Convention Report: Anime Midwest 2015

 In conventions

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!

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