Believe it or not, not everyone who works in comics goes to Comic-Con International in San Diego. It just seems that way.
As we speak, many of my editors and artists and friends are either on their way to or already wandering the streets of San Diego, preparing for the pop culture gangbang that is Comic-Con. As for me, I’m still sitting here at home, just trying to get some actual work done.
It’s not that I don’t enjoy Comic-Con. I do. I’ve had a blast every time I’ve been, even two years ago when I got sick as a dog and puked my guts out for six hours straight (in retrospect, perhaps Tecate and Buffalo Wing Doritos are not the best combination for 3AM). I’m certainly not one of those comic creators who complains about having to do conventions. If the hardest part of your job is that you have to sit at a table and sign your name several times, then you have absolutely nothing to ever complain about. Seriously.
I love going to cons, but San Diego especially can take a big bite out of your work schedule. The show runs Wednesday through Sunday, so when all is said and done, you’re looking at about a week-long commitment. And that can be a tiring week, too. Fun, but tiring. Lots of running around and late nights. Not much sleeping. I’m usually still out of sorts for a few days even after I make it home. That’s a lot of time away from my work desk, and right now I’m so busy I can’t afford that.
Time spent not-working also means time spent not getting paid. And something that fans may not realize is that most creators have to pay their own way to shows. A con will usually give you a free pass to the show, but unless you’re a special invited guest, they don’t foot the bill for your trip. And neither do most comic book companies. DC I believe used to pay to fly out some creators to shows, but I don’t know if they still do. With Marvel, that’s just never been in the budget. So when you see a creator doing four or five shows a year, that’s coming out of their own pocket. A lot of creators will pay for a table in Artist Alley so they can sell their wares. Artists can make a killing doing this, selling sketches for $50 or $100 a pop. All writers can do is lug along some boxes of books and try to peddle a few.
I generally don’t like having a table at a show, because it means you never really see any of the actual show. And most comic creators don’t come to conventions to make money. They come just to hang out. To see friends they may only get to see a couple times a year. To meet fans and promote their next big thing. To chase down editors and jockey for work. And sometimes even to buy comics.
Give me some dusty old quarter boxes and I am a very happy man.
But conventions aren’t just about what happens on the con floor. Some creators and editors you would be hard-pressed to ever even find on the con floor. Instead they come for the nightlife.
I don’t just mean big parties, although there are certainly those, especially in San Diego. Instead, my favorite moments from most every con I’ve ever been to almost always involve simply a small group of folks going out for dinner and drinks. Sure, the big panels are fun, and it’s always an interesting experience to wonder the con floor, but it’s hard to ever really talk to anyone there. You have a brief exchange with a fan or maybe you shake hands and say hi to a friend you haven’t seen in forever, but the con itself is usually so crazy and crowded that it’s hard to really have much of a meaningful conversation. I’d much rather talk over dinner or over beers in the hotel lobby, or in years past at San Diego, on the back steps of the Hyatt.
if you want creators to love coming to your convention, then the answer is simple: just give them a place to hang out and chat.
That’s what I’ll miss this week. Not the Comic-Con exclusive toys or the big movie panels in Hall H. But just the simple thrill of being in the same place as a few hundred thousand of my closest friends, sharing a beer with a few of them and just talking, sometimes about comics, sometimes not.
Like the typical stereotype of the comic book nerd, I number myself among the ranks of the socially awkward. I’ve never been one of the cool kids. Back in school, I was the shy, quiet guy, the guy who spent way more time reading than he ever did getting laid. I never felt comfortable at parties. Still don’t for the most part. I tend to clam up in big groups. There’ve been times I haven’t even felt particularly comfortable in my own skin.
But I’ve always felt right at home at Comic-Cons.
Big or small, as a creator or as a fan. Put me in a room with men in suits, and I fumble and fall all over myself. But surround me with cosplayers and comic nerds and suddenly I’m A-OK. At Comic-Cons, I always know the lay of the land. I always speak the language. They truly are my Mecca and I always look forward to making the next pilgrimage.
So in short, I will miss you Comic-Con, but I will see you again soon. Take care of my friends this week.