Convention Report: Anime Milwaukee 2015
Valentine’s Day weekend I spent with some of the most awesome convention attendees, staffers, and volunteers a guy could ever hope to work with – much less actually get to work with! That’s right, I’m talking about my triumphant return to Anime Milwaukee!
Here is where you could find me (more or less; they did move us down a bit) at the convention. Great positioning!
Last year myself, Alan Evans (Rival Angels), and Russell Lissau (The Batman Strikes, Old Wounds) were all put on rotation with the show. This is very common, as it allows a convention to refresh their guest list and keep programming fresh and new. However, I really missed the show (I’ve been a guest of the show for the last 4-5 years with Alan), and so did the guys. And at every Anime show I attended I kept running into the convention heads, and they kept asking, “Why didn’t you come last year?” And I would say, “You put me on rotation.” And they would say, “Well, let’s fix that.” And so we did. And all was good again.
So sit back, relax, and enjoy my recounting of an amazing weekend at Anime Milwaukee!
From work I took the AMTRAK train up to Milwaukee, which was a nice relaxing ride. The last time I took the train wasn’t good, because they wouldn’t let me board unless I was 10+ minute early. Well, this year I was definitely 10+ minutes early, so no issues getting on the train. I sat back and watched Guardians of the Galaxy on my iPad during the 1.5 hour trip. Before I knew it, I had arrived.
Now, Milwaukee isn’t too far north from Chicago, so the weather isn’t very different. That said, it was still bloody cold up there. So the 4+ blocks I had to walk from the train station to the hotel were EXCRUCIATING. My hands and face took the brunt of it, despite having a hat and gloves on. It was the wind that really did it.
In any case, I got into the hotel and found con-ops so I could check in and drop off my stuff. Low and behold, Russell had arrived almost exactly the same time I had. And by the time I had dropped off my stuff in my hotel room, Alan had also arrived. The three of us were pretty hungry, so we hopped into a cab and drove to a nearby casino for dinner.
Anime Milwaukee signage at the hotel. You have now arrived!
The Casino was not good. Granted, I’m not a big gambler, but that wasn’t my issue with the place. The problem was that they allowed smoking indoors. For someone who is allergic to smoke, who dislikes the smell (and let me tell you, it’s potent for everyone else who doesn’t smoke. Trust me – we can smell it), it was rather fowl. We walked through the entire place (since the restaurants are on the far side of the building), and eventually settled on the burger place they had in there. Thankfully, they had some kind of super mega air filters in the place, because it smelled much less. It was at least tolerable. It may also have been all of the greasy / delicious fried food.
After dinner, Russell and Alan decided they wanted to play some craps. I’ve never been able to figure this game out, but the two of them made a little money. Eventually the smoke even got to them, though, so we took off back for the hotel.
Back at the hotel, we all regrouped in Russell’s room for some beverages. Eventually our friend Sandi showed up, and she proceeded to give us all manicures (a pastime that Russell loves to do before a convention). I was really just in it for the hand scrub and arm massage she threw in – and also to hang out with Sandi, of course, because she’s awesome – and it was a nice night of hanging out.
By the time we were done with the manicures, it was already 1am and it was past time to go to bed.
Friday morning Alan and I got up early to start working out at the gym. I love doing this at shows for the boost of energy, so I look and feel better, and also because, well…there’s almost never anyone in the gym at the conventions. However, this show was quite different. There were a handful of kids who came in to work out, as well as some women I didn’t recognize (I’m assuming they were just at the hotel, and were not attending the con). However, one of the voice actor guests, Bryce Papenbrook, eventually came in to do some running on the treadmill. I somewhat recognized him from the website, but left him alone so I could finish my routine.
The free-weights in the gym had to have been brand new and unused, because whenever you picked them up the grips were so sharp they cut into your hand. It was rather painful, and made me wish I had a pair of workout gloves. I’ve not really encountered this before at a gym, but I sucked it up and continued with my routine all the same. I was quite relieved when I was done, though, and I had texture on my hands for the rest of the day. My hands felt like they were on fire!
After a quick shower, we went downstairs and met Russell and Shana for some breakfast across the street. The diner had some cheap breakfast specials, which were tasty but not very filling. Still, food is food.
After breakfast, we had some time to kill so Russell and Alan went back to the Casino to try their luck, and I went back to my hotel room to relax a bit and do some writing. After a while I started to get anxious for the show, so I decided to take my stuff down to the floor and set up a little early. I figured I could at least walk around and chat up some people I may know from the con circuit.
Trevor’s booth is set up and ready to sell some comics!
When I got down to the floor, however, I discovered they had moved our tables around a bit. Thankfully this was quickly and easily remedied, and within a few minutes my table was next to Russell and Alan’s again. When I received the text they had returned, I told them to come on down and start setting up – and I started to walk the floor and check out some of the other vendors and artists.
I chatted up a few friends, looked at the usual assortment of wall scrolls, plushies, figurines, and yes – tons of anime – and eventually made my way back to my table before the VIPs entered.
This was the first show I was using some new signage my wife had designed and made for me, and it looked great. I thought it gave the table a respectable and professional look – and it was much better than my handwritten signs on sticky-notes.
Check out the sweet new signage – compliments of my beautiful and talented wife!
I also had a lot of books new to this show (@$$HOLE! volumes 2-3, KILLER QUEEN, READING WITH PICTURES volume 2, and ALBERT THE ALIEN volume 1) and I was also premiering a brand new book (my first horror book), THE FAN. That’s a lot of new books!
More of the new signage – highlights the awesome new books on the table! By the end of the show, we were almost sold out of everything!
The con floor opened, and sales started quick and maintained strong throughout the first day. I even sold out of ALBERT THE ALIEN volume 1 (thankfully, my wife was showing up on Saturday with more copies), and almost sold out of READING WITH PICTURES volume 2. THE FAN was also selling like hot cakes. I couldn’t keep that book on the table. As a guy who has primarily written comedy, and most of my fans are people who like to laugh, I was amazed at the positive reaction to the book.
A little before the floor closed we shut down so we could grab a quick bite to eat before panels. We ordered some Thai food from the place across the street, and I went to get it while the group headed to the Green Room to relax a bit. We chowed down, shared our meals with each other, and had a fun and relaxing time before we left for our panels.
First up was MAKING WEBCOMICS PART 1, which Alan was kind enough to let me sit on with him. We went through our usual talk about why digital distribution is helpful, talked about how to set up some basic webcomic elements, and then did something new. Alan wanted to brainstorm a webcomic we could launch for the next WEBCOMICS panel that would occur tomorrow. It was a fun exercise, with people coming up with the elements of story (characters, conflict, environment, etc). It got people really energized about the story, and wanting to come back for more.
Trevor, Alan, and Russell drop wisdom bombs on the audience during the Writing Comics panel.
After that panel, we all went to our WRITING COMICS panel. Russell took the reins and really lead the discussion (it was his first panel of the weekend, and the dude’s been published by DC comics…so he’s got some good advice). It was a good time.
After the panel we were free for the rest of the night, so we headed to the hotel bar and hung out with Shana, Sandi, and Elaine (our handler for the weekend. The joke was that we don’t actually need a handler – we’re professionals, we know how to get to our panels on time and sell at our booths – but Elaine is also awesome, and we were so happy to have her). After a bit of hanging out, we headed for bed.
We got up earlier than I would have wanted and headed down for breakfast. We ate at the Hyatt buffet, which was expensive but tasty. Elaine and her husband joined us, and we chatted the morning away talking about our sales from the previous day and what our goals were for today. Also, my wife and Alan’s wife were showing up today, so it was going to be an amazing day.
This man is ready to sell some comics!
Beth texted me at the end of breakfast, and I collected her and together we went to the floor to set up. She also liked the way the new signs looked on the books, and her restock of ALBERT THE ALIEN was much needed after having sold out on the first day. Together we sold a bunch of books throughout the day, she learned some of the new pitches, and we generally had a fun time together. My wife doesn’t always enjoy the conventions – it’s not really her thing – but I do enjoy having her at the table.
As the day pressed on, sales continued strong. We had a slight lull in the traffic around lunch time, which is pretty typical, but overall sales were solid and strong. I almost sold out of THE FAN again, which was incredible!
We had to shut down our tables a little early again this time to do MAKING WEBCOMICS PART 2, which Alan and I lead and continued the story from the previous panel (about Harold the Dragon Princess, a 25 page comic about a princess who’s turned into a dragon and has to drink the magic milk to turn back. However, she’s being stopped by her evil uncle the magician, and a storm that she can’t fly through to reach the floating island where the magic milk is located). We had a lot of fun with the crew, and then headed up to the Green Room for some dinner.
Now THAT’s a big pretzel….
We had ordered some delicious food, including one of the largest pretzels I’ve ever seen, and hung out until we had to book it for our next panel: BREAKING INTO COMICS.
This panel was a little more balanced, with each of us taking our turn to tell our stories and how we got to where we are in the comic industry. Thankfully we each know each other’s stories pretty well, so we could set each other up pretty well to keep the conversation flowing. Russell and I even did our bit on how to meet editors and exchange contact information. It was a very informative time.
Alan tells the folks what page his bio is on in the brochure. It’s on page 20, in case you were wondering.
After that panel ended, however, I had to book it to my next panel which was pure fun: THE EVENING WITH TREVOR MUELLER. It’s an hour of me telling goofy stories and generally having a fun time with the audience. The panel before mine was running a bit long, however, due to technical issues when they set up. It gave me a chance to take a break and relax a bit before the panel, and about 10 minutes later we were able to get started. This delay in start time did impact the attendance at the panel in the beginning, unfortunately, however by the end we did have a much larger group.
I went into my fan-favorite stories, with everyone in stitches the whole time. Stories about meeting famous creators, embarrassing myself in front of my comic book idols, and why you shouldn’t watch horror movies when your college roommate is on something in the other room. Yeah, it was a good time.
After the panel ended, we headed for the bar and had some drinks to relax. Unfortunately the kitchen closed early (like 11pm!), and I was starting to get hungry. Thankfully, Elaine my handler was there. I did something I’ve never done before – I asked my handler to do something for me. I asked what nearby places were open that we could order food from and bring back here. We found a sushi place nearby, made an order, and walked in the freezing cold (it was cold even with our coats) to get the food and bring it back to the Green Room.
The voice actors were hanging out in the Green Room as well, unwinding after their long day, too. I shared some of my favorite whiskey – Elijah Craig – and hung out until way too late in the evening.
The view from the hotel. Who wants to read the paper while they enjoy their sausage?
I woke up not feeling so great. I was pretty tired, since I hadn’t really slept the whole weekend, and could barely eat any food at breakfast. I’m pretty sure it was exhaustion I was feeling, but who knows – late night thai food may also not have been sitting well with me. As the morning pressed on I felt better quickly, and sales continued to be strong up until the end of the show. Fans who said they would come back actually came back to buy stuff – which is always awesome!
A fan bought the limited edition box set of @$$HOLE!, including all of the books, bookmarks, and some original art. Plus, I drew all over the box! How sweet is that?
When the show ended we all parted ways, heading home as it started to snow outside.
Anime Milwaukee is how I’ve usually started my convention season (although one show beat it out this year as my first show of the year), and it was a strong start indeed! Great fans, amazing guests, and fantastic people who run the event. Special thanks to all of the volunteers, staffers, and loyal friends I’ve made at the show. You guys make everything awesome!