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Follically Challenged Productions Presents:






ANYTHING GOES: JIM DEMONAKOS, CON MAN

THE BACKSTORY:
I’ve mentioned the Emerald City Comicon in this column before; my appearance at the 2007 show was a key moment in terms of meeting new friends and collaborators, not to mention cementing my integration into the Seattle Comics Mafia. As I write this, the 2008 ECCC is a week away, and I couldn’t be more excited.

ECCC’s man in charge, Jim Demonakos, is simply a really cool guy. You know the type. I’ve never really hung out with the guy per se, but our encounters at various events have always been extremely pleasant. Jim is friendly, talkative and quick to laugh. Furthermore, he and his convention cohorts are accommodating to a fault; you can’t throw a silver Sharpie in that great big con room without hitting an employee or volunteer ready to see to your every need.

The Emerald City Comicon is growing by leaps and bounds every year, and I’m proud to be a part of it. This year’s show promises to be bigger and better than last year’s, further proving itself as a key West Coast comics event. Look out, San Diego – you’ve got a distant cousin who just might be a contender to take over the top spot.

You can find out more about the ECCC at www.emeraldcitycomicon.comafter you read my one-on-one interview with The Mighty Demonakos, of course…

BJ: Jim, you’ve certainly made a name for yourself as a convention organizer, but you’ve been working in the comics industry for quite a while now. Can you tell us a little bit about the path you’ve been on thus far?

JD: I’ve been a life-long comic book fan and after college, I was a bit tired of running around to various comic shops because no single store carried everything I wanted. So, along with my brother and another friend, I opened my first comic shop (The Comic Stop) in March of 2000. Then, due to the success of that store, I opened a second store in 2002.

Around that time, I had also started traveling out to other conventions, like WonderCon, Chicago and San Diego. I would always come back to the Northwest a bit disappointed that we didn’t have a large show that brought both great creators and exhibitors to the fans here. So, being that I didn’t have enough on my plate running two stores, I said “How hard can it be?” and decided to start the Emerald City ComiCon.

After a few years of running ECCC, I accepted a job at Image Comics as their PR & Marketing Coordinator. That was a lot of fun and I did that for a couple years and eventually came back to Seattle. I got back to running things at ECCC full time and just recently we opened a third store, making us the largest chain of comic book stores in the state of Washington.

BJ: What is Sofos Media?

JD: Sofos Media is my company, which is comprised of me, myself and I. Seriously though, Sofos is a boutique representation and production company. We focus on getting graphic novels in to other media, specifically video games.

Sofos also serves as an umbrella company I put together to encompass all the side projects and freelance work I’m doing in the comics industry.

BJ: Exactly how crazy do you have to be to run a convention? I’m sure you have an expert answer for that question…

JD: No expert answer here. The answer is just as crazy as anyone else who decides to try to do their own thing and be their own boss without a safety net behind them. Who dares wins, yeah?

BJ: Do you remember your first comic convention?

JD: Yep, it was one of small local shows that we have up here. I remember being completely blown away that I could meet the people making the comics I loved. I think I was 9.

The first national convention I went to was Wizard World Chicago in their second or third year, so a while back. Talk about shock, compared to the 400 attendee shows that I was used to, this thing was massive! I think that started sowing the seeds of starting my own show up in Seattle.

BJ: As the 2008 show looms, how do you think it compares to your first attempt?

JD: It’s funny, but I have the same dread I had before the first show. Will anyone show up? Will there be problems at the show? Will everything be shipped in time? Will someone not show up? Etc, etc… I think there’s obviously a lot of polish and we’ve been to the dance enough times that all the wheels turn the right way (is that enough metaphors for you? I don’t even think that makes sense!). In the end, I just work hard to make sure the show has a lot of great guests, cool exhibitors, fun events and hopefully everything works out!

BJ: The ECCC has really come into its own as a major show and it seems to be growing exponentially every year. How big can it get, realistically?

JD: Realistically? I think we can crack a million.

That said, I think it could eventually expand to a three-day show, but I’m happy to continue to grow it as a very solid two day show and we’ll see what the future holds.

BJ: Is there anything the Emerald City show doesn’t have that you’d like to be able to feature in years to come?

JD: There’s some things, I think it would be fun to do more events at the show and really expand the programming. I think it would be great to do workshops on breaking in to comics, art lessons, etc, actually on-site. Just cool value-add things. Plus, more booth babes. Seems we haven’t had many of those… ?

BJ: It came as a real shock to me that the Pacific Northwest is so heavily populated with comics-related talent. Did you grow up here, or are you a transplant like so many of us?

JD: I grew up here, though my family moved here when I was 6. I was born in Montana but hardly have any real memories of it, my whole life as I remember it has been here.

BJ: Your brother George is involved with the show as well. What’s the division of labor there? Do you have clearly designated duties, or is it more of an “all hands on deck” situation?

JD: There’s four of us that run the show; aside from George, there’s Brian Meredith and Chris Rangel. All the guys are also involved in The Comic Stop chain of stores.

We have a pretty clear delineation of duties. George handles travel arrangements and accommodations, Brian takes care of exhibitors and registration, Chris handles the volunteers and staffing and I do the rest.

BJ: Were you both comic book fans growing up? Was it a serious thing, or did that develop later in life?

JD: Yeah, we were both fans growing up. My brother was a huge Iron Man fan from when we first started reading comics (so he’s currently quite happy with the movie and all the cool IM merch floating around). I read Fantastic Four and X-Men. Early on, we were both Marvel guys, though I also read Green Lantern from DC. It was just something that we never stopped. Sure, like anything, some months you were getting a lot and others you were getting just a few, but overall, we’ve both been reading comics since we were kids.

BJ: Did you always plan to work in comics (in some capacity)?

JD: Not really, but in a way, it made sense. When I was growing up, I wanted to be an animator or artist for animation. I went to school for Fine Arts and always read comics and enjoyed the art more than the story, especially early on.

I got derailed by working for myself pretty early on in college, doing freelance web design and such. I went to a different school and got a degree in computer animation, but aside from an internship doing that, I pretty much went back to web design. This was the dot com boom and I was doing good freelancing, though I never got any of the real cash that was floating around at that time, but whatever.

I got enough that, along with George & Brian, I opened the first Comic Stop. After that, I just kept moving in the direction of comic books and eventually it became my career. I couldn’t be more thrilled, I love comics and I gotta say, I love my job(s).

BJ: Okay, it’s time to be completely honest, because we all know what brothers are like: do you and George ever have a con-related disagreement that ends with a fight in the backyard?

JD: I would love to say yes, because I would be interested to find out what kind of con-related argument would lead to some good ol’ fashioned fisticuffs, but sadly that’s not the case.

BJ: One subject that seems to be dominating this year’s event is the outpouring of support for artist Josh Medors in his time of need. How do you feel about being able to use the show as a platform for a good cause?

JD: I couldn’t be more thrilled, the show has always been very supportive of the comics community and charities, such as the CBLDF and the Hero Initiative, but this is taking it to another level. The outpouring of support for Josh has been incredible, I’m surrounded by piles of amazing art that have been generously donated and I hope that people will come with their wallets open to help out Josh at this critical time for him.

BJ: One final question, my friend: you have the opportunity to be involved with any one established comic series – past, present or future - for a full year. What book is it and what role do you play?

JD: Hmm…. true fanboy style, I’d have to go with the Kirby/Lee Fantastic Four. A reprint of #1 is what got me in to comics, so I would have loved to be involved in pretty much any capacity, even if it was just to be editor and get to listen to the crazy ideas that those two were putting down on the page every month.

BJ: That’s a wrap, kids. If you’re not already planning to attend this year’s Emerald City Comicon, stop what you’re doing and make it happen! (And make sure you stop by my table to show some love!)

Brandon Jerwa

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