleep after that and dozed on and off until maybe 7:30am, when I got up and showered. The 9:02 bus downtown failed to arrive completely and the one scheduled after that was about twenty minutes late. The Exhibits Hall didn’t open to the public until 2pm Friday, so I still had plenty of time to take care of everything before go time. Finally got to the convention center around 10:15 and proceeded to set up.
Have I mentioned that Greg Rucka and Gail Simone were among the people across the aisle from me? Or that Joe Casey and Matthew Southworth were directly to my left? ECCC goes out of their way to mix their guests with everyone else, man. Drew Rausch and Aaron Alexovich, who were on my right, were also pretty intimidating to me (though they were both very nice neighbours).
A more familiar sight — though I’d never met her before and I think ECCC was actually her first convention?? — was Amber’s Unicorn Empire a few tables down. I’ve seen her gorgeous, gorgeous lettering work around Tumblr plenty of times and we have fandom in common, so I felt more sure of myself in approaching her to say hi (and to buy a shirt!). Kevin (Yanimator) also had a table on an endcap a few aisles away, but a few aisles is like miiiiiles. Cari (Blix-it) and Amanda (Cinnamoron)’s booth was even further away: all the way across the skybridge on the north end of the floor (and I didn’t even find them until the next day).
(Sorry for the low quality of the photos in this report. My 7-8 year old point and shoot camera finally died recently, and I hadn’t tweaked my phone’s camera to take higher resolution pictures yet for ECCC.)
I was mostly set up by a quarter to noon and so went to the library to get my inventory sheets printed. I’d never actually been to the central branch downtown. The building is really neat looking?? (Actually a lot of buildings downtown are cool…) The upstairs printer was broken and the librarian spent some time trying to figure out the problem before just directing me downstairs, but I wasn’t worried at all about the time, so it was all good. Friday being only a half-day is really nice and relaxing…plenty of time to ease into things. (It’ll be a full day for next year though.) There was a girl scout on the NW corner of 5th and Union selling cookies, so on the way back, I got two boxes of cookies. My first purchases of the con! I wandered around a little bit in south end of the Exhibits Hall (never crossing the skybridge) in the time before opening, but it was mostly to blindly grab business cards.
It was kind of weird because last year, I had a grand ol’ time cruising through tables, looking at everything and buying a ton of books, but now that I was amongst their number, I felt really out of place. A majority ofthe artists on the south end were promoting a book and/or webcomic, including many involved with Benign Kingdom, the Blind Ferret collective, and Topatoco. There were a handful of professional pencilers and inkers, a few plush and print artists (clear anime AA regulars), but for the most part, the south Alley consisted of webcomickers. It’s hard not to feel like you should have a webcomic or something when everyone else does…
People appeared everywhere rather abruptly when the gates opened at 2pm, but there was only a teeming mass at the entrance for a few seconds; after that, it seemed like everyone was suddenly evenly distributed in the aisles. And traffic was casual-to-slow throughout the day.
I was fine all morning, but my tiredness caught up to me really fast once I sat down at the table and had not-very-many people stop to talk and browse. I made a lot of sketch card commission examples and ACEOs and wished every five minutes for coffee in those long afternoon hours, but I honestly remember nothing else about Friday?? There were a few good cosplayers here and there, but not nearly enough to keep me entertained with taking pictures. I think I took fewer cosplay photos at ECCC than at any other con ever? Afterwards, I saw plenty of good cosplay photos by other people at the show, so I guess they just never made it to the Exhibits Hall in costume. Considering how packed it was last year though, I don’t really blame them — it’s rough being in costume in a crowd — but the Exhibits Hall was most definitely not crowded that Friday.
And yet, Emerald City was a sold out show! Weekend badges had sold out a month prior, and Saturday-only badges went not long after. Friday-only badges sold out midway through the afternoon, and I’m pretty sure Sunday-only badges sold out sometime Friday as well? 60,000 people (or whereabouts) is not a bad number to cap attendance at, but I wasn’t feeling those numbers by a long shot. Even when the traffic seemed decent, there weren’t many people actually stopping to browse or chat.
The Exhibits Hall had the same hours as the rest of the show (except for Gaming), and on Friday, we closed at 8pm. I’d fidgeted my way through the last hour, and at closing, I threw a sheet over my table and high-tailed it to the MINTCondition #2 show opening at the Ltd. Art Gallery, which, being an actual local gallery and not technically part of the convention, was across the freeway in Capitol Hill. It really wasn’t that bad of a walk though (there’s a sidewalk that goes over the freeway, those of you who aren’t familiar with the area). It was nice outside. Hey, mid-40’s is pretty nice to me?
MINTCondition #2 opening reception
The gallery opened at 7pm, so I got there about an hour and fifteen minutes late. I really don’t know why I fretted so much about the time though. Gallery openings last hours. Ltd. Art is pretty small, and the place was still plenty packed when I got there. Free booze has a way of luring people in, I suppose.
The show had a general “comics” theme. Most of the pieces featured DC and Marvel characters, with the occasional other thing, like Hellboy or TMNT, but the styles were all over the place, which made it a pretty diverse collection overall. All the ECCC Alley artists had been invited to participate, and so I had (predictably) contributed a pair of watercolor/gouache paintings of Thor and Loki. I’d meant to make them more stylistic, but I was using photo reference and went a bit too close, I think.
I met up with Jer at the gallery, but we didn’t hang around long because it was so crowded and hot. You could just about see the steam on the inside of the windows from the collective body heat. <_< It was soooo much nicer outside.
Because it was nearby, we headed over to the Live Art even at the Baltic Room. It wasn’t supposed to start until 9pm and we got there around half past eight, so there weren’t a lot of people there yet. Six blank canvases had been set up in the middle of the dance floor. We hung around for a little bit, but all of the seating was apparently reserved, and it didn’t take long for me to get really sick of the strobe lights. I dunno how long Jer stuck around, but I bailed pretty quickly, walked back downtown, and grabbed a bus home. There were a few other after hours events I kinda wanted to check out, but I was too out of it by then to bother.
It hadn’t been a very encouraging first day. Going home was good. Sleep was good.
Of course, actually sleeping properly Friday night made me really, really tired Saturday morning. <_< The adrenaline had worn off, and caffeine is not a potent enough replacement.
I got to the convention center around 8:30am and spent the time before opening browsing through the north end of the Exhibits Hall, mostly in the Artist Alley area. Unlike last year, when the AA been to the left of the skybridge entrance and stretched on to the back of the room, they now just filled the space in the back of the room (see map way up there somewhere). So industry booths definitely blocked them from view. You had to make a point to way to walk past all of the big, shiny things to get to the artists. (Last year, also, the first industry booth you see walking in is Topatoco, which leads very naturally into the AA since, you know, they’re all webcomics.)
Naturally, almost no one was there in the pre-hours, so I, once again, mostly went around collecting business cards. The artists I did get to talk to confirmed an equally slow Friday on their side of the skybridge, but I realized that as slow as Friday had been for me on the south end, they probably had it worse because 1) unlike us, they were no where near registration, 2) those industry booths seriously blocked everything, 3) the northernmost end of the north Alley was a wall while the southernmost end of the south Alley was two-way traffic leading out to a hallway.
I managed to chat briefly with Cari and Amanda right before opening and they echoed more of the same sentiments, including ‘it was way busier last year.’ Well, among other things, I suppose there was also half the competition last year.
The convention opened to the public at 10am. The first full day! Badges for Saturday had been sold out for weeks! People are off work and out of school! …But traffic really did not seem to improve from the day before.
One of the things that drove me nuts was the fact that I wasn’t getting a lot of commissions. My theory for why is thus: because the properties are company-owned, fans of mainstream superhero comics are already used to seeing their favorite characters rendered by different artists. It’s nothing special to commission an artist for their interpretation of a character. Styles change every time the artist changes on a series, and for properties that have been around for 70+ years, that’s a lot of artists. And some of those artists are at the con! So why commission the unknown?
This is a pretty big downer for someone whose convention revenue is 25-40% commissions, and who relies on commissions to keep her occupied and sane for the duration of the weekend. There is nothing quite like sitting at a table for nine hours with nothing to do, lemme tell ya what. Between Friday and Saturday, I drew over 30 sketch cards and ACEOs out of restless boredom.
I got a lot of thinking time in Saturday, too.
Despite Marvel mysteriously not having a booth there, ECCC draws a pretty mainstream crowd, for both comics and general geek fandom. Its artist and writer guests mostly work in mainstream comics. Its celebrity guests are from the typical cult sci-fi lineup: Star Wars, Star Trek, BSG, Stargate, Babylon 5, etc. Newer fan favorites in the supernatural genre, like Supernatural and True Blood, were also represented. All of these are well-known series with enormous followings. I’m sure plenty of people attended specifically for one guest or another. (How many people tweeted excitedly at me to go see Misha Collins on their behalf? Go on, guess!)
So most attendees in the Exhibits Hall seemed to be looking for specific people. They were fans and wanted things signed. Getting things signed is a thing you do at conventions! Joe Casey (who was next to me, remember) was not actually at his table very often, but if I had a dollar for every person that came by to ask me when he’d be back… <_< Traffic was casual, but it wasn’t bad. There were people around (how can there not? sold out show!), but they weren’t browsing. They were just beelining to people they knew, which included ‘mainstream’ webcomics.
I mean, if you know anything about webcomics, you know about Benign Kingdom, Blind Ferret, and all of those guys. So I wasn’t surprised that when I sent Jer over to Johnny Wander to get my copy of volume #3 signed and a hat drawn in, he reported back that Yuko was too swamped to draw hats that weekend. Those areas of the Alley seemed to all do well.
The rest of us though? The indie comic artists with the stapled copybons and self-financed book runs, the webcomickers no one’s heard of, the print artists that are used to anime cons? …I think it was a pretty bum day for most of us. There’s only so much you can do to keep yourself busy behind the table before the frustration catches up to you. There were a few good conversations here and there, yes. I had a pretty interesting conversation with a guy from CrystalCommerce about e-commerce solutions for hobby stores and artists, and someone from Kumoricon came by to ask for charity auction donations. All the same, at the end of the afternoon, the last of the Thursday night drunken optimism was gone, and I was just tired, hungry, and discouraged.
The show closed down at 7pm on Saturday (one hour earlier than Friday — why?), and as I was packing up, @Chiparoo came down to say hi! This was one of the high points in my day. It is always awesome meeting people you’ve only spoken to on the Internet, even if it’s only for a few minutes!
After bailing, Jer and I went for some amazing Chinese food. It almost made up for a supremely lackluster day. Almost!
I didn’t sleep well Saturday night and was really out of it Sunday morning, though it wasn’t physical exhaustion as much as mental and emotional exhaustion.
I again got to the convention center around 8:30am. This morning, I got into an elevator with Oni Press editor James Lucas Jones. I knew it because of his badge. It wasn’t a very long elevator ride — we were just going four floors up — but I told him I’d graduated from SCAD, where he’d gone to speak a few times for various events, and that I felt like I should have some kind of idea to pitch to him as we were most certainly in a fabled “elevator pitch” situation. But I told him that I had no idea what to pitch. His reply was an understanding “that’s Sunday morning for you.”
Walking out of the elevator, I thought ‘not really.’ If I really had a thing I wanted published by a publisher, I’d have had something to say, Sunday mornings be damned. The encounter made me feel awkward and out of place again.
I wandered through the north end of the Exhibits Hall again in the time before opening.
This time I went through more of the industry booths and non-artist vendors, but nothing really caught my eye…except this one booth selling a lot of DVD sets of 90’s cartoons. I think if I’d been in a more attentive frame of mind, the whole booth would have struck me as suspicious sooner, but I wasn’t, and so I bought a “full series” DVD of Gargoyles…which you might know doesn’t actually exist. There have only been official DVD releases for the first season and first half of the second season of Gargoyles. The full series is not available on DVD. What I bought was a bootleg.
It should have been obvious. The packaging was pretty terrible and the details on technical specs, etc, were lacking. Much of the rest of the booth’s offerings were also highly suspect. Even for series that have been released in their entirety on DVD (like Animaniacs, Freakazoid!, Batman: The Animated Series, Batman Beyond, etc), no one releases a multi-disk “box set” in a single box… ~_~ I’m really irritated by the whole affair and am surprised the vendors were around Sunday because the bootlegs were obvious and someone should have really reported them…I wish I’d realized I’d been duped sooner than three days after the fact. :/
And the best part? I don’t remember exactly which booth it was, but looking at all the booths in that general location on the map leads me to believe that the most probable culprit is…Manga Kissaten, LLC. Yeah. Those guys that run Aki Con and who were banned from Sakura-Con for selling bootlegs. >_> I can’t verify that it was them, but they were at the convention, and most of the other booths in the same area were fine arts, t-shirt, or collectible vendors. Manga Kissaten’s website does not sell DVDs, but neither does it look like it’s been updated in a while, aside from the Aki Con stuff. Who knows? Again, I can’t confirm that it was them, but it’s an extra punch in the gut if it was.
I returned to the south end to browse a bit more there, but ended up spending the entire rest of the time at the Copic booth loading up on new markers. The best time to buy Copics is definitely at a convention, man. Five bucks a marker is as good a deal as you’ll ever get anymore! Copic also passed out a voucher to everyone in the Artist Alley to come by and pick up one free 25th anniversary Sketch marker, which was pretty neat.
The anniversary markers are awesome because not only do they have a black body instead of the light grey (which means smeared and smudgy ink won’t be as visible!), they have a brush tip and a fine tip! I really wish all the Copic Sketch markers were made that way, but normal Sketch markers have a brush tip and a chisel tip, and the regular markers have a fine tip and a chisel tip. I basically never use the chisel tip, so obviously a combination of the two other tips would be greaaat. (Yes, I can buy the fine nibs separately, but who wants to swap out half the nibs in their 100+ marker collection??)
Sunday ended up being the busiest day of the convention. The word on the floor at the end of Saturday was that most of those with weekend passes would do their spending on the last day, and I guess that was true enough? It was on Sunday that Jason showed up to say hi and give me a copy of The Flying Castle and Other Tales (which I forgot to ask him to sign, dammit). He’d been on the north end of the Exhibits Hall all weekend, but I was never been able to find him??
I did better on Sunday than both Friday and Saturday, but I think it was too late in the weekend for a morale boost. Don’t get me wrong; talking to attendees is pretty much always a positive experience for me, and Sunday was pretty awesome for that, but I was feeling kind of crummy in general by then, and it was a lot harder for me to dig up the enthusiasm needed to get the most out of interacting with others. D;
The show closed down around 4pm. I’d sort of planned to grab dinner with Amanda and Cari at some point over the weekend, but they’d been busy for Friday and Saturday, and Sunday is always kind of a mess of people getting ready to leave, catch flights, etc. Hanging out at cons is hard! Nevertheless, after Jer and I loaded his car with my stuff, we headed over to help Amanda, Cari, and their helper (whose name I’ve unfortunately forgotten, SORRY) break down and pack up. Eventually, everything got situated and we headed out to Rock Bottom to meet up with some of Cari’s friends.
Josh, Kat, and Michael of 01 Publishing (not to be confused with :01 Books; “zero one” publishing VS “first second” books) had already finished their meal by the time we got there, but we got a bigger table and they hung out with us while we got ourselves food too. I remember talking about Doctor Who and My Little Pony with Michael a fair bit and Josh and Cari telling various convention horror stories, but for the most part, I was really, really out of it and didn’t contribute much to the overall conversation, hahaha. Still, amazing burgers is how I like to end my convention weekends, and it was great being able to hang out with friends for an evening even though we were all pretty much ready to pass out.
One of the most frustrating things about the whole weekend was the fact that Emerald City Comic Con is a wonderfully run convention.
The staff is proactive, attentive, responsive and organized, and my interactions with them have been nothing but pleasant. Early on, one of my emails to Artist Alley registration got lost in an inbox and was not responded to for several weeks, but staff owned up to their mistake readily and apologized, and that’s really all anybody needs, y’know? Pre-show instructions regarding loading, check-in, power access, and so on were informative and precise. Volunteers came around several times a day to dole out bottles of water and to check that everything was okay. It’s a little hard to accept that I did so poorly at such a well-run show.
Sure, ECCC had its share of problems — and those problems likely did contribute to my not doing so well — but I think the main thing, for me, was just a disconnect in what ECCC’s attendees were looking for and what I had to offer.
One of the biggest general issues was that ECCC probably expanded its show floor too quickly and by too much. Doubling the exhibit space in one year is a bit overzealous, especially when the convention was only expecting a +7,000 increase in attendance (+13%)…or when the convention was capping attendance after that +13%. (I can’t find any official figures for ECCC’s attendance in 2013, but 60,000 is the number I’ve seen floating around most often. 2012’s attendance was roughly 53,000.)
Because the show floor was so monstrous and because it was split by the skybridge, a lot of attendees reported not knowing that there was another half to the Exhibits Hall. Despite the north end being the half that occupied last year’s exhibit space, it seemed to be the side that got overlooked — possibly because there are doors on the north end of the skybridge blocking exhibit booths from immediate view? Meanwhile, the south end of the skybridge was where the main escalators came up and there is a large cavernous space to the immediate right/south, leading attendees somewhat naturally towards the exhibit booths on that side. As mentioned before, registration/badge pickup was also on the south end and opened directly into the space between Artist Alley and the other exhibitors.
The fourth floor is clearly the best place in the convention center for vendors and industry booths, so there’s no moving it. Shrinking the floor space after expanding it is awkward and unlikely, but while registration could be relocated and its space commandeered, I don’t think ECCC plans to expand the show floor again next year.
On the other hand, they could probably stand to raise the attendance cap next year? At no point over the weekend was the floor as crowded as it was Saturday afternoon last year. Okay, so that Saturday afternoon was borderline fire hazard, but still. I think we can fit more people in there.
Rearranging things on the map we have should help a fair bit with visibility and traffic though. On the north end, Artist Alley should definitely be moved back towards the front. The arrangement from last year worked out really well! Because artist tables are smaller and shorter, I think it’s really important for them to be up front where they aren’t blocked from view. More signage on the south end of the skybridge and the skybridge itself reminding attendees that there is additional exhibit space across the skybridge would also help with visibility. There are some vendors/booths on the skybridge, but the lead-in to the space north of them wasn’t obvious this year?
On the south side, I also think the artist space should be swapped with the rest of the exhibitor space so that the artists are seen first when people wander in from the north. However, this isn’t as big a deal on the south end because of the way registration leads into the middle of the space.
Another issue was the mixing of industry pros/comic guests with the rest of the Artist Alley. It’s a nice idea, in theory, to place well-knowns next to unknowns, but in practice, anytime a line formed for autographs for a guest, the tables around that guest get blocked. This was a problem last year, too, since I remember being in the line for Bruce Timm and having little choice but to block other tables while I waited.
I still kind of like the idea of mixing everyone together, but there needs to be a better line management solution — taping a path on the floor helps a little, but it isn’t enough when the aisles are only ~6 feet wide. It’s difficult to manage both a line and two-way traffic in the same space. Maybe just place all the guest artists along a side wall (I believe that’s how it was on the north side, actually?) so they’re all next to each other. This way, the ‘regular’ artists are still nearby, but not in a position to be blocked.
Honestly though, if it’s between being near con guests and not having your table blocked, I think most would go for the latter. Sure, people came down my aisle for Joe Casey, Gail Simone, and Greg Rucka, but…they came down the aisle for Joe Casey, Gail Simone, and Greg Rucka. It was very rare that such an attendee paid any attention to the rest of us.
The layout of the show floor and the table-blocking autograph lines were pretty much the biggest problems, but both are easily addressed, I think. I don’t know what ECCC’s plans are for future growth, but I hope they stay about the size they are now. It took me basically an entire day to cover the show floor last year as an attendee. And I focused mostly on Artist Alley — I didn’t bother with most of the big industry booths. I only attended one panel. If it takes double the time to cover a show floor that’s double the size, that’s two whole days needed to cover all exhibitors (probably more if you go through the non-artists more carefully than I would!). Most other attendees are also probably more interested in panels and autographs and photo-ops and gaming than I am. How do you even fit all of that into a weekend? Even with a full day for Friday next year?
60-65k is a good, manageable attendance, and probably at or near the capacity for the Washington State Convention Center (was the attendance cap mandated by the venue or was it just a voluntary precaution?). Since the show floor kept the same hours as the rest of the convention, I never really got to check anything out, but from the map in the program, it does looks like they were using almost all of the convention center.
And I definitely don’t want them to move! Downtown is a damn fine place for a show, and I doubt there’s another venue within Seattle city limits that would be able to accommodate ECCC anyway, and they can’t move out of the city without forfeiting their name, right?
Right now, I’m leaning towards not returning to ECCC as an artist. The intersection of what the attendees expect/are looking for there and what I have to offer is too small.
My experiences throughout the weekend made that clear enough (decent traffic, but minimal browsers), but the numbers make it even more obvious: I did better at IKKiCON than I did at ECCC. Not by a huge margin, but IKKiCON had ~7,000 attendees this past year, so ECCC is almost ten times bigger. IKKiCON is also not local for me, while ECCC is, but even after expenses, I still did better at IKKi (in part because ECCC’s tables are three times as expensive, which neutralizes the cost my plane ticket down to Texas for IKKi). Sure, sales is just one part of the bigger picture, but it’s still one of the few hard metrics I have to go on.
I fixate a lot on the fact that I don’t really have a big comic project to promote at comic cons. It’s my #1 reason for feeling awkward and out of place at comic cons VS anime cons. I have comics, but they are small and short and not at all in the same category as the books everyone else has. And at ECCC in particular, I got the impression that no one was looking to buy a comic they’ve never heard of before. If you draw for a mainstream title or if you have a big webcomics following, you’d probably do great at Emerald City — people will go looking for you — but for the unknown indie? Spoiler: I sold more of my comics (three times more, even!!) at Sakura-Con this year than I did at ECCC. Not really sure how/why that happened, but there you go.
These are blanket statements, of course. I mean, I know for a fact that Jer goes out of his way to buy every damn independent comic on the show floor. I think he’s definitely the exception though. When I attended last year, sure, yes, I bought a few books from people I didn’t know. But for the most part, I sought out artists whose work I recognized. When a show is that big, it’s a certainty that lots of well-known people end up coming, and there just isn’t enough time to thoroughly browse everything else. I guess that’s why indie-specific shows like APE, SPX, and STAPLE! (which was the same weekend as ECCC this year) exist.
ECCC isn’t really a show for the independent comic artist — unless they’re there to connect specifically with their mainstream brethren, or unless they’re the sort to take advantage of the elevator pitch situation in all the ways I didn’t.
There’s a market at ECCC for sci-fi and fantasy illustrators, too. There was a gallery show of Magic: The Gathering card illustrations. There were also a fair number of fine artists and painters in the north end of the Exhibits Hall, including Wednesday Wolf who can probably be classified as a fine artist, even with all the pop culture subject matter in his work. I don’t know how well any of them did, but there were enough of them in general that I assume there’s a market for them and/or they’ve already cultivated a decent consumer base.
My convention offerings are primarily illustrative, so maybe if I ever get focused enough to churn out a cohesive body of work, I’ll feel more confident about exhibiting at ECCC. But for now, my stuff remains very all over the place. I get asked a lot if everything at my table is mine. Yup. It’s all me. Yup, I drew both this and this.
Subject matter is often all you need at anime cons because there’s little stylistic variation in official work. Subject matter is less important at comic cons because it’s already so easy to get a huge variety art of every popular comic character. So stylistic cohesion becomes the selling point for the illustrator. What do you have to rally behind if not that? How do you establish identity when there are literally 400+ other Artist Alley tables for people to look at and just as many towering industry/non-artist exhibitor booths?
So yeah, Emerald City is a great convention, just maybe not right for me as an artist at this point in time. Even if I don’t return to exhibit next year though, I’ll certainly be back as an attendee. <3
Thanks for reading. Here’s the full gallery: