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March 28, 2014

Five Things I Recommend For Enjoying Emerald Con Weekend

imageEmerald City Comicon is this weekend, and we know from advance ticket sales that it's going to be a hit. They have worked very hard to become one of the two or three mega-regional conventions; in terms of the enjoyment and emphasis placed on the show by mostly mainstream comics talent particularly in that loaded region, the show is as big as any on the calendar. Seattle is one of North America's beautiful and most livable cities, with a thriving economy for a lot of geek-oriented industries. This year's version of Emerald City comes after a dramatically long winter, and while Seattle's 50-Degrees-And-Rain forecast isn't going to scratch the weather itch -- for some reason I suspect New York next weekend will be spectacular -- the many months spent inside and bundled in coats will give extra oomph to this weekend as a social event. Everyone should have fun.

Here are five things I suggest doing to make the weekend even more of a thing.

1. Really Walk The Floor. I think the greatest strength of the Emerald City show is its general exhibit area and the dozens upon dozens of individual cartoonists who display there, many of whom have individual projects to talk about and many of whom are on hand to complete solicited art or are happy to be hired to make some. Because of the traditional lack of gigantic media presences at Emerald City -- that could change any year, I guess -- because of the number of creators in the region for whom it's easy to attend and the number of creators that just enjoy Seattle and like to go, you are likely have a positive experience just checking out row after row of table separate from Image or BOOM! or the retailers on hand. It's the kind of show where someone might do a signing at CBLDF and at their publisher and do a bunch of panels but also have a place to set up with the probably rare and/or original stuff they have to sell. So scan that map, and just walk around. Comics-makers pal together, so if there's someone you like sitting in front of you, that person sitting behind them drawing is someone you probably like just as well -- or swill in a couple of years' time. There is also a significant webcomics presence there, and those comics-makers tend to be really good at doing shows, engaging and fun. As far as people there this year that don't usually come, I believe Jeff Smith is on-hand: a primetime con guest and all-around good guy. I'm not sure I remember the comics writer Scott Snyder being on hand, either. I would imagine that both of them are set up with/as publishers, but you should take advantage of their being around.

2. Maybe Focus On Smaller, Spotlight Programming. The three years I've attended this show I had a much better time sneaking into convention programming where one or two artists were spotlighted as opposed to a character or a bunch of top-of-the-line people. The celebrity and genre-driven programming is its own things and takes even more devotion and care. At any rate, I think it's a really good show to be introduced to creators with which you're just becoming familiar as opposed to maybe checking in with bigger stars, although you should let your desires and appetites drive you. I was supposed to be on a panel with There's also a publishing-focused panel for local alt-kings Fantagraphics as opposed to one with creators, so that could be a different spin on what an entity like that does. I was supposed to be on a panel with a bunch of smart people on Saturday around noon called "What We Mean When We Say 'Comics'" -- which should be fun. Those panels usually turn out pretty lively, in part because of the general buzz of the show.

image3. Visit Randy's Readers. I don't know if this comics seller is there this year, but my group of about a dozen or so comics buddies that go to this show every year have spent every year dropping a ton of cash on what he has to offer. Basically, this vendor specializes in readable copies of classic 20th Century mainstream comics. So while you also have nice condition copies of Fantastic Four #5 behind the table, or whatever, you also have entire runs of Fantastic Four #60-103 there for like $2 each. There are some pretty good comics deals to be had from retailers more generally, but if this booth is on the floor, dig in with your memories of 1960s, 1970s and 1980s mainstream comics and come back satisfied. I was planning on dropping about $200 there this year, and money is tight!

4. Make Your Meals Count -- Seattle is a fun eating town but it's a tricky one to access from the heart of downtown where the convention is settled: there is a lot of galleria-style eating around there that is, if nothing else, super-convenient. It's also a great coffee town. The basic thing I recommend is spending a few minutes on-line figuring out a couple of places to steal away for dinner, or paying attention to what a concierge says, or browbeating a local and getting at least one nice meal out or a half-hour with the locals in one of their coffee houses. Why go with the chain coffee offering when there's the local Victrola Coffee Roasters literally like right up the street? If you're going to spend $20 on some oversalted steak next to Old Navy why not spend a little more on something at the Pink Door or Wild Ginger and make a classy sneak-away of it with a couple of close friends? You really can wander around a bit and find something local; I would go either right up Pike into Capitol Hill (this was my favorite neighborhood restaurant when I lived there) or down towards the waterfront a couple of streets and north (this and this were dependable restaurants back in the day). There are plenty of modest gems around. The 5-Point Cafe is open 24/7 and is little less than a mile away and is the perfect blow-off-steam dependable post-convention place. Seattle rewards this kind of effort. If you don't have a meal-buddy or need to eat on the fly, get up in the morning one of those days and make a short walk around the pretty downtown, maybe down towards the market.

5. Attend The Hero Initiative Party -- Seattle is expensive enough and the convention exhausting enough that one thing the con hasn't had yet is a blossoming infrastructure of strictly comics-focused events. There are some -- there's this tonight, and last night was this impressive thing -- just not a ton, it doesn't seem like, although maybe that's changing. That's not a shot against ECCC; all the cons are kind of like this now. There is a Hero Initiative event tonight at the local Rock Bottom Brewery (poster below). With the current healthcare-realated situation facing that great professional Stan Sakai and his beloved wife Sharon making us all realize how important these charities are, I hope that you'll at least stop by and make a donation and shake a couple of hands on your way to do something else.

Other than that, I'm not sure what else to say. If you have a car, look up and visit the Fantagraphics store if they're open while you're in town. You can sometimes sneak parking in the neighborhoods south and east of the convention center, although the public transportation is pretty all right for a town with Seattle's physical structure. Don't be a jerk and don't tolerate jerks. Be respectful of folks' time and space and exhaustion levels. Have fun. I wish I could be there.

posted 2:15 am PST | Permalink

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