By Dan Haag
Bringing new events to an untested audience can be a daunting task. Besides the myriad logistical undertakings, there’s the anxiety that perhaps folks won’t like trying new things.
You can emphatically cross that particular worry off the list for organizers of the 1st Annual Northwest Comic Con.
“It’s just a great big ball of awesome, wrapped in a great big ball of very cool, inside another ball of more awesome,” says coordinator Monty Elliott.
Running Saturday and Sunday, March 18 and 19 at the Tillamook County Fairgrounds the event promises to be a celebration of the fantastic and the heroic, with more than enough fun to make even the grumpiest Sith Lord crack a smile.
How, with Comic Conventions thriving in big cities like Portland and San Diego, did one make its way to Tillamook?
“It was kind of ‘hey, I wonder if we could get people to come to the coast and have some fun?’”” Elliott says.
The idea gained steam in the fall of 2016 and Elliott, along with Corveaux Millions of Versus Comics in Rockaway Beach, realized the idea had limitless potential.
“We just started spit-balling and the next thing you knew we had guests lined up and it kind of ran from there,” Elliott says.
According to Elliott, the idea came from the hope of making the event more accessible to everyday fans of superheros, sci-fi and fantasy, something he felt was lacking in the larger venues.
Bigger conventions – such as Portland’s Emerald City or Salem’s Cherry City – pay thousands of dollars for guest appearances and attract between 10,000 and 30,000 attendees.
Elliott, who recently went to Rose City Comic Con, says he stood in line for five hours to wait for a $200 autograph.
In other words, those hoping to talk with a graphic artist or character actor at a larger convention are often out of luck.
Elliott says the most fun he had a Rose City was going to a table where there was no line and talking with the vendor one-on-one for 15 minutes.
“We wanted to have 20 people like that, where everyone could come in and meet those 20 people,” says Elliott, a different sort of super hero in real life: he serves as an Instructional Assistant for Special Education at Neah-Kah-Nie School District.
Though on a smaller scale, one might call the guest lineup for Northwest Comic Con impressive. Most impressive.
Among them: “Walking Dead” alum Vincent Ward, Jacob Bear of Bear Claw Studios, and Keith Tucker, storyboard artist for classic 80’s and 90’s cartoons like “He-Man” and “Transformers.”
Tucker has also contributed work to classic sci-fi films such as “Star Teak II: Wrath of Kahn” and “Robo-Cop.”
There will plenty of representation from “A Long Time Ago, In a Galaxy Far, Far Away” as well, most notably from author Timothy Zahn, creator of several novels in the ongoing Star Wars canon.
As a compliment to Zahn’s appearance, there will be roaming Stormtroopers, a Wookie, and droids from the 501st Legion, an officially licensed group of Star Wars personnel.
The 501st – whose members have to go through a stringent screening process to join – will be on hand to greet guests, pose for photos, and presumably search for renegade R2 units.
Elliott says he had no trouble attracting such notable guests.
“Not at all. The more work we put into it, the more the word got out,” he says, adding that bigger talent companies are approaching him for future Northwest Comic Cons.
When pressed for clues on who might be guest on the horizon, Elliott demurs on the side of mystery: “I could tell you, but you couldn’t tell anyone else.”
Like all Comic Cons, the vendors in attendance will, for a small fee, create original pieces of artwork for attendees, something that adds to the fun atmosphere.
Both days will feature gaming tables, comic book vendors, craft booths and discussion panels with Zahn, Ward and Tucker.
The festivities retain a local flavor, too, with Versus Comics preparing big reveals on some books they will be putting out and a Saturday evening performance by KISS tribute band, Dr. Love.
Elliott hopes that people will get into the spirit of the convention and don costumes – or “cos play” – though that is not a requirement of admission.
Keep in mind, however, there will be a “cos play” contest with several professional “cos players” on hand.
Elliott stresses it is indeed a very family-friendly event and encourages fans of all ages to come and enjoy.
For now, Elliott is excited for the first incarnation of the event and looking ahead to 2018.
“We are already working on next year,” he says.
In other words, if you doubted a comic book convention could find a home in Tillamook, your lack of faith might be considered disturbing.
To buy tickets or see a complete list of guests and vendors for Northwest Comic Con, visit www.northwestcomicon.com. Tickets will also be sold at the door both days of the event.