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“I pass boats and the Kingdome …”: It’s all about Emerald City Comic-Con!

by  in Comic News Comment
“I pass boats and the Kingdome …”: It’s all about Emerald City Comic-Con!

I spent the weekend in Seattle going to the Emerald City Comic-Con, seeing old friends, and generally having a grand time. And now I’m going to write about it!

It’s been a few years since I went to Emerald City – I replaced it the last two years with the Rose City con in Portland, because it was just too difficult and expensive to fly to two different cities for comic conventions in the same calendar year. I like both conventions, but Emerald City has a few years on Portland, so it’s bigger and, I guess, better. The last time I was there, in 2013, it was beginning to get crazy, and I heard that it keeps growing, so I wanted to get back up there before it got too insane. Plus, my daughter continues to get bigger – she gained about 14 pounds in the past year – and I’m worried that soon she’ll be too big even for me to move around, much less my wife, so I wanted to get to the con before that happens. As an added bonus, Kieron Gillen and Jamie McKelvie were at the con, and I don’t get to see them too often as they live in, you know, England. Man, England is far away!

I flew in on Wednesday afternoon, the day before the convention opened. ECCC has wisely expanded to four days (really, three-and-a-half, as it starts at 2 p.m.), as it was too big to begin on Friday anymore, but it meant I had to fly in on Wednesday so I could get settled before diving into the madness. I was staying with my cousin, Andrea, who has lived in Seattle for a little over a decade now. She has three kids – a 10-year-old son and 8-year-old fraternal twins – and they are, as you might expect, quite a handful. Kids never sit down and shut up, do they? It’s a weird experience, because while I have two kids, very often it’s like we have one because Mia doesn’t interact with Norah very much, and she can’t get into things by herself, because she’s in the wheelchair. So having a well-behaved 10-year-old and a special needs 13-year-old is a very different experience from three completely able-bodied kids, two of whom are boys. They were perfectly nice kids, but they were bouncing around all the time. I don’t know how my cousin and her husband aren’t mired in alcoholism and drug abuse, frankly. Hey, maybe they are and they hide it well! My aunt, whom I haven’t seen in many years, was visiting as well, so that was cool – it’s always nice to see family!

My cousin lives in South Seattle, not too far from the light rail, which is very handy. The biggest problem is that she lives on a hill near the light rail, so walking to her house after a day at the convention and lugging a bag full of books was no fun at all, but that’s okay – I certainly need the exercise. It was nice to walk down the hill and hop on the train to get downtown, especially as the convention center is very close to the light rail stop. The weather was phenomenal, too, which was nice – on Thursday it got up to 80, but then it got cooler over the next few days, and only on Sunday was it a little overcast. Meanwhile, it got really hot in Phoenix before pouring down rain, so I think I got the better end of the weather stick. Who could have anticipated that in April?

On Thursday, I went to Chinatown and had lunch at Uwajimaya, where I knew I could find good loco moco. I have very specific tasks! After that, I wandered up to the convention center, but I was an hour early and they wouldn’t let you stand anywhere (every place was a “no stand” zone, it seemed), so I had to keep moving, like a shark. I did happen to go in the bathroom, and if you’re thinking, “Jeez, Greg, we don’t need to know everything!”, I’m mentioning it because it was the weirdest bathroom I’ve ever seen. It was crowded, so I had to use a stall. There were two stalls, and the one closest to the door (the non-handicapped-accessible one) had a short wall, because I could see the dude standing there using it. What I didn’t notice is that the wall between that stall and the one behind it (the one I had to use) also had a big space in it, so that if you were standing in it, you could see everything above the waist. You might be thinking, “What the fuck?”, because that’s what I was thinking, too. What if you have to, you know, take care of certain bowel problems rather than just your bladder? The person next to you can simply look down and see you sitting on the toilet. What the fuck, indeed. I didn’t take a picture because of the dude standing in the stall next to me, and I never got back to the bathroom to see if I could get a quick picture while no one was in there, but that was quite possibly the stupidest design I’ve ever seen. I mean, what the fuck?

Then it was time to hit the convention. I knew I wanted to see Greg Hatcher‘s (first) panel (Greg is so famous that he was on two panels), which began at 4.30, but I discovered that David Brothers and Jeff Parker were doing their fun panel at 3.00, so I wanted to see that, too. Before that, I stopped by to see Matthew Southworth, who’s always interesting to talk to. I told him on Sunday how much I enjoyed his story in Creepy last year, because I hadn’t gotten a chance yet. It’s quite good – you should check it out; it’s in issue #20 of the series.

I went over to Parker’s booth to say hello, and he noticed that it was about time to head to his panel, so we decided to go together. As we were leaving, he ran into a woman he introduced to me as “Roxy.” I asked if she was Roxy Polk, and she was quite excited that someone knew an editor, but then again, I’m pretty awesome. She’s now working at Stela, which sounds like a pretty cool thing – it’s an app with original comics on it, and it’s free to download and the first issue of every comic is free. They have some cool creators lined up, so this won’t be the last time I mention them! We tried to get to the panel, but we kept getting lost, which was a bizarre experience. I mean, we’re three reasonably intelligent people, and we couldn’t find the damned panel room! We did get there, and the panel was pretty neat. Parker talked a lot about Future Quest, which looks amazing. Parker shared a story about Doug Wildey, who worked on the original cartoon, not wanting a dog in the story, preferring a monkey (because monkeys can do more than dogs). But the powers-that-be wanted a dog, so we got Bandit. Everyone always messes with the creators!

I also went to Greg Hatcher’s panel, where he was joined by David Lasky, Linda Medley, and two of his former students, Katrina and Lindon (whom you might remember from her pirate days, back in 2013). They talked about teaching comics making to kids and what it does for them. Greg has hundreds of stories about shy kids blossoming in his class, and he’s a great storyteller, so he dominated the panel, but Lasky and Medley had good tips about how to teach the kids and what tools to use, and Katrina and Lindon were able to provide first-hand testimonials about what the class did for them. It was a nice summation of what Greg tries to do for kids, which is why he’s so very awesome.

After that, I hung out with Greg and Lindon for a bit, but I had to leave so I could get ready to go out that night. I have friends in Seattle, you know! I had contacted my friend John, whom I met in college and who lives in Seattle, and he suggested we meet at Vermillion Art Gallery and Bar, which I already didn’t like because they didn’t know how to spell “vermilion.” I said that was fine and took the light rail to the downtown station, planning to simply walk a bit uphill to Capitol Hill, which is where the bar is located. Boy, was that dumb. First, there’s a station in Capitol Hill which turned out to be not too far from Vermillion, and second, Vermillion turned out to be really far from the downtown station and the hill is really steep. I started walking and was pretty happy when I reached 9th Avenue, because Vermillion is on 11th. I’d be there in no time! Well, then the damned Northwest hippies decided to stick nine (9) streets with names in between 9th and 10th, and they also had the gall to name the next one 10th, as if we wouldn’t notice the many, many blocks in between 9th and 10th. Stupid unwashed hippies! So it took me a while to get there. It’s a fairly tiny place, really long and narrow, with a few video games in the front and a long hallway that leads back to a small room where the bar is and where bands perform. The reason he wanted to meet there became clear when a band he likes, Thee Sean Ruse, started playing. That was fine, though – he brought earplugs (I just can’t deal with the volume of live music anymore, and in a small space like this, it was even worse), and they didn’t play very long. I can’t say if they were any good, because I don’t know any of their songs and I couldn’t understand the lead singer, but they weren’t terrible. After they finished, we went down to a Mexican restaurant and I had my second dinner of the night. What can I say, he wanted to meet around 9 p.m. (what am I, 20 years old?) and I ate at my cousin’s house, but at 10.30, food was sounding pretty good! It’s always cool hanging out with John – he’s a weird dude, but he’s very interesting. We didn’t reminisce as much as we usually do (like most long-time friends, we simply say things that have no meaning to anyone else but make us laugh), but it was great catching up. And all that walking meant I went over 23,000 steps on my FitBit, which is my highest total ever. That’s like 11 miles. Yeah. I was tired.

Friday dawned bright and early, and I was ready for my first full day at the con! Whoo-hoo! As I do most of the time, I immediately sought out my two favorite creators in comics, which I think I now have to make a triumvirate (although that’s an inherently sexist word, especially as they’re all women). Of course, I’m referring to Erika Moen and Dylan Meconis, but Lucy Bellwood, I think, has to join those two now. I finally bought the two volumes of Erika’s Oh Joy Sex Toy, which is of course hilarious. I told her later that I love supporting her and other works that are … let’s say Not Safe For Work, but it’s funny because I am, after all, something of a prude. I don’t let that get in the way of enjoying this comic, but it is so far out of my experience that it’s pretty bizarre. Dylan is working on a top-secret project (well, I don’t know if it’s top-secret, because she told me about it, but I’ll let her tell everyone about it) which will take up her time for still a while, but I’m waiting patiently for that. She did draw a chapter in an updated version of “The Odyssey” called, appropriately enough, The Odyssey of Sergeant Jack Brennan, so I bought that. Lucy is getting the colored collected version of her mini-comics Baggywrinkles together, and she had a proof there that looks stupendous. I can’t wait to get it. I also said hello to Steve Lieber (Dylan and Lucy were at the Periscope booth, as was Lieber, while Erika was across the aisle), whose new comic, The Fix, came out last week. At the Parker/Brothers panel the day before, they showed some of Lieber’s work (he was going to show up, but things didn’t work out), and the art storytelling, at least, is hilarious. I hope the writing is as good (I haven’t had a chance to read it yet)!

I wandered around one part of Artists’ Alley (it was split into two sections) and came across Tony Gregori and Chris Lewis, from whom I picked up the trade of Karma Police (the first issue of which I reviewed here). The first issue was pretty good, and Lewis wrote last year’s Drones, which was also pretty good, so I feel confident that I’ll like the rest of the series. We shall see, shan’t we? Near those two was Cameron Stewart, whose run on Batgirl is finishing up soon. He, Brenden Fletcher, and Babs Tarr are launching a new Image book, Motor Crush, in December, and he told me leaving Batgirl was entirely their doing. I wanted to speak to Tarr, too, but she was never at her booth when I wandered by. I’m really looking forward to Motor Crush, though! I also said hello to Chris Burnham and purchased the nice color version of Nixon’s Pals even though I already own it. It’s bigger, for one thing, and the colors are very keen. You gotta upgrade every so often!

I walked over to where Fabian Rangel Jr. and Jason Copland were sitting side-by-side. Rangel has written some interesting comics over the past few years, including the absolutely bonkers Space Raiders, so I bought the second and third trades of Doc Unknown from him (I already owned and liked the first one). I’ve been a fan of Jason’s for years, but he didn’t have anything new right then, so I couldn’t give him money! He and Rangel are working on something for Stela (there it is again), which again makes me want to check the app out. Maybe I’ll join the 21st century soon! I swung around to Ben Templesmith’s table, where I bought the first print version of his webcomic The Blackholers. Obviously, if you’re a fan of Templesmith you’ll probably like this, and I am a fan, so there you have it. I asked Terry Moore when the entire collected edition of Rachel Rising will be out, and he said in the fall, so I have that to look forward to. I walked past Matthew Rosenberg and Curt Pires, who were selling their comics – Rosenberg wrote We Can Never Go Home, which was a pretty good disaffected teen book, and is writing the new 4 Kids Walk into a Bank, which sounds neat. Pires wrote Pop! (with Jason Copland), which was pretty good, and The Fiction, the first issue of which was good and the trade of which I’m waiting for. I bought his series Mayday, which sounds as bonkers as Pop! ended up being, so that’s something to look forward to.

I wanted to get some comics for my cousin’s kids, so I picked up the first two trades of Lumberjanes for her 8-year-old daughter. I went by David Petersen‘s table and got the first hardcover collection of Mouse Guard for her 8-year-old son. Later in the day I got the third trade of Batman ’66 from Jeff Parker, who signed it to her 10-year-old son, who seemed pretty keen that the writer had signed it. I know her daughter tore through Lumberjanes, and her younger son went through Mouse Guard, and they were all pretty keen on the Batman book. They’ve all read Bone, actually, because their library has the nice color hardcovers. Yay, educational facilities!

To finish up my day, I said hello to Elsa Charretier and Pierrick Colinet, who collaborated on The Infinite Loop and who are doing something new (but top-secret, so I don’t know what it is). The Infinite Loop was a good series made even better by Charretier’s wonderful art, and it’s very cool that she got to draw some issues of Starfire before the reboot. She’s working on something for DC after the Rebootening, but obviously, her secret thing is closer to her heart. Charretier friended me on Facebook a while ago, and while I’m not sure why, it was nice to meet her in person.

That night, I got started a bit earlier and (thankfully!) ended a bit earlier, too. I went out to dinner with my friend Lisa, whom I’ve seen the other two times I’ve been to Seattle recently, so it was nice to catch up. We went to Tutta Bella in Columbia City, which is a weird, artsy little oasis in a lower-income area (which is probably why the weirdos can afford to live there). For some reason, there were mimes roaming the street. Our waiter told us there was a theater down the street that does live performances, some burlesque, and I guess small circus shows, and the mimes were trying to entice people to come in. As everyone hates mimes, I’m not sure how effective they were, but it was fun and disconcerting seeing them wandering around on the street. Hey, it’s Seattle – what are you going to do?

Saturday was another long day, but as fruitful as Friday, so that was nice. I first saw Spike Trotman, who once did a webcomic called Templar, AZ, which is quite good (although sadly unfinished), but is now focusing on publishing comics with Iron City Comics, so I bought a big thick comic, The Less Than Epic Adventures of TJ and Amal, which is about a dude hitchhiking who decides he digs the dude who picks him up. I spoke briefly to Kate Ashwin, who does a comic called Widdershins, which is about an English Victorian town where all sorts of strange things happen. I bought all five print volumes because it looked fun and something both I and my daughter would enjoy. We shall see!

I spoke for a few minutes to Brendan Wright and Kurt Busiek, then stopped at the Atomic Robo booth and said hello to Brian Clevinger and Scott Wegener. Their latest adventure is online right now, but it will be printed beginning in September, and as I read my comics like a real man, in print, I have to wait until then. I asked them how the move to IDW is working for them, and they said it was a bit of luck that got them there, but they’re very happy. So that’s neat.

By this time, I had made my way over to the Wave Blue World table, where I saw Tyler Chin-Tanner. Tyler is the creative mind behind Broken Frontier, a snazzy new anthology that Greg Hatcher wrote about here (he got a digital copy). Tyler is an excellent dude, and it was pretty impressive that he was able to wrangle such a bunch of talent for the anthology. I’ll have a review of it soon enough, but it looks fantastic. Plus, his older daughter was at the booth sketching for a dollar a sketch, and she made some bank. She sketched this for me:

When will DC hire her, is what I want to know.

After that, I came across Alison Sampson (who is featured in Broken Frontier!). Sampson’s art is amazing, and she has a “new” book, Winnebago Graveyard, that she doesn’t want to show too much of but which looks brilliant (I write “new” because it won’t be out for well over a year, but we can wait for it, can’t we?). I spoke briefly to Meredith McClaren, who’s awesome, and then I stopped by the T-Pub booth. T-Pub is Neil Gibson‘s publishing company, and I’ve enjoyed some of the things they’ve published and look forward to more. I told Gibson that I’ve bought all four volumes of Twisted Dark, his horror anthology series … but I haven’t read them yet. This made him furious (in an unserious way). I told him I have a lot to read, and it just got away from me, and I never knew when I had time to catch up. Volume Six is the final one of the first part of the series (he said it’s planned for 18 volumes), and he had both Volume Five and Six there, so I bought Volume Six (I had already pre-ordered Five). When Volume Five shows up, I will definitely sit down and read them all! He spoke of the difficulty of getting his books into stores here in the States, which I sympathize with – my retailer orders one copy, and it’s for me. I don’t know how he can work that, but I do sympathize.

I met Stephan Franck, the creator behind Silver, which is a keen vampire heist comic, and he was a swell dude. I purchased a couple of “Tragedy Series” prints from Ben Dewey, as my wife digs them and I thought she’d like the prints hanging over her as she works:

Then I came across Jason McNamara and Ryan Yount, which was very cool. I had met Yount years ago in San Diego, so it was nice to see him again (Yount co-wrote and drew Scurvy Dogs, the funniest comic book I’ve ever read), and I’m a huge fan (and, I hope he’d think, friend) of McNamara’s, so it was great running into them. Yount is another person involved with Stela, as he’s the co-founder and EIC of the company, so we talked about that for a while. McNamara is a very good writer, and his latest, The Rattler, is out in stores right now (with a quote by yours truly on the back). Jason thinks I’m too easy on comics because I told him I usually like the ones I read and I had a hard time thinking of the last one I hated (he called me an “easy lay”), but that’s mainly because I try very hard to avoid books I don’t think I’ll like. I tend to follow creators, so if I know the creators pretty well, I’ll probably like their work. Occasionally I’ll come across something that doesn’t thrill me, but I can usually find something good about it, and usually it’s just not in my wheelhouse. I should have just told him the last thing I really hated was The Rattler, but that would have been a lie. It’s really good. Jason also has a new book on Stela, which makes me think I really need to get the app (and I apologize if this is turning into a commercial – I just met a lot of people who are working on comics for the company!).

On Saturday night, you should already know what I did – I went out with Greg Hatcher, his wife, and his old CBR friends and some of his students. Greg told you all about it!!!! Greg is always fun to hang out with, especially when he gets to rant (which he did on Saturday), and his students are very cool. The old place we hung out in the previous years I went has closed, so we went to a diner that, on a Saturday night, had one waitress working. What the crap? She was working hard, though, and the food was very good. My wife, who had been the previous place, was disappointed when I told her it wasn’t quite “divey” enough – it was clean and bright! What kind of crap is that? Greg was nice enough to give me the five books in which he has a story published (well, when I say “give,” I mean he handed them over and I will pay him for them – he’s not crazy!), so I look forward to reading them.

On Sunday I went back for a few hours to say goodbye to those I could and hello to a few I hadn’t yet. I had seen Kieron Gillen and Jamie McKelvie briefly on Saturday, but I hung out at their table a bit longer on Sunday, as they signed books with Matthew Wilson, colorist extraordinaire. Also there was an old friend of Gillen’s, who was the model of Kid-With-Knife from Phonogram, so it was fun to meet him. I couldn’t talk too much to them because they were really, really popular – they’re getting too popular for me! – and their line was really long, but I did have a nice chat with them. They’re awesome guys, and it was nice to see them. I talked to Ted Naifeh for a few minutes, reminding him that I was the dude who wrote about his very early art back in 2014. He laughed and said he was glad I hadn’t found his Glen Danzig comic. Now I must own it!!!! He’s working on a new book in which “superheroes” – they’re not really, but close enough – live in a fantasy world, and it looks amazing (not surprisingly). I also met Emanuela Lupacchino just so I could say I’ve met Emanuela Lupacchino (I didn’t have anything for her to sign, and while I would have loved a sketch from her, I don’t get sketches because that’s a financial path I’m not completely willing to go down). She rarely does American conventions, so I wanted to meet her and tell her how much I dig her work. I also said hello to Marguerite Bennett for the same reason – I just wanted to tell her that I really dig Bombshells and I’m glad it’s continuing after the Rebirthening. But mostly I spent the day saying goodbye to people I had already talked to. That’s just how I roll, yo!

So that was my experience at Emerald City this year. I always fail to take as many pictures of cosplayers as I want to, mainly because I’m thinking of so many other things. I always miss some people that I really want to talk to – this year I can think of at least three people I wanted to say hello to that I didn’t – either because I do get to their table but they’re elsewhere or because I just don’t find them. As usual, I spent way too much money, but there are so many good comics at conventions that I just love spending! As always, I dig conventions, especially in cities where I have friends, so I can visit people I don’t normally get to see and see creators I don’t get to see that often, especially because I’m not always on Twitter or Instagram or whatever the hell the hot social media app is these days. That’s really tiring, man!

I hope everyone else had a great weekend!

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