we were in north carolina last week for heroes con. the con has been running for over 30 years and has a reputation for being maybe the best east coast convention, with a family atmosphere and emphasis on comics and comic creators–none of the pop culture nonsense that so many other cons have made the focus of their shows. it’s fair to say we were looking forward to this one.
josh and i left early thursday morning, hopping on a train, where we met up with our roomie for the weekend, ulises farinas. ulises is a fantastic artist and an easy guy to spend 13 hours on a train with. here’s the cover to his book coming out in july…
there’s not much to say about a 13 hour train ride. we traded comics biz stories (shame on some people out there, ha) and ate lousy train food and discussed the eternal subject, women. we got into charlotte around 9 pm and headed for the hotel. andrew had flown in earlier and scouted out the bbq options, which, by the time we unwound and ulises had donned his RATTICUS costume, were limited. who’s RATTICUS, you ask?
we wound up eating at QUEEN CITY Q, a middle of the road BBQ restaurant that had good ribs, terrible brisket, and weak drinks.
friday was set-up time, and we were in INDIE ISLAND, along with the pittsburgh boys (jim rugg, jasen lex, ed piskor, and tom scioli), chris pitzer of ADHOUSE BOOKS, rafer roberts, and some other folks i’m spacing on right now. we were tabled next to chad bowers, who was from the area and a real nice guy to be stuck next to for 3 days. chad did a bunch of ‘terrible sketches for $1’ over the course of the 3 days, and they were all worth a chuckle. the show got off to a slow start, sales-wise (more on that to come), so i decided to hit the floor, say hi to some folks, and try to get creators signed on to our LITTLE NEMO: DREAM ANOTHER DREAM project.
i saw neal adams with only 1 or 2 people around him and figured what the hell, i’d give it a shot. after listening to some hilarious off-color stories about roy thomas and stan lee from neal, i pitched him nemo. i was excited and a little abuzz when, without too much work, he said yes. this kicked off a pretty spectacular weekend of recruiting creators for the project. when i got back to the table to hear sales were slow but josh had talked to–and gotten a yes from–peter bagge, the tone and type of weekend it was going to be was set. before the end of the day, tom scioli, ed piskor, nick pitarra, shawn crystal, and ben marra had all joined in. we also got to meet drew moss, who illustrated one of the stories in ONCE UPON A TIME MACHINE and is doing stuff at IDW now. drew is a swell guy, great finally meeting in person.
we got dinner right this time, with some soul food at MERT’S, a place that’s apparently a con staple, and for good reason. ben marra, rafer roberts, and storme smith joined me, andrew, josh, and ulises, and we had a great meal–a meal where josh found out ben is a fellow NEW YORK METS fan and immediately asked if ben would like to replace me in the locust moon organization. after dinner we made our way over to the westin hotel bar, the de facto watering hole for creators & con goers. good bar, spacious, and jasen lex had staked out seats at the bar, a hot commodity as the night wore on.
speaking of lex, he’s doing the logos for our upcoming QUARTER MOON book (july 19th) and he informed me he would be delivering around 10 different logos, all of which are awesome, and that he wouldn’t accept any $ for the job. lex, you are a righteously lovely guy and it’s nice to have you in our corner. i wound up having a good talk with writer & editor ivan brandon, who showed me some knockout work by daniel krall for an upcoming book they’re doing. i told ivan i’d love to have daniel in NEMO, and a few minutes later i was talking to daniel and he signed onto the book. thanks, ivan. i miss that husky rasp of a voice.
saturday was supposed to be the big sales day, but it never materialized. we wound up selling the same amount of books that we sold on friday. but there were some priceless moments in there, with andrew reading aloud half the book to a rapt little brother & sister whose parents finally pulled them away and said, “don’t you want to read the rest at home?” and another little girl who was transfixed by our little animated trailer for ONCE UPON A TIME MACHINE that we had playing on an ipad. she sat there for 20 minutes, watching it on a loop and reciting out loud some kind of storyline she had concocted for the visuals. good stuff. thanks again, lance erlick, for the cartoon…
conor mccreery, co-writer of KILL SHAKESPEARE and a gent of a guy, told us the place to be at night was a karaoke bar called JACKALOPE JACKS, so josh, andrew, ulises, and i hopped in a cab and headed over there after a couple drinks at the hotel bar. jackalopes was definitely a locals bar, and we had a few funny encounters there, ranging from beautiful women and their boyfriends to odd folks who pestered you about your beard and then bought you drinks to make up for it. but the karaoke was fun and the locals were super into it, including one girl who did an impassioned take on TOTAL ECLIPSE OF THE HEART that i will quote often from now on. here’s a listen to the most unique performance of the night…
we met marcus to from ASPEN there, and he was a real nice guy, friendly & positive. we also met khary randolph. we liked khary so much we took him home with us. really.
conor is the ginger, ulises is in plaid, khary’s wearing black and i’m the guy in the hat. all i can say about the rest of this night is that josh & ulises were seen in the hotel lobby mainlining lean cuisine microwave dinners. i believe the final tally was 11. the next day a girl told josh, “oh yeah, i remember you, you were the guy eating all those lean cuisines in the lobby. you offered me orange chicken.” which just proves that josh is, indeed, a gentleman through & through.
sunday continued the trend of slow sales. there just never seemed to be a lot of traffic, and this was an observation made by pretty much every creator we talked to when it came to sales. a few folks we know, like jim rugg, did great with commissions, and this show seemed to be about fans getting sketches and commissioning their favorite artists more than other shows. which is cool, but it killed us. another problem, we think, was the sheer size of the hall and how spaced out everything was; there just wasn’t the feeling of a con bustling with activity even though i’m guessing the attendance #’s were good. the slowness did give us a chance to go chat with don rosa, legendary ducks artist and a personal favorite of andrew’s and mine. we had asked don to join in on nemo earlier in the weekend but, sadly, he doesn’t really draw anymore due to problems with his eyes. we had a nice chat, bought some prints, and took a picture.
after leaving mr. rosa, we went and took our shot at jim steranko. i wish this conversation was on tape. suffice it to say mr. steranko is full of charm, quite confident, and working on bigger things. a priceless encounter.
here are some pics of costumes we liked…
here’s our pal van jensen (van writes PINOCCHIO VAMPIRE SLAYER and GREEN LANTERN CORPS) with a pesky little jawa. the jawa walk was precise.
here’s josh at our table. that’s not a costume, that’s just handsome.
afterwards we headed over to the bbq that con runner shelton drum throws at his shop HEROES AREN’T HARD TO FIND. laying out an endless free bbq filled with good eats and free beers for that many people is a heck of a nice gesture on shelton’s part, and as fellow shop owners and festival organizers we were impressed and touched by this full-on classy approach.
so, to wrap it up, it wasn’t a good show for us sales-wise. we sold twice as many books at the much smaller & less heralded asbury park comic con, and that was a 1 day affair as opposed to 3 days here. but from a creative standpoint, heroes was a smashing success. i mentioned some of the creators who joined in on nemo throughout this, and we’ll do a proper update on that next week. oh, i almost forgot autumn..!
autumn is david (MOUSE GUARD) & julia petersen’s dog, and we wanted to take her home. i think a lot of people wanted to.
would we do this show again? it’s tough to say, from a financial standpoint. but, given the good times and creator-friendly atmosphere, i’m tempted to say yes.