“The thing we know about Portland is that if you create a thing out of love and passion, people will respond, and that is clearly what is happening here.” – Michael Ring, Bridge City Comics
This weekend the Rose City Comic-Con, in its very first year, not only surprised fans, vendors and guests, but its organizers as well.
The Hilton DoubleTree convention room was filled to capacity four times during the event, and the weekend’s attendance topped off at over 4100 visitors, more than this year’s Stumptown Comics Fest, which began its journey at the DoubleTree nine years ago.
Featuring something for nearly everyone, the Rose City Comic-Con had everything from comics creators to TV stars to tattoo shops, and its panels included a “How to Draw” workshop and a performance/Q&A by local nerd-folk group The Doubleclicks.
A separate interview with show organizer Ron Brister is forthcoming, but the Portland Comic Books Examiner spent time on the show floor asking people their opinion of the very first Rose City Comic-Con.
Perhaps the most impressive praise came from media guest Richard Hatch, who starred in both versions of the sci-fi hit show Battlestar Galactica. As a sci-fi celebrity and acting coach, Hatch has attended countless conventions, and at his panel referred to RCCC as the best-organized con that he had been to.
Towards the end of the show, Hatch spoke with the Portland Comic Books Examiner and expanded on that sentiment:
“I’m blown away by how well organized and run and managed this show is,” he said. “I think they did an extraordinary job.”
“You never know what you’re going to get with the first time you get to a show. They hit the jackpot. Everybody came and they’re hanging around all day because they’re having so much fun. That’s the kind of show that’s going to grow and grow and grow.
“They’ve hit on a formula, they’ve created a show that everybody had fun at, and it’s been successful for everybody including all the dealers.
“I think they did a phenomenal job.”
Local artist Ron Randall (Trekker) noted the layout of the floor as well as the feeling he got from the crowd.
“I’m very happy about this show,” Randall said. “There’s great energy here. I’m happy to see the energy, I’ve sold some stuff. It’s a good start.
“When I walked in last night to get set up I was very impressed, and thought, ‘This feels attractive.’
“With most of these things it’s like, ‘I’m going into the dungeon to see some comics again…'”
According to Marvel Architect Matt Fraction, the response to the show was “crazy.”
“It seems bonkers,” he added. “It’s really got to be in a bigger venue next year!”
Sharing the table with him, author Kelly Sue DeConnick made sure to compliment the folks behind the scenes:
“The organizers were lovely, and people have been by to check and see if we need anything.”
Author Greg Rucka, whose long-awaited second volume of Stumptown begins tomorrow, said “so far, so good” about his Saturday, while on Twitter, fellow writer Kurt Busiek (Astro City) called the weekend “a terrific launch for a great show!”
Expanding the range of the traditional comic book convention, the Rose City Comic-Con included vendors whose wares overlapped with comic/nerd culture such as local businesses Sock Dreams and Infinity Tattoo.
“I like [the show], said Infinity’s Victoria. “I like that we have the sock place; It’s just such a wide assortment here.”
Although Infinity Tattoo was not performing any inking at the show, they did have a wide assortment of books showing the kind of art they have applied. One book was kept open to “the nerd page,” which featured 8-bit Mega Man and Star Wars-themed tattoos.
A free sample page highlighted the Battlestar Galactica reboot, with classic takes on the futuristic look of the show.
How have the comics fans been reacting to the temptation to permanently display their obsessions?
“They’ve been very excited,” replied Victoria, “We’ve also had people come in who want a tattoo but are really hesitant and nervous about it. Normally it’s a very rough culture, but here it’s really laid back.”
Indie Creators Chime In
With a convention that seems to be a bit more mainstream than most of the ones Portland has seen, how do the independent creators feel about Rose City? Erika Moen (Dar!, Bucko!) was pleasantly surprised.
“I was expecting this convention to be geared more toward Marvel and DC collectors,” she recalled. “I wasn’t expecting it to be so friendly to indie stuff!”
Illustrator Devon Devereaux felt more at home with the mainstream focus.
“I generally do a lot better at more mainstream show, because it seems like people are there to spend money,” he noted. “I’ve probably made more money this morning than at the last Stumptown show I did.”
The Rose City Comic-Con, like most conventions, used volunteers to assist with tasks associated with the show. In exchange for a time of service, the fans would receive free admission for the rest of the show.
Tom Bohlmann was happy to participate in the convention, and welcomed RCCC to Portland
“The nearest official Comic-Con is in Seattle,” he explained. “I go to that every year, and not only is it a drive, but it’s fairly expensive, so I was pleased that Portland’s finally getting its own.”
Speaking of Seattle’s Emerald City Comicon, how does Bohlmann feel that the fledgling convention stacks up to its nearest neighbor?
“The first time I went to Emerald City was its 2nd or 3rd year,” he replied. “It was bigger than this but still pretty small, and it’s grown exponentially every year, So this is about what I would expect for a first year con in a small city like Portland.
“It seems like a good start, so hopefully next year will be even better.”
No endeavor of this size goes off without a hitch, but the issues that the Rose City Comic-Con encountered seemed to be minor, if not desirable.
In addition to the crowd over-filling the venue at times, several people noted that the space, which used to be part of the hotel’s parking garage, was not adequately ventilated.
“It’s really crowded, which is probably the reason it’s so hot,” said artist/writer David Hahn. “Hopefully they do well here and move to a bigger venue with air conditioning next year.”
Show runner Ron Brister contributed a problem that he had seen both among the exhibitors and with his own organization:
“I’ve had vendors have the problem of not having enough change and going to the banks,” he said with a smile. “We ourselves have been to the bank three times.”
As Matt Fraction would say, that’s a “high-class problem to have.”