Column: Building The Con–A Different Take


by John Shableski

[Editor’s note: here’s another take on putting on a con from a first time show runner, and the lessons he learned.]

If you’ve been reading Mike Scigliano’s Comic-Conversations columns you get some really good insights on what’s involved in producing a major comic con. Thanks to an invite from Heidi, I get to share the experience of a different kind of con.

When it comes to making the decision to produce a con, this is not something for the weak at heart more like it’s a challenge for the mildly insane…and worth every ounce of effort.

My most recent experience in the con planning world comes from an event called the Wildcat Comic Con which was held on a college campus here in Williamsport, PA. Our approach to the Wildcat Comic Con was an entirely different take. We developed the programming first and then the sellers hall/artist alley followed. The main thrust of the programming is that we wanted every session to be about the craft of comics. Whether the speakers were artists, editors, publishers, educators or fans, our goal was to create a common language. This way the next gen creator in the room got the message just as well as that teacher sitting next to them.

Wildcat was also a different creature in that this was a con produced entirely by the campus staff. I served as a consultant and contractor as well as author/creator liaison.

When you plan a con, there are more than a few elements you need to deal with: Location, transportation of talent, and marketing, marketing, marketing.

If you are in a Class B or Class C city you have your work cut out for you. You will need some A list talent to pull fans in and your location probably means there are no direct flights to your location.

You also need to start working at least a year out to help create a buzz for your con. That means social media, working with local radio and news papers and posting flyers on telephone poles and bulletin board in every 7/11 or mini market for at least a 50 mile radius. IF YOU DONT market your event you wont get people to show. It’s really that simple.

Too often the folks closest to the con planning spend so much time talking about the con they assume the entire world knows about it. You have to develop a regular schedule of promotional efforts and publicity that stays consistent right up to the final day of your event.

Another major element to consider: There are now over 400 comic cons taking place across the country each year. Major cons in New York, Chicago, San Diego, Portland, Seattle, Atlanta all have an impact on your con. They determine who is available for your show. Study the calendar and figure out the least challenging date to work with and you have a starting point…sort of.

Next time on Building the Con: Finding the venue and picking your team.

This weekend, have your CAKE and go to it, too!


Chicago’s inaugural CAKE Expo kicks off with a bunch of events tonight, and we expect this to be an awesome show, based on the amazing guest list alone. Jessica has already informed you of the debut of Gabby Schulz’s WEATHER, but there’s a ton more going on. Here’s the event list below; more info at the site. And please—we are looking for reports, so hit us up.

 June 6 – June 17
Eat Before We Eat You 
the CAKE art show 
gallery hours:
Wednesday through Saturday
 11:30am – 5:30pm 
Morpho Pop Up Gallery, 208 S Wabash Ave
Friday, June 15
Adam and Eve Sneaking Back Into 
the Garden to Steal More Apples 
Art Exhibit by Anders Nilsen
6:30 pm
 Elmhurst Art Museum
 150 Cottage Hill Ave, Elmhurst, IL
Friday, June 15
Kevin Huizenga & Dan Zettwoch at Quimby’s Bookstore
1854 W North Ave
Friday, June 15
Brain Trubble, a Performative Comics Reading with Trubble Club and special guests!
9pm – Midnight
1542 N Milwaukee
 $5 suggested donation
Saturday, June 16 & Sunday, June 17
11am – 6pm 
1104 S Wabash 8th Floor
Saturday, June 16
Reception for CAKE-related art show,
 Eat Before We Eat You 
curated by Paul Nudd & Onsmith 
6 – 8pm 
208 S Wabash Ave

Weekend Sales Charts: Amazon

Speaking of sales charts, Dave Carter has been putting together an Amazon Top 50 snapshot every Friday, Here’s a top 20 taster — but he has the whole list. Of note: the addition of Kindle for DC graphic novels gave them a huge boost this week. (This list includes eBooks, but they are listed separately.)

Of course no surprise that Walking Dead continues to rule, but such children’s mega-hits as Dork Diaries are included in the list, which gives an idea of scale.

1 (-). Darth Vader and Son
2 (-). The Walking Dead, Vol. 16: A Larger World *
3 (-). Dork Diaries 4 (Kindle)
4 (-). Avatar: The Last Airbender – The Promise, Part 2
5 (-). The Third Wheel (Diary of a Wimpy Kid, Book 7) *
6 (+1). Avatar: The Last Airbender – The Promise Part 1
7 (-1). Dork Diaries 4: Tales from a Not-So-Graceful Ice Princess
8 (+1). Batman Vol. 1: The Court of Owls (The New 52)
9 (+2). The Walking Dead Compendium Volume 1
10 (-2). Cabin Fever (Diary of a Wimpy Kid, Book 6)
11 (N). Batman: The Dark Knight Returns (Kindle edition)
12 (-2). Avatar: The Last Airbender – The Promise, Part 3 *
13 (+6). Batman: The Dark Knight Returns
14 (R). Watchmen (Kindle edition)
15 (R). Health Care Reform: What It Is, Why It’s Necessary, How It Works
16 (-4). Watchmen
17 (-2). Big Nate and Friends (Kindle)
18 (+3). The Walking Dead, Vol. 15: We Find Ourselves
19 (N). The Sandman Vol. 1: Preludes & Nocturnes (Kindle edition)
20 (+12). Batman: Year One

Check this out at CAKE: WEATHER by Gabby Schulz

If you find yourself in Chicago this weekend with some extra bucks you’re willing to spend, CAKE is the place to be. Set to be filled with a plethora of new comics and art to behold, Gabby Schulz’s newest comic, WEATHER, will be debuting this weekend. Published by Secret Acres, Ken Dahl (otherwise known as Gabby Schulz) brings back his fan-favorite character, Gordon Smalls, perhaps for the last time.

It’s a swift, beautiful, existentialist poop joke of a comic from Gabby Schulz, the artist formerly known as Ken Dahl, mostly taking place at 40,000 feet above the earth. It’s the return (and possibly end) of Gabby’s premier avatar, Gordon Smalls, and it’s the first print comic from Mr. Schulz since Monsters (which has won or been nominated for more awards than we care to count since its release way back in 2009).

The man himself, Ken Dahl, will be at CAKE, ready to answer any and all questions, and maybe even sign a copy!

Non-Shock: Jeffrey Brown's Star Wars cartoon books is a Father's Day best seller

As we previously noted, and as this sales chart shows, and The B&N chart from last night confirmed, Jeffrey Brown’s DARTH VADER AND SON is doing very well, especially in advance of Father’s Day this Sunday. The Tribune interviews Brown with a classic cartoonist profile description:

A few days a week, Jeffrey Brown is here, wearing a plaid work shirt, his mussed brown hair and chocolate beard flecked with gray and blond, looking like an artisan bread baker or hipster lumberjack. He’s found at that small table at the back of Beans & Bagels, tucked into a side street in Lincoln Square. Moms with rolled yoga mats file past the window, Brown Line trains roll by. If you notice him at all, he cuts a modest figure. He’ll be drawing in a sketchbook, the table crowded by a laptop, stacks of notebooks and pens arranged single file; on the off-chance a family needs a large table on a Tuesday morning, Brown sits at the small table, cramped, his back to the room, hunched forward, posture lousy.

But it sneaks in a bit of news as well:

The book, and Brown’s thoughtful touch with pop satire, is already enough of a hit that Chronicle is asking for a sequel (featuring Darth and a 16-year old Princess Leia) and Scholastic commissioned “Jedi Academy,” which — from the look of early doodles in Brown’s sketchbooks — is a “Lil’ Star Wars.” (It also can’t hurt that George Lucas himself, having OK’d the books, asked Chronicle to send him a few extra copies of “Vader and Son.”)

Jeffrey Brown, LucasFilms licensee. As long as he gets to work on some of his more personal comics along the way, we’re perfectly fine with him making money making comics.

The profile also includes something that we didn’t know about Brown:

Brown’s wife, Jennifer Bell, a former Marvel Comics business development executive whom Brown met at the Wizard World comics convention in Rosemont, sounds relieved that her husband is moving on.

See, indie people? Maybe some good can come out of going to Wizard World? OTOH, lightning doesn’t strike twice. YMMV.

Kibbles 'n' Bits, June 11-15: The Satisfying Chunk

§ This iFanboy piece is of some interest to me because the term The Satisfying Chunk is one I used throughout the ’90s and I had nothing to do with this piece at all. So I will leave a little tiny something behind on this great green marble after all.

Also, The Satisfying Chunk formula remains of primary importance in the ongoing revival of the comics medium, although I think the Frappuccino Index is just as important these days.

§ Must read; Seth Kushner talks about what’s like to have a review of your book turn into a sermon; in this case Tim Marchman’s review of Leaping Tall Buildings, which turned into a scathing examination of contemporary comics:

I do agree with some things Marchman says but he often doesn’t make his points well. For example, I agree wholeheartedly there are not enough new ideas in superhero comics these days.  We live in tough times and the “big two” [Marvel & DC Comics] produce only what sells. Period. In my lifetime, there have been very few new creations that have become part of the pop-culture lexicon…very few Supermen, Batmen and Spidermen.  But, a few smart creators have managed to independently create a handful of characters who’ve made it past comics and onto t-shirts, toy aisles and movie screens.  Mike Mignola did it with Hellboy, Frank Miller with Sin City’s Marv, Mike Allred with Madman and there are others.  Every month independent-minded creators are trying their best to catch lightning in a bottle, like Jimmy Palmiotti, Justin Gray and Steve Niles with the recently released comics anthology Creator Owned Heroes.  Others have taken to publishing their signature creations for free on the web, like myself and my cohorts at TRIP CITY.  Take a look at Dean Haspiel’s BILLY DOGMA, Jeffrey Burandt’s (with Aaron Bir) THOMAS THE HEADLESS BOY, Chris Miskiewicz’s (with Palle Schmidt)  THOMAS ALSOP, Joe Infurnari’s TIME FUCKER and my SCHMUCK.

§ Cartoonist Isabella Bannerman is profiled:

Besides a family culture that encouraged laughter, Bannerman traces her knack for tickling funny bones to an unlikely source—a high-school English teacher who encouraged her to read Kafka and Sartre. “I probably wasn’t supposed to find Kafka funny,” she says. “But I did. To this day, my cartoons often focus on the petty frustrations of middle-class life. You constantly believe that you’ve followed all the rules. Then, when you’re about to reach your goal—you find that the rules have changed!” She pauses. “I guess I’m fortunate that I find that funny.”

§ Deb Vankin looks at this year’s Tr!ckster festivities at SDCC:

An expanded Tr!ckster will set up shop at Comic-Con again this year from July 11-14. The event will be nearly twice as big, with 40 creators  added to last year’s lineup of 50, which included  Mike Mignola (“Hellboy”), Dave Gibbons (“Watchmen“), Jim Mahfood (“Marijuana Man”), Mike Allred (“Madman”) and Jill Thompson (“Scary Godmother”). Scott Morse TR!CK2TER, “Armor” Programming will be streamlined, with an eye toward blowing out the most popular elements from last year, like storytelling workshops and life drawing classes. Even the new space – Wine Steals/Proper event complex, a few blocks from the convention center – is bigger with a full restaurant and several bars.

Offsites are getting bigger and bigger at the show. Storefronts offsite for people who can’t get on to the show floor are making the outside as interesting as the inside.


§ Tonner Dolls, which usually makes dishy Twilight and Lord of the Rings stuff, will have a Zombie Boy doll as a 2012 San Diego Comic-Con Exclusive. It’s based on a real person, Rick Genest, who you may have seen in a Lady Gaga video.

§ KC Carlson reviews Superman: The High-Flying History of America’s Most Enduring Hero by Larry Tye, and his enthusiastic tale has us eager to crack open our own copy:

While based entirely in fact, Superman: The High-Flying History of America’s Most Enduring Hero reads like an old Hollywood screenplay, full of heroes and villains and twists and turns. I thought I already knew a lot of this stuff. Boy, was I wrong. Tye gets into some real nooks and crannies of the Superman legend, both on the page (or screen) and off. I couldn’t put this book down, reading it straight through the night, not realizing the time. I had the feeling of reading the original comics when I was six years old again. And when I finished, I immediately went to the bookshelf, grabbed a Superman Archives, and started re-reading that.

§ Seth MacFarlane, the highest paid writer in TV history, was profiled at the New Yorker and the Cartoon Brew crew discusses it from the animation standpoint.

§ The last remaining fugitive from the Toyko subway sarin gas attacks of 1995 was arrested while hanging out at a comic books cafe.

§ 4)  It hasn’t crossed the minds of the top two to go out to selected venues and ask old and young alike about what they like or don’t like about current comics, and for non-readers, why they don’t read them, or if they had, why they stopped?


§ Nick Gazin is back with a bunch of reviews, an interview with Brandon Graham and a new logo by Johnny Ryan, which we’ve edited here for propriety. Uncensored as you like it in the link!

§ Carlos Pacheco has had a street named after him in Getafe, Spain. Can Calle Marcos Martin and Avenida Ivan Reis be far behind?

§ To really dig into this 1987 interview with Alan Moore would require an entire day, but we’ll just note “deep magic from the dawn of time,” nod portentously, and move on.

§ One Direction, the current boy band sensation, is already getting a cartoon.

British-Irish boyband One Direction are getting animated with their own cartoon series. The teen sensations are already rumoured to be making their own 3D film, which will follow their antics on the road as they enjoy success across the globe. Now they are in talks to star in an animated show, The Adventurous Adventures Of One Direction, after a snippet of the cartoon gained six million hits on Bandmember Liam Payne tells Britain’s The Sun, “We loved it and there might be some more cartoons with our voices in the future.”

The way you draw those turnarounds leaves me overwhelmed.

If you want to exhibit at the Brooklyn Comics and Graphics Festival today is the last day to apply


Pretty much what it says.

The show is curated, so just applying doesn’t mean you get in, but it should be pretty lively and awesome.

Studio Coffee Run 6/15/12: Amazing Spider-man, Walking Dead, The Suicide Forest, etc.

Here is the latest Amazing Spider-man movie poster which appears to be seeking to appeal to your romantical nature. And here is a veritable metric shit ton of new Amazing Spider-man clips from all over the interwebs to tease your interest in the upcoming mid Summer super flick: there’s this police chase one, then there’s this one of Spidey warning GF GS that the Lizard’s coming to git ‘er, and then there’s this one that’s just kind of heavy on tension set up and stuff between Peter Parker, Gwen Stacey and Dr. Connors (aka The Lizard). There’s also a slew of new TV spots for your viewing enjoyment and then there’s this one, which is my favorite of all the new clips. It’s Andrew, my new boyfriend, Garfield being all cute and horsing around with his new super powers in a perhaps not super responsible but definitely super powerful revenge of the nerds kind of way (via IGN,, and Spinoff Online)

TRUE BLOOD SPOILER ALERT FROM LAST SUNDAY’S SEASON FIVE PREMIERE EPISODE! Tara’s a vampire now and she talked to TVLine about it and, I’m sorry, but this former Trubie couldn’t care less. I don’t care how many Eric Northman butt shots there are up in this bitch of a season, the writing is like late stage Law and Order level laughable at this point. Argue or hug it out with me in the comments section if you like. (via TV Line)

In other vampire franchise news that I oddly care more about, EW has the first pictures of the Twighlight Twi-baby, Renesemee, if you would care to look upon her vampish cuteness (via EW)

Then there are things I care A LOT about, like the news that Attack the Block’s scribe, Joe Cornish, is now on board to write the fuck out of a live action adaptation of Neil Stephenson’s seminal cyberpunk novel, Snow Crash. Boo. YAH. (via Deadline)

Then there is the news that Hideo Nakata, who directed Ringu and The Ring Two, will be helming an adaptation of the IDW series, The Suicide Forest, a tale centered around the most preferred spot to commit suicide on Earth. Although I haven’t checked out the series yet, which is currently on Issue #4, I find this exciting and wish to subscribe to their newsletter. Or maybe I’ll just head to the comics shop and pick up Issue #1 this weekend. Anyways, color me informed and intrigued… (via Collider)

Now let’s get to The Walking Dead, y’all:

Merle's hook hands (Image via CBR)

Here’s the first pic of The Governor on set. Should you care to know more, AMCTV has a whole lot of behind the scenes bits and bits of scenes from The Walking Dead’s Season 3, which premieres in October of this year. While the addition of The Governor and Michonne are going to be undeniably cool, I might possibly be more psyched about the return of Merle Dixon AND HIS NEW HOOK ARM accessory. Check it. And watch out, TDOG. You’re going to have say something next season because my assumption is that he’s coming for you. Maybe Officer Grimes too, but most definitely you. One more thing about The Walking Dead before I delve into other pursuits like falling asleep while reading Saga, Merle is rumored to be rolling with The Governor’s crew next season, which makes some good ol’ cohesive narrative sense. (via AMCTV and

OK! BYE! Hope you have a nice early Summer weekend. Peace out.