Having been to several comic conventions in California, one of my friends living in the Seattle area told me I should come up and check Emerald City Comicon (ECCC) that is held in the Washington State Convention Center in downtown Seattle. So after a few years of mulling it over, I decided that this would be the year I would attend. And while it wasn’t exactly the experience I’ve had at previous conventions, I had a fun time overall. It wasn’t because they didn’t have enough of the panels and celebrities that I enjoy seeing, but it was because I spent more time in the Artists’ Alley then ever before as I had a guide to help me meet and recognize the writers and illustrators behind the various comics.
But I wasn’t the only one to spend a lot of time where the Artists were. Unlike other conventions, where most of the attendees are swarming around the media tables, at ECCC there was an equal amount of people spread throughout, which also helped with the crowds as nothing felt overly crowded. Some of the past overcrowding was alleviated by having individual areas for the exhibitors, the artists, and the celebrity autographing, which was next door at the Sheraton hotel.
The two most famous artists I got to see were Don Rosa, who did the original Scrooge McDuck comics, and Neal Adams, who is one of the biggest names in comics having illustrated many books for both DC and Marvel. Stan Lee was also there in the autograph room, but after the horror stories I heard from my friends of having to stand around for an entire day just to get his autograph at previous conventions, I decided my time might be best spent elsewhere.
I did attend a number of panels and here is a list of the best ones:
Throughout the Whedonverse: 20 Years in the Making - This panel started off a little late as some of the panel members had difficulty finding the room. Apparently, there was more than one room 303 in the convention center. Panelist Corinna Bechko never did make it to the panel. Having watched Buffy, Angel, and Firefly, I was looking forward to this presentation. While most of the conversation was about the ongoing comics that evolved out of the different series, there was a good deal of discussion on the process of writing and what they individually did to keep in check with all of the prior history that was already created. It was really interesting to hear how much they relied on reading information off the internet and getting fan feedback to keep them on track.
John DiMaggio Spotlight - While waiting for DiMaggio to come onto the main stage, there was a hype man working the crowd. His name was Ruben and claimed to be the announcer for the Family Feud. He brought up people from the audience to play a trivia game, all the while a DJ blasted rock music. The atmosphere was more of a concert than that of a convention. It was overly loud and didn’t fit in with the convention. Although considering what happened next, it made a little sense.
John DiMaggio came out like a rock star to the blaring sounds of AC/DC’s "Back in Black". From the moment he arrived on stage, he was talking one-on-one with the audience taking questions and doing voices. The big news from his appearance was that a new Futurama game is in the works.
Animaniacs: Tales from the Water Tower - This was the most fun panel I attended. Not because it was about one of the wackiest shows from my childhood, but because the voice actors were as wacky as their animated counterparts. The panel went so quickly with so many back and forth jokes that it was difficult to remember all the details about how the show began. One of the most important points is that there is a live Animaniacs production being developed with Rob Paulsen that plans on touring in the near future and bringing the craziness to concert venues throughout the United States. And to give a little sample from the upcoming show we were treated to a few live renditions of the Lake Titicaca song and "Yakko’s World", which names all the nations of the world.
Jim Cummings Spotlight - Not only has Jim Cummings done a huge variety of voices from Winnie the Pooh, Tigger, Darkwing Duck, and the Tasmanian Devil, but he’s also been in a number of films like Aladdin, The Lion King, Balto, Antz, Shrek, and The Princess and the Frog. Not only has his voice acting been versatile, but his life has been just as interesting. He has worked on a riverboat and was once a drummer in a strip club.
Having such a varied career, he was able to talk about the difference between films and television and gave a lot of career advice for those wanting to get into voice acting. It takes about four hours to record a 22-minute television episode and every actor needs a good two-minute reel presenting their best material first and mixing up the rest with lots of highs and lows to keep your listener's attention
Shannara: 40 Magical Years in the Four Lands - Always a pleasure to see Terry Brooks as he is my favorite author and has always been very kind and friendly to his fans. He has always been willing to spend time with his fans at book signings and one of the few people I’ve ever seen who will sign every single book you bring no matter the number. While it was interesting to hear him discuss his future plans and books, it was a little sad to think that he’s planning to wrap up the Shannara series in the event of his untimely passing and he wants to be the one to finish his story.
The most interesting information he gave was about the television series The Shannara Chronicles. He did not say anything negative about the show, but he did finally admit that the script did not turn out the way he would have liked even though it kept to the basic premise. Having dealt with Hollywood and those wishing to turn his stories into films, he was aware that would happen from the beginning.
Alice Cooper Spotlight - I had to see this panel just out of curiosity for what Alice Cooper could be promoting at a comic convention. And the surprising answer was he had nothing to promote. He was there talking about himself. It was interesting to hear him tell stories from his musical career over the last 40 years.
Some of his stories included how he managed to really hang himself one night while on stage, how The Hollywood Vampires were formed, how celebrities such as George Burns and Bette Davis attended his shows because they appreciated the Vaudeville aspect of it, and how the infamous chicken-killing story came to be. It was certainly an interesting panel, and hearing him tell a young kid just starting out in his music career to learn to play Hair Metal because it’s going to be making a comeback and to listen to Burt Bacharach was priceless.
While I enjoyed myself at ECCC there are a few improvements that need to be worked on for future conventions. The first thing they need is better cellular connection. I was surprised that in Seattle, which prides itself in being technologically advanced, that it was impossible to get any kind of connection. Most of the time, I had no signal. When I did, there were too many people in one location for it to work, and there was no wi-fi available either. I had originally planned to tweet and blog about my experiences as they happened, but was unable to do so.
The second item needing work is the commuting situation. There was not a lot of parking in the area, and there was no helpful public transportation. It would be nice to have some kind of shuttle system coming from different parts of the city in order to get people to the convention. The majority of the time we Ubered, which was an interesting experience as we got a different personality type every trip.
My final request would be to make the ECCC website a little quicker to use. In preparing for my visit, I went through all of the different panels, artists, guests, etc. and found the system rather cumbersome and bulky as I constantly had to go from one page to another while waiting for the next page to load and then having to backtrack many times.
Even with a few minor inconveniences ECCC is worthy of attending and getting bigger and better every year. I imagine that I’ll be heading up to Seattle for next year’s convention running March 1 through March 4, but I’m pretty sure I’ll be getting a hotel room next time.