Letters to Holly

Monday, May 17

Fanaticon Weekend

We ran by the store Friday night to get snacks and hand sanitizer (which I forgot to buy after all and borrowed a travel bottle from Your Sister). After receiving new monsters from her students on letter-sized paper, I began to worry that the small size of the comic might prevent people from buying it to draw their design. I quickly printed out 75 letter-size versions of the last page, or tried to until my printer ran out of ink. This done, I packed up all the equipment (trading out a back-up surge protector for the one I use daily) and put everything in the kitchen to load in the car the next morning. I could do no more except wait.

Got out the door Saturday morning at 7:30 and arrived at 8:30. We were advised to park on the roof deck of the museum, but I used the first-floor deck nearest my assigned station. That gave me a ten-second walk to my table from my car instead of schlepping my gear on stairs. My table was exactly where they said it would be, and I plugged in the surge protector to the outlet right next to my table. This was a lottery ticket. I had my table set up by 9 a.m. with each comic displays and stacks at opposite corners and a chair set up with pencils and pens if people wanted to draw their monster on the spot.

The photos are up on FB here.
Here is the Citizen-Times gallery.
Here is the Mountain XPress one.

I chatted with the other guests as they set up their tables. The free downtown wifi was useless in the building, and I packed up the laptop. I started sketching to warm up the muscles, and I had nothing. The drawing engine wouldn't turn over. This rattled me; I had hoped to sell sketches throughout the day, and the first minutes of my convention experience were taking me off the rails. Rumors spread that hundreds of people were waiting outside for the show to open. A Ghostbusters car was outside. Darth Vader was playing bagpipes. I met with my Greenville publisher and his table as they set up, and we traded notes.

At ten, one of the organizers (in his Next Generation Star Trek costume) announced the doors were opening, and he was soon followed by a flood of people. Here's the gist: I don't think the organizers dared to hope for this many people. It was a near constant stream, even for us in the first-floor corner. The majority of artist folks were 30 yards away in a clump. We still got great exposure. My friend Jay and his sons (dressed as Jedi) were among the first to come by, and they ahd top tear through the show quickly before he went to work that day. They came back an hour later to buy comics, and he bought the first copy of my hero comic. The monster comic wasn't grabbing attention, and I quickly made a new sign that read DRAW THE MONSTER $2, and that got people to slow down. That's how I roped them in. This is why I brought a spare display stand.

I had joked a few months back that my hero comic -- the story I've tumbled for a decade now -- would collect dust while my last-second notion would sell out. I didn't (I printed too many copies for one-day show, I realized later), but the monster comic outsold the hero comic 5-to-1. I hadn't practiced my sales pitch, but I had it down within an hour.

"This is our comic about a werewolf and a vampire who find an egg on their doorstep one morning (show them second page of pterodactyl leaving them an egg in a basket). They don't know what's inside, and they prepare for their baby. And on the last page, open to show them, you get to design and draw the monster. There's an email address on the back cover, and if you take a picture or scan your age, we'll add it to our online gallery. This (point to display) has some examples of what we've gotten so far."

They were laughing at the egg page, but when I got to "you can design and draw," jaws were literally dropping open. One little girl was wearing a convention Robin mask, and when I showed her the back page, all the skin around her eyes disappeared, and the eye holes were pure eyeball. These were the magic words. That sold the majority of comics. I said the pitch so much in exactly the same way that I apologized to my neighbor tables. They loved the idea. And it was good, I admit. One kid sat down right there and drew his monster. The monster gallery is here.

Around 11, the organizers asked if they could plug into my surge protector to power the equipment for bands in the courtyard behind me. There were three acts: a medley from the ACT Little Shop of Horrors and two comic bands named How I Became The Bomb and The Falcon Lords. Everyone performed in costume. People stood in front of my table to look out the window behind me, and that helped sales. A few people from Your Sister's school came by, and I signed comics for them. I sketched on a convention-wide jam piece, and that loosened up my drawing muscles. In the rare downtime, I worked on my web comics.

Your Sis herself came by a little after noon with lunch for me, and she manned the table while ran to the bathroom. She heard my sales pitch so often that she delivered it as I spoke to other people, and she sold some issues. A few people from the Brevard paper came by and asked if I would want to do a paper feature. We traded business cards. I gave away more of those than I expected. I'm glad I made up new ones earlier in the week. Around three, a local podcaster interviewed me about my con experience. half an hour later, one of the organizers thanked me for the quotes to the paper and said they were his favorite. I thanked him for putting on such a wingding and told him these comics were made only because they presented this show. An hour later, some online friends came by. It was a party. Your Sis left around 2:30.

I realized I made some mistakes in my con plans. My signs were too small and too low. People bent at the waist to read them. I also charged too much for sketches. The table next to me were raking in money with $1 sketches. The vast majority of attendees were happy and friendly. There were lots of families and curious townsfolk. The occasional stereotypical comic geeks came by, but they were relatively rare. One parent worried the baby monster was created in the comic via explicit monster sex, and I assured her of asexual egg-delivery reproduction. Another woman picked up one of my drawing pens and asked if she could have it. She collects pens, she said. I told her I need it to draw.

I took photos of costumes folks who drifted by, including some semi-professional folks hired by the convention. I didn't use one letter-sized sheet I printed Friday night. I'll give them to Your Sis for students to work on between exams.

While I was aware of the hours, the day flew by. It was 5 p.m. out of nowhere, and the show closed. I packed up my stuff, thanked my neighbors, and walked the show for the first time so see what might be left out to buy. I found nothing that called out to me, and drove home. It couldn't have gone much better, and I'd do it again next weekend if I could. I already have plans for next year's show, Roo willing.

Meanwhile Your Sister was trying to lock down a crib that Mom was buying back home. Babies R Us and Toys R Us ran them in circles all day, and the changing station was not bought. The parents were aggravated. Your Sis was enraged. We bought one the next day at K-Mart after I convinced her that no one would care if it matched the crib and we could buy it immediately and have it done with. Problem solved. The crib should arrive at one of the two R stores next week, and I'll pick it up during lunch. When we both met up Saturday evening, I asked for a wings dinner to celebrate, and I got it. And had two beers. And slept like the fucking dead.

I mowed the lawn Sunday at the hottest part of the day only because it was between rainstorms. She slept a lot, and we walked with umbrellas to alleviate her swelling ankles. Over pub food, we discussed parental theories and a communal philosophy on raising Roo in response to how we were raised. We're at 35 weeks today.

Life is good.

Mind Boggling Moving Picture of the Day
Darth Vader plays the Star Wars theme on bagpipes to open Fanaticon.


Anonymous said...

epic post. sounds like a great con!
had to share the ridiculousness that was darth scotsman with bagpipes.

Anonymous said...

wow. 2 years of medical school under my belt, and I only just now put it together that your mom probably doesn't drink because of the acute intermittent porphyria.

wohoooo! clinical correlations.

Gregory said...

Yep, she's a teetotaler. Hilarity ensued when the bartender failed to give us a virgin margarita at the beach last year.