On Friday, March 6, Emerald City Comic Con organizers announced they are postponing the convention until summer.
About 10,000 of the 75,000 fans who pre-purchased badges for Emerald City Comic Con returned them in the first 24 hours after organizers announced on Wednesday a refund option for those fearful of the novel coronavirus outbreak in Seattle.
Emerald City Comic Con organizers Reedpop had said earlier this week that the four-day annual celebration of pop culture, scheduled for March 12-15 at the Washington State Convention Center, would proceed as planned, with increased cleaning and sanitation measures. As news mounted of additional cases and deaths in Washington state, an increasing number of publishers, exhibitors and creators pulled out.
Lance Festerman, global president of ECCC owner Reedpop, said Thursday in an email to The Seattle Times that the decision to change the event’s ironclad refund policy was “relatively easy” in light of the 11 deaths in the Seattle area attributed to the virus. He also said the company has decided to give refunds to artists who purchased table space in Artists Alley if they choose not to attend.
“We hope that many of the scheduled guests, artists and exhibitors will be at the show and join us in creating a great ECCC for all the fans,” Festerman wrote. “That said, we know that each individual will make the best decision for them. … We’ve chosen to refund all artists that have purchased a table in Artist Alley because these artists rely on Emerald City Comic Con — as one of the largest Artist Alleys in the con circuit — for a living. Exhibitors that have signed contracts will be held to the previously agreed terms.”
Still, it can be hard for artists who pull out to not have the income they could have earned at such a large convention. Last year’s ECCC drew 98,000 people.
Matthew Southworth, an author of Fantagraphics Books’ upcoming “The Cloven,” said, “there’s so many people who this is a big part of their financial plan for the year. They’re going to go to the show, they’re going to rent their booth space. And they’re going to sell whatever, $1,200 worth of knickknacks and merchandise and everything else. And that’s going to make everything OK for the lean months between shows or whatever. It’s very hard for those people to cancel.”
As of Thursday afternoon, 85 participants had pulled out of the con, according to a list on the ECCC website. The list includes DC Comics, Dark Horse Comics, Oni Press and writers and artists such as DC Publisher Jim Lee, “Hellboy” creator Mike Mignola and “Wolverine” writer Benjamin Percy. There was still no word on some of ECCC’s top-of-schedule celebrities like Michael J. Fox and the cast of “Back to the Future,” actors Mark Ruffalo and Karen Gillan, and cast members from the “Star Wars,” “Star Trek” and “Game of Thrones” franchises.
Festerman called the situation “pretty unprecedented. … As a team that operates large scale events, we are used to best-laid plans falling apart and adjusting on the fly … just maybe not quite at this scale in the past.”
Festerman said ECCC is still selling tickets — at a rate of about 500 a day in the last week. “It’s good to remember that from nearly every metric, ECCC is still a pretty massive show,” he wrote.