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Surviving NY Comic-Con

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The NY Comic-Con kicked off the convention season for me and it certainly proved to be a crazy start.

Set up for the con actually started on Wednesday. Now, I didn’t have that much to put together, but I showed up on Thursday, the day before the first day of the con, just to play it safe. I picked up my badges, but wasn’t allowed onto the show floor because I was carting around my 14 month-old in her stroller, and apparently no one under the age of 18 is allowed on the show floor during set up. I didn’t think it was a big deal – I figured I’d just show up the morning of the show and set up then. And that’s when the craziness started. Fabio (artist extraordinaire and collaborator) and I arrived at 9:00 a.m. at our booth to find that it was only a "booth space" and did not actually include any table or chairs. While we stood in our little empty space, I had visions of the whole AWBW team selling books out of a suitcase as people walked by. Hey, plenty of small publishers just walk around at a show selling their books out of a backpack. But of course, they didn’t pay $850 for a booth.

My first stroke of luck came when the publisher next to us, a local gang called Bohemian Trash Studios who had brought their own tables, realized that their booth was too small for both of their tables. Seeing our dilemma, they offered us their extra table, for which I am eternally grateful. One problem down, I headed over to Exhibitor Services to see about chairs. This is where I discovered that the use of a chair for the 3 days would set me back $85 per chair and these were pretty crappy plastic chairs. I’m actually quite proud of myself that when I declined this offer, I did so politely.

Luckily, this was a local convention for me, so I hopped in a cab, went back home, picked up four of our cushioned, foldable chairs and grabbed a cab back to the show. This took about half an hour and the roundtrip cost $20, all in all a pretty cost efficient solution.

Now back at my booth, we had a table and four very comfortable chairs. But Fabio, who had been setting up in my absence had discovered our next hurdle. Our booth had been advertised as 10 feet long. We had purchased a 10 foot-long banner from the "official convention supplier" who had a special on 10 foot banners because this was the given size of the booth. However, the actual booth size turned out to be 8 feet. I suppose we should actually be thankful for this since it was the reason our neighbor couldn’t fit in both tables. Using his genius in design, Fabio managed to wrap the banner around the outside pole, combining both zip-ties and masking tape to reattach it to itself around back. We lost a lot of the image for Adrenaline #1, but we had a banner up.

Problem solving; its one of the most important skills of a self-publisher, especially at cons. A creator or publisher should never assume anything about the set-up for a con. I’ve exhibited in small press sections at several cons: San Diego; Wizard World; Baltimore. This was the first time that the table and chairs were not included. I would recommend, and this goes to me as well, to get a hold of Exhibitor Services beforehand and go over everything with them. You’ll get a lot of emails and downloadable packets sporadically before the show, but it’s tough to catch everything that’s specific to you, especially when you make assumptions about the more obvious stuff.

So the con’s not even open to the public yet, but the mayhem isn’t over. Next, Kyle Baker and his wife show up across from us to find that someone had stolen their table and chairs. I didn’t know anything about it because when I got there, their booth was empty, but so was mine and several others, so I didn’t think much of it. My guess is that anther exhibitor arrived to discover, like I did, that they didn’t have a table and chairs, panicked, and took someone else’s.

An NYPD officer actually came to the scene. Not really knowing what was going on at the time, I found myself quite concerned to walk back to my booth and see a police officer leaning over my table with his notepad next to my sketchbook entitled American Terrorist interrogating to my Brazilian friend Fabio. Fortunately, it was a pretty light conversation and I was able to ease my way into it, relieving Fabio from having to make a statement. After the officer left, Fabio brought to my attention that the table that had been so willingly given to us could have been the missing table, but I double checked with our neighbors, and they had brought both themselves. The tables were also both the same and pretty distinct, so no cause for concern and shame on us for thinking ill of their generosity.

As for the show itself, it was a wild ride to say the least. The most beneficial part for me was talking to publishers about the possibility of picking up my titles and discussing with film producers and agents about the possibility of optioning our properties for a movie. I never know how seriously to take them, the producers I mean. I’ve had a few of them stop by, say how they could really see my comics as movies, and leave their card. Am I supposed to call them up and beg them to make a movie out of my story? I’m going to need to hear a serious pitch before I tie myself into anything.

Now as far as sales, it was just okay. I’ve done better at smaller shows. I didn’t really feel that the environment of the small press section was conducive to good sales, at least not in the section I was in. It seemed more like a three ring circus in there than a place for browsing art and literature. At the table on the other side of us, one of the guys kept taking off his pants and taking pictures with the girls in costumes that walked by, not to mention shouting a lot and dropping down to do push-ups in the alley. The thing is, the intent wasn’t even to draw in customers, and I know what you’re thinking: how could a guy dropping his pants not bring in sales at a comic convention? But he was just goofing around with his friends and trying to get pictures with the girls in the slutty outfits.

Far be it from me to say that people shouldn’t have fun at a comic convention, or not feel free to express themselves however they choose. My thought, though, as I viewed the rear ends of comic nerds sitting on my table so they could take pictures of the scantily clad girl at the booth across from us (and from what I saw, this didn’t really draw in sales either, just photo ops), is that small press could really stand to be divided more. There could be the full-on, wild party, zoo section with all the scandalous material that draws a crowd and certainly has its share of patrons, and then there could be an area that is really meant for a more discerning audience to walk down the alley and browse comic material to truly see what appeals to them. After all, isn’t it a goal of the comic community to draw in more kids and families? I resent having to be in the section that they would try to avoid.

Moving on, my favorite part of the con was all the different people who manned my booth. Besides my wife and I and our employees, we also had, at different times, our Pilates instructor, my sister, my wife’s cousin’s husband, and Charlito from Indie Spinner Rack. He had stood me up for a few interviews in the past, so I found it richly ironic when he stopped by this time and I made him watch the table while I went to let my wife and baby into the show. Nothing against him, he’s a great guy. I just thought it was funny.

Oh, and Alitha Martinez, the creator I featured in last week’s column, absolutely cleaned up. She had been sharing a table in small press, but J.G. Jones decided he didn’t actually want to set up at the show and gave her his table. Not bad at all. Besides selling many copies of Yume and Ever #1, she sold a lot of original artwork, including one of her Iron Man covers for $800. That character seems to be hot right now – what, is there a movie coming out with him or something? Maybe I should go find that film producer’s card.

 

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Tyler Chin-Tanner started his own publishing company, A Wave Blue World, and writes and draws layouts for Adrenaline, its flagship series.

© 2008 Tyler Chin-Tanner.  All rights reserved.

Email:tyler@awaveblueworld.com

www.awaveblueworld.com

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