Emerald City Comicon 2014 – Some Great Time in Seattle

I decided on the last day of 2013’s Penny Arcade Expo that PAX didn’t feel like home anymore. It had a lot to do with the Penny Arcade creators and controversy but it also had to do with the fact that many of the awesome people we’ve met and connected with at PAX just weren’t going to be there this year.

PAX 2013 was salvaged by Max Temkin entirely. He is a hero to us all.

So the next day, when we were about to fly home from Seattle, I noticed that Emerald City Comicon tickets had gone on sale and I made the conscious decision that Seattle still felt a lot like home even though PAX didn’t and bought my wife and I three day passes for ECCC 2014.

Many months passed and the day finally arrived on Thursday when we headed for San Francisco International Airport and the rainy skies of Seattle.

The SFO security checkpoint and terminal were plagued with a giant cheerleader squad on their way to Disneyland. 49 of them had TSA Precheck, the rest of the group lagged behind at security which thankfully was all behind us. The squad also got to preboard their flight together.

We ate at Lark Creek Grill, a sit down eatery at SFO’s Terminal 2. It was a decent breakfast that allowed us to relax because we got there pretty early for our flight.

We boarded in Group C on our flight and had a pretty comfortable flight to Seattle. When we got close, there was a nice hole in the clouds, so we got to see some beautiful aerial views of the city. I snapped some quick photos once my wife got our NEX5N camera out of its pouch but also missed the opportunity to get a ton of great shots. Maybe next time.

Once we landed, we stopped by Beecher’s in the C concourse and ate in front of The Winterlings, who were playing a show at the airport in celebration of the one year anniversary of people playing music in the airport. We also walked past a guy named Orville Johnson playing in the concourse as well. Neither act was really all that interesting. Folky sounding stuff. The Winterlings said they were once the number one album in some chart somewhere but got beaten out by Bob Dylan and then by Jakob Dylan.

We boarded the light rail and headed into the city, just like we always do and for the first time that I can recall, the fare checkers came through and checked for our proof of payment. No issues, as I know how to pay for public transit in Seattle.

We checked into our hotel, the Mayflower Park Hotel which is right next to Westlake Station, which is a great location but not necessarily the best place to stay. After a bit of rest, we walked over to the Cinerama theater, where we had intended to see The Princess Bride with a Q&A with Cary Elwes. Elwes canceled so instead we got a refund at the box office. Inside the theater, they had famous costumes from films and TV including Leeloo’s outfit from The Fifth Element and Seven of Nine’s costume from Star Trek Voyager. They are of course past the ticket checker, so we couldn’t get a close look. All of the costumes come from the EMP/Sci Fi Museum so we might get to see them up close there in the future.

We had dinner at Rock Bottom Brewery, where I finally got to share ball park pretzels with my wife. Every time we have been there locally or in Seattle we’ve had issues getting what we want. Everything was in stock and tasty on Thursday night.

I also had a great steak and mixed vegetables. My wife just had some egg rolls which she didn’t really care for and a half size brownie sundae that was pretty tasty.

After dinner, we dropped by the Oni Press ECCC Kickoff party at the Sheraton. It was just a bunch of people drinking with a DJ and a photo booth and no swag. There was a check in table, where they checked IDs. They were supposed to draw a viking hat like the Oni Press logo on hands, but my wife’s ended up looking a lot more like a Star Trek communicator than anything viking.

There was one table playing Cards Against Humanity. We could have joined their game I guess, but instead we headed back to our hotel and read digital comics on our laptops for the rest of the night. In the end, I’m glad I did because it got me past some significant spoilers for Fables that were discussed later in the weekend at a panel I attended.

We ended up doing a Google+ hangout with a friend and played some Hangouts Against Humanity and tried to get another friend involved. He was asleep. The app crashed as it often does, so we ended up just chatting for a while longer and going to sleep.

Friday was a big day. We woke up early and headed directly to the Convention Center. We got in the second wave of queue line and hoped to get to the Dark Horse booth in time to get the exclusive covers of Serenity, Buffy and The Witcher that they had for the convention. After a couple of hours of watching the queue room fill behind us, we got in and headed straight for the booth. As we were racing through the exhibit hall, we were both also trying to get Eager Beaver tickets for Outside Lands. My transaction broke but my wife was able to score two Eager Beaver tickets and two shuttle passes at the lowest possible cost for three day passes to Outside Lands. Whoo hoo!

My wife headed back to the queue room to secure our Photo Op tickets for the weekend. I am very grateful that she found a tip posted on the ECCC Facebook fan page that said to get photo op tickets early.

I ended up buying a Dark Horse Presents that highlighted Buffy and this Wednesday’s issue of Serenity as well as the three comics I was in line for before heading through the main hall and saying hello to the creators of Fables. They didn’t yet have anything for sale at their booth, so I was just chatting with them and mentioned I had been at a couple of Fables panels in the past and was looking forward to this last West Coast Fables panel. Bill Willingham mentioned that if I’d gotten a one-sheet comic I already had all of their signatures. I did have one of those so I didn’t need anything signed. I thought that was nice.

I headed to the ECCC merch booth and the line was so unruly that they closed it behind me. It was a huge mob and was not moving. Thirty minutes later, my wife had secured all five of our photo ops for Sunday and I gave up on the merch booth line.

We stopped by the Cyanide and Happiness booth and bought a plushie, a tee shirt for my wife and two book collections. For our purchase we also got a deluxe three artist giant sketch which my wife had themed. It was delightfully inappropriate.

We stopped by the third floor ECCC Kids area and entered a drawing for Captain America passes and movie swag. We went to lunch at Pike Place Chowder and I got a text that I had won the Captain America prize. It turned out to not be passes but my choice of non-Captain America tee shirts. I got my wife a youth large tee shirt of Wyldstyle promoting The Lego Movie that fits her great. That was a cool and random swag get.

We spent the rest of the day in the main panel room, which for PAX is where they host the Bring Your Own Computer LAN tournaments and the League of Legends national finals. It isn’t as big as Ballroom 20 or Hall H for San Diego, but it is a nice size and we had no trouble getting good seats to watch panels with Dwight Schultz, Eliza Dushku, Nichelle Nichols, Nancy Cartwright and Richard Dean Anderson hosted by Clare Kramer.

We had met Dwight Schultz at Dragon*Con back in 2009. He’s played two very pivotal roles on television that made me a fan. His time as “Howling Mad” Murdock on The A-Team and Lt. Barclay on Star Trek: The Next Generation was time I enjoyed greatly in my youth. He’s transitioned into a voice acting career in more recent years. Clare Kramer asked a few questions about Schultz’s career, ranging from how he got the part on The A-Team and was subsequently fired in the pilot episode, then brought back because he was the highest rated character when the pilot was screened for test audiences. Tim Dunigan, the guy that played Face in the pilot, consoled him after him being let go. It turned out when Schultz turned up again to start filming the series, it was Tim Dunigan that had been fired and replaced with Dirk Benedict. Schultz talked about his time on Star Trek, and how he’d gotten the part thanks to a friendship with Whoopi Goldberg. He talked about voice acting and his time on CatDog and Chowder. He talked about Mass Effect, Dragon Age and his favorite recent role, as Death’s Head in Wolfenstein. He said he could never have played a Nazi in stage and screen roles, but being a voice actor allowed him to be a vile creature of a man in a video game. His dream role for a historical figure he’d like to play is Edward Teller, one of the men responsible for the atomic bomb. He said he got to play Oppenheimer in a film, but Oppenheimer had sold out his country and Teller was a true patriot and no one has ever fully explored his story and he’d like to.

It was a great panel, and the Q&A included some crazy, in the form of a very excited German woman in cosplay as one of the characters from Let That Be Your Last Battlefield from the original Star Trek series. She went crazy in her lengthy description of hearing all of the dubbed German voices and how she was hearing Schultz for the first time recently in English. She returned in Nichols’ panel as well and we saw her while waiting for autographs on Saturday in a different cosplay outfit. Not sure if she was doing it as an act or if she was genuinely that crazy.

Eliza Dushku reunited with her sister from Bring It On, Clare Kramer, for a panel discussion that included her describing ice in a way that made some of the crowd think it was hot, feeding apricots to people that asked questions or made comments she really liked and just being her wild self for forty minutes or so. She mentioned she’d cracked a couple of ribs doing stunts in True Lies, broke her elbow filming the finale episode of Dollhouse and loves to do any stunts that insurance for the production will allow. She said that Faith was the role she most fondly remembers but thinks of all of her roles fondly. Her most recent role in The Gable 5 was promoted throughout the panel and I sadly didn’t think it was that great when I watched it later in the night. She said she liked that Fox gave Dollhouse enough time to wrap up their series unlike what happened to her on Tru Calling. There was a lot of stuff in the panel that just felt a bit incoherent. Some of that was due to weird comments or questions from the audience. Some of it was due to Eliza just showing up after a lengthy flight. Either way she seemed happy to be visiting Seattle and Emerald City Comicon and the crowd loved her.

The oddest question was someone asking who came up with 5×5 and what it meant. Eliza turned that one into a promo for The Gable 5.

Nichelle Nichols was next and told a slightly different version of the Martin Luther King convincing her to stay on Star Trek story. She had both the crazy German lady and a guy propose to his girlfriend during her panel. She joked with the couple after the woman said yes that if she had said no that she hadn’t removed the ring from her finger in many years but would have taken it off and said yes to the guy herself. She said her greatest achievement in life was her son Kyle Johnson. She talked about how William Shatner was a great guy and told her side of the story of when George Takei took everyone in the cast out for their first real sushi in downtown LA. There was a lengthy discussion of her role in the first interracial kiss on television and she ended her panel a bit late after a passionate tale of her role as an ambassador for the US Space Program.

I love Nichelle’s panels. She always manages to bring inspiration and joy. I’d love a classic Star Trek convention with Nichelle, George Takei and William Shatner.

Nancy Cartwright was making her first ever Comic Convention appearance in the next panel and she was super excited to be there. She did a cell phone video running through the crowd to start and did an excellent job fielding questions from Clare Kramer and the crowd about her various roles in The Simpsons, stepping in to the role of Chuckie on Rugrats, her time as Mindy on Animaniacs and buying pizza for Stephen Spielberg’s entire staff just to get the chance to meet him. She talked about breaking into the business by introducing herself to Daws Butler and convincing him to mentor her. She also described how Mindy’s voice originated in her watching Mara Wilson’s acting in Mrs. Doubtfire. It was a great panel full of cartoon voices and excitement.

I’m really glad that Nancy decided to attend the convention and spend a weekend amongst fans.

Richard Dean Anderson was up next and as a huge fan of MacGuyver in the 80’s I was excited for the panel. Outside of a heartfelt tale of his time on a 12-speed bike doing a cross country trek across Canada and into Alaska and back between his junior and senior years of high school, the rest of the panel just felt lazy. I left after the 12-speed bike story, used the rest room and got in line for the next panel in a smaller room, The Cyanide and Happiness Show Panel.

The premise of the panel was for the four artists from Cyanide and Happiness and Hijinks Ensue to work as three man teams and draw out inappropriate stick figure sketches based on audience suggestions and a grab bag of written suggestions. Combinations like Satan, meat and pot, Batman, shrooms and bowling and Aquaman, mugging and terrorists made for some interesting and hilarious sketches.

The panel also inspired me to later go back to their booth and commission another sketch for myself.

After the Cyanide and Happiness Panel, we headed to Mod Pizza for dinner. We split a salad and a thin crust and tasty pizza pie with lots of meat on it. I drank lots of Marion Blackberry Lemonade and life was good.

We headed to the gaming area on the third floor of the Sheraton and I grabbed up a Warehouse 23 dungeon card and a bookmark for Munchkin and convinced a newly annointed Munchkin fan to buy lots of booster packs at one of my favorite shop booths. I played some Burgertime on free play but we didn’t play any tabletop games despite browsing the lending library and being curious about a couple of the games.

Instead we retired to our hotel to rest up for our big second day of the convention on Saturday.

Saturday began slightly later in the morning with our first trip to Dahila Bakery. My wife got a breakfast sandwich and I ordered six of their fresh made to order doughnuts. We got a rocky road brownie as well and a chocolate pecan butter cookie sandwich. It was an excellent breakfast.

We headed to the convention center and found the second floor area next to The Juicy Cafe to be almost completely empty. At PAX this area would have been completely full. It was very odd but we used that to our advantage.

We were in the first group inside for the Main Panel Hall and got great seats for the voice actors’ reading of The Empire Strikes Back… some more.

Jeff Zannini hosts a bunch of voice actor panels reading through scripts of famous films. The Empire Strikes Back started at last year’s Emerald City Comic Con, was resumed on Page 31 of the script by a crew that included William Saylers, Nancy Cartwright, Cree Summer, Jeremy Shada and Bill Farmer. Highlights included Goofy saying “Shit”, Andrea Libman’s My Little Pony helium voiced narrator for a scene and Bart Simpson as a very uncomfortable Princess Leia giving in to the advances of Han Solo. John DiMaggio bringing back his Tracy Morgan impression from the Star Wars Radio Play 2012 Emerald City Comicon reading was not quite as funny. Snagglepuss exiting, stage left near the end as Darth Vader was terrific. Cree did a lot of Foxy Brown from Drawn Together and both Bills got to play Kermit the Frog. It was a highly entertaining panel but I feel like it could have used more variety. Jeff used Bart Simpson and Finn from Adventure Time WAY too much.

You can catch up on the crazy voice actor panels on Jeff Zannini’s YouTube. This year’s is still exclusive to FlipOn.TV.

We headed over to the Secret Origins: Peter David panel next and caught the end of the Arthur Adams panel as an added bonus. Peter had to trek across the convention center and was a few minutes late. He said it felt like San Diego on a slow day. His panel included discussion of his comic work, focused a lot on X Factor and also a bit on his Star Trek novels and screenplay adaptations. A couple of highlights for me were a movie he worked on called Backlash: Oblivion 2, where he had his father cast as an extra. His father had moved to Hollywood to become an actor and it had never worked out, so being in the film was a huge thrill. He was super excited to get a closeup and even more excited when the director announced “That’s a wrap for Gunter David” which was not something that would normally happen for an extra and everyone cheered. Peter continued the story when he later went to get some still photos developed and the store clerk that developed them asked if they had been taken on a movie set because he recognized one of the actors. Even though recognizable actors Jackie Swanson and George Takei were in the shot the clerk said he recognized one of the actors in, it was Gunter David that they guy said he knew from earlier films. Gunter had never been in a movie before and never was again, but hey, the guy was familiar with his work. Another highlight was the tale of how the next set of The Dark Tower comics originated. Peter David had a stroke around a year and a half ago and Stephen King drove across Florida to visit him. They had a conversation about the comics and Peter said that folks had been asking for a comic version of The Drawing of the Three and Stephen King said, Okay let’s do it. A couple of weeks later, Marvel agreed. Peter joked “Thank God I had a stroke because now we get to see The Drawing of the Three.”

After the Peter David panel we headed to the other side of the sixth floor and started our mad dash to get autographs. It started with Bill Farmer, who was very nice and even did a Goofy voice to say farewell to us after we got his picture signed. Nancy Cartwright was next. She is one of the sweetest women we’ve ever encountered. She was very into being at the con. We got an autographed Bart Simpson headshot and a photo with her. Up next was Richard Dean Anderson. His line was short but he wasn’t scheduled to arrive for 45 minutes.

Back in the Bay Area, my local Resistance faction was taking place in an epic Ingress battle as a part of the Oakland Recursion anomaly event. I had been paying attention since the Peter David panel to see if there was any way that I could take part in the battle. I had gathered up keys for Oakland portals in hopes to be able to assist by remote recharging. The first cluster of portals, I had no keys. The second, no keys, but just after Richard arrived, the third batch of volatile portals were released and I was able to help! I recharged the Latham Square portal and kept an eye on the Fox Theater portal to see if our faction could take it over from the Enlightened. I stopped for a few minutes and we got our autograph from Richard, who said “Hi… kids…” and my wife remarked, that yes, we were kids back in the MacGuyver days in the 80s. He was very nice to us and wanted to make sure we were okay before he said goodbye and we moved on to Karl Urban’s line and I kept recharging portals like a madman while my faction mates were deploy defending and building a field to enclose Oakland in a beautiful shade of blue. We won the anomaly and then my wife and I got an autograph from Karl Urban. He had remarked to the woman before us that he had gotten in the night before but not slept because he went to the Kings of Leon show. He shook our hands and signed our photo and while I’m sure a conversation took place, all I remember is saying thank you.

I was hungry. We headed downstairs to the fourth floor and grabbed hot dogs and ate on the second floor before heading back to the sixth floor for even more autographs from J August Richards, who had an awesome shot of him in mid air in almost a superhero dancing pose that was not used in a magazine so he reclaimed it. He signed it for us and was very personable. Next we headed to Ron Perlman’s line. His giant hands were incredibly soft when he shook our hands and we noticed he had protective pads on the pens he was using to sign. Then we got Andrea Libman’s autograph and my wife got in line for Cree Summer’s autograph.

I headed downstairs and snuck into the front of the line for Room 608, which was where three hours later the last ever West Coast Fables Panel was to take place. The stand up Comics of Comicon had put me in place in the line and no one questioned it.

The stand up panel had few funny moments. My favorite was when they stated that still photography was okay but no flash, and a woman dressed as The Flash expressed her outrage. Sadly she was funnier than the comedians.

The next panel was an Urban Dictionary game show panel, where panelists would have to guess the meaning of a term from urban dictionary or the term to match a definition being presented. The big surprise for me was that Trin Garritano from Cards Against Humanity was a replacement panelist. I quickly used the voice recorder on my LG G2 to capture an audio recording of the panel, which was one of my favorites of the convention. It was a really funny panel and Trin came in second place. None of the content is appropriate to type out!

Up next was the panel that I thought would be the highlight of the show for me, the last ever Fables panel on the west coast. It ended up kind of falling flat. A big announcement that the final issue of Fables will be 150 pages long and that Mark Buckingham was writing the last big arc for Fairest, titled Clamor for Glamour and focused on the farm-based animal Fables were good to hear. The lame tee shirt, old Fables books and bookend giveaways kinda weren’t the huge oomph I was expecting and Shelly Bond cutting the already running over panel short so the creators could go to dinner just deflated it all for me. I did leave with a great consolation prize in a sketch that Steve Leialoha drew while sitting on the panel, probably bored out of his mind while Bill Willingham took the entire panel to thank everyone who worked on and read Fables for everything.

I said I hoped they had a great dinner and thanked them for everything on the way out.

We saw a group of people dressed as The Flash form a flash mob in front of the convention center and head inside as we were leaving.

We retreated and headed to Serious Pie for dinner. We had an awesome buffalo mozzarella, tomato sauce and basil pizza. My wife had a house made grape soda. I had my first taste of my new addiction, Big E Root Beer. We had a chocolate budino as one dessert, which was a pudding like mixture of chocolate, olive oil and a hint of sea salt served with a small crunchy bread. Our second dessert was a very good cannoli with apricot and honey drizzle. It was an epic meal to end our day.

Sunday began with another trip to Dahlia’s where we stocked up on baked goods that we’ll just be finishing up today on Tuesday. We again ate at the second floor of the convention center and then headed across the street to the adjacent TCC building and waited for doors to open so that we could explore “Brick Nation” which was billed as an entire floor of LEGO displays. The working astromech LEGO R2-D2 was impressive. The displays were mostly kinda boring. Highlights for me were a Legend of Zelda Hyrule map and a city that interspersed Daleks, Marvel and DC superheroes, Mothra, the aliens from Toy Story, the Three Little Pigs and many more in a citywide story/battle. The castles and especially the Minecraft construction where the guy was charging $10 for you to play with his Legos for five minutes, were super lame.

I bought my wife a Wyldstyle western outfit minifigure sans base but with a fair price tag of $5 including a second “Wyldstyle” custom figure on a skateboard. The guy in the next booth over was charging $7 for Wyldstyle with base and $120 for the full set of minifigures. So I think I got an okay deal.

We walked through the “secret level” and saw Peter David and a very plastic TARDIS replica amongst other things. There were three browncoats booths and none of them had anything terribly exciting in them. I did notice that most of the items for sale on the secret level had copyright infringement all over the place.

My wife read on Twitter that Jenn and Trin were going to be at the gaming area at the Sheraton, so we headed over there and got a copy of Max Temkin’s Werewolf and some Trin buttons from them and chatted a bit about our con experiences. I also got more Munchkin promos from the MIB 2404 guy that was doing demos. He was a bit too talkative though. Trin had a copy of the Girl Talk Dream Phone game but no way to play it because she didn’t have a tape recorder. A friend was going to pass it off to another friend that could make use of it. Jenn and Trin were at the con to see if they should have a Cards Against Humanity booth there next year. I explained that we were there because of the weirdness that happened at PAX last year and Jenn said “Good for you!” in us standing up for our values and avoiding the PAX creators’ horribleness for at least this year.

After a brief visit, we headed back to the main convention center.

Back on the fourth floor, my wife took a photo of me in front of the Fables creators booth and we got in line for David Peterson, the creator of Mouse Guard. This was the point where we realized we needed to get in line for our Richard Dean Anderson photo op. We got across the convention center and in line with plenty of time to spare.

Our next three hours or so were filled with photo op lines. We did Richard Dean Anderson photo, followed by Ron Perlman photo, a quick lunch break with hot dogs and fruit salad and then Karen Gillan, J August Richards and Eliza Dushku in an Angel duo shot and finished off with Karl Urban.

We had some time after our Karl Urban shot so we revisited the Cyanide and Happiness booth and I got three tee shirts for $30 and a small sketch. I got one somewhat work related and love it. We finally got to David Peterson’s booth and ended up buying a presigned sketchbook and a presigned bookplate. He mentioned this year’s Mouse Guard Free Comic Book Day book will again be a hardcover and that’s awesome news.

We stumbled upon Keith Tucker, a storyboard artist that worked on Rescue Rangers, He-Man and She-Ra, Animaniacs and The Addams Family cartoons among others. We bought a collection of his storyboards in a magazine form and he added a personal sketch of The Brain to the back page of it.

After visiting with Keith Tucker, I was tuckered out. We headed back to the line for photo pickup and I headed back to our hotel. I saw a group of people carrying a giant standee of Fluttershy and some balloons on the way back to the hotel and I just rested for about an hour. My Comicon was over.

My wife got back with our photos. I don’t care much for the Karen Gillan one. She wasn’t smiling and was probably really sick of photo taking as we were in the last group of many many groups of people to get our photo taken with her. I really like the J August Richards/Eliza Dushku photo. It is my favorite of the bunch. All five are on our Flickr.

My wife and I had dinner at Relish Burger Bistro in the Westin. They had burgers with Beecher’s cheese on them. The cheese was awesome. I also got some more Big E Root Beer. The burgers weren’t worth the price though. The tater tots were amazing. Should we go back to Relish it will be for sides and root beer only!

Post-dinner the realization that the con was over sunk in. We eventually fell asleep.

Monday involved a small amount of packing with our very small amount of purchases and swag fitting just fine within our luggage. Our Dahlia’s sweets were our precious cargo.

We stopped at Columbia Sportswear to look at jackets but they had nothing in my size so a 30% off coupon went unused.

We headed on the light rail to the airport and got through a lengthy security line, only to have my bag stopped for having too many electronics and wires piled up in one place. They put it back through the X-Ray machine and we were clear to go.

I ate at Anthony’s Fish Bar, an Alaskan Rockhead fish taco and some chowder. I liked the chowder at Anthony’s better than Pike Place. We again saw The Winterlings playing a set at the airport.

Our flight was delayed a couple of hours due to a plane getting struck by lightning near SFO and flights into and out of San Francisco getting grounded for a while as a result.

That said, our flight home wasn’t bad at all.

We went to REI and discovered their prices on raincoats were way more than I would want to spend and had a quick dinner at Wendy’s before heading home and eventually going to sleep.

Our adventure for now was over, but we’ll likely see Seattle again soon.

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