It has been said of Bill Clinton that election day was his best friend, primarily because despite all the trials and tribulations, and scandals, and ups and downs in politics..come election day…he knew how to win. and THAT was what mattered.
I suppose convention day would be my best friend, because at a convention CONTENT matters. All the hype and glitz and big budget are neutralized. It is the content of the book the passerby sees vs the content of the other books. It is a random chaotic bar fight of ideas, and I like nothing more than breaking a bottle and wading through the melee and shredding the faces of anyone who dares pit their work against mine. The ones who have such hubris get to watch me empty box after box of Arsenic Lullaby into the hands of readers who thankfully hand over cash to one entity not insulting them with used up characters and thinly veiled and poorly drawn soft core pornography. It is brilliantly entertaining content vs “publishers” beating what is left of the dead horse and/or peddling jerk off material for cretins who are too embarrassed to get an erection unless the woman is wearing a cape. And so I LOVE the big conventions, I get to peel off reader after reader from the larger companies who are kind enough to lure fans into the door with their glitz and hype only to have those readers see the light of salvation, from sub pare books living off of the ideas of dead men, that is Arsenic Lullaby…
I must admit, I have come to like the smaller conventions as well.
The CCI, and C2E2 and Mega Cons of the world are a thrill for me and attendees, and well worth the time and money for everyone involved. but they are a different animal from smaller conventions. The Super Bowl is great, but sometimes it’s good to just go in the backyard and throw the ball around. A good example would be the convention I attended recently in Cape Girardo Missouri “Cape Con”. These smaller to medium shows have a different feel. There is a sense of community and a personality to them. You know who is running the show, you see him or her walking around and checking up on things. You might think that having one person clearly in charge would be at odds with feeling like part of something but it doesn’t. Because there is one accessible entity running things…things can be improved quickly and easily. Everyone has the sense that what they say matters and so everyone feels like they have a part in the success of the show. Because they all know the guy, and he’s local, it becomes their city’s show. Even if they don’t have some convention improving idea they all pitch in for the sake of helping make sure their show is good. And maybe because one guy is conspicuously in charge , that guy puts a bit more effort into making sure things run smooth and everyone has a good time…OR maybe it’s just in the nature of guys who succeed in this type of thing to put other people first…I suppose it’s a “chicken or the egg first ” situation. The bottom line is, these smaller shows are a lot of fun precisely for the opposite reason the bigger shows are fun. The smaller cons have no cut throat competitive vibe to them. Pretty much everyone at “cape-con” just wanted everyone else to have fun. The volunteers were helpful and knew where everything was, the vendors and exhibitors had no problem pointing people in the direction of other tables if they had something the fan was looking that they didn’t have in stock. There’s just …I dunno…and feel that this is a town holiday and not an event. …I’m not sure I’m laying that out right…whatever.
HERE is something that Cape-Con did that I thought was brilliant…AND problem solving at the same time. Their show was in more or less a gymnasium. They didn’t really have other sizable side rooms for the standard costume contest and auction and whatnot but they DID have a big stage at the front of the room and a P.A. system. So on Sunday they had the costume contest on that stage during the convention. Now, you would think having a half hour of the convention interrupted by a bunch of cos players mugging for the crowd would annoy the sh*t out of me. I didn’t actually. It was kind of cool. At most shows the only time I see the cos players is when they are clogging up the isles getting pictures taken by total strangers ( for reasons I cannot fathom both sides enjoy this). At Cape-Con thought, because everyone knew there would be a time and place for that activity…everyone waited and had their fun with it at the appointed time. It worked out great for everyone. The cos players got to be onstage and show off for the entire crowd rather than stop every five minutes for a picture that would o doubt be photo boomed by an annoyed Illustrator holding up his middle finger. This was good also for the people who wanted pics of the elaborate costumes., and it worked out great for us working men. I knew when it was going to go on and wasn’t caught of guard by having traffic randomly interrupted for the sake of picture-taking. AND for once, I got to see all the costumes without the bitter taste of my cash flow being hindered by them. We all got to watch and applaud for our favorites and see who won. My favorite was the swamp thing…a lot of work went into his. The announcer asked questions of each contestant…”how old are you?” “how long did your costume take?” Maybe the grinches heart grew three sizes that day because I was genuinely interest after about five minutes or so. You start to appreciate the costumes a bit more after you hear they spent 20 hours on them ( okay part of me still wondered why they would spend that amount of precious free time doing such a thing, but hey…everyone needs a hobby) and the kids telling how old they were clued me into what age a child is when they are old enough to outrun me or put up a decent struggle.
The point is…these smaller shows adapt and each have their own personality. and for guys like me that all translates nicely into $$$. Because people who are having fun spend $$$ and people who are not just get what they came for and get out. But it’s not all about the $$$ believe it or not. If I just wanted to make a lot of dough and be annoyed the whole time I could have been a lawyer. I do these shows to interact with readers and meet new ones and generally screw around and have a few laughs. The smaller shows are a great place for that.
In just a few weeks is my favorite show (aside from CCI) for a lot of reasons. It is the MCBA Spring Con in St.Paul MN. If you want to know what a comic book convention should be, go to this one. It is cheap, the parking is free, it is easy to find, it is FULL of comic book pros ( 250 tables devoted to that…TWO HUNDRED AND FIFTY..can any wizard world show claim that? nope…and if they do it is a lie.) and FULL of vendors with one of a kind stuff, AND is has a charity art auction that every year has comic book art that collectors would kill for. Even if you aren’t going to shell out for such work, it’s worth going to see this stuff up close, some of it is downright amazing and some of it belongs in a comic book history museum somewhere.
Those are all reasons this is a great show. None of those are the reason it’s my favorite though. That reason goes back to the “sense of community” I talked about earlier. Everyone at that show is treated great. That goes for the guests as well…and it has since I started out over a decade ago and no one had any reason to know or care who I was. I had maybe four issues of Arsenic lullaby to my name and no idea what or if I had any place in this industry. It was all fighting tooth and nail and competition and struggle and butting heads with the rest of the industry up to that point. I set up there and was welcomed, and learned what my place was because they knew what it was. I am the bad guy, and that’s okay because that is a piece of the puzzle as necessary as any other piece. They didn’t shove me in the corner or ignore me, they put me right out there and even put me on my first panel and let me run my mouth in my own entertaining way. For the first time I was allowed to add to the success of a show because they put the round peg in the round hole instead of trying to jam it in the square hole. They more or less took a look at me and said “okay…this is what you do…so go do it. There are people who like that sort of thing, Other people will do the other stuff”. Like I said…the smaller shows adapt, they take what they are given and make use of it. (It’s not fair though to keep calling MCBA a small show…that’s just my nostalgia talking. ) Shows like this are where you get to see everything unfiltered and unbridled and allowed to shine to the best of its ability.
and ain’t that what you go to a comic book convention for?