Every year Emerald City Comic Con take over Downtown Seattle. From the bumper-to-bumper traffic to the cosplayers, it’s hard to ignore the show’s presence. I sat down with the VP of ReedPop Mike Armstrong to talk about some of the changes to the show this year, what he would like to see moving forward, and what he geeks out about.
The biggest change to Emerald City Comic Con this year has been metal detectors, bag searches, and increased security. What brought about that change?T
Mike Armstrong: I just came from the corner of 7th and Pike where a lot of our staff is outside trying to direct fans into the convention. We’ve instituted security into a lot of our shows, most notably five years ago with New York Comic Con. We went full metal detectors, bad checks, and K-9 units. This was always difficult to do in Seattle because the Washington State Convention Center isn’t optimal for it. It’s one of those things we don’t really apologize for. Above all, we want our fans to feel safe and secure. It came about because we felt like we needed to at this point. I go to shows a fan and if it’s not secure, I don’t feel good about it. It’s the natural evolution of shows like this.
Thank you. I appreciate it. I think a lot the gripes have gone away.
MA: I hope so and I hope it goes smoothly. People only know what they know through their individual experience. If it took one person 30 minutes to get through security, they’re going to be disappointed because it took away from their time to experience things. It’s on us to make sure we execute it flawlessly.
This con ends on Sunday. What do the next 12 months look like for you?
MA: Next week I move on to C2E2 in Chicago, and then we get ready for New York City Comic Con, Keystone, and Florida Supercon. For the team that works on Emerald City, I spend a lot of time listening. We’ll be back out here in a few weeks talking to focus groups and fans to see what they liked. We’ll talk about the things that we changed, and talk about some of the features and see what people think about them. We’ll start working on guest list about three months out and we’ll identify the fandoms that were popular this year and the guest that performed well. The thing I love most about our show is we continue to create new things. I’m particularly proud of the launch of Homegrown. The show’s going to have 100,000 people this year. Emerald City Comic Con is one of the biggest shows in the country; I never want it to stop feeling like Seattle.
Having that experience is necessary because it’s always someone’s first show.
MA: I was on the street corner and two people were going to pick up their badges. I asked them what made them buy a ticket. One woman said, “Diversity and inclusion.” That’s not an answer I get in some cities. She went on to say, “I’m educator and saw some of the panels and I wanted to be here. I’m not a comic book fan but these things are important to me.” I was talking to a couple and the girlfriend has been attending for four years, but it was her boyfriend’s first time. I asked why he was coming and he said Mr. Feeny (William Daniels). The show means a lot of different things to different people.
Moving forward, what are some things you’d like to change?
MA: There are a couple things. We’re getting a new convention center in a few years; there will a new building with a lot more capacity. I would love to get RFID into our badges so we can help you plan your show. It makes logical sense – a fan that has 7 experiences at as show is happier with their time here and their investment than if they had 5 experiences. I would love to help keep people out of lines. I would love for people to know they’re guaranteed a seat to something. Maybe you can enter a lottery to get a seat to a panel. I want people to be able to personalize their experience and have the flexibility to do the things they want to do.
What are you a fan of? What do you geek out about?
MA: This is going to sound silly; I’m a fan of happy fans. We all do this at the service of them. It means a lot that our team is unified behind a fan first mentality. Personally, I love strolling artist alley and I love picking out new prints. The content is great but the content changes every year. I like the people.