I decided to do this show a little different than I did the DuPage show. First, there was the poster. Unsure what would be the correct size, I grabbed two different prints, a 16X20 and a 18X24. I took the larger of the two with me. I also picked up an easel from Hobby Lobby. I meant to grab one last weekend, but forgot about it. So I grabbed it the Friday before the show. Turns out it was for the best. The easel was on sale, about $9 instead of $13. I also grabbed an extra tin of Altoids. I'm paranoid about my breath, and will suck down an entire tin in a weekend without realizing it (shoulda seen the look on my sweetie's face when she realized what was happening).
I went to the bank and pulled out my now-customary roll for these things -- $100 in fives and $100 in singles.
Sez one of my buddies, “The teller probably thinks you're going to a strip club.”
Sez I, I'm a grown man who does a comic book about a little girl who is friends with a mermaid. Rumors like that can only help.
I also decided that sitting at an empty wood table was bullshit, so I grabbed myself a tablecloth. Finding a tablecloth was interesting. I wanted a blue one. Blue is my favorite color, it's my table, it's my choice. Couldn't find one at Walmart. They had red, red with pattern, and cream with pattern, but no blue. Kmart had red, red with pattern, cream, and blue with countrified pattern. But no blue. Target? Same thing. I decided I was done fucking around and went to Bed Bath And Beyond. Low and behold, blue tablecloth. I would have been happy with a generic one, but they only had the fancy microfibre ones. "Spilled water just beads right off!" Fine. $40 out the door. Also grabbed a chair cushion while I was at it for $10.
The night before, I'm considering my options. At the DuPage show, I had all my comics in separate boxes. I really didn't feel like lugging so much bullshit back and forth this time, so I hit on an idea. I took some of my mailer boxes and redid the organization. The smallest mailer held the Stress Puppy graphic novels and went in the regular laptop pack with Pam (Compaq Presario 1247, Puppy Linux) and Maria (IBM T20, WinME). Took a regular mailer and filled it with seven complete runs of Head Above Water. That went in the pack with Kylie (IBM S10) and my digital camera. Then, I took two more mailers and filled them with eight complete runs of Sound Waves, making 16 copies of each issue total. Last time, I had two bins of computer games in DVD cases. This time, just one, mixing and matching to fill it in. With my art boards, I could conceivably make it to and from my car in two trips.
Well, so much for that plan.
I was late getting to the show because I was having a fight with my GPS. It wouldn't accept the proper address for the Grayslake County Fairgrounds. So, wandering around, I got in the neighborhood and tried entering the name. It did find the Lake County Fairgrounds, and it was a few miles away from where I was. I hit go. Turns out, that was the OLD fairgrounds, I didn't have the update with the new location. A county worker saw me wandering around and pointed me in the general direction of the new fairgrounds. His directions were off, so I tried the GPS again, hoping to hit the general area. Turns out it was on the route the unit plotted. And the original address I had put in? Off by about three miles. Technology is a beautiful thing.
I got to the fairgrounds just as lightning was flashing in the sky. I parked as close as I dared and went in. I got to the admin table and got my dealer badge. It took them a while to find my table. Because I was late, the guy at the area next to mine appropriated my table, so the identifying sign was covered under a mass of Star Wars toys. Please note this is nothing to be offended about, it's an unofficial rule of con dealing – if you don't show, your space is fair game. The key is, do they give it back if you turn up? This guy was a real sport and gave it up, so no bad blood as far as I'm concerned. Time to bring my stuff in.
By now, it was starting to rain. I didn't want my stuff to be ruined. I used to keep a couple of lawn garbage bags in my car to transport my art back and forth with, but I had gotten rid of them. Shit, I thought! If only I still had a waterproof covering to bring my stuff in underneath....
...like a blue microfibre tablecloth that water beads right off of....
I got to my car and ripped open the package, shrouding the poster with it and dashing inside the building. The package was right, water just beads right off. A little got absorbed by the tablecloth, but it was so little, it evaporated by the next trip to the car. I grabbed my drawing board, the bin, and the comic boxes and raced back. Then I grabbed my packs of computers. I got lucky on the size of the tablecloth, too. Just a few inches hung off each side. Luck was with me.
Luck was with me in another important way. These places try to have racks of folding chairs for people to use. Well, the dealers area sold out and people were taking three or more chairs at a time. By the time I got there, no chairs for me. So, between the fucking rain and the "Oh, we need four chairs even though I'm the only person here," any happy feelings I had were gone. As I started setting up the easel, I wondered to myself if it was really worth going through with this. Maybe I should just go home and call it a weekend. Then I thought, You came this far, you already spent your money, and what else are you going to do this weekend? Go see The A-Team?
So I got everything put up. I'm glad I picked the large Sound Waves poster, because I was still confused about the proper way to assemble the easel (no instructions), and the results would have let the smaller poster slip through to the floor. Time for some cheap therapy. I pull out my art boards to start drawing Rhapsody and Melody for a while, which always makes me smile. That was when luck kicked in. The guy next to me I mentioned? He and his wife saw me kneeling on the floor and offered me one of their chairs. I said I didn't want to take from them, and besides, I used to be a union worker, I'm used to being on my knees all the time (thank you! I'll be here all week!). But he said there's only one of them sitting at a time, so please. I gratefully accepted. And made a note that, the next day, I'd bring my drum throne with me. THAT I can sit on all day (and have, in fact). So, yes, I was literally going to spend all day on the throne. And thanks to the padding I won't need a... ahem... stool softener.
And so began the usual thing of nodding to the crowd and waiting for them to react. Those that kept walking, I was friendly with. Those that came for a closer look, I would tell them about the comics that had caught their eye. I am a firm believer in low pressure. I made sure to specifically make eye contact with women or parents with daughters in tow to sell Sound Waves.
Something curious – the computer with Cloudburst didn't get a mention. People didn't notice Stress Puppy at all. And they pretty much disregarded Head Above Water. A couple of, “That sounds interesting”s, but nothing more. But Sound Waves? “Oh, my daughter loves mermaids!” “Oh, my niece would love this book!” “Cool! Mermaids!” Never would have thought mermaids were such great attention getters. Maybe I should do another series with them. Of course, translating that into sales is another problem. I wound up selling only two books, Sound Waves #1 and #2. The woman bought them for her daughter, but she read through them and just raved about them. Turns out we're both going to be at Wizard World. She told me to keep the rest of the issues handy, she was thinking of buying them. And anyone that came around my table when she was there, she talked up Sound Waves like an agent.
Other pros from their booths came around. Typ O Comics was looking over my display, and one of them really was digging Sound Waves. He said he'd likely pick up a set on Sunday. I guess he changed his mind, though, which goes with the turf. Cherokee Hall was great to talk with. From running in the trenches of B movies and making my own, the two of us were speaking a unique language, one I was thrilled to still be fluent in. Totally great guy, as was Mike Holman.
It occurred to me that Sound Waves is a truly unique commodity in the comic book world. Most comic book stuff is specifically angled at male older readers. And here's Rhapsody and Melody, the only game in town if you were looking for books for girls. And not just any books for girls. Said one guy, “I can read these to my daughter without going crazy.” It wasn't that the books were perfect for girls, it was that they were perfect for anyone to read, it's just that girls were the most likely demographic. Sound Waves wasn't viewed as Strawberry Shortcake or Barbie, where a bunch of things girls should like were thrown together to be purchased by parents for girls, they are actually good stories that were appreciated on their own merits, not for following a checklist of girlie cliches. I seem to have a knack for coming up with these “There's nothing else like it on the market” things, like the old PK Hunter series. Good to see one of them actually get out of the gate.
Jim Mitchell came by my table, and asked a lot of questions about my artistic influences. He filled in some gaps in my knowledge of the black and white boom in general and the history of Kitchen Sink Press in particular. I told him about the current state of the direct market and the hazards of starting at this time. I mentioned to him about web comics. He said he wasn't sure. I directed him to Illiad's book on how to make a living with click from web content. He said he'd think it over. Good enough for me. I wasn't trying to convert him, just give him an option.
I made sure to get there on time on Sunday (the concession stand food was actually very good, and unlike the Rosemont Convention Center, it doesn't turn to concrete once it hits the stomach). I got a quick read on the day. Cathy St. George and the folks from Mountain Mafia came in relatively late. It seemed most of the business was people with tables visiting other people with tables and looking over their stuff. Lots of people bemoaning the low turnout, mentioning things like Father's Day and graduations and the show would be better if they scheduled it for another weekend. At least it didn't snow this time.
It seems to me there's some little piece of the puzzle I'm missing. I mean, I have the right idea, I'm clearly on the right track. It's just that, for all the suggestions that these things will work out, they aren't. (Note: this is not just these local shows, either. Remember, a lot of people in the Artist Alley at C2E2 and quite a few boothers were doing poorly as well.) I just can't figure out what it is yet. Still working on it.
Talked with Connie Faye for a while. I thought her name on the appearance list was just a misprint, like Russell Lissau's was. Nope, she was there, and I didn't run into her until almost the end of Sunday. We caught up and shared some laughs about Rob Liefeld's artwork. I brought with the pages of the Sound Waves Christmas Special I had been drawing that weekend, and she loved it. On the way back, I saw Heather “Scream” Price. She was with the crew for Mountain Mafia and another upcoming movie called My Bloody Wedding. I had seen her wandering around quite a bit, actually, but I never made the connection. She smiled, “Well, the picture there was before I lost a lot of weight.”
Not only was I diplomatic, I was honest. “Actually, it was the curly hair that threw me.”
She was charging $5 for an autograph. Tromettes charge at least $20. She also took a picture with me. She saw my Sound Waves pages and asked if I drew them. I showed them to her. It threw me a little to see a goth vamp squeeing over my characters.
Learned a little more about the so-called “renegades” at Wizard World. One of my contacts told me that Wizard World had undersold and people in the Artist Alley were simply commandeering tables, and WW was letting them slide because they needed the draw. Nope. Turns out it's a standby program. You put your name on a list, and if they have space, you get the table for free. The problem is, lots of people weren't getting their tables until the second half of the day on Sunday. So, no. Not for me.
As far as money goes, the convention didn't pay shit. But what about other things? The possible leads? Well, one table near mine was a dealer who also puts on a comic book show. I talked with him and we got along great. He mentioned his show and asked if I would consider coming as a guest artist. Ooo, a convention full of people looking to buy comic book stuff. This could be worthwhile....
Also, the woman who bought Sound Waves? She and her husband are on a contact list for a convention in Minnesota. Two day show, artists get tables for free, they take care of food for them (the money is paid by dealers who set up on the convention floor). The only real catch would be, “What can you do to promote the show?” I asked if Sound Waves would actually be considered there, given my complete lack of street cred.
“From what I've seen of other artists there, you'd be in the top tier.”
They promised to e-mail me information as soon as the next mailing goes out.
So, for $65, I met a lot of swell people, got eight pages penciled and inked, and nabbed two boffo leads.
Money well spent.