Big Wow! ComicFest 2015 thoughts

I meant to write this sooner, as I’ve had a lot of people asking me about the show last weekend.  The short answer, it had its ups and downs.

I did achieve my stated goal of meeting Dave Gibbons!

Dave Gibbons signing my copy of Absolute Watchmen My signed and sketch copy of Aboslute Watchmen signed print from Dave Gibbons

So that was cool and he was a really nice guy.

Beyond that, was I successful?  Not really.  Sales were pretty meager.  Like the last show, I had a few people come up that knew of my stuff and liked it, so that was a nice little ego boost.  But overall I didn’t get too much action at the old table.

So that was disheartening.  It feels like nothing I do has too much impact, but I keep trying.  I got some more tips from my booth neighbor that I’ll apply at the next show.  But really it is tiring to keep putting myself out there and failing.  It seems that at some point my dues should be paid and my experience should start translating into some notoriety and financial gain.

This will mark 14 years that I’ve been working on Black Snow.  One way to look at that is that I’ve shown dedication, and gotten to do something I love for a long time.  Another way to look at is that I’ve wasted the better part of a decade and a half to achieve very little.  And honestly there is truth to both.

These shows have a way of playing upon my insecurities and making me feel like I really don’t know what I’m doing.  Which is ironic given the number of times I’m approached at them by people seeking advice.

Part of the issue is something that was never more apparent than this year, the comic convention scene is full of politics.  There is a real comradery amongst the “pros” that can, at times, border on a mutual admiration society.  But this really only applies to the people doing this as their main living, and you probably had to spend some time working for one of the major publishers to be in it.  Or be friends with someone who did.

And if you are a part of this group you get invited to be a part of the show as a guest.  You don’t have to be to be there, like me.  Nope.  The show pays for your flight and hotel, and makes sure to show you a good time while your in town.

And I’m not just talking about celebrities of the comic book world, who would understandably get this kind of treatment.  It seems like half the people at this show were guests, most of which you’ve never heard of.  But they are buddies with everyone else, so they are all part of the club.

Since guests don’t have to pay to be there and are sometimes comped for their expenses, or even paid to be there, you can go do all the shows you like and travel to a new one virtually every weekend.  Which gives you more opportunity to hang out with everyone in the club, thus ingraining yourself in a self perpetuating cycle.

Meanwhile, if you are a nobody like me just trying to get your stuff out there you pay for the privilege to be there.  And you are labelled an exhibitor, lumped in with people there to sell clothes and toys they didn’t make.  And you don’t get invited to the after hours parties that help cement your status in the club.  Oh, and your application gets lost, and it’s too late to include you in any of the promotional materials by the time you work out a way to be there.  And they don’t announce your appearance on social media.  Or you get your table moved last minute because a guest needs that spot.

And since they don’t pay for it, guest can take their spots for granted, showing up late, leaving early or just not showing up at all.

And if I sound bitter, well, I am.  I’ve been doing conventions since 2010, this was my 7th show.  I’d have done a lot more by now if it was free for me!  But it cost me a lot.  This was my 3rd time at Big Wow, but I still felt very much a second class citizen.    When do I get some nice treatment?  All I get is the chance to pay less if I commit to do it again early.  Then they lose my application…

And I get to hear horror stories about how it’s not really good to work for Marvel or DC because they underpay and overwork their employees.  I’ve heard this from enough people with firsthand experience at these shows that there must be some truth to it.  Which is really great.  “Never sign a contract with them” I’ve been warned.  Awesome.  So I get to listen to people complain about the opportunity I’ll probably never get to work for one of the big two comic companies.  And even if I get it I’ll be disappointed?  What’s my goal supposed to be?

This post has turned a lot more negative than I meant it to.  And for the most part, I really did enjoy the show.  It’s just good to vent some frustrations.

I did have some nice conversations with attendees and really enjoyed talking to Danica Brine, a.k.a. Karibu Illustrations.  She was a good neighbor to pass the time with, and pick her brain.  I did get to sell a few things and draw some sketches for people, which was very rewarding.  The costumes were a lot of fun, and the stuff for sale there was really cool.  Next time I might have to pick up some Weird Tiki Comics, as they looked right up my alley.  And I did get to catch up with a couple of my comic convention friends, which is always nice.

So the show was fun.  It just also put some things into perspective for me.

One other thing that I’ve picked up on over time, but was never more obvious until this show, is that people really respect traditional art a lot more than digital.  People love to collect original art and pay for sketch commissions at these shows.  The vast majority of people there are displaying pen and ink art, which is still the way a lot of these pros seem to do it.  Both the attendees and exhibitors have a real bias towards it.

Which leads me to something of an announcement.  Since I was drawing the last scene or two of TDM I’ve been thinking about doing Another Round on pen and paper.  I haven’t drawn comics this way since Issue 6, and even then I was basically inking digitally.  My work on Another Round has been slow, and part of that is because it wasn’t feeling right.  So, after discussing it with Alex and getting some advice from people within the comic community I’ve decided I’m going to attempt to start the book over and draw it all on traditional, comic sized paper with pens and markers.

I’m a little nervous and pretty excited.  I ordered some materials online that I’m waiting for.  I think this could be a really good thing that makes the art more appealing and lets me live out my comic book dreams a little more.  We’ll see.  It could be a bust and maybe I’ll be horrible at it, in which case I guess I’ll just scrap it and go back to working on the book digitally.  But I don’t think that will happen.

It will be significantly harder, and probably a lot more work.  Hopefully I’m up to the challenge.  Either way, I’m excited to try.  Plus I’ll still have Optimistically Cynical cranking out every week in digital style.

So look for that in the near future!



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