There are so many comics boroughs in Seattle,” 80% Studios co-founder and Zanadu Comics employee Casey Silver says, getting increasingly more excitable with every word. “It’s like comics gangs, we’re like The Warriors. At the beginning there’s that one dude and he’s trying to unite the gangs, and he’s like ‘I have a vision,’ and then they kill that motherfucker because they know if the gangs band together they’ll have power!”
In this extended metaphor, the upcoming Emerald City Comicon is the rogue killer of the would-be uniter of Seattle’s comics gangs. Many local comic artists feel the enormous, sold-out annual pop-culture convention (which begins this Thursday) has become increasingly exclusionary of Seattle’s growing legion of alt-comics creators. Last year’s acquisition of ECCC by ReedPOP, the New York–based international convention corporation, was the nail in the coffin for these increasingly vocal critics. “At the end of the convention, usually they give you a piece of paper to apply for a table for next year at a discounted rate,” Silver, who has attended ECCC as a fan, a retailer, and a creator, explains. “This past year, they wouldn’t take our money. I handed them money and they wouldn’t take it. Out of about 300 guests, about 10 percent are from Seattle this year.”
While the fest hasn’t completely shut out locals this year, ECCC’s palpable drop in local support inspired Silver to spearhead the first-ever Hometown Heroes show, a satellite event on Friday that will showcase a stacked lineup of 28 local alt-comix artists (10 of whom are Seattle Weekly contributors) in an attempt to capture the attention of the tens of thousands of comic lovers who will descend on the city this weekend—those who attend will walk out with a free comic book. While Silver admits selling comics would certainly be nice, the ultimate goal of Hometown Heroes is to connect the large web of “comics gangs” operating around town—a goal Silver has already in some ways achieved. The fifth issue of 80% Studios’ local comix anthology Nemesis Enforcer, debuting at the event, will also be the first to feature artists from Seattle’s other regular local comix anthology, The Intruder. “That happened because of this show,” Silver says. “The goal with this, really, is just to tighten the community. The goal is to open people’s eyes—fans, creators, Seattle people who like art—to this whole other world of local comic books, something other than Superman and Batman.”
Silver also wants the event to differ in format. Eschewing the “maze-like gauntlet” of the typical comicon, Hometown Heroes is going for a casual, gallery-type setup, where artists aren’t sitting behind a table hustling their wares to exhausted, and often nervous, fans. “Why can’t we have more of a relaxing get-together where you actually get to interact with the artist instead of standing in line for fucking ever to get something signed and say ‘Oh, I love your work,’ ” Silver laughs. “You probably do and it’s probably genuine, but the man or woman there probably hears that all day! You don’t really have time to talk with these creators about real stuff, or art or books.” That said, lots of wide-eyed fans likely will nervously profess their love to some of Hometown Heroes’ bigger names, like Hate creator Peter Bagge or guest of honor Stefano Gaudiano, best known for his work on The Walking Dead. But hopefully some of those nervous fans will meet future Seattle stars too, so in 10 years they can boast about meeting James The Stanton, Max Clotfelter, Katie Wheeler, Seth Goodkind, Noel Franklin, Marc Palm, and others before they blew up. E
1927 Events, 1927 Third Ave., 979-7467, 80percentstudios.tumblr.com. Free. All ages. 6:30 p.m. Fri., April 8.