Long-awaited return of Emerald City Comic Con offers crucial outlet for fans and artists alike

Dec 3, 2021, 6:38 AM | Updated: Dec 6, 2021, 11:31 am
Emerald City Comic Con...
Emerald City Comic Con returns for the first time since the pandemic began. (Getty Images)
(Getty Images)

Written by KIRO Radio reporter Paul Holden

Emerald City Comic Con has returned for the first time since the pandemic began, and not only is this a big deal for fans of numerous franchises, but it is a welcomed respite for small artists and creators who rely on events like cons to sell and promote their work.

Emerald City Comic Con returns Dec. 2-5 after being cancelled in 2020

“There has not been a whole ton of fun lately and that’s our business,” Emerald City Comic Con Event Director Kristina Rodgers told KIRO 7 TV. “Come take a vacation and spend time with things you are most passionate about.”

Due to COVID-19, the comic con is limiting capacity at the event this year, although Rodgers anticipates 50,000 attendees across the weekend with about 14,000 coming each day.

ECCC kicked off this week and goes through the weekend, featuring panels, autographs, and Q&As with stars from a variety of projects including Star Wars, the Justice League, and numerous animated movies and shows. It also provides fans the opportunity to meet the people behind the voices of their favorite characters.

Janet Varney, the voice behind the master of the elements, Avatar Korra, from the “Legend of Korra” animated series, is excited to be back amongst the fans.

“We have really loved getting back with the fans, and I say that as a total nerd and fan of tons of stuff myself,” she said.

She believes that the safety precautions at events like Emerald City Comic Con are a matter of respect, and she’s grateful for the chance to connect with fans again.

“This is a small price to pay for getting a chance to get that human connection going again, because it is a huge part of my work,” Varney described. “I don’t consider it (going to cons) work, but it is very tied to my career. Once I started doing cons after ‘Korra’ had come out, I got very addicted to the experience of meeting people and understanding what something I did meant to them.”

Events like Emerald City Comic Con are an opportunity for artists to see the true impact of their work. From panel discussions to cosplayers, voiceover artists like Varney are able to meet their fans face-to-face, and see how their talents connect and engage with a wide audience and the joy they bring.

“When you do go through something like the quarantine and COVID, and you feel like, ‘what am I doing? How am I helping?'” Varney said. “Having a first responder, or someone who works in hospice, or just a parent who had a sick kid, or a kid who had sick parent say, ‘hey, something you did brought me joy during this time,’ … it’s the best part of this job, period.”

“It’s not meeting a famous person, it’s not getting a check, it is understanding that what you’ve done has helped someone or meant something,” she added. “I know that sounds really cheesy to some but it is a thousand percent true.”

For “Cowboy Bebop” voice actor Steve Blum, it’s about finding a way to connect with people on a whole new level.

“I have trouble relating to some people some times, because people can be really disappointing,” he noted. “With animated characters, I feel like you let a little bit of that go, and I think we allow ourselves to just release ourselves of our attachment to reality for a little bit and open ourselves up to possibility. Maybe that’s why animation and video games do resonate with people because it allows us to escape into something different and see ourselves as something bigger than we are or we are in a bigger place than we would’ve realized before.”

Through characters like the cool, smooth talking bounty hunter Spike Spiegal — who Blum voiced on “Cowboy Bebop” — he got to live out an experience that was far off from his own.

“For me, that was kind of a salvation, because I never was that guy — I never was cool,” he said. “I was overweight and bullied and insecure and had social anxiety. Spike was really just an escape for me, honestly, the way he carried himself in life, other than he is so sad and messed up, but with that essence of cool was what I always wanted to be.”

“I always wanted to be that confident in life and that character helped me to find that place inside of myself,” he continued. “In that process of discovery, it helped me realize that anyone has that ability to be who they want to be or who they see themselves being, if they put enough attention and time into it.”

While so much goes into the creation of these animated projects, the voices and performances behind them inspire their audiences that they can be these characters, that anyone can be the next Avatar or space bounty hunter.

After discovering that confidence, Blum has started teaching and offering lessons for those looking to get into voice acting through his website.

Varney says a good tip for those looking to get into voice acting is to join an improv class, so you can prepare for any situation.

You can meet both Janet Varney and Steve Blum this weekend, alongside countless other artists at Emerald City Comic Con.

For tickets and panel information, visit the event’s website at this link.

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Long-awaited return of Emerald City Comic Con offers crucial outlet for fans and artists alike