Yes, this past weekend I ventured to the far northwest corner of our fair country (well, if you don’t count the even more farther northwest corner of the country, Alaska) to attend the Emerald City Comic Convention, which is my favorite comic convention not only because so many cool people show up there, but because Seattle is just a darned neat city. I always like writing up my con experiences, so y’all just have to endure this!
I don’t always get to Seattle for the convention, but I always want to go – it just depends on circumstances. I went in 2012, 2013, and 2016, and this year I went with my wife and my younger daughter, because Krys digs Seattle as well (she also went with me in 2013) and we figured my daughter would enjoy herself, too. I wanted to go this particular year because my parents, who take care of my older daughter for us when we go away, are getting older (they’re 73), and we’re not sure how much longer they’re going to be able to deal with my daughter. My dad needs to lift and carry her, and she’s getting heavier and he’s not getting any younger. So we need to take advantage of them while we can! Plus, we’re fairly certain we’re doing big things the next two years, so it might not be financially feasible to go to the con then. I love seeing comics professionals whom I’ve become friends with at the conventions, and many of them go to Seattle, but this year there was a bit more of an incentive, as former CSBG writer Kelly Thompson was making the trip up from Portland to table at her first convention. Kelly’s career is flourishing, and while I’ve had many discussions with her at the old blog and via email, I’ve never met her in person, so this seemed the perfect opportunity. Unfortunately, she couldn’t make it, so I didn’t get to meet her, but that didn’t make the trip a failure!
We flew in on Wednesday night and drove to Redmond, because that’s where my cousin lives. My cousin has lived in Seattle for several years, and she has graciously allowed us to stay with her when we visit, because she’s awesome. Her sons are 11 and 9, and her daughter is the twin of the second son, so I figured my daughter would get along very well with them, and she did. We had to rent a car, but luckily we didn’t have to drive it all that often, because we took the bus into Seattle. On Thursday we went downtown to do touristy things. The con doesn’t start until 2 in the afternoon, so I figured I didn’t have to go there on Thursday just for a short period of time. I had plenty of time on the weekend! We headed down to Uwajimaya Village in Chinatown, because we knew my daughter would be agog. And she was. She got a bunch of stuff, and we ate tasty food – whenever I go there, I have to buy loco moco at the Hawaiian place in the food court. Damn, that’s some excellent dining.
After lunch we went on the underground tour of Seattle. Krys and I had done the tour in 1996, but that was some time ago (man, I’m old!) and we thought Norah would enjoy it. My cousin said their family went on it about 8 years ago and it was awful – lots of trash, a bored tour guide – but both times we’ve done it, it’s been fine. Our tour guide this time was fun, and there wasn’t any trash except the old rubble, which we expected to see (I forgot to ask my cousin if it was “trash” as in hamburger wrappers and such or just the rubble that is part of the tour). It wasn’t quite as good as it was in 1996 because parts of the tour then are no longer around. The most famous thing in the old tour was the toilet on stilts, which doesn’t exist anymore. I guess it was outside the designated historic district so it wasn’t safe from developers, and it’s now a parking garage. PROGRESS! But it was still a nifty experience.
On Friday we went to breakfast at Lola (because when we’re in town we always have to go to breakfast at Lola), where I had what were probably the best Eggs Benedict I’ve eaten in 20 years. Man, they were good. Norah discovered the marvel of mascarpone, which is always something nice to discover. Then Krys and Norah did their own thing – they went to the Space Needle and Pike Place Market while I went to the con. It was cold, windy, and sprinkling, so their sojourn at the Space Needle wasn’t as impressive as it can be, but Norah enjoyed it. There was a distinct lack of fish-throwing at the market, unfortunately, but such is life. It began to rain harder later in the afternoon, and this was the only day when we got really soaked, mostly because we were waiting for the bus for a while. But, you know, it’s Seattle in March. It’s going to rain.
We went out to dinner every night, because we’re just social butterflies, don’t you know. On Thursday we took our hosts out to dinner. The kids were predictably wacky, but they didn’t burn anything down, so that was nice. My aunt was in town, too – she lives in Pennsylvania but spends a lot of time at her daughter’s place because she enjoys it – so that was fun catching up with her (and getting the gossip about her son, who has had some interesting stuff going on in his life recently). On Friday night we went out with my friend Lisa, whom I met in Australia in 1992 when I studied abroad there. Whenever I get to Seattle I have dinner with her, because she’s very cool and fun to talk to. She’s an immigration lawyer, so she’s having some fun these days, you can bet. Her boyfriend is also very passionate about politics, so we had a fun conversation about our Orange Overlord. Then, on Saturday night, we hung out with Greg and Julie Hatcher. Every year, a group of people from the old CBR try to get together and have dinner during the convention. I don’t know all of them, but it’s always a blast. This year Greg was hoping that our very own Jim MacQuarrie might make the trip, but alas, it was not to be. Greg and Julie are always fun to talk to, and usually some of his former students show up, which was the case this year. We met at the Lost Lake Café and Lounge on Capitol Hill, which turned out to be a pretty cool, if unashamedly hipster, place. I had a burger with bacon on it between two slice of Texas toast, the top one of which had an egg embedded in it. Dang, it was good. And … I got a parking ticket. Thanks, Obama! (I’m sure it’s his fault. He probably tapped my phone and told the cops where I had parked.)
The actual convention was great, as usual. The organizers decided that they actually could use the entire convention center, so they expanded onto a different floor this year, which was the right move. Last year it was starting to feel a bit cramped, which was annoying as ECCC, it seems, can finally flex some muscles and get the entire convention center for the weekend (when I was there in 2012, I think – I don’t think it was 2013 – there was another convention in the convention center on the same weekend, but those days, it seems, are over). So this year they put Artist Alley up on the 6th floor while the main convention hall was on the 4th. A few artists told me they were a bit worried about being so far away, but they didn’t need to – Artist Alley was packed whenever I went up there, and by putting it on a different floor, it felt bigger and, presumably, more artists were able to get in. The convention has become a bit more pop-culture-oriented since I first went there five years ago, but it’s still largely comics-centered, so by giving the publishers their free rein on one floor and allowing the artists to stretch their legs, metaphorically and literally, on another floor helps keep it focused on comics. Good move, ECCC!
I didn’t plan my convention very well this year, so unfortunately I didn’t get to see all that I wanted to. Because my cousin lives “so far away” (Redmond is only 15 miles east of Seattle, but the reliance on the bus made it seem farther), it was harder to get there early – we had to go to the Park and Ride and then get the bus, which took a bit longer than a car (on the plus side, I didn’t have to park downtown, which I did on Sunday, and it was a nightmare). Then, of course, on Friday we went to breakfast, so I didn’t end up at the convention until around noon. I wanted to go back to Redmond with my wife and daughter, so once they got tired of wandering around downtown, I went back with them. On Saturday, I took my daughter and my cousin’s daughter, so that also restricted both my time and where I went, as they aren’t really interested in me talking to comics creators when there’s so many pins and stuffed animals to buy! Finally, on Sunday I was constrained because we had to get to the airport to fly home. So while I saw a bunch of people, I missed a bunch of people, too. It was frustrating.
However, I did get to see a lot of people and I bought several things. I finally got the first Moebius Library Edition, as Diamond never delivered it to my shop, which is a source of frustration both for me and my retailer. I also met John Lees, who wrote the terrific horror series And Then Emily Was Gone a few years ago and who had a big hardcover collection of The Standard at his booth, another book that I ordered through Previews and never got. Lees is a fun dude – he talks a mile a minute in a thick Scottish accent, but I’m pretty sure I caught everything he said! I bought his newest comic, Sink, which I thought Travis might have written about, but I guess he didn’t. Sink is a horror comic set in Glasgow, and it’s a lot of … well, fun, I guess, but I have a weird definition of “fun.” It’s definitely creepy, and I look forward to more. Naturally, I spoke to my three favorite people in comics – Dylan Meconis, Erika Moen, and Lucy Bellwood, who remain awesome. I didn’t buy anything from Dylan this year because I own pretty much everything she’s done, but she’s working on something massive (and has been for a while) and she’s planning on launching a Kickstarter for the second volume of Family Man, her web comic, in a few months, so I’ll be giving her money soon enough! Meanwhile, I bought porn from Erika (one should always buy their porn from Erika, says I) and a boat-related comic from Lucy (one should always buy their boat-related comics from Lucy), so that was keen. I introduced my daughter and my cousin’s daughter to both of them, because that’s just what you do at conventions, man!
I also saw Tyler Chin-Tanner, who was manning his table with his daughter, who drew me a sketch of Rogue. She drew me a monster last year, and it’s impressive how good it was last year and how much better she was this year (she’s … 10, I think?). I had a nice conversation with Dave Dwonch, who’s always fun to chat with and who showed me some pages of a book he’s working on that looks amazing. While I was there, Mat Heagerty, who wrote Just Another Sheep for Action Lab and who’s working on a few books that sound very cool, stopped by. It was fascinating talking about pitching to companies with them (I contributed very little, because I’ve never pitched to a company, but I know a little bit about it), because it sounds like such an arduous process and I always forget that. Being a comics creator sucks, man. I also spoke a little to Brian Clevinger and Scott Wegener of Atomic Robo fame, who told me that a new mini-series should be out in October. Now that Chew is done, Atomic Robo is probably the most entertaining comic out there (if not, it’s close!), so you should really check out the nice hardcover collections of the series!
I spoke to Jason McNamara, who had a table at the con after some years of not doing conventions, and Jason is a hell of a nice guy and a wonderful dude to listen to. He was talking to the manager of Escapist Comics in Berkeley (I’m pretty sure her name was Jessica, but I can’t find her business card right now, dang it!), and as Jason used to live in San Francisco, he was talking a lot about the area and the weird stuff he used to get into there. He was sharing his booth with Brian Schirmer, with whom I had communicated over email a few times but had never met, so that was cool. Naturally, I stopped by the Man of Action booth, where I said hello to Steven Seagle and Joe Casey, but also to Matt Southworth and Moritat, who were hanging out at the table. I didn’t get a chance to speak much to Southworth, as I only saw him on Sunday when time was short due to my plane leaving, but I did chat with Moritat for a while, because he’s a swell guy. He told me some weird gossip, too – not because it was juicy, but because it was odd that it should stay secret. You won’t get it out of me! I also said hello to Steve Lieber, who is always nice to talk to, and Meredith McClaren, my fellow Phoenician, who is also excellent to talk to. Steve Bryant was there, too, at his first ECCC, and I chatted with him a little about Athena Voltaire, which is going nicely for him – he plans on doing a series of mini-series about everyone’s favorite 1930s aviatrix, which is a smart move, and you should all read them because they’re wildly entertaining comics. On Sunday I could only speak to Dan Schkade for a few minutes because I was in such a hurry to catch my flight, but Dan is very nice and we had an interesting conversation about his art and Brennan Wagner’s colors on The Spirit, which is a gorgeous comic. I ran into David Brothers at the Image booth and Jeff Parker at his table, but I missed the excellent “Parker/Brothers” panels they do together because it was in the middle of Saturday afternoon and I figured my daughter and my cousin’s daughter wouldn’t be that interested. Dang.
As I do every year, I missed some people I would have liked to say hello to. I barely said anything to Joe Casey, mainly because he was absent when I happened to wander by the Man of Action booth, but I did talk to him briefly. I didn’t say hello to Matt Wagner, because when I did see him at his table, he was busy doing other things. I missed Andrew Kafoury and Brandon Seifert, which bums me out because I’ve enjoyed talking to those guys in the past. I also didn’t go back to Dan Parent’s table to buy a nice hardcover of Die, Kitty! Die!, because my store never got the fourth issue and the hardcover was really nice. But my daughter and my cousin’s kid got a lot of stuff, from pins (my daughter is obsessed with pins) to stuffed animals to actual comics, so that was fun. You always miss something at cons, so it’s not surprising I didn’t get to everything that I wanted to get to, but such is life. We move on!
So that was my weekend in Seattle. ECCC is a cool show, and it’s right downtown, so you’re near a lot of stuff if you feel like wandering outside for a while. I’ve said before that’s it rare that I talk to a comics professional who isn’t very polite, even though I’ve heard stories about some of them being dismissive. I guess I just don’t talk to the jerks, because I usually have great conversations with comics creators (whether they think they’re good conversations is something we don’t need to get into here!). I always spend a bit too much money, but that’s the way it is, because you always see cool stuff that you can’t get elsewhere, but I did manage to restrain myself just a bit more than usual. I have no idea if I’m going to be able to go back next year (my plans always depend on available funds and whether someone can take care of my older daughter), but I always want to go. We’ll just have to wait and see!