Aussie Yarns from #ECCC 2013

by ryankl

These are my tales from travelling to ECCC in Seattle 2013. I release them into the wild because I think they are either amusing or educational. I am not here to name drop but rather to pay respect to the good people who made my con amazing.

Enjoy.

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I should preface by saying I spent 14 hours on my flight out of Australia and a good deal of that was spent hating myself and being sure I’d wasted my family’s time and money. I’m not sure if this level of self-loathing in a creative is usual but it didn’t feel too far off. I dulled my senses with a script on the iPad, comics on ComiXology, and then some movies on the plane screen.

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I had only been in the country for less than an hour when I got my first pay day. I was coming out the ass end of the security scanner after a fourteen hour flight to LAX when I noticed some coins in the bottom of the bin your bag travels though the scanner in. It was a dollar coin and a handful of pennies. I was gloriously happy at such free swag though I realise now tweeting such news to the comic community wasn’t going to make me look like any kind of a ‘baller.’ Whatever, I was excited.

I sat down a little later and found even more pennies. I realised Americans do not respect their shrapnel as much as Aussies. Their loss.

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I finally arrived into Seattle and caught the light rail downtown. I met Matt Meylikhov in our room and we went into the con to scope out the table. Ryan Ferrier met us there and after meeting with a few people – Matt is a good man to know who knows people – we wandered out for food. We ended up finding this sandwich joint where I ate a Buford T Justice whale of a sandwich beneath the watchful eye of Scott Baio. It was an emotional experience.

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The night was spent at a Barcade drinking where I realised my wrists are no longer built for such dramatic and erratic pounding. And I drank in moderation, I wasn’t blowing my stack so early in the weekend. This was a good call, I do believe.

Oh, and my online friend and roomie, Grant McLaughlin, finally appeared at the pub and I didn’t really know what he looked like and I thought he was there to chat with Ed Brisson so I purposefully didn’t awkwardly stare at him. Then it turned out he was my friend and I just looked like a dick. Protip: do your homework and trade pics with the people you’re going to see, and especially room with.

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Once Friday rolled around, I made sure I went in early and set up the table. I wanted things well prepared by the time 2pm rolled around and sometimes you never know if something is going to go wrong. I went back to the room to brown bag a lunch and get my proper clothes on, be damned if I’d be sweating all through them.

The hooter went and people started flooding into the con. And then ten minutes later we finally got the foot traffic past our tables. Sales didn’t start straight away and that’s to be expected. People like to scope things out, see how much they want to buy, and then commit. That’s why Friday’s sales are just going to be okay.

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I should also mention, tabling at the unofficial “Challenger Comics” booth with Paul Allor, Ryan Ferrier, and Jeremy Holt was just a superb idea. They are three of the finest lads I could hope to know and we constantly had fun and laughs with constant sales being shared between us all.

As the weekend closed, it actually dawned on me I probably won’t get that experience again. Who knows when I’ll get across to a US con again – I really don’t know – and who knows if I’ll have the scratch and product to table again. This really felt like a once in a lifetime opportunity and I’m going to remember it fondly forever, which makes me feel like a real sap for saying but if you can’t have emotional and fun times making and selling comics then I don’t know what to do with you.

Oh, and Curt Pires on the table was awesome, his LP is so damn good.

And the best person at the table was clearly Ferrier’s lady escort, Liz. Always nice to have a lady’s touch around the place.

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I’m not going to namedrop all of the other people I caught up with or spoke to because I can’t see how that’s either amusing or educational and that’s kind of what I’m going for. If I caught you at ECCC and we chatted and it was emotional just know you are in my heart though maybe not in this post.

Though I will mention Kurtis J Wiebe because he’s a major factor in why I came out and it was superb to hang out with him in the minimal times we got together.

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For complete transparency, and so others can comepare how better they are than me. Day One sales were alright, I sold about a dozen copies; Day Two sales were off the hook (for my world of commerce) and I dropped well over 30 issues; and Day Three sales were good with about another dozen or so sales. In my world, a major success.

This doesn’t then account for the freebies I gave to mates, or ones designed for editors.

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The weekend became a blur and I got some sweet stories from my table. It’s pretty damn cool just having a station to hang at and having so many cool people slide on by. I know the benefit of free wheeling it at a con, I’ve done that too, but having a table is tight. And yuo really can leave as much as you want, though i didn’t because if you’re not there you’re not really selling.

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Before sales on Saturday could even kick in, my table got hit up by this teen who feigned interest in our books and then told us to go get a massage at the massage booth nearby. He then added the soupçon of sale by letting us know it was his mom and she was dressed up as Starbuck and the next day she would be Emma Frost. This little guy was far too excited to point dudes towards his mom to get touched. When I heard she would be Emma Frost I really wanted to let him know “Dude, tomorrow your mom’s going to be touching me!” but that felt like a dick move. This guy was probably dealing with enough, he didn’t need me dog piling on him.

Funnily enough, on Sunday the kid rolled by once more and Matt was nearby chatting with us to overhear. Halfway through his spiel I said to him “Yeah, I hear it’s your mom.” but without the context Matt just thought I was being the biggest dick in the world. This made me laugh for the rest of my trip, and even a little after going home.

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There was this one guy who rolled up and bought a copy of Fatherhood. Later, he came back and bought my Daredevil book of essays. He said he had heard on a podcast that Daredevil was good and then asked me what runs to buy so he could best enjoy my book. Great question. I said Miller and Bendis as it will cover so much of the content of the book and told him to cross the skywalk and find some cheap trades. This guy was rad and I told him to email me after he read some of my book, he’s got all my details in Fatherhood. I really hope he does. To have someone invest in you so much is an amazing feeling, this was definitely a highlight of the weekend.

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I got a lot of fathers who bought my book. It was a sweet niche market. Next I should write a comic about people who go to comic conventions, then I’ll have the largest target audience. This proved true as I had more than one person put the book back down because they didn’t have kids. True story.

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Here was my pitch to sell Fatherhood, pretty much word for word (though it varies depending on the age/etc of the intended audience);

“It’s like Jingle All The Way but instead of becoming a terrible movie it turns into Sin City. This guy wants the doll and when he doesn’t get it he just snaps and enters this imaginary noir world. The art team did this awesome thing where it’s all pop at the start and then we get this needle scratch moment and everything flips and we get this amazing two page car chase and my favourite page is the tyre iron fight in the rain. But really it’s about being a father and how far would you go to make your child happy? And could you go too far?”

When I indicate art I would often open the book to those pages. It was a pretty involved sale, but people didn’t seem to mind and I only did it for people already stopping who just needed a nudge. I didn’t shill to every person to make eye contact with a leg on my table. Some people who stopped didn’t get this spiel because it didn’t look like it would be for them.

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Just so you are aware, business cards are a must. People will want them, and giving them prompts others to give you theirs.

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I had one lady come up to the table and we started talking while she thumbed through stuff. She seemed like she was just killing time, and I’m pretty sure she was. She ended up fielding a call from her daughter who was cosplaying and she said, “Honey, are you there anymore or are you just silent because you’re staying in character?” I didn’t know that was a thing. Anyway, so we got chatting about how she’s a real bibliophile, as am I, so I asked her who she liked and she said Gaiman. I segued that into saying if she liked him she’d quite possibly dig my one-shot, and I then showed it to her. She flipped through it and enjoyed the art and then decided to buy it. I was stoked. As we settled our affairs we kept chatting and we discussed children, a topic the book naturally elicited. I told her now I’ve had two so I might get the snip. This sparked an enthusiastic discussion, quite personal at times so I won’t relay it all but I will say she started preaching to me the gospel of ‘the suction’ which can occur between a man and a woman post-snip if certain factors are met. It was a wild discussion and it ended with her giving me tips on where to find personal trimmers. I loved it, man, shine on lady, I enjoyed our time together.

Oh, and I also hand sold her Paul Allor’s Orc Girl because I’m a fan of helping mates and I also believe in putting the right books into the right people’s hands.

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On the first night, I whiled away the hours at the Sheraton bar chatting to many cool people. At the end of the night, I was at the bar with Dave Dwonch and Grant talking story and process for Ghost Town. It was a hell of a chat and truly one of my highlights. I wish I could have pub story sessions with collaborators more often. I thought I was leaving for the night when Chris Sebela called me over. He introduced me to Dennis Culver, Andy Khouri, Ron Chan, and Chris Roberson. It was a touch intimidating but I was drunk so it all seemed to level out. These were all fine fellows and allowed me to tell a very long story and laughed at the appropriate moments. It was fun.

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Speaking of Chris Sebela, he bought Fatherhood which I thought was rad. He then found me the next day and told me he liked it, and even cited a specific moment he dug. And then he got me to sign it for him. I’m still floored by such kindness.

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At dinner one night, I got to witness Curt Pires eat a very emotional mac and cheese. He really seemed to be digging it. As he would say, it was baller.

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I had one guy wander up and because I had a book full of essays he showed me his research for his own book, all about early communism. He went into pretty thorough detail and while that conversation might blow my mind elsewhere I know that with only half a table if someone is there – and he was right in the middle, had his stuff out and open all over my stuff obscuring it – I wouldn’t be making any sales. I tried the usual polite conversation enders but they didn’t work. I then saw my co-creator on HEADSPACE Eric Zawadzki walk up so I told this guy I needed to chat with Eric. The guy was then super polite and left and I feel bad even bringing it up but it’s something you’ve got to deal with. You only have a small portal to connect with the buying audience and when that portal is blocked you need to be able to do something.

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Man, people go nuts for that Tiger Lawyer. It’s an instant draw and then usually an easy sell. I pushed many people onto it. That book is liquid gold.

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I have to mention Frank J Barbiere because he’s seriously the nicest guy in comics. I spoke with him a few times and he gracious and so nice and he makes me want t make comics better and be a better man behind the page.

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Scott Allie roamed past the table and I chatted with him for a while and tried to help him out on his hero’s quest. Once we were wrapping up, I made sure to introduce him to Ryan Ferrier to my left and sell him on why Ferrier’s books (Tiger Lawyer and The Brothers James) were things he needed in his life. I did this because I love Ferrier’s work, possibly even love him a little, and I believe you should do the right thing in comics. I believe in Ferrier so it’s a no brainer that I would want to see him land at Dark Horse.

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Pitching Editors Editions

I approached one aloof editor and found him to be cordial and polite, though short in the way I know he has to be. If I rarely got a spare moment at cons I’d be sick of writers approaching me with stacks in their hands, too. In the end, I got to do this and I was super thankful.

I approached another fantastic editor and he was nice, though forewarned me that the publisher was well sought after and loaded with projects. He graciously took my stuff and when I described the other things I was doing he seemed genuinely impressed, so that was a nice feeling.

When I hit up another editor, I got caught in this vortex of another guy hitting him up at the same time. I was being introduced by one person, he by another. What ensued was this crazy “Who’s on first?” moment of too many books, too many names, and the editor not walking away with everything he should have. I’m glad I know how to circumvent this and told the other creator as much so I didn’t feel bad blocking him out, though it was never my intention. It was just one of those things.

Oh, and I know some people came up to me afterwards and said they vouched for me with certain editors and that sort of thing just floors me, man. People are too nice.

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I started to hear my own accent as the weekend wore on. I could hear myself order a Beeeee-ah. A Peeeaaaa-ah cider. It was weird to be inside my own body but suddenly sound different. It’s like how Australian accents only pop for me when in US movies – I was living that moment.

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For the last night, Grant and I went out to dinner together. Waiting at the bar, we saw Conor McCreery and said g’day. We were all then accosted by this drunk bird who thought Conor’s vest was nice. She then proceeded to touch it delicately. She then thought Grant’s jacket was nice, more touching. Apparently there’s nothing nice about me, no touching. Conor’s table was up and he smartly bailed. She then asked Grant and I if we were together. I told her my wife didn’t let me date many men anymore. She then strangely asked if I then date women. She took a shot at the bar and then really committed. She wanted to know where Grant and I would be later. We told her the Sheraton. She said we all needed to get drinks later. By now, her boyfriend is trying to be cool but he’s finding it hard. This girl, Erica, wanted some digits so I give mine to her and they leave – I figure I have an Aussie number, jokes on her if she ever uses it.

I really thought she was going to text me. We waited for nothing.

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While waiting at the bar, Grant and I get some beers. This leads me to the toilet in due course, and one where you need a code to get through the door. As I’m through and the door’s about to close, some guy launches through like Indiana Jones. I try to say hi to this guy after we’ve both finished up and he gets annoyed and then condescendingly asks me if all Australians so hello to everyone. I tell him, yeah, we pretty much do and he walks away in disgust.

During my next toilet visit, I’m getting into a good flow when suddenly the door handle starts moving. But the door doesn’t open. This guy clearly doesn’t know the code. I’d normally open the door, be a pal, but I’m in a really good flow. The handle jimmies, about seventeen codes are entered so I start yelling out “HOLD ON, IM COMING – HOLD ON, IM COMING!” It takes me about six goes before I realise what I’m yelling out in a public toilet. I should feel more shame.

I ended the night with drinks with Grant and Aub as I’m schooled in very gross 90s Internet memes. It’s a great way to see out the weekend.

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On my final morning, the hotel finally finds my comp box of Oxymoron HCs but I can’t sell them, obviously, the show’s over. I tell them I would like the box shipped back to Australia for me and they’ll pay for it. And while they’re at it they can send my other box of unsold books and merch. It takes me a while to convince them of why this should happen but they soon acquiesce. The message is, push for what you need. They cost me hundreds of dollars in missed sales and then hoped I’d also cover the postage back to Aus that shouldn’t have been occuring. Balls to that.

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Overall, the weekend was a huge success. I met some great friends, spoke with some editors, and had so much fun. There were certain people I didn’t pester, a very awesome line up of Image creators in one alley I left alone because I honestly don’t feel on their level. I don’t know how to work it properly…I just didn’t want to be their leech.

I bought some notebooks from Paper Hammer and the Left Bank Books in my last hours and even got a card from a very cool artist at one of the stores.

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I ended my trip incepting the airport with twice as many pennies when I left. I like a good story cycle. For me, the trip was entirely worth it. A loss on money, but a complete gain in some facetime opportunities and some wickedly grand times. There really are some superbly nice people in comics and I cannot thank them enough.

I’m out.

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