baltimore weekend

THOUGHTS ON COMICS CONVENTIONS

By Jason Latour

Originally published: 09/12/13

Last weekend was Baltimore Comic Con, a show that was fairly pleasant by my standards and expectations of a comics convention. All in all it was a laid back, fun experience. A good time with friends and fellow creators and a good opportunity to talk to those of you who stopped by the table.

But towards the end of the show I had a couple of encounters that have got me thinking about what my expectations of a show are and how those have largely changed over the years. Granted I’m in a much better, slightly more privileged place these days, but it wasn’t so long ago that cons were a really torturous experience. I really do still understand what it feels like to attend a con hoping for a leg up, only to find yourself face down.

The conversations I had this weekend were with a few folks in that position. Some successful pros, others maybe not so fortunate yet. They inspired me to write down my thoughts on attending comics cons as a creator, which is something I’m really an old hand at. The philosophies I largely abide by are in a state of constant evolution. Honestly they’re the by product of far more error than trial.  But of late  they’ve really seemed to make attending conventions a much more rewarding experience and and have in no small way  been beneficial to the career I’m trying to build and art I’m trying to create.
So with that in mind here’s what this thing isn’t:



It’s not how to nail a portfolio review or get an editor’s email.
It’s not what magic pen to use in order to ink like Wally Wood.
It’s not how to get rich at a comics show.

If that’s the kind of stuff you want advice on there are plenty of better folks to get it from. What I have to say MIGHT lead you to people who do  know how to do all of the above and more. But I can’t promise you that. All I know is what has and hasn’t worked for me, and to some degree why. It should go without saying that ultimately it’s up to you to determine what that’s worth.
Still with me? Okay, don’t say I didn’t warn you…


COMMUNITY

The worst kept  secret in comics is that comics are about relationships. Human interaction. The kind that, by in large, aren’t formed over the phone or the internet. These relationships are formed over con tables and dinners and beers and arguments and laughs. If you want to work in comics, it’ll save you a lot of headaches to learn that now.

Because the honest truth, little comics star–  is that  past a point  no one really cares how good you are. Sure you might hit the scene with the freshest new gangster lean, you may walk in off the street and find yourself the prettiest girl at the ball. No one is denying that these things are possible. But if you want to last, if you want your time in comics to be put towards making art and telling stories and not just scraping by to do your next con, well– you’re going to have to form relationships. Real ones.

It doesn’t matter if you make indie comics out of yarn or write “The Avengers vs. Batman”–

if you’re not spending a significant part of your con time being an active part of the comics community, if you’re not reinforcing and re-igniting these relationships– then you are probably  wasting your time.

Want to know why? Because that creator who you think sucks? The one you can write circles around or draw under the table? Well, they’ve  got people who are actually invested in whether or not they eat tomorrow, in if they ever create again. They’ve  got friends who will call them up and let them know when theres a job that might fit them. Publishers and editors who know they can be trusted or what to expect of them. Collaborators who would walk through fire for them. Friends who like their jokes or folksy insights and are more than happy to buy them a beer, or set them up with a hotel room or con space. An entire support system who will make this absurd dream  just a little more plausible. These folks will hold the doors open, the same way other people held the doors for damn near every single creator in the history of comics–
All that, or any, creator really owes anyone is to give it their all once the threshold is crossed. To prove that  those folks were right to hold that door, and to hold those very doors open for some other deserving creator someday.


THERE IS NO BOTTOM LINE

As both a  comics professional, aspiring or otherwise, and as an artist there are plenty of reasons to attend a Comic Book convention beyond building relationships. But the reason I’ve found to offer far and away the most diminishing returns is that of putting cash on the barrel head.

That’s not to say theres not money to be made, because there is– or at least there can be. But if we’re operating under the assumption that building relationships is the most important goal of any comics convention, then your sole goal monetarily should first and foremost be simply not to lose your shirt. Cover your costs. Once your flight, hotel and maybe your food are out of the way, the rest is is gravy. After all how can you really interact and engage with an audience and a community if you’re holed away in your hotel room alone doing sketches?


And yes, it’s true that you could form a community around that. But if you’re an artist, doing commissions can be a real bag of snakes. To the naked eye it’s an overhead free way of covering the expenses I mentioned. It’s also a great way to challenge yourself and improve your grasp over your craft. But in reality there are psychic costs. It’s a time consuming pressure cooker of a practice that can easily  leave you a human husk. The kind of behavior that can significantly reduce the energy you have to spend with friends, collaborators, readers and employers.

My advice is to tread lightly. Don’t over extend in terms of volume. Trust me I have and continue to be unable to determine how much I can do. But I’ve learned that a well done, reasonably priced sketch, is going to win you more hearts and minds than a thousand dollars in sketches that leave you unable function. Take a look around– convention floors and the bars and dinners that surround them are full of awkward, brain dead pauses, a lot of which is probably largely exacerbated by folks who broke their mind and spirit toiling away for that  “easy money”.

Beyond that– what happens when you get home and have real work to do? Be honest with yourself, you probably work harder at a big show than you do at home. Most of the time you’re only creating a vicious  cycle, and before long it’s easy to find yourself looking to make your “easy” bank (or worse supplement the income lost by going to a con) off of another show. Soon it’s a monthly thing and then you’re drowning in a sea of commissions or spending a little too much time polishing your original art for the secondary market .

Save your energy for what you got into this business for– making comics.
It’s the comics that make the readers stop by your table, that your friends will be in awe of and will make your employers swoon. There really is no way to make it by nickel and diming. Sure some people have made good livings doing commissions, it is possible to supplement a lot of income. But these are largely diminishing returns. Comics and published work are the long money, the real investment. The things you can sell at your table without breaking a sweat, or can hand to an editor or friend or new reader. They’re the only thing about this business and artform that stands a chance of being perpetual, of actually renewing themselves over time. Well, other than the relationships that is.

(RE)FOCUS

If your comics career is going well or is productive, you’re probably going to spend a lot of your time working. Most of your time in fact. Comics are often times a  lonely business. After toiling away in the wee hours for  a month or two it’s  really easy to wonder what  the hell you’re doing with your life.  Unless you’re extremely lucky most of the people in your day to day life are only going to have a passing interest in your passion. Even if they do love the stories or the art, it’s unlikely they live and breathe the politics of it or understand the inner workings of the art form like you.

And that leads me to my favorite part of comics shows. The broad philosophies above generally leave me in a position where a comics show actually becomes rewarding creatively. Think about it for a second– how often are you going to be in a room with that many creative people at once?

That bar, that lunch table,  that portfolio line– they’re all  humming with imagination and passion and real honest to god love for what you want to do. So take a moment and realize how damned great of a resource that is. Bounce your ideas. Argue. Challenge and be challenged. Make a damned fool of yourself arguing about X-Men (tread carefully there). Be humbled. Get your damn swagger back. And when all that’s said and done– go home. Take a long nap, maybe watch the  Breaking Bad episode you missed– and then sit down, refocus and  turn that crackling energy into some amazing  lines on paper.

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Photos from Otakon where I (kinda) went as Maki for one of the days. I say kinda because this isn’t technically any outfit she wears in the show or in the game, but it was so gosh darn hot in Baltimore that weekend because of the heatwave I couldn’t justify doing the original cosplay (Magician Maki unidolized) so I just wore some normal clothes with it. I’ll show that outfit off sometime later though don’t you worry about that. Glad that I finally have something to post after so long.

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PYM: PARTICLE MAN!

Let’s get small! Or big! Whether you’re looking for size, strength, or durability, pym particles are where it’s at. Want to learn more? CHECK OUT THIS SCIENCE! 

Get prints at Society6! or this weekend at Baltimore Comic Con! Swing by booth 2013!

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I will be at OTAKON in Baltimore this weekend starting tomorrow night.  These are the shirts I’ll be wearing each day.

Thursday night: Future Gadget Laboratory

Friday: Friend shirt (the hand with the eye)

Saturday: Frog? No. HIIPPO.

Sunday: Galley-La Company

Didn’t get to go last year, so I’m super excited to return to my beloved Otakon.  If any of you go and see me walking around, feel free to say hi!

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BRONYCON IS FINALLY HERE!  And PD and the crew will be there in Baltimore this weekend!  Along with her mod.

Even if Blank Canvas doesn’t allow pirates in the vendor hall…

What will we be doing there?  Mostly vending, a couple panels, and seeing friends and fans of the blog.  I’m really friendly and love to say hi to all my fans.  Don’t be shy!

For vending, I’ll be at Table B12 in the Artist Alley this year.  And I have more than prints for once!  There will be buttons of your favorite characters, badges of the Mane 6, and the Pirate Dash-themed Shipfic cards.  Come on by and say hi and pick something up!

And panels?  I have two!  The first one is on Friday called Sketchy Friends.  Sketchy Friends is a fun and simple activity where you show up and draw ponies.  It doesn’t matter what skill level you have, the point is to draw and have fun.  As well as making new friends.  It starts at 12:30 in the afternoon and runs until 2:00.  Helping me on that panel will be @tambelon and @malwinters, along with a very special guest.  You’ll have to come to find out who ;3

And then late Saturday night into Sunday morning, we’re back for the Tumblrpon panel!  This year’s cast will feature the mods of @ask-king-sombra, @askopalescentpearl, @outofworkderpy, @thetalesofwildcard, @cloudchaserandflitterexplain, and @fisherpon.  Come get some tips and meet some great people!

That’s all!  Hope to see you this weekend in Baltimore!

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I took these portraits at various rallies and demonstrations in Baltimore over the weekend. People are literally dancing in the streets, coming together over Marilyn Mosby—the prosecutor who just charged six cops with various crimes relating to Freddie Gray’s death—as a symbol of hope. We’ll see what happens next, but right now it’s hard to describe this moment as anything but positive.

See more

You’re going to hear the word Baltimore a lot this weekend, especially if you’re from Maryland like I am.

I’m going to take this rare opportunity where people are actually giving a damn about Baltimore (vaguely)  to do a full weekend of posts dedicated to The Wire and the war on drugs. The Wire is about the the lives of poor people of color in the age of America’s drug war— subjects which you rarely see on television anywhere.

It won’t be any more posts than I usually do in a weekend, but if you find it annoying or triggering (drug talk), feel free to block the tag: Baltimore weekend.

The plot thickens...

KC was in Baltimore this weekend and had this to say….

I’m gonna toss this in the pile of evidence for my LL Theory (x) and (x). Now she’s an Olicity shipper?

It means one thing to me.

Can people change their minds? Sure. But I doubt KC suddenly had a revelation after three years of promoting Lauriver that Olicity is the true love story of Arrow. 

This sounds like KC toeing the company line or she’s completely given up on Lauriver. Either way it seems KC is trying to keep her job or she’s already lost it.