Wondercon, held this past weekend in Anaheim, CA, was a 3 day weekend of seemingly non-stop action!
I hadn't exhibited at Wondercon in about 10 years or so. But since they relocated this year to Anaheim from San Francisco, I thought I'd best give it a try. And I'm glad I did. There was no shortage of memorable moments during the show, and that always makes these events worthwhile. I was splitting the table with friend and fellow comics creator Ted Seko, so that in itself made the weekend worthwhile as well.
Since I've started self-publishing in 1998, I must have done at least 75-100 conventions, store signings, book fairs, festivals, etc. But each time I have to give some thought and planning to how to lay out my table. So for the first time, I brought along a comic box (on the left) and filled it with my my entire catalog of comic books (save the one that's currently out-of-print). This was also the first time I debuted my Poster Comics, so a plastic 'milk crate' was the best way to display those.
The good thing about doing a local show is being able to go home after the first day and bring back either more product or display fixtures. I was thinking of retiring my ancient EL MUERTO banner, but there was plenty of room behind me, so I brought it and hung it up. Which was good, because I think it really helped get more attention in the isle I was in.
One thing about our location that I wasn't too thrilled about in the beginning was to our left was this massive, monolith:
This wall, surely the tallest wall I have ever seen, was one side of a bathroom planted right on the floor of the convention hall (because putting the bathroom along the side of the hall would have been too much extra work!). Anyway, that wall was one of the reasons I brought the banner the second day. May as well make the best visual impression you can given the circumstances. Thanks to STEAMCROW artist/co-owner Daniel Davis for mentioning that bit of advice to me on Friday...
WONDERCON is a pretty big show, so there were lots of vendors and lots of attendees. On Friday, the traffic in the Small Press area was light, but Saturday picked up tremendously, and in fact that was our best day. Sunday, while not as busy perhaps, still had plenty of buyers stopping by our table and picking up our goods.
It's always good to see so many artists setting up at a show to sell their work. There's always way space occupied by retail vendors and larger comics publishers, but it's the Artist Alley and Small Press area that gets me excited about the art of comics. I don't look at any of these artists as competitors, but rather I look at how do I keep my work in the public's eye, and how good of a job am I doing in being an effective exhibitor. There's only so much you can 'pitch', people either respond to the work or they don't.
Couple of things that stand out to me about this weekend: As the years go on, I hear from more people who've seen the EL MUERTO movie, which sometimes helps sell some DVDs. That just shows the constant and pervasive power of movies and television.
I was visited by a writer who moderated a panel I was on at the LA Latino Film Festival back in 2004, and another guy who interviewed me on JoBlo.Com back in 2005. A former student of one of my comic book workshops, from some 9 years ago, stopped by as well. He's in his early 20s now, which really shows me how much time has passed.
Also, two former employees from a comic store I used to shop at, (and later do signings at) back in the late 90s/early 2000s came by the table. A young lady whose doing her doctorate on comics made into films picked up some of my books, and I let her know she could contact me later if she had any questions I could help her with. Plus the usual mix of new readers ("Where do you suggest I start?") and old fans ("What do you have that's new?").
There were of course other friends and acquaintances I saw as well, but the ones I mentioned stand out because it really underscores to me how long I've been doing 'this'... Making my own comics and all the other experiences that have come with it. The movie, the teaching, the signings.... Man, it's been a great 14 years so far.
I did get a chance to walk around the convention hall and visit some of my friends, such as Neil Segura and Ray Mendivil, creators of FOREVER FRESHMEN:
John Narcomey of DRAW HARD STUDIOS in talks with an armored Batman fellow:
Back at my table, more of my friends stopped by to say 'Hello'. Here's the Queen of Hearts herself, the lovely Jenny Dos Santos:
My old pal Dean LeCrone , cartoonist, filmmaker, All-American Yancy Streeter, was walking the floor presenting some of us with his 2012 DOC SMITH YEAR OF DISASTER CALENDER. Dean's one cool dude, always has a positive attitude and twinkle in his eye. And another friend of mine, the exceptional Ms. Bernyce Talley, also came around at the same time to add some class and charm to my table, and to bust my chops (always a pleasure, believe me!):
Ted and I handled the weekend pretty good, I'd say. But there were times when the long days and slow patches would get to us! But then, a new wave of folks would stop by the table and liven things up. Here's Ted doing some free sketches for some appreciative kids:
All weekend long, Ted was producing some great little drawings using a $1 box of crayons! Most of these went to fans at no cost, and I even snagged a couple, the Man-Thing and Robin:
I had my marker brushes with me, so once in a while I'd do a sketch myself. Here's one of my character The Wake:
I even asked Ted if he'd like to make jam piece. I drew another of my characters, The Coma, and Ted really blew it out of the water with his crayon coloring! Photoshop? Bah, big deal!:
I only bought one comic that whole weekend. I walked by a booth called 'HIPPY COMIX' and knew I had to stop and look. I immediately started looking for back issues of Gilbert Shelton's WONDER WART-HOG and found this little gem for $10:
Hey, I might be at the convention to showcase my own work, but as a fan, there's so much to see and buy at every show that sometimes I gotta indulge myself!
Evenings of the convention were dedicated to dinner with friends, both local and out of town. That's one of the great reasons I love these conventions, meeting up with friends you don't get a chance to see normally. Sure, as I mentioned, the days are very long, and you're working every minute, either talking to endless streams of people, or fixing up your table, or wandering around the hall meeting friends and such. After dinner, it's a drive home, fall asleep, then get up for another 8, 9, 10 hour shift.
But at it's best, I get to make my comics, set up at a show, meet lots of interesting people, sell my goods, make some money, and generally have a great time, filled with some rich memories and experiences. Makes it all worthwhile.