Web Analytics Made Easy - Statcounter

Community and inclusion: A priority and a passion at Emerald City Comic Con 2024

Share this Post:
Emerald City Comic Con
Emerald City Comic Con

One of the biggest geek gatherings in the Pacific Northwest is happening again next weekend, from the morning of Thursday, February 29 through the early evening of Sunday, March 3, at the Seattle Convention Center. As always, Emerald City Comic Con (ECCC) promises more Queer guests, panels, and events than a single journalist could possibly handle — and there are even more features planned for this year.

Kristina Rogers, event vice president for ReedPop's comics portfolio, spoke with me over Zoom to help break down some of the most exciting bits of programming. But first, we talked about ECCC's history, and her own history with it.

As a former Seattle resident and self-described "tried-and-true nerd," Rogers has been working with ECCC for 16 years. She started as a volunteer, after the owners of her favorite comic book shop asked for some help with registration. By her account, her role at the organization sort of snowballed from there.

"I was like, 'Man, this was really fun,'" she recalled. "'And I think it could be a lot better and more organized. So can I do this again? Could I work on it for longer?'"

For some perspective, this was back in the late 2000s, either a year before the release of the first Iron Man movie or shortly after. Iron Man was hardly the first superhero film to achieve box office success, but it was the beginning of the "Marvel Cinematic Universe" as we know it today.

Since then, ECCC has expanded from just comics to a wide range of media, and from mere thousands to tens of thousands of attendees, outgrowing two of its venues in the process. Yet diversity, equity, and inclusion, Rogers said, has remained not only a high priority since day one but also a passion.

"I really love, first and foremost, creating a space for those who have been othered," Rogers said.

And ReedPop itself seems to be one such space. Rogers described it as "a collection of diverse weirdos in the event producing business." Laughing, she added, "That's how my team prefers to be pitched, actually."

Even as a woman who identifies as Queer, Rogers said she has "never felt limited in any way, not prior to the acquisition and certainly not now with ReedPop."

Emerald City Comic Con  

Creating community spaces
There are many ways to approach running an inclusive, safe convention at such a large scale, but bringing in a trusted local organization for support is becoming more and more common. For the last few years, ReedPop has partnered with Free2Luv, a local youth advocacy and anti-bullying group, to run ECCC's annual Pride Lounge.

Queer con-goers can expect to have a "chill space" with bean bags, tables for playing board games or collaborating on colorful posters, and a spot for taking pictures with friends or the cosplayers who stop by. This year, the Pride Lounge will also host workshops for making friendship bracelets, a dedicated "Gayme Night" with prizes, and Drag Queen Bingo with Seattle queen Ruby Bouché.

Inclusion goes far beyond one room, of course. This year's most overtly Queer-oriented panels include "Queer Is the New Normal in Fantasy," "Reclaiming Queer History through Comics," and "Superqueer: A Discussion on LGBTQ+ Representation in Superhero Media."

Even the less overt panels have been pretty diverse over the last few years, whether they're about something serious, like industry discrimination, or more fun topics. By Rogers's account, a lot of that diversity is grassroots, since many are organized by members outside ReedPop.

Yet Rogers also said her team is "always pushing" for more, constantly asking themselves, "How are we making sure that no matter who you are, you're walking into the show and you're seeing yourself in it?"

"Weaving inclusivity through everything we do" has been one of ECCC's biggest achievements, Rogers said. And ReedPop measures its success and plans future content with the help of community feedback.

"I live and die by our post-show survey," Rogers said. "If you've purchased a ticket to our show, you get an email inviting you to tell us what you think. We [get] a really strong response. There's a lot of people who fill that out, a lot of opinions."

"And I do read every single one," she added. "It takes a bottle of wine and about a week."

Broader landscape
Beyond comics and geekdom, ReedPop also keeps a close eye on the broader cultural landscape, like trends on social media, shifts in national conversations, and the like.

For example, after the hardest years of the COVID-19 pandemic, "everybody is way more passionate about spending time together and meeting new people than they are about sitting in a room and watching five people talk," Rogers said.

That's why ECCC is rolling out "The Tavern," a space dedicated to sitting down and meeting fellow fans. Its three rooms each bear its own name and theme (like the "Pickled Pixie"), including an all-ages gaming space (hosted by the Alexandria RPG Library) and a 21+ area with a bar. There are also a few workshops and meetups spread out over the weekend.

LARPing made its debut at ECCC last year, with battle games and other activities led by one of the local Amtgard chapters. This year Amtgard is back in an even bigger way, Rogers said, with more space to skirmish and lead workshops of its own.

As for future conventions, Rogers said the ECCC team's "biggest push" has been for more guests and companies from the Asia-Pacific region, and also more Black representation, which would mean bringing in local organizations.

"We work with a couple of great groups out of Chicago and New York.... We're always happy to work with more, just to make sure all of our spaces are fully represented," Rogers said.

To check out the panels, guests, events, exhibitors, and other features of this year's Emerald City Comic Con, visit https://www.emeraldcitycomiccon.com — Individual day passes and four-day passes are available.