Convention Review: Anime Milwaukee 2012
2012 convention season started off with a bang, as Anime Milwaukee always sets the benchmark and sets it high for the rest of the shows I’m going to attend for the year. This year was no exception, as they set the bar even higher than ever before! So without further delay, below is the full convention report for the awesome weekend at Anime Milwaukee!
Thursday was mostly spent at the office (and we were having a team celebration / competition, too), but I had to duck out early to make my train. Despite not being listed on the e-ticket, apparently AMTRAK won’t let anyone board less than 10 minutes before departure. So despite getting there while the train was still on the platform, AMTRAK refused to let me board.
Upon going to a supervisor to complain (I would have left earlier if it was on the e-ticket), I was informed that the train had already left by the time I arrived (a lie) and then the supervisor proceeded to walk away without actually addressing my concern.
A 3 hour wait later, and I was on the next available train to Milwaukee. Not the way I wanted to start my weekend, mind you, especially since I was missing an all-guest dinner at the show. AMTRAK owes me free food (and or a free train ticket) and an apology, damn it.
Anyway, I eventually arrived at the show and was taken up to the guest suite where Spike Spencer (Neon Genesis) and Alan Evans (Rival Angels) were hanging out with many of the volunteers, staffers, and awesome people that make the show possible.
I can’t stress this enough: having cool people running the show is essential to making a fun weekend. Another important component: awesome attendees.
I’ve met Spike at several shows last year, but we’ve never actually hung out. He invited me back to his room for some red wine and good conversation, but I was so exhausted (and still a little ticked off about AMTRAK) so I took a pass.
Since I was staying with Alan, we piled into the car and headed home to catch some z’s before officially starting the show the next morning.
An early morning found Alan and myself heading to our favorite breakfast place, this little local bagel sandwich spot. After acquiring our morning sustenance, we headed for the convention hall.
This year the show was in the Frontier Center, across the street from the Hyatt Hotel downtown. This was nice, as the space was larger than last year. And it was needed, because the volume of attendees had grown quite a bit since last year as well.
Alan and I started setting up at the show, and found out that we were both on corner spots – which meant we both had two tables each! Now, I’m never going to complain about free tables, but I do admit that I was pleasantly surprised. It was a bit of a challenge, however, since I didn’t have two-tables worth of stuff with me at the show. I improvised as best as possible, and came up with a solid display.
My booth set up at Anime Milwaukee. Yes, that is my stuff spread out over two tables!
A little ways into the day, guest relations came and asked me if I would mind giving up one of my tables for another one of their guests – Robert Axelrod (Power Rangers). Now, normally this would warrant a “no” on my part, however there were a few factors to consider here:
1) I wasn’t planning on having two tables anyway, so as I sold out of books I would look spread thin
2) I could easily get away with a single table, and having a neighbor might be good company
3) Robert is a draw at the show, so worst case scenario he would bring people to the table I could sell to. And that’s not a bad thing at all
4) And not to overlook this important part – dude, it’s Robert Axelrod! The dude voiced Lord Zedd!
Suffice it to say, I said yes to having Robert as a neighbor and we had a blast all weekend. I had met Robert several years earlier at other anime shows – in fact, he and I saw the Star Trek movie together at ACEN, and sat next to each other high-fiving every time Kirk did something awesome. Which, let’s be honest, was most of the movie.
I did my sales thing throughout the day, and by noon had actually outsold my entire Friday the year previous. Suffice it to say, sales this year far exceeded what I did last year at the show. And Robert was a great table mate.
At one point, an attendees gave me a free un-opened box of pocky (Japanese candy) and eventually Robert became wise to it’s existence. “Oh, can I have some of that pocky?” he asked in a non-Lord Zedd voice. “Absolutely,” I replied, and we tore through that box in minutes.
At the end of the day we closed down the floor, then headed over to opening ceremonies with the other guests. Several voice actors were there including the very talented Wendy Powell (Full Metal Alchemist), Chris Cason (Full Metal Alchemist), Uncle Yo (web celebrity), and Doug Walker (www.thatguywiththeglasses.com).
Opening ceremonies started off with some entertaining actrs, and meanwhile behind stage all of the guests were hanging out and catching up. I hadn’t seen Doug since Kollision Con the previous year, and Uncle Yo I hadn’t seen since the previous year’s Anime Milwaukee. Good people, all of them. Eventually the time for the guests to shine came about, and individually we all went out onto the stage to entertain the attendees for a few minutes. Having nothing prepped, I just pitched my panels for the weekend. Doug, on the other hand, addressed the troops and made them do exercises. Why didn’t I think of that?
Right after Opening Ceremonies we (Alan, Doug and his family, and Uncle Yo) grabbed dinner real quick, and then had to head back to the show for my first panel of the weekend, An Evening with Trevor Mueller. Everyone we went to dinner with was there, along with some awesome attendees who wanted to hear funny stories about conventions, my life, and comics. A good time was had by all.
After the panel ended, we all went our separate ways and went to bed. The next day I had an 8am panel (closing the show Friday, opening the show on Saturday) about writing comics, so I was curious what the turn-out would look like.
8am was an early panel to get up for, but Alan got me there on time (and then left to go home and “work on comics” – which I took as code for “take a nap”). Surprisingly, the room was not empty. However, it also wasn’t full like our making webcomics panel was last year. As the hour progressed, the room continued to fill up and by the end of the panel I would say there were 30-40 people in the room.
After the panel ended, Uncle Yo met me out in the hallway and Alan eventually joined us. We continued conversations from the previous night, had a few laughs, and then went our separate ways so Alan and I could man our tables.
Anime Milwaukee brand root beer. You can’t see, but behind the bottle is a vendor selling a mountain of pocky. Delicious!
Sales on Saturday started off much slower than the previous day, but there were also 2,000 people queued up outside trying to get a one-day pass. Sales were still plenty strong, and I eventually sold out of the new book (@$$hole!: Volume 1).
Saturday night we hooked up with Doug and his family again for dinner, then went to Spike’s panel “Don’t Kill your Date (and Other Cooking Tips”), which was a riot. Uncle Yo joined us after finishing the judging for the Masquerade, and the group of us were laughing and enjoying the hijinx of the audience, and the entertaining answers from Spike.
At the end of the panel we all headed down to the bar and mingled with fans and friends alike. Some of the other guests eventually joined us, and we closed the place down and then headed home. Alan and I had another early morning panel the next day, and our beauty sleep would be needed.
9am, Making Webcomics. Last year Alan and I were greeted to a room filled with people – which was a pleasant surprise beyond my wildest expectations. This year, it was Sunday, so the crowd was a little lighter. However, the people who were there were in high spirits and eager to learn.
Alan and I did a fantastic panel, then packed up and headed back out to the floor. Robert showed up after this panels, and turned to me to say “This time I’m supplying the pocky,” and produced a box of milk chocolate / almond pocky.
If 10 years ago you had told me I would be sharing a box of pocky with the voice of Lord Zedd, I would have called you a liar. And I would have been wrong.
Sunday was pretty slow sales wise, so I spent most of the time chatting up friends and fans I had met throughout the weekend. One friend came up with her boyfriend and requested a commission sketch.
A commission I did at Anime Milwaukee on the final day.
Around 4pm the floor closed up. Robert packed up his things and asked if I would be attending closing ceremonies. Since I had a train to catch (and didn’t want to miss again), I told him probably not and we parted ways.
Alan and I went to a local burger place and downded some delicious / greasy burgers and seasoned fries, and then went to the train station. We said our goodbyes (I’ll see him again in April at both C2E2 and ACEN), and then I hopped on the train and headed home.
Anime Milwaukee continues to set the bar high for all conventions in the year. In the three years I’ve been a guest there I’ve seen the show grow by leaps and bounds, and every year gets bigger and better. The fans are great, the attendees are awesome, and the volunteers / staffers putting the show on put their all into the show. And it shows.
Thanks so much to Anime Milwaukee for having me out as a guest again this year, and hopefully I’ll be back again next year as a guest as well. You continue to put together an excellent show that keeps expanding, and it’s been an honor to be a part of that growth.
If you love anime (or even kind of like anime) and haven’t been to Anime Milwaukee, shame on you. Buy tickets for next year as soon as they go on sale. Pre-reg. You’ll have a great time.