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September 5th, 2012 RUTH BROWN | Books
 

Rose City Comic-Con

Can Portland build a con to rival the mighty Emerald City?

words_rccc_3844Jeremy Colwell Trekker© and TM Ron Randall 2012

Stumptown, Kumoricon, Wonder Northwest, OryCon-—does Portland really need another geek convention? 

Ron Brister sure thinks so, and he says he’s got the numbers to prove it. The first Rose City Comic-Con will debut at the DoubleTree Hotel this weekend, and Brister expects several thousand comics, anime, sci-fi and gaming fans to walk through the doors. By 2017, he’s hoping that number will be about 20,000. 

“We’re prepared to basically host 2,500 con-goers a day, but I think the reality will be somewhere between 1,200 and 1,500—based on our presales as a beginning metric, and assuming since we’re a first-year con, we’re probably not seeing more than 20 percent of our ticket sales go out in advance,” says Brister, who works as the IT director of a local software company by day. He has never put on an event of this size or nature before, and he isn’t a comic-industry insider. But he is a nerd, and has spent the past 3½ months analyzing other cities’ conventions, crunching numbers and working out the science behind building a successful con. 

Brister decided to start his own comic con after attending San Diego Comic-Con—the largest in the country—last year, and realizing it had become so focused on marketing to the 18-to-49-year-old demographic that his 11-year-old son wasn’t having any fun.

“We thought, ‘Why don’t we have something here in Portland?’” he says. “I mean, most of these [comic] creators, or a lot of creators, live here in town, and we keep running into the same folks between [Seattle’s Emerald City Comic-Con] and San Diego and other conventions, but we didn’t have more of a mainstream pop-culture convention here in town.”

Based on Brister’s projections, the event should be a financial success. But there are still plenty of real obstacles. The con is smack in the middle of Portland’s busiest festival season: a week after anime convention Kumoricon, the same weekend as WW’s MusicfestNW and PICA’s Time-Based Art Festival, and the weekend before the XOXO arts and technology festival. 

The lineup of comic artists, writers and vendors is for the most part made up of local and familiar names—folks like Greg Rucka (Punisher, Whiteout, Stumptown), Aaron Lopresti (Wonder Woman, Superman, Hulk) and Ron Randall (Trekker, Supergirl, Star Wars). It’s a great bill, but there are few guests you wouldn’t also see at the cheaper and more established Stumptown Comics Fest. The biggest out-of-town guests are the creators of the cult Web comic Axe Cop, which is being made into a series for Fox.

The roster of “media guests” is not so strong: There’s Battlestar Galactica’s Richard Hatch, but otherwise it’s ’80s teen idol Noah Hathaway, Kathy Coleman from ’70s kids show Land of the Lost, and a Power Ranger. 

Other events include Magic: the Gathering and HeroClix card tournaments, tabletop game demos, performances by local “nerd-folk” duo the Doubleclicks, costume contests, geek trivia and a screening of role-playing movie Lloyd the Conqueror. 

It’s a modest offering, but it’s on par with Emerald City’s first year in 2003, which attracted 2,500 attendees. Almost a decade later, the Seattle con brings in about 53,000 fans and pulls Stan Lee and William Shatner. Not that Brister necessarily wants Rose City to go the same way. It all depends on what the numbers say.

“At the end of the day,” he says, “it’s all about building solid metrics and analysis to predict and dictate where you’re going to go.”


GO: Rose City Comic-Con is at the DoubleTree Hotel, 1000 NE Multnomah St. 10 am-6 pm Saturday, 10 am-4 pm Sunday, Sept. 8-9. $12.50 for one day, $20 for a two-day pass; kids 12 and under free with paying adult. More info at rosecitycomiccon.com.

 
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