Over the past weekend I had the opportunity to attend the inaugural event for Northwest Comic Fest. It was a festival that’s been a long time coming, from as far back as the miniature convention the director threw for local artists and vendors in the area. Bringing in a decent number of people, Northwest Comic Fest provided a place for geeks, nerds, and everyday people to come together and share their interests.

Not into comic books? No problem, this convention provided a film festival and a music fest. Not into film or music? That’s fine, because there were martial arts demonstrations and a number of industry related panels that were bound to suit everyone’s interests. This behemoth of a convention had a relatively successful first year, and was an over-all enjoyable event.

The variety of content available was both the best part and the downfall of the convention. While there was a film festival, music festival, and comic convention going on all at once, none of the events saw a full audience. The music festival went mostly unnoticed, and those attending the film festival often had no idea that there was also a comic book convention going on.

There were a few, like myself, who were very well aware of all the events and took advantage of all of them, but the lack of cohesive advertising made variety a bit of a downfall. Yet for those that took advantage, there was nothing but positive reviews all around for all facets of the convention. From the con itself, to the film fest, to the bands playing just outside the convention center, there was no lack of things to see and places to be Friday, Saturday, and Sunday.

Folks gather for the next stage event
Folks gather for the next stage event

For a first year convention, I’d say it was a success. It is always difficult to determine just how well attended a first year event will be. While some vendors did mention it was a bit slower than other conventions, it wasn’t dead. There weren’t crickets chirping, or a completely empty vendor hall. Quite the opposite, actually, at least in my experience. Whenever I was at the convention center, there were happy people checking out the booths and vendors sharing their creative works. Money, ideas, and connections were freely exchanged as people dashed about the place both in costume and out. I, personally, had the chance to make connections between a bunch of the people I’d met over the years and watched as new friendships were forged between industry professionals.

That’s probably the beauty of a small convention like this, and why I will always attend small industry events even if they will never be as huge as San Diego, New York, or even Emerald City. It isn’t so much about the events and convention content as it is about the people, and Northwest Comic Fest had people in spades. Over and over again I heard people comment that there was “a lot of talent in the space,” and it was true.

From my friends at Blood & Gourd trying to promote their latest Kickstarter project, to friend of the blog Justin Zimmerman, and favorite local artist Brett Weldele, there was no lack of talent and amazing personalities in the space. I had a chance to introduce everyone to everyone else, and along the way meet some new people and continue to foster relationships with those I already knew.

Our friends at Blood & Gourd
Our friends at Blood & Gourd

Ultimately, it is the people who make the convention. I enjoyed it most because, unlike a lot of the bigger conventions, it felt like a gathering of friends. We all met up at Vagabond Brewing afterward to shoot the breeze, and talk about the industry, and share advice. There’s no price or number that can be put on the experience, and that’s why in the end I will gladly say I loved Northwest Comic Fest. Not for all the events, which certainly did fill my time, but for all the great people I had a chance to connect with because the convention wasn’t overrun with crowds that made networking tedious.

Perhaps the thing I was most impressed by, though, and one of the aspects least attended were the panel lineups. I think big conventions have skewed what panels are about. Panels are great because they’re a place to pick the brains of people who are a little further along in the industry than you are. There was a panel about producing indie comics, one that taught cartooning skills, another which showed attendees how to best utilize copic markers.

Busy vendor floor

The best panel I attended was one my good friend Justin Zimmerman headed up, because he got a chance to share his experience with crowdfunding, Kickstarter in particular, and the people in attendance definitely tuned in and took note. They learned, and that’s invaluable and wouldn’t have been possible without the convention.

Could numbers have been better? Probably. Should there have been a loud stage on the second floor of the vendor hall? Probably not. Could it have been better advertised and more cohesive? Sure. But for a first year event, I think Northwest Comic Fest blew all the expectations out of the water. Casey Ocupe and his team went above and beyond to create an event that would be fun for everyone and appeal to a large audience. There will always be room for improvement, but as it stands, it was a solid first year event and I cannot wait to see what he comes up with for next year.

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