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14 June 2013

HeroesCon 2013 Charlotte NC USA with Henry Eudy

(HeroesCon stolen from HeroesCon.)

Hello brothers and sisters.  Your pal Shannon here.  I was not able to attend America's Most Beloved Comic Book Convention this year so I'll hand things over to America's Most Beloved Eudy.  Take it away Henry!



So, last year I went full tilt HeroesCon. I got a table, I went to the Drink and Draw, I did the Art Auction, I slobbered all over the Jaime Hernandez panel, I got a sketch from Dave Cooper, I did McGintyfest, I got good and drunk every night, never more so than at the Dead Dog Party where I cornered Roger Langridge and bored him with my analysis of Bowie, Brian Eno and the importance of dream symbolism. I came out of those three days like Charles Bukowski stumbling away from a bare knuckle brawl with Frank Stallone, full of ham sandwich and Schlitz and victory. I did HeroesCon and I did it hard. 

This year, I remained more sober. I spent just five slim hours on the convention floor and, shame of shames, never even made it all the way across the great width of this show beast. But here's what I saw and thought, in my mostly disqualified experience and opinion: 
(Image stolen from Major Spoilers.  That girl is not Henry Eudy.  He has brown hair.)

More so than any other year I can remember, the focus this year was almost totally on the customer, the guest, the attendee. Not to say Heroes isn't always focused on the people of the con, the show's great reputation is rightly built on the expansive friendliness of Shelton Drum and company, but this year it was stunning how many novel amenities were made for the great many. Firstly, the show was at least twice the size of previous years. The space the con inhabited was truly immense. Like, if you stood at the far end of one side, the other wall was obscured by clouds or something. Huge. Because of this, the aisles were super wide, it was incredibly easy to traverse without bumping against those idiots who bring their entire collections on those stupid pull carts or having to rub up against the kings of terrible body odor or getting trapped behind the gaggle of pervs taking snapshots of nipple slip Dazzler on your way to a $9.00 hot dog. The freedom of mobility was wonderful. But it had it's costs, more about that later. Other public friendly stuff included a concession area with tables and chairs aplenty that reduced the chances of dangerous nacho crashes while on the hoof and placing the Art Stage in the very center of the floor with a semi-circle of chairs for an open-mouthed audience to sit and watch a myriad of Dark Phoenixes get created right before their eyes.
As a customer, I never felt more comfortable on the floor. It was actually relaxing, strolling from place to place as opposed to an anxiety filled walking of the nerd gauntlet. My hat is tipped and, in fact, totally off my head for the magnificent efforts of the best people in the comics business. These little touches made a great many people overjoyed with the show.
(Jim Steranko with Shelton Drum.  Stolen from Heroes facebook page.)

Now, on to the costs of all that mobility. When you're trying to sell and show your comics, especially if they are small, personally constructed comics that no one has ever heard of, you're like a bear in a stream full of running salmon. You just gotta hope you can get your paw in there often enough to scoop up a few of those slippery people who just might dig what you got on the table to make wading in the river worth it in the first place. So, when the river gets wider but the salmon count stays the same, it's a lot easier for the swimmers to just keep on swimmin' instead of having a look at your all panda retelling of The Canterbury Tales in mini-comic form. And that's what seemed to be happening every time I stopped to ask a pal, "So, how's it going?" What was great for the customer was not so great for the cartoonist, crouched behind his little clump of what felt like an increasingly deserted Indie Island. It was just too easy for the walkers to build momentum and rush on by, which is what seemed to be going on the small sliver of Saturday that I was there to observe and give high fives to bros.
(Patrick Dean knocking out a masterpiece.  Stolen from Heroes facebook page.)

Even so, spirits seemed universally high everywhere I went. Economics ain't the whole burrito and the energy was still electric. The best times I spent that afternoon were bouncing across the aisles to visit with dudes like Patrick Dean, Robert Newsome, J. Chris Campbell, Duane Ballanger and Joey Weiser, guys from FLUKE. I missed this year's FLUKE and getting to hee and haw it up with these fellas really brought my spirits up. Patrick Dean especially sells everything too damn cheap for how beautiful he makes it and I took full advantage by giving him $5.00 bills for stuff that makes my eyes super happy. J. Chris gave me some super good art advice and also a nice across the table choke for free.  All those guys are super. 

An aisle down from the FLUKE party was my pal and past and future SPX table mate, Christian Sager along with Kelly Williams, the long bearded brushist that I much admire. These guys have a project called The Cabinet which is soon to be out in fabulous book form and my brains filled up with exclamation points looking over Kelly's originals for that tome. Across from there was Mike Freiheit with whom I tabled next too last year. Mike has a great new book called Monkey Chef and I made him accept my money for it because, dammit, he deserves money for the great stuff he makes. Right next to him was Matthew Smith of the Simon Says series. I thought I had good tabs on Matthew but he had about six new issues that I had never laid eyes on. What a powerhouse. So then, next to Matt was a guy who is on my list of top three best cartoonists in the biz right now, Benjamin Marra. It's all about Night Business and that collection of American Psycho drawings for me. Marra is making comics other people forgot how to make. He's a genius and a great American. Right about then I became really aware that, like sand through the hourglass, so were the days of our lives. This thing was about to close and I had better hurry up and meet a famous guy. 

(Karl Rove on the far left working out a strategy with his young male assistant on how to best complete his complete run of Legion of Super Heroes.  Image stolen from Adam Daughhetee.) 

The only great cartoonist on my mind was Pete Bagge. Hate was a cornerstone for me as a young man who loved comics but was sick to death of superheroes. I think a lot of that stuff was supposed to be making fun of goateed, flannel draped white kids. But as a goateed, flannel draped white kid, I couldn't have identified more. So, it was a minor big deal to meet Bagge to tell him I loved Hate and hated everything else, to praise him for his Weirdo years and shake his hand. And I did all that and it felt good.
(Evan Dorkin and Pete Bagge.  Stolen from The Beat.)

So that was my few hours at HeroesCon this year. The least amount of time I've spent on the floor in over five years. Still, I had an amazing time and I loved every second of it. I guess I didn't realize I had so many friends in comics until they were all under one huge roof. Thanks to everybody for the good times.  

-Henry Eudy, America.

(That time Henry Eudy was murdered by J. Chris Campbell.  We'll miss him.)


Thanks Henry!  You are the best person alive  recently murdered.

Now, while I, Shannon Smith, (This is Shannon talking now, Henry is done.  He's dead ya know.) didn't actually go to HeroesCon this year, that's no reason why I can't talk about it.   In fact, blog law demands that I talk about things which I have no actual personal knowledge.  For those of you new to teh intronets, this is how it works.

From most all of the twitter, tumblr, instagram, facebook and myspace posts I've read, this year's HeroesCon was a life affirming zensplosion of joy for thousands of people.  (Just kidding.  I never looked at myspace.)  It seems that fans customers and creators both had a wonderful time.  I sincerely hate that I missed it and I hope I get to go next year.

Outside of the spotlight of social media however, in the dark shadows of email and direct messages, I did hear some mixed feelings about about sales.   Sketch and commissions were way up and comics sales were way down.

And let me take a moment to clarify what I'm talking about when I talk about comics sales here.  I'm not talking about the comics dealers.  I love the dealers but I've not had a chance to talk to any of them as I was not there.  I'm not talking about the mainstream (Marvel, DC, Image, Dark Horse etc.) creators.  Those guys don't usually even bring comics to sell.  I'm really just talking about the indie/small press/self publishing guys here.  A lot of the folks you would find on Indie Island or in artist alley.  For the sake of brevity, I'll just call them small press for the remainder of this post.  And by guys I mean boys, girls etc.  Those guys are not selling big numbers in the mainstream comics shops.  Those guys often depend on comic conventions not only as away to promote their comics but to sale their comics.  For the mainstream guys, conventions are, ya know, conventions, but for small press, from swap meet to SDCC, shows are a place to sell books.  For a lot of those guys, sales from one convention may determine if they make it to the next convention and in some cases even if they bother to print their next comic.  Sales matter.

But those guys are also pretty savvy and I don't think HeroesCon has ever been looked at as a show where a small press guy should expect to earn their rent.  Even with Indie Island, it is still a mainstream show.  (And Indie Island is a great small press show within a mainstream show.  If Indie Island were it's own thing, it would be a very impressive small press show.  Dave Cooper, Jamie Hernandez, Pete Bagge, Evan Dorkin... some of my biggest comics heroes have been on Indie Island.  So high five Indie Island.)  But over the past five years or so, or maybe going back to whenever Indie Island started, I think most of the small press guys have figured out that HeroesCon is not really a place where people go to buy comics.  Most of the fans customers at the show have pull lists and buy their comics in shops or online.  Or maybe they don't buy comics at all.  Maybe they are there for the cosplay and toys.  What they are there for is what they can't get in a comic shop or online.  And this is a big part of what HeroesCon does so well.  The customer is there for that interaction with the creators that you can only get in the con setting.  And art.  Lots and lots of art.  HeroesCon is a sketch show now.  Looking through folks "loot" pics, I see more original art, sketches and prints than I see comics or even toys this year.

And like I said before, the small press guys are savvy.  Most of the repeat exhibitors have caught on to this and are focusing on selling art now.  I've heard from multiple accounts that when checking out Indie Island this year very few of the guys had new comics to sell but many of them had new prints and t-shirts.  I heard from several guys that they sold more sketches and commissions this year than ever before.

And that's great!  I'm super happy to hear that so many people walked away from HeroesCon with original art by some of my very favorite creators.  I'm super duper happy that so many of my favorite creators got paid to draw for three days.
But, that is hard damn work ya'll.

And while I really should not be looking for the downside of guys selling a lot of sketches, I do worry about the comics.  And this is not a knock on HeroesCon.  HeroesCon is just one example I'm using to illustrate a point I may or may not get to before the end of this post.  I'm not even really talking about HeroesCon at this point.   I'm talking about the current evolution of how the customer interacts with comics.

My knock is on you.  You the comics customer.  You've come a long way.  You are super smart now.  You are aware of the creators and not just the properties.  You celebrate the creators.  You read their free comics online.  You follow them.  Like them.  Re-tweet them.  Re-blog them.  You interact with them all over teh intronets.  You meet them at conventions.  You get your picture made with them.  You buy a sketch from them.  Maybe you even go get drunk with them.  You feel connected to them.  You feel like you are a part of their increasing success.  You are doing such a great job of fueling the creators' desire to keep making great comics.

But please buy the comics.
Please pay money for the comics.

Everything changes.  Comics will change.  But there is exactly one Jenga piece that you can't take out of the comics tower.  One piece that when you take it out, you may not be able to rebuild the tower again.
Please buy the comics.
(A Jawa and Jeremy Massie.  Stolen from Animated Trigger.)

Okay, I'll slide the soapbox back to Stan Lee.  But before I hit the "Publish" button let me point out some links to some HeroesCon stuff you should check out.
Let's start off with some of my favorite art stolen from teh intronets:
Sandman and The Endless by Patrick Dean.

A bear with sharks for arms by Joey Weiser.

Burt Reynolds playing cards with a lion by Jeremy Massie.

A sexy eight winged fairy thing by Rob Ullman.

Some leather wearin' Disney dudes by Jason Horn.  Stolen from Shawn Daughetee.

Captain Marvel by Derrick Fish stolen from Little John.

Catwoman by James Lyle also stolen from Little John.

There was a whole bunch of art I wanted to share here but I can't figure out how to post pics from Instagram.  Sorry.
And now some links because that's what I do right?
The most important thing to take away from HeroesCon is that no matter who you are, no matter where you are, mo matter what you are, Jim Steranko is better than you.

Your best pal ever,

Shannon Smith

p.s. Say you want a leader but you can't seem to make up your mind. I think you'd better close it and let me guide you to my twitter feed.
p.p.s. Let's pretend we went to high school together on facebook.
p.p.p.s. Google + is another place you can read the same thing I posted here.
p.p.p.p.s. I'll tumblr for ya.
p.p.p.p.p.s.  Yeah, I do Instagram too now.  I guess it's a law or something. 

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