Editor’s note: DC and Dark Horse Comics, among others, have pulled out of Emerald City Comic Con due to coronavirus concerns. As of press time, ECCC organizers said the convention would go on as scheduled, with increased cleaning and sanitation measures as a precaution. ECCC is allowing refunds to ticketbuyers who decide not to attend due to coronavirus concerns. Check emeraldcitycomiccon.com for any changes to the schedule for events mentioned in this story and for the latest updates.

There’s a guy who sells comics under the banner Randy’s Readers Comics every year at Emerald City Comic Con. He’s got mostly beat-up Silver Age Marvel comics, the kind of comics folks of a certain age grew up devouring like sticks of sugary bubble gum.

“He’s a guy you can go and you can buy a copy of Fantastic Four No. 20 for, like, four bucks,” frequent attendee (and comic book publisher) Eric Reynolds said. “It just completely looks like a tank drove over it. But you can own it. You can have it in your hands.”

When Reynolds has deep thoughts about ECCC — and as associate publisher at Seattle comic book publisher Fantagraphics Books, a lifelong comics fan and the father of an 11-year-old, he’s allowed to have lots of them — he thinks about Randy’s Readers. Has the show gotten too big, too expensive for small vendors or artists or publishers like Randy’s Readers? Has it lost the thread of celebrating the reason we’re all here — the art form of comics?

“He’s like always the guy I go look for when I go there,” Reynolds said. “And the year that he’s not there anymore because he’s been priced out or something is going to be the year that show jumps the shark for me. He’s my bellwether, my barometer for the whole show now, I think.”

Good news! Randy’s Readers will be at Booth 2616 this year.

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Along with a lot of other people when the show kicks off next Thursday, March 12, at the Washington State Convention Center. The four-day pop culture extravaganza draws close to 100,000 fans annually and is one of the top destinations on the con circuit for creators, publishers, game and toy companies, cosplay enthusiasts and comic book fans of every stripe, the nerdier the better.

It’s also a popular destination for celebrities, with a lot of the focus this year on the cast of “Back to the Future,” several “Star Trek” franchises, Marvel’s The Avengers, “Star Wars,” “Doctor Who,” “Game of Thrones,” “The Boys” and … *pant, pant, pant* … there’s a lot of them.

Actor Mark Ruffalo, shown here during a 2018 press conference to promote “Avengers: Infinity War,” is scheduled for a Q&A at Emerald City Comic Con on March 12. (Marco Ugarte / The Associated Press)
Actor Mark Ruffalo, shown here during a 2018 press conference to promote “Avengers: Infinity War,” is scheduled for a Q&A at Emerald City Comic Con on March 12. (Marco Ugarte / The Associated Press)

In fact, it’s actually kind of choked with people filing up and down the escalators and sometimes not everyone who wants to can get into popular panels and screenings.

As ReedPOP’s event director for ECCC, MK Goodwin has heard the concerns. ReedPOP bought the original Emerald City Comic Con from founder Jim Demonakos in 2015 and it’s thriving under the company’s stewardship. ReedPOP also oversees huge events in New York, Chicago and other nerd-friendly locales, easily drawing more than a half-million visitors a year.

Goodwin said those attendees have a say in shaping the events each year because her company is actively pursuing input. Generally, the response they’re getting is: More of everything!

“So we do a lot of listening, a lot of learning year on year,” she said. “And if it’s something that fans want, we’ll really do anything we can to get it for them because this is really their show. But if you look at the content that we have at Emerald City, yes, we have celebrities. Sure. But we have one of the largest Artist Alleys in North America. We have Homegrown on the show floor, which is dedicated to your local artists and small businesses. So just to look at Emerald City Comic Con and see celebrity, I would say that’s a very superficial view. That’s just the small part. There is so much more to this.”

With that said, let’s look at some highlights:

Christopher Lloyd, left, and Michael J. Fox are among the stars of “Back to the Future” slated to attend a reunion on March 14 at this year’s Emerald City Comic Con. (Universal Pictures Home Entertainment)
Christopher Lloyd, left, and Michael J. Fox are among the stars of “Back to the Future” slated to attend a reunion on March 14 at this year’s Emerald City Comic Con. (Universal Pictures Home Entertainment)

  • “Back to the Future”: If you were alive in 1985, you know. This movie dominated everything. Four of the five principle stars will be on hand for a celebration of the film, which miraculously remains unrebooted. Michael J. Fox, Christopher Lloyd, Lea Thompson and Tom Wilson will attend. 6 p.m. Saturday, March 14.
  • Mark Ruffalo: Our Hulk of the moment — and occasional rom-com star — will sit down with fans Thursday night in a Q&A that could be entertaining and enlightening (Ruffalo’s known for letting spoilers slip). 6:30 p.m. Thursday, March 12.
  • “Star Wars”: Anthony Daniels, the man who brought the sometimes exasperating but no less beloved droid C-3PO to um … well not life, but you know what we mean, will join the celebration. 11 a.m. Sunday, March 15.
  • “Star Trek”: There is so much Star Trekkery at this convention, it doesn’t matter which franchise is your favorite, there’s a little bit for everybody. Check out national treasure LeVar Burton (2 p.m. Friday, March 13); Walter Koenig (12:30 p.m. Friday, March 13), speaker of sci-fi’s most memorable accent; and cast members from the new “Star Trek: Picard” (5 p.m. Friday, March 13). Even Karl Urban, who did a passable imitation of DeForest Kelley’s Dr. McCoy in the movie franchise reboot, is here, though he’s really promoting his other show, “The Boys” (2 p.m. Saturday, March 14).
  • Hodor from “Game of Thrones”: 3:30 p.m. Saturday, March 14.

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Emerald City Comic Con, March 12-15; Washington State Convention Center, 705 Pike St., Seattle; daily tickets on sale for Thursday ($30), Friday ($45) and Sunday ($45) at emeraldcitycomicon.com. Four-day passes, kids four-day passes and Saturday single-day tickets may be available through the ticket exchange site Lyte.com. As of press time, ECCC organizers said the convention would go on as scheduled, with increased cleaning and sanitation measures as a precaution. More information: emeraldcitycomiccon.com.