Convention Report: Mid Ohio Con 2014

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Halloween weekend I had the distinct pleasure of spending at a convention in Columbus, OH, which was Mid-Ohio Con (also called Wizard World Ohio). I wasn’t able to attend this show last year (because I was getting married), but it’s a fun show with a very positive group of attendees who are eager to listen about your projects. Plus, I have friends I only ever get to see at this show – so it’s a very special weekend for me, indeed!

While the show doesn’t start until Friday, Columbus is quite a distance from Chicago, so my buddy Alan Evans (Rival Angels) and his wife, Tracie, picked me up and we all drove (almost non-stop) straight through to the convention center. The ride was long, but a fun time to catch up and hang out – talk about comic projects, stuff we’re doing, and life in general. Alan and Tracie have been close friends of mine for some time now, and it’s always great to get to connect with them.

Upon arriving we stopped for lunch at North Market, which is right across the street from the convention center. The place is filled with different small shops and eateries, and is just a cool spot to check out. We grabbed some BBQ at a vendor set up in there, and enjoyed some lunch before unpacking our stuff at the convention center.

After unpacking, we called our local friend Lora Innes (The Dreamer). Lora puts us up every year, and I’ve been friends with her almost as long as Alan and I have known each other (and they met each other before they met me). We were all webcomic creators on a site called Drunk Duck (now The Duck), which is a collective of independent webcomic creators. They all host their comics on the site, participate in forums and helping each other produce better comics. We all became quick friends.

It was Halloween in Lora’s neighborhood, and we handed out candy while her husband (Mike) returned home from work, and while we ran out to grab some pizza for the group for dinner. Mike is a great guy, super friendly, and also incredibly smart. The guy does all of the design and coding work for Lora’s website, as well as develops apps and websites in his professional day-job.

We chatted the night away, hanging out and catching up as if no time had passed between the last time we hung out. But eventually we did have to go to bed – there was a convention to go to tomorrow, after all.

The first day of the show didn’t start until later in the afternoon, so we decided to start our day with some DDP Yoga. Alan is a huge fan of wrestling and MMA, and one of the fighters has their own yoga DVDs called DDP Yoga. I had never done it before, but Alan, Lora, and myself decided to start our day off right with some yoga moves. It was a fun way to warm up (and wake up) in the morning. I often find that exercising before a show helps give me more energy, and since there wasn’t a gym nearby this was a great alternative.

After everyone showered and packed up, we headed downtown but didn’t go to the show yet. We decided instead to check out the Will Eisner exhibit at the Cartoon Library and Museum. I’m not going to lie – I was wicked jealous that Chicago didn’t have a cartoon library when I saw this place. It was pretty awesome.

Ohio has a Cartoon Library / Museum? I want one of these, too!

The Spirit!

An original Will Eisner page

For those of you who don’t know who Will Eisner is, I highly recommend reading up on him. Will Eisner was a pioneer in visual narrative and sequential storytelling, and it was incredible to get to see some of his original pages (some of which were never even published). His pencils, his inks, his corrections – all of it helps to better understand his process. And their exhibit is absolutely stunning. I highly recommend going to see it – and did I mention, it’s free?

After the library, we headed to the show to set up our tables. Thom Zhaler (Love and Capes), Lora, Alan, and myself were all in a row. I love tabling next to my friends because 1) you get to hang out with your friends, and 2) you have someone to give you some coverage if you need to walk away for a restroom break or something. I always have more fun at a show when I get to exhibit next to friends.

The table is all set up and ready for commerce!

The show floor layout is more like what a comic convention layout should be: with vendors in front, artists in the middle, and celebrities / actors in the far back. This helps to draw traffic through the entire convention floor, instead of putting artists in the back (cough cough Wizard World Chicago) and not placing celebrity artists throughout the alley, where there’s nothing to draw the attendees. Mid-Ohio is a much smaller show than Chicago, granted, but this is a layout done right – and thankfully, it worked this weekend!

I expected Friday sales to be pretty low (heck, looking at my numbers from the last time I was there, Friday was pretty low). We had some things working against us:

1) It was Halloween
2) School’s in session
3) It was a work day
4) Friday was a shorter con day

Any of these things could be bad, but despite this the sales for the day were pretty solid. Lots of people bought copies of the books (including the new Albert the Alien vol. 1: New in School graphic novel that we premiered at the show), and lots of people were in a very positive mood. Often at a show you’ll find people “just looking,” who don’t even want to be pitched to, but Mid-Ohio had people who were “just looking” but they were still interested in your pitch. This was very refreshing.

After the show ended, the gang broke down and headed to a restaurant for dinner. We met up with some additional friends and ate (what I thought was a very small portion for the price, and I’m from Chicago) some very delicious food. After we headed back to the Innes house for a night of storytelling and hanging out with friends.

Hanging out with President George Washington and the gang at the Innes’ household

The show opened earlier, so it was a bit of a rush to get out of the house in the morning and get to the show on time. Thankfully, we didn’t encounter any issues with traffic on our way in (although parking was a slightly different story), and were able to set up before the VIPs started walking around. The first few hours of the day were pretty slow, and had me a little nervous about the day. But then things turned around – BIG TIME.

Saturday has been a strange outlier for me lately, with Friday sales being stronger than Saturday (not something that’s typical in the convention scene). However, this Saturday broke that trend very quickly. In fact, by mid-day I had sold out of almost all of my trades, leaving me with 2 copies of Albert the Alien and 1 copy of Killer Queen (Reading with Pictures was sold out by end of Saturday).

At 11am I went to the panel Thom invited me to, along with Lora and Alan, about self-publishing. It was a fun time, getting to discuss different approaches to publishing your work. With Thom and Lora primarily publishing their work through IDW these days, Alan and I talked about on-going self-publishing options, while they talked about how to migrate your properties to a publisher (and the benefits / detriments of doing so).

At one point I turned to ask what time it was. The answer was visually apparent: Adventure Time!

Around lunch time, Tracie took our orders and ran across the street to grab us some grub so we could keep selling. This is what Saturday at a show should be like – lots of people stopping to check out the books on your table, asking questions about comics (specifically the comics we created), and overall having a great time. People wanted to be there. They wanted to talk to us. And they wanted to buy!

After a killer day of sales, the group broke down and we headed to the Innes’ house for some Chinese take out and football. Lora and Mike are big Ohio State fans, and they were playing a game. I don’t follow sports at all (and having lived in Ann Arbor, I can’t help but feel a certain playful resentment for OSU), but it was a nice way to relax after a day of working hard (and selling out of our stock).

The final day of the show is always bittersweet, because we all know the weekend must come to an end. This was no different. It was also bittersweet because, for the first half of the day, no one was buying anything. Now maybe it was because I had pretty much sold out on Saturday (and therefore, wasn’t trying as hard), but Sunday is typically buying day. I had some strong deals going to attempt to move some of the smaller books I have, and also to move some of the artwork. I did finally get some commission requests (some of which were a lot of fun, like drawing someone’s uncle from a photo on their phone), and that helped make the day pass by.

Sketch card commission: The Flash

About halfway through the day I finally sold out of all of my trades, and most of my floppy comic books. I decided to walk away from the table for a bit and start doing some of my own buying. The crowds were a lot lighter by this time (I think most of the celebrities had taken off by this point), and when I got back to the tables we decided to break down a little early. Most of the floor traffic at this point was exhibitors and dealers looking for things they wanted, anyway.

Before breaking down, however, I did get a pleasant visit from Shelly Block. My second Mid-Ohio Con I was next to Shelly and her husband, Patrick, who both worked at Disney on Duck Tales. They were the sweetest couple, and great table neighbors, and it was awesome to get to catch up with her a bit about their travels and adventures, as well as their experience over the weekend. They also had a stellar time at the show, so hopefully we’ll all be returning again next year!

After breaking down, the group loaded up the cars and then headed over to Jenni’s Ice Cream, a post-convention tradition that I look forward to every year. Mike and Lora were kind enough to buy me some ice cream as an early birthday gift, and we all hung out for a bit relaxing and decompressing after the weekend. This is the kind of moment that makes shows like this worth it to me. Being able to see people I only get to see once a year, and specifically at this show, and hanging out with them as if no time had passed at all between the last time we hung out. Always a great way to end a show.

Jenni’s Ice Cream: a post-convention tradition!

After Jenni’s, we said our goodbyes and started our 5+ hour drive back to Chicago.

Mid-Ohio was an absolute blast, and exceeded my every expectation in both fun and sales. It was a great time, and highly recommend coming to the show either as an attendee or as an exhibitor. A smaller artist alley, a strong floor layout, and a great atmosphere and attendee demeanor made for a fantastic weekend. Also, good friends help make for a great weekend, too!

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