Wherein we continue with our journey into the luminous hinderbelly of both setting up and attending the human social experiment we often refer to as the “Comic Convention” or the “Comicon”, or if we’re really being honest, the “Madhouse Wonderscape of Indelible Pleasures”. If you’d like to read the first part of our story, please go to HERE.
Think of it this way, if you get tossed out into the inhospitable blackness of space, and you forgot to put on your helmet, you have two choices: die of lack of oxygen and whither into a frozen bug-eyed statue, or learn how to breathe outer space. Find your coping mechanism whatever it is, (as long as it’s not the pizza they serve on the floor. That is NOT pizza and it may be a little alive in all the wrong ways). If someone walks by and tries to shame you for chugging your tenth bottle of peppermint flavored super Red Bull, that’s why God gave you a middle finger. (to help you better grip your tiny canned beverage of course). This is about surviving and learning to breathe outer space and it’s no one else’s business but yours. Do what you need to do. The great thing about cons is “grace” is not a requirement.
These shows all have their different rules and laws of the jungle and you are best to respect that business if you want to get and go along. Some spaces are lorded over by the unions, especially any in NYC- and those guys will END YOU if you try and hone in on their action. I heard a story from a publisher who dared to set up their lights on the pre-set up day for the show only to find that because they were supposed to let the union guys do this, came in on opening day to find all of their lights had been roughly taken down and made to disappear as an example to him and others. Probably put in cement golashes and tossed into the Hudson River, but we’re not supposed to talk about that (he writes as he touches the side of his nose knowingly despite that he’s alone in his office). The union guys at a show don’t fool around and they do not care a limp pickle about how much time you put into your hand knitted booth slanket. If you were supposed to wait for hours so they could not do it, then that is what you are supposed to not do, do. Other rules, like where you should enter and exit, not moving your table out a bit or cobbing off a neighbor’s electrical system and so on… these are fuzzier areas and are case dependent. Know the difference.
Another key element is to both exploit the hell out of your space as much as possible and also not to do so at the expense of your neighbors, or the pedestrians that may continuously trip over your ten foot tall banner of that mashup comic you did with Sonic the Hedgehog and Hillary Clinton for Noname Publishers inc. They man or woman next to you spent just as much money on his/her table as you did and cried just as much trying to get off the freight elevator as you did no matter how much a big wig you imagine you are or actually are… the con floor is a place of equality, or should be. Be a part of that magic instead of a stone in the shoe of it. Now this is not to say that going as wide and high as you can with your stuff isn’t okay. You do own your space for that brief time and it is entirely expected and desirous of you to create a little storefront that is awesome and attractive to be in as a visitor, it just doesn’t have to be that way at the expense of your neighbors. Remember these are the people that can get you a Coke when you need it.
Despite all the realities around you, you are not in a Twilight Zone episode and this will actually come to an end. You will be filled with a mix of frantic racing desperation to get the hell out of there along with a deep sadness in leaving behind your new and old friends. It’s the last day of summer camp and it’s as bittersweet as bittersweet can get. I have hundreds of people I love dearly whom I only ever see at these things. You will meet some of the best people ever and you will make friends that will I can guarantee you, will could well know for the rest of your natural life. I had no less than four separate instances where two of us stood, gob-smacked by the reality we had now known each other for close to twenty years. The cons become a reunion of sorts, and this is a really special thing if for the only reason that they get it. You’ll get home and you’ll still be high/exhausted and wanting to share all the hilarious details of your week with your spouse, but the bored far away resentment in their eyes will tell you this is not working. It’s like telling someone else about the awesome dream you had last night- so exciting for you, but not for anyone else. They just don’t get it, and that’s a mercy in reality because they will rehabilitate your butt back into the real world faster with this attitude and let’s face it. You really do need to get back to work.
Some final musings:
-if ever interviewed on the floor of a con, remember they use a mic so even if you can’t hear yourself, talk like you can because otherwise the whole thing is you screaming like John Madden anytime of the day, for twenty minutes.
-If someone slides a book they want you to sign under the bathroom stall door, (this is a thing that happens), you are allowed to keep it and desecrate it however you see fit.
-If your booth partner returns to the table with Very Berry Vitamin Water when he/she was to get a coke, murder is an acceptable solution to this. No state save for Massachusetts will prosecute you for it.
-Bring layers, dress for all four seasons simultaneously. Trust me on this. You will experience all four seasons daily.
-Avoid wearing shirts with your own name on them. You will look like a giant man version of a toddler who keeps running away and needs to be quickly identified for a return trip home. You have your lariat and on that is your name, and that should suffice. The rest is what conversation is for.
-Eat well later at dinner. Seriosuly. There must be one moment in the day that is about luxury, and baby, this is it. Get that top shelf gin in your martini, go nuts. You deserve it.
-When hauling all your crap to find a cab, I recommend leaving it near a lamp post whilst you venture out to hail one from at least ten feet away. This will fool the driver into thinking you’re alone, and when you get him to pop the trunk, it’s too late for him to drive away when he sees all the detritus you are bringing into his car.
-Shoes. go for comfort over style. Comfy shoes with good arch supports will win the race everytime over a pair of fabulous come-hither Fonzi boots. Like as not your feet will be hidden behind the table kicking over other people’s Cokes, so it doesn’t really matter what they look like. I say look at nurse’s feet or those of your waiter/waitress for ideas, and do them. Your feet will ache and be mad at you at the end of the day anyway, but a decent pair of shoes can mean the difference between a gently scolding and a slap across the face, Great Santini style.
-Don’t call anyone, male or female at a show, “babe”. It’s weird, creepy and too intimate. You see where you are right?
-Be sure to thank the security folk on the way out. They won’t expect it and it will startle them, but they recover fast and no one else will do it or does. Leave on a nice noter with a thank you.
-Dress however you want. there really is no rule here except perhaps… cover as much of your body as you would if you were going to work as a golf caddie. This is the minimal. Anything less is streaking.
-If you’re somebody and you don’t want or have time to get stopped, borrow a boothmate’s lariat. I know, I know it’s against the rules and it violates the afore stated respect for security. But seeing Thom Ang spend most of Comicon pretending, quite successfully, to be Phil hale makes it all worth it.
-Give the kids the floor. They are small, and they live in a world made for giants- this world in particular is freaky bizarro world giants. So be a bench, and Moses the waters for them. Make eye contact and go for a smile. You might just get one back by accident. While you don’t have to let Mr. Chocolate Fingers paw over your its edition books, think of an alternative other than scolding. You’re giving away something for free, give them that and you will turn a poopy moment into a treasured memory. You might even endear their parents to grab a book of yours.