Emerald City Comic Con is the granddaddy of regional comic book conventions, having drawn 64,000 to Seattle's Washington State Convention Center last spring. But for the last three years the Jet City Comics Show has been the scrappy upstart in its shadow, drawing smaller, but no less enthusiastic, crowds to Seattle Center each fall.
For its fourth year, however, Jet City has moved south. The event will take over the Greater Tacoma Convention & Trade Center with a wide array of comic book artists, authors, vendors, collectors and gamers, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Nov. 2. (Might we suggest a name change, to the Grit City Comics Show, for year five?)
“I'm hoping for about 2,000 through the doors,” said James Taylor, who promotes the event with business partner Brian Meredith. They worked with Emerald City before launching their spin-off event in 2010. “We decided to start a separate event with Emerald City becoming a bigger and bigger show.”
Cartoonist League of Absurd Washingtonians (C.L.A.W.) co-founder Mark Monlux will be at Jet City's Tacoma debut signing copies of his book of cartoon movie reviews, “The Comic Critic Presents Seldom Seen Films.” He guessed it's been 16 years since Tacoma has had a full-fledged comics convention, and he figured the time is right for that drought to end.
“One of the reasons the C.L.A.W. formed was because we have a lot of cartoon talent here in town,” he said. “And certainly, there is a big marketplace for people who enjoy comics. With the harsh economic times and the brick and mortar businesses opening up, it's been a harsh four years. It's really nice to have something like this here in town where local people, on the spur of the moment, can just go down and check it out.”
A full listing of celebrity artists and related events can be found online at www.jetcitycomicsshow.com. Meanwhile, here is a quick overview of things you can look forward to seeing at Jet City and related events.
1. People still partying like it's Halloween. There are only so many instances when it's socially acceptable for adults to dress up like superheroes (unless you're Phoenix Jones). One just passed on Thursday; and another is at events like this that inspire all the “cosplay” enthusiasts to come out of the woodwork dressed in their Wolverine and Harley Quinn getups. There will be cash prizes for standout costumes, up to $100 for best adult and $50 for best kid. So what are you waiting for? Get to sewin'!
2. A real superhero that you'll probably have a crush on. Bomber Girl is Jet City Comic Convention's official mascot and the star of an upcoming comic book that's being written by Fremont-based artist Shane White. Like Golden Age Captain America, her adventures are set during World War II where she takes on Nazis and other technologically enhanced Axis baddies. Based on the photo of model Sierra McKenzie, we're guessing she'll have an army of fans way before the first issue hits the streets.
3. Storm troopers causing mischief. You probably thought these guys all lived a long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away. BZZZT! Wrong. A whole bunch of them are stationed just up the road, and members of the Garrison Titan/Seattle 501st Legion will be at Jet City taking photos with “Star Wars” fans for charity. Proceeds will benefit the Wounded Warrior Project Charity. Good intentions aside, they're still under the influence of the Dark Side, though, and could start harassing you at moment's notice. Just wiggle your fingers, Obi Wan style. “These are not the nerds you're looking for.”
4. Some of the hottest writers and illustrators in comics. Among the renowned creators appearing at this year's convention are award-winning animator and “The Saga of Rex” creator Michel Gagné (see related interview); veteran comic book artist Mike Royer, best known for his work inking the art of Jack Kirby and Russ Manning; “Rotten” creator Mark Rahner; Rebekah Isaacs (“Angel & Faith”); Colleen Coover (“X-Men: First Class,” “Bandette”); and Clayton Crain (“Ghost Rider: Road to Damnation,” “X-Force”).
Many of the creators will be hanging around Artists Alley all day, signing autographs and doing sketches for fans. “The cool thing about our show is we're relatively small and the creators have time to talk,” Taylor said. “At Emerald City they have a longer line of people. At our show, it's slower so they've got time to spend.”
5. Thought provoking panels. Sessions will cover topics ranging from “grrl” power in popular culture (“Ink-Stained Amazons and Cinematic Warriors: Superwomen in Modern Mythology,” 1 p.m.) to the explosion in digital comic publishing. “Digital Comics: Past, Present and Future” will bring together reps from comic publisher Fantagraphics and Amazon.com's 47North imprint to discuss the trend at 11 a.m.
“The Internet has really become a dominant forum for the medium,” Monlux said. “You will see a lot of web cartoonists coming to the show to promote their books and to increase readership for their various web sites.”
6. Loads of vendors with the geeky wares you crave. Of course, the big draw at many conventions is the chance to shop for rare issues of “Uncanny X-Men,” “Mad Man” and “The Walking Dead.” Dozens of vendors will be on hand with comics, toys, posters and DVDs. “A lot of these guys are looking to buy comics, too,” Taylor said. “A lot of them have cash on the spot.” We recommend brushing up on your haggling skills with a few episodes of “Comic Book Men.”
7. People illustrating under the influence of craft beer. Drink-N-Draw, the official Jet City pre-funk party, will kick off at 7 p.m. on Friday, Nov. 1, at Harmon Brewery & Eatery, 1938 Pacific Ave., downtown. It's a chance for local artists to get away from their sketchpads and drawing boards to mingle with other South Sound creators. And who knows what big shots from the convention might show up to share a toast and draw you a sketch?