Rose City.

Leia WeathingtonThe day after Rose City Comic Con I had brunch with creators Leia Weathington and Karla Pacheco. I had salmon cakes; Leia and Karla dined upon the souls of men.

Rose City is a smaller con, placed just below Heroes in terms of its quaint and homey nature. The exhibitor floor was pleasantly crowded, but far from claustrophobic. Panels provided the ability to learn more about creators and their independent projects rather than issue a rundown of the basic plot points of upcoming mainstream events. Because of its location in Portland, the convention had an amazing array of West Coast talent with creators such as Jeff Parker, Gail Simone, Kelly Sue DeConnick, Matt Fraction, and more.

Given my previous posts analyzing conventions, it’s safe to say this post isn’t a write-up of my vacation, but a brief look as to whether Rose City is a welcome addition to the convention circuit. I’d say yes. For those already on the West Coast, Rose City is a fairly inexpensive opportunity to showcase wares to a welcoming audience. More importantly, the oppressive media maelstrom that encompasses the DC/Marvel machine has yet to descend upon the event. (Just wait three to five years.) Creators launching new independent works, for example the delightful Caleb Goellner and Jim Gibbons of Birch Squatch, have a place to speak directly to potential audiences without having to wait until everyone has gotten their full of discussions surrounding Batman and Wolverine.

Yet while Rose City provides an amazing platform to sell material and interact with fans, it provides limited networking opportunities for creators who are not already established. The convention is nestled in the heart of “Comics City.” After the sun goes down? Everyone goes home. There is absolutely no “bar con” to speak of. The large raucous gatherings of conventions like Emerald City have been replaced by charming get-togethers for long-term friends and colleagues. It is not a place for meeting new people but for forming even tighter bonds with those one admires or holds dear. Creators should not expect an opportunity to chat up an elusive editor; fans should not expect to seize an opening to buy their favorite artist a drink. Still, given the low-key nature of the convention, fans have ample opportunity to chat up creators at tables during the day. In addition, aspiring creators can seek advice and portfolio reviews. Rose City is the one convention where you can have a pleasant unhurried conversation with a writer such as Brian Michael Bendis or Sam Humphries. That is a rarity on the convention circuit now.

Should you go to Rose City? Well, it truly depends on the region you call home. Located in the Pacific Northwest or California? Yes. If not, there are other mid-sized conventions elsewhere that provide a similar experience.


Conventional wisdom.

Emerald City Comicon is my absolute favorite comic convention. Unfortunately, I can no longer attend it. It has finally become large enough to cross the threshold where the experience can only be afforded by locals, those appearing at the event for work, and those willing to spend exorbitant amounts on what may perhaps be a fun experience—but with no guarantees.

The hotels surrounding the Washington State Convention Center have changed their policies regarding the convention, demanding a non-refundable deposit for any individual booking a reservation. The Emerald City showrunners have placed tickets for sale more than six months prior to the convention—well before an adequate number of guests have confirmed their attendance. The organizations involved demand money from attendees for a show they provide little information about. For those who do not live near the convention and must rely on hotels and airlines to experience the event it is simply too much of a financial risk to take.

It seems the pie has been divided, with different conventions assuming dominion over different regions. Guests may be shared—invited celebrities and creators freely bounding from one region to the other; convention-goers are not.

Unlike theme parks, which pride themselves on repetition and nostalgia—providing the same experience year after year—comic conventions make an effort to showcase a new crop of entertainers and creators each year, making each show a unique experience. However, that uniqueness—essentially instability—makes the convention difficult to invest in for fans who are not locals, especially when they are expected to purchase tickets and hotel rooms with only a handful of guest announcements made. For locals the draw is the spectacle—outlandish costumes, revelry, and the superheroic—convention constants. However, those who are not from the region attend to see very specific people—artists, writers, and actors. I can bear witness to spectacle at home; Dragon Con takes place merely a short drive away. But should I wish to get a particular comic signed? Well, I can’t attend just any convention. I have to attend the one the creative team in question attends. And if tickets for that convention have sold out months before the creative team has even announced their appearance? Well, I can’t attend the convention at all.

Every large convention, San Diego Comic-con, New York Comic Con, Dragon Con, and now Emerald City Comicon, requires attendees to purchase tickets prior to knowing what they are purchasing tickets for. A show with a paltry, partial guest list is no more than a mystery prize. One cannot expect fans to risk hundreds without knowing what is behind Door #3. Showrunners know this and do not care, for there are many locals who are more than happy to merely risk a couple of twenties. That risk is most certainly worth it.

I am excited to be attending Rose City Comic Con next week—and New York Comic Con the following month!—but the experiences will be bittersweet. New York Comic Con will likely be the last comic convention I ever attend, and the chapter will have closed where it began.

To watch the evolution of the convention industry has been astounding. What started in the musty basements of churches and tiny recreational halls has now become a phenomenon that fills vast convention centers each season. I do believe the comic convention has reached its “final form,” that of an impressive indoor carnival to delight different regions once a year.


After the party it’s the hotel lobby.

The Grand Hyatt—can we please talk about the Grand Hyatt for a minute?

Like every other lazy person who attended Emerald City Comicon, I wanted to stay at the Sheraton. Who doesn’t want to stay at the Sheraton? While its dated design and limited accoutrements leave much to be desired, the ability to stroll down to the lobby in your pajamas and chill with your friends until two o’clock in the morning is a massive benefit. When I discovered that the Sheraton had sold out by the time I had made plans to attend this year’s event, I was devastated. Reluctantly, I booked a room at the Seattle Grand Hyatt.

Son, I am never staying at the Sheraton again.

I’m still not certain whether I was accidentally provided a suite or if the basic rooms at the Grand Hyatt simply make the rooms at the Sheraton appear pasted together with particle board and equipped with used furniture from Craigslist. I requested a quiet room and did not hear a peep from my neighbors for the duration of the convention. I took bubble baths in a gorgeous giant tub twice daily. My room had two large flat screen televisions. When I needed to find a drugstore on short notice, the concierge was charming and helpful. The drugstore, however, did not have jet black pantyhose.

Typical footwearYes, it was a bit of pain schlepping back to my room from the Sheraton lobby late at night (especially given my well-known eccentric choice of footwear), but not once did I fear for my safety. I did have a rude comment lobbed my way by a convention guest or attendee who was clearly high as a kite at the time, but neither the Hyatt nor is ECCC responsible for that individual’s behavior.

For the life of me I cannot understand why people stay at the Sheraton, but I most certainly can see why people party there. The bar, though woefully understaffed, is charming and well-lit—as is its lobby. The Grand Hyatt’s atmosphere is strangely dark and subdued, as if it were more interested in hosting romantic tête-à-têtes than industry gatherings.

I was honestly a bit reluctant to make this post, for fear of massive crowds ruining the experience of Emerald City Comicon and the Grand Hyatt! Both seem like magical experiences that should be reserved for a select few. But I suppose one can’t pay the bills catering to a small number!

(Okay, judging from the photos displayed on the Seattle Grand Hyatt’s website, it seems I was accidentally provided a suite. That said, the basic king room is still leagues better than what the Sheraton offers.)


ECCC: Comic convention contemplation.

The Washington State Convention Center is an exceptional place to host a convention—airy with ample space and fantastic lighting. Plus, there are restaurants, hotels, tourist traps, drugstores and department stores all within a short radius. It’s what sets Emerald City Comicon apart from its larger competitors. NYCC and SDCC have been unpleasant experiences for me due to terrible locations that provide no respite from the overwhelming convention crowds unless I’m willing to travel long distances from the convention. At Emerald City, one is able to pop across the street and eat at a cozy restaurant or take a nap in one’s hotel room. There’s no escape from the Javits Center without walking at least a dozen very long Manhattan blocks. As for San Diego? Good luck finding anything affordable.

And good luck finding anything affordable at the closest contender to claim the title of ECCC East—Dragon Con. Not only are ticket prices ridiculously expensive compared to other conventions, the nearby hotels charge exorbitant prices designed to gouge attendees. Rates often double those found at Emerald City. And while the location is perfect—countless amenities are only a block or two away—the comics industry is treated as a mere afterthought. Film, television, and prose reign supreme.

Comics come first at Heroes, but the convention’s location is horrifically dull. While Seattle, San Diego, New York City, and Atlanta offer an amazing array of activities apart from their conventions, Charlotte offers little in the way of excitement.

Given that Emerald City is quite a trek for me, I’ve been thinking about how best to recreate the magic of the convention closer to home. I’m sure many convention organizers looking for a lucrative investment are too. Here’s what I’ve come up with.

The Location: Atlanta, Georgia. Specifically? The Atlanta Convention Center. However, a set-up similar to Dragon Con where a few smaller hotels share space would also work well.

The Date: Like Emerald City, the event should be scheduled during “Spring Break.” Weather in Atlanta during that time is exceptional, and a late March or early April date would provide a great kick-off to the convention season for those tired of winter weather. Plus, being such a great distance from Emerald City would allow it to occur at a similar time without “poaching” guests from that convention. Those who would attend “Peachtree City Comicon” would likely never consider Emerald City due to the distance involved. And Megacon, currently showing signs of weakness, could easily be cannibalized.

Key Factors: If one is going to host a comic convention in Atlanta, three organizations/events should be involved or showcased in some manner. The first is Cartoon Network/Adult Swim. The second is the Atlanta branch of the Savannah College of Art and Design. The third is the ComicsPRO annual membership meeting. Also, making a deal with hotels in order to keep rates in the range of $100.00 to $150.00 a night is essential. Expensive hotels hurt attendance.

I’m sure the last thing Jim Demonakos and his crew want is to launch yet another large convention, but they have shown that they can succeed where many others have failed. Plus, there is a clear “convention vacuum” here on the East Coast that no one has been adequately able to fill. I’d like to see someone fill it—and I’m willing to put my money and muscle where my mouth is to make it happen.


The Emerald Aisles.

Don’t groan. That pun is great—and accurate. This weekend you will find me at Seattle’s Emerald City Comicon! As the title of this post suggests, I’ll be wandering the floor a bit, but you’ll be able to spot me participating in two very special panels. First and foremost, on Friday afternoon I am extremely lucky to participate in Rachel Edidin’s panel on representation in geek culture. How in the world I’ve managed to sneak into a group that includes such insightful and talented people I’ll never know. I am so grateful to Rachel for creating these spaces where those of us who feel marginalized or are simply disturbed by the depictions shown and the behaviors observed in our communities can come forward to discuss matters honestly and without fear or malice.

Looking Past the Target Audience
Room: HALL D (602-603)
Time: 3:40PM – 4:30PM

The world is a politicized place and the geek community is no exception. Join us as we look at how gender and race are portrayed in geek culture. Creators, curators, community leaders and critics on the front lines of this issue examine the fight over geek identity and the barriers to diversity in geek communities and media. The discussion will include proposed steps toward a diverse and inclusive geek culture. Panelists include Rachel Edidin, Cheryl Lynn Eaton, Regina Buenaobra, G. Willow Wilson, Scotty Iseri, Andy Khouri, and Sfe M.

On Sunday you’ll catch me gleefully bopping around in the audience taking your questions for three of my all-time favorite people—Adam Warren, Brandon Graham, and David Brothers. Brothers can hold an interview like nobody’s business and Graham and Warren are a delight to hear. I legitimately adore these dudes, but fondness aside—they have very smart things to say about comics (and more if you’re lucky).

Harsh Realm: Adam Warren and Brandon Graham
Room: HALL D (602-603)
Time: 1:40PM – 2:30PM

Adam Warren (Empowered) and Brandon Graham (Prophet) are two creators at the top of their game. The two gather to discuss how they incorporate their influences in their work, creating comics that don’t look like any other comics on the racks, & more!