When you hear comic book fans talk about comic book conventions, the ones that most often spring to mind are the Comic-Con International in San Diego (check out our 2006 coverage to see just how big it is), the Wizard Universe conventions, Wonder-Con and New York Comic-Con. In terms of North American comic conventions, these are the largest, the ones with the most creators and the ones where the Big Two (DC Comics and Marvel Comics) are likely to make their huge announcements. Still, astute convention goers will quickly point out that the "regional" conventions often have all that and one of the fastest growing conventions in the country is the Emerald City Comic-Con.
While it only started five years ago as a regional show, EMCC owner and founder Jim Demonakos has turned the gathering into a top destination for comic fans and professionals, something unheard of in an age of convention saturation. This year's convention runs from March 31 st through April 1 st in Seattle, with a lineup of creators to die for: Brian Bendis, Brian Wood, Adam Hughes, Mike Oeming, Darick Robertson, Mark Waid, Ed Brubaker and more. With that in mind, CBR News spoke with Demonakos about this year's Emerald City Comic Con, what makes it special and just what he's learned about conventions over the last few years.
"The most important? To expect the unexpected," Demonakos told CBR News. "I can't think of any other time when I've gotten more surprises (both good and bad) in my life. Organizing this show is such a combination of fun and stress, I find it hard to explain. I will say, though, there is nothing more gratifying than seeing the faces of the people at the show, everyone from the guests to the exhibitors to the fans are smiling and having a good time, enjoying this amazing shared passion about comics.
"Another lesson is patience! [laughs] As I'm sure other organizers can tell you, these shows don't organize themselves and sometimes waiting for all the right pieces to fall in to place can drive you crazy. But when they do, it's definitely worth the wait!
"Lastly, I've made sure to make the show about the fans, plain and simple. If the fans are having a good time and enjoying the show, then everything else works out."
That "fans first" attitude is a large part of the growing attraction of Demonakos' convention, helping differentiate from the typical event. Strong word of mouth, from both fans and creators, have helped to draw in a large audience, turning a one day event into two days and necessitating a larger convention hall. "This year the focus has turned to guest variety," said Demonakos of what fans should expect. "Looking at our guest list, over 70% of it is comprised of creators who have never been to the Emerald City ComiCon before, which is unheard of. Fans walking in to the show will have a chance to see some of the best and brightest the industry has to offer under one roof.
"The show has grown remarkably over the last few years. We've almost tripled our show floor space and well over doubled our attendance. This year, we're keeping the same show floor plan, but have readjusted it to suit the growing artist alley and guest list we have in store!"
We hinted at the guest list earlier and as Demonakos explained, it is big, saying, "This year's guest list is astounding, with some of the finest creators in comics attending Emerald City, many for the first time! Mark Bagley, Terry Moore, Brian Michael Bendis, Joseph Michael Linsner, Adam Hughes, Phil Hester, Sean "Cheeks" Galloway, Greg Rucka, Paul Chadwick, Frank Cho, Michael Golden, Brian Pulido, Mark Waid, Rick Remender, Tim Sale, Brian Wood, Ron Marz, David Hahn, Ed Brubaker, Chris Giarrusso, Michael Avon Oeming and too many more to name!
"I love the variety of having both mainstream and independent creators, assuring that there is someone that is everyone's cup of tea.
"On top of that, we have some great media guests, including 'Feedback,' the winner of the mega-popular 'Who Wants To Be A Superhero?,' Brian Posehn, the popular comedian who co-wrote the Image Comics smash 'The Last Christmas' and more!
"There are dozens of people I hardly had room to mention, so I encourage CBR readers to check out the website for the complete list and sign up on our e-mail newsletter to get updates as we add even more guests to the show!"
If you've taken notice of the art accompanying this article - and c'mon, we know you've been staring - then you might be wondering how you can own a copy of those art pieces. Demonakos was happy to save the day, complete with swanky cape, and explained, "I'll admit, I'm an art fanatic, so one of the thrills of doing the show has been getting some of the finest artists in the industry to create art especially for the show. The 'theme' of the art is simple, it needs to feature the Space Needle and a monster/baddie, that's it!
Over the past few years, artists such as Erik Larsen, Stan Sakai, Eric
Powell, Scott Kurtz and Dan Brereton have all created art for the show. This year, the art has come from not one but two industry pros - Michael Golden and Phil Hester.
"Michael Golden, who has never before been able to create a unique piece of art for a convention, was able to illustrate one of his trademark ferocious dinosaurs, this time a monstrous Tyrannosaurus Rex, chomping down on Seattle's beloved landmark.
"Phil Hester, who is kicking major ass on the new 'Ant-Man' series, was able to squeeze this illustration of the friendly neighborhood Spider-Man being chased after by an enormous Sandman! Inks & colors on this piece were provided by the rest of the 'Ant-Man' team, Ande Parks & Bill Crabtree, respectively, who will also be at Emerald City this year.
"The Golden art will be available as a very limited edition print available only at the show, while plans for the Hester art are being finalized and will be announced soon, but I wanted to show the art off - it's just too good to keep secret!"
Lest you think the art and guests are all the ECCC have to offer, Demonakos is quick to elaborate on the expansion of panels at his show. "Panels really add some extra value to a show and there is so much variety to them," he said. "In the past, we've tried to do some cool panels, including some Q&A-type panels and others, but this year we're really stepping it up, rounding up talent well in advance to bring some excellent panels to our fans.
"First, we're bringing back a panel we debuted last year, which was the Comic Book Legal Defense Fund SKETCH DUEL. Six top artists from the industry will take the audience's suggestions and co-draw those suggestions on the spot! Then, every piece of art will be auctioned off with 100% of the proceeds going straight to the CBLDF!
"We'll also be adding some informative panels, including a 'How to break in to comics' panel and a 'Self-Publishing' panel, plus maybe some fun panels, like a 'Fan vs. Pro trivia challenge' and more!"
Before the ECCC hits Seattle, fans and creators will have been to WonderCon, New York Comic-Con, Wizard World LA and then preparing for Comic-Con International, all of which conspires to potentially make the Emerald City event get lost in the shuffle. "I admit, it's tough, making sure the show stands out among the crowd of other shows is a challenge," said Demonakos. "For me, it comes down to quality - we make sure that our show has great names, great publishers and a variety of fan activities, and we place the focus squarely on comics.
"Any comic book fan coming to the show is going to find something for him or herself to satisfy their love of comics, whether it's meeting a certain creator, discovering a hard-to-find back issue, buying some original art, interacting with fellow fans and having a great time!
"On top of that, Seattle itself is quite the draw, I've heard from people countless times that coming to the Emerald City ComiCon is such a great way to see Seattle. They come in a day early, tour around the city, spend the weekend at the show, then take another day if they can, see a bit more of the city and then take off. The weather is great at that time of the year and because of how many trees and plants are around, you can really see why Seattle is called the Emerald City."
Expect to see the Emerald City Comic Con be more visible in all your favorite publications quite soon, as Demonakos is looking to set a new attendance record. "We're doing a variety of both local and national advertising, and increasing on both. With print ads in Wizard, CBG and other national publications, along with postcard distribution to hundreds of comic book stores and hobby shops, plus website advertising, e-mail marketing and more, we expect that attendance for this year's Emerald City will well top our previous 6,000 attendee mark!"
CBR Executive Producer Jonah Weiland contributed to this story.