As you probably know, last week I attended Heroes Con in Charlotte, NC. Although I had been at least four previous times, this was my first time as an exhibitor. In preparation for the event, I did something I usually NEVER do…I prepared.
This convention was the rare instance where I didn’t go into a situation and let the chips fall where they may. I actually did plenty of advance scout work where I considered economic, logistical, and even ergonomic efficiencies long before I even got there. I had my hotel reservations in order (even switching my reservations to a neighboring hotel in the final two weeks after noticing I could save $20 per night), my table had long been reserved, my display banner had been delivered, my merchandise was in order and I had purchased a small, locking cashbox that I primed with singles and fives to make change for the flood of sales I was sure to experience.
In the final week, I bought a large trunk and a collapsible luggage dolly to haul all that stuff around. Also, as much as possible, everything from my shirt selection to the bungee cords I used to secure the trunk was color-coordinated in yellow and black to match my website. Finally, I arranged for the 1,000 postcards I ordered as promotional giveaways to be delivered to my hotel, so they could be waiting for me when I arrived. In short, I was READY, Jack!
Except, I forgot my camera.
Thankfully, I snapped a few usable photos with my camera phone. Also, while the MapQuest directions brought us to the Hampton Garden Inn with minimal fuss, our journey from the hotel to the Charlotte Convention Center turned into something out of Spinal Tap, where we got turned around and took the most complex, difficult, circuitous route to travel two blocks we could think of. In seemed to involve everything short of portaging the trunk over rapids infested with hungry alligators.
The convention itself quite educational and thoroughly enjoyable. The crowd and the artists at hand were friendly, generous, and it was interesting to see how quickly an ad community developed in those three days. I was joined for the occasion by my old SCAD roommate and artist, Anthony Summey. Anthony is currently developing a Western-themed webcomic, which I’ll let you know about as soon as it goes live. He and his brother, Jeremy, a tremendous artist in his own right, helped man the table and split hotel costs. I billed Anthony as my “hype man,” because, using the free postcards as a lure, he quickly developed a brief, easy spiel to lay on passers-by as they walked by the table. Together, we handed out roughly 350-400 postcards, but most of that was Anthony. I left another 150-200 on the free table upstairs near the registration booth. By Sunday morning, those were completely gone.
(L-R) Jeremy Summey and his brother, Anthony Summey, my college roommate manning the table
I was pleasantly surprised by the number of people who were already familiar with WORLD OF HURT. Some, I gave hints to about the resolution of The Thrill-Seekers or even gave them a sneak peek into this week’s strip, which I was working on at the time. At one point, a tall gentleman began checking out my wares and flipping through my portfolio. He said he seemed interested in my inking. I thanked him and commented on his own ink-stained fingers, which marked him as a fellow artist. We conversed a bit more, and after he moved on, Anthony pointed out that it was Gabriel Hardman. I’m glad I didn’t know that at the time, because I would have been a lot more nervous.
As it was, I was nervous enough. I had never done con sketches before, and I already felt a certain amount of pressure being handed a pristine, beautifully bound sketchbook filled with gorgeous, humorous, and/or technically flawless pieces from other artists. I was certainly glad that people seemed pleased with what I did draw for them. Every who came by the table really came up with some interesting and creative requests, so I’m glad they felt I was up to the challenge and I can’t thank them enough for their support. I still have an outstanding commission for longtime reader and supporter of the strip, Wallace McBride, so look for that in your mail soon, sir.
It was also great reuniting with familiar faces, or people I had only known online. Saturday, Dwight and Swain from SiDEbarNation.com dropped into the con for a couple hours. I met them last year at Heroes Con, and their subsequent podcast interview was a pivotal in bringing so much attention to my strip. I also got a chance to meet up with old pals Chad Bowers and Chris Sims of The Action Age crew, and I met The Hard Ones artist, Rusty Shackles for the first time. Shackles is from my old stomping grounds of Fairborn, OH, so we are both quite familiar with the great comic shops in that area. I also met Shawn Pryor of PKDMedia.com for the first time, who is down-to-earth and cerebral at the same time. I wish I had a chance to speak with him a little longer. I also enjoyed meeting the talented and prolific webcomic artist, Ed Piskor (www.wizzywigcomics.com) who is easily the next in line of a continuum of great alt-comics artists such as Peter Bagge, Joe Matt and Daniel Clowes. He’s also a heckuva nice guy. Speaking of nice guys, Anthony, Jeremy, and I hung out with Steve Kanaras, Matt Jordan and the Free Lunch Comics crowd on Saturday night, where the conversation flowed as freely as the vodka Matt was pouring.
John Aston, creator of the online comic, Rachel Rage, also dropped by for a bit. He wasn’t an exhibitor this year, but we made plans to set up our own grindhouse/Blaxploitation section next year with PlanetGriffin.com’s Rodney Blackwell. We also continued our friendly rivalry for Blaxploitation webcomic supremacy. Although I was thrilled that John used part of my review for Rachel Rage: Heartland for his latest Rachel Rage collection, Sketchy, he still managed to get the last shot at me in his afterword. I responded by turning a convention goer’s request for a sketch of Rachel Rage into an endorsement for WORLD OF HURT. I decided to draw John’s titular character tagging a wall with the phrase: “World Of Hurt #1.”
During one of the few occasions where I had the opportunity to walk the convention floor, I stopped by Marc Bernadin’s booth to formally introduce myself. Marc is a regular contributor to io9.com and author of works such as Top Cow’s Genius and the graphic novel, Monster Attack Network. I had long followed him on Twitter, but this was our first time meeting in person. Fortunately, I arrived just as he was taking a break, and he was kind enough to walk the floor with me a bit. On our walkabout, I introduced myself to Jim Mahfood, whose work I had enjoyed on Grrrl Scouts, but gained an even greater appreciation for when I discovered he was a regular contributor to David Walker’s late, lamented Blaxploitation magazine, BadAzz Mofo. I also made it a point to thank the freakishly talented Jamal Igle and Chris Samnee for continuing to raise the bar for comic book art.
One of the professional high-points was when fellow webcomic artist, Dave Wachter of the Eisner-nominated The Guns Of Shadow Valley came by. When he said he loved the strip, you could have bowled me over with a feather. He even commissioned a Power Man and Iron Fist sketch from me. It was the last sketch I completed before I left on Sunday, so I definitely left on a high note.