Change Had To Come - Emerald City Comic Con 2019 Con Report
written by Justin Prince (@prince_justin)
A year of changes, and with the state of the world the way it is… some things at con had to change as well. Emerald City Comic Con descended on Seattle much in the same fashion as it has in the past. Another weekend full of nerd and pop culture goodness where fans can interact with like minded individuals with the same penchant for nerding out as they do.
It’s my local comic convention, and be it the fact that Emerald City Comic Con has consistently been one of the biggest comic conventions in the US, it does face many of the ups and downs its contemporaries face.
This year was no different, one of those tribulations came in the form of increased security at the con. While to some it felt like it came out of nowhere, it seemed like a response to incidents like at the 2017 Phoenix Comic Con when a deranged fan claiming to be “the Punisher” openly walked in to the conventions space with an arsenal of very real weapons with the intent to kill Jason David Frank and, as he called them, dirty cops.
First off, we’ve got to comment on the security procedures, I need to point out first and foremost that I feel like most of the community was overreacting to it. In the days leading up to the convention the unofficial Facebook group and all across Twitter was full of discourse. Worrying that these increased security procedures would cause fans to wait in lineups for hours. Honestly, it was never as bad as people expected it to be. I’m choosing to focus on this aspect of the show first because I feel it has to be said that these guys did an amazing job getting people through the security checkpoints in a timely manner. There were two entrances at the main convention center, one for vendors/exhibitors/press and one for general attendees, there was an entrance on the fourth floor, as well as an entrance at the TCC. In each day I went, I never had to wait in line. I think on Saturday there was a little bit of a line at the TCC but overall that was the extent of it. People overreacted to it. Call it “security theater” or call it unnecessary, but honestly I felt like as far as the convention space is concerned… it did feel safer and this very minor inconvenience barely impacted my convention experience.
Now, to touch on what did.
Emerald City Comic Con switched up the floor plan a bit this year, moving celebrity interactions and the main stage panels down the street at the Hyatt Regency. I’ve always felt that the Main. Stage was perfect where it was, that big open room on the fourth floor right next to the exhibitors hall. That fit and made sense, something that moving it two blocks away didn’t. Managing running from panel to panel, getting some time in at the exhibitor hall and artist alley, if you wanted to catch one of the sought after panels at the main stage you had to factor in making the trek there on on top of waiting in line and hoping they don’t cap it.
I totally understand why they would be seeking outside venues, as this convention grows each year, to accommodate more people they need to be flexible. I wonder why they weren’t able to at least get programming in the Sheraton across the street or even in the Grand Hyatt… also across the street. For conventions like PAX that require using several outside venues, it makes sense with the limited floor space available, I just don’t think that Seattle is built for that kind of convention experience. These could just be examples of growing pains for this once tiny con, as it grows we as convention goers have to grow with it… and in many respects that means growing as attendees and being more flexible. I mean, it was what it was… and I still wasn’t a fan of using the Hyatt Regency for the main stage. I just hope for the next year they work out these kinks to give us a more streamlined con.
In banishing the main stage two blocks away, it did give the exhibitors hall more space. It felt comfortable to walk around with a wide variety of vendor peddling all manner of geeky goods. It seemed like there were more vendors than in previous years, though for anyone who has gone to an ECCC before it’s more of the same to be honest.
Returning for a second year was the Homegrown section, a makers market full of local artists selling a wide variety of goods. This new section from last year was actually one of my favorite parts of the convention. Full of a wide variety of vendors and items, I was surprised that they managed to pack it as full as they did. While it was only a couple aisles, I felt that pushing it off to the back corner wasn’t the best place for it. Honestly, I would have loved it if Homegrown was more to the front, perhaps in the area where the main stage used to be. That area is off to the side so it can be seen as separate from the main exhibitor hall while giving it the exposure I feel the section deserves.
When you make it up to Artist’s Alley, now this area was full of buzz. A sea of tables full of everyone from big names in independent comics, those published by big name publishers, and individuals from varying audience sizes. This area was arguably the busiest part of con across all four days. When I’m looking for an interesting print, a pin, sticker, or anything really… I head here. Artist Alley has grown on me in the years that I’ve been running coverage, while interesting panels are all well and good… there’s something special about interacting with an artist I admire. It’s a feeling you can’t really quantify, but at its core I know I love it.
Of course, going to Emerald City Comic Con would not be complete if I didn’t touch on the costumes. For me, cosplay is a big part of my convention experience. Seeing strangers and friends all up in their fancy dress gives me all the warm-and-fuzzies I can muster. Conventions are big business, for artists and publishers… internet personalities and movie stars… I get it, this is a business and treating it as a trade show in inevitable for many of its participants. But for me, even as Lifted Geek’s co-founder I still found a way to have fun. Big business aside, this is a social event for me. Seeing my friends, heading to after parties, meeting new friends, downing a couple drinks, and just being surrounded bye like minded nerds supercharge me. Even as an introvert I found that I could socialize longer and party harder simply because it was a convention weekend. There’s something magical one can only get from going to a Comic Con, its an indescribable feeling that has me looking forward to this event every year. I can’t wait until next year, and the year after… the year after… and then some.