I grew up in northern climates. When we went out trick-or-treating, we pretty much covered up our costumes with tons of warm clothing.
This past weekend my colleagues in ink Lucas Munson, Jeff Kulisek, Jack Kotz and I traveled to Des Moines, IA for the 11th or so annual Comic Book I-Con comicon. It was held at Community Choice Credit Union Convention Center in downtown Des Moines on Saturday October 25th. From what I understand this venue was a considerable upgrade from their previous location. By, say, 35,000 sq ft! I’m happy to say that it payed off…
We had a late start on Friday evening…We all met at Jeff’s house and parked our cars. Amazingly, we packed all of our con gear and our bodies into Jeff’s Hyundai SUV. We left at about 8pm that evening and arrived at Travelodge Des Moines by midnight. Needless to say, we got our room keys and went directly to bed.
Saturday we were up at 7am and down to breakfast shortly thereafter. I love continental breakfasts…especially when they include donuts AND belgian waffles! So, we ate, we drank our coffee, we…I mean I grabbed a donut for the road and we were off to the convention center!
Upon arrival at the load in area, we all grabbed our stuff and headed in. There was no signage so that when we walked through the bay door and saw a rollaway grandstand bleachers and a line of about seven tables I immediately thought: ” Oh, gawd…this CAN’T be it! We’re doomed!” Just as I was about to step on my jaw that was hovering above the floor a woman came up to us and said:”The show is this way.” She lead us through the bowels of the convention center, through back passageways, around hollowed out vending machines and forests of stacked chairs to the actual comicon room. Which was BIG. Because it was so big and there were such a modest amount of vendors and artists, it looked like we were floating through a concrete ocean and the ‘pods’ of tables were little collections of 8′ islands. Soon, we were directed to our tables and much to our irritation, we weren’t set up together as we had previously asked. So, we separated…I went to my table toward the back of the room and the others toward the front. And that was pretty much the last time I saw them until the end of the show…(It all ended up working out very well for us.)
When planning the trip to this show I had invited Kim Baerg, a puppet builder friend to join me at my table. Kim has created a plush version of my Spencer character and now we’re in talks about creating smaller, finger puppet versions as well as other items to tie into Best In Show. Anyhoo, she brought her husband Brad and their three kids for the weekend. Kim did a great job promoting her workshop Joy Filled Puppets and also helped direct people to me. She was a lot of fun to talk to and her family was a joy to have around.
The doors opened at 9am. It was pretty quiet and I’ll admit, I got a little nervous but since this wasn’t my first rodeo, I talked myself down. See, there’s a bell curve when it comes to comicon sales. When the doors open, nobody’s spending money because they’re still seeing what’s out there. By about 11am, they’ve seen everything and come around for the spending trip. Luckily, I’ve been learning a lot of tricks and using a lot of tools to get people to spend that money on me. Things like BEING NICE. Talking to people as they walk by. Handing out ‘Welcome Back’ cards that offer a free gift if they come back and buy something. That kind of stuff.
Well, it worked.
The fanboys and fangirls of Des Moines were into spending money! There were a couple of return customers…Craig has sketch books that he likes to fill at comicons and he always finds me. Ivan has been to see me at every show. I met Ryan at FallCon and when I told him that I was going to be at I-Con, he said he’d be there. I sold a ton of sketch cards. I was chatting up the ‘exclusive’ variant cover and posters. I was commissioned to do custom sketch cards. It was non-stop until almost 3pm! I had to ask my commissioners to come back…more than once! Of course, I hooked them up with some swag for making them wait…
There was even time for an interview with the con promotion video crew which ended up in a six minute video (look for me at abou the 3:57 mark):
As per the comicon bell curve, by about 3pm the faucet is pretty much turned off. Everybody blew through their cash. I was actually exhausted (remember that I work alone, and having talked all day pretty much wore me out.) What is left by that time are the last remnants of the crowd and the creators themselves trolling around for a bargain. 5pm brought the end of the show and packing up before another 3 1/2 hour trip back to the Twin Cities.
All told, this was the most successful one-day show that I’ve ever attended. Are you guys seeing a trend here? Well, for those that didn’t have their coffee the trend is that each show that I attend is usually more successful than the last. And that’s a wonderful trend! Will I travel to Des Moines next year for I-Con 2015? Absolutely!
One of the coolest things about this particular show was the level of family-friendliness. There were kids everywhere and I tried to talk with all of them! I even traded one boy, Frankie, a mini coloring book for an original Captain America sketch. It was a great deal.
In closing, traveling to this show knowing it was in a transitional period was a huge risk. I’d be lying if I said that the four of us that drove down to Des Moines, paid for gas and lodging on top of the table fee, weren’t apprehensive. Lucky for us, the people of Des Moines are solid supporters of quality comics and Scott Wirth and company made good on their promise to put on the best show possible. It’s a helluva way to wrap up our comicon season.
Below are some of the awesome fans that made our trip worthwhile:
That’s right! I’ll be guesting at yet another regional comicon! This one will be held in Des Moines, IA on Saturday, October 25th. I’ll have exclusive I-Con prints and comic strip collections with variant I-Con covers so come get one because the’re, well…uh…EXCLUSIVE!
Greetings and welcome to another little glimpse into the life of a Professional Cartoonist! This past weekend I attended the North Central Chapter of the NCS’s Annual Fall Meeting, held at the Iowa Central Community College campus from Friday October 10th-Sunday October 12th. As always, it was a wonderful opportunity to get together with those other members of our far-flung chapter and talk business, promote our profession, encourage young artists and of course, drink beer.
Upon arrival on Friday all the attending members, Paul Fell, Mike Edholm, Jim Horwitz, John Hambrock, Dave Carpenter and Kenny Durkin along with our two presenters Jay Rath and Gordon Smuder got together for dinner at the Community Tap and Pizza in downtown Fort Dodge. It was a very rustic up-north type place, with pine paneling and a host of dead animals on the walls. Pizza was very good though as a spoiled beer snob from the Twin Cities, the beer selection was lacking. But that’s just me.
After dinner we retired to the hotel lounge, appropriately called ‘Planet 70′s Bar’, with vintage cartoon lunchboxes and 45 records on the walls, an Atari 64 game console, 8-track player and console t.v. Best of all, there was a large orange and quite comfortable couch and matching chair. Sexy, I tell ya!
While in the lounge our chapter president, Jim Horwitz produced three large foam core boards on which we all slung some ink…Each artist drew a cartoon on each board creating one helluva raffle item! More on that later…
The following morning, Saturday, we NCSers held our annual business meeting. Short, sweet and to the point it was announced that I would be the new Treasurer of the North Central Chapter. How about that for a surprise! I’m terribly excited to be in an executive position within this organization that I love!
After the excitement of the business meeting, the group had brunch at the Triton Cafe on the ICCC campus. There we shared a table with several students and talked to them ab0ut what we do, what they do and the afternoon ahead.
Which leads to the afternoon’s schedule. Speaking first was Jay Rath, a writer and Cartoonist that has done work with MAD Magazine and Astro Boy as well as voice work on the Nickelodeon cartoon ‘Doug’. His presentation included bits about his work and was wrapped in a fictional adventure called The Washburn Expedition. Very interesting stuff.
Following Jay was Gordon Smuder, a puppeteer and special effects professional from Minneapolis. He spoke about the parallels between 2D cartoons and 3D puppetry making for a very informational and entertaining presentation.
The final speaker was none other than the NCS’s own John Hambrock, creator of the internationally syndicated ‘Brilliant Mind of Edison Lee’. His presentation brought the audience through his creative process, his run-ins with his syndicate as well as some interesting fan mail. John is also on the Executive Board of the national NCS, holding the office of national Treasurer. I’ve never seen a member travel so much to every NCS event, no matter where it is being held. Thanks so much to the speakers as they offered a wonderful insight into other creative disciplines and kept the student attendees involved.
Next came the raffle. Included in the raffle was many pieces of original art, books, swag and the three doodle boards. All the NCSers donated stuff and all the proceeds go into our chapters fund. I’m happy to say we raised more than expected and everybody walked away with an item that they were very happy with.
As another way for the attendees to get to interact with the NCSers, tables were set up outside the auditorium where all the professionals sat and sketched for the kids and sold some of their work. Between the presentations I asked that all the students present (art students attending the college) to have their sketchbooks handy…Once the speakers were through I announced to them that I would like to do a sketch trade…they draw one for me, I draw one for them. They loved it though some were a little shy…Here are some of the sketches that I cashed in on:
After an afternoon of shaping young minds, the group met back at the Triton Cafe where the school chef had quite the Fall Feast laid out for us…Roast beef, chicken marinated in a red wine reduction, roasted veggies, salads, appetizers…it was a feast fit for a king! Or several hungry Cartoonists…needless to say, we all walked out with several takeaway boxes…
Once dinner was over and we crammed leftovers into a truckload of white takeaway boxes, the group again adjourned to the 70′s bar for night caps. Here I had the pleasure to chat with Joe Engesser, a member from Red Wing, MN and Gordon Smuder. We talked about old cartoons, theme parks, muppets, etc. It is a true joy to get to hang out with other professional artists and exchange knowledge and experience. I learn so much about these other creative types as well as a little bit more about myself. It makes me appreciate and love my job even more, if that’s possible.
Sunday pretty much had us passing each other in the breakfast area, all of us ready to make that trip back home. So long, fellas…I look forward to next year!
Hooray for FallCon! This has to be my favorite one-day wonder of all that I attend. I can’t say enough about how the promoters do such a great job keeping their guests happy.This year had me sitting next to my colleagues in TC3 Lucas Munson and Jeff Kulisek. Doug Kallberg, another of our TC3 colleagues, was supposed to sit with us but he and his wife up and had a baby that day…Congratulations Doug!
As far a FallCon goes, this had to be the best one for me yet. I am only a few issues away from being sold out of my “Still Standing” collection. I have to restock my sketch card binder because people were snatching them up. I sold a handful of greeting cards and thanks to a new fan from Des Moines, I moved several pieces of original comic strip art! Thanks Ryan! Other pleasant surprises included a visit from local illustration superstar Dave Witt (a.k.a. DWitt) and Jim Horwitz, Chairman of our regional North Central Chapter of the NCS. Yessir, it was a chatty kind of day!
The best thing about this show is that I feel like I nailed my sales pitch. I’ve incorporated new tools like ‘Welcome Back’ cards that I hand out to people that browse and then move on. One guy actually brought one that I gave him at the Eau Claire show! Since I’m a nice guy, I honored it…Another nice thing is that I got to promote my Patreon page, plushie Spencer toy and my upcoming 10th Anniversary collection, slated for spring 2015. And of course, meet new people and make new fans. It was a great time!
Yes, yes…there are pictures…
Thanks to everybody that stopped by my table, chatted and bought stuff. I look forward to I-Con coming up in Des Moines, IA on October 25th, 2014! Hope to see you there!