After a mostly successful debut in 2018, ACE Comic Con returns to Seattle June 28-30 with a superhero lineup that includes Marvel Cinematic Universe stars Chris Evans, Josh Brolin and Zoe Saldana.

Last year, about 30,000 people walked through WaMu Theater and CenturyLink Event Center (where the event will be held again this year) and experienced a different take on the typical convention. While most comic cons are naturally focused on the printed medium, ACE co-founder Gareb Shamus said that he hopes to make his convention accessible to mainstream fans who likely got introduced to these characters not through their comic-book roots but Hollywood blockbusters.

The focus was put instead on making the entire three-day affair more of a show than a convention, with panels and other interactive opportunities happening constantly and being broadcast throughout the con floor.

Zoe Saldana, who plays Gamora in the Marvel Cinematic Universe,  is expected at ACE Comic Con Seattle this year. (Evan Agostini  /Invision / AP)
Zoe Saldana, who plays Gamora in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, is expected at ACE Comic Con Seattle this year. (Evan Agostini /Invision / AP)

“From the moment we announced the show, there was this huge outpouring of fans who were excited we were coming to their city,” Shamus said. “It was pretty extraordinary, because on Saturday for the main panel that we had, that Kevin Smith hosted with Tom Holland, Sebastian Stan and Anthony Mackie, we had 12,000 people live in the stands. I think we broke the North American record for comic cons and people in the audience.”

That number was made possible by the choice of venue. Most conventions, such as Emerald City Comic Con (ECCC), take place in the Washington State Convention Center, which limits the number of people you can fit into one room.

“That’s the whole purpose behind what we’re trying to do, which is to make the events that we do much more inclusive,” Shamus said. “When people come to an ACE Comic Con, we want them to be a part of it and not be in a position where people pay their money to come and not be able to do the things they would love to do the most.”

Unfortunately for fans of Chris Hemsworth and Chris Evans, that’s exactly what happened last year as both stars had to pull out before the show and were replaced with Stan and Holland. Shamus said he believed that there was still much to draw fans into the event but ACE offered refunds to anyone dissatisfied with the modified lineup, much like they did at an Arizona show last year that also suffered from cancellations. There have been no cancellations so far for the upcoming Seattle show, which also features Don Cheadle, Jeremy Renner and Taron Egerton.

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Josh Brolin, who plays the villain Thanos in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, is expected at ACE Comic Con Seattle June 28-30. (Richard Shotwell / Invision / AP)
Josh Brolin, who plays the villain Thanos in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, is expected at ACE Comic Con Seattle June 28-30. (Richard Shotwell / Invision / AP)

In addition to VIP photo opportunities (which go for anywhere between $45 to $775, depending on the star and package), the featured stars will also take part in panels — open to anyone with a general admission ticket — that will likely be the main attraction to many attending. The show floor will feature a cross-section of nerd and geek culture, with vendors and creators including “Spider-Man” and “Deadpool” artist Skottie Young, writer/illustrator Kate Leth (“Adventure Time”), and cosplayer Anna He among many others.

Last year, social media briefly lit up in criticism of some first-time hiccups such as timing problems with VIP photos and panel start times. There were also some complaints about how the show floor was set up. Shamus said he was confident another year in the same venue would iron out many of those difficulties.

“We’re trying to create a new experience for people and we’re learning along the way, but we’re learning very quickly because we’ve been able to produce five events in just about 14 or 15 months, so coming back to Seattle, second time in that venue, we have a really good feel for it,” Shamus said.

Gareb Shamus, co-founder of ACE Comic Con (Courtesy of ACE Universe)
Gareb Shamus, co-founder of ACE Comic Con (Courtesy of ACE Universe)

One thing fans shouldn’t count on is exactly when ACE Comic Con will be back in town next time. Working around the schedule of stars they want to feature, instead of a set date each year like ECCC is an added challenge but one Shamus hopes gives ACE a more curated feel. Last year and this, the focus was on MCU stars as the Avengers saga came to a thunderous close with “Avengers: Infinity War” and “Avengers: Endgame.”

The Avengers and their massive popularity align well with ACE’s mission to create a tent big enough that supergeeks and casual fans can both find something to enjoy.

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“For so long, geeks and nerds, we were the outsiders,” Shamus said. “Now we are so mainstream we want to make it a very inclusive environment for everyone.”

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ACE Comic Con, June 28-30; WaMu Theater and CenturyLink Field Event Center, 800 Occidental Ave. S., Seattle; general admission $45 Friday, $55 Saturday or Sunday, $95 for three-day pass, $5 for kids 10 and under (limited to two per paid adult ticket); photo opps and autographs extra, VIP packages available; 206-381-7985, acecomiccon.com