Committed: Conventions - nearly as much fun as work

With two California comic book conventions coming up in the next two weeks, I’m pretty excited about the future. Usually when I write this weekly column, I’m inspired by what I’m reading or what I’m working on at the moment. For the last week I’ve been working on something very nifty for Comic Book Resources. It has taken up a disproportionate amount of my time simply because it is a project so close to my heart. Unfortunately I can’t tell you about it yet because it isn’t quite finished, and Jonah will notice if I let the cat out of the bag early. (Don’t you hate it when people do that? They tell you something interesting is happening, but then they don’t tell you what it is? Awful, but I want to talk about it because it is so consuming and fascinating to me… sorry about that.) Anyway, keep your eyes peeled over the next week or so for something visually fun on the mother-site.

Once work is done, this coming weekend I’m going to Long Beach Comic Con and it will be my first year attending this convention. Although I’ve lived in Southern California for a couple of years now I have somehow managed to miss Long Beach Comic Con until now, so I have no idea what to expect. Often, comic book conventions can begin to have a very uniform feel, with many of the same people and large companies attending, even when they’re on different sides of the country. However, each convention has a unique artists' alley and/or an independent publisher areas of conventions, where a different group of comic book creators show their work. Sometimes local authors write comic books about their lives within that city, or about their own interest, which is one of my favorite ways to learn about someone’s experience of the city (no matter how inaccurate that view might be).

After Long Beach Comic Con, I’m doing something which sounds a bit silly; I’m going to another comic book convention. However, the Alternative Press Expo in San Francisco is quite different from other comic book conventions in that the focus is entirely on independent and alternative comic books. This means that there is no Marvel or DC, no movies, no television shows, and no big games, just people who’ve made a comic book, (or sometimes a pillow, poster, toy, or button). I haven’t attended this convention in a few years, certainly not since I lived in San Francisco, and this year it’ll be at Fort Mason for the first time (which is an interesting venue for it, and should change the atmosphere quite a bit). Because independent comic books are the main focus of the show, they aren’t relegated to one section but are front and center, which creates a very different atmosphere from any other convention. This makes APE a great place to find unusual reading materials and talk to the people who make them. I’m looking forward to seeing what it’s like this year.

Personally I like the experience of attending conventions very much. Most of the art hanging in my house is from various conventions and each picture reminds me of a different convention and a great conversation I had when I got it. The strangest books I own are from comic book conventions. All of the weirdest stories, oddest-sized books, or most unconventionally bound were bought from the authors at conventions, and I heard stories about the motivations behind making them, the print challenges, and the rewarding end-products. In an era when many people would rather buy ebooks which don’t take up any space, going to a book convention and finding a few lovingly crafted physical books has become that more desirable.

Attending comic book conventions is always fun, in large or small doses. I like taking photos and talking to authors. At the same time I’m always aware of how tiring the conventions can be for people who are working there, and I try to be cognizant of the fact that they might not have a chance to leave for food/coffee/bathroom breaks for the next 5 hours. While some of my favorite convention experiences involve meeting comic book creators and talking about design and visual communication, sometimes it is just as important to simply grab a bottle of water for someone who’s working, or to let them run off to get a sandwich instead of chatting to you. Besides, at heart a comic book geek with poor social skills (who can hide it better some days than others) so I try to be sympathetic to the fact that the person on the other side of the table might be all talked-out at the end of a weekend. Speaking of social skills, I’ve had a few friends who told me they saw me at conventions but didn’t want to stop me to say hello. Let me tell you that bumping into a friend in amongst sea of humans is one of the nicest parts of going to conventions (outside of the books)! Once a man stopped me just to say that he’d seen a photo I’d posted on twitter of an artist, and ask where he was. Suddenly I had a face to put to a name I’d only previously known online and now he was “real”! So please always say hello, (even when I’m in a daze, or maybe especially if I’m in a daze). And if you’re attending Long Beach or APE, I hope you have as much fun as I hope I will.

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