Convention Report: Anime Milwaukee 2016
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!