14 JANUARY 2015
So everyone knows by now that ReedPOP, the owner of New York Comic Con & a jillion other events, has added Emerald City Comicon to its crown. Or in the words of euphemistic press releases, "partnered with" and "joined its family of leading experiental fan events."
I hate to start off on a negative note, but I have to say this - if you want to assure people that their beloved comic convention is going to stay the same, don't call it "a leading experiental fan event." Call it a comic convention. Call it a Con. Call it anything that doesn't sound like a word jumble generated by a cyborg publicist.
I'll say right here that I know my opinion isn't worth much in this matter. I'm not from Seattle, I don't have a decade-long history with ECCC, and as a complete outsider, I have no realistic idea how this merger will manifest. But as a lover of comic conventions, the kind with real comic book nerds, struggling creators and a slightly shabby ambience, I dread a future where Cons become slick corporate events.
I do appreciate the improved organization that can come with a sophisticated company at the helm. Emerald City could benefit in some strong ways from ReedPOP's power. But it's hard to deny that small independent Cons have a certain energy that will inevitably change when a major player like ReedPOP takes over. I think one reason people are freaking out about this particular move is that for many of us, ECCC was the comic-centric answer to SDCC's growth and glitter. Their social presence, transparency and attentiveness toward fans has given this Con a very community feel. Now we're wondering - is that going to be taken from us too?
All the reassurances have been made. From ECCC founder Jim Demonakos (cool name, by the way): "We are huge fans of what ReedPOP is doing across the globe in the pop culture space and the ECCC team is excited to have them help us elevate the fan experience at our event." You could read into that, if you wanted- as in "don't elevate anything, please" - but he also says that ECCC will be bringing their fan focus to ReedPOP's events. Which could be quite nice if it happens.
If you're not familiar with ReedPOP - and that's probably the case for many West Coasters - they're kind of like the Napolean of Cons. They recently bought up Paris Comic Con, staged events in Germany, London and Singapore, organized more events throughout India, and created an Australia team to colonize Down Under. I have no doubt they're working with NASA at this very moment to launch the first Comic-Con on Mars.
As for their mission and personality, they describe themselves as producing "exceptional experiences for fan audiences and growing the industries surrounding these passions." Okay then. I'm surprised they didn't throw in creating a disruptive B2C marketing opportunity for pop culture visionaries and innovators. And they say this like it's a good thing - that their philosophy has led to "burgeoning attendance." Hi, welcome to what fans DON'T want more of. The whole idea of more-more-more is exactly what so many of us are sick to death of.
Enough kvetching. Here's what we know:
- ECCC team will still run the show
- There will be "minimal impact" in March because everything's already finalized
- It will be a gradual transition
- There could be "additional entertainment aspects"
- The cross-pollination will go both ways - in theory
In the end, we won't know what's going to change for a while. Some people will love the changes, others will lament losses, but above all the shift will feel insidious and inevitable. And because there likely won't be a drop in attendance, any feelings of fan dismay will probably be ignored.
But I don't want to end on a gloomy note, so I'll say this - I think old-school comic book conventions will be around for a while, even if they're in addition to the behemoth conventions. San Diego Comic Fest, for instance. And who knows - when all is said and done, maybe Emerald City will retain its charm.