Oh man… I need to start cross-training before doing a show like this! It will wear you down! But I will soldier on! For COMICS! (One second while I play the Tom Joad monologue for inspiration…. ahh…)
Last year, I discovered a great breakfast spot on the last day of the show. This year, I planned to spend every breakfast at Yolk, at 11th and Michigan Avenue. This is what I had:
That’s the potato pancakes, with a glass of strawberry orange juice (to fight con crud). Fast, hearty, delicious. To those unfamiliar with the notion, think “hashbrowns + pancake”. Crazy thought: What if yogurt was substituted for the sour cream.
The rest of the day, I subsisted on cereal bars and Chex mix. The back of the hall had a great selection of food carts, but at convention center prices, and it seemed popular when I visited. ReedPOP took half of A2 (the back half of the South Hall) and turned that into the food court, so that both mezzanine dining areas were accessible, but not the restrooms beneath the southern dining area. (This was not a concern. The restrooms beneath the other one was never crowded or required a wait for a stall, and the public space was easy to navigate.)
So professionals and VIP ticket holders got in an hour before everyone else. I chatted with a few librarians before, then headed to the American Libraries booth to meet “my people”, and chat with Tina Colman, ALA’s “speaker to comickers”. The booth features many comics-related posters (although Marvel’s new line doesn’t feature any female characters), a “declaration of libraries” petition, and, if you show your library card, free gifts! (I have three on my person: New York, DC, and Omaha. I picked up a fourth from Northlake later in the day.)
At Eleven, I battled the teeming hordes entering the hall as I made my way upstream to the panel rooms for “How to Start Free Comic Day Programming at Your Library”.
- Diamond has about 500 library clients who hold events and that number grows each year. (Here’s hoping that publishers will increase their support for FCBD libraries with extra freebies and support!)
- Plan with your local comics dealer, for ordering comics as well as coordination.
- Get lots of volunteers to help with the event. (Larger corporations like Target require their employees to volunteer. What better philanthropy than free comics at a library?!)
- Ask everyone you know for donations. (Most local businesses love to support libraries!) The local theater can sponsor prizes for the costume contest. The 501st will pose for photographs.
- Run a mini-comicon in the library for a few hours. Games, speakers, coloring pages, photos… it doesn’t have to be fancy, just fun!
- A local comics shop can network with local libraries, even if the library itself doesn’t have a FCBD event. Make it a contest… the library which sends the most patrons to the store wins a gift voucher to buy books! (And maybe the other libraries get a few free books as well…)
After that, I moseyed on down to the ballroom, where the Fan Village and Family HQ were located.
Fan Village housed the Dorkly Fan Art Expo, which has some AMAZING art. Art gallery quality. There was also a sketch wall, where I found this dragon (?) by Dana Larson. It’s like a mad Japanese god watercolor!
I spoke with the “hulk librarian” (who is really just a trustee), and received two hulkified library cards. (See, Heidi, I’m bringing something back for you!)
Then I took a quick visit to the “family room”, and spoke with Alex Simmons, who will be running Kids Comic Con the weekend after Free Comic Book Day. The superhero obstacle course was underway, so I hurried out to avoid becoming an innocent bystander.
I then made my way back to the show floor, beginning my systematic tour of each aisle. The first to catch my eye: Chicago Review Press! Yes, they are a “serious” publisher, but they have a nice selection of popular culture books. (Many of which started life as university dissertations.) Of note: Wonder Woman Unbound: The Curious History of the World’s Most Famous Heroine By Tim Hanley.
Further down, I discovered The Distribution Engine. They seek to distribute comics and graphic novels from British publishers to the states. Johanna Draper Carlson was already engaged in conversation with the proprietor, and the two of us teamed up to help him better understand the strange world of book distribution, as well as other markets to exploit. I’ll return later to pick up a copy of Peter Pan.
I did the basic “walk and gawk” in the retailer areas. If time permits, I’ll do some browsing on Sunday. The only thing I seek NOW are LEGO minifig pouches for my nephew, who somehow got the desire to collect them. I wonder how that happened? Nobody seems to have them… I suspect retailers pop open any unsold figures and sell them online. There are a lot of collectible figurines being sold at the show, except for Lego. The search continues.
I can’t recall much of the other aisles… except for Papercutz, which was exhibiting for the first time. I traded some Benedryl (runny nose allergy attack variant of Con Crud) for a copy of Ariol! Toto Trouble is their next new series, and there are cartoons to tie-in! Papercutz has a deep catalog of licensed properties, and only a handful were on display. (Wow… they have the “Rio” license.)
The Hero Initiative had a booth, so I made a donation to balance my karma. Since I get a lot of review copies, many creators aren’t earning royalties from me. While my offer to buy each and everyone a drink still stands, I’ve taken to dropping a few bills into whatever Hero Initiative bin is available. I then took a look at their signing schedule, and who was there sketching? Hilary Barta! For a $20 donation, he did a quick self-portrait (re-enacted above). I was hoping for his more manic style, but I guess he isn’t like that in real life. While I waited, I also chatted with James Finn Garner, known as the bestselling author of “Politically Correct Bedtime Stories”! He has a new series, based on a clown detective. Think “Chinatown” meets “The Greatest Show On Earth”. I did inquire about him making comics, and he is considering the idea.
Facebook friend Franchesco!, ensconced at the Zenescope booth, was sketching an April O’Neil centerfold for a fan (not what you think! but not quite like the source material from the TMNT Adventures comic!) and working magic with just graphite! He is immensely talented, and were I female, I’d pay him good money for a portrait. Yes, his women tend to be of a certain style, of pin-up illustration, yet it’s more glamour than erotic. (But I realize that’s in the eye of the beholder.) Anyway, he’s a good guy, personable, and talented.
The last booth of the day was Anthony’s Comic Book Art, in Aisle 1000. His booth was easy to spot: rows of plastic tubs filled with artist presentation binders, containing all sorts of original art. I was searching for the esoteric, and found a page of production art from “A Sailor’s Story”, a rare autobiographical graphic album from Marvel, written and drawn by Sam Glanzman. I got it dirt cheap, but had to pick it up later because…
Then I had to make my way to Mark Waid’s “two-faced” discussion of digital comics and comics retailing. He detailed “Thrillbent 3.0“, had his creators talk about their titles, and discussed how he is learning the ropes of comics retailing. While digital comics are great on delivery and accessibility, comics shops excel as curators, recommending new titles to customers.
I returned to pick up my art, and began perusing a pile of comic strip originals (including a few Sundays with color guide overlays!) That’s where I found this:
By then, it was Seven, and the floor was closing. I took the bus back to my room, stashed my art, and bought dinner:
- Grilled Cheese, whole wheat, bacon, plain
- Epic Burger, whole wheat, cheddar, grilled onions
- Fries (sans ketchup)
- Mountain Dew
Pricey, but tasty. I tried to blog, but I was beat. So I took a nap, and now it’s 3 AM local time. Nothing big planned this Saturday morning, so I’ll sleep in. Good morning.
I’ve been writing for The Beat since July of 2010.
I’ve been reading comics since 1974, collecting since 1984, and spreading the graphic novel gospel since 1994.
I’m a bookseller, a librarian, an amateur scholar, a cool uncle, and a comics evangelist.
Ask me anything!