Greetings my faithful minions! Gather round, come sit in my lap as I have a story to tell. No farting on me, though. I have returned from a trip down the rabbit hole of independent comics. I was in indie heaven, and had a difficult time keeping my greedy little paws off of all the merch available. This was an interesting and sudden venture for me. Our dear friend J.M. Hunter had approached me on the evening of the 14th at 7:00 p.m., and told me that he had an extra table open. Unfortunately, his fellow collaborator and writer (Guy Copes) was unable to make attendance. Hunter offered the table to me, as a way to collect donations towards a GoFundMe project for my podcast partner, Michelle Gallagher. She had recently lost her husband and father of three children.
My brain immediately began racing of how I was going to accomplish this. I had already had plans to come to the show; however, I don't have any creations of my own to peddle. Surprising, right? You'd think by now I'd be making my own comics. Perhaps someday. (winks)
(J.M. Hunter working on a piece in a sketch book for a customer.)
At this point, I was already in discussions with a few artists about bartering for some of their work, as a way to raise funds for this cause. I reached out to the community for help. I posted a lengthy call for help on Facebook, and the response I received was POWERFUL. I had several approach me, willing to get in on the cause. However, part of the issue was, I needed to leave Thursday night from my dwelling in Detroit, to make it to Ohio. That meant I needed to act quickly and precisely. Given I had never had my own table before, I only had a vague idea from watching others at shows. I did my best to channel my inner zen master, and dove in head first. Between Tuesday night and Wednesday morning, I was able to secure either images to make prints myself, physical merchandise, books, and other prints from the following people, who have my endless gratitude: Kevin Joesph, Bob Salley, Douglas Paszkiewicz, Dan Nokes, Scott Markley, J.R. Blanton, Bob Garr, Sal Otero, Todd Beistel, Tony Miello, Rodney Fyke, TitanTrap Customs, Robin Jones, Stan Konopka, and last but certainly not least, Shawn Langley. Without these fine gentleman, none of this would have been successful as it was. I cannot begin to thank them enough for donating to the cause, or letting me barter with them for merchandise. They are not only kind hearted and wonderful people, they are also some of the BEST creators I know. I view them as friends and brothers.
I secured all of these items by Thursday, which I had to work my day job. I left work at 10:30 p.m. and set off on my mission to Ohio. Shawn was gracious enough to let me into his home and crash on his couch. A man that I had never met face to face. Live fast and take chances, right? I drove all night, and arrived Friday morning at 5:30 a.m.. I was never so grateful to see a couch in my life. I immediately dropped my purse and keys and crashed for all of two hours. Awoke to Shawn presenting me with quite possibly the best cup of coffee known to man. We hung out that day and into the night, talked comics, sorted through prints, visited the Mothman area, and dug into other topics of nerdery. I set off around 4:30 a.m., Saturday morning to make the 2.5 hour trek to Todd's home (Basement Fodder Podcast). I roped him into helping me run the table at SPACE, as he is a friend and had previous experience running tables at shows. A few of our contributors had express shipped merchandise to him, which stunned me. The amount of support we received, still blows my mind.
After catching up briefly, and setting out on a mission for copious amounts of caffiene, we headed for the show. The amount of products we had was bordering on the ridiculous side. I couldn't find any racks to take along with us, on such short notice. We set up our table, the best we could, given that we had one 3 foot table to work with. An overwhelming sense of excitement and anxiety was washing over me, unsure of how we were going to explain what we were doing for a sales pitch. Nearly everyone that had contributed were people I had either interviewed here on The Outhousers, or on the podcast. Thankfully, I was well equipped to answer questions about everyone's work. It was important to me as I was not only representing myself, but also everyone's work invloved and The Outhousers as well.
As you can see, not one inch of that table was open. We set up, and nestled into our chairs. And then we waited. and waited. A hour passed, two hours passed, I was becoming increasingly nervous that we weren't going to make it. That I had invested too much time and money into this venture. That we wouldn't be able to raise any funds to go towards Michelle's cause. I expressed my concerns to Todd, who shrugged and said, "we'll be alright." I took a deep breath and said okay. I told him I wanted to get up and walk around for a few moments, mostly to track down Victor Dandridge Jr. For his presence is a truly positive experience. Additionally, he had my Kickstarter package I had purchased. A package of ALL of his comics to date along with a print. Also, I wanted to check out his latest creation with Bryan Moss of, Old Crazy and the 40 oz of Death. An oversized comic of incredible magnitude. I personally cannot wait to dive into it further. Bryan did a beautiful job on the illustrations, and since I started reading Victor's work- I cannot get enough. I'll be posting a review of this comic on my personal page at some point in the next week. You can also find digital copies of it by clicking here; however, I'm a die-hard for print. I found Victor and as soon as I saw his big, warm and genuine smile- I knew that things were going to be alright. His positive outlook is something to strive for and learn from. He inquired about the details of my trip, and asked how Michelle was, then went on to give me compliments on the work and effort I had put into this venture. Coming from someone that I view not only as a friend, but also a powerful mentor in the industry- it gave me the attitude adjustment I needed to forge ahead. To put on a big grin, and make sure that I worked the situation to my advantage.
I returned to the table, and as the day progressed, I noticed people started piling in through the doors. My eyes lit up at the sight, and a sense of relief came. Within minutes, we had made our first sale. Most of our items were priced at $10 or below with freebies, to boot. I didn't feel right charging more than that, given that this was towards donation and that a healthy chunk was obtained nearly free. We stayed fairly busy for the second half of the day. Several people approached us, but not all were buyers. That didn't concern me though. The main focus was to raise awareness to Michelle's campaign, yes- but moreover to shed light on these fine creator's work. As the day stretched on, my sales pitch improved with each person, as did my passionate words for the work on hand. I found a rhythm and we quickly became a hot spot. I had also taken the liberty of gathering up several bag stuffers from other creators at the show. If I couldn't make the sale at my table, I was at least determined to send these people over to those that had made impressions on me. It worked too, there were a few points throughout the day while I was bouncing around to say hello to my friends, that I pushed their customers to buy from them. As I was told by a friend and colleague, "you have a forceful and boisterous personality. It works well for you, in getting people interested in the work." It was pleasing to me to spread the love to people that have been involved in my little circle for sometime. As if the day and lack of sleep wasn't enough punishment for my workaholic nature- Todd and I went back to his place, where yet another couch was awaiting me, to record a podcast for a post show recap. You can listen to the show right here on Podcast Garden. Basement Fodder Bonus Show: Space Recap. (NSFW in spots)
Back to Victor for a few moments. This is a man that I look up to greatly. He hustles like no other, and has this way about him that just gives off the vibe that you too, can do anything you ever dreamed of. Highly influential, wise beyond his years, and a true game changer in my eyes.
In addition to his appearance at a table, Victor also had a panel on diversity in comics. Unfortunately, I was unable to attend the panel being that I was tethered to the table at the time. However, I did get with him after the show for some notes on the panel. Here is what Victor had to say:
"2 blacks guys, a white woman and an Iranian walk up to a table...
But this isn't some crude racial joke...per se... It's YET another panel on diversity in the medium of comic books. The subject dujour, "diversity" is the flag eagerly waved by minority creators giving them a dominant voice in a world that "hates and fears them." I've been a welcomed participant to more than a few panels on the matter in recent years and I can tell you that in my honest opinion...it's a big crock of shit.
We've taken the word and murdered it. Unintentionally, mind you, but deadened still it lies, distilled and replaced. What was once a cry for inclusion, has become a little more than a rant of 'us vs them.'
How did this happen...? In the simplest terms, we started the conversation wrong. No, that sounds more critical than I mean to be: we didn't start the conversation off correctly. The whole tone of the diversity in comics movement had been to spotlight where there was a lack; lack of content, lack of representation, lack of voice. It's not wrong to point out where things can and should be improved, but [too] few and far between was the praise for what IS already there.
With that outlook and perspective as the base of the argument, it's a never-ending crusade in the making. One man's left is another woman's right, the fact of that difference will always give us something to pick at, especially if we're looking for something to pick. Things will never EVER be even, as the groundwork for disparity was lain generations ago and try as we might, we CAN'T un-write history.
Anyone who knows me, typically notes that I tend to be a ways more optimistic than this (I'm B-Positive, so it's literally in my blood). So, I want to end it with this -- at the next panel, whether you're at the table or in the crowd, do what you can to celebrate the accomplishments and keep the conversation FROM what the industry is missing. Trust me when I tell you, it'll be far less divisive and far more productive!"
Being a woman in this industry, or at least a reporter of sorts, this was a powerful message for me to receive too. Diversity isn't just about race/gender either. It also includes a variety of personalities and creative styles. While one is creating an all ages book, another is creating graphic smut. We must embrace all forms of creativity and consistently help one another out in this industry, ESPECIALLY in the independent community, if we expect it to continue to grow. That is the one thing that I can say without a doubt, is the most important aspect of making comics. The willingness to accept everyone around us, to learn and grown from and with each other. We cannot be biased based off of color, gender, or creative processes. By coming together, we accomplish more. In addition to that, by continually focusing on the negativity of, "Why aren't there more women? Why aren't there more people of color?" we keep ourselves in the same pit that we always have been in. I spoke with Victor after reading his notes and conveyed that to him. I also believe that the, "what about me?" thinking also leads us further down the path of destructive thinking. We should not think of it as, "who is going to do something for me" instead think of, "what can I do for myself? How can I improve my situation to be a part of this movement and positively influence those around me?" Together, we can accomplish great things. As he had stated, we cannot 'un-write history', but we CAN make a difference for our future.
Another highlight from the show, was Chris Charlton receiving the S.P.A.C.E. award for his comic, Black of Heart. A noir style story about a detective. It is beautifully written and I could not be more pleased that he received this well-earned commendation. I did an interview with Chris awhile back, which you can find in my archives.
I contacted Chris, post show to discuss his thoughts on his experience with the SPACE convention. Here is what he had to say:
"SPACE was my first show as a creator and one of my first experiences with a comic book convention in general, going to see Eric Adams at the first SPACE when he had released Lackluster World #1. The show means a lot to me because Bob Corby has kept it about the comics in a time where creators are being faced with more and more corporate shows with higher table costs and ticket costs. That's all well and good, but I think the readers out there who are looking for comic books and a more intimate setting to interact with the creators should be seeking out shows like SPACE and will be thankful that they did. That's why the SPACE Prize means a lot to me, personally.
I think that conventions are changing faster than people realize. Thanks to The Walking Dead and blockbusters like The Avengers, (I'm fans of both, btw), you have an influx of people who have ventured out for the first time to see what it's all about. That's great, because that's an introduction to a much larger world, but as a writer, I've had mixed results in terms of sales. As some of the larger shows have become more about celebrity, I think many of the more comic-centric fans have started to avoid the higher ticket costs and seek out smaller shows like SPACE and Gem City to find a better experience, better quality of work, more variety, interaction with creators and less standing in long lines, being herded from one place to the next."
I also managed to get ahold of Eric Adams, creator of Lackluster World, for a few questions. I met Eric at the convention. A person my table partner has been nagging at me for months to get ahold of his work. Unfortunately, I did not make it back around to his table to make some purchases. However, I fully intend on rectifying that. He is one of the many I hope to have as a future feature. I have heard nothing but positive things about his creations.
What was your experience at this year's show?
I've been selling ears of fresh white corn at S.P.A.C.E. for 12 consecutive years now. It's not the kind of thing you would expect to find at an expo dedicated to small press and alternative comics, but my maize is delivered in a unique, readable, graphic narrative format and people seem to like reading it more than popping or eating it, so I just go with what works.
This year's show was, in all sincerity, my best S.P.A.C.E. experience to date and that bar was set rather high. The new location was excellent (even though I do feel bad for those that were vanquished to the lesser-known misfits room). The talent at this year's expo was just incredible too. I know a lot of regional comic creators and, in the past, I've been able to safely say I could name 80%-ish of all the exhibitors. This year, I saw a lot of faces that left me thinking, "Where the hell did all these creators come from?"
What kind of response have you received towards your comics?
I had a great response to my comics! I'm best known for my series, Lackluster World, but I came in with three new comic titles this year – Pecking Order, Rumspringa, and Goodbye Weather. Each is a single-serving comic story and each was a big hit! So far this year, Rumspringa has been the most popular of the three because it's an easy sell (it has the word "Amishpunk" and a picture of giant, wooden fighting barn-transformers on the cover), but post-S.P.A.C.E. I think the other two titles are catching up thanks to an audience that's open to trying new and different things and the general word-of-mouth on the strength of their art and writing.
Thoughts on how the show works as a whole for the indie community?
S.P.A.C.E. was the very first show I ever setup at. It was and remains my absolute favorite comic show every year. There, you can find a tremendous amount of comics diversity you just won't find anywhere else. The genre comics including superhero stuff is few and far between. Instead, it's a laboratory of comickry featuring comics of all shapes and sizes. For instance, I picked up a hand-made 1" x 1" comic that gate-folds open from Kris Lachowski and a 9" x 12" hardcover professionally-printed, full color graphic novel from Jeremy Baum. It is the perfect kind of show for anyone that even has the slightest interest in comics because it is impossible to not find someone you can connect with.
Last but certainly not least, on my quickie interviews- is none other than the show runner himself: Bob Corby. A man that I am eternally grateful to. He allowed me to set up with J.M. Hunter at the last minute, and didn't know a thing about me. He took a chance, and let me in to set up other people's work. Honestly, I'm not sure if that's a heard of thing at this point. I know I've never seen anything like it at a convention. He extended such kindness and generosity to me. Even took the time out to pre-show, during the hustle, to greet me with a warm smile and listen to my reasons for being there and my mission. Bob, when you read this, I want you to know that you put on a hell of a show and will always have my full support.
What would you say are some key components to running a successful comic con?
Money. Unfortunately we don't have any. No corporate sponsors. Do have some great comics shops and individual creators that help. Also having all the incredible talent show up at the show is probably the biggest reason we are as successful as we are. other than that it's just stupid determination. Make it work however that needs to happen.
Considering the show was in a different location this year, how did that affect the attendance over previous years?
I'm a little upset that attendance was about the same as the previous year. I thought we got a lot of buzz out of the show moving and everybody was excited about the new venue but it just did not translate into more people through the door. We're going to look at the numbers soon and possibly make some changes for next year.
Being an independent creator yourself, how has tying your personal work into the convention helped you grow as a creator?
I really need to get other artists involved with the convention work and less of mine. Tom Williams has done a great job on a lot of our flyers, posters and ads. I don't think my stuff helps things much but I can get things done in a pinch. I did enjoy working on a linocut poster the last few years but I pretty much see they didn't do much. The intent was to raise a little money with them but they don't sell.
As I said my final goodbyes Sunday afternoon, and crashed on Todd's couch one more time, I began reflecting on everything from the weekend, and now still at 1:42 A.M. est on Thursday, four days after the show. Here is what I learned from the experience:
1.) Money will undoubtedly be lost. At least when first setting out on this journey.
2.) Patience and positivity are key when making an interaction. Thankfully, my 13 years in various service jobs and in management had prepared me adequately for that moment.
3.) Always listen respectfully. Other creators will approach you, and it is important to listen to their pitch as well. By helping each other out, we can accomplish more together.
4.) Wash your hands frequently. Con crud sucks. Also, consume as much water as you can stand.
5.) Even if you don't make the sale, hand them a business card. or several. They may want to check your work out further on their own time. Cards are cheap and replaceable. Just do it. Also, thank them for their time with you. Courtesy goes a long way with potential customers.
6.) Speak to different creators. Ones that you may or may not know. Ask them how their day is. Build relationships. Networking in this community can go a long way. I have proven this fact by building relationships with those that have donated to the cause. These people have been my friends for months, and any way we can pay it forward, or help each other out, will ALWAYS pay off.
7.) Don't talk too much. Some of these guests have the deer in headlights look because of the overwhelming amount of merchandise and endless tables that lay before them. Let them come to you, and ease them into it. Think of it as a date. Woo them accordingly, but don't Ric Flair Woo unless they seem game.
8.) Have fun. No one wants to come to your table if you look pessimistic. Remember why you are there. For the love of your creations and for your fans, potentially new or old friends.
Regardless of being weary, and driving five hours back from Ohio, Monday morning, just to work an eight hour shift that evening, I feel amazing throughout my soul. I took away a lot from this experience. I've always had a deep appreciation for the independent creator community; however, after seeing what you have to go through physically, emotionally, mentally, and financially, just getting to a show and praying that you gain new readers/fans, I can definitely say that I have a new found appreciation for, 'the love of the game'. Again, thank you to everyone that was involved in making this a success. It was successful not in the sense of monetary gain, but successful in the sense of growth and improvement. I was able to fork over a sum of cash towards the cause. It wasn't about that though either. It was about the community coming together to take care of a fellow creator. At the end of the day, that show of camaraderie, is really what mattered most.
The Indie Huntress.