Conventions Confuse Me


Ice-Bat poses with JoshI don’t normally do stuff like this, but wjcohen has been buggin’ me, so here’s a quick rundown of New York Comic-con weekend.

As I mentioned last post, it fell to me to run/manage Alternative Comics’ booth at the show, so bright and early Sunday I borrowed my pops’ car and drove the nine boxes of books to the Javits Center. Once there, things ran fairly smoothly as I parked the car, unloaded the books onto a dolly, got my badge, found my way to the spacious booth, and began to set it up. The banner I designed had been delivered as promised, and it looked REALLY good, which was a nice surprise.

Walking around a bit, I saw rest of the convention hall filling up with supersize exhibitors like DC, Dark Horse, Marvel, TokyoPop, et al., as well as the usual areas reserved for dealers, the innhabitants of artist alley, and the other consumer crap you see at mainstream cons. I said hi to purvision and ebess and acquired a nifty act_i_vate button. I said hello to Chris Staros as he was setting up the small Top Shelf booth and we agreed that we had no idea what to expect from the show. I got everything squared away in a couple of hours and was miraculously able to drive back home without hitting rush hour traffic.

Friday, the first day of the show, was split into a beginning section with press and industry reps (librarians, book buyers, professional services, etc.), so I gave away copies of Tomer Hanuka’s Placebo Man and collected a bunch of business cards for indymag to look over later. I was joined at the booth by damonhurdcomics, who was a big help in getting things squared away, and later on by Dash Shaw, Joel Orff, Lauren Weinstein, and Ellen Lindner.

The show officially opened to the fans at 4pm and it was a fairly slow day. Ironically, even though the company didn’t sell many books, and I spent zero time promoting my own work, I sold 8 copies of Katrina Came Calling and a couple each of Titans of Finance and The Vagabonds #1. Anyway, after the show I met Sari downtown and we grabbed a quick dinner before heading over to Jigsaw for chatterbox_dc‘s book release party for his entertaining romp of a debut book, Crazy Papers. By then it was 10:30 or so and I had to head back home to get enough sleep.

I was lucky to have Sari along as a booth helper Saturday because we got a late shipment of important booth stuff — display racks, money box, credit card slips, etc. — from indymag which needed shlepping to the con. As you’ve no doubt heard by now, Saturday was an insane mess. The show was mobbed with folks, so many in fact that they started turning people away shortly after noon! Gabrielle Bell, one of the AC cartoonists, wasn’t even able to get in, though bertozzi (and family), Robyn Chapman, Matt Madden, and Jon Lewis didn’t have any trouble.

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Sari and NUB chat it up while Jon Lewis and Dash Shaw promote their wares.

Like I said, the show was packed with fans (as well as a steady stream of costume-dressed weirdos), and we had tons of traffic going by the table. Said hi to lj-ers burningdove, sneakymonkey, zegas, iconotrast, mikedawsoncomic, deadredfred, rantcomics, leborcham, <lj user="incogvito", evandorkin, lordrexfear, and of course man_size, who was using our booth as a respite from the slavering hordes over at the DC/Vertigo staging area. And I exchanged quick hellos with other notables like Charles Brownstein, Chris Oarr, Greg Bennett, James Sturm, Terry Laban, Jessica Abel, Chris Radtke, Alex Robinson, and Kristen Siebacker.

Sales were much better than Friday — the highlight being when a rep from King Features Syndicate came by and literally bought one of everything we had — but not nearly enough to offset the booth’s exorbitant price tag. (Ah well, “c’est la vie,” says resilient publisher indymag.) And again, despite the fact that I had no time to push my own work, I sold fairly briskly: 4 A Few Perfect Hours, 4 more Katrinas, 1 Titans, and 2 more Vagabonds #1.

The highlight of Saturday for me, though, was meeting up with my Lizz, my ex-girlfriend from college (who actually knew Sari before I did), who I hadn’t seen in 13 years! She was in town with her boyfriend, and since she ocassionally writes about graphic novels for the Philadelphia Weekly, she came by to say hi. Sari was leaving the show just as Lizz showed up, so she gave Lizz her pass, which enabled Lizz to get by the bottleneck and actually into the con. (I know, strange symbolism there. Ahem.) It was great seeing Lizz and catching up after all these years, and she looks great!

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By show’s end, I was completely exhaustipated, staying on my feet for practically eight hours having to manage the booth, greet customers, take submission packets, wrangle the cartoonists, and keep track of sales. I don’t know how people do this for a living. I went straight home and lay on the couch for two hours, watching episodes of Lost with Sari. My feet were throbbing.

Sunday was a repeat of Saturday with slightly fewer sales. eeriemusic was a life-saver, as she helped run the booth for at least 4 hours. Her steady, charming presence undoubtedly led to more sales. Also representing Alternative were Jon Lewis & Karen Sneider, Lauren Weinstein, Sara Varon, and Tom Hart. The day’s highlights included having former-movie-star-and-still-gorgeous-mom, Phoebe Cates, come by the table, with movie-star-son-and-huge-man_size-fan, Owen Kline, in tow; and my photo opportunity with the guy dressed as the Ice-Bat Uglydoll (see pic, above).

Once again, I sold respectedly, with 5 more copies of Hours, 4 Katrinas, and 3 Vagabonds. I also took 5 copies of Katrina over to Jim Hanley’s booth, where incogvito took ’em for the store, so if you didn’t order them from me, look for copies at their 33rd Street location.

As the marathon weekend ended, I stopped by the Top Shelf booth to compare notes. Chris had unloaded most of his stuff, but he hadn’t packed much, so I’m not sure if the show was a giant success. Chris & Alex Robinson kindly gave me a copy of Tricked (I would have bought one, I swear!), so I gave each of them a Katrina Came Calling. As the show officially ended, Jon Lewis, Karen Sneider, and Top Shelf’s Aaron Renier helped me break down the booth and pack everything up for removal. With their assistance, I dumped the boxes into a cab and made it back home by 8:30pm. The rest of the night was again spent on the couch, easing the pressure on my throbbing tootsies. Thus ended my first-and-hopefully-final appearance in the role of publisher.

Much as I despise mainstream comic shows, this was fairly low key in the fanboy-body-odor-costume-geek quotient. I can only assume, however, as the show continues, that it will get more obnoxious. But for this show, I personally did surprisingly well. In fact, I sold more of my own books — by far — than I did at the last three indy shows I attended: APE, MoCCA, and SPX. Clearly, part of this was having a new book (Katrina Came Calling). But it also seems that I was exposing my stuff to new people, new eyeballs, so I may need to reassess my complete aversion to big shows. Seems like this is a continually evolving issue, with no pat answers.

0 thoughts on “Conventions Confuse Me

    1. Re: fyi
      i KNEW he had an LJ blog, but i couldn’t find it. thanks for the tip.
      p.s. i added the names of some other LJers i saw at the show and like an idiot neglected to mention. *blush*

  1. nice report… since you were actually inside. though the reports of people not making it in have been somewhat entertaining. good to hear you may consider more bigger shows. i know personally the only one i can afford myself is WW:chicago, since everything else seems to be on the coasts…

  2. Buggin ya
    Yeah, just because I’m bugging you, you casually happen to have a 1,243 word post at the ready with carefully chosen pictures.
    Hey, did you ask Lizzz to help you peddle books?!?
    So, on behalf of the online masses, thanks for this. But now we want a running diary of your breakfast this morning.

    1. Re: Buggin ya
      jeez, i give you what you demand, and you tweak me about it?!
      i’ll ignore the comment about lizz as i know to what you are referrin’, you dog you!
      p.s. leftovers:
      one egg benedict with spinach, on an english muffin
      half-eaten sausage
      soggy hashbrowns
      one strawberry
      orange juice
      tea with milk and sugar

      1. Re: Buggin ya
        You’re right to call me out – who am I kidding? I enjoy your dispatches immensely. But I never knew you were so susceptible to my suggestions!! Can I goad you into blogging about my Red Sox? Or maybe it goes beyond blogs – any interest in helping us paint the ol’ apartment?!?
        As far as Lizzz, seems like she stepped out of central casting based on the selling compadre you were seeking!! Sure you would have doubled your sales! You could also ask Phoebe Cates next year now that you have an in!

  3. The bannerdoes look great.
    I’ve always seen cons and fairs primarily as an opportunity to show the flag and do serious schmoozing; unloading merch is just the gravy. I realize that this is a dicey proposition for struggling publishers/vendors/artists, especially if they have to come in from way out of town, and particularly when the cost of tables and transportation has increased way over the baseline inflation.
    I wonder, though, how much The Internet is negating the value of the networking aspect of these shows. Apart from the expanded marketing opportunities over the Net, which bring your product to markets that were hitherto ignored (niche markets as well as those that are geographically remote), there are bulletin boards and forums where fans and industry types can do the kind of discussion that we used to do just at the hotel bar, and also the phenomenom of artists talking directly to each other and to fans through the Miracles of Livejournal, MySpace, etc.

    1. yes, those are all valid points to factor in.
      it actually surprised me to see so many folks at the show who clearly had never seen any Alternative Comics product. in fact, they may never have seen any alternative (e.g., “independent/underground”) comics at all.
      so on some level at least, the show functioned EXACTLY as it was supposed to: showing the flag (i like that term!), finding new readers, and shmoozing.

      1. Well, then, I rest my case 🙂
        And now I have to keep up on my part of the bargain, and flog/blog Katrina Came Calling.

      1. Yes, I was going to ask if she’s single, but then it occurred to me that I’m not single. Dang.
        Thanks for the recap. I like to get the vicarious con experience online whenever I can’t actually be there.

          1. thanks, doooood. i was pretty happy with how it came out — tho’ i would have loved to have a lasky contribution to it.

          2. I’d love to be a ‘regular’ in the Alternative Universe… Maybe if Jeff wins enough contests he could actually pay us to make comics.

  4. Glad you were entertained by our romp! Thanks for coming to JIGSAW and picking it up. Your story about reading it together with Sari on the train was too cute. Rachel and I always fight when we read things together, mostly because I have this weird peeve thing about people reading over my shoulder.
    I need you and man-size to introduce me to Phoebe next time. He told me about that at dinner on Sunday and I was like, “godDAMNit”!

  5. Aw, you do care… 🙂
    I still sucky about not getting to you in a non exhaustive state, but then again I do have that sketch of Sari in her Halloween costume and I don’t think anything you ever do as a sketch might surpass that in coolness.

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