Featured image courtesy of Ashley Johnson.
The 13th annual Emerald City Comicon (ECCC) is the ultimate comic book and TV fan experience in the Pacific Northwest. For four days, ECCC 2016 hosted hundreds of events for an estimated 80,000 attendees. From Writer’s Block and Artist’s Alley to a kid-friendly Family HQ, there was something to do for all age groups.
ECCC has also shown a strong commitment to fostering diversity by hosting female-led panels and providing new opportunities for fans to interact and meet each other. Here are some more highlights of our ECCC experience.
It’s okay to be flawed: A case for moving beyond strong female characters
By Meena Tang
At the panel “Moving Beyond Strong Female Characters” four awesome female experts in the field of comics discussed how artists and creators can improve their female character development to create fully developed and multidimensional characters that can truly represent women in real world.
The panel was comprised of comic artists Babs Tarr and Leila Del Duca, writer Sam Maggs, and the owner of Winnipeg comic publisher Bedside Press, Hope Nicholson. They took up the conversation about the current state of the representation of female characters in comics, TV shows, and movies.
Historically, creators wrote female characters that are too beautiful and perfect because they thought that they ought to be respectful toward women. However, by doing so, we ended up with numerous strong and unobtainable characters that are very limited and one dimensional.
Creators have made progress compared to the past, because we have so many strong and confident female characters that are such good role models. In some ways that is true. However, though men can be seen in all sorts of roles, women are often stuck in being beautiful and tough with no vulnerability. Female characters can be so much more interesting, strange and bizarre. It is disappointing to see the lack of body diversity and complexity in female characters on current media.
The panelists brought up their favorite female characters such as Jessica Jones and Sailor Moon as examples of well-written characters who are complex and multidimensional. Real women can identify themselves with the changes and growth journey of these characters and this makes the story more engaging and inspiring. Series that feature the main girl as a normal person who do not have the perfect body and aren’t always making the right decisions are refreshing to see.
Some people would say that since it’s just fiction, people can do whatever they want; it doesn’t matter. However, comic and fiction are the reflections of the society that we live in. We come from a generation that is heavily trained and influenced by media. Therefore, it is astonishing when we realize how much it means to the viewers to have characters that they can relate to and how much moral stories and struggles in fiction can inspire people.
To infinity and beyond! Exploring Sci-fi that inspired reality
By Meena Tang
Today, many things that were once science fiction have become reality. Gadgets like smartphones or flat screen TV are some of the things that have become our everyday necessity and these things might not exist the way they are if not for sci-fi shows like Star Trek and others like it.
At the panel “To Infinity and Beyond! The Evolution of Technology and Sci-Fi,” panelists who were experts in different field of science and technology discussed the relationship between science fiction and technological invention and how they both have influences on each other. EMP museum curator Brooks Peck, vintage computer restoration engineer Keith Hayes, rocket scientist Ian S. King, Evergreen School math/science teacher, Shaye Whitmer, Hivebio Community Lab Founder/CEO Bergen R. McMurray, and Living Computer Museum Senior Curator Richard Alderson shared their expertise and knowledge with the room.
When asked which science fiction has the most impact on their lives, all six panelists answered the same thing, Star Trek (with Star Wars as an honorable mention). Star Trek had a huge impact on the invention of our smartphones, a small device that has changed the social landscape of this generation. Another invention that can be rooted back to the TV series is language interaction interface like SIRI and artificial intelligence.
The important contribution that Star Trek had on the world, the panelists agreed, is that it led to a generation of engineer and inventors growing up psyched about technology and innovations. Technology and sci-fi are rooted from the same things: humans values and vision. We use literature to understand why we want to create something and portray our vision in sci-fi. Therefore, even though we might not be able to draw a direct line between some of the current technology and the series but all people that are creators of those technologies are very Star Trek inspired.
The panelists also touched on the topic of some technologies that are unlikely to happen in real life. Sci-fi has set the bar way too high for some current technologies. One prime example of that is artificial intelligence that has become self-aware and hostile toward humans. Despite the popularity of the theme in sci-fi world, it is very unlikely that there will ever be a self-actualized machine.
The panel wrapped up with a discussion of what technologies they see coming to reality in the future. Cheap, clean energy, advancement in biotechnology which lead to better healthcare, and easier access to space were mentioned. as a bold answer like teleporter which was clearly inspired by the beloved series, Star Trek.
MeetUp and Emerald City Comicon team up to bring fans together
By Ashley Johnson
For fans looking to escape the massive crowds, ReedPop, the organizers of ECCC teamed up with MeetUp to offer more than 13+ regularly scheduled small group sessions, where attendees could geek out and bond over their favorite TV show or comic books.
“ReedPop cares deeply about meaningful Fan experiences, so we really wanted to create more meaningful connections at Emerald City ComicCon,” said Andrea Murphy, MeetUp’s Community Engagement Manager for ECCC. As the world’s leading community organizing social platform, established in 2001, MeetUp specializes in using the internet to get people to engage offline.
“We want to promote the mission of MeetUp, which is to make community real,” Murphy explained. “Fans are surprised and delighted to meet up with other people who cosplay and to engage with other superfans who share their passion for comics. They can make connections that last long after Comicon with people who share the same interests.”
The strategy of scheduling structured, smaller breakout sessions required setting up rooms where people could intentionally turn to one another and start one-on-one conversations. Some of the organizers were company members who have experienced facilitating conversation and breaking the ice between strangers, while others are from highly active local MeetUps.
Pulling in local MeetUp groups to facilitate ECCC’s MeetUp sessions was a novel part of the strategy. Local members encouraged conversation and interaction among fans by creating group photo opportunities and handing out themed icebreakers like name tags and discussion topics.
Scifi Commons, a highly popular Pacific Northwest science fiction MeetUp based here in Seattle, was one of the groups invited to facilitate the Star Trek, Star Wars, Firefly, and Doctor Who MeetUps.
Group organize, David Taylor and his fellow MeetUp members were more than enthusiastic about being apart of fellow fans’ experiences. “We are a very active group and this opportunity sounded like a whole lot of fun.”
He gladly took photos and posed with people for photos as well as told congoers about ways to stay active in the local science fiction scene after the event.
“It’s been a really fun experiment for us,” Taylor enthused. “We’re here for the entire weekend meeting people who share our interests and inviting them to join our community after the ComicCon.”