ECCC 2011: Three Days of Comic Craziness

Over the last several months, there have been various news articles about a "slump" in the comic book market. In looking at upcoming comic book conventions such as the Emerald City Comicon, however, one would believe our industry is thriving. In less than ten years, this Seattle convention has grown from a gathering of a few thousand people to a full-blown three-day event with an expected attendance of roughly 25,000 fans!

CBR News spoke with ECCC Founder and Director Jim Demonakos to discuss the con and its growth before all the fun begins this Friday.

CBR News: Jim, the convention's expansion to a three-day affair is quite noteworthy. There aren't many cons in the country that run Friday through Sunday. What prompted this decision?

Jim Demonakos: With the growth we've experienced over the past few years, we felt it was time to expand the show to accommodate the ever-increasing demand. We added both additional exhibit and programming space, and expanded the show by an extra day to fit everything in. We didn't make the decision lightly and wanted to make sure that we had enough space and events to make the three-day event jam-packed, rather than add filler for fillers' sake.

What do you feel distinguishes ECCC from other comic conventions?

I think that at its heart, ECCC is a comic book show and makes no apologies about it. I want to run a comic book show, so I do. Our guest list always starts with the comic guys, and though we do have media, they are outweighed by comic people at least 50-to-1!

Can you tell us a bit about your comic guests?

Our guest list has almost two hundred names on it this year -- our biggest list yet -- and that doesn't even count all the amazing creators, writers and artists that populate our gigantic artist alley.

If you're a regular to ECCC, we're still bringing out dozens of creators who have never attended, including Frank Quitely, Terry & Rachel Dodson, Larry Hama, Mike McKone, Guy Davis, Steve Epting, John Arcudi, Jonathan Hickman, Geof Darrow, Cliff Chiang, Sergio Aragones, Cameron Stewart, Doug TenNapel, J. Scott Campbell, Clay Mann, Yanick Paquette, Scott Lobdell, Joshua Hale Fialkov, Peter Krause, Max Brooks, Jacen Burrows, Chrissie Zullo and Mike Wolfer -- just to name a few!

What can attendees look forward to in terms of panels?

We have four panel rooms going on at any one time, so there's a ton of programming to enjoy. We have everything from David Malki's "True Stuff From Old Books" to Max Brooks' "Zombie Survival Panel," in addition to a ton of great spotlight panels on media and comic guests, all the major publishers talking about their future books, a panel called "Super-Blank: The Game Show" (based on the old "Match Game"), Nerd Improv, an LGBT Comics Panel, Con Horror Stories and a whole lot more.

You have quite the list of media guests, including William Shatner. What other celebrities can fans look forward to? And how do you create your media guest list?

We have Felicia Day and Amy Okuda from "The Guild," John Noble and Jasika Nicole from "Fringe," Wil Wheaton from both "Star Trek" and "Big Bang Theory," "Tron" himself Bruce Boxleitner, the MacManus Brothers from "Boondock Saints" -- Sean Patrick Flanery and Norman Reedus (who also plays Daryl on "The Walking Dead" TV series) and many others.

What we strive for when we create our list are actors and actresses who fit well with all the genres represented at the show and the interest of the fanbase, so it's a good balance of classic and modern. We try our best to make a nice even guest list so there's someone for almost everyone.

Can you tell us more about the James Marsters concert and Kracklefest?

James Marsters, who famously played Spike on "Buffy the Vampire Slayer," is also an accomplished musician. After we added him to the guest list, the idea of a concert came up, so we worked with the Hard Rock Cafe to create a fun evening, kicked off by the Marsters performance and then leading in to Kracklefest, a night of big nerd rock featuring Kirby Krackle, Adam WarRock and H2Awesome!

What kinds of exclusives will fans find at the ECCC this year?

One of the coolest things is something that's free to the fans -- we worked together with Scott Allie and Dark Horse Comics to create an exclusive comic that features a brand new "B.P.R.D. Hell on Earth" story by the entire B.P.R.D. creative team. Plus, Mike Mignola created a brand-new piece of Hellboy art for our official show t-shirt.

We also have the newest incarnation of our charity art book, "Monsters & Dames," and a number of publishers have created exclusives, like Image Comics' "Skullkickers" HC, BOOM! Studios' 'Stan Lee' variants, Top Cow's "Darkness" variant, an exclusive "Guild" print by TFAW & Dark Horse, and many more!

Longtime ECCC attendees are familiar with the "Monsters & Dames" art book, but can you explain what that is for folks who haven't been introduced to this special item and the auction that goes along with it?

We had the idea for a charity art book a few years ago, something where we could get our guest artists to contribute an original piece of art to help create the book and also raise money for a worthy cause. I came up with the theme of "Monsters & Dames," which is very versatile and open to interpretation, so it allows artists to turn in a really broad variety of pieces.

Then, we take all the pieces and print them in a gorgeous full color, 9"x12" hardcover. They're limited this year to 1000 (we've sold out the previous two years' editions at 850, so we decided to raise the print run by a little bit) and part of the proceeds benefit Seattle Children's Hospital, a premier child health care and pediatric center, recognized as one of the leading hospitals for children in the US. We've raised over $10,000 for them thus far!

This year's book is wrapped up in a stunning cover by Adam Hughes and features contributions from guests of the show including Skottie Young, Cully Hamner, Guy Davis, Frank Cho, JG Jones, Geof Darrow, Bruce Timm, Humberto Ramos, Todd Nauck, Yanick Paquette, Aaron Lopresti, Cliff Chiang, Mike McKone, Cameron Stewart, Erik Larsen, Chris Giarrusso, Pete Woods, Jonathan Hickman, Sean "Cheeks" Galloway and dozens more.

Additionally, many artists donate the originals and on Sunday evening, we auction them off to raise even more money for Seattle Children's Hospital.

Do you have any tips for attendees?

Wear comfy shoes, bring a bottle of water and some snacks and don't be a jerk.

Solid advice, to be sure! Is there anything that you're looking forward to in particular during the con?

Since the con is my job, I find that I'm pretty busy most of the show, but I do try to make time to walk around Artist Alley and the exhibitors, looking for cool stuff to buy. I also do look forward to our "Masquerade" which is held after-hours. We get dozens of entries with some amazing costumes; it's really a lot of fun!

Emerald City Comicon runs from Friday, March 4 through Sunday, March 6

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