This year was the first Emerald City Comicon under the management of national convention chain ReedPOP, and the local comics community was understandably nervous about what that might mean for the region’s largest convention. ECCC director Jim Demonakos assured the media last year that ReedPOP wouldn’t affect the flavor of the convention at all, but comics people are resistant to change and prone to worry, so everyone had their feelers out for problems.
Speaking personally as an ECCC panel moderator, a few problems materialized. When I showed up to pick up my badge, I wasn’t on the list. This happens at shows all the time, and it’s not a big deal; I eventually got everything in order, and the window staff was friendly and helpful. However, when I showed up at the first of two panels that I was confirmed to moderate, another moderator was there. We had been double-booked. The second panel went off without a hitch. But on Sunday, I got a call from ECCC; the panel that I was scheduled to moderate was about to begin. Problem is, nobody at ECCC had told me I was supposed to moderate that panel. It wasn’t on the official schedule sent to me by ECCC staff. It went on without me. I’m sorry to any panelists and audience members who were expecting me to be there; I wish I had known about it.
So that’s my experience, but maybe I was a fluke? Moderators, after all, are small fish in the convention food chain. I’ve seen evidence from a few of the smaller vendors that ECCC was very successful for them. A few cartoonists I follow on Twitter sold out of their books before the end of the show, which is wonderful.
But a few conversations with other vendors — none of whom wanted to be identified, for obvious reasons —indicated other problems: a lack of communication between staff and vendors, scheduling issues, double booking, authors not knowing where they were supposed to be at any given moment. None of the vendors I talked with were outraged — nobody was calling for anyone on ECCC staff to be fired — but they were disappointed to find that the personal touch was missing from their interactions with the convention. With the larger apparatus of ReedPOP behind the scenes at ECCC, vendors believed that if anything the convention process would be more efficient and streamlined than in years past; for many, the exact opposite experience was true.
Again: I’ve not heard any nightmarish stories from ECCC. Nobody I talked with is threatening to ban the convention next year or anything extreme like that. But I did hear stories that indicated ECCC’s first full year under ReedPOP’s organizational umbrella suffered from some growing pains that made the convention-vendor dynamic more problematic than in years past. Hopefully these concerns will be addressed before next year.
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