Spring in Seattle can mean a lot of things to a lot of people. For some, it’s a time to celebrate the death and return of Jesus. By eating ham and hiding plastic eggs for well dressed children to find. For others, it could be either planning for one hell of a weekend, or drinking away your sorrows while trying to forget how much you owe, both thanks to tax season. But typically, folks in Seattle are rejoicing over the arrival of great weather, beer and Mariners baseball at Safeco Field, and a reason to leave work early the moment you realize that the sun has been out for longer than 4 hours. However, for the rest of us, the ones who really understands the importance of spring, this time of year can mean one thing, and one thing only…EMERALD CITY COMICON!!!
Not the ECCC I remembered…but even better!!
A few months ago, when I heard that Emerald City Comicon was right around the corner, I didn’t even get excited like I would have the last 4 years prior. 2012 was the first and last time I’ve been to ECCC. Not because it wasn’t one of the best times I’ve ever had in my adult life. Or that I felt like a kid in a candy store, surrounded by amazing artwork and within arm’s reach of the artists who created them. It wasn’t even the big crowds of fellow comic geeks of all ages that kept me from coming back. No, what prevented me from returning to magical land of prints and collectibles was that for that past 4 years, every time I made my way to the ECCC website to buy passes, I was shut down because the entire weekend was sold out in minutes.
So this year, I made it my goal to not get my hopes up, only to be rejected yet again from the golden gates of fanboy heaven. But I couldn’t forgive myself if I missed out on yet another year, all because I didn’t even at least try my luck at buying passes. So with no expectations, I went online to try and purchase some passes. To no surprise, all three days were sold out. Even Sunday passes were gone, which was my ace in the hole since it was the last day of the convention, and usually the last tickets to sell out. Disappointed yet again, I was ready to close the web page, but I noticed something different this time around. There was a 4th day for this year’s convention! Passes were still available, except only for Thursday, the first day of the convention. With no hesitation I purchased two passes for Thursday. Because at this point, I didn’t care what day it was on, I was just happy to say I was finally going back to Emerald City Comicon!!
Those weeks leading up to Comicon, I was becoming more excited that my wife and I were not only able to once again add to our collection of wall art, but also just enjoy the atmosphere that comes along with fan or geek conventions. There is something in the air other than the smell of fanboys too excited to shower or put on some deodorant, before walking for hours in homemade storm trooper armor. There is this feeling of joy and excitement, that’s shared by all in attendance, that makes it impossible to not give in to the hype leading up to what has been an amazing first day at ECCC.
The moment we arrived at the convention center, I immediately felt like everything was just how I remembered back in 2012. The cosplay, the crowds, the chaos, it was all the ingredients for what was shaping up to be a great day at a comic book convention. Once we worked our way up the crowded escalator, we made a b-line straight to Artist Alley. This is where all of the artists that we admire via our favorite comics, were in one place, to sell their work to hordes of fans and lovers of pop art alike. My wife and I sort of fall in between the two groups. We’re both fans of comics and avid readers, but bigger fans of pointing and gazing at all them pretty pictures. So much that we buy them and hang them up on our wall, like proud parents displaying a good report card from their kids.
So walking into the convention we knew what our intentions were. We were going to walk the floor, meet the artists, grab business cards from the tables we liked, then grab some cash from the ATM to pay for our newly acquired, glossy 11×17 printed treasures. Last time we went to ECCC, I remember rows of tables covered with portfolio folders . Comic artists sitting behind those tables, and their name either hand scribbled on poster board with a sharpie, or in large bold print across what would look like some house banner from game of thrones. There was also another piece that I remembered from my last visit…all of the artists booths that I visited back in 2012 we’re about 90% white men.
The Boys’ Club opens up
To any person of color or female fan of the medium, it is common knowledge that the industry is a white male dominated boys’ club. With about maybe 10-15% of the industry shared by PoC, women, and the LBGT community. Even smaller if we’re only to consider more mainstream studios, like two who shall remain nameless, but would seem as if they have a new movie out every month, based on their well established roster of iconic heroes and villains. So I was expecting the to see nothing but white men, between the ages of 18-45. Fully equipped with their backpacks, walking shoes, cargo shorts, and obscure vintage t-shirts of classic comic logos to boast their street cred. Except, that wasn’t the majority as me and my wife walked the convention floor.
Indeed those guys were very much in attendance, but they were surprisingly the minority at this year’s event. Not only as attendees, but also as the artists presenting their work for sale and signatures. In its place were definitely a much higher number of women at the convention, as well as much more black people. I definitely noticed that because I felt like the only black guy at 2012’s event, if you would count the guy dressed as Piccolo, the all green Namekian from Dragonball Z as a person of color. But this year definitely felt as if diversity within the realm of both artist and consumer was in full swing towards the direction only growing in numbers.
I had the pleasure of meeting some really nice, and very talented artists. Along with seeing some of their work that is helping to make the industry more diversified. One of whom was an illustrator for the popular show and comic Steven Universe, that has sort of built a cult following, a talented African American woman named Taneka Stotts. Taneka was at Comicon to meet her fans while promoting a new project called Beyond: The Queer Sci-Fi and Fantasy anthology.
There was a really cool art book that was funded by Kickstarter and included the work of an all-women team of artists that illustrated the erotic adventures of the Egyptian God Anubis. In it, he finds himself in many situations that led to…well let’s just say that this book is definitely not for kids or safe for work, but awesome nonetheless.
There were many other artists that represented all social groups, that has been otherwise misrepresented or completely ignored in comics. From African American, women, to even the transgender community who had their own booth displaying their work on the main floor, and not tucked away in some corner as I was told would be the norm for the more “alternative” comics from years prior. Of course I had a ton of fun people watching and buying some great art. Including a piece from an artist who had created a collection of drawings that not only showcased women who were animated in a more realistic way. But also shed light on the Black Lives Matter movement, with all of the proceeds from the prints he sold going directly to support the cause. But my biggest thrill and most unexpected surprise was that what was once a destination to collect some cool stuff while being surround my fellow, but mostly white, fans of the genre. Quickly turned into an eye opening experience in witnessing a genre and culture change right before my eyes, and me being fortunate enough to see it happen on the very first day back at ECCC.
I still look forward to attending Emerald City Comicon, and hope I can make this somewhat of a yearly tradition as long as the powers that be are willing to keep it going. But my reasons for attending has slightly changed. I now look forward to going not for the artwork and cosplay, but to see how much further the fans can drive what was once an exclusively all white male hobby, into a direction that is progressive and inclusive for 4 anyone who ever been a fan of superheroes. To me, the folks I met responsible for those pretty pictures, turned out to be badass heroes themselves.