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Big turnout at new venue for Emerald City Comic Con

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The 'Critical Role' cosplay meetup beginning to disperse — Photo by Daniel Lindsley
The 'Critical Role' cosplay meetup beginning to disperse — Photo by Daniel Lindsley

As promised, the old archway of the convention center got a break this year from the tread of hooves, heels, and armored boots. Emerald City Comic Con (ECCC) finally moved into its new venue, a building dubbed the Summit.

Picture five whole floors of glass, concrete, and steel, with accents of finished wood, and lush outdoor courtyards. Fill the halls and aisles with characters and fans from all over the realms of geekdom, and you've got a good picture of what it was like moving through the Summit last week.

One side of the building is almost entirely windows from the second floor up, granting the escalators and stairs soft, natural light during the day, and a view of the city lights otherwise. Next to those stairs, almost flush with the windows, are wood-paneled risers inviting attendees to sit, rest, and take in the world going by.

Con-goers resting on the risers (l), The Glamdalorian for photos in the Pride Lounge (r) — Photo by Daniel Lindsley  

Before the festivities began, ECCC Marketing Director Fallon Prinzivalli estimated that 75,000 people would be attending — the same number as last year, but all under one roof rather than spread over the previous convention center venue, called the Arch, and surrounding hotels.

Speaking to KING-TV about the new venue, Prinzivalli said, "It is a beautiful building, state of the art. When we did the walk-through, we really felt like they built this building for us."

The Summit is so spacious that the international live action roleplaying (LARPing) group Amtgard had ample room for children and adults alike to test their combat prowess safely, in the time-honored tradition of whopping each other silly with foam swords. Battles of harmless fun raged through the weekend.

Ghostbusters face off with a Mandalorian in the third floor courtyard — Photo by Daniel Lindsley  

One Amtgard representative, known as Kodiak of Greenwood Keep, said that numbers had waned in LARPing groups during the height of the pandemic. But Kodiak also mentioned that local chapters might be gearing up for a presence at Pride events this year, since the communities have so much overlap.

And in an adjacent but decidedly different realm of LARPing involving false fangs, dark clothes, and red contact lenses, Drache Media Films CEO Daphne Reeder — an experienced LARPer in the paranormal World of Darkness setting — said that Seattle itself used to be the center of such events.

Navigating the convention was far more straightforward than last year, too, up until Saturday afternoon, when foot-traffic jams were common on the third-floor landing, as well as elsewhere in the building.

Such growing pains should be expected, and it was a minor inconvenience for those unconcerned with social distancing. It was nothing a few well-placed signs and stanchions wouldn't fix.

It should also be noted that face masks, while officially "recommended," were not mandatory like they were last year, and most attendees weren't wearing one.

A full house at 'The Future is Queer' — Photo by Daniel Lindsley  

Packed panels
Some readers might be thinking by now, All right, but how Gay was it? The short answer is: very, as it was last year — but this time, we turned out in force.

In addition to the usual fandom meetups, based around certain intellectual properties or companies, each day there were a few informal networking events for professionals in a dedicated lounge area.

That space brought together authors, librarians, educators, game developers, and often a combination of two or three, to help talent find talent across industry silos. A good portion of those people were part of the LGBTQ community, and had local connections in the artists' alley and elsewhere.

Interest was higher at panels, too. Whereas last year Lyssa Holm's "Always Here: LGBTQIA Characters in Comics & Mythology" drew a small crowd and had many empty seats, this time around, some con-goers had to stand in the aisle.

Holm provided the histories of Queer characters, in both comics and Greek mythology, in parallel — like the early hints at the superhero Iceman's sexuality, and the heteronormative attempts to erase Greek hero Achilles being what she called a "disaster Bisexual."

Even some not overtly Queer panels, notably "Neurodiversity and Comics" and "Body Positivity in Cosplay," had a majority-LGBTQ lineup of fans, artists, and professionals to share their insights, musings, and stories.

In the former session, there were discussions about working in the comics industry while having ADHD, ASD, dyscalculia, or dyslexia.

Dark Horse artist Phillip Sevy was moderator for four others sessions: with writer and journalist Christie Porter, artist Lauren Walsh, comics marketer Jazzlyn Stone, and writer Jody Houser. They spoke both about their challenges, like meeting deadlines, and their strengths, like being able to work on many projects at once. And they agreed that the COVID-19 pandemic had obstructed many of their coping mechanisms, like working in cafés.

"Queer Imaginings" went over some of the most prominent pieces of Queer media that was released or continued last year, like the film Bros, and the shows The Owl House, The Last of Us, and Our Flag Means Death.

Local pop media critic and journalist Matt Baume was on this panel. He said of Everything Everywhere All At Once, "So many pieces of media — expensive, mainstream pieces of media — when they do include Queer people and themes, it is done in a way that can be removed for other audiences."

Everything, however, "can't be sanitized," Baume said. "This is a movie that says, 'You must take me on these terms, and if you want to un-Queer this, then you can't have me.'"

Our Flag in particular had an even stronger presence this year than last, with signings and selfies with cast members, and a panel with nonbinary actor Vico Ortiz and comedian Rhys Darby on the main stage.

Two fan panels for the show were held as well, one featuring its fan fiction and another exploring its theme of Queer found family. Even the mention of Taika Waititi's pirate comedy in other panels aroused some of the loudest cheers.

Others signings included Mark Ruffalo, known for playing Bruce Banner in the Marvel Cinematic Universe; David Hayter, the voice of Snake in the Metal Gear Solid games; David Tennant of Doctor Who fame; Katee Sackhoff, who played an armored badass in Battlestar Galactica long before she did in The Mandalorian; and an array of stars from anime and CW shows, like Riverdale and Arrow.

Sunday in particular saw a strong presence of David Lynch's Twin Peaks, which might surprise some, since it released its third and final season in 2017, 26 years after season 2. Harry Goaz (Andy Brennan), Sherilyn Fenn (Audrey Horne), Ray Wise (Leland Palmer), and Kimmy Robertson (Lucy Moran) took to the main stage in a "Damn Fine Panel."

ECCC also resumed its official after-parties and late-night activities this year, with a prom for high-energy vibes, and a chill, late-night "Sip & Sketch" drawing session with a mobile bar.