Technology with attitude

Report From Emerald City Comicon: Day 1

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Image by Tom Mohrman

Today, on the first day of Emerald City Comicon, I saw a six foot model of a Borg cube done in Lego, Billy Dee Williams, Michael Rooker, a king’s ransom of  back issues, and every incarnation of the Doctor. I saw what I can only assume was a fully functioning proton pack on a Ghostbuster, and I shook an astronaut’s hand.

This eleventh year of ECCC is the biggest the festival has ever been. The entire convention center is booked just for the convention, with twice the space formerly dedicated to the show floor. When you arrive and get your badge the first thing to do is go straight to level 4, where the back issues dwell, where artists sign and sell and you get to understand what goes on in an anthill. It’s sensory overload, and massive; you cross Pike Street on the Sky Bridge, with purveyors of costumes and local organizations like the Rat City Rollergirls separating the realms.

Rat City Rollergilrls booth image by Tom Mohrman

I stopped by Booth 510 to check out Seattle’s own Fantagraphics. Having a year-round presence with their Georgetown shop, ECCC is more about marketing and exposure than a concentrated sales of books, though they have many lovely ones to sell.  What sets ECCC apart from cons like San Diego is the remaining ubiquity of back issues on offer. Comic Books. Of course the panels, signings, photo-ops, and Magic the Gathering on Level 2 all sing their siren songs.

You’re in a building with Billy Dee Williams and Michael Rooker, you’re going to see what they’re going to say. Billy Dee was all class. When the moderator tried to goad him into trash talk the Star Wars prequels he simply said, “the last three relied a lot on CGI. I think the first three were more character driven.” When asked to speculate on being cast in episode seven, he expressed an eagerness, but nothing concrete. After Williams Michael Rooker was next in the Main Hall. The man is fantastic – born to be on stage. He just eats up the scenery, and he brings a level of tension that is very exciting to watch. He’s a wild card. I only stuck around for a few questions though, as I wanted to find out about the Future of Comics.

At 5:20 in Hall C there was a panel discussion about crowdfunding and digital distribution. The CEO of ComiXology, David Steinberger was on hand to discuss his company’s method of digital comic book distribution. Mark Waid was on hand to discuss his website Thrillbent, Allison Baker of MonkyBrian Comics, Hank Kanalz (DC Comics) and Jordan Weisman rounded out the panel with author/futurist Rob Salkowitz leading the discussion. For everyone behind the microphones the distinction between what they offer and motion comics is paramount. They don’t like motion comics, as to them reading is an active process, not a passive one. They emphasized the advantages of digital comics, how static images can be somewhat animated by adding, subtracting, or morphing portions of a frame through the use of virtual page turns. I’ve been reading comics on my iPad for a while now, but the stuff that Waid was describing in particular shows that not only is digital not a downgrade from paper comics, but that the playground just got a lot bigger. There was talk of embeddable comic viewers a-la YouTube windows. There were a lot of interesting ideas on offer, and in this instance the future of publishing looks far from grim, for once.

Lego Display image by Tom Mohrman

So many panels, Q&As, performances! Emerald City is full strength, full speed. The Bushwick Book Club had a preview of their Sandman-inspired show at 6PM. I’ll be reviewing the full show at the Crocodile tomorrow night, so for now I’ll just offer the following: seek out the singer Tai Shan. Her song about the oldest lullaby calling you to death raised goosebumps. Anyone who isn’t beating down the doors of the Crocodile tomorrow night deserves their wretched fate.

Astronat Clay Anderson image by Tom Mohrman

I didn’t forget about the astronaut, or the Borg cube. The Lego display at ECCC champions both humanity and silliness. Epic. Astronaut Clay Anderson was on hand today to discuss NASA, as part of the con geared more specifically towards children. As described in his NASA bio, “Anderson spent a 5-month tour of duty working aboard the International Space Station.” Anything that can be done to inspire more manned space flight and interest in space was the mission today. It was bittersweet knowing that there are no current plans for manned missions, but great to see actual space travel included with the deluge of imagination that is the con. Tomorrow I expect cosplay the likes of which even gods, monsters, and zombie robots have never seen.