Convention Report: Baltimore Comic Con 2018
Two years ago I attended Baltimore Comic Con, which was the second year in a row we received our Harvey Award nomination for Albert the Alien. It wasn’t that I hadn’t wanted to go the first year, or any previous years – it’s that the show has always conflicted with an annual family camping trip, and it’s been difficult to get out of the trip to attend the con. But I’m so glad I did this year, because Baltimore is a special kind of event. A rare jewel in a sea of conventions that feels less like a show, and more like a family reunion.
I arrived at the conventions Thursday night, signed in and dropped off my stuff at the hotel and the convention center. I was staying with my buddy Paul Storrie (Viking Queen, Robyn of Sherwood), who I don’t get to see enough throughout the year. I had dinner plans with Howard Chaykin (American Flag, Star Wars), Dean Haspiel (The Red Hook, The Fox), Clinton Hobart (Disney), and a handful of others, and invited Paul to join us. We headed to a local sea food spot that Dean enjoys every time he attends the con, and – despite the rainy weather – we walked over and were seated very quickly.
We had a great conversation, and even though my comic credits were less than most at the table, what I love about this group is their inclusiveness. They wanted to hear my thoughts and opinions on things, even if and when I disagreed. These are the kinds of conversations I have with my family, and even when we don’t agree with respect each other enough to let it stand and move on in the conversation. And we do disagree, coming from different backgrounds and having different interests.
After dinner, we headed back to the hotel bar to hang out and see who else had arrived. I didn’t stay too late, though, since I needed to pace myself for the weekend. I went to bed early to keep my energy up, and because I wanted to work out the next day…and I haven’t worked out in like 4 months, since my baby was born.
I woke up early and headed to the gym, and low and behold I ran into Howard again. Howard and I had a great conversation about comics and our careers, but also about family and how life has changed us both. His career has been an interesting one, and he’s got a strong opinion about the industry and how the landscape has changed – and isn’t afraid to share it – but that kind of bluntness is something I’ve always respected, especially when it comes from years of experience.
As I expected, I got gassed pretty quickly for the first time working out in 4 months, and headed back to the room to shower and have breakfast with Paul downstairs. We took our time catching up and people watching as fans and pros alike came in for coffee and breakfast. After a while, we headed over to the convention center to set up our respective tables.
When I attended Baltimore Comic Con two years ago, I did pretty well. It was a solid sales show, with some incredible networking and hanging out afterwards. So this year, when projecting my sales numbers, I used those numbers from two years ago. However, I grossly under-estimated how well I would do during the weekend. As soon as the show opened, the floor was flooded with people buying books left and right. Sales were something that rival a strong Saturday at a con. And in the first day of the con, I sold through half of the books I had brought for the entire weekend.
After the floor closed, I headed back to the room to freshen up, and then met my good friend Katie Cook and went for dinner. She was kind enough to give me a preview of things to come with my girls, since hers are older than mine, previewed her Ringo Awards speech – which we both knew was going to be polarizing. Katie had recently gotten back into webcomics with the launch of her WebToon series Nothing Special. But her book IS something special, and her speech reflected as much.
After catching up with Katie, I did a quick stop off at the hotel bar (for more socializing), but again it was an early night for me.
A strange thing occurred to me on the second day of the show: I sold out of all my inventory by noon! What was supposed to last me an entire weekend barely lasted a full day, and so I was left with a very good question: what should I do with the rest of my weekend? I decided to continue to focus on sales, and promoting the Kickstarter. We had quite a few people pre-order copies of the books I was now sold out of, and several others backed the Kickstarter to get the full series.
After the con ended for the day, I went to dinner in Little Italy with some friends I met on forums and have known for ages. Even though it was the first time I was meeting many of them for the first time in person, it was like we had been hanging out for our entire lives. It felt like family.
After dinner, we walked back across the bay to the hotel and waited at the hotel bar for the Ringo Awards to let out. Around 11pm, the bar flooded with well-dressed folks from the comic world that were all over the spectrum in terms of their time in the industry, and reactions to Katie’s keynote speech had been universally positive. We stayed up late into the night, talking and celebrating and having a merry time – everyone mirroring the feeling I had been expressing the entire weekend. That this was less of a show, and more of a gathering of family.
Morning came far too early, but Paul and I headed downstairs for our final convention breakfast for the weekend. We sat with Amy Chu (Red Sonja, Poison Ivy) and her son, and talked about being on panels, good (and bad) questions from fans and moderators, and so much more. I have known Amy for a while now, but this was the first time we had met in person. She knew who I was, despite not having met before this breakfast, and again – it felt like a family breakfast conversation.
After the breakfast, we headed to the show floor for the final hours of sales. After a few hours on the floor, I closed down the table to lead a How to Draw Creepy (and Cute) Monsters workshop for kids, co-lead by Emily Drouin. Emily and I had coordinated months ago about doing a workshop, and this was such a fun experience for us and for the kids – and the kids draw some excellent monsters!
Not too long after, I went to a Kickstarter panel with other people who had done successful campaigns in the past. It was a fun opportunity to talk about my current Kickstarter campaign, impart some experience of what and how campaigns change over time, and learn from other pros on how they made their campaigns as successful as they have.
After the panel, I packed up and headed to the airport to catch a flight back home. I had another convention the following weekend, and needed to conserve as much of my energy (and my voice) as I possibly could.
But despite pacing myself all weekend, Baltimore Comic Con was a complete blast! Such a fun time filled with industry pros who made me feel like one of them. Inclusive, diversive, and accepting – the entire weekend was one for the ages, and solidified Baltimore as more than an occasional show. It’s a mandatory show for me now.
Thank you to all the staff, volunteers, fellow creators, and also the fans who made this weekend such an incredible experience. Thank you, thank you, thank you!