Thoughts on Big Wow! ComicFest 2014

After taking 2013 off I returned to the convention circuit at Big Wow! ComicFest 2014.  Truth be told, this was only my 4th convention.  It was also my first without my partner.  So how did I do on my own?  Fine, actually.  It wasn’t really that much harder to do it solo.  I typically handled the business and prep side of things anyway, so that was about the same.  Carrying and setting up stuff was more of a chore, and I missed the companionship aspect of having a friend to share the experience with, but overall it was fine.  And leaving the table unattended wasn’t a big deal (aside from losing potential sales while I was away).

Was the show a success?  In terms of those elusive sales, not really.  Like in the past, I did not come close to covering my costs.  Which is unfortunate, but something I expected. I did get some ideas for things I could try in the future to hopefully help me make a profit.

Though I lost money I’d say I was successful in other ways.  Most prominently, I’d say getting to know some of the other artists and building relationships was the best thing I got out of it.  I got to befriend my peers, pick their brains and generally ingratiate myself into the comic convention culture.  Being solo sort of forced me to do this more than I had in the past.  There is a real community aspect amongst the exhibitors, especially the artist alley section.  So it is nice to tap into that.

Other positives?  Quite a few members of my family ventured into geek territory to come show me support, which always feels really good.  I know none of them would ever normally come to a show like this, so it really means something that they came by.  Of special note was my son, who drew his own comics to sell at the table and actually wanted to help me run things.

Bennett at Big Wow! ComicFest

He has become very interested in what I do, and it feels really special to have him tell me he thinks I make the best comics in the world.  Saturday was his 6th birthday and he wanted to spend it with me selling comics.  Big Wow! always coincides with his birthday weekend, which kind of sucks and forces us to schedule around it for his party.  But he didn’t complain, and I think he had a really special time.  There was certainly a lot for him to see and do at the show.

When you pick up your copy of Two Drink Minimum you’ll see that I dedicated the book to him.  I like to think making comics is a bonding experience that keeps me youthful and allows me to connect with him on a different level.  Attentive fans may even have noticed that my son, Bennett, shares the same first name as Black Snow.  You may ask, “did you really name your son after your comic book character?”  Not really.  That wasn’t the only (or main) factor in picking his name, but it didn’t hurt.

Another positive?  I got to meet my favorite comic book artist, Mike Mignola.

Michael Balistreri with Mike Mignola

I’d love to say we talked shop, traded compliments and met as peers…but it would be a lie.  I met as a fanboy who was too awestruck to speak at first.  There aren’t a lot of comic book artists that I would geek out for.  Heck, I also met Neil Adams and didn’t feel anything overwhelming about it.  But to meet someone who’s work you appreciate so much, who inspires you…it’s powerful.

So I got to be a nerd there just to appreciate the convention like every other attendee.  I liked looking at all the booths and exhibits, especially the Batman museum.  I picked up some cool indie comics based largely on old western movies.  I got my signed Hellboy print.  I got a picture of my kids drawn as zombies.  I saw an amazingly talented 9 year old drawing live prints for people.  I also saw literally hundreds of cool cosplay costumes and comic related clothing.  My son got to pick out a present from what was essentially a huge, diverse toy store.

Two Drink Minimum was very well received.  To my shock the matte style cover got a lot of compliments, from attendees and other comic makers alike.  I have a proof with the glossy cover on the way right now, so I’ll still compare them, but I think the encouraging comments have probably swayed me to stick with the matte for the second edition.

The interior got a lot of compliments as well.  Overall people seemed to think it was a very well put together book and it was clear a ton of work went into it.  I had several people ask how long it took to make (about 2 and a half years, in case you were wondering), and people expressed some surprise and admiration for the use of so many shades of gray.  Essentially “coloring” the whole comic with grays (which I based off  the look of old black and white noir movies) seemed to strike everyone as unique and interesting.

I am happy to say that what I did sell was copies of Two Drink Minimum and Back Office, and those were the books I was hoping to sell.  I also gave away a ton of free stickers and bottle openers (those were free if you liked us on Facebook), so hopefully that amounts to some nice exposure and spreading our name.  Plus, I was interviewed by a couple of comic journalists.

So there was a lot of good that came out of it.  I could sit here and complain about all my negative experiences, but I don’t think you want to hear that (if you do just let me know!).  Instead I’ll try to focus on the positive aspects and use the negatives as ways I can improve on things.  Because I plan on doing more conventions in the not too distant future.

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