Portland is a town widely known for its unique cuisine, people wearing beards as art pieces, and a variety of other unique hobbies not widely practiced in other parts of the country. In fact, Fred Armisen and Carrie Brown’s Portlandia often poke fun at the stereotypes known throughout the city. One aspect that our superhero crazed mainstream press fails to cover is the fact that many of the voices of those on-screen characters have been developed at one time or another by the vast talent that makes ups Portland’s comics community. Second to New York, Portland is home to, possibly, the biggest population of mainstream comics’ professionals. As many creators who have called Marvel or DC Comics their place (or former place) of employment, the amount of Portland’s comics related talent who have worked with other publishers is vastly bigger. While I’ve passed through a couple times in my life, I’ve never had the opportunity to see first hand Portland’s comic creator’s scene in full bloom. Thankfully Rose City Comic Con changed that this weekend.
What started out as a hellacious 18 hour trip in a rental car from Stockton, California to Portland, Oregon quickly turned into a time I will always hold dear. The severe forest fires of Northern California and alternate routes for alternate routes tacked an extra 8-10 hours onto what was initially supposed to be an 8-10 hour trip. Thankfully a couple of friends local to the area had been kind enough to host myself and my partner. Their hospitality extended far and wide as their kindness rapidly replaced the exhaustive tone that had been set by the journey up. Many different points in the car, I silently wondered if this trip would even be worth all the trouble we’d encountered. One of those friends, my partner and myself arrived at the convention at approximately 3pm and then proceeded to have a fabulous time. While the first day alone was worth the trip up, Rose City Comic Con spanned from Friday, August 7th until Saturday, August 10th. Fortunately, we were able to explore on all three days.
I’ve frequented many west coast comic conventions from Seattle’s Emerald City Comic Con to my hometown’s very own Stocktoncon to many smaller ones in the San Francisco area or Sacramento area. A complaint I’ve often had at many of them is their need to cram as many people as possible into as small of a space as they can get away with. The convention floor here was the complete opposite and utilized their space extremely well. While Friday was rather lax with a 10-12 person deep entry line, Saturday’s attendance wrapped multiple blocks from the entrance. At no point on any day did I ever feel cramped or claustrophobic yet the massive increase of traffic felt very apparent. The convention floor was rather open with wide aisles and easy to access vendor areas. It easily had the best lay out and placement of vendors and artist alley of any convention I’d ever been too. The variety of opportunities to snap photos of the infinite amount of cosplayers wandering the floor was also very feasible. Once the area was scouted, I found it extremely easy to find all the various creators. There were strategically placed blue tape strips next to many booths on the ends with as a way to manage lines without volunteers constantly having to repeat themselves when they’d normally be approached by dozens of people with the same question.
The sheer amount of stars in the industry who had signings and booths made this a “MUST ATTEND EVENT” for myself and my partner. I was very much looking forward to getting things signed. What I had not anticipated was how generous they were with their time. My partner and I had the chance to meet the creative teams behind all of DC’s Jinxworld imprint. In the past at Wondercons or even Emerald City, the writer of the primary Superman titles would be slammed with lines requiring people to wait 30 minutes to an hour for a two second interaction as the writer just attempted to work their way through the masses of books being placed in front of them. While those lines were still considerably big this year, the structure of the lines allowed for creators to spend 5-10 minutes chatting with each person or group of folks. Our time with Kelly Sue DeConnick was priceless as she signed our stuff but also made a point to learn my name, and my partner’s name. Perfumes came up in our conversation while she talked about new Bitch Planet merchandise and informed us how perfume scents can be layered and have the ability to tell a story. My mind nearly exploded as it was something that made complete and total sense when she described it but would have NEVER dawned on me. This is knowledge, as silly as some may find it, that I’ll forever carry around and think about in relation to other mediums of storytelling. We went to Matt Fraction’s booth the day after and it was very much a similar experience as he told us about the best record shops and comic shops in town. He seemed invested in those moments in making sure we had a good time and wished us a good rest of the trip. Many times artists and writers have to focus on multitasking between selling table items, working on paid work at the show, attending panels, and the natural human functions with little time to see straight let alone focus on a personal interaction with the attendees. One could attribute it to just that pair of interactions but with every creative we met including Joe Keatinge, Jeff Parker, Ryan Ottley, Ramon Villalobos, Brian Bendis, David Mack, Nick Filardi, and countless others took time to make casual yet personal conversation that made us feel welcomed as if we were friends who were looking to catch up. While I don’t expect most of those same people to recognize me or know who I am at the next convention I see them at, there was no doubt they were invested in those moments they spent with us.
I often found this same kindness in the vast amount of vendors around. Each one was personable without the pressure to buy anything. Often that made it that much more difficult not to buy things simply because there was an impressive array of items for anyone who was a fan of anything. Tattoo artists were doing Star Wars related tattoos, booths were selling niche parody underwear, Bandai had a huge area that was EVERYTHING Dragon Ball saga related, and multiple booths carried a wide selection of vintage action figures and comics. As a huge DB/DBZ fan, I must note they had 8 ft statues of Goku, Vegeta, and Frieza. They also had displays of many of the toys/statues created through the years, card games, and Dragon Ball FighterZ stations.) This has easily been my favorite convention experience by far. Between the easy navigation, the vast depth of talent, and variety of vendors, it’s blown away any other convention I’ve had the opportunity to attend.
As a closing note, I would like to state how refreshing it was to see a convention where everyone from every walk of life felt safe and free to do whatever activity they wanted. I saw every type of wheelchair there and all of them operated by someone with an ear to ear smile. The variety of cosplay there broke down any barriers of gender, sexuality, race, and cultures to focus on an individual’s love of that character. In a city that has faced its fair share of racial or division issues since 2016, this convention seemed to dissolve those boundaries if anything for a weekend. While it was a vast amount of fun, it was also a privilege to attend. I look forward to next year as my partner and I are already planning our trip for Rose City Comic Con 2019.