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.


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

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 timeevent) has made it 5 years and continues to grow every year. Who would’vethought?

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

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

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

RB: We do!

BC: Gail Simone, Brian Michael Bendis, Jonathan Hickman, MattFraction, Jimmy Palmotti, Amanda Conner, and your guest ofhonor Mike Mignola. And that’s the start! How do you get all these greatguests?

RB: I went a little crazy this year! To be honest I wonderthat 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 sureour guests are treated very well, feel respected, and keep the focus on thisbeing a COMIC CON – not something else. I think because of that, the guestsand publishers see us as a place they want to be. So, when I come looking forguests these days I get a lot more accepted invitations. I remember the first2-3 years I spent a lot of time really trying to sell the event and the city toguests. I felt a little like a car salesman, always following-up to try andconfirm guests. But that was also fun, building the show and the reputation wasexciting and still is.

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

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

BC: Now one thing I’ve noticed is you have a lot of creators wholive all over the country coming, but Portland is … well next to New York andmaybe 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 towntalent?  To quote Matt Wagner from last year when I asked him about beingat doing signings in Portland he said, “I sometimes think people here gettired of seeing me”.

RB: We try, its hard though. For the first 2-3 years wereally could only get local talent. Nothing wrong with that but what Matt saidis really true. We have to stay fresh and bring in talent that doesn’t livehere. 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 thePortland locals there. And it is something for those creators to consider, RCCCis really getting a lot of people from elsewhere coming.

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

BC: What is interesting to see is that you have gotten a few creatorswho haven’t done almost of cons this year.  Matt Fraction, JonathanHickman, 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 gohome.

RB: I’m just proud of the overall list. I’m proud thatwe 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 gettingmore and more attention each year.  Did you ever expect this kind ofattention?

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

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

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

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

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

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

RB: I’m really excited about the kick-off party on Fridaynight. We are partnering with Wacom and their new experience center in the PearlDistrict. Our partner Things From Another World and Ninkasi will both be onhand. We’ll have live art demos, prizes, music, food, and of course, beer! Andyes, 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 prettyhectic at TFAW.

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

BC: Has there been any thought to expanding to a thirdday?

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 for2017. We’ve expressed our concern about having similar events in the samevenue too close together. It’s not good for anyone. We believe they arewilling to work with us to prevent such an error in the future and we mayreconsider 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 Ibelieve, that Wizard World being in Portland as well, earlier in the year mindyou, still could be seen as competition. Yet this year Wizard World really wentfrom 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 veinthat it is important to keep RCCC comic book based but why is that so importantto you? But what in your life or background really makes keeping RCCC comic bookbased so important?

RB: Yeah, I don’t see them as competition at all. We are100% 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 ayoung age. GI Joe was my first love. So many great stories with really goodlessons 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 theoriginal vision. We made this product, our fans have become loyal, it would beunfair to make a wholesale change to it being something else. Now, we do offersomething for everyone, that’s the goal. So we have celebs, gaming, and otherthings that might not be comic specific. But, at the root of it all, we are acomic con. A celebration of creators.

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

RB: We have a massive kid’s area, did you see it lastyear? My wife, Paula, takes good care to ensure that the kids have somethingreally fun and inclusive at the event each year. It was something that when ourkids were super little that we’d notice was missing from these events. So whenwe started ours we said one thing we couldn’t compromise on, Kids area. Thoseare the fans of tomorrow. They need to build good memories with their familiesand we’d like to be one of those good memories. There will be a schedule ofevents for the kids area published pretty soon. Paula works with a productioncompany 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 conventionsthat you deserve some major props for.

RB: I could talk all day about [the convention], but I willjust say this. I love this convention and one of the things I love most, isartist alley. There are so many amazing people you’ve never heard of that arecreating really amazing things. Cathy Camper and Raul the Third are two guestsI’m really excited about having at the show. I would just suggest everyonetake an hour, walk through artist alley and meet these amazing creators. Some ofthe best art and books I have in my own collection are from these very talentedpeople. And who knows, maybe… JUST MAYBE, one day they will be a break outartist and you can say you met them first at RCCC 🙂 I would also mention thatwe 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 onthe sale of ECCC and RCCC’s growth and I guess “potential” to be a goodtarget to be a convention to try and buy.  Does that seem to be the maintype of questions you get about RCCC? You obviously have a lot sunk into thispersonally with plans up to 2018 but is “media” attention on the con in thewrong area? Every press article I read about it last year after the conventionhas at least a mention of that element.

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

BC: Every comic creator that lives in Portland seems to have somevariation of that theme for the reason they love living there.  Seems to bewhy 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 isthere anything you wish you had done differently?

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

BC: Well said. Oh two quick last questions before Ilet you go.  How close are you guys to selling out?  And have youlocked 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, Ialso 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 ideasbut we’re still working those out.

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

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

Stan Lee
Stan Lee