Conventional Thinking: Demonakos Talks ECCC

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This March, the City of Seattle will host the eighth annual Emerald City Comic-Con.  Founded and organized by The Comic Stop owner Jim Demonakos, ECCC provides a large scale comic convention for the city of Seattle.  Tickets are on sale now and there is a discount for buying tickets in advance before March 1st.

With a major presence by all of the comics industry's biggest publishers and a list of guests that includes such icons as Stan Lee, Leonard Nimoy, Felicia Day, Geoff Johns, Ed Brubaker, Brian Azzarello, Brian Michael Bendis and others, the eight installment of ECCC looks to be the most exciting yet. 

Broken Frontier sat down with organizer Jim Demonakos for an interview about ECCC and what goes into making a successful comic book convention.

BROKEN FRONTIER: I imagine most people aren't very familiar with what it takes to put on a successful comic-con. Could you give us a glimpse into everything that goes into putting on a convention and how you got started?

JIM DEMONAKOS: How I got started is easy, to make a long story short, after traveling around the country to other conventions I felt that the Seattle area could support a large-scale show and so I got together with my partners (I own a chain of comic shops as well called The Comic Stop) and told them we should do a convention. And then we did.

As for what it takes, that's more complicated, but I'll boil it down to one thing: make something that's for you. I made a convention in Seattle that I wanted to attend, and I'm a pretty average dude, so the show that *I* wanted to attend, turns out, was also a show that other people wanted to attend. The great irony is that you spend so much time working, you don't really get to attend your own show, but it's all good, as long as people are having fun it works out!

BF: Anyone familiar with the industry knows that different conventions have different identities. For example, San Diego and New York are more mass media events than strict comic-cons these days, were Heroes and Balti-Con are more strictly comic oriented. Doe ECCC fall more under one of those descriptions than the other?

JD: Definitely comic-oriented, that's our goal, and though we always have things like media guests and the like to support the show as well, you can pretty well tell by looking at our guest list, artist alley list and exhibitor list, that this is a top-to-bottom comic show.

BF: Was there an active decision on your part, from the very beginning, to keep ECCC focused in a very specific direction or was it more of a fluid evolution into what we see today?

JD: It was very much an active decision, it was decided early on that this would be a comic book show because that's what we wanted. We've kept true to that core, the realities of the world dictate that we expand that a bit to include media guests and the like, because it's more mainstream and that does indeed draw in people to support the show, but if you look at the guest list and look at the show as a whole, you'll see the focus is firmly comic books!

BF: You landed a pretty big guest this year, adding Stan "The Man" Lee to the roster of people attending ECCC. We all know how big that is from a fan's point of view, but from a business aspect how big a boon is it for your con to land such a big draw as Stan Lee?

JD: It's true, Stan Lee is definitely someone who draws people through the door, simple as that. He's recognizable not just by the comic world, but by the outside media as well, so he's definitely someone that resonates on many levels.

BF: You've got a great list of guests set up this year. Could you give the readers an idea of the booking process and what goes into assembling such a great collection of comic and entertainment icons?

JD: We're incredibly lucky that the guys who come year after year also spread the word for us, so when we're talking with creators, it's used to be "what show?" and now it's "Cool, I've heard of that show from so-and-so." Additionally, Seattle is awesome. Hands-down awesome and a lot of creators take extra time while they're here to enjoy the city, so that also helps entice guests to come. There's no real process, we ask a ton of people to come, and eventually enough say yes that we have ourselves a show!

BF: We all know that the economy has been bad for a while now and people are tightening their belts. Have you seen the state of the economy begin to affect your attendance over the last couple of years or have things stayed pretty steady?

JD: I'm really thankful that the convention has actually seen pretty good growth year after year, even in the face of our tough economic times. The show has grown over 20% each year for the past three years, and I actually expect the same rate of growth for this year as well.

BF: Lastly, tell us what you like best about running a comic convention.

JD: As cheesy as this might sound, I just really like to see the crowds of people having a good time at the show, it's really great to know that you could be a part of creating something that a lot of people get to enjoy.

The 8th annual Emerald City ComiCon is held March 13-14 at the Washington State Convention Center in Seattle, WA.

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