Committed: How Attendees Make ECCC Great

This is an article in praise of the people who attended Emerald City Comicon. Last week I covered some of the basic interactions that I had, meeting and briefly talking to comic book creators at ECCC. What I missed writing about, and why I felt it worthy of a follow up article, is the fantastic crowd who attend this Seattle convention.

When it comes right down to it, the reason any convention works and is enjoyable is the general atmosphere. Yes, a convention can be much improved by a good meeting with a like-minded fan or a long-time hero, but in terms of the day-to-day ambience, it is mostly about moving through the crowds of regular people who go to these conventions (and actually, the same can be said for most situations we find ourselves in - the people we do it with have the greatest impact on the how we experience the environment.) I'm not sure why it is, but somehow, attendees and guests at ECCC seem more relaxed. Even in situations like a slightly crowded Saturday, there is amore breathing room and a less anxiety than I've experienced at other cons, like New York Comic Con, San Diego Comic Con, or even WonderCon. Now of course, NYCC and SDCC are both larger than ECCC and while size has some impact, there are many other key factors that are different:

  1. Unlike SDCC and NYCC, not that many companies are there to sell merchandise other than comic books, and the merch they sell is always related to comic books in some way.
  2. Inside the main hall, there no food being sold, so there aren't any weird smells in the windowless space as there are at NYCC.
  3. Artists alley and creator owned comic books are on the main floor, alongside larger publishing companies, (rather than being cordoned off in a separate area as they are at NYCC, or simply kept to one side of the hall as in SDCC), so meeting people becomes more organic.
  4. The design of the Seattle convention center means that the hallway leading to the main floor is flooded with daylight, which gives instant access to a bit of reality for anyone with even a hint of claustrophobia.
  5. The weather is generally cooler than SDCC (or even NYCC, even in the winter, since the space gets so overheated), which means that people can get away with wearing warmer costumes without looking like they're going to pass out from the heat.
  6. Any actor and celebrity guests are on a different floor, so there is less friction between the comic book fans and the movie fans.
  7. Which brings up another important point; ECCC is essentially just comic books, and no comic book-related movies. This attracts a very different, much more low-key audience which adds a lot to the relaxed atmosphere.
  8. Even on Sunday, which is traditionally the kids day, there are less children at ECCC than I've seen at any other comic book convention (which, as much as I like kids, does contribute to a less panicky atmosphere, since kids often get understandably frightened by the crowds at convention.) More importantly, the kids who're there move slower, are rushed less and generally seem happier than the kids I've seen at other cons over the last 4 years.

There are a few things that make ECCC different from other conventions, and I think these all contribute to the happier convention. However, we also have to look at how much of this is because of the people and city in which the convention is held? I think the answer to this can be most obviously seen in the cosplayers, because even if you're so consumed by the convention that you never get around to exploring the rest of the city, you can pick up on the different kinds of attitudes by looking at how they approach dressing up.

In Seattle there is a marvelous nonchalance to the costumes, sometimes they're good, sometimes they aren't, but people are playing and they're enjoying it. Conversely, in San Diego I've seen some incredibly accurate costumes, but the people posing in them often look tense (which makes sense, as there are a lot more industry cameras at SDCC.) On the other side of the spectrum is New York, where we rarely see an accurate costume, but the cosplayers still seem edgy and uncomfortable (which probably has something to do with the the overcrowded environs.) The universal offenders are:

  1. Men not wearing athletic support when wearing spandex - This is a universal problem, but I'd say it happens 90% of the time in NY. No idea why, maybe they don't have access to cups?
  2. People who aren't the same ethnicity or sex as the person they're dressing up as (i.e. white kids dressing as asian or black, women dressed as men, or vice versa) - I've seen this predominantly in Seattle and it speaks volumes about the relaxed attitudes of attendees. While NYCC attendees also seem comfortable going off-brand with their costumes, I haven't seen anyone use cosmetics to fake being a different ethnicity or sex as they do in Seattle, NYCC cosplayers seem to more frequently simply ignore the differences.
  3. People who aren't the same size or shape as the superhero they're dressed as - This is huge in NYCC, nearly everyone there is a larger version of the hero they emulate (Jamie Oliver needs to do one of those intervention food shows where he makes us all eat healthy for the next con.) In Seattle it happens a lot, but there is more humor about it, as if they're aware of the difference and like it, instead of being subtly pissed off about it as people seem to be at other cons. In San Diego you get more skinny women with fake boobs, which is another kind of difference from the superheroic ideal. Obviously it happens at all cons, but more frequently in SDCC.
  4. Overall, Seattle definitely has the most zombies, the most convincing zombie make-up, and even the most child-zombies I've seen. And they did before Walking Dead came out too, so they're hip to zombies I guess. (Now I think of it, maybe this is why the only people I know who own guns are people who live in Seattle...?)

At the end of the day, what makes a convention great is usability and the people who attend. ECCC comes through on both fronts, it's less crowded, functionally superior as a building and in organization. Content-wise, it is focused on the love of the comic books, (without excluding or marginalizing any genre.) There is an appreciation and acceptance which affects everyone who attends, and we can all take that with us when we leave to go back to our daily lives.

(The rest of my photos from ECCC are all up on my now if you want to see them, click here to open the set.)

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