The Midwest Comic Book Association’s FallCon has always been a great, local convention, but recently it's also been a show with a problem. Traditionally the first weekend in October, it had always done well at attracting out-of-town guests thanks mostly to the extremely friendly, creator-focused organizers and volunteers (what other convention has a break room for creators with free lunch as well as an all-you-can-eat steak dinner after the show on Saturday?), but also to its being scheduled well after the summer convention season. In the last couple of years though, convention season has grown longer and longer and larger conventions like Baltimore and New York have been getting closer and closer to FallCon’s traditional date.
Also – I found out from talking to volunteers – paid attendance was starting to become an issue with Minnesota’s unpredictable, Autumn weather. Since FallCon was a two-day show, if the weather was bad on Saturday a lot of folks would skip it in hopes that Sunday would be nicer. And if the Twins were in the playoffs, you could forget about large crowds altogether.
So this year the MCBA decided to do something different. FallCon’s sister show was an annual, one-day event in the Spring called MicroCon. They’ve canceled that, turned FallCon into a one-day show, and created SpringCon, which debuted last weekend at the Minnesota State Fairgrounds to enormous success. In a newsletter I got this morning, the MCBA reported that it was easily the largest crowd to ever attend one of their events. They also raised a record amount of money and food for their charities (the Minnesota Lupus Foundation, the CBLDF, and Minnesota Food Shelves) and got a ton of positive feedback from dealers, creators, and fans. That was my experience on the floor as well.
Vampire cows, friends, famous people, and oh-so-many costumes after the break.
Because the tables are free for creators, MCBA shows are the only ones I attend in that capacity instead of as press. At this show I was selling copies of my vampire-cow comic, Cownt Tales and handing out free stickers and postcards for it. I shared a table with Uko Smith who was one of my roommates at C2E2 and is illustrating FX2: The Lost Land, coming out from IDW in December. I can’t believe I made it through the weekend without a photo of Uko, but I did. Here’s our table though.
I’ve been attending MCBA shows with the same group of friends for a few years now, most of whom are illustrators and sketch-card artists like Corbett Vanoni, Darla Ecklund, and Jessica Hickman, who also illustrated one of the stories in Cownt Tales and just launched a webcomic called Space Quint. Grant Gould (Star Wars: Clone Wars webcomic, The Wolves of Odin, Dimension Dust) was also there, attracting a continuous crowd of Star Wars fans. Poet/comics commentator/Greg Rucka impersonator Alex Ness is also a friend and was seated nearby. A bit further down the aisle from me were a couple of Pulp writer buddies, Martin Powell and Mike Bullock. And on the next aisle over was Wapsi Square’s Paul Taylor (another Cownt Tales contributor, incidentally) with the most gigantic banner I’ve ever seen.
I typically stick pretty close to my table at shows, but I had a hard time doing that this year. Part of it was all that close proximity to friends, but there was just a lot of energy in the hall in general. It made me want to get up and move around, which was odd, because I wasn’t really feeling it before the show. Some of us met for breakfast early Saturday morning and I confessed that I wasn’t as excited about the convention as I typically am about FallCon and MicroCon. I wasn’t sure what was going on at the time and it bothered me, but I now suspect that it was just because I didn’t know what to expect. How many people would show up? How would the Cownt do? Would I make an idiot of myself in front of Jeff Parker?
But once the fans showed up, it was immediately apparent that we were in for a fun show. It was the first gorgeous day that the Twin Cities had had for a while, so there was some concern that people might opt to be outdoors, but that didn’t affect the comics fans. There’s an easy joke to be made there, but in the Twin Cities (as I suspect is true pretty much everywhere) the comics-loving community is a diverse group. Families, young kids, women, and girls easily outnumber your stereotypical, basement-dwelling nerd. And dammit were they ever excited to be at SpringCon.
My first customer of the day was positively giddy. “Is it really here?” he asked. He could only be talking about the Cownt comic (I’ve been promoting the character and talking about making a comic for a couple of years now), but I had a hard time connecting this guy’s excitement to anything I had a part in creating.
“Yep!” I said. “It’s here!”
He took two. One for himself and one for a friend who couldn’t be there, but who he said would be even more excited than he was to finally read it. I hope the book’s worth a tenth of that fan’s enthusiasm.
Lots of other fans, friends, and acquaintances stopped by the table too, like the extremely talented cosplayer Meagan VanBurkleo. Too talented, possibly, because I always have a hard time identifying her at shows unless she’s wearing a costume I’ve already seen her in before. This time she was Silk Spectre.
Like I said though, I had a hard time staying behind the table. I had to go see Sam Hiti and pick up the print version of his Death-Day prologue. I had to at least get a peek at Sarah Douglas (Superman II, Conan the Destroyer) and Jim Shooter. I had to find a copy of Alpha Flight #120 to have Pat Broderick sign (since my copy’s buried in a box somewhere in my closet).
As I was walking around, I heard someone call my name. It was Jeff Parker. I’d talked to him a couple of times online and talked about him (and Agents of Atlas and Marvel Adventures and X-Men: First Class) incessantly anywhere people will let me, but we’ve never actually met. Man, what a pleasure that was. We promised to talk again later, probably at the steak dinner afterwards.
That didn’t work out though. Since this was Uko’s first time in the Cities, Jess and Grant and I took him to the Mall of America for dinner instead of sticking around for free steak. But after that I went back to the hotel where most of the guests were staying and caught up with folks there. I know I’m not going to remember everyone I talked to, but Jeff was there and Phil Hester and I got to meet Shaun Crystal (Deadpool) and a bunch of other cool artists.
At one point Jeff asked if I was still with them on all of the Hulk madness and I said that I was, but - being a trade-waiter - I was about a year behind. This led to a cool conversation about iPads and digital comics and the ways we'd all prefer to read our comics in the next few years. Me: I want to be able to subscribe to publisher's digital libraries so that I can read everything they publish that month, I want a discount if I subscribe for a year, and I want to be able to buy printed bookshelf-worthy collections of the stories I want to keep.
One of the other artists I met was Christopher Herndon (Tales of the TMNT, Living with Zombies). He told me he’s working on a comic called Terra Tempo about prehistoric animals, so I knew that he was my kind of creator. It also turned out that we had some shared experiences in that we both started out making Horror comics and had since transitioned to more kid-friendly stuff. That can create awkward situations when kids are visiting your table.
Speaking of visiting kids, my wife and son came out for a while on Sunday. I made sure to take them by Chris’ table and that was a big hit. Chris’ stuff is awesome (he's got a couple of books brewing and I can't wait for either of them) and David got to impress everyone present by correctly identifying all the creatures in Chris' samples. Diane also bought David a great T-shirt that Chris designed.
A couple of other cool things happened on Sunday too. I got to see Adam Hansen and the rest of the Rooster Jack crew and compliment them on their new book, Rooster Jack vs the Mermaids. Artist Ben Zmith had stopped by my table on Saturday with a review copy and I’d told him that I thought Adam was writing them just for me now (as anyone who reads my other blog can tell you, I’m a big fan of undersea adventures). I’ve really enjoyed the two previous Rooster Jack issues, but Zmith’s art on Mermaids is his best yet and it was nice to be able to tell him (and Adam and colorist Sara Witty) that. I also picked up a couple of cool prints by Ben and Sara with cute bugs, some of which were pirates.
Also on Sunday I finally gave a copy of Cownt Tales to Pat Gleason (Green Lantern Corps, Brightest Day) who was cool enough to draw a picture of the Cownt a long time ago. His drawing’s now a pin-up in the comic and he seemed kind of tickled about that, which was cool.
I snagged a ton of great books for myself too, one of my favorites being a little book of tiki photos by Jennifer Menken. I also got some cool art, like a great Black Canary drawing by Evan “Doc” Shaner. But easily the best thing about the show was the fans. They were varied, they were lively, they were excited, and a whole bunch of them were costumed.