By Transmute Jun
Emerald City Comic Con (ECCC) is a strong contender in the pop culture convention arena, particularly for those who live on the west coast. ECCC celebrated its 15th con from March 2nd-5th, 2017, proving why it has become a beloved event for those in the Pacific Northwest and beyond.
This was the second year of ReedPOP influence at ECCC, and thus far it seems that the new ownership has only had positive benefits for the con. From the ability to create your own schedule using the ‘My Show’ functionality (although the app admittedly needs work) to the expanded space for Artist Alley, to the entertainers pumping up the crowd between guests on the main stage, there were definitely elements that attendees of other ReedPOP cons would find familiar and enhanced the overall event. Yet ReedPOP has also done an excellent job of letting ECCC keep its own flavor, with many local artists, entertainers, and companies taking part in this annual event. This was especially evident on Thursday, which is only a half day of the con (ECCC only expanded to 4 days in 2016). It is akin to ‘Preview Night’ at San Diego Comic Con, with only a few small panels to take people away from the Exhibit Floor, where local artists and creators had a chance to shine.
This year saw the return of a stronger celebrity guest roster to the con. Attendees had the chance to see panels with numerous guests, including Stan Lee, Tom Felton, Robert Englund, Alice Cooper, and Vincent D’Onofrio, as well as the stars of Outlander, Animaniacs, and Guardians of the Galaxy.
Yet the biggest change this year was in the reorganization of the con layout. The 6th floor of the Washington State Convention Center (WSCC) was devoted entirely to Artist Alley and The Writers’ Block, making it easy for everyone to find their favorite creators. There were more tables than ever in Artist Alley this year, with ReedPOP executive Mike Armstrong opining that it was a close second only to New York Comic Con in being the best Artist Alley in the country. Once again, The Writers’ Block hosted many authors who held panels on topics of interest to readers and aspiring authors, gave away free books, and held free autograph signings for attendees. The Writers’ Block is the most immersive writing event I have experienced at a con, save for the Writers’ Symposium at GenCon (which is an entirely different level of immersion).
Autographing and photo ops, which had previously taken the majority of space on the 6th floor, were moved to the adjacent Sheraton Hotel, while the gaming activities (panels, vendors and open gaming) were moved to the 2nd floor of the WSCC. Gamers were extremely happy with the relocation, feeling more a part of the con since they
were a part of the main building. Each evening, as attendees were leaving the main hall and exhibit floor, “minions” (the term used for ECCC volunteers) held signs on the 2nd floor inviting attendees to stick around for gaming, which ran until midnight. And many did, further increasing the presence and immersion of gaming at ECCC.
The main exhibit floor itself was rearranged slightly to move the bigger booths (such as Image and Dark Horse) away from major thoroughfares to allow for better traffic flow. While it was a bit disconcerting to have to mentally adjust to the new locations for mainstay booths, in the end it was all for the better.
Another big improvement was the institution of a lottery for purchasing at the Funko booth. In 2016, attendees who had paid extra for VIP badges to be first on the floor were angry and frustrated when they arrived at the Funko booth first thing, only to find the line already full of exhibitors buying product to flip for a profit. This year, Funko held a lottery, and only those with valid attendee badges could enter. A successful entry would allow the winner to enter the line at a pre-designated time to purchase any items they wanted (quantities were limited to one of each item). Stock was held back for each day, and attendees from all days of the con had a chance at the exclusives.
Unfortunately, a few greedy exhibitors still left a bad taste in the mouths of attendees after one particularly cringe-worthy stunt. Cards Against Humanity (CAH) is a company known for its unorthodox approach to many aspects of marketing, as anyone who has ever visited their website or participated in their unique holiday promotions will attest. For ECCC 2017, CAH booked a large booth on the Exhibit Floor in a high traffic location. They brought a huge number of games and expansions, planning to offer them all for sale as part of a ‘pay what you want’ offer throughout the entire convention. Unfortunately, a number of morally questionable exhibitors came by the booth before the con officially opened on Thursday, literally taking armloads of the games away, before any attendees had ever set foot on the Exhibit Floor. The few remaining games were purchased by attendees (who, unlike the exhibitors, did leave something in the cash box set up for the event) but the entire stock was gone before even an hour had passed. For CAH, the con was over before it had barely started. The booth stood empty for the rest of Thursday. On Friday, the booth stood empty again, with a handwritten note shaming the exhibitors who had taken the majority of the product. On Saturday, CAH decided to do something productive with the space, and offered tables to local Seattle artists who had not been able to get their own table at ECCC. On Sunday, CAH provided paper, pens and envelopes to attendees, allowing people to write letters to their congressmen about whatever was on their minds. They even provided the addresses of representatives for all 50 states, so everyone would know where to send their letters. It was impressive to see how the company had turned lemons into lemonade, and their attitude really embodied the fun-loving spirit of the con.
Despite this one incident, ECCC went extremely well, with many first time and returning attendees declaring their intentions to return next year to enjoy this con all over again. ECCC 2018 is scheduled for March 1-4. I know I’ll be there, and I would encourage anyone who has been considering this con to give it a try, particularly if you live on or near the west coast.
Did you attend ECCC 2017? Join the conversation on FoCC!