(pics at bottom)
“amid all chaos there is calculation”
“we don’t need luck, we have talent”
Comic-Con International. 150,000 plus people. A convention center 7 city blocks long, three city blocks deep, full of every publisher, video game company, t.v. network, movie studio, and toy company even remotely related to comic books…and I do mean “remotely related”. It is, for me and many others, on the other side of the country from not only ourselves, but our printer, merchandise, display, gear, our car, and the usual places and people we turn to in the case of last-minute emergencies. That is what you are walking into, with your career and possibly financial ruin on the line.
Dwight D Eisenhower would have to think twice about jumping into that mess at those odds.
But once again this year I did. “I”…what a sick joke.
routinely over the course of any given hour at that show, and new reader asks someone at my booth “who does the book?” They will say “that guy there does it all” or “it all comes from the brain of this guy” or I will say “That’s all my work there”. It would be funny if it didn’t secretly make my skin crawl. At any point in the day I have four people helping me at the booth. They talk to about 200 people each, per day, and not only refrain from punching some attendee in the face ( or me in the face) but somehow keep a level of enthusiasm about this body of work. Before the show people help get the supplies to the booth, help set up the booth, help set up the display, help make decisions on what looks best where, help make decisions on how to pair up items for package deals in a way that makes sense. Before I even get there people help me stay organized, help explain to my dinosaur like brain, how to use my smart phone for all the things I, if left to my own devices, would save in a disorganized mess of papers in a manilla folder.
“It’s all this guys work”.
pfft. It’s like a football game. The quarterback throws some nice spiral pass for the winning touchdown and everyone cheers and goes on about the quarterback, forgetting that he was being protected from being pummeled into the lower mantle of the earths crust by murderous linebackers…protected by skilled, tough, solid, savvy linemen…so he could stand there and look pretty and throw a football unmolested. All I can do is try to keep things moving forward, upward and onward and reward all of our efforts with success, and hope there is some personal reward in the knowledge that they backed ideas and stories that ended up growing into something really big that touched a lot of other people.
I get to look pretty and soak up the praise. Sure, I draw and write an amazing f*cking comic book, but let’s look at why I am able to do that. I am able to do that because I am successful at these shows, and the books is successful at stores and online and thus I can pay my bills and spend my work week improving my skills and thus improving the book. The rule of thumb is it takes 10,000 hours to master a craft. I am a master of sequential storytelling, there is no denying that. I am because the hard work of others allowed me to get to that 10,000 hour mark quickly and keep my skills at a polished level. and that is what allows me to make a book as good as Arsenic Lullaby. Yep…I can write and draw stuff pretty good…because a whole lot of other people made sure whatever spark they saw in me was allowed to reach maturity.
Hard work and patience and determination provided by others for reasons I’ll never know, and that I’ll likely never be able to repay, and someone comes up to my table and asks who does this book, and I say “that’s all me”. Because…that’s what you ares supposed to say and at a convention that size, with so much on the line, that’s all you have time to say. By “supposed to say” I mean, in this day and age, you are expected to be as entertaining, weird, and ego driven as the book you produce (luckily for me..I am) and no one wants to hear you give a nod to anyone else, they just want to know who the f*ck they should have autograph to thing.
So, I spent 5 days with the entire comic book industry in one building and a non stop succession of people wanting my autograph and telling me how awesome I am. I’m not going to lie. That is fairly rewarding. And it blurs the lines of reality for even a mature, grounded, ego…much less and ego like mine that is already suspect. SO…those of you who helped me or where around me the last month or so…if I put my foot in my mouth, or took a joke too far, or seemed a bit pretentious or blowhard like, or was just a pain in the balls in general. Eh, sorry, my brain wash caught in an updraft of a tempest. I didn’t mean anything by it, and am fully aware that all I do is draw, and write comedy and I ain’t saving lives or fighting terrorists.
As for Comic-Con International itself. I went on at length last year about how the show had all but completed its transition to a comic-con in name only. That it had little to nothing to do with comics and more importantly the attendees wanted little to nothing to do with comics. Movies, T.V. shows, video games, toys….that was the general direction of Comic-Con International for the last few years and my guess was that 2015 would probably be my last at that show, as there are greener pastures and better venues out there for comic book publishers than being the bastard child/afterthought at a show that has forgotten where it started.
This year, for reasons I cannot fathom, the mood was a complete 180 degree turn. First off, people were in a much better mood in general. If I had to guess, I would say CCI must have changed something to get people in the door quicker and in a more organized way, and scattered everything differently so that it was less stressful for the attendees. That would just be a GUESS. From where I am positioned I have no way of knowing how the lines are formed or what is going on as far as them directing foot traffic. Usually though, the better organized and quicker people get in , the better their mood.
Not only that, people were more curious, more interested in seeing something new. Last year people knew what they wanted and went to what they wanted…and that was that…and heaven help anyone who tries to avert their trajectory. This year, often times, people where stopping and doing a double take at our comic and walking up to look it over all on their own. The people we stopped were curious and even excited to see new things, and find the indy book their friends don’t even know about yet. The whole vibe of the show was different this year. It was more of a “what is out there I don’t know about yet?!” as opposed to last years “I am here for what I already like…and that is all I would like “.
I would say I felt a lot like it did about five years ago…fun. Was the last year or two just a hiccup? or was this year just one last hurrah, the grand finale of attendees going to have fun and find new things before the tide of jags searching for crap to put on ebay, pound their way to panels to hear what the third ewok to the left has to say about the new star wars movie, drowns us all for good? Time will tell. If you made me take a guess…it sure felt like things changed back to their natural state and the last two years were perhaps just the residual bi-product of trends, fades, and viral enthusiasm. Perhaps the legendary, ever-increasing cost in time and effort to get a ticket is once again making this the show for hard-core comic book fans and keeping the people with it on their bucket list searching for plane tickets to Amsterdam instead.
I know at our booth we could barely keep up with the traffic and demand. About 300 ashcans and 230 TPBs found new homes ( we could have moved more of those but thanks to poor packing and the lack of giving a sh*t by fedex about 70 then were damaged). Ran out of most shirt sizes, sold out of a bunch of prints, sold out of original artwork. I got beat ONCE on Deadwood trivia, with only 3 hours left to go I was stumped on a line…since I am a man of my word, I had to give 50% off to the c*cksucker who shrewdly took a really nice one page story home with him. Sunday was not only our biggest day, It may have been out biggest Sunday ever. Which bodes even better for Arsenic Lullaby than just the vibe of the show. When people come back on Sunday, after having 21 square city blocks of comic books and pop culture crap to choose from, and make you their last purchase…you are really doing something right.
One fly in the ointment…the Voodoo Joe silk-screened posters didn’t get there in time, which is good news for the rest of you I suppose.
anyhoo…here are some behind the scenes pics..sorry I don’t have more I was really f*cking busy.
Yeah..thanks printer, just throw them in a single layer box with a sheet or two of packing paper, that’ll get them across the country unharmed no problem. *&^%$#$@
stage one-throw down the tablecloth so they know you are here..then march off to fed ex for the rest of the shipments.
unpack, decide on the prominent table display…the masterfully welded custom version I made (black) …or the ho hum traditional pre fabricated model (white…like white bread…as is in BORING)
Setting up the banner requires the work of men taller and heavier than myself, as it weighs as much as I do and the laws of physics make my considerable physical strength null and void.
Nice of Jarrett to supervise while other people did the work. (Don’t look at me like that, taking picture is work)
The traditional dripping blood alerts parents that despite the cartoony look, they may want to keep their kids from perusing the pages. …HEY! WTF is the white display doing at the prime corner?!
While the book can stand on it’s own merit, it doesn’t hurt to have a couple of lookers behind the booth…for when my head is down doing sketches and my baby blue eyes are obscured from the view of passersby.
530 some odd sketches in 5 days.. I like to customize sketches when time permits.
(btw, when you post A.L. pics on FB tag us, and if you have pics, send them to us!)
Thanks to Joe, Christine, Jarrett, Emma, John, Allyson, Mike, Kevin, Jared (pictured above), and Josh! We did a hell of a job this year. 700 some different people went home with A.L. stuff in 5 days. two, maybe three other publishers pulled that off, and they all have 10% or more market share of the entire industry. When it’s a level playing field, you remind them they are pygmies in the presence of giants.