We had a blast at Anime Iowa this year. It’s a fun show in the middle of Iowa, with a killer guest lineup, and one that I continue to enjoy attending. Want to hear all about it (including the adventure I had to endure that almost prevented me from attending?), check out the links below:
– PART 1: Where the weather kept myself, and most of the other guests, at bay. In fact, one guest wasn’t able to make it BECAUSE the weather was so bad.
– PART 2: Where the guests and I got rowdy, had fun, went to the pub, and played Cards Against Humanity.
– PART 3: Despite being tired, I lead a 9am panel and sold for an entire day. How did I make it through? Click here to find out.
– PART 4: The final day of the con is always the most exhausting. But despite all that, Steve Blum bought me dinner and kept me company at the airport. Really nice guy.
Saturday’s always come far too early for my taste, especially when 1) recovering from jet lag, and 2) having stayed up late the previous night at a con, and you have to get up early to set up and sell. Alas, this is the reality of the dream that is selling comics. But hey, at least it’s fun work.
After a quick shower and breakfast, I headed over to the convention center for a full day of sales and panels. I did a quick inventory, set up, and before I knew it the hall had attendees in it. Eventually, my good pal John Bivens showed up for some art demonstrations he was doing on the main stage. And without warning – because the day was flying past – I found myself attending some panels.
Ready for another day of sales and panels
Dean Haspiel takes an artsy picture of Danny Fingeroth, while I sell comics in the background
Hanging with my good buddy, John Bivens
The first panel of the day was about Making Indie Comics, and was moderated by former Spider-Man editor Danny Fingeroth. On the panel were Danny, Victor Dandridge (Wondercare), Dean Hapsiel, another guy (who was very much the definition of “indie artist”), and myself. We all talked about our various projects and experiences, and how we define indie creator and where we think the indie world of comics is going. It was interesting to see each person’s unique perspective on the topic, and how they funneled that definition into their art, writing, and projects. Even Danny had a few indie projects in the works, which were fascinating.
I went back for more selling, but then a little while later had my solo-panel for the day about Making Webcomics. Since it was just me (and about 20-30 attendees), I kept it pretty informal and mostly answered their questions. It was a fun time, and we had some great engagement from the group. When the panel did conclude, however, I went back to the table and continued to answer any leftover questions – and also to get back to selling, of course.
As the evening came to a close, we started to discuss dinner plans. Being the local among us, John recommended some great places within walking distance of the hotel, and we all met in the lobby and walked over to the pub.
Dinner with the guys. On the left: Dean Haspiel (front), John Bivens (back); on the right: Trevor Mueller (front) and Danny Fingeroth (back)
Dean and I shared some delicious ribs and penne, and all of us enjoyed some tasty adult beverages. We talked about comics, projects past and present, and goals and ambitions for the weekend. Dean talked about how much of a Prince fan he was, and that he had gone to some Prince locations around the city throughout the weekend.
As dinner wined down, we eventually went our separate ways – except for Dean and I, who headed over to the Wizard after party a few blocks away. Dean had some meetings set up with the owner of Heavy Metal Magazine, and I just wanted to chat with some creators (and maybe some of the TV celebrities). We figured there would be a private room set aside for the guests of the con, but that wasn’t exactly the case. When we arrived to the club, a trendy place with (loud) live music and a very youthful group (including a bachelorette party of women with phalluses on their heads, dancing with cosplayers ranging from Spider-Man to Dot Matrix – the C3PO character from Spaceballs). The VIP section was roped off, but in the main room above the stage – so the music was too loud to hear anyone, even if you were screaming into their ears. The drinks were flowing and the conversation (when you could hear anything) was pleasant, so we stayed for a few hours before calling it a night.
And by calling it a night, I mean we went back to the hotel so I could show Dean and Jeff what this whole anime convention was all about. I took them to the rave. Greg Ayres was DJing, and the place was filled with people dancing all over the place. I kept getting invited to dance on stage, but that’s not really my scene anymore. Plus, I had to keep an eye on Dean and Jeff. They stuck around for a few songs before it finally did get too late for the lot of us and we went our separate ways.
What kind of fun things do you typically do at a con on Saturday night? Do you rave, and if so do you stay the whole time or just for a bit of it?
Either my alarm didn’t go off, or I slept through it – because I looked over and it was 9am (an hour after my alarm was supposed to go off, and an hour before opening). I quickly got ready, packed up, and checked out. I skipped breakfast, because there wasn’t time, and set up for the final day of the show. The con was slow, as it often is on Sundays, with people having stayed up too late the night before and being sluggish on the final day of the show. I was no exception.
Eventually, we broke to do our Writing Comics panel with Danny, Dean, myself, and Dan Jurgens (The Death of Superman). The panel was quite interesting, as Dan – a veteran in the comic space – was giving advice on his creative preferences that contradicted what my experience had taught me in some cases. However, even though our approach was quite different, the message was the same: partner with your creators in order to tell the best story possible. Forcing your artists to follow your scripts leads to stiff comics – give them freedom to put their best work on the page so long as it helps strengthen the story. He also touched on how many writers write comics like they’re writing movie scripts, which is a big no-no in comics. Movies allow for motion, but comics are a series of still images that readers have to animate in their minds to get the visual narrative to flow.
All in all, it was a fantastic discussion. At the end of the panel, I went back to the table to break down for the weekend and – after a short hiccup where I lost my coat in the hotel – Dean and I shared a cab to the airport to catch our flights. We enjoyed some quick lunch, and then went our separate ways.
All in all, Wizard World Minneapolis is a smaller but very fun convention – in a gorgeous space, and in a nice town. There’s plenty of night life, lots of culture, and great talent coming to the show. New friends were made, old friends were seen, and a fun weekend was had by all.
Thank you to Wizard and all of the attendees for a fantastic weekend.
Thursday had been a fun (and somewhat relaxing) way to start the long weekend, but now it was time to get into the meat of things. The con didn’t start until the afternoon, but there was still plenty to get done before we set up and got started (plus, we had to actually set up), so as the alarm went off I realized that it was…
…the first official day of the convention, and therefore time to get down to business. But before I could do that, though, I need to hit the gym. This is a ritual for me at conventions, and because it’s a con the gym is usually empty. I was pleasantly surprised to find people in there, however, some of which were likely attendees of the anime con (the Aska yoga pants were a dead giveaway). This gym was INCREDIBLE. Not just the best hotel gym I’ve ever been in, but probably the best gym period. Full pool, basketball court, 3 racketball courts, 7 places to do pull-ups, a full kettlebell set, tons of free weights and a full cardio room. Yeah, this was my version of workout heaven.
After working out and a quick shower, I needed some fuel to get through the day. I texted some friends who were attending the anime convention, and we went down to the hotel restaurant for breakfast. At the table a few down from us, I saw a most peculiar site: Lou Ferrigno (TV’s The Incredible Hulk) having breakfast with comic book legend Neal Adams. Lou got up for seconds as I was going up for my first, and I opted to say good morning to the man – who responded in a kind of gruff, “Oh crap it’s a fan and I’ve been recognized – don’t talk to me, kid” kind of way. Have you ever had a childhood hero turn out to not be what you expected?
After breakfast ended, we were joined by Samurai Dan and had a chance to chat a bit before I needed to go grab my 80 lbs of books (plus displays) and trek them over to the convention center from the hotel. Thankfully, the weather was gorgeous that day and the walk was warm but pleasant. I arrived at the con with plenty of time to set up, and I had a choice location – right next to Danny Fingeroth (Spider-Man) and Dean Hapsiel (American Splendor, The Red Hook). It was a fantastic corner spot, too, so opportunity to connect with cross traffic on their way back to the celebrities in the back of the building.
The swanky corner booth, all set up for sales
The show didn’t start for a few more hours, so after setting up I settled in and started working on sketch cards. As guests and artists started to arrive, I eventually broke away from the table to talk to friends like Victor Dandridge (WonderCare), and also met Barry Bostwick (The Rocky Horror Picture Show). Barry was super nice, and very funny. Eventually, the time came and the doors opened and we were in full sales mode.
After a few hours, I decided to break down the table a bit early so I could have dinner with my good friend Alicia and her kids. Alicia used to live in Michigan and we saw each other all the time, but eventually she moved back Minnesota and started a family, so our opportunities to hang out had become less frequent. Well, now I was in her home state, and she drove over an hour to come see me and hang out. Plus, her kids were awesome. We went to a Perkins and played tick-tack-toe on the placemats, and I bought the kids some quarter ninja figures from the machines by the cash register. The kids drew me pictures and I got to catch up with Alicia about how her life has changed since coming home. It was a great way to enjoy the evening, but since it was past the kid’s bedtimes (and they had another hour until they got home), we called it a night early.
She drove me back to the hotel and I freshened up, went to the anime con’s green room for some “refreshment,” and then headed to the panel room for Cards Against Humanity. Samurai Dan and Lady Jillian do this at almost every con they attend, and they’re always kind enough to invite me to participate. The dais had some great people on it, too, including my good friend Briana and her wife. The jokes started flying as we read the most inappropriate cards, and the evening came to a fitting close (much later than it probably should have). Saturday would be the proving ground for the show, and would determine if I had to bring a bunch of stuff home or not…
As convention season heats up, we’re continuing our coverage of the shenanigans I have going on at cons (and appearances) throughout the country. Next stop: Wizard World Minneapolis!
Wizard was kind enough to invite me out to be a guest at this show, which was a first-time event for me. I always get giddy when it comes to first-time cons, since it’s a new crowd (and you’re never quite sure how well you’ll do…but you know you’ll have a ton of fun talking about the work). But it was also the same weekend as an anime convention in the hotel, which had also reached out to me to lead some panels at night after the Wizard show had ended for the day. I had the added benefit of seeing some old friends that I haven’t seen in quite some time who are local to Minneapolis, so all of these things were leading up to an amazing weekend filled with comics, friends, and fun!
I took a half-day from work to catch my flight at O’Hare, which took much less time to get to than I had thought. After a few hiccups trying to figure out where my gate was, I eventually settled in for an uneventful flight (and watched a few episodes of Orphan Black to help pass the time, since I get motion sick if I write or read while traveling). I landed and took a cab to the hotel, and immediately settled in for some dinner and unwinding. I ran into my good buddy (and anime guest) Greg Ayres, and we had a few drinks out on the patio before mutually calling it a night.
Adult beverages to unwind before the con
What do you do to pass the time when traveling? How do you typically unwind before or after a con?