My first convention of the year – which is a show I commonly start my year with – was Anime Milwaukee, and it never disappoints. This weekend is, and does, set my bar for the year on how conventions can and should be run. I love this show. LOVE IT. And I’m going to tell you why: the attendees are awesome. Period.
What do you like most about the cons you attend? What tends to bring you into a show? Guests? Events? Bands? Panels? Word of mouth about the show? Let me know.
That said, let’s jump into the con.
After work, I picked up my buddy Russell Lissau (another guest of the show, and writer of Old Wounds) and we decided to hang out and grab some dinner locally before beginning our drive north to avoid some traffic. Russell took me to a local Mediterranean place that had some very delicious kabobs and hummus. We sat and caught up, having not seen each other for some time (and not having done a con together for months). Eventually we finished dinner and headed up to the con, which was a much faster drive than we both anticipated.
We got to the hotel and parked, and headed in to get our badges and itineraries for the weekend. We met up with Alan Evans (Rival Angels), who showed us that our rooms were all next to each other (and connected!). We poured some drinks and hung out for several hours, eventually being joined by our good friend Sandi. I didn’t stay up too late, because I was exhausted from having the baby at home, but I did stay up later than I expected to.
Alan and I got up early and hit up the gym, taking turns and spotting each other in the workout. We had a good hour in the gym, and then headed to our rooms to get ready for the day and headed to breakfast. We went to a local diner across the street, grabbed a quick bite, and then went to the floor to start setting up our tables.
The booth, set up in all its glory!
Our table position was PERFECT. We were just to the right of the main entrance to the artist alley / dealer’s area, so we had a lot of main traffic coming past our table. We were very visible from the entrance, and got a lot of spillover because of the extra visibility. Before we started selling, however, it was time for opening ceremonies.
Do you attend opening ceremonies at a con? I find them attended very sporadically, depending on the show – some have incredible attendance, others less so. This show has great attendance at their opening ceremonies.
Many guests were still arriving (or would not be attending for the weekend, due to the massive storms in California cancelling flights). They called the guests up in groups, and so the comic guys all went up together. Despite having agreed to me doing all the talking, Alan said a few words which lead to some awkwardness, and then we went off stage and opened our tables for the start of selling and panels. Well, sort of….
We had received our panel schedules from the guest department, which we were following. However, that schedule did not always match the schedule outside of the rooms. So when I arrived at my 3:30pm Writing for Comics panel, I found someone else already talking in the room and no line waiting for me. When I looked at the panel doors, that scheduled claimed the panel was in another room an hour earlier. I told my guest handler about the snafu, and went back to my table to keep selling. This would become a theme for the weekend, unfortunately, but was really the only hiccup in an otherwise perfect weekend.
Godzilla sketch card commission
About the time the floor was supposed to close, we had another panel – this one was a group panel, about Making Time for Making Comics. Attendance was a bit light, but again – our schedule didn’t match the door schedule. But we had a fun time, talked about identifying and removing distractions, and how to prioritize creative projects. After that, we grabbed some dinner and hung out in the green room with the rest of the guests – including an appearance by my buddy Matt Mercer, and Vic Mignogna.
I’ll be a returning guest of honor at Anime Milwaukee this year, set up in artist alley selling comics during the day, and also doing panels throughout the weekend.
– Writing for Comics and Manga (3:30-4:30pm) – 202AB
– Making Time for Making Comics (8-9pm) – 202C
– VIP cocktail event (9:30-10pm)
– How to Exhibit at Cons (4-5pm) – 202A
– How to Make your Own Comics and Manga (7-8pm) – 202C
Who will I see there? Which panels are you most excited about?
I wrote a series of posts on my other website, www.AlbertTheAlien.com, about my convention experience at Wizard World Chicago. Check out the various sections below.
PART 1: Preview Night, which included a very hearty dinner with my good pal, Russell Lissau.
PART 2: The first official day, in which I moderated a panel with Dean Haspiel, Ali Cantarella, and Steve Horton.
PART 3: The biggest day of the show, where Channel Awesome paid me a visit and I met Jon Baily (Honest Trailers)
PART 4: The final day, where I had to say my goodbyes (by taking silly pictures with people).
Summer time is convention season, and the midwest is a fun place to hit up a good con. And what better named con could there be than Anime Midwest? I was back as a guest of honor at this awesome convention, and we had a blast. Want to know what happened? Well, let’s talk about it…
After work I headed straight from the office to the hotel to check in, grab some food, and start the weekend of fun and hanging out. The Hyatt was the official con hotel, and I went to Guest Ops and get my badge and room key so I could drop my stuff off in my room. It had been raining earlier that day, and because of the humidity I decided not to go drop my stuff off at the convention center (and it’s a good thing I didn’t…and I’ll tell you why in a second). Instead, I opted to go have dinner at the Hyatt bar, during which time it rained again. HARD. Like, the ceiling was leaking in 2 different places hard. And when I say leaking, I mean it was like a waterfall in at least two places that I could see from where I was sitting with my burger and my drink.
On my way back to the room, a girl I didn’t recognize approached me and asked if I knew where Con Ops was located. Apparently her group was one of the burlesque dancers, and they didn’t have all of their badges yet, but were told they would be available at Con Ops to be picked up. I chatted her up for a bit while I walked her over to the location, and then parted ways. I went back to my room to relax for a bit, listening to some music and prepping my sketch cards for the show.
My buddy Russell Lissau (Old Wounds, Starwberry Shortcake) eventually showed up, and I came with him to the hotel bar to sit and chat while he had a snack and a beverage. He told me he had tried to go to the convention center and, because of the rain, it had started to flood! This is why I was glad that I didn’t go set up when I first got in. Apparently, the water in the convention center went all the way from the loading docks almost as far as our tables. We chatted for a few hours and eventually went our separate ways. Eventually my friend Brooke Stephenson (Fallen) showed up, and I helped her get her badges and drop her stuff off before we headed to the Green Room to hang out with the volunteers and staff.
Novembros reunited. With Brooke Stephenson
Greg Ayers had arrived before too long, and it was great to get to catch up with him. People came and went from the Green Room, and eventually I wandered around with Brooke before we parted ways for the evening.
Because I stayed up way later than expected the previous night, I skipped my usual routine of Friday morning workout (which I do regret; it always makes me feel better; energized for the weekend), and headed straight to breakfast. Russell and Brooke were already down there, and I grabbed some quick eggs before heading back to the room to grab my stuff and set up.
The show started around 1pm, and opening ceremonies were at noon, so I wanted to be set up and ready to go prior to the floor opening. Once everything was set, though, it was time to relax and walk around a bit before opening ceremonies.
The booth is all set up and ready for a weekend of selling
During opening ceremonies, it was an opportunity to connect with all of the guests behind the stage. I saw Analise from V for Villains, and also hung out with Samurai Dan and Lady Jillain, and also Chuck Huber. Chuck took off his shirt back stage and made a terrible joke (“Does anyone know a good vet, because these puppies are sick,” as he pointed at his arms), which I dared him to say on stage. Which he did. And now I owe that man a drink. They eventually got to my turn to go on stage, but I was being blocked by one of Lady Jillain’s Akida dogs. The thing was kind of scared to get off the stage, and it was completely blocking the stairs to get on the stage. So they handed me a microphone, and I started my monologue with, “I want to come on the stage, but there’s a terrified dog in the way!” I announced my panels and my location in artist alley, and then headed back to the floor for selling.
And sell we did. People started pouring into the place, including our fellow comic guests Steve Wallace (Reading with Pictures) and Sean Lindsay (Spinnerette). The rest of the day was spent selling, and then we broke for dinner. Steve and I had a panel that night at 9:30pm, right next to the room where V for Villains were playing their concert, which was about Kickstarter for Beginners. Considering the amount of noise we had to deal with from next door, the panel was well attended and very engaging about crowdfunding and Kickstarter.
After the panel ended, we met up with the rest of the group in the Green Room to unwind before going to bed. Friday was an epic start to a great / exhausting weekend, and it would only get better as the weekend went on.
My latest story, LOS OJOS, is being collected in a graphic novel that will be available at your local comic store! Artwork by Francesco Iaquinta. It will be collected with several awesome stories from creators, including my pal Russell Lissau, from publisher Pop! Goes the Icon.
Orders are due July 18, so please order today! DIAMOND ORDER CODE: JUL161850
The final day of a convention is always the hardest to get up for. It’s been a lot of fun, but exhausting. You’re tired. You’re sleep deprived. You’ve been going to bed too late and getting up too early. But adrenaline is still pumping through the veins, despite your voice being nearly gone from talking over all the noise. And on top of all that misery, you don’t want it to come to an end. But it has to. All things, even good things, must end.
Morning. Breakfast. Drive to the con. Set up. The morning tasks of a con tend to be rather routine. But it’s when those doors open and people start pouring in that everything changes. Sunday was surprisingly my strongest day of the show, with a lot of sales coming in (last-minute shoppers), and a handful of commissions. The day felt a lot shorter than it was, mostly because I was heads down working on sketch cards and full-sized commissions. But it did eventually come to a close, and we packed up a bit early to beat the rush exiting the con and the hotels (which sadly meant not a lot of time for goodbyes).
Trevor, Alan, and Ren – hanging out behind the tables on the final day
Batman v Spider-Man sketch card commission
Sophia the First commission
Alan drove me home, picked up his stuff and we said our goodbyes. And I started to unpack and relax a bit. But then I got a text from my good friend, and fellow comic creator Russell Lissau. Russell didn’t have a table at ACEN this year, but had hung out with us Friday night, and he was wondering how things went. I invited him over to chat about the con, and also to partake in some grilling delicious goodness.
Nothing helps you relax after a con like good friends and good food. I marinated some pork chops (in olive oil, vinegar, and some seasonings), and threw some brats on as well (jalapeno, and Jim Bean bourbon flavored). Russ brought some side dishes, buns and veggies (which we put in foil and cooked with garlic and basil butter) and we made a meal out of it. Russ hung out for a few hours and then we parted ways (I was exhausted, but not so tired that I couldn’t watch the Game of Thrones episode I had recorded).
How do you typically unwind after a con? What’s your post-con ritual?
ACEN was – once again – a blast. I hope to come back again next year, and who knows…maybe there will be a few surprises in store for next year, too!
Post-con grilling, a great way to unwind (and not just immediately pass out from exhaustion)
My second convention (in a row) in March was in my own backyard of Chicago, C2E2! Typically for this show, I run the Reading with Pictures booth (this year the table was across from the Jelly Belly booth, for free jelly beans all weekend!) and only sell my all-ages books. Additionally, the proceeds from the sales go back to benefit the non-profit – so buying from me at C2E2 you get great content AND support a great charity. Bonus!
Friday morning, my buddy Phil Chan (Digital Pimp Online) and I drove into the city with our stuff in tow, and dropped off at the McCormick Convention Center in downtown Chicago. I stopped into the Airbnb I was going to be staying in, to grab the key, and then headed to the show floor to get my badges and set up the table.
The Reading with Picture booth, hidden behind Neal Adams
Reading with Pictures was set up right by the Marvel booth, behind Neal Adams, and across from the Jelly Belly booth. This was nice, because they kept us full of sugar all weekend – necessary after the late nights and early mornings. Since I arrived earlier than anticipated, I had a chance to walk around a bit and see some familiar faces. I took a stroll through artist alley to see who all was in already, said hi to some buddies, and then went back to the table in anticipation of the flood of attendees piling into the place.
Russell Lissau and Trevor Mueller – brothers in comics
Comic book creators, and good friends. From left to right: Russell Lissau, Ashley Erickson, me, and Gabo
After the doors opened, our volunteers showed up for the day. Helping us promote our latest initiatives (including a charity event we were hosting Saturday night), as well as helping us to sell some books, our volunteers were invaluable to our efforts and successes that weekend. Also, I got to reunite with Garrett, who helped us out last year and has been a big part of RWP’s efforts in the last several years.
Hanging out with Garrett Hill
As the day continued and books kept flying off the table, several friends started to stop by the table. Mark Waid stopped by to say hi, and to check out the Albert the Alien trades (he had yet to see volume 2). I was also visited by several of the cast of the Nostalgia Critic, who are always a blast to hang out with. And also some cosplay friends of mine stopped by to say hi, and to hopefully schedule a hangout for later in the weekend.
Special celebrity guest appearances by Tamara Chambers!
Good cosplay friends showed up, dressed as Captain America and Agent 13
After the floor closed and sales ended, I regrouped with my buddies and tried to figure out our dinner plans. My buddy Phil needed to eat, and we were joined by Channel Awesome stars Doug Walker, Brad Jones and Fard Mohummad as we walked to China Town for a quick bite. We stopped into a little place (that was not crowded, thankfully), and sitting down felt amazing. The food was also delicious, spicy (the way I like it), and plentiful. We ordered family style, and just shared everything together, while chatting about comics, cons, and movies.
Dinner out in China Town with Doug Walker, Brad Jones, Fard Muhammad, and Phil Chan
By the end of dinner, we were all pretty exhausted, but I made a quick stop back at the Hyatt bar to say hi to some friends. Gene Ha was there, sketching, and I got to meet some of his friends. I was also introduced to Scott Snyder and Greg Capullo (who were really just saying hi to Gene Ha, but at least shook my hand). I hung out for a bit with friends Justin Jordan, John Bivens, and several others before it was time to call it a night.
I got up early at the condo I was staying in, took a shower (their bathroom was immaculately clean), and headed down the street to the corner shop, which had breakfast sandwiches. I headed to the show, ate, and set up the table for another day of incredible sales. We had another volunteer coming in on Saturday, too, who was cosplaying as Batgirl – so the kids could take pictures with her.
Reading with Pictures booth, day 2…now with significantly less inventory
Batgirl was volunteering at the Reading with Pictures booth on Saturday!
More cosplay friends came by to say hi, dressed as the 5th Evil Ex and Poison Ivy, respectively
Warrior Princess Peach!
More awesome cosplay from some good friends
Monty Python cosplayers are probably my favorites…that rabbit is just so vicious!
As sales winded down for the day, we broke down the table and headed off to my favorite sushi place in the city, Niu! With a reservation of 20+ people, this restaurant has never had an issue accommodating the lot of us. And we took up 3 rather large tables. I sat with my friends Russell Lissau (Old Wounds), Bryan Glass (Mice Templar), and Robin Dale. We talked about comics, comic movies, and the state and evolution of conventions.
After dinner, we returned to the hotel and I had a quick drink with some friends, and then headed back to the condo for some much needed sleep.
The final morning of the show is always a rough time. You’re tired, but you’re also energized to sell through the last of your stock and see your friends for a final time before returning to the real world. This morning was no different. We had very little stock left on the table to sell through, however we also had no volunteers coming in on Sunday to provide any coverage – so I was at the table for the bulk of the day. I did have to shut down, briefly, in order to attend a panel on Self-Publishing (moderated by my buddy, Jim McClain).
Come buy the last of my comics!
The Secrets of Sustainable Self-Publishing with Jim McClain, Jim McClain, Scott Bachmann, Tom Stillwell, Trevor Mueller, and Kelly Heying
More friends stopped by, in even more amazing costumes!
By the end of the panel, and the weekend, we were beat. I broke down the table, helped Phil pack up his inventory and take it to the cab, and then we hopped into separate cars and took off – he to his flight, and me to my condo so my wife could give me a ride back home.
C2E2 was nothing shy of amazing this year (as it is every year). The staff and volunteers are incredible, the attendees are great, the sales are amazing, and I love hanging out with everyone after the show ends. I can’t wait for next year!
2016 is off to a solid start with the first con I usually do during a given year (although this time, they pushed the con back from Valentine’s Day weekend to March…so it was warmer outside). Anime Milwaukee is this con that usually starts my con season, and it always sets the bar high. This year was no different, in that respect, and AMKE continues to be a fun and fulfilling convention experience.
Thursday after work, I met my buddy (and fellow comic book guest of honor) Russell Lissau at my house, had a quick chat while packing up his car with my stuff, and then we headed on our journey towards Milwaukee. Having moved from the city of Chicago to the northern suburbs, it’s now much quicker to get to Milwaukee than it previously was. Almost half the time, in fact. We arrived and unloaded our stuff, and immediately sought out our badges and the other guests (including our good friend and fellow comic book guest, Alan Evans).
It turns out the guests that had already arrived were on their way to dinner as a group, which (since we had eaten before we left Chicago) we were not hungry at this time. We opted instead to stop by the exhibitor hall to drop off our stuff, and have a quiet drink in our room while hanging out. Eventually, our friend Sandi came by and gave us a manicure – which is something that is quickly becoming an Anime Milwaukee tradition, and was much appreciated. Also, I will say that ending your day with a hand massage and cleansing is the perfect way to go to sleep.
Friday morning I got up and headed to the gym, where Alan and I started doing our workout routines. Typically at a con, I tend to work my arms only (since I’m standing all day, and I don’t need to burn out my legs at the beginning of the weekend), and that’s where my focus was – with a mix of push and pull exercises. Eventually, we were joined by voice actor guest Todd Haberkorn. Great minds must think alike, because he was also trying to squeeze in a workout before the first day of con.
Look at this page of good looking guests! From left to right: Stella Chuu, Todd Haberkorn, and some bald guy that writes comics
After the gym and a quick shower, we headed to the green room (a room provided to guests of shows that has refreshments, food, and usually a place to relax away from the con for a while) for some continental breakfast, followed by heading down to the floor to set up our tables. We were on the opposite side of the exhibitor hall from the entrance, basically where we were last year, however I noticed that a lot of the vendors have really started to build their displays vertically. It felt a lot more claustrophobic than it has in years past. Russell, Alan, and myself were all in a row next to each other, which is how we prefer to operate, and we began putting our displays up and readying ourselves for a day of sales.
We were surprised to hear that the show floor didn’t actually open until 2pm, since the program guide had said noon. Also, the artist alley outside of the exhibitor room had been in full swing since that morning – sacrificing security of their tables in exchange for longer times to sell. It wasn’t so bad, since 2pm was the same start time as last year, but since commerce was happening outside the room, we were very anxious to get started. Plus, I was premiering three new books at the show:
1) ALBERT THE ALIEN vol 2: The next chapter in the first foreign exchange student from space’s adventures on Earth.
2) LIL ALBERT: A coloring and activity book of baby Albert’s first adventure on our planet.
3) LOS OJOS: A supernatural action story about a contract killer who can see good and evil by looking someone in the eyes.
All set up and ready to sell some comics!
Once the day started and the doors opened, it was a mad house of people and sales. I’ve been attending AMKE for a long time now, and each year the show grows by leaps and bounds. And sales have grown right along with it.
During the day of selling, Alan and I snuck away back to the green room to grab some sandwiches for lunch. I also participated in some shenanigans with my table neighbors, the Bristol Renaissance Faire. Their table was doing magic tricks, sock puppet shows, and singing drinking songs throughout the day – and it was quite entertaining.
My table neighbors for the weekend: The Bristol Ren Faire!
After the floor closed, the comic group went to the Thai restaurant across the street from the hotel for some dinner. The con used to have two Thai restaurants next door: the good one and the less good one. Unfortunately, the good one closed. The food was still good at the current one, but the service tends to be rather slow. And true to form, it took a while for the food to arrive – but it was warm and delicious, so I can’t complain.
After dinner, we headed to the green room again to hang out and see some of the other guests. I texted Sonny Strait, and we had a great conversation about working in comics – and his work coloring for Dark Horse, and some of the projects he’s working on. It was also nice to see Brina Palencia again (it had been a few years since we last hung out). We also met cosplay guest Stella Chuu, and chatted with her and one of her friends late into the night.
The next morning we headed to the green room for breakfast, and then straight to the floor for the 10am start time. Commerce came in strong and steady, once again, and sales continued throughout the day. Alan and I escaped to the green room for lunch, making our own burritos, and then went right back to the selling.
Briana Lawrence and myself, hanging out on the sales floor!
A cosplay from one of my favorite animes: Elfin Lied!
One of many commission sketch cards from the weekend!
Another sketch card commission!
After the floor closed, we headed to our panels. At 6pm we did a panel about exhibiting at conventions, where we all dropped knowledge bombs about things to bring, priorities in your displays, and how to market yourself to your fans. After that, we had a little time and ran upstairs once again to grab some free food in the green room. My wife also arrived at the con, and was able to grab a quick bite before we had to run back downstairs for our next panel: How to Turn Ideas into Comics. It was an involved discussion about where ideas come from, and how you turn them into stories. Each of the comic guests had very different experiences and techniques for what they do with their ideas, and it was refreshing to do a new panel with the guys.
Immediately after our panels was the 18+ Cards Against Humanity panel, which was a ton of fun and filled with inappropriate jokes and good (or bad, depending on your personality) humor.
After the panel, we headed to the green room for some more hanging out, and eventually Alan and I went downstairs to grab a quite bite with Samurai Dan and Lady Jillian. We were out way later than I expected to be, and I started to get a little tired (I get really quiet when I’m tired). The fact that the time jumped ahead at 2am, due to daylight savings, did not help.
The final day of the show was another early start, beginning with breakfast in the green room followed by a day of selling on the floor. Before the con closed, however, we had one more panel to do as a group: Breaking into Comics. We all have very different stories for how we got into the business, and I tried to mix up the questions to things fans ask me all the time – and also to keep it fresh for us.
At the end of the con, it was time to pack up, say our goodbyes, and take the long drive back home.
AMKE was and continues to be the best way to start a convention season. I love this show!
The con even branded the bar. Awesome!
Every year I try to do different conventions, so as to mix up where I go and the audience I reach with my books. It also keeps things fresh for me, which is always nice to try something new. This year, I decided to give Count-i-Con a try.
A smaller convention located in Grayslake, IL, the show is on it’s second year and was a lot of fun. Very family friendly, with plenty to do for con-goers (and people who are new to cons). The show is also only two-days, so you don’t have to take time off from work or commit an entire weekend to enjoy the show.
Let’s dive into some details on the weekend.
Since the show starts at noon, I actually got the chance to sleep in a little for a Saturday at a convention. I left my place with the car fully packed, and drove north towards the County Fairgrounds, where they held the con this year. The drive was uneventful, and I got there in plenty of time to set up – and even say hi to a few people.
The table set up, and ready for commerce!
I was joined by friends Russell Lissau (Old Wounds), and Mark Stegbauer (Survival), and we were set up in artist alley. Gabo was also there, but set up in the main isles of the show floor, with a super sweet corner booth.
Pitching the books
It didn’t take long for the doors to open and people to start coming in. Since our tables were opposite the doors, it did take a while for them to filter back to us, but once they were there the sales started coming in. The crowd was very positive and eager to hear pitches, and check out all of the cool stuff we had for sale.
I was also joined by my mother’s best friend, Deb, and her daughter, Celine. This was Celine’s first convention, and she came dressed in costume (and placed in the top 10 of the costume contest). She brought a bunch of her friends, as well, and they stopped by the table throughout the day. We made plans to go to dinner together later that night.
Went out to dinner with some first-time con-goers
I wasn’t super familiar with the area, so we let Google Maps tell us what our dinner options were. We found a Chili’s near my hotel, and headed that way. We sat at several tables, and talked anime and comics with both Celine and her friends, as well as the parents. One of the parents was dressed up as Seven of Nine from Star Trek: Voyager, which was pretty awesome.
The girls had a blast, but since they were headed back to Michigan that night, we called it early and sent them on their way. I retired to the hotel with Russ and Mark, enjoyed some post-con drinks at the bar, and then headed to bed.
I woke up and headed to the gym for a quick pre-con workout (not my full routine, but a little something to get some energy for the day). After the gym, the guys and I headed to a nearby diner for some much-needed breakfast.
I’m here to sell comics and chew bubblegum. And I’m all out of bubblegum.
Breakfast with some handsome / hungry guys
Ole skillet – spicy eggs and jalapenos.
After food, we went to the con to set up. I chatted up Ashley Witter (Squariors), who I know back from my days of posting webcomics on Drunk Duck. It was fun catching up with her, and we made plans to talk more about the glory days of webcomic making and the fun community Drunk Duck had in our day.
But now it was time to get the sales on, so I headed back to table and started my day of selling. Sunday was noticeably slower than Saturday, but traffic kept picking up as the day progressed. I eventually decided to take off a little early (mostly because my wife wanted to go see a movie), and packed it in.
Count-i-Con was a fun alternative to the larger comic shows that I go to, and focuses on the actual comic creators (and not the TV celebrities). It was refreshing to be at a show where people were there for the comics, and not for other reasons. It was a lot of fun, and I hope to be invited back again next year.
Come buy comics from this guy, next con you see him at!
July 4th is a time of fun, family, BBQ, and explosions in the United States. That’s right, it’s independence day!
But instead of celebrating my freedom in this country by blowing up a portion of it with loud / colorful devices of destruction, I decided to be productive and attend a convention instead! Hanging out with friends, fans, and selling comics…yeah, it’s not too far off from what everyone else was doing. Minus the selling comics thing, maybe. But anyway, here’s the weekend I had:
I had a half day working from home, so after I finished up my daily duties I grabbed my (ridiculously heavy) luggage and headed out to Rosemont. The blue line is a straight shot out there from my place, and after a short train ride I walked to the hotel to get my badges and drop off my stuff. The guests had space set aside for them against the far wall of the convention, and I quickly set down my stuff and ensured the comic guests could all be next to each other.
After that, I headed to the hotel room and started doing some sketch cards. I was premiering some new designs (Furiosa, and Spider-Gwen), and needed to put the finishing touches on them. After a little bit, my good friend and fellow comic guest Russell Lissau (OLD WOUNDS, THE BATMAN STRIKES) arrived and we grabbed some food and hung out at the bar. He was soon followed by Steve Horton (AMALA’S BLADE) and Steve Wallace (NO COUNTRY FOR OLD KOBALTS). The gang all hung out at the bar, and then retired to one of our rooms to catch up and hang out. I went to bed kind of early because I wanted to hit up the gym the next day.
An early morning work out is how I like to start my first day of a convention. It gives me energy, wakes me up, and keeps the adrenaline going from the night before. The gym is usually empty when I do a convention – I’ve noticed the gym is particularly barren at anime shows – but this time the gym had a handful of people.
After the workout and a quick shower, I met the comic guests downstairs for a hearty breakfast, and then we went to the floor to set up.
Table set up for Anime Midwest
The comic guests of Anime Midwest. From left to right: Russell Lissau, some creepy bald guy, Sean Lindsay, Steve Horton, and Steve Wallace
Fridays are usually strong sales days for me. I have a lot of friends and fans visit, but particularly this Friday I was selling the new Albert the Alien trade, as well as several box sets for some of my other series. It was a great strong start to the weekend, and exceeded my sales expectations for the day.
We broke down a little early before the floor closed, since we had panels to do. The guys regrouped at the bar for a quick drink while pizza was being delivered, but I spent the evening chatting with my friend Lauren (Geek Girl Chicago). I ended up having dinner with her instead of pizza with the guys – mostly because we were both talking about my favorite video games, and our favorite experiences in the Fallout games. We were both psyched for Fallout 4, and couldn’t wait for the game to hit!
After dinner, I headed downstairs for our first panel of the night – Writing Comics! We did it Q&A style, fielding questions from the audience. It was a well-attended panel, and the fans appreciated learning everything we could share about our experiences working in comics.
Russell, Steve, and Steve (and myself, taking the photo) doing a “Writing Comics” panel
After that panel there was a little more downtime before my final panel of the night, Self-Publishing 101. I took the panel solo, talking about how to make comics yourself. It was a fun time, another great opportunity for attendees to ask questions, and I even got topics about selling strategies and self-promoting / branding at a convention.
After the panel ended, it was time to relax in the room for a bit. I got a phone call from my buddy that was crashing with us this weekend that he had arrived, let him into the room and the group of us crashed almost immediately. It had been an exhausting first day, but also a great one!
Morning came earlier than any of us wanted, I think, but we got up and had some breakfast before opening our tables to the masses of the show. Traffic was a little light in the morning, but that was partly due to the fact that many attendees were up late at the dance the previous night (and also partially due to some movie premieres that were happening that morning).
During the slower period, I was able to hang out with my Albert the Alien artist Gabo, as well as our new artist friend Ali Cantarella (The Hasty Pastry). She loves baking, and made me a very tasty cookies and cream rice krispie treat! It was as delicious as it sounds.
Ali Cantarella made me a cookies and cream rice krispie treat. It was as delicious as it sounds!
At noon I had a panel called “Kickstarter for Beginners,” and I invited Ali to join me on the panel since her book was also funded through the platform. The two of us fielded questions and talked through our approaches to crowd-funding, and how we ran our campaigns. It was very insightful, and she had some great insights from her experience. People in the audience were asking about Kickstarter in general, but some wanted to know how to fund their own projects (and most of them were not comic related, which was interesting).
After the panel, traffic had picked up dramatically and books were flying off the table. I sold through all of my box sets for @$$hole!, and also sold through all of my Killer Queen anthology books. I didn’t think those wold move, since they’re pricey books, but they flew off the table. People loved them!
I also started selling through copies of The Fan, my first horror book. A lot of people who bought it the previous day even came back to ask when the next one would be coming out (the answer: there’s no planned sequel, but I do plan to partner with artist Nicholas Ramio again soon).
Someone bought a box set. These sold super well throughout the weekend…until I sold out!
Towards the evening, traffic started to slow again as attendees started making their way towards panels or dinners. But since I was next to the Channel Awesome crew, it was a fun opportunity to goof around and make some funny jokes. The bulk of us were in a (not kid friendly) web movie called Dragonbored, about a guy so obsessed with a video game that he brings his character out into the real world. Think “Last Action Hero” meets “Conan The Barbarian,” but intentionally funny.
We started coming up with goofy story ideas for the sequel (and since the star, Doug Walker, wasn’t at the show – we decided it would be like a direct-to-DVD sequel with goofy cheesy story and focus on the supporting cast, instead). The story went something like this:
Worried about his friend, Malcolm downloads Karl from the Skyguard game on his mobile game app. However, he accidentally brings something else from the game back with him. Now the two must partner together to defeat this new game evil, and put everything right.
Scenes we discussed occurring included:
– Karl and Malcolm having to battle a giant off-screen monster
– Fard and Trevor, trying to fire each other
– Brian going back in time to find the programmer who disappeared in the post-credits scene, and deciding he never wants to come home again…until he discovers there are no hot pockets in the past!
– A phone call appearance by Rachel Tietz
– Somehow bringing the intro character (Rob Walker) back, possibly as a background character or cameo
Suffice it to say, we had a lot of fun coming up with ideas and taking pictures.
Hanging out with Fard and Karl – great guys, who’re super funny
Hanging out with the Channel Awesome crew (and somewhat of a Dragonbored reunion). From Left to right: Fard Muhammad, Malcolm Ray, me, Karl Custer, Brian Heinz, and Lewis Lovhaug
Dragonbored 2 fun: Malcolm downloads Karl from the mobile game app
Dragonbored 2 fun: Karl covers up product placement while Malcolm reacts to something off-screen
After the floor closed, it was time for a quick bite of dinner before running off to my final panel of the evening: An Evening with Trevor Mueller. This hour-long panel is an opportunity for me to relax with fans, have fun, and tell goofy stories for an hour. I told some fan-favorites (most of the audience were new faces, so that worked out well), and I topped it all off with showing some of the fake movie trailers we made for our wedding. Voice actor Eric Stewart caught the last 10 minutes or so of the panel, and opened his panel saying how funny it was. It was a great compliment, and left me feeling great for the rest of the evening.
After the panel ended, it was time for some late-night relaxation. I went to the green room and hung out in there for most of the night, catching up with fellow guests Spike Spencer, his wife Kim (and talking about her great new projects!), Eric and some of the 4Star guys. A woman named Highwire was our liaison, and she bar tended the room – making some very tasty peach flavored drinks. I even popped into the rave for a little bit, but didn’t stay too long. I did have another day of sales ahead of me, after all.
The final day of the show always starts with a slow morning. Not necessarily in terms of traffic (although, that was the case since the show was premiering another movie Sunday morning), but because Saturday was a late night and you’re typically pretty tired. It’s also a little bittersweet, because you know at the end of the day that the weekend is over and tomorrow you have to go back to the real world.
But I digress – we had a quick breakfast and headed to the floor for a morning of sales. I was mostly sold out by this time, but was able to move a few more books before packing it in for the day.
Come buy comics from this handsome guy
Overall, Anime Midwest was a really fun time. They had a killer guest lineup this year, well attended panels, and there’s always a lot of fun and energy!