Convention Review: ACEN 2013

 In conventions

Last weekend was another awesome and amazing ACEN – this third largest animation convention in the country, and my favorite convention to attend as a guest. It’s also a very strong sales show, and has a very enthusiastic fan base. This was my 5th year as a guest at the show, and the experience just keeps getting better every year.

After work, I headed over to the convention center from downtown Chicago. During my walk from the train to the hotel I was recognized by several fans and attendees, all of whom were in good spirits for the impending fun that would occur this weekend.

Upon arriving at the show, I went to con ops to get my badge and room keys, dropped off my stuff, and headed to dinner with the other comic guests including Russell Lissau (Strawberry Shortcake, Shrek), John Bivens (Comic Book Tattoo, Reading with Pictures), and his wife, Mallory. Steve Horton (Amala’s Blade) showed up a little later. After dinner, we headed up to V to enjoy some drinks with the other guests and some of the ACEN staff. Then it was off to bed because – silly me – I decided working out in the morning would be a fun way to start the day on Friday.

Mallory poses with her delicious baked goods, celebrating Russell’s birthday

6:30am rolled around, and our alarm sounded. Since I’m in wedding boot camp, I’m trying to go to the gym 2-3x per week so I’m…less skinny for my wedding. Bivens was kind enough to join me, and we did a full arms and shoulders workout for an hour. We were joined by Jessie Pridemore, who handles the masquerade for the show every year – and has some amazing cosplays!

After the workout, we showered and headed to breakfast – and then headed to the floor to set up for our weekend of selling. There was some confusion on our location on the floor, but after a quick conversation with the appropriate people we were able to locate to the correct location – which totally rocked! Sales were extremely high on Friday, with volume 2 of my latest book selling insane amounts! Always a good thing.

Russell Lissau is ready for commerce, baby!

After the floor closed, we headed off for a quick dinner before heading to our panels for the evening. Russ and Steve had a Superman vs Batman panel, which was standing room only and had a line waiting to get in. During the panel, Steve’s wife showed up to celebrate their 10 year anniversary in front of a crowd of a hundred people. It was really cute, and I was glad to play a role in their special day.

After their panel ended, I headed to Bivens Drawing Comics panel already in progress. Gabe had joined him, and the two were having a great time giving an entertaining and educational panel about visual storytelling and pacing. After their panel ended, I had about 20 minutes before my Panel That Shall Not Be Named. This has been a convention staple, and usually has a full room. This year the show gave me a very large room for the panel, and it was pretty full for the entire duration of the hour. The panel was a ton of fun, and a great way to end the night on a high note.

After the panels the group headed up to V for more drinks and hanging out, and then headed off to bed.

Breakfast was the order of the morning, with some delicious gourmet buffet-style with fresh fruit and juice. A solid breakfast makes for a solid day, so after we headed to the floor to get to selling. Traffic on Saturday was record-breaking for ACEN, with a huge number of attendees coming in to shop and buy and check things out.

Between sales there’s always time to make silly faces

Friday sales had been so strong, Saturday seemed to lag a little – which was surprising. However, this was more than made up later in the evening after the panels. There was a lot of interest in the new books on the table, including the launch of the Albert the Alien webcomic series. Lots of new fans and friends were made as books were flying off the shelf – including my remaining copies of Reading with Pictures volume 1 (now out of print).

Trevor, selling some comics

However, Saturday was a ton of fun – with the group getting a chance to be goofy behind the tables, as well as checking out the fantastic cosplays people put together for the show. Some seriously artistic and creative people out there.

After the floor closed, we all headed to dinner – enjoying some 18 year old scotch and delicious food. We then headed off to our Making Comics panel – which was an all comic guest panel Q&A about making comics. Some excellent questions and hilarious jokes later, the panel was over and it was off to quickly moderate my next panel – Making Webcomics. The rooms for both panels were filled to the brim, and I used the panel as another Q&A format to help answer questions people had about their own webcomics – or the process in general.

After the panels, I headed up to V for a final night of hanging out with good company. I got to chat with Brad Swaile until all hours, enjoy some tasty beverages, and laugh until I had no voice.

Sunday saw a 9am press call, which was well attended and we got some great questions. The group all had specialties to focus on, and input to each of the questions. After the press call, it was time for our final breakfast together- followed by a bum rush to the floor for the final day of selling.

John and Mallory pose in front of their booth at ACEN 2013

Sunday is family day at shows like ACEN, and this is when Albert the Alien tends to shine. I almost sold out of my entire stock, some from families and some from panel attendees from the previous nights of the show. I sold out of Junkyard Chase and one of my Albert books before the end of the day. All in all, the show was fantastic.

After the show, Beth showed up to come get me and we packed the car and headed out to dinner with the gang. We were joined by Sean and Sara from Spinnerette and connected on how well they did during the weekend, on the next show we would all be doing together (Anime MidWest), and on how we can connect outside of the shows a bit more (Ravinia has Lord of the Rings the Two Towers in August with live orchestral accompaniment).

Once again, ACEN sets the bar high for a fun weekend and a great convention. I would like to thank the staff and volunteers for putting together a phenomenal show; the fans I’ve made who continue to support the work, tell their friends about me, and attend my panels; and my amazing friends, without their support I would not be able to do what I love so much. You guys all rock, and from the bottom of my heart, I thank you!

Trevor stands by his books – figuratively and literally


On a sullen note, this was the very first ACEN I attended that my friend Kim was not there. For those of you who missed the post last year, my friend Kim first introduced me to ACEN and it was the annual opportunity to see her and hang out. Unfortunately, Kim passed away last year from epilepsy. It was difficult for me throughout the weekend not to reflect on her passing, but Kim would not have wanted the weekend to be tainted by her not being there.

When her mother commented on my Facebook page to say that Kim was there in spirit behind me saying “good job,” I knew that wouldn’t be true. Kim would have been running around the show in cosplay, soaking up the sights and having a blast! That’s the kind of awesome girl she was, and her energy and enthusiasm is what I will remember for the rest of my life.

I miss you, Kimby. You are loved!

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