November 10, 2013

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Rose City Comic-Con 2013

I'm horrendously behind on this one, but whatever, it's my blog and if I want to do a Con write-up six weeks later, I get to do a Con write-up six weeks later!

Several months ago, I was looking for a good reason to hit Portland for an extended visit. My comics contacts in the area immediately suggested "Rose City is in September" and Erica and I booked a flight for me to see the show and for us to see if maybe Portland might be the kind of city we could live in, if we can make the finances and job situation work.

Well, this isn't the place for talking about cities, but suffice it to say that we both fell head over heels in love with Portland, its people, and its food. (Seriously, the food there is amazing--and cheap!) I even got called a mensch and told I was allowed to move there by a musician for helping out when the wind got heavy at the Market.

So Portland as a city? Totally cool. But how about Portland as a place trying to get a major Con established?

The answer is that while there are definitely some growing pains, they did a hell of a lot of things right, and
Cutest Harley of All Time
the future looks bright for this show to be something special.

First of all, of all the comic shows I've attended, Rose City wins hands down for best harassment policy. No mealy-mouthed "conflict resolution" or mediation crap. You act like an ass, taking pictures of women from behind (something I see ALL THE TIME at non-indie Cons), and Rose City's gonna show you the door. I absolutely love the fact that the onus is on the jerk, not on the victim. Every Con needs to start this policy yesterday. People don't make false harassment claims, that's a myth.

For that alone, I'd recommend this show, but there's so much more about it that I loved. While the Con definitely was more mixed media than I usually like, the organizers cleverly put them in different places at the show. Wanna spend all day getting star autographs? There's your part of the show. Prefer to haunt the comics folks? Hey, they're over there. Wanna buy collector stuff that appeals to geeks of all kinds? Let's place that in the middle.

Steve Lieber (left) and part of Periscope Studios
Once I got into the show, I was able to navigate straight to the stuff that interested me and stay there. Now I do grant that means that maybe potential comics converts didn't get exposed to new works, but here's the thing: Long lines for media people get in the way of the smaller comics folks, blocking them. Heck, this even happens when Scott Snyder's booth is too close to the indie folks. I really like that anything autograph related that was a Big Name had its own place. Baltimore could really take that to heart. They only do it for Stan Lee and other super names, but it could be extended a bit.

I also liked the fact that the show floor had plenty of space. No one was slamming into me while I browsed or chatted with creators, and even when folks wanted to take cosplay pictures there was almost no problem getting around.

The programming was absolutely excellent. I only had one day to spend at the show, since I wanted to see
Jeff Parker, Chillin'
as much of Portland as possible, so I limited myself a bit more than I would have on a two-day visit. They featured Image and Marvel (and Dark Horse, of course, being the local Pub), but also Monkeybrain. Creators like Kurt Busiek, Matt Fraction, and Jeff Parker had one on one interviews. There were also profiles of the media guests (Billy West apparently had them rolling in the aisles) and things about creating your own comics. I was sad to miss the diversity panel on Sunday, but I am sure it was tactful and interesting. If Rose City keeps up, they're going to really be a star in this area.

Highlights of the show for me was mostly getting to see so many of the Portland-area creators that I pester talk to on Twitter, such as Parker, Fraction, Steve Lieber, Erika Moen, Chris Roberson, Colleen Coover, Lucy Bellwood, Zack Soto, and my Newsarama partner, Aaron Duran. There's just such an amazing amount of great people working in comics in Portland, and I know I've probably missed a few of you (sorry!). They're also so nice, too. The atmosphere at the show was full of positive vibes.

Lucy Bellwood
One area that I hope to see grow stronger is the number of folks doing truly indie comics at Rose City. They definitely were there at the show, but the way it was organized, it was a bit awkward for all involved. A person doing crazy mini-comics might be right up against the dude with the sexy superheroine posters. I know variety is the spice of life, and if you want your nearly naked Supergirl print, hey, that's your thing, and I'm not gonna knock it. But I wouldn't mind seeing something akin to Heroes' Indie Island, maybe anchored by Periscope Studios and then filled out with people like Study Group and others who have similar styles.

The only other minor issue was the lines. I was not on a press pass for the show, and I admit I've gotten a bit spoiled by having one (I missed the deadline). However, the way the lines snaked around was confusing, and I am not sure that all of the volunteers, who were trying their best, knew where to send people. The end result was a bit of grumbling, but once the show started, that dissipated and folks had a lot of fun. I understand this show exploded from year one, so I'm sure for year three, things will be better.

Rose City Comic-Con, for only being in its second year, was right up there with Baltimore and Heroes for
me in terms of a major Con experience. I highly recommend it to anyone who can make the trip, and I'm hoping that I will be on the West Coast in time to make it for the 2014 show. While I will miss my East Coast shows dearly (I can't fly in for all of them, much as I'd love to), knowing that Rose City will be there for me when I (hopefully) make the plunge is a really good feeling, indeed.

Want more pics from Rose City Comic-Con? You can find them on my Flickr page here.