I love going to comic shows. Or rather, I love being behind a table at comic shows. And honestly, as stressful and tiring as it can be at times, if I had the option, I would do a comic show every weekend. Well ok, maybe every other two or three weekends, but still, I love doing them and I can’t get enough of them. The only thing keeping me back is time and funds (tables and plane tickets cost money, yo).
(Ok, this gets pretty long winded, so I’ll put the rest behind a cut. I think it’s worth a read though.)
I’ll be blunt, part of my love of comic shows is the money made. And I’ve just gotten to the point in my comic career where I am starting to make a sizable haul each show, enough for it to actually be a large chunk on my yearly income. Maybe in a few years it could end up being half or more of my yearly income (maybe). And that’s awesome. I mean, I actually almost made rent money with just this one day show. It’s awesome to be able to feed yourself with comic money. It may be with just peanut butter sandwiches, but awesome nonetheless.
But it’s really more the rush I get from it, the thrill of interacting with people face to face, with potential customers, fans old and new, and fellow cartoonists. When you’re doing it from behind a computer screen, it’s hard to remember that there is another human on the other end and that you yourself are a human. I love getting the human interaction, even if it does result in the dreaded “Post-Con Flu.” (Pro tip: Bring a travel sized bottle of hand sanitizer.)
It’s also the thrill of having to sell yourself. My first few shows many moons ago I was that shy, sad-sack cartoonist hiding behind the table saying, “Eh, I’m not that great. I suck. Whatever, I guess.” No one wants to buy comics from a sad-sack (unless it is their schtick)! But I’ve gotten better. I now enjoy the challenge of convincing complete strangers to a) stop at my table, b) actually look through what I’m offering, and c) maybe give me a few bucks in exchange for it and/or become lifelong fans. So I have to make my work stand on it’s own (both visually and in it’s content), stand apart from everyone else, AND sell them on the idea of me. I used to hate doing this, and I think a lot of other cartoonists don’t like having to put on that salesman hat, but now, it’s part of the fun and it only pushes me to want to get better and better.
It probably also helps that after years of trial and error, I’ve FINALLY come up with a table display that I’m happy with and actually gets people to stop at my table, even if they only stop to admire my little stand-up characters that populate my table now. See what I mean in this horrible quality picture (sorry) of my table from last weekend’s Chicago Zine Fest. It took me years to figure out and it was a thrill to finally crack that nut.
You want a good comics pitchman? Get my pal Terence Wiggins behind a table, that guy can sling comics like no one’s business. He’s helped me out the last two SPXes and I’ve learned a lot about selling yourself from him. Sure, I can’t be as brazen or bold as his “Sir, do you like things?" pitch he’ll yell to people passing by (and they’ll actually stop and buy just because of that), but I’ve picked up a thing or two or seven from him.
I know, this all sounds like “Hey, money money money!” And to be fair, it kind of is. From a cartoonist’s point of view they are there to sell their work, to sell themselves and at least try to make table/travel/food money back. But money aside, these shows are hella fun! I get to see and hang with friends I only get to see once or twice a year now, get to interact with fans and readers in person, and get to discover new artists and work. And as much as I go into these shows with the mindset of “This is part of my job now!” I still have fun while doing it. If it’s wasn’t fun, I wouldn’t do it or would only do one show a year. Trust me, there’s not THAT much money in this (or cartooning in general) to keep doing it if it wasn’t fun and fulfilling.
Honestly, I just feel at home behind a table. I feel like it’s part of where I belong, part of my identity. And that’s saying a lot from someone who feels out of place almost everywhere.
Wow, this is all super long winded, but hey, when I love something, I won’t shut up about it. I guess the “too long, didn’t read” is I love comic shows, I want to do more of them, and will keep doing them until the day I die or until I finally put down the pencil (which won’t be until the day I die).