By Ed Sum (The Vintage Tempest)
Changes are in store for Emerald City Comic Con now that it is under new ownership. Some of it is noticeable at the 2015 event and based on what I have experienced, I think what’s planned will be good. For one thing, instead of three days of the show, there will be four. That might alleviate some of the congestion as not many people will attempt to cram as much into a day.
And maybe for next year’s show, some events can be spread out better or there will be the return of some fond favourites. The Star Wars reading by Twisted Toonz was missing this year. In previous shows, it was re-enacted by the voice talent that comes to this Seattle-based show. This year would have been killer with the fact that Patrick Warburton, the voice of the Tick and the television version of Buzz Lightyear, was in the house! Include Janet Varney, the lead character in Avatar: Legend of Korra, Steve Blum (voice of Starscream in Transformers Prime), Veronica Taylor (Ash from Pokemon) and Tabitha St. Germain (My Little Pony), and the possibilities would have been stellar!
Last year had FlipON.TV tape most of the panels. For a reasonable price, I could watch what I missed by subscribing to their channel. Sadly, this company is now defunct and most of their videos are freely viewable on Youtube. That’s a bonus, but sadly, I heard that for the 2015 year, no company was hired to tape the panels. There were a few media guest Q&As I had hoped to see, but when they took place on one floor and the photo ops and autographs were on another, that was okay, but when there were other events taking place inside another building adjoining the convention center, I had to prioritize since I knew bouncing between parts of the show meant a 10 to 15 minute dash from one end of the building to another. If there are urban engineers involved with next year’s show from the parent company, I would love to see a break so folks can make it from one event to another without needing a Transporter from Star Trek. Although I heard some of the panels were indeed recorded, I have yet to find out who is the company or if this was a fan endeavor.
I am usually attending the big shows for the autograph and photo opportunities more so than anything else. I have shopped before I have dropped before, and honestly, I have nearly everything I could want that’s been made. I see very little new stuff at these shows. I even scoped out The Adventures of the 19XX website for what kind of new merchandise they might bring, and I did eye their Flight Crew Backpack. Sadly, they didn’t bring any of those to sell. Other than a few cloth patches, two comic book exclusives, and the Unicron eating the Space Needle T-shirt, that’s all that I bought.
I did snag The Master’s Sonic Screwdriver as a prop to use for a photo-op with the Team Doctor Who moment (with Alex KingstonEp and John Barrowman), but other than that, the variety of goods offered felt the same as the previous few years that I’ve been regularly attending. IDW was even remiss to bring their entire catalog as there were titles I wanted to buy.
That weekend was super busy with the grand opening of a new exhibit at the Experience Music Project Museum. I took the night off and away from the Washington State Convention Center to check out the Infinite Worlds of Science Fiction gallery, and I was impressed. It showed off the variety of gear that has been used in science fiction films and television, and I got to look at what an actual Dalek prop looked like. People do not realize it’s made of wood until viewed up close, and the Cyberman costume was intimidating. I wonder if Jon Davey wore the one that’s on display? When Anglicon rolls in mid-June, I can ask to find out! The weapons display was really impressive and although I did not scope out the rest of the exhibits in full, at least quick walk-around did some good. When I have a photographer friend who’s impatient with lineups, we did not get to see everything I had hoped.
When we finally split up so he can go photograph cosplayers and me collecting autograph moments, my first day was mostly spent on the sixth floor, where all the meet and greets with the big names happened. I spoke to John Wesley Shipp and he was intrigued by the theory I offered: I believe the new Flash series is building up to the crisis of parallel Earths and he will be back wearing his costume (or variation of). Harry, the character Shipp plays, is a version of the original Barry who did not get superpowers. But as a medical doctor, there must be some background that’s not been revealed yet that sets up the fact that the Allen family consists of very bright minds.
I believe Harry is just as important to the series as Barry. As Shipp revealed, he will be appearing in the series finale and that his character will not be as frequent for the second season. That’s sad because there may be more to Harry than meets the eye. I like to know what kind of medical doctor he is. Maybe he’s doing something with nuclear energy? That’s sometimes used in certain branches of medicine….
Afterward, I got to meet Janet Varney, who is the voice of Korra. I asked if there will be new stories, but the creators have regular jobs too that they are focussing in on. She would like to hear them call her up and say let’s record a new saga, but for now, the Avatar is resting.
After these moments to talk to these stars, I hit the show floor. For a Friday, it felt like a Saturday crowd. The afternoon was not so bad, but I found that the line-up Mike Mignola was constantly filled. In order to prevent a bottleneck from happening in the small corridor, only a dozen or so people were allowed to wait in line. People had to come back to see if an opening is available. I like this idea and the Minions had specific instructions onR how to handle the crowds in this small of a space. The corridor was like only five people wide. This method is far better to use than allowing the huge lineups to snake around the building. That happened when Jhonen Vasquez was at the show.
When I was not sure of when to get in line for ECCC exclusives, I was advised by a different minion that now is the best time. What he counted was the shortest lineup he’s seen throughout the day. I took his advice and jumped in! Even in the celebrity areas, depending on the person, I was allowed by the minion to go the media guest so I can chat with them — I don’t want an autograph or photo. I just like to speak to them and thank them for the many years of entertainment they provided, and perhaps ask a lingering question I have always wanted to know about.
Meeting Curtis Armstrong and Orlando Jones were easy. Hoping to thank Stan Lee for all those entertaining bullpen bulletins from the late 70’s to mid 80’s that I would always want to read first (than the comic) was not. Sometimes the Minions have to be evil and abide by the corporate attitude which runs the show; allow only paying customers. I did not want to push it. I saw a moment where he was exhausted from dealing with a huge crowd and even if a Minion was required to tackle me down and create an incident, I would explain that all I wanted to offer to take him out to anywhere he wants for a chance to relax. I had a fantastic moment with legend Ray Harryhausen which I will never forget, and if I ever get that with Stan Lee, my nerd’s life will be complete. Everyone knows he’s getting on in age. I see a time where he will retire from the convention touring scene. I believe he has a few years left before he decides to limit his appearances.
Even as I wandered back and forth on this floor, I had hoped to speak to John Barrowman when I finally saw that there were only a few people left. Alas, I was denied too. I was told he needed a break before photo ops begin. Thankfully, I had my moment to express how much I love his singing at Fan Expo Vancouver the previous year.
Since I made this floor my home, I spent a lot of time observing how the lines were handled. The area certainly feels bigger than the previous location, but it was a lineup nightmare when the really big stars were ready to do the photos with all their fans. John Barrowman, the Walking Dead gang, and Stan Lee were perhaps the biggest and they stretched into the autograph signing areas. I think the staff at ECCC/ReedPOP will have to figure out a strategy in order to prevent that from happening again. Sadly, that will mean capping, if not start ticketing, the number of photos allowed per session. With an extra day added to the 2016 show, folks should have greater flexibility in choosing one of four opportunities should there be that many that might exist to get a photo taken with the media star.
Thankfully, Epic Photo Ops is ECCC’s new choice for photo service this year and I’m really glad this has changed. Froggy’s method of distribution just was not cutting it anymore. I’m sure many complaints were registered and pictures they took from last year did not emerge on the day of and appeared too late the next to get autographed. Their method of distribution is to simply line up all the images for people to search and find whereas Epic brought them out and looked for the individual who is waiting in line to pick up. The option to buy an inexpensive picture holder is good, but the smart will realize cheaper can be found on the show floor. What I noticed is no framing service. Sadly, when considering how huge ECCC has grown, the investment for thousands of proper frames with matting services is not feasible.
Even though I’ve spent more time at this floor more than others for the days I’ve been at this show, I did manage to check out the gaming floor, examine the layout of the rooms for panels and look at where the food trucks are.
I had reservations about how all the gaming was put on one floor in the Washington Convention Center and when I wandered around, it surprisingly works. Tweaking is required to identify where the vendors are hiding (inside the rooms) but I like the fact that the show is almost concentrated back into one building. One side of the floor had Magic the Gathering tournaments going on, and if I had the time, I would be playing. Instead, I just wanted to see if any products I have not heard of before can catch my interest. There’s a zombie game called Last Night on Earth that I will have to check out since survival is always a great theme to explore.
Despite a huge number of cancellations this year from performers, this year was very good. Hayley Atwell might be a newcomer to the convention tour circuit, and I loved meeting her. Her panel, in what I saw, was very inspirational. I see her character, Agent Carter, as the new Wonder Woman for today’s age of strong female role models. She does not replace Amanda Tapping, who have done the same when Stargate SG-1 was popular, but to meet these two charming ladies certainly made my convention. I respect them for all the work they’ve done. To see what the new business folk has in store for this show will most likely be good. All I ask is that they spread out the headliners a bit more, or ensure that they are videotaped so people who are missing them due to being stuck in line somewhere can catch it online when they are home.