Cartoon and Illustration

Finally–following up on San Diego Comic-Con

My apologies for not having posted something sooner about my trip to San Diego Comic-Con in mid-July.  But things have been very (very) busy around here since my return and I’ve had to deal with commissions, new assignments, and family stuff since then–besides attempting to catch up on some sleep (not too successfully, actually, but I’ll get there eventually).

Rather than giving a day-by-day account of what I went through at SDCC, I think I’ll stick to what has become the common thread of conversation with almost everyone I’ve spoken to about SDCC since returning home.

I.e. the first question everyone seems to ask is:

“Did you go in costume?”

The answer to this is a resigned sigh, followed by, “No, I went to find work.”

Then I have to explain this to Mr. or Mrs. average citizen who has seen Comic-Con mentioned on Big Bang Theory or some similar media outlet.  Going in costume is a big part of Comic-Con, but that’s for those who are going to amuse themselves (in most cases).  While I’d love to be part of that craziness, my path lies elsewhere and as a professional illustrator and cartoonist for the past 30 years I’ve had to forget about cos-play as something I partake in.

Begging everyone’s pardon, but can you imagine someone showing up for a job interview in swim fins and a snorkel?  That’s about the reaction one would get showing up for professional freelance interviews at Comic-Con.  It may be fun and games for the fans, but for pros it’s hard work.

Admittedly some don’t get this dichotomy.  There were more than a few female fan/pros at the portfolio review who were in costume.  But as for us guys, we looked like a bunch of guys on casual Friday at the very least, and I even saw a suit or two in the crowd.

But I may be getting ahead of myself.

As stated, my purpose in visiting Comic-Con was to secure more freelance art jobs for myself.  At the urging of more than one of my working professional friends (some of whom have worked on stuff you’ve actually seen!) I have been working towards attendance as a pro at SDCC for the past year.  Putting my wife and myself in hock up to our eyeballs to pay for airfare and hotel in order to get there and meet editors, publishers, and art directors for various companies that publish comic books, graphic novels, or serve similar industries with creative artwork.

So after a semi-eventful flight and partial night’s sleep my buddies, Chris, Spike and caught a shuttle running to the Convention Center and in about 20 minutes I found myself in front of the entrance hall I needed to go to in order to get my pro-pass.

(Yes, the shuttle was filled with folks in costume.  I sat next to a large fellow named Shawn, who was dressed as a butterfly.  Many of you may have seen the picture of me and Shawn on Facebook.  In front of the Convention Center there were teeming multitudes of people dressed as Daleks, Doctor Who, Tardises, Lego Darth Vader, Lego Boba Fett, regular Princess Leia, Harley Quinn, Joker, etc.)

But these people were not going to the same show as I was–not really.  My path took me through pro registration–which took about 2 seconds as I showed them my pre-printed UPC code (which I’d had in my possession since sometime in February if memory serves).  Then I headed upstairs to the Sails Pavilion to sign in for my chance to meet representatives from various people in hiring positions.

This may have taken another 10 minutes all told.  And then I sat down to wait with all the other freelance artists looking for their chance to impress someone with their drawing and storytelling talents.  The estimated crowd for Comic-Con is around 150,000 for the whole weekend.  The number of those creating comics artwork appearing at SDCC (at least in the Illustrators section) numbers around 150 (my guess) so about 1 in 1000 attendees has some sort of professional credit.  Those sitting in the portfolio review, wearing pro-passes was probably another 50 on Thursday.

Don’t misunderstand.  Many of the people who had space downstairs in the illustrators section of the exhibition hall were also spending time upstairs at the portfolio review.  Because (as one or more of my friends mentioned at the show), “we all need to look for work.”

The sign up lists were randomized by computer and placed on display in front of cubicles provided for the various publishers, etc.  We, the artists, sat in a section of chairs that could accomodate maybe 150 of us at any given time.  The restrooms were close and not too heavily used.  There was a water fountain where many of us refilled our bottles several times during the day, as we occasionally dug into our backpacks and bags to dig out yet another granola bar to tide us over while we waited.

We talked.  We met with old friends and made new acquaintances.  We shared our portfolios with one another and passed along tips to one another.  

“Antarctic Press is supposedly reviewing samples down at their booth!  Says so in the program guide.”

“Have you worked with (name witheld)?  Do they pay?  I’ve heard they’re kind of slow.”

That kind of stuff.  We gave one another tips on art, software, which editors were open to submissions–got info on other friends who were downstairs (that is, their location on the floor).

I talked to a couple of up-and-coming artists.  Gave them some tips on what they should be showing in their portfolios.  Hey, I don’t pretend to know it all, but there are somethings that I DO know, and I’m happy to pass that info along.

Some of these artists were students in college.  Their portfolios were obviously student portfolios–and it was probably better to hear that from me than to get bawled out by some editor who was going to complain they were wasting his time.  Nobody is a waste of time–but sometimes we all could use a little streamlining of our “pitch”.

Anyway, I met with 3 or 4 potential clients on Thursday (and more on Friday).

But I had made arrangements to be down at the National Cartoonists Society booth from 1-3 on Thursday and so had to leave the portfolio review area to make that date.

Here’s where most asked question number 2 comes in:

“Did you get to see a lot of famous people?” (Meaning, TV and movie stars).

Again, that isn’t the show I went to.  It may be in the same building, but the TV and Movie scene is not what I was there for.  Admittedly I did see Mira Furlan’s autograph area from a distance of maybe 100 yards.

My big Hollywood moment came when I was down at the NCS booth doing a sketch of Captain America for someone when the buzz went around the table that Jack Black was on his way there.  Seems that Jack is buddies with one of the animators from Kung Fu Panda and offered to come by the NCS table and sign autographs.

The thing is, my “shift” was over at 3 and Jack wouldn’t be coming in until 4.  But my name was on the same greaseboard as JB’s for the entire day.

As insular and pampered as the Hollywood types seemed to be at SDCC–whisked in from LA in limos, surrounded by bodyguards, relegated to “Hall H” (at least the presently big names) it was kind of cool to know that Jack Black was willing to sit around with a bunch of cartoonists and sign stuff for fans.

I already liked Jack Black’s movies, generally speaking, but my opinion of him as a person has been very much improved by this action on his part.

The irony of this is it was COMIC-CON.  I was sitting at the NCS table with Tom Richmond (MAD Magazine), Greg Evans (Luanne), and The Keane Brothers (Family Circus)–and people ask me did I see anyone famous?

Yes.  I saw famous cartoonists!  I shook hands with Klaus Janson for pete’s sake!  Russ Manning was so close I could have thrown a granola bar at him.  I actually touched a page of Superman artwork by Jerry Siegel.  So yes, I saw famous people–but I guess there’s fame and then there’s fame.

Didn’t bother me that much at the show.  I was riding high.  Not one negative comment about my samples from anyone.  I handed books to editors all day Friday and had any number of them give me their cards and ask for follow ups.

Follow ups is mostly what I’ve been doing since.

And now, in the past few hours I’ve gotten offered a new job for Zenescope.  So I’d better got attend to that.  I have around 20 days to get it done.  So if I don’t post for a while, you’ll know why.


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