Few would argue about the incredible growth of Comic Convention (ComiCon) culture. Its increase in popularity is evident not just to the comic book lovers among us, but even to the general public in the movies, video games, television programs, Halloween costumes, and clothing available for consumption. So it’s no surprise that this year’s Bellingham ComiCon, held at the Ferndale Events Center on Saturday, October 22, could be the largest and most fantastical yet. It promises to offer entertainment for everyone, from the smallest child to the most sophisticated collector.
Bellingham ComiCon was first started in 2009 by Eric Burris of Arlington, WA, who has been a comic book show vendor himself in Seattle and Portland since the mid-1980s. The relationships he built with the promoters, vendors, professional artists, and writers over the years at other comic conventions helped plenty when he decided to start a show in Bellingham. “After a few years, I became involved in the shows behind the scenes. I became great friends with the promoters of those shows and they really mentored me on the business,” explains Burris. “When I told them I wanted to do a show in Bellingham, they discouraged me due to the amount of work involved but when I decided to go forward, they got behind me and helped.” Another group had attempted earlier conventions in Bellingham but when none returned, Burris filled the need by starting his own convention from scratch.
To Burris, Bellingham ComiCon is an ideal way to experience all that a comic convention has to offer without having to deal with the headaches and cost of larger conventions like those in Seattle or San Diego. “We’ve worked with the Ferndale Event Center coordinators for seven years now and we have a very good relationship,” explains Burris. “You don’t have to travel a great distance, sit in traffic, stay overnight, or pay for parking.” Kids seven and under get in for free while advanced tickets for adults are just $7 or $10 at the door. The additional freebies and door prizes make this event family-friendly and very affordable.
Six special guests will appear who have become famous in the world of comic book art. Georgia Ball has written comics for some of the most popular franchises including Disney’s Frozen, Littlest Pet Shop, My Little Pony, Transformers, and Scooby Doo. Comic book artist Randy Emberlin has animated over 50 television commercials and has inked comics like Amazing Spider-Man, Doctor Strange, and G.I. Joe. David Hahn has illustrated issues for both Marvel and DC Comics including Fantastic Four and The Batman Handbook. National Bestselling Author of the Greywalker urban fantasy series, Kat Richardson will also be on hand. Kat’s writing experience also extends into the realm of role-playing games, video games, and comics. Bob Smith, who grew up in Grayland, WA and attended Western Washington University, began working for DC comics in 1975, inking books including Super Friends, Star Trek, The Flash, Green Lantern, and Catwoman before moving to work on Archie Comics for the past 18 years. Considered a critically acclaimed modern Star Wars artist, Doug Wheatley has also worked on well known books including Incredible Hulk, Punisher, Walking Dead, and Superman Returns.
ComiCon is so much more than comic books. This year’s event will include more than 26 exhibitor booths with well known Whatcom County businesses like Comics Place and Heroes Resource as well as vendors traveling from as far away as Tacoma and Ellensburg. They’ll share a variety of wares that appeal to the kid and the collector in everyone including action figures, board games, video games, toys, Legos, clothing, art, and of course, more graphic novels and comic books than you could read in a lifetime.
The event will also again feature an Artist Alley with original comic art by more than 20 vendors and artists. Their merchandise comes in almost any form you can imagine, from prints, paintings, and sketches, to costumes, jewelry, posters, and t-shirts.
What would ComiCon be without costumes? Just in time for Halloween, not only may attendees show off their elaborate homemade and embellished creations throughout the day, they may also strut their stuff in the costume contest with awards in four categories and two age groups: children 12 and under and ages 13 and up.
As has become a tradition at ComiCons around the world, the 501st Legion will also visit. The 501st is an all-volunteer organization of Star Wars costume enthusiasts who attend events around the world and raise funds for local charities. Again this year, the more than 1,500 ComiCon patrons expected to attend can make donations and have their photo taken with members of the 501st. All proceeds raised will be given to the Alternative Humane Society of Whatcom County.
Like the artists sharing their creations, Burris considers Bellingham ComiCon his art form. “Organizing the shows has become my artistic outlet. The empty building is a blank canvas and you start adding elements,” explains Burris of why he continues to host the event year after year. “I don’t write, draw, sing, or play an instrument. I put together a show—one that gives others an outlet to showcase their talent.”