The Emerald City brings to mind a magical world of flying monkeys and ruby slippers, but add Comic Con to the end and you have a whole new view with Stan Lee’s creations, and actors galore.
ECCC, as is it commonly referred to, first opened it’s doors in 2003, having originally been held at smaller venues until it finally moved to the Washington State Convention and Trade Center in 2008. Dreamed up by Jim Demonakos, what was once a small event with 2500 attendees has exploded into an overwhelming (and rather cramped) 70,000 nerds packed into the convention center. Surprisingly this doesn’t diminish the quality of the con itself, but may impact your experience.
With larger numbers you get larger stars. The first few cons had a handful of intriguing comic creators, but as a nerd who doesn’t specialize in comic books, none of the names were familiar. Fast forward a few years and suddenly the guest list has expanded to include actors from both film and television. What was once a pure comic book convention has slowly evolved into the classic “Comic Con” experience, and still continues to grow.
With increased celebrity guests and attendees the convention center is starting to feel a bit crowded. The draw of the only Northwest comic convention has encouraged ECCC to expand to a four day event for 2016. Soon the convention will outgrow the confines of Seattle’s facilities.
“Fueled by Top Guests Including Hayley Atwell, John Barrowman, and Stan Lee, the Biggest Artist Alley in the U.S., and Rapid Ticket Sales, ReedPOP and Emerald City Comicon Announce Show Plans for April 7-10, 2016″ – Emeraldcitycomicon.com
For those of you who are unfamiliar with the convention center, the building is nestled near the heart of Seattle, and has itself expanded to include the building across the street via a sky bridge. The layout is nonsensical to my directionally challenged mind, and various back hallways and hidden escalators make navigation challenging. Only with the assistance of a true local (as I haven’t lived in the area for over 10 years now) was able to show me the best routes.
View of the sky bridge and main entrance.
Yet the biggest issue surrounding the convention had nothing to do with the minor inconvenience of complicated maps, and instead dealt with Seattle itself. Parking. Oh for the love of all nerdy gods, parking. True that most attendees are smart enough to scoop up hotel rooms and simply walk to the convention (as I have done for PAX Prime in the past) but there are a substantial number people who drive in from the local surrounding areas as I did. This, my friends, was a huge mistake.
After sitting in traffic for over an hour, we had to circle the one way streets of Seattle and try four different parking garages before finally finding a questionable spot to park in a sketchy area. A close friend circled the streets for two hours before giving up and going home only to ride the bus in (which she was trying to avoid due to her cosplay). We learned quickly and bribed family to drive us in and drop us off for the next day.
Yet the stress of travel couldn’t touch the convention’s charm. As a pop culture nerd I highly enjoyed walking through the signature hall and stealing peaks at Clark Gregg, Hayley Atwell, Orlando Jones, and many others. Some actors were welcoming to fans who only wanted to walk up and say hi, rather than pay for their signature. Amanda Tapping was exceptionally sweet when I approached. Being early in the day, her line was minuscule, so I shook her hand and complimented her work. With a beaming smile she chatted a bit before I politely moved aside to let paying fans behind me have their turn.
Amanda Tapping best known for her role on Stargate as Sam Carter.
Not every actor was able to do this as many were so bombarded with fans that their lines were zig zagging into the walkways. Most notably was the line for Stan Lee which took a friend hours to shuffle through. As a side note, I’m not really the star-struck type. I’ve met and spoken with a variety of mildly known individuals, and it’s not difficult in the least to see past the fame to the beautifully flawed individual underneath, but I did have a small moment where I was caught off guard. As I walked down a main hall, Stan Lee happened to pass right by me. Seriously. Stan Lee just made a cameo in my life. A little shocked, my jaw dropped, which one of his entourage decided was good enough to capture on film and shoved a camera in my face. Not my finest moment, but then again I was dressed like a Disney princess, so my embarrassment meter was already filled (I’m still a rather shy addition to the cosplay world).
Overall Emerald City Comic Con was kind of incredible. I’m terribly introverted, and it was a bit overwhelming, but wow. The guest list, celebrities wandering the floor, authors galore, incredible art for reasonable prices, and merchandise as far as the eye can see, certainly made a memorable experience. Often with larger conventions you have to be in the right place at the right time, or pay incredible amounts of money, or wait in line for hours for a single panel, and you can do ECCC that way, or you can sit back and go with the flow to see what happens. I had some incredibly generous friends that led me through and helped enrich my time there. Sure, I was disappointed I missed John Barrowman walking right past me, and I got grumpy after being on my feet all day in a less than ideal cosplay, then of course I was dehydrated and hangry for most of the weekend, but whatever. I’d totally do it again, but only if I stayed at a hotel.