By Ed Sum
(The Vintage Tempest)
When Emerald City Comicon (ECCC) announced the addition of an extra day, I half expected the management would include some mainstream material for nerds to enjoy. What I heard instead was, “Why are the Seahawks important to such a comic-driven show?” A lot of people before the event said that and instead of the usual Friday to Sunday routine, I thought I’d look at what I could find to do at such an early start. It was mostly getting the key bits of shopping of items that I really wanted done and spend the rest of the days walking around and weighing in on if I really wanted that Jiji the cat music box from Kiki’s Delivery Service ar Kinokuniya’s table.
Thurs was not light on the people traffic at all. The venue was probably at two-thirds capacity for those who decided to visit that day. There was nothing of interest in the autograph / photo-ops floor except for those Seattle Seahawks fans wanting to meet Richard Sherman and Bobby Wagner. I suspect they are nerds too and there was some interest. But as for how much, the majority has spoken online and at the show. I was keeping my ears tuned into what people were saying
ReedPOP, the parent organization, hosting the show had at the last minute offer a raffle to sell off their remaining Thurs tickets by asking if Jim Lee could attend this day and the lucky few spent time talking to him and getting their comics autographed. The marketing neglected to say that this contest was for USA residents only. Not everyone reads the terms of an agreement in any contest, and I did. Was I disappointed? No.
The next day. I spent a bit of time listening to Jon Bernthal talk about The Punisher, Daredevil and Walking Dead. I can usually find these sessions online, but for once, I decided to actually enjoy these conversations with the host and Q&A which follows.
Browsing the many displays from vendors and companies is part of why I like to attend these shows. I do not get much of that back in Victoria, with the home-grown shows having the same sellers all the time. I do find it odd that even though ECCC is bigger, Marvel and DC have yet to have an exhibitor presence. The latter did appear one year, and they did have representation in panels, but not for floor displays. I’d love to see not just the west coast operations here. Image Comics, Boom! Studios, Dark Horse Comics, Oni Press and Valiant Comics (who are New York-based and they make an effort to appear) are the major players here. Action Lab Comics was invited last minute and I hoped Shawn Gabborin would be present. Alas, he had to manage the fort back home in Pennsylvania.
Because there was a DC Comic All Access panel spotlighting what’s to come from this company and in what’s announced is very good. This discussion was moderated Vertigo’s Executive Editor, Shelly Bond and had Shawn Aldridge (The Dark & Bloody), Kurt Busiek (Astro City), Mitch Gerads (The Sheriff of Babylon), Gail Simone (Clean Room) and Senior Editor Jamie S. Rich talking about what’s to come from their line. The big news sites reported on what’s to come. The panelists were certainly plugging the new app for readers to stay informed about what’s going on at this company. It’s available for iOS and Android.
In summary, the core titles are getting revitalized in a “Rebirth” campaign, with Supergirl leading the charge. Bombshells is selling very well and there will be plenty of merchandise to boot for folks to enjoy. There’s plenty of more Harley Quinn to come, and there was talk about the Kaman challenge where 12 art teams and 12 writers will pair up to work on the Kaman map that was created by Jack Kirby! The panel ended with an announcement of DC’s Young Animal! a new imprint created by Gerard Way (The Umbrella Academy, My Chemical Romance). Four new titles will be part of it and the best part of this panel is an appearance by Jim Lee!
Friday was when the star and celebrity power started. I met up with my favourite voice actors and talked to them briefly. I learned from Will Friedle that he loved working with Gil Gerard. I had mentioned I spoke with Buck Rogers before and he let on about being Megatronus before the episode aired. Of course, Will could not say if this nasty villain will return or not but I’m hoping! He’s an awesome individual to have a moment to chat with and I made getting to meet him my first priority of the day! I also wanted to meet Ashley Eckstein, the voice of Ashoka Tano from Star Wars: The Clone Wars and Rebels. She is such a charming lady and of course, I had to ask about how the producers in Rebels are going to balance the multiple storylines. With Ashoka finally meeting Vader and the big reveal made — just how season three will pan out requires creative juggling without tipping the narrative over on a returning character to the animated mythos universe.
Dark Horse Comic’s panel was great to learn how close they work with the studios to bring those movie titles to the print front. Aliens is celebrating its 30th anniversary, Predator is getting a few new titles, Judge Dredd is going to meet them both (I’m excited) and on my birthday, Tarzan is heading to the Planet of the Apes! I’ve always wondered about dead properties, namely The Mask, and it’s just a matter of finding that right story (even though it was a comic book first). The films went in a direction opposite the books (which came first), but it’s a loose spread. Even for Hellboy, even though it’s technically dead in the water, the finances to pull it off has what ultimately put it to a stop. The Dark Horse Rep revealed del Toro really went over budget.
Afterward, I was on the convention floor getting some autographs of the comic book artists who were not available Thursday and going to see if Mike Yamada (Production artist for Big Hero 6, Lilo & Stitch and many other Disney properties) was around. Sadly, his buddy said he has no material to sell so he declined to have a table set up. I was disappointed. He has an artistic style that I love and he helped create the world in all the films I enjoyed watching. I’m a fan of his works and he was in Seattle teaching art lessons. I believe that the director is not the only person behind creating my fondest memories in the movies I see, but also the artists. At least I talked to Marcelo Vignali (Lilo & Stitch Concept Artist) and picked up his book to support the work he has done. I spoke with John Gallagher too, the official production artist for CW’s The Flash. He’s done work for Legends of Tomorrow and revealed that season three is plotted.
In browsing, Stitch did not escape my glance and nor did Jiji, who was caged up in a music box. Weta Workshop had a booth showing their makeup effects artist and selling merchandise. I’m not surprised at that fact. I picked up some patches so I can sort of say I’m part of the behind the scenes magic in the garments I wear. The books and statues they offered could have emptied my retirement fund if I wanted to and I resisted (thankfully). But to see Studio Ghibli merchandise at the Bluefin Distribution Booth nearly did! They only carried the mainstream Studio Ghibli material (Totoro, Jiji and Spirited Away). I still need Ponyo to fill my collection and maybe the next paycheque. After that, I can say I have stuffed dolls representing most of the Miyazaki films this studio put out. But for Gundam enthusiasts, this company carries an impressive range outside of the Gundam Shop in Fuji-Q Highland Park. Most of the space was dedicated to this series instead of the others!
Funko Pop! had a fantastic booth with some limited editions that were released a boxful a day. They said I should return early the next day if I wanted anything and get in line. I love some of their sculpts, but I’m not mad enough to wait an hour to get to the show to rush to their booth to wait for another half hour for a Nerd Cthulhu. I love my spooks, but not that much.
Somewhere in the background, I heard the distinctive saxophone tune of Ghostbusters playing. The Emerald City Ghostbusters (a charity organization which operates much like the Ghostbusters of BC) — perhaps the only paranormal presence in this con — were running around being chased by Hector Ducay, the musician. He was tuckered out with these impromptu moments, but I saw them running around more than once and it put a smile on my face. The enthusiasm and energy of the fandom at large here are infectious. I get more nerdy fun here at this show and wonder if that special magic can be recreated elsewhere? Each event is unique in its own way so it’s not fair to cast total judgment.
In all the criticisms I hear from others, the lineups are the most often talked about. When you show up about 45 minutes early, they’re manageable. If you show up late, people will feel the pinch. The mentality is still the same for most: the volunteers (Minions) are told to herd everyone like cattle and have people tightly packed. Some personal space is needed to separate groups but does not have breathing room is wrong. I talked with a ten-year veteran of the convention going scene, and she said the best way to handle separate groups (VIP’s and regular) is to allow two VIPs and one regular so each group can be whittled down instead of keeping each line up waiting for too long. Not every show does that, and that explains why some festivals are held in better regard than others. I think I’ll have to plan for attending to Salt Lake City’s show next year…
I found the lineups for the celebrity photo ops better managed this year than previous. Showing up 5-10 minutes before the mandatory 15 min before the appointment time netted tiny lineups for most of the stars. Part of the reason may be due to not having super A-list people attending, but when certain names are ready to put their best smile, Nathan Fillion was perhaps the largest. At least five groups were created. Each had probably about 250-300 people each. By that math, nearly the entire sixth floor was packed when he was ready to sign autographs or have pictures taken. And that’s per day! Even for the voice talents, whom I was more interested in, the wait was not all that bad. I met the aforementioned people along with Linda Ballantyne, the voice of Serena in Sailor Moon (second half of the series). She’s also was the voice of Janet Van Dyne (Wasp) in The Avengers: United They Stand.
Although Emerald City Comic Con did not feel bigger and badder when compared to previous years, the show is still enjoyable to attend. A few found the executive decision to not do a major tie-in with the anniversaries this year (namely Star Trek) odd, but I did say that at least they advertised the Star Trek Anniversary Concert that was happening nearby and there was booth presence, however low-key that was. There was a panel that talked about the hardcore elements of Gene Roddenberry’s vision and what panelists, authors Greg & Astrid Bear, Trek expert Jeff Ayers, and actors James Lyle (Dr. Alden), and Roy Stanton (T’Von) from Star Trek: Phoenix want to see for the next television show. Out of the panels I went to, this was the deepest in terms of recognizing Roddenberry’s vision and respecting it.
Sadly, I think most of these big name shows are more oriented to filling the coffers with money instead of truly catering to the fan. I am okay with the line-up of guests brought in celebrity, comic book and what not. I can not expect top talent all the time. This year was lite in comparison to past shows, and who knows what the future may bring. I feel the smaller hotel-based conventions are the one to enjoy (Anglicon is next on my schedule) and the big shows are to put your biggest smile on for autographs with people in the comic book business and displaying your best costume forward.