Jackie Canchola

Eight years ago, the First Emerald City Comicon was held at the Qwest Field Event Center. It was a ragtag, tossed-together affair, with some booths and a few local comics artists, but thousands of people showed up, some in costume, and they seemed to will the convention into something more than it was. Last weekend, tens of thousands of people showed up at the Washington State Convention Center for one or both days of ECCC, many in elaborate costumes, and they made the event into something remarkable: A pop-culture and comic-book-fan convention on a nationally recognized scale.

Every major comic-book company in America had a presence at this year's ECCC, and the national geek media (represented by comic-book news sites like Comic Book Resources) paid close attention to the proceedings. British comics rumor site Bleeding Cool made a weekend internet celebrity out of one bearded young man who came to ECCC dressed in Princess Leia's metallic bikini from Return of the Jedi, transforming the costume—popular for years on the convention circuit as a sexually loaded outfit for attractive young female nerds—into a statement about the ambiguity of sexuality and the conservative nature of fan culture.

The most noteworthy news at Comicon was the beta launch of Longbox, a free digital comic storage system that bills itself as the iTunes of comic books. While Longbox's interface isn't nearly as clean as iTunes—the home page is a messy, poorly designed muddle pa cked with superhero comic press releases—it does provide, for the first time, a clean and crisp way for comics fans to buy their comics entirely online and organize their comic collections in their computers.

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While ECCC has quickly become a national event, the local comics scene is well-represented at the show. Fantagraphics hosts a booth at the front of the showroom, acting as an unofficial greeter to ECCC, and its Georgetown storefront throws a now-traditional afterparty. Local cartoonists like Phil Foglio and Roberta Gregory held court on a very busy convention floor. K. D. Boze of The Virgin Project (a collection of illustrated adaptations of people's first sexual experiences) took the opportunity to announce a second volume of The Virgin Project that will launch in May. Locally produced zombie photocomic Night Zero hosted a popular booth in which convention attendees were made up to look like zombies.

In less than a decade, ECCC has gone from a loosely confederated collection of comics stores to the unofficial kickoff to the pop-culture fan convention season that climaxes with the enormously popular San Diego Comicon in July. Seattle has always been host to a smart and proud nerd culture—it's not for nothing that we're the home of Microsoft, Amazon, and Wizards of the Coast—but the rise of ECCC is perhaps the most dramatic testament to our city's status as geek tastemakers. recommended