I watched a lot of cartoons and movies. I draw incessantly and carry a sketchbook everywhere. I work in animation and self-publish my books. There are monsters in the streets, don't wear red. Mad bulls and monsters hate that color. I still watch cartoons.

Wednesday, July 28, 2004

The Mother of All Comic-cons

Drove all the way down to L.A. from the San Francisco Bay area on the Monday of the San Diego Comic-con. By afternoon of Tuesday I will have driven another two hours to the San Diego Convention Center, done the rigmarole of parking and getting a number for the loading dock, unloaded the van, got my exhibitor badge and then entered the dealer’s floor. It always gives me a charge of excitement to walk in there and see that giant pillared concrete cavern. I will also never see the entire convention in the whole week I’m there. Enrico is set to follow the following day—this gives us a way of assessing how our booth is going to be, a full day early without the pressures of Preview Night breathing down our necks. There is a quiet to the area, not many of the booths around us have people yet to do the same, though all the giant installations seem to be well into completion. From this corner our little booth will have to try to be visible amidst the swirl of this annual circus, presumably all about comics—though each year I wonder if that is more and more just nominal.

Charles Kiyasu had gifted us with the supreme aid of printing our comic book covers and banners to line our back wall and tables. Those posters and banners will be the biggest visual impact any exhibitor could ever want in their booth and those babies sure delivered. I get the comment from many new converts to our books, "I came over because of the posters. What’s Paper Biscuit about?" And to top it off we lucked out that we got such a prime location in the 1400 block. Right smack dab in the middle of everything but far enough away from the giant pavilions that we were never in danger of being subsumed (though the booth to our left hawking a script writing program had to pitch their wares with mike and speakers. I think that amplified pitches like these should be lumped together. Us quiet artist/authors have it tough enough).

Familiar faces of exhibitors come by to say hi. Bonded together by the rigors of putting up an exhibit year after year, your world is all right only when you see them there holding up their part of our yearly gamble. This year is no different and nothing major will upset the rest of the con.

My family made the trek with me this year. I drove the van full of books and booth show stuff, they drove in my old Honda with our luggage. My wife, Tess, will sell many a Paper Biscuit shirt because she’s wearing one herself—my very own booth babe. My daughter (already old enough to be mistaken as either my sister or my girlfriend. This is strange now), Gerin bags our shirts and sells them when Enrico and I are swamped with requests or questions. Geo provided muscle to move our cargo and ever ready to dash out for our latte and cappuccino fix. And did we ever need those.

My apologies to all who invited me to after con get togethers. I’m willing to go but my energy levels will render me sad company and spending time with my family at night takes precedence. Maybe I’ll learn to balance this better next year since a con of all sell and no social interaction is not a complete con. And while I'm on that, wasn’t this what Preview Night was supposed to be for? A chance to meet and see the con before the frenzy opens to the public? Instead it’s just another selling day.

Enrico and I had a good time experiencing our booth year. We had more things to sell and that meant we had to fracture our attention over more things. And because of that I feel that we had less time to really interact with the people who came for our books—which, in the end summation, is the biggest part of why we are there at all. Learning from this, there must be away to meet our public and have a more substantial con experience with them. Something to think more on.

We also helped out some friends by having their things on our table so we can point people to them. Good business karma.

Highlight. Met Craig Thompson. Bought his book, CARNET DE VOYAGE. Enrico had taken a short break from being the selling machine with many arms (getting bills, counting change, giving change, noting the books, logging the sales…oh, boy) and runs back not fifteen minutes just passed since he left. "Look what I got!" He fishes out a copy of CARNET and opens to the page where Craig had drawn that small alter-ego bunny creature of his as well as sign his name and then stamped it with a personal seal. I bolted right out of there.

I stand in line and just my luck a man had several copies of "Blankets" in a queue as well as others by Craig—and this guy never takes a breather gabbing and gabbing, playing six degrees of Craig Thompson, "…so, my friend, who’s a friend of that friend I mentioned earlier, tells a friend about that drawing you did about your drive to the snow and he says…"

I’m not impatient at all…yet. But I am transfixed by this slight young man who delicately proceeds to draw an exacting image of the lady love in the book in brush pen black ink. It was like seeing someone wipe away the paper to reveal the already done image underneath. I am more determined now than ever to get a book signed. I also had a copy of my second issue under my arm, hoping to hand him a copy—knowing full well that he’ll likely ever so politely stash it amongst a growing pile of free books from every artist in the con.

My turn came and his demeanor had not changed though I wonder how long he can keep this level of quality in signing for the whole con, it’s only Thursday ( I think this happened Thursday. So sue me). He asks my name to sign it to me. I blathered a response to spelling, "R-O-N-N-I-E…waitasec.." I remember my book. I hand it to him. I managed to say that I self-publish this and that I wanted to give him this copy. He was already leafing through the book as my low-key pitch mirrored his calm. I was almost whispering.

"This is very nice. Very beautiful." Now, I may have heard that said about my work before but because of his thoughtful delivery, I can make myself believe that he was really impressed. I’ll stick to that for now. "Now, do you ever think of not self-publishing?"

I say that I’ve not thought about it. I’m having fun doing the book my own way. I mention that Top Shelf was the one place I had considered. "You should."

Now from here on I can’t recall the word he used. I think the gist is that he volunteers, "I’ll back you if you do." Or maybe he used the word "endorse." I’m not sure. I’ve since rerun that encounter a hundred times in my head and I can't stumble on the actual dialogue, now lost to the ether.

"I'll keep this right here..." as he pulls his bag from under the table and carefully slips it in the small case, "...to read later." I'm forever flattered. I will, in the days following, have the notion of returning to his signing and buy another book in the hopes that he’d remember me and say, "I just handed your book to the guys and…"always bubbling in a corner of my mind.

I did manage to stand in line again around Sunday afternoon but chickened out. Likely nothing more will happen beyond that first exchange and its better that way. I like to keep that encounter just the way it is.


More Comic-con reports to follow as well as more pictures.
Check out my booth partner Enrico's Journal for his pictures and con report.


Blogger ziroNU said...

Hmmm.... ..Mr. Carmen, do you think you'll be there at next year's Comicon??

3:37 PM

Blogger Ronnie said...

I will do the con again next year. I'm not sure if we'll be able to do the booth again. Our accounting of the sales were better than when we were at the table but not by any astronomical amount.

Likely we'll have to decide if we need to change our system or products to warrant the cash outlay of the booth. Our selling interface is good but designed for us to interact with each customer--as we like it. It may be slowing the sales down. We either live with that or improve some things. Things to go over.

Thanks for being interested in our plight. We are there really for the people who want us to show up. Money or not that is sole reason to go. If I can come close to breaking even each year I'm good. Being in the hole for this investment in myself is good for me--I get a lot more out of it than cash could ever afford.



9:38 PM

Blogger Uloo said...

"We are there really for the people who want us to show up."

That's a sentiment to warm the heart-cockles. Your mentioned motivation is, I think, evident even to those who, like me, have met you only briefly. I dare say it's evident even to those whom you will never meet in person, those countless folks who delight in your work.

1:23 PM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Anytime I "help" you sell stuff, it's alway fun! Or it's the caffeine talking. Good seeing the both of you. Definitely interested in the particulars should Top Shelf work out.

3:14 PM


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