Portland’s Rose City Comic-Con Getting Bigger

Rose City Comic Con
Rose City Comic Con

Posted by Rich Johnston

Ian Melton writes,

Shaping up to be one of the big conventions this year Rose City Comic-Con will be held September 10th and 11th. The guest list boasts some of the biggest comic book creators around, and some who haven’t appeared at many other conventions this year, including Jonathan Hickman, Brian Michael Bendis, Matt Fraction, Kelly Sue DeConnick, Greg Rucka, Gabriel Ba, Fabio Moon, Cullen Bunn, Matt Wagner, Howard Chaykin, Amanda Conner, Jimmy Palmiotti, and guest of honor Mike Mignola, just to well name a few.

Bleeding Cool spoke to RCCC founder and runner Ron Brister about the upcoming convention to get some behind the scenes information and talk about how it has all come to be. This interview was conducted before the news about Image Comics’ move to Portland was reported.

Glitterbomb
Glitterbomb

Bleeding Cool: Good morning Ron and thanks for taking a moment to
talk

Ron Brister:  Not a problem, hope you’ve been well!

BC: What year of Rose City Comic-Con [is this]?

RB: 5th! We’re excited. What started as a little (one time
event) has made it 5 years and continues to grow every year. Who would’ve
thought?

BC: It has really become a favorite for a lot of creators I hear. And
the talent that you have this year shows it.

RB: That’s nice to hear, it’s really a way for a
non-creative type like myself to provide a venue and sort of ‘Thank You’ to
the industry that I enjoy

BC: Well let’s talk about that for a second.  You have a HUGE
ROSTER of
A List comic book talent coming out.

RB: We do!

BC: Gail Simone, Brian Michael Bendis, Jonathan Hickman, Matt
Fraction, Jimmy
Palmotti, Amanda Conner, and your guest of
honor Mike Mignola. And that’s the start! How do you get all these great
guests?

RB: I went a little crazy this year! To be honest I wonder
that myself! I think we’ve just built a good reputation within the community.
We seem to be known for all the right reasons…. We try very hard to make sure
our guests are treated very well, feel respected, and keep the focus on this
being a COMIC CON – not something else. I think because of that, the guests
and publishers see us as a place they want to be. So, when I come looking for
guests these days I get a lot more accepted invitations. I remember the first
2-3 years I spent a lot of time really trying to sell the event and the city to
guests. I felt a little like a car salesman, always following-up to try and
confirm guests. But that was also fun, building the show and the reputation was
exciting and still is.

BC: So Yeah that fun really shows. Do you approach everyone? Or is
there like a “con guy” you use? And is the guest list finalized?

RB: Yes, I approach most everyone myself. Sometimes other
creators will make intros, sometimes Jim Demonakos, former ECCC founder and
runner, will know someone. But for the most part, it’s me reaching out and
trying to invited creators or teams of creators. And I wouldn’t say our guest
list is finalized just yet 🙂

BC: Now one thing I’ve noticed is you have a lot of creators who
live all over the country coming, but Portland is … well next to New York and
maybe LA, the city that has the most comic creators living in one place.

RB: Correct.

BC: So do you try to balance the local talent and the out of town
talent?  To quote Matt Wagner from last year when I asked him about being
at doing signings in Portland he said, “I sometimes think people here get
tired of seeing me”.

RB: We try, its hard though. For the first 2-3 years we
really could only get local talent. Nothing wrong with that but what Matt said
is really true. We have to stay fresh and bring in talent that doesn’t live
here. Otherwise it really is a gathering of the old gang.

BC: I’ll be honest, as an out of towner it’s great to see all the
Portland locals there. And it is something for those creators to consider, RCCC
is really getting a lot of people from elsewhere coming.

RB: This year was also very difficult since some local
creators likely didn’t make the show since we sold out of artist alley space
in less then 4 weeks. Way back in December.

BC: What is interesting to see is that you have gotten a few creators
who haven’t done almost of cons this year.  Matt Fraction, Jonathan
Hickman, Howard Chaykin, and Brian Michael Bendis, [just to mention a few]. 
Bendis has been at RCCC the last 2 years, but only to do a panel and then go
home.

RB: I’m just proud of the overall list. I’m proud that
we have a very diverse group as well.

BC: I also remember the past 2 years I’ve also seen more
“standard news” articles about the convention increasing with it getting
more and more attention each year.  Did you ever expect this kind of
attention?

RB: Not really, didn’t expect it at all. It’s nice to
have it be something worth talking about. We have a great partner that handles
our marketing and they’ve done a wonderful job pushing our PR.

BC: Now one thing that struck me was the notice this will be Stan
Lee’s last appearance probably ever in the area.  Did his people tell you
that?

RB: They did. Stan has already announced that he is slowing
down after this year. He won’t be doing any more conventions on the east
coast. The travel is just getting to be too much. I’m sure he’ll still do a
few a year but not in Portland again.

BC: Will he be speaking at the convention at a panel or just signing
and meeting people?

RB: He will be doing a panel. Likely on Sunday. The schedule
is still being finalized.

BC: What other events are you guys really excited about for the
convention? I know Jim Zub is debuting Glitterbomb at the show (his second comic
to debut at RCCC after Wayward #1 two years ago).

RB: I’m really excited about the kick-off party on Friday
night. We are partnering with Wacom and their new experience center in the Pearl
District. Our partner Things From Another World and Ninkasi will both be on
hand. We’ll have live art demos, prizes, music, food, and of course, beer! And
yes, and we’ll have an exclusive Glitterbomb #1, cover by Christian Ward.

BC: Very cool.  And I’ve been in that beer line it’s pretty
hectic at TFAW.

RB: This is a much bigger space. We are shutting down a
street. should be a little more manageable. 🙂 With a totally different area
this time with better parking and mass transit. [We’ll be at] Wacom – 1455
NW Irving St, Portland, OR 97209

BC: Has there been any thought to expanding to a third
day?

RB: There has, we had planned on doing that next year.
However the convention center has made that difficult for us by placing another,
similar event 60-day’s prior to ours. Rather than taking a financial risk,
because the costs to us will go up by 33%, we decided to stay a 2-day event for
2017. We’ve expressed our concern about having similar events in the same
venue too close together. It’s not good for anyone. We believe they are
willing to work with us to prevent such an error in the future and we may
reconsider in 2018.

BC: What is the other event?

RB: Hero’s and Villains

BC: I’ll have to look that up because I have no idea what that is.

RB: Much smaller event.

BC: I know personally, and you and I discussed this last year I
believe, that Wizard World being in Portland as well, earlier in the year mind
you, still could be seen as competition. Yet this year Wizard World really went
from being about comic books to being not about comic books at all, much more
[about] video games and celebs. Now you really seem to have been in the vein
that it is important to keep RCCC comic book based but why is that so important
to you? But what in your life or background really makes keeping RCCC comic book
based so important?

RB: Yeah, I don’t see them as competition at all. We are
100% different in our DNA these days. It’s important for a couple of reasons
[to stay comic focused]. First, I like comics… I grew up reading them from a
young age. GI Joe was my first love. So many great stories with really good
lessons for young readers. By in large, that is still true today. Second reason.
I built this with creators in mind so its important that we stay true to the
original vision. We made this product, our fans have become loyal, it would be
unfair to make a wholesale change to it being something else. Now, we do offer
something for everyone, that’s the goal. So we have celebs, gaming, and other
things that might not be comic specific. But, at the root of it all, we are a
comic con. A celebration of creators.

BC: What events will the convention be doing for kids? In past years
the con has been very kid friendly.

RB: We have a massive kid’s area, did you see it last
year? My wife, Paula, takes good care to ensure that the kids have something
really fun and inclusive at the event each year. It was something that when our
kids were super little that we’d notice was missing from these events. So when
we started ours we said one thing we couldn’t compromise on, Kids area. Those
are the fans of tomorrow. They need to build good memories with their families
and we’d like to be one of those good memories. There will be a schedule of
events for the kids area published pretty soon. Paula works with a production
company to run the whole area. So it really is a mini kid comic fest within RCCC.

BC: It is something I don’t really see at the other conventions
that you deserve some major props for.

RB: I could talk all day about [the convention], but I will
just say this. I love this convention and one of the things I love most, is
artist alley. There are so many amazing people you’ve never heard of that are
creating really amazing things. Cathy Camper and Raul the Third are two guests
I’m really excited about having at the show. I would just suggest everyone
take an hour, walk through artist alley and meet these amazing creators. Some of
the best art and books I have in my own collection are from these very talented
people. And who knows, maybe… JUST MAYBE, one day they will be a break out
artist and you can say you met them first at RCCC 🙂 I would also mention that
we are over 250,000 square feet now, so wear comfortable shoes.

BC: lol How long till you take over the whole convention center?

RB: We have, this year.

BC: Wow … I’ll be ready to walk then.

RB: and stay hydrated !

BC: Now most of the “media” attention last year seemed focused on
the sale of ECCC and RCCC’s growth and I guess “potential” to be a good
target to be a convention to try and buy.  Does that seem to be the main
type of questions you get about RCCC? You obviously have a lot sunk into this
personally with plans up to 2018 but is “media” attention on the con in the
wrong area? Every press article I read about it last year after the convention
has at least a mention of that element.

RB: Sometimes we get those questions. I think they are fair
questions and not wrong. We’ve had interest in buying the show but I’m not
ready to sell. I still love what I’m doing and feel like there is so much
potential to grow the event. Plus, I’m from Portland. We like to be
independent here. 🙂

BC: Every comic creator that lives in Portland seems to have some
variation of that theme for the reason they love living there.  Seems to be
why Bendis set Scarlet there.

RB: Exactly, we’re a little different here. In a good way!

BC: Finally, the convention is a real success but in looking back is
there anything you wish you had done differently?

RB: Well there is a list a mile long of things I might do
different or that I say, ‘well, that didn’t work’. But if I had done
things differently, it would be a totally different event today. So, any
mistakes or things we could have done differently, we just use as sign posts for
the future. I wouldn’t change a single thing, its what’s made Rose City
Comic Con what it is today. My eyes are firmly focused on the road ahead.

BC: Well said. Oh two quick last questions before I
let you go.  How close are you guys to selling out?  And have you
locked in your guest of honor for next year?

RB: We’ve quadrupled our sales over last year. However,
our convention center is so big that we’ve really upped our capacity. But, I
also wouldn’t wait to buy passes, Saturday will likely sell out soon.
Haven’t locked in our guest of honor for next year just yet. Have some ideas
but we’re still working those out.

BC: Fair enough.  Well thank you for your time and see you in a
month!

RB: See you soon! Be sure to say hello at the event!

Stan Lee
Stan Lee