Emerald City Comic Con 2014 — My Virgin Voyage
Three days. Sixty-thousand people. Dozens of celebrities. One giant building. Sounds like nerd heaven, right? It’s about as close as one can get. I was able to experience Emerald City Comic Convention for the first time this year. It’s the first major con to which I’ve journeyed. Here’s a brief overview of my small slice of heaven.
My friends and I had arrived the night before the convention started and all crashed in one hotel room (since when do nerds have money?). Some folks had stayed up till the wee hours working on completing costumes for the con. We got up at a decent hour, and started on the short footpath to the convention center. My cohorts were in League of Legends garb (Twisted Fate and Jana, with a custom skin), and I was in a lolita zombie hunter costume I’d found on Etsy, one of my favorite websites. I arrived at the center with hundreds of other enthusiastic geeks, and tried to take it all in. I made my way to the entrance, my badge was checked, I was handed a program guide, and a free comic (Walking Dead issue #1!). Everyone was corralled by the Minions of the event into crowd-control barriers, as the line to get in twisted and filled one of the main rooms. And yes, corralled is the correct term. Just when I thought I couldn’t get any friendlier with my new neighbors, the Minions asked us to move in closer a few more times, until all concepts of my personal bubble had been shattered. Thankfully, the wait from the time I arrived was only an hour.
The doors finally opened, and I was off! The line dissipated into a big rush, and emptied into the first vendor room. There were two main areas for vendors, and both of them were chock full of goodies. I split off from my group and set to exploring. I ended up spending the majority of the first day taking in the work of various writers, artists, and crafters, sticking to the vendor’s floor and gaming areas. There was so much to see! The entire convention spanned the whole 6 floors of the center, and spread out to the next-door hotel. The vendor areas and celebrity photos and signings were on level 4. Level 1 held Brick Nation, the expansive Lego display. Level 2 was dedicated to photo areas, quiet spaces, and the Winter is Coming gallery. Level 3, more vendors, and (my favorite) a full-size replica TARDIS. There isn’t Level 5, and Level 6 contained the large meeting rooms and halls for celebrity and other panels. The gaming-related fun was confined to one floor of the hotel next door, and included panel rooms, a massive area for tabletop and card games, and even an arcade with new and vintage machines.
The convention is a bit overwhelming, so each day I took time to decompress in my hotel room. If you’ve ever been to Emerald City Comic Con in the past, this year was larger than ever before, and the convention keeps growing. Something else I should mention – about one in 5 people was dressed as some sort of character. If you’re not familiar with cosplay (which stands for costume play), you may have felt a bit out of place. All kinds of costuming and skill levels were displayed, and the majority of these were hand-made by the wearers. There were, as always, lots of fans dressed as The Doctor (Doctor Who), Deadpool, and Ezio or Altair (Assassin’s Creed). The challenge was locating the unique, stand-out costumes, and managing to politely ask for a picture. I managed to snag photos of the Repo Man (Repo! The Genetic Opera), Steampunk Hawkgirl, a Tim Burton’s Alice in Wonderland duo, some mini TARDISes (Tardi? Tarduo?), and a few other Doctor Who cosplayers (including Madame Vastra). While I had spent a great amount of time planning which panels I wanted to attend, the massive span of the con distracted me and plans went out the window. The last bit of day one, I checked out the gaming area of the Con, and played some Star-Trek Settlers of Catan. I arrived empty-handed, I left with a Hero’s Satchel (Legend of Zelda series), a Drinking Quest card game, and some gifts for friends.
Day two! I once again ventured forth solo. The second day was all about celebrity guests for me. I finally scoped out the main panel floor to find out where I needed to go, then wandered away to purchase tickets for a photo opportunity with Mark Sheppard and Jim Beaver (of Supernatural fame). After waiting in line for close to an hour, I tucked my tickets away, then went to stand in line for panels. I knew these sessions were legendary for being crowded and difficult to get into, so I started early. I stood in line for a panel with two actors from Lost Girl (which I’m not familiar with) so I could get good seats for Mark Sheppard’s panel. I was fortunate enough to get into the VIP seating for Sheppard’s panel, which was as close as I could get to the stage. Sheppard was just as much of an ornery, yet lovable, bastard IRL as his character Crowley in Supernatural. While I’m a fan of his current role in that show, I’ve loved his work in Firefly, Doctor Who, and Dollhouse too. He took questions from the crowd while keeping up the snarky banter, and addressed working on the above-mentioned shows, as well as more personal questions about his beliefs and family. In the middle of the panel, another actor from Supernatural, Osric Chau (Kevin Tran), stepped up to the question microphone to the tune of wild applause. Chau had come to the convention as a fellow fan, instead of as a celebrity, and this was his main appearance. Even better, he was dressed as Glen from The Walking Dead.
After Sheppard’s panel, I attended Alan Tudyk’s talk. Tudyk has appeared in many nerd-appreciated works, including Dollhouse, Firelfly, Tucker and Dale Vs. Evil, and Injustice: Gods Among Us, as well as more mainstream media like Frozen, Wreck-It Ralph, and A Knight’s Tale. He made it clear throughout the interview that his favorite roles are ones that allow him to be his goofball self, and while he’s had more serious roles, they aren’t his forte. He told regaling tales of working for Joss Whedon, including how he and other actors found out about the cancellation of Firefly–at a cast Christmas party. He brought a bag of goodies along with him, and gave a signed item to everyone that asked a question. The wonderful Eliza Dushku even popped on stage for a few minutes to engage in playful banter with Tudyk. My favorite part of this panel was when a boy who was probably 10 years old stepped up to the mic, dressed as Wash (Firefly), and asked Tudyk to do his King Candy voice. Tudyk was so taken with the young fan that he invited him up on stage, and acted out the whole “Curse your sudden but inevitable betrayal” bit (Firefly) in the voice of King Candy, which may have been my favorite part of the whole weekend. After the panels, I rushed to my celeb meet-and-greet with Sheppard and Beaver. It was very quick; I placed my things on a table, stepped behind the curtain, said “Hello,” posed, and was ushered out within 30 seconds’ time. Still, absolutely worth it! The rest of the day, I wandered the less-crowded floors to see the Lego displays, the Game of Thrones fan art gallery, and the model displays.
The end of day two was spent at the costume masquerade. The categories for the competition this year included Video Game, Fantasy, Sci-Fi, Comics, Group, and Masters. Hosted by a gentleman in a steampunk outfit and a great HarleyQuinn, the contest was judged by known cosplayer Yaya Han, and two other professionals. The entries were truly the cream of the crop: the best ECCC had to offer. If you’d like to see pics of the winners, check out ECCC’s Tumblr blog. Some of my favorites included a Demon Hunter (Diablo III), Medieval Batgirl (complete with full chainmail), and a Warrior Alien from the Aliens franchise, who won Best in Show.
Day three, I finally decided I needed to make some purchases that I wouldn’t be able to elsewhere. I wandered around with a friend who was able to help me decide which prints to grab. This was the day I was dressed as Donna Noble from Doctor Who, so I went to a Doctor Who fan meetup, and got my picture taken with the TARDIS. Sunday’s events also featured Karen Gillan (Amy from Doctor Who), as well as several Doctor Who panels that I was curious about. Sadly, my exhaustion and desire to deal with crowds was at a tipping point, so I didn’t take part in those. After taking in the last of the vendor floors and grabbing more loot, wearieness set in and we decided to hit the road early.
Among the celebrities I mentioned, lots more were present. Some of the more widely recognized ones included Stephen Amell (Arrow), Chad Coleman and Emily Kinney (Walking Dead), Michael Dorn (Commander Worf of Star Trek), Nichelle Nichols (Lieutenant Uhura, Star Trek), Ron Perlman, Andrea Libman (Pinkie Pie and Fluttershy, My Little Pony), and Jeremy Shada (Finn the Human, Adventure Time).
Emerald City Comic Con is lauded for staying true to its comic-based roots, while incorporating popular culture for other fans. It’s grown to be the largest convention of its kind in the Pacific Northwest, and is an adventure that will continue for this nerdy girl for many years in the future.