Cross Country to Emerald City: An Animator’s Experience at ECCC 2018
As you may know by now, I’ve been to many conventions across the east coast, occasionally traveling a few cities away or even one state over to attend them. Yet, this past weekend, I was given the opportunity to report on a convention on the opposite side of the country: Emerald City Comic Con, out in the tech capital of the country: Seattle, Washington. The weekend was absolutely packed with wall to wall excitement and surprises, and I’m here to give you the scoop on each and every one of them here!
THURSDAY: CHANCE ENCOUNTERS
Emerald City Comic Con began on a Thursday, and with the lower attendance I took to the show floor to scout out for some merchandise that I’d wanted, namely another pillow from ASunnyDisposish, who you readers may remember from my AnimeNYC article. While there, I discovered several other artists I had no idea would be there, like Kristafer Anka (@kristaferanka on Twitter) who had some amazing art, stickers and prints for sale. Someone that caught me completely off guard was Tyson Hesse (@tyson_hesse on Twitter), artist for the Sonic the Hedgehog comic and more notably for me the animator for the opening cutscene of Sonic Mania! I managed to unfreeze long enough to ask one of my personal heroes a question or two:
Joshua Brafman: I loved your work on Sonic Mania! How’d you get to do that?
Tyson Hesse: Well, I’d been working for SEGA for a while with their Sonic comics and
one day they just approached me and asked if I could animate too, and since I have an
animation background it worked out!
JB: You have an animation background? So do I! I’m trying to get into the field myself,
how did you do it?
TH: Well, I just kept working on the art that I loved doing, which was my traditional art.
I didn’t really make use of my animation degree until about 2 years after I graduated. [laughs]
After that, my best friend and fellow writer Maya Hanks and I milled around the convention until we both stumbled upon something we never could have expected to see: Johnny Yong Bosch! JYB is an absolutely prolific anime voice actor, having voiced icons such as Vash the Stampede in Trigun, Renton Thurston in Eureka Seven and Lelouch Lamperouge in Code Geass: Lelouch of the Rebellion. As luck would have it, I happened to have purchased the newly available Code Geass Film Trilogy earlier that day, so I had him sign it and got a picture with him! Side note: I can no longer complain about the baseball cap disguises in Marvel movies. Johnny Yong Bosch was at his booth with NO LINE but because he was wearing a baseball cap both me and Maya didn’t notice him for a full 15 minutes! I did get to ask him a question as well in between all my fangirling:
JB: So who’s you’re favorite character you’ve played
Johnny Yong Bosch: Well, that’s a really tough question, that’s like asking me to pick a favorite kid. [laughs]
JB: Yeah, that’s probably too big a question. So who was the most challenging character to portray then?
JYB: Well THAT’s a tough question too! …[I’d have to say] Lelouch, at least in the beginning since I was still trying to figure out where the story was going and how to play him right.
JB: So I heard this Code Geass Trilogy isn’t dubbed. Will you be returning to play Lelouch for the new film [Code Geass: Lelouch of the Re;surrection] coming out in May?
JYB: Well… I’m not legally allowed to say either way. [he winks]
After that, Maya led me to a booth that she found while she was walking around after we’d assumed we had to wait to meet Johnny Yong Bosch: a booth for an independent multimedia experience known as KODOJA. KODOJA is an ongoing independent comic book series centered around the eponymous monster whose broken free of his containment and must be stopped at all costs, while at the same time battling eldritch horror like beasts. Being a giant monster fan I was already intrigued, but what really got me hooked was the fact that this was more than just a comic. As I said earlier, KODOJA is a multimedia experience: it’s a graphic novel that has its own soundtrack by indie band Big Pimp Jones and a prequel radio drama! I’ve never before encountered a comic that has this much depth and immersion put into the experience of simply reading it. I had the absolute pleasure to talk giant monster films with the writer, Keith Foster, and I’m absolutely excited to sit down and experience KODOJA! Any fan of the medium should do the same.
FRIDAY: THE TREK TO TAKEI
I entered the second day of Emerald City Comic Con with one purpose: to get George Takei’s autograph as a birthday present for my Dad. I started the day off by attending the My Hero Academia panel, which was largely just Christopher Sabat (All Might) and Colleen Clinkenbeard (Momo Yaoyorozu) playing Pictionary with some audience members. It was a fun way to start the day, but nothing truly noteworthy happened there. As for George Takei’s autograph, the signing was at 4 PM so I walked around the convention center looking for souvenirs for friends and family back home. In doing so, I ran into another person I never expected to meet at one of the booths on the show floor: Stephan Franck, one of the many talented animators who worked on one of my favorite films, The Iron Giant. As an aspiring animator myself, I took the time to ask him if he has any tips for anyone who wants to get into the industry:
JB: I love your work! I’m trying to get into the animation field myself.
Stephan Franck: Oh really? What were you trained in?
JB: Mostly 3D animation, with some 2D. What should I focus on?
SF: Well, what kind of animation do you enjoy? Like what do you watch?
SF: Ah, I see. If you had said something like “Pixar” I would say to focus on your 3D work. But shows like Steven Universe and Gravity Falls… your best bet is to focus on Story and Storyboarding. And [don’t be afraid to] move to California. That’s where all the jobs are.
After my chat with Mr. Franck, I went and lined up for George Takei’s autograph. I was shocked to see that there were only a few people in front of me, but I wasn’t about to question my good fortune! This sunny turn of events quickly went dark after I saw a line next to mine about four times as long, filled with folks who’d prepaid for their autograph. My plan to get Mr. Takei to record a birthday message for my Dad fell through due to time constraints, but I still got to meet him and got his autograph, so in the end I believe it was worth it.
With my main mission accomplished, I took to the streets to explore Seattle along with friend and fellow writer Erik McRimmon to find a place my Dad had actually recommended I see for myself: the very first Starbucks coffee shop. This turned out to be trickier than anticipated, as while a cursory Google search said that the shop was located on 1st Street and Pike Place, there were multiple Starbucks along that route. So, several visits and chidings about not filming on the premises, I found the very first Starbucks Coffee shop, inside Pike Place Market. I got myself a Frappucino, but not being a coffee drinker I have no idea if it was any better than one from any other Starbucks. Still, a fun experience all around!
After completing my quest for caffeine, I headed back to the convention center for my final convention event of the day: Alien: 40th Anniversary Shorts, an early screening of four out of the planned six short films created by fans in association with 20th Century Fox to celebrate the 40th anniversary of the sci-fi horror classic Alien. The four films screened were called Alien Containment, Alien Night Shift, Alien Alone and Alien Harvest. Without going into spoilers for those who wish to see the films for themselves as they premiere online in the coming weeks, I would say that Containment and Alone were the standouts, each offering new and interesting perspectives on the Alien universe, while Night Shift and Harvest felt like sloppier copies of the other two short films to me. Still, each short was very well made and collectively I would say that these short films are far better than both of the most recent theatrical outings, Prometheus and Alien Covenant. When that was done, Maya and I went across the street to the movie theater to see Captain Marvel, the latest MCU outing and a fantastic film in its own right. Be on the lookout for our thoughts on that, and the entire Marvel Cinematic Universe (Pre-Endgame) next month! But as for the rest of ECCC, let’s move on!
SATURDAY: PANELS, PANELS, PANELS!
As you may have guessed, my final day at Emerald City Comic Con was spent almost entirely in panels. First up was the Stranger Things Publishing panel, which I admittedly only attended due to the fact that it would guarantee me a seat in the She-Ra and the Princesses of Power panel which followed right afterwards, but that’s not to say I didn’t end up enjoying myself there. The panel was entirely focused on new and upcoming books and comics set in the universe of Stranger Things, a supernatural adventure series set in the 1980s which I am a particularly big fan of. It was really interesting to hear of the new and upcoming books like Brena Yovanoff’s Runaway Max, which details how the character of Max ends up in Hawkins, Indiana before the start of the series’ second season. However, when the panel opened to questions, no one came up. I had the sinking suspicion that I wasn’t the only one who’d come in just to wait for She-Ra, so I took it upon myself to ask the board of writers and editors a question: “How do you write for established properties, and how did you get to this point?” There were half a dozen panelists, and all gave different replies, so I’ve itemized their tips and answers for anyone looking to break into writing for licensed material:
1. BE FAST. Due to the nature of licensed media, turnaround on written material has to be fast, since you may not be allowed to write until a certain point, and then you may only have a VERY brief window to write and submit your manuscript. Case in point: Gwenda Bond wrote the 320 page novel Stranger Things: Suspicious Minds in only one month.
2. Have a pre-established portfolio of work. Jody Houser (writer of the Stranger Things comic series) had been writing comics for years before she was picked up to write for the show.
3. Anthology comic collections are a great placed to get noticed by large companies
4. Be flexible – don’t get too attached to any ideas you have and always have more ideas on the backburner
Attending the Stranger Things Publishing panel was certainly edifying, and right after it ended I moved to a prime seat for the panel I had been most excited for since I found out I would be attending ECCC: She-Ra and the Princesses of Power, a panel discussing the Netflix series of the same name, which is a reboot of the 1980’s series She-Ra: The Princess of Power. This panel was a discussion on the current series as well as a preview of what’s to come in the next season. There was a lot of content in this panel, starting with a Q&A between the show’s creator Noelle Stevenson and the panel host. Here are some of the most interesting facts that were revealed:
2. Female character complexity has been something Stevenson has wanted forever – women in media should be just as complex as men are.
4. Noelle’s favorite episodes from Season 1 are “Princess Prom” and “Promise”
5. “Princess Prom” started as a joke among the crew “…and then they all go to Prom!!” but became a reality over time. “Promise” was a very personal episode for Noelle.
6. Scorpia is a favorite character among the crew of the series
7. The characters’ outfits were designed based on what Noelle thinks kids would want to dress up as, whether just in their imagination or to go out Trick-or-Treating in, which is one of the reasons She-Ra wears “Battle Boots”
8. LGBTQ representation is an intrinsic part of the series and is extremely important to Noelle Stevenson, who promises there will be more going forward
After the initial Q&A, we were all treated to a screening of the first few minutes of Season Two, which looks to be just as fantastic as Season One, with equal parts comedy and drama. Following the sneak peek, the floor was opened to questions about the upcoming season and the future of She-Ra and the Princesses of Power going forward, and here is what I found out:
1. Season Two will be released in its entirety on April 26th, and will be seven episodes long. This is shorter than Season One, but the crew is making the seasons shorter to release more Seasons at a faster rate.
2. Mara will return in Season Two
3. Princess Frosta will have a larger role in Season Two
4. There will be more “experimental” episodes (like “Promise” from Season One) this season – hints at an episode from Entrapta’s point of view
5. The Princesses will find out what happened to Entrapta this season and will have to deal with it
6. This season, Adora is shaken by Catra’s betrayal and Catra will come into her own as a Villain: this is a role reversal of Catra and Adora from Season One
7. Noelle had two things to say regarding concrete content in Season Two: “Dungeons, Dragons, Dads and Dives…” and “You guys are NOT ready for Entrapta.”
Following the She-Ra panel I headed to Artist Alley once again to meet another person I admire: the author of Redneck, Donny Cates. Redneck is a comic book series I have been following for about a year or so now ever since I discovered the first trade paperback at Camden Comic Con. The series follows the Bowmans, a family of vampires who live out in the American Midwest and just try to live their lives running a barbecue restaurant. But, when one of their own is killed, a generations-long blood feud is reignited. It’s a truly unique and different take on a classic monster, and I had the pleasure of asking the author himself about one of my personal favorite American comics:
JB: Redneck is such a unique and fascinating concept, how’d you come up with it?
DONNY CATES: Well, it started from the pun, you know? Red Neck? I thought to myself there’s gotta be a story like that already made. But there wasn’t, so I wrote it! [A lot of] the story is based on my own family and personal experiences.
JB: So then, what was your rationale for writing Redneck?
DC: Well, so many vampires in fiction are shown off to be these beautiful, idealized beings. I figure, there are trash people, so why aren’t there any trash vampires?
JB: [laughs] That makes a lot of sense!
After meeting Mr. Cates, I went on to my next panel of the day: Titmouse Animation, a panel run by and all about the animation studio of the same name. I went into the panel expecting/hoping for news on the next season of The Venture Bros., since Titmouse is the studio that produces that show and I am chomping at the bit for more content, yet I ended up putting that aside as the panel proceeded. Sean Covington, Sung-Jin Ahn and Benjamin Martian helmed the panel, showing off some of their favorite animations from Titmouse’s Five Second Day, a yearly festival where everyone at the office gets one week to produce an animation that is entirely their own and show it off. After that they showed off their work on the Amazon Original animated series Niko and the Sword of Light, showing great pride in the range of emotion and motion the characters had thanks to drawing everything out rather than relying on rigs as most ‘Flash’ animated series do.
Then we got to the real meat of the panel, Benjamin Martian’s tour through his and co-creator Andrew Koehler’s fifteen year journey to get their series TIGTONE, turned into a reality. I’d seen promos for the show on Adult Swim every now and again, but I had no idea the lengths and sheer artistry that went into creating this weird, WEIRD series. The unique style was accomplished by mashing 2D fantasy paintings with motion capture animation, achieved by strapping an actor to a workout bench and medical brace and filming them as they acted there. The pilot episode, The Begun of Tigtone took five years to make, and after it was published online they were discovered by Titmouse Animation and things went from there. All this gives me such a larger sense of respect for all the series people write off as “weird Adult Swim stuff”.
Following TIGTONE, the panelists briefly touched on their most current project, the runaway Kickstarter success that is the Critical Role animated series, which as of writing has raised over seven million dollars. Initially, the series was only planned to be two episodes long, but with so much funding the series will absolutely be extended.
After that, the panel was opened to questions, the first of which was “How do I get into the Animation Industry?” to which the answer can be boiled down to:
1. Keep working on your drawing
2.Take any opportunity that comes your way
3.Don’t rely on rigs for your animation
I also got to ask a question, directed to Benjamin Martian:
JB: My question is for Benjamin. Mr. Martian, you worked on TIGTONE for fifteen years. My question is, what kept you going, and how do you know if an idea is good enough to stick with for that long?
BENJAMIN MARTIAN: What kept me going? Passion, pure and simple. We felt like we had a story to tell and we just kept coming back to it. There was always this feeling we had like what we were doing was the right thing. And you know, if we hadn’t taken the five years to make The Begun of Tigtone, well… I wouldn’t be here.
After the panel ended, I spoke to Sean Covington, who said he would be open to any questions people had about the animation industry after the panel ended:
JB: Mr. Covington, I really want to get into the animation industry, but my strength, so I’ve been told, is Story and Storyboarding. What’s the best way to market that to potential employers?
SEAN COVINGTON: Well, I can’t speak for Story…
JB: Storyboarding then.
SC: Well, all I can really say is that all Storyboarders started as animators. You work at it and make sure your drawing skills are great. One day someone’ll come up to you and say “Hey! You can draw too! Come with me!” Things like that.
JB: Thanks for the tip!
After everyone dispersed I made my way to the FUNimation Industry Panel hosted by Tara McKinney, which took an in-depth look at what anime FUNimation was currently streaming, had recently released on home video or would be releasing in the coming months. For your convenience, here’s a list of every title FUNimation announced for release at that panel:
UPCOMING THEATRICAL RELEASES:
1. Fruits Basket (2019): First Episodes to be screened in Select Theaters March 2019
2. Code Geass: Lelouch of the Re;surrection – Coming May 2019
3. Anemone / Eureka Seven Hi-Evolution II – Coming 2019
ANIME COMING TO HOME VIDEO
1. Code Geass Film Trilogy – Out Now
2. One Piece: Episode of Sabo – Out Now
3. Darling in the FRANXX Part 1 – 3/26
4. My Hero Academia: Two Heroes – 3/26
5. Legend of Galactic Heroes: Dies Irae Complete Series – 3/26
6. Full Metal Panic: Invisible Victory – 3/26
7. Katana Maidens: Toji No Miko Part 1 – 3/26
1. Dragonball Super: Part 07 – 4/2
2. Golden Kamuy: Season One – 4/2
3. Dances With Dragons: The Complete Series – 4/2
4. Space Battleship Tiramisu – 4/2
5. Black Clover: Season 1 Part 4 – 4/9
6. Dragonball Super: Broly – 4/16
7. The Ancient Magus’ Bride Season 1 Part 2 – 4/16
8. Highschool DxD Hero – 4/30
9. Haikyu Hoshin Engi: Complete Collection – 4/30
1. My Hero Academia: Season 3 Part 1 – 5/7
2. Kakuriyo - Bed And Breakfast for Spirits: Part 1 – 5/7
3. Katana Maidens – Toji No Miko Part 2 – 5/21
4. Darling in the FRANXX Part 2 – 5/28
5. Chio’s School Road: The Complete Series – 5/28
1. Hellsing Ultimate: Complete Collection – 6/4
2. Hinamatsuri: Complete Collection - 6/4
3. Love Tyrant: Complete Collection – 6/18
4. The Master of Ragnarok & Blessing of Einherjar – 6/25
Another thing worth noting about many of these upcoming releases is that they are Blu-Ray only, which for me personally is a shame as I enjoy having the option of Blu-Ray or DVD, not being forced into one or the other. Then again, I suppose this is how people felt when VHS tapes started to cease being manufactured…
Getting out of my own head and onto the final event of my Emerald City Comic Con experience we have the Viz Media Industry Panel, hosted by Urian Brown and Fawn Lau. This was similar to the FUNimation Panel that preceded it, although it kept audiences more engaged with Prize Breaks, where the audience could answer questions to win prizes (which I did!) and with Q&A sessions with voice actors Amanda C. Miller (Boruto from Boruto: Next Generations and Sailor Jupiter in Sailor Moon) and Zach Aguilar (Genos from One Punch Man).
Amanda C. Miller was brought up first to make some new announcements and for her Q&A Session. She announced the first home video release of Boruto: Next Generations coming out on April 9th, 2019, as well as the home video release of Sailor Moon: Sailor StarS, the first half of the fifth season of Sailor Moon coming out later this year. Here’s a snippet of the Q&A:
URIAN BROWN: What’s your favorite scene from Boruto?
AMANDA C. MILLER: Any scene where he’s just talking to his Shadow Clones. It’s really funny and I’ve gotten to improvise a lot when dubbing those scenes!
UB: When you met Maile Flanagan (voice of Naruto) were you worried she was a Shadow Clone?
ACM: …Well I wasn’t then, but I am now!
After that, Zach Aguilar was brought out to do some announcements regarding One Punch Man’s second season, as well as his own Q&A. Of note was the premiere date – April 9th, 2019, and the fact that the new opening was made not only by JAM Project (the band who did the opening for season one) but was also composed by Ricardo Cruz, a Brazilian musician. Anime truly is going global! Here are some of the best bits from Zach Aguilar’s Q&A:
UB: So what do you two do to get into the heads of your characters?
ZACH AGUILAR: Oh well, I just usually watch the show and trust my director.
ACM: Not much, since deep down I am a twelve year old boy. [laughs]
UB: So what was your favorite scene from One Punch Man’s first season, Zach?
ZA: Probably the fight between Saitama and Speed-O-Sound Sonic where he gets punched in the… am I allowed to say that here? [laughs]
After the interviews, the panelists revealed some new manga and light novel titles coming out in the coming months. For those interested, here’s everything they announced:
1. Jujutsu Kaisen – Coming Fall 2019
2. An Incurable Case of Love – Coming Fall 2019
3. The Drifting Classroom: The Perfect Edition – Coming Fall 2019
4. A Tropical Fish Yearns for Snow – Coming Fall 2019
5. Transformers: A Visual History – Coming Fall 2019
6. My Hero Academia: School Briefs – Coming Fall 2019
7. Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind Artbook & Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind Picture Book – Both Coming Fall 2019
8. Nier Automata: Short Story Long – Coming April 2019
9. Jojo’s Bizarre Adventure: Diamond is Unbreakable – Coming May 2019
10. GANGSTA, Volume 8 – Coming May 18th, 2019
After those announcements, the panel showed a trailer for the upcoming video game being released by Viz Media, The World Next Door, which eagle-eyed readers may recognize from my NYCC article. Safe to say, I am still very excited to play this game and look forward to checking it out when it releases March 28th, 2019.
Last, but most certainly not least, Fawn Lau took the stage for the final announcement of the day – Viz Originals, a new printing brand from Viz Media that will be producing original graphic novels from! What’s truly exciting about this is that Viz will be accepting submissions for new titles, both online and at future conventions. Ms. Lau has said that “there will always be opportunities for it” and that submissions will be opening up later this year, with the first wave of releases coming sometime in 2020! Learn more at www.vizmedia.com/originals.
As an avid writer myself, this was monumental news to end Emerald City Comic Con! I can’t wait to submit my own work, and see what amazing stories come from this fantastic opportunity! One thing is for sure, my trip to Washington State and the Emerald City is not one I’ll soon forget.