Con Diary: ECCC, The Convention Unconventional

It feels like we were just writing about convention season ending, and now here we are in the midst of a new one.

I confess going into this year’s ECCC with a little trepidation. Last year, the day after the convention was the beginning of our several-week-long site outage. It was a stressful mess, coming on the heels of a large presence at the con; while we weren’t all there as press, it felt like we had a lot of coverage. This year there were only three of us with press badges, and, it being my first year attending as an editor, I was worried about our ability to cover relevant and important information. I spoke to Wendy, our publisher, the day before the drive up, and mentioned how I was feeling…fragile.

God, I wasn’t going to go into this stuff because it’s not about ECCC, but I guess it sort of is, isn’t it? The week before last, Dan Panosian started a whole thing with our own Claire Napier. I was furious about it. About his condescension, his hypocrisy, about the fact that he would, like seemingly every other man in comics, face no repercussions for his foolish, boorish behavior. I was ready to walk away from comics as an industry. Again.

Also on the day before I left, the U.S. Military announced that they’re proceeding with the trans military ban. I’m not a veteran, I was never an active service member, but for many trans folk in America, the military was one of the only really reliable sources of employment and a chance at relocation, away from small minded towns and a lack of resources. That’s now being taken away, and with it, how long before simliar bans become enforceable in the private sector? I’m lucky to have steady employment, but many of my trans brothers and sisters do not, and to see a massive move against us become finalized like this after years of fighting it is demoralizing. I feel a knot of fear in my gut at nearly all times, these days.

Anyway, I digress. Fragile. I was a bundle of nerves going in, feeling like I had to prove myself, feeling like I had to stand tall and be perfect and impress all the right people. And when I got there? All of that just…melted away. I was amongst friends and people I could trust, I was seeing amazing art and comics everywhere, I danced my heart out at an afterparty DJed by Kieron Gillen and Jamie McKelvie (I have never done this before! I do not dance at parties!) I talked music with a few creators (thank you for the recs!), I bought clothes (a new recurring convention thing), I avoided that neighbor I don’t like! Seriously, it’s a whole thing.

That’s me in the pink hat. You can also spot fellow WWACer Melissa Brinks in the foreground there. Ask her about the incredible top she was wearing. Photo by Stephen Klise.

ECCC is a strange beast. It’s overlarge and burdensome. Its acquisition by ReedPop has only furthered this; every year it steps away from the local, friendly PNW con it started out as and toward the ranks of the gigantic conventions like SDCC and NYCC. It’s grown to the point now that the Washington State Convention Center is beginning to have trouble fitting it; this year they moved Will Call and several stages to a hotel a couple of blocks down, opening that space up within the convention center for more vendor booths. Attendee numbers put it around three fourths the size of SDCC and yet–there are no major Marvel or DC presences, and even smaller companies (like BOOM! this year) sometimes skip the convention. There are fewer merch exclusives. So for all that it’s busy and buzzing, for all that it loses some of the homegrown, chill vibes of RCCC or Geek Girl Con, it’s still very much a convention that’s about comics as an art form and a culture, rather than as an industry.

So for all that it’s busy and buzzing, for all that it loses some of the homegrown, chill vibes of RCCC or Geek Girl Con, it’s still very much a convention that’s about comics as an art form and a culture, rather than as an industry.

I guess I needed to remember that, this year. I’ve been feeling disenchanted with comics as an industry anyway; with the endless grist mill that creators are put through, the brokenness of the direct market, the fatigue-inducing events that promise to change everything. So I forgot all of it, and ignored what I couldn’t forget. This year, I bought zines. So many zines. I bought self-produced works, the things creators put out for no other reason than they were interested in the topic. I’m in the middle of writing them up, so expect a feature on those in the coming days. I attended few panels this year; the ones I did were about geek businesses led by women, about building brands and putting in the work. I came away from those feeling inspired, which is probably the most important thing I took home with me from ECCC this year; the idea that, if the path for me does not exist, I can simply forge it.

In addition to my zine writeup, you can also expect coverage from a few of our other regulars; each of us have found ways to make our convention experiences meaningful, and I look forward to sharing that with you. Conventions represent a coming together of community; that seems like a simple thing to state, but it’s one I needed to relearn. I hope everyone finds one to fall in love with this season.

Nola Pfau

Nola Pfau

Nola is a bad influence. She can be found on twitter at @nolapfau, where she's usually making bad (really, absolutely terrible) jokes and occasionally sharing adorable pictures of her dog.