Monday, September 29, 2008

Baltimore Comic-Con: Total Perspective Vortex

[image: part of our setup with Jake's sketchbook, one:off, and Evan's sketchbook; the rest of the images can be found on my flickr account]

Every once in a while, the universe will let you know where you stand in the grand scheme of things. This can be taken as a total beat down of morale or as a harsh life lesson in the form a total beat down of morale. This weekend at Baltimore Comic-Con, it was both and then some.

The kru and I were riding high as we landed at BWI Airport. Laden with 100+ books, prints, and art supplies, we looked forward to a triumphant return to Baltimore Comic-Con as legitimate comic creators. Our setup was stocked with books and prints; the quality and quantity of our products had jumped immensely from our last appearance. The months of prep we did for this convention was noticeable as we set up our tables: the three of us barely had enough room to fit everything on two tables. We ran into small press and professionals alike that recognized us and were excited to see us setup at the show. This was a great sign. Then the doors opened, the crowd rushed in and it rushed hard. Usually there's a slow buildup to the constant rumble: the crowd would trickle through the convention center, the noise would slowly ramp up, and within two or three hours we would be at a frantic pace to keep up with everyone dropping by the table. Somewhere, somehow, the magic mailing list appeared, and everyone got the memo: Baltimore Comic-Con is a great show. The attendance seemed to have double and right off the bat traffic had hit rush hour mode. Getting across the hall became a weary adventure for anyone. By noon, we could tell it was going to be a long day; sadly we didn't realize how long it was going to be.

Traffic was great, our work caught a lot of eyes and people were dropping by to check it out. But checking it out was all they were doing. We all made some pretty quick sales then there was a massive drop off. Then there was a massive drop off in traffic as well. It was like Chicago all over again, but not as harsh for some reason. I think it was because this time we didn't have as measly of a setup; which to a certain degree made it worse. There were months of prep work for this show: months of fidgeting with book specs, and weeks of waiting for books; tons of emails to/from convention reps, printers, and UPS. I have a stack of invoices for stuff i spent a lot of money on; and I end up with nothing to show for it but solid red numbers. This is the harsh reality of it: sometimes hard work pays back with absolute nothing. In this industry, there are pros and amateurs collecting pay. This time, we paid to be the amateurs.

It was a real good knee to the face; I'm talking a solid clinch and constant, Wanderlei-esque barrage for most of the weekend. My hopes were high for this convention; and honestly a bit too high. In my personal experience, I spent most of the weekend watching others make sales, contacts, and connections. My own shortcomings in trying to make it in this industry were brought straight to the forefront, glaring loudly, and making a scene by not making a scene. It was like being back in my design classes in college: the honest glance-over from the professor that said "why are you wasting my time with this?" followed by curt walk-away. As I sat there watching the traffic flow straight pass me, I honestly thought about quitting. I put serious thoughts into flying home, going back to the office in slacks and a button down, and never turning back.

But that's the reality of it, and it's a lesson that I learning the hard way, which is the only way to really learn good lessons. The weekend was harsh, but not the end of the world. There were some sunny spots in the storm kept it from being a total disaster. For one was the loving warmth of our hosts Eva and Steve. Evan said it best: a home cooked meal is the ultimate sponge that soaks up all the fail. Spending a relaxing evening with a nice meal with loving people was the solid corner stone to my weekend. If i had to spend the night in a hotel room somewhere with the day's failures still pounding down on me, I don't know what mindset i would have been in for Sunday. The guys from Gaijin Studios gave us real words of encouragement; even offering us various places to stay if/when we visited them in Atlanta. A plan that i think we'll take them up on soon. And a quick shoutout to our semi-neighbor Michael Bracco (aka. Mikey B, because we know too many Mikes/Michaels). It nice being around such an uplifting and supportive personality. Check his stuff out and send him some love (and money!). Special thanks to the booth babe in the tight vinyl dress across from us. And even more specialer thanks to the cute girl for the most interesting con sketch for Jake ("Doc Savage with Hawkgirl in a suggestive, not lewd, pose"); and for giving me my only sketch for the weekend. I'll take sympathy when I can, especially when she's cute.

This is one of those times that I'm going to have to listen to my own advice: sometimes life sucks, sometimes the industry will beat you down and tear you up, sometimes you want to toss in the towel and give up. But how you take these events is an indication of character; if you can't withstand these harsh realities, then maybe this industry isn't for you. But if you really want to do this for a living, then understand how you fucked up, then shut the fuck up, and then cowboy the fuck up.

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