Otherwise known as “The Con Helen Thought Would Be Kind to Her Wallet and Realized Her Mistake Right Before the Con”
So, whenever a webcomic author I like says “Oh I’m going to X in a few weeks, here’s where to find me!” I try to find where X is and was surprised to see some people saying that they were going to a con in Bethesda which was going to be not terribly far from where I was going to be living in September (well, if you have a car, I had some adventures riding buses to and from the con and took me about an hour and a half each time, in a car it would have been only 15 minutes). I was a little hesitant but then saw that if you volunteer for four hours you get a free weekend badge (which admittedly isn’t that expensive) and thought “yeah I can do that, $10 to save for comics and something that I know I’ll be doing to make staying there for a day worth my time? Awesome! And it’s SMALL press expo so my wallet will have time to recover from Otakon/moving right?” As mentioned earlier, I figured out how wrong I was about a week, two weeks before the con when suddenly more and more webcomicker’s said they were going and had to start seriously planning out my budget.
And I’d like to give a shout-out to both the SPX tumblr and Panel Patter (which I may have found from the SPX tumblr) for helping me find some amazing stuff before the con and that also made me feel a lot better about going. For one reason or another I try a lot of alternative/indie comics (just about everything any of my libraries get) and don’t like a lot of them yet I adore manga and webcomics so I like comics, I just didn’t know if I’d like the comics at SPX. But after getting a chance to see everything people were working on before I got there I started to feel like “yeah, I like this and this isn’t even everything that’ll be there, I’ll fit in, I’ll find stuff I like!”
So, after some bus adventures in the morning I got there (“okay, I see a bunch of 20-30-something people all walking in the same direction towards a hotel, yeah I’m sprinting the right way” which was after an unexpected drive by my home until I was seven in Wheaton) and started volunteering and by the end of my four hour shift I had half lost my voice. I’ve seen at least one other person complain about the lack of volunteer organization and I’ll admit it did seem like they had plans to assign people to specific tasks and instead had a bunch of us making badges (and I stuck there since I was at a registration table and didn’t want to get moved to greeting people at the doors and my persistence paid off when one of the other volunteers had to leave my experience with using Square was needed!), I would almost wonder if they had too many except we could have used a few people on line control. And that’s how I half lost my voice, we had two stations at each of the two registration tables and since people were in one line (not a line for each station) I had to keep yelling for people to come down. So, if you heard some girl very loudly yelling “NEXT!” in the first two hours of the con, yeah that was me, I apologize to the people at the table with me since apparently it was a bit unexpected. And we were slammed for the first hour and a half and it was still pretty steady until I left at 3, no one really had time for a break (aside from a quick run to the bathroom or to go refill my water bottle across the way) and it seemed like we had a nice and diverse crowd too, I’ve never had so many people recognize my shirt in my life (we were joking that since I told everyone “yeah and the people who made it, Johnny Wander, they’ve got a table near the back wall!” that I should ask for a discount, although when I actually got to their table they didn’t seem to notice, guess it was a combination of being busy/my purse strap and badge covering it up a bit). And at one point Ed Sizemore managed to find me and say hi, hurray for meeting more of anime twitter (and, unlike Otakon where I was pretty tired by the time I met people, I was hyped up from all the interacting with people so I didn’t feel like an idjit afterwards!).
Once I got done with my shift I ate a bit of my lunch and when went down to the Raina Telgemeier and Gene Yang in Conversation panel and that went pretty nicely, I hadn’t been exactly sure what it would entail but the two of them had some interesting things to say and the moderator was also great at directing the conversation around when it started to lull (heck, one of my new goals in life is to be an awesome moderation like that guy, to be really familiar with people’s work and prepared enough to be able to anticipate where the conversation might go and how to make it flow into the next topic, this seems like a good life skill to aim for). And it was funny to hear Telgemeier talk about her fanbase since when I was at registration there were a few times I saw a parent(s) and child come up with the kid clutching a well worn copy of Smile, to which I’d say “Oh yeah she’s here/she has a new book out too” and they would say pretty happily “we know,” you could tell that kid dragged their parent(s) out just to see her and it’s always awesome to see kids who are so motivated to go out to meet a favorite author and to have the chance, I didn’t have that chance until college (because publishing companies hate North Carolina apparently) and really hope they found more comics they liked (maybe we can drag them into the manga fanbase as well, we can always use more readers….)
After that I went to wander the floor with my tiny budget and I felt like I did pretty well!
Got a minicomic about Elle Skinner’s cat (of Littlest Elle, Missing Monday, and the current artist on Erstwhile) and since I told her that I loved all her comics she gave me the mini-minicomic to the left about dealing with the heat in SanFran (she was super nice and whenever I have to meet people these days I remember the comic she made about cons and just pretending to be an extrovert, it helps some!).
The page of just cat stickers are from Alison Wilgus of A Stray In The Woods (which I read just before SPX and told her that I regretted reading it late at night, was a tad too atmospheric ^^) who tabled with Alisa Harris of Cooking Up Comics (who I had run into the bathroom briefly during a break, which was far less creepy than you’d think, I think it was the power of my CMK shirt) and I grabbed the cooking conversion magnet from her.
All the other stickers are from Johnny Wander which I already mentioned and my lone real comic book buy of the convention was the first volume of Galaxion (which I’ve been reading for three or four years now) and they were nice and said that if I did get more money I could come back and get the other two books for the special deal they were running. I didn’t but I did go home, reread the first volume and then archive binged through the rest, it’s a plot heavy story so sometimes I forget reading week to week how much I like it so it was wonderful to make time to reread it all at once.
Oh and I grabbed a ton of business cards/promo pieces!
Had a surprisingly hard time finding them for some people to which I must say, WHY THE HECK AREN’T YOUR BUSINESS CARDS FRONT AND CENTER? I just graduated with a degree in photography (which is basically if technology and art had a lovechild) and the head of my department told all of us if he was to ever meet us later in life and we didn’t have our cards on us he would retroactively fail us (yes, I did have some of mine in my bag even at the con), guys these are SUPER important! Put them in a holder and make them easy to find, I had to actually start asking people where they had them (since even if I don’t have the money to buy your stuff now doesn’t mean I don’t want to look it up later!). I have mixed feelings on some of the other freebies (which are practically worth their own post), bookmarks are a clever idea and postcards are still small enough to work but full sized pieces of paper are too big, I had to fold them up to fit them in my bag. Also interesting to note that people don’t have the huge PVC stands I’m used to seeing at anime cons, probably because it’s not that big a print con (although it sounds like some people would like to see that change) but guys make sure you have some elevation on your table, if I’m in the back trying to look over people to see your table and it’s all low down I’m going to pass it by because I can’t see!
Regardless, if anyone sees and interesting one and wants the info off of it message me, I’m going to hold onto them for about a week longer then they’re off to the recycling, just don’t have a good way to reuse them otherwise.
And that’s it! SPX had some problems, someone came up to the registration table when I was there to lodge a complaint that it was crowded and it was triggering her anxiety and I didn’t quite get it until I was in the dealers room, holy balls that was crowded, 280 tables, best guess is 600 artists showing and I haven’t seen any numbers yet for how many attendees but that needs a bigger room. I’ve been to some crowded cons (fun fact, I don’t think the Baltimore Convention Center was meant to hold 32,000+ nerds, 2017 Otakon in DC can’t come soon enough!) but that was among the most crowded, I wonder if people near the door were able to sell much at all for how people would just congregate there. Also, signings need their own room, having people line up and snake around into the dealers room just doesn’t help and I think they need to just get a third panel room and dedicate it to that. Despite all of that I fully plan to come back next year wit a bigger budget and volunteer again. Just, remind me to do yoga or something a few days beforehand, apparently my back and my hips object to almost six straight hours of standing.