TL;DR I will never return to C4 Winnipeg. The convention is horrible from start to finish.
Okay, so here’s the story of C4 Winnipeg 2017.
Not too long ago, before the advent of mainstream organizations taking over conventions, they were run by well-meaning but inexperienced volunteers. It was considered standard for there to be hiccups, miscommunications and confusion in every process from registration to teardown.
Nowadays, we’ve seen a better way: We’ve seen competence, organization, and we’ve experienced being treated with respect by people who know what they’re doing.
Which is why C4 Winnipeg was such an unpleasant shock.
Flame Con was held at the Brooklyn Bridge Marriott in Brooklyn, NY on Aug 19 & 20, 2017.
WHAT. A. BLAST.
Being an LGBT-focussed comic con, Flame Con greeted me at the door with an immediate feeling of inclusivity, celebration and joy. The staff were all “superheroes”– they all had capes tied at the neck with velcro– meaning the capes could be shared with volunteers, making anyone associated with the con immediately visible and identifiable. Clever, fun and reassuring!
Steven, one of the people who directed us to the registration line had a rainbow beard. “Now I know I’m in the right place,” I said.
Billing itself as the “Largest LGBT Pop Culture Convention in New York”, it’s easy to believe– last year’s attendance boasted over 3, 400 people and this year was apparently larger, though no numbers were available at the time of this writing.
The greatest thing about this convention is also the most fundamental and basic: I never once had to explain myself, my comics, or the art prints at my table. Not once did someone flinch as they saw muscular men in speedos, or an A to Z of superhero groins. No one turned up their noses at Cyclops embracing Iceman, nor did they look uncertain as I described my LGBT superhero, Spectrum, or for that matter my tongue-in-cheek comic, Diaperman, where all the heroes and villains are fetishists. Heck, I didn’t even have to define “fetishist” to anyone.
In short: Everyone at Flame Con “got it.” All-inclusive. We Are Family. In The Club. That sort of thing. And the feeling– it’s amazing. It’s knowing you belong, knowing you’re doing something that appeals to people, hearing feedback on your work that’s very positive.
Speaking of which, I met gay comic icon Paul Charles, the Gay Comic Geek (Warning: Link NSFW) who read Spectrum and gave this amazing review!
I would describe my convention experience as a success: I sold out of Spectrum, and my now-famous Superhero A to Z groin posters. Other popular prints were Hogwarts Swim Team, and Jeremy’s female Gambit. Our comic Twilight Detective Agency also sold well!
Too, there was a Saturday Night shindig at a local bbq joint/bar where Exhibitors got in free after 9:30; It was called Camp Fire and there was a themed comic-and-pop-culture drag show which was fabulous (but when they did the Bette Midler number from Hocus Pocus– “I Put A Spell On You”— I was having none of it! I have secretly choreographed that number in my own living room for years, and I was not gonna let someone else do it (so I quietly did it in the corner of the bar for an audience of one, as Jeremy found my antics amusing).
I got to meet Greg Fox of Kyle’s Bed and Breakfast, a fantastic series of excellent graphic novels about a gay B&B; he was our table neighbour. We traded graphic novels and I read his stuff on the plane ride home (review to follow at another time).
Challenges for this show were: Travel, primarily. Schlepping the con gear and merchandise across the US Border is ALWAYS tiresome, troublesome, and downright inconsistent. On this particular trip I was told I wasn’t allowed to transport merchandise by air, though by ground was fine. They let me through anyway, but it’s just another inconsistency in the grand world of US Customs.
The second was cost: New York City is a spendy, spendy place. The hotel convention rate was $300 US a night, which was just not in the budget for Jeremy and I. We ended up staying further away, still in Brooklyn but at a nice little pseudo-B&B slash hostel called “J-Stel.” Three floors, each floor had a shared bathroom; air conditioned rooms (thank God). I didn’t mind it; I’d stay there again.
Warning: DO NOT TAKE A CITY CAB FROM THE AIRPORT TO DOWNTOWN. I used Uber (which is always wonderful, I love Uber) and paid $40– Jeremy took a cab and paid $197.00. Almost two hundred dollars! DO. NOT. USE. CITY. CABS. Period.
The con was extremely well-run, and well-organized; check-in took us maybe five minutes and they had time slots prepared for those folks that needed to use the loading dock so as to avoid congestion. It was wonderful. Also, the staff were always checking on the vendors, seeing if we needed anything, being around and being visible.
And the music– god yes, the music. They played fun, light, pop music from the 70’s and 80’s in the dealer’s room with various famous gay anthems and fun songs, which really brightened the room– and had me dancing and singing all weekend. What a way to improve the mood and interest of the crowd and potential buyers! Anytime I can groove to the Go-Go’s is a happy time indeed.
I want to support this convention and return next year, as it attracted an excellent calibre of creators and fans; it will take some consideration though, as the travel and costs are prohibitive. Definitely will require consideration. However, if you can get to New York, you owe it to yourself to experience this joy!
Fresh from the fantastic Calgary Horror Con, and I want to capture some of my thoughts on the show.
Firstly, it’s expanding– last year there were two dealer’s rooms, this year there were three! Celebrity guests included Doug Bradley and Ashley Laurence (from Hellraiser) and John Kassir (voice of the Cryptkeeper) as well as Zach Galligan (Billy from Gremlins) and others! Attendance was also up from last year, to the point where there was a line-up to get in as the show opened on Saturday.
The show seems to attract all types of fans: families, individuals of all ages; there’s no “set” demographic that I could really discern. I saw a family of four in full costume from four different movies, fans in their 60’s and 70’s browsing tables for curios and photos; girls and boys, women and men. It was lovely to see!
Traffic was steady and flow-through was good in our room on both days, with brief lunchtime lulls and a dwindling crowd in the last hour of Sunday.
I love Horror as a genre, though it’s never been as intrinsic to me as to my friend Kyle Burles, the artist on our shared Horror comic, Gloaming. The first year of the show, Kyle had a table by himself, and because it was slow he asked if I wanted to come down and set up some of my stuff and share a table with him; we had such a good time, I’ve come back every year.
Two Gargoyles Comics produces a rainbow of comic book genres- Superheroes, Comedy, LGBT, Noir, and Horror- and at first I thought of Horror-Con as a small supplement to a very specific audience, but I was in error. The fans are of course delighted by horror offerings but are interested in others as well!
This year, my comics seemed to fly off the rack. Gloaming 1 and 2 were very popular, of course, being the “Showcase” comic for this show (in fact, on Saturday afternoon I had sold out of Gloaming #1 and had to rush home to grab more inventory); but also there was interest in the Gargoyle Noir/Comedy Twilight Detective Agency, and half-Norse God half-Canadian superhero Thunder. Folks also enjoyed the cartoonish Diaperman (I actually sold out of his graphic novel at the show!) and there was also love for LGBT hero Spectrum. I sold 60% of my 4-day Calgary Expo numbers of comics at this show– to a whole different audience, which made the show amazingly worthwhile!
It’s worth noting that for the first time ever (and we’ve been doing shows together for eleven years), my comics sales exceeded Kyle’s print sales, and his sales are always incredible! Perhaps this was the year for fans to broaden their horizons? Who knows? It’s frustrating for all creators/vendors to try to anticipate the market, because it seems we never can, but I will appreciate success where I find it and that’s for sure!
According to its own website, Calgary Horror Con is “The first and largest convention in Canada dedicated to Horror,” and this seems to be corroborated by actor Dick Warlock (Halloween) who, in his CBC News interview, said “The crowd has been tremendous… this show is as good or as big as any I’ve ever been to.”
Last weekend, the good folks at Panel One put on a small expo designed just for comic creators: No celebrities, toys, gadgets, gewgaws, or indeed anything that wasn’t directly related to a creator’s independent comics work.
It was amazing.
As an Independent (Indie!) creator, I’m used to having to fight through a sea of oversaturation in my medium, to shout at the top of my small marketing lungs just to be heard above the noise of the bigger, more glamorous creative juggernauts; at the Panel One show, I didn’t have to do that: the audience was already engaged before they even walked in the door.
I didn’t have to explain myself, is the best way of putting it; the folks who came to Panel One knew comics, and were interested in seeing our stuff right from the get-go. TWICE I launched into my spiel where I normally describe my books by tagline and synopsis and both times, the books were off the rack and on the table for me to sign, with money being pushed into my hand, before I’d even finished my intro.
WHY CAN’T THIS BE EVERY DAY? I thought to myself.
I sold one third of my TOTAL sales from the four-day Calgary Expo in ONE day at Panel One. Cue the hip hip and the hooray.
I was invited to join a panel on “Marketing Your Comic: Successes and Failures” with some great folks including Renegade Comics and Erin Millar. We discussed methods of getting the word out, things we tried that worked and some that didn’t work so well. For me, I found that the “One Post Per Day” on social media — ALL my social media– goes a long way toward being front of mind; other creators varied in how they engaged their audiences.
One thing I would say to my fellow creators is to remember that how your audience perceives YOU, the creator, influences their relationship with your work. If you’re engaging, they will be engaged. If you’re positive, they will view your work positively. However, if you seem to hold the opposite opinion to every single topic that’s brought up, if you’re constantly difficult, unapproachable, and abrasive, people will view you negatively. I watched it happen during the show– I felt bad for the creator in question, but ultimately that’s a lesson I think they have to figure out on their own.
Remember: It’s not just your work. This isn’t an art gallery where “the piece speaks for itself”– these are comics, books, stories, and people want to know who’s behind them.
I loved the Panel One festival. We were treated like legitimate creators, the way we all fantasize about being treated as we strive to distinguish ourselves from the big and loud world dominated by labels like Marvel and DC.
I would have liked to have been able to have banners behind my table to make my name more prominent, but that’s more a restriction of the space, not the show, and I will plan signage and such accordingly for next year.
Hats off to the organizers; I will definitely be back.
Normally, I write about shows right after I do them– but in the case of Calgary Expo, I had to get ready for a week-long vacay to Orlando right afterwards, so I didn’t get a chance to register my thoughts until now!
The Calgary Comic and Entertainment Expo is, and continues to be, the best show I’ve ever done. This show is the example to follow for any trade show in this genre; the organization, the execution, the follow-up: other shows should really take note.
CCEE attracted roughly 95,000 people this year, slightly down from last year’s 103,500 but this show has an amazing turnout every year. This means traffic, more people seeing our work and a constant influx of potential new fans– fabulous.
One of the things I love is that, upon renewal, my table is in the same spot every year in Artist’s Alley, which means it has become a “regular spot” for fans of Two Gargoyles Comics to find me! That’s extremely helpful in a show this size– it’s large in there, and navigating back to a table after the initial look-see of the whole floor can be challenging. Kudos, CCEE.
Also, the organizing staff are really involved: Mary-Ann, the lady in charge of Artist’s Alley (and half a million other things) had a contact number printed on the back of our Exhibitor’s badges so we could contact her to resolve any issues, which was super convenient (like when another vendor started snagging people from the middle of the alley and lining them up in front of their table, blocking other vendors. That’s a no-no, folks)!
There was a moment of self-doubt (welcome to the mind of the indie comic creator!) when sales seemed dismal on Thursday and Friday– two days of slowness had me worried. I shouldn’t have, because sales picked up on Saturday and especially Sunday! It put me back on track to do as well as I had last year which, while not necessarily showing growth, is at least stable– and factoring in the lower attendance, I’d say that’s not bad at all!
Annoyances: Folks taking pictures of prints instead of buying a print. Jeremy had the most hilarious “Trump – Truly Outrageous” print this year, and if all the people that stopped to take a photo of it had bought it, it would have paid for his entire trip to Calgary. It’s hard to begrudge fans their admiration of one’s work, but when all that interest generates no cash sales, it’s kind of like “working for exposure”– something no artist ever wants to do. It’s a hard game to play– one wants people talking about one’s work, certainly! But if no one is buying it, then one is soon OUT of work.
This year, I felt more social media-savvy than before. Crossposting to Instagram, Twitter, Facebook and Tumblr simultaneously helps keep my audience engaged, and thanks to Mike Rieger telling me about a neat-o app called IFTTT, I was able to push ONE button and then get back to engaging in the real world instead of trying to juggle being on my phone vs. being present and “in the moment” with people who were walking by my table. It’s definitely something I feel takes some practice to master, which is one of the reasons why I love having Jeremy man the table with me- there is always someone to talk to who can help you with any questions you may have if I happen to be momentarily tapping away on my phone.
I made more of an effort to connect with other indie creators this time around; Chapterhouse Comics is rapidly becoming, in my opinion, the go-to folks for Canadian comics- Richard Comely’s Captain Canuck, Canada’s flagship hero’s presence is its crown jewel; I also spoke with Andrew Thomas of Auric of the Great White North and informed him that he is my archnemesis; his publishing, social and regular media, and Kickstartering game is way above mine and is therefore worthy of emulation (my archnemesis-ness is solely based on my jealousy of his awesomeness).
Although the physical rigours of the show itself are tiring, the inspiration of being surrounded by other creators is worth the price of admission; admiring their work, getting inspired to try new things both in my own work and in practical applications like upgrading my table display, realizing I need to put together a press package– (seriously, the Calgary Metro Newsdid an entire article about Calgary creators AND I WAS NOT IN IT. That’s on me. It’s not enough to create stuff and then show up to represent it– you’ve got to let people know you exist. Still smacking my head for this one).
After all this glorious immersion in pop culture (during which I celebrated my birthday!), it was time for a vacation– so a couple of friends and I split to Orlando for a week to enjoy Universal Studios and Disney, which we did, most wholeheartedly to the point of blissful exhaustion. Now I’m back home, recuperating from the vacation but all the more recharged in my resolve to increase the awesomeness level of Two Gargoyles!
With your help, I know we can get the recognition increase that great comics like Thunder, Spectrum, Gloaming, Twilight Detective Agency and Diaperman deserve!
Of course you all know, don’t you, that the amazing Jeremy Thew will be joining writer Michael McAdam at the Two Gargoyles table at the Calgary Comic Expo? Here’s a handy-dandy floorplan of the BMO Centre at the Calgary Stampede fairgrounds, and lookit– conveniently marked with our location!
Kyle Burles sent me a tentative work-in-progress cover for Gloaming 3 today! See the picture below. I will have an “ashcan” of Gloaming 3- meaning a black and white 3-page handout preview of the comic- at the Calgary Expo at the end of April, so be sure to stop by the Two Gargoyles table and pick one up!