What It’s Like Attending Emerald City Comicon As A Family
Because bringing the fam to a con is a whole different thing.
I learned a number of things when our little family of geeks travelled across to Emerald City this year – and some of these things might even be relevant to you. Come hold hands and enter the realm of the large green Comicon. I’ve been to events like this before so this wasn’t my first con, but it was my first Emerald City. It was a positive experience, and I’ll be going again for sure, but that’s not to say it doesn’t have pitfalls – and some of those are literal.
Where I live, just across the water from Seattle, there is a con called Gottacon, where four-thousand plus people gather to game, shop and chat nerd stuff. I was a volunteer in the diversity lounge in the last con. That’s a lot of people, but it’s nothing compared to the Seattle cons that get 45,000-plus geeks. But although ECCC has grown a lot over the last four years or so, it’s not on the same scale as PAX. I used to go to PAX, but I stopped going because reasons, so we decided to do ECCC as a family.
We, in this case means myself, my spouse, and our 10-year-old daughter. Before we even reached our hotel, Seattle’s vampire sidewalks drew first blood as my spouse went flying and tore up her hands and knee. The sidewalks are hugely uneven and will attack the unwary, and on the walk back to the ferry my daughter also was attacked by the sidewalk. This leads me into my first recommendation: be aware of vampire sidewalks and wear good shoes. Ideally ones pre-rubbed with garlic.
When we got into ECCC we were momentarily taken aback by the scale of the con and the distance between the panels. Relying on the volunteers is a little patchy; some are really knowledgeable and some… not so much. You need to know what you want to see and where it is; we were winging it a little, and that’s more work than you really need to do. The ECCC App was really handy as it gave panel start time reminders.
ECCC starts at 10am, but if your panel selection allows for it, I’d wait and go in a bit later and stay a bit later. The crowds are less intense this way; you miss the morning line to get in and you can get some art markdowns from artists at the end of the day. The restaurants and food trucks around the con get busy, but if you eat a little later you can find something nearby! We managed to get conveyer belt sushi with just a ten minute wait.
For many reasons, I don’t advise taking small kids to ECCC; unless, of course, you have no choice or you’re an insane masochist like us. Kids get bored in panels, get tired from the walking, and need constant extra monitoring given the huge crowds. I tucked my daughter’s 3DS in her bag and she played Mario when she found panels too dull; I’m lucky in that my daughter can entertain herself and will happily tell me when she’s tired or hungry, and that makes dealing with the day easier.
The majority of the artists were just great to chat with; they were both engaging and approachable. Many were doing sketches for tips which was fun, too. We ended up with artwork from multiple artists, as well as a little too much merch, including the now much loved Tentacle Kitty. Seriously I don’t think my daughter has let go of her new plushie all weekend. It’s already got food glued to it.
I also noticed that, although I’d say the con is all ages, that comes with some caveats. Some of the booths have hentai and erotica on display despite ECCC’s vendor rules that state everything on display should remain PG-13. It wasn’t inappropriate, but certainly not all ages, and I’d move all the adult stuff to one area and label it accordingly. When I asked my daughter about her favourite things from ECCC and she said one of them was cosplay, she also said some of the cosplay was too scary. Some of the cosplayers were covered in fake blood, cuts, slashed throats, and so on. It was a little much for my imaginative girl.
The cosplay, though, was in general fantastic, and so many people had dressed up – at least half of the attendees at a guess. I was Ms. Marvel, my spouse went as vintage Poison Ivy, and my daughter as Fiona. The cosplay ran the range from the ‘pro’ to the casual cosplayers, like me. If you have ever considered dressing up for a con, ECCC is a good one to go for; it was so common that I found that there was no pressure or judgement from other attendees. Your costume was always good enough.
Gender neutral bathrooms were present at the con for the first time this year. I think they are still working out the kinks in the system but it was still usable. I was certainly very glad they were there. A small kids’ zone was open, too; the staff were really great and it catered to a pretty wide age range. It was filled with LEGO, which is a passion of mine. Just don’t ask how much I’ve spent on Lego over the years…
Walking around the con as a writer, I soon realized that ECCC is very much focussed on artists, not writers. I can understand why, as which is more likely – going to a booth and asking for a sketch, or asking for a sentence? The former because it’s visual, while throwing a few words at someone is far less attractive. I’m not sure how they can address this gap beyond the 6th floor, less-trafficked ‘Writer’s Block’ area, but I’d be interested in seeing if they try. I quickly understood why some of the writers at ECCC were walking around with t-shirts that had ‘Writer’ emblazoned across them. For writers, I think it’s the after-event socializing that is the most beneficial aspect of ECCC; but for me, as someone very new to comics and with a family, that’s very difficult to manage!
Speaking of difficulties, if you want to arrange to meet other people inside the con, it’s difficult because the cell towers inside the con have a tendency to overload, which makes staying online hard. You need to arrange a meet-up in advance, be lucky, or walk to either a window or outside the convention buildings. My experience at ECCC 2015 has led me to believe my editor on TMS doesn’t exist. Yes, Sam Maggs is fiction, I suspect she’s CGI. Oddly she was the only person on my ‘must talk to’ list that I missed! [Editor’s Note: This is true, I exist only within the Matrix.]
I really enjoyed ECCC, and I’d go again – but I might do alternate years with my daughter so I’m not always watching her. It will be easier as she gets older, too. The whole event is a melting pot of talent, and it’s a lot of fun to chat with creative people about their work; I love the enthusiasm that comes across, and the love for what they are doing. I’m hoping that in 2016 or ’17 I can get to do a panel on gender diversity in comics at ECCC, as I didn’t manage to get into a panel that dealt with that specifically. Oh, and I’ll be wearing a Writer t-shirt too.
TL;DR: go and enjoy ECCC, as it’s great – but watch out for the vampire sidewalks.
Marcy (@marcyjcook) is an immigrant trans woman and writer. This includes Transcanuck.com, a website dedicated to informing and helping trans Canadians. She also has a nerd job, too many cats, is a part time volunteer sex educator and has an ongoing sordid love affair with Lego. Those last two are not related… probably.
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