How exactly does one prepare for a comic book convention? I suppose it varies from show to show.
For example, preparing for San Diego was a year long affair. Preparing for Asheville Comics Expo (ACE) is perhaps less intense.
No offense intended to ACE, I’m looking forward to it tomorrow. But it will require me to get up around 7, have some breakfast and be on the road no later than 8:30. Rather leisurely approach for me.
Still, I have had my moments of fretting over it in the past week or two. Actually didn’t think I was going to get a table this year, but by a stroke of Providence I did get one at the last minute–and I have fellow area cartoonist Matt Ebisch to thank for that. (Matt’s going to be there as a fan this year, not a guest artist). But having gotten said table space, I have had to figure out what I’m going to put on that table.
This is always a struggle for me. Because even though the nicer shows will tell you what kind of space you’re getting (“Each Artist will receive one eight-foot table and two chairs, along with two badges for Artist and Artist’s Guest or Assistant. Extra chairs will be available at $ per chair. Electricity and internet connections extra.”) they don’t really tell you what an eight foot table (or sometimes a six foot table, or half a table) is in terms of depth. Some of those convention center tables are two feet deep, others are three feet deep, and I’ve even had one and one half foot deep tables at some shows. You just don’t know until you get there. Even at shows you’ve been to before the management may have bought new tables since last time around.
One also cannot always tell where one will be set up. Even though the nicer shows (ACE falls into this category, BTW) provide a map to the show ahead of time–and I know I’ll be in A-22 tomorrow–one can never tell if one will be behind a pylon, popcorn machine, a tower of tee-shirts, or set next to some guy selling rude underwear he made up on CafePress.
Seriously…happened to me in Chicago the last time I went. I was between the tower of tee-shirts AND the guy with the rude underwear from CafePress. (This is why I haven’t done Chicago in a while).
Hopefully none of that will happen at ACE. But I think I may have my back to nearly everyone in the show, facing a blank wall. Admittedly I am on the same block at Harry Anderson, but still, not sure that will increase foot traffic my way or not. Guess I’ll find out.
So, thinking over these things is one way in which I prepare.
Another way I prepared by asking my buddy Mike “Miko” Mikolajczyk if he wanted to come along. Miko (who proves he’s a nice guy just by cutting his last name down for folks like me) has been a collaborator on stuff of mine for around 20 years now. So Miko will be sitting at my table and we’ll be talking and maybe doing some sketches together if things go well.
But the real “preparing” involves me putting a lot of stuff in one of those large Sterilite™ containers, strapping it to a moving dolly (courtesy of my wife, Karin, who recently moved a bunch of stuff from her parent’s house outside Chicago). I have about 75 pounds of stuff in the container right now: Original artwork, comics that I drew, comics that are from my collection (that I will sell if anybody is interested–it’s my back up plan), prints of my work, sketching supplies–and my upright display.
I’m actually pretty proud of my upright display. I built it specifically for this sort of confusing set up. It is three-sided and rotates on a single pivot, displaying my artwork to people coming from all directions (except straight above or below–the latter being an unlikely scenario). It will hopefully catch the eye of any number of comics fans tomorrow.
But what I’m going to put on the table is always a struggle, and I have often changed what I put on my table in the middle of a show. Tomorrow’s ACE is a one day show, and so it’s more difficult to make changes in that situation–I will if I get desperate enough–but hopefully it won’t come to that.
Tomorrow will also be different in that my wife will be coming to Asheville later on with friends who are also connected to me via comics. I met Matt Mulder when the two of us were discussing a comic book project with a mutual friend–about ten years ago, I guess it is now. He and I have collaborated on a number of projects since then, including a comic strip that has not yet been released, a couple of children’s comic books for his previous employer, and a children’s book for his present employer. Along the way we’ve gotten to know his wife, Mary Beth, and their children: Ashton, Keeler, and Winter. Now the Mulder kids take music lessons from Karin.
So tomorrow, while I’m off at ACE, Karin will be teaching the Mulder kids–then catching a ride to Asheville with Mary Beth and we’ll be meeting up somewhere along the way and going to a bonfire with the Mulder clan. It’s all so weird to me. It’s like the stuff my parents used to do when I was a kid–meeting up after some business in Asheville and then going out with friends on a late summer’s evening. It’s kind of cool. Kind of uncanny.
I don’t generally sleep well before a comic convention. I don’t know if that counts as preparation, but it is part of my routine prior to a show. (I should remember to take something to help me sleep tonight. It won’t get me more than six hours probably, but six is better than none.)
I also try to eat lots of fiber before a show…but hey, that’s just common sense.