I went to Fan Expo here in Toronto and had a great time! Thank you so much to everyone who bought a book (or a comic, or a button, or a post-it pad), or who just picked up a flyer and checked out the comic online. I am grateful for the opportunity to spend time chatting with some wonderful people. I can’t begin to tell you what was a lovely change it was from my day-to-day life here in the burbs to be able to have conversations about super geeky things like Doctor Who and Star Blazers and the comic creative process, and not be looked at like I’m some sort of weirdo! Well, yes, I am a weirdo, but when you’re in good company with other weirdoes it’s suddenly a marvelous thing to be.
It’s been awhile since I’ve attended any of the major mainstream comic conventions. I did come to Fan Expo in 2007, but my webcomic was barely a year old and I didn’t have the new book to sell. Also, I had been set up in Artist’s Alley, which in Fan Expo terms means a half-table space somewhere along the back wall. I grant you, this is also where some of the famous names in comicdom also sit, but I didn’t feel as though it was a very nice location, if your goal is to sell stuff and meet new fans. So this year I forked over the money for a full table in the Small Press area, which had seemed to me to get better through-traffic.
Now, the strange thing about the Small Press area is, the actual comics there are far outnumbered by the fan-art prints, cosplay accessories, and other handmade items. This is a stark change from what I used to see ten years ago, when the Small Press area was full of self-publishers like myself. Perhaps this is because Fan Expo is trying to be an All-Things-To-All-People kind of show, with areas for horror, gaming, and anime in addition to the comics, and the Small Press area is the catch-all section for all the artists of all the different mediums. But as I said, I haven’t been to any of the other big comic shows lately, so I don’t know if this trend is just a Toronto thing or if it’s an industry-wide thing. I know the number of independent comic creators out there hasn’t gone down—the amount of amazing independent artists who came to TCAF was a pretty good indication of that. Not to mention all the great webcomics being made (I’ve listed a of a few of my favourites on my links page)! Of course there are plenty of webcomics that have frustratingly erratic schedules or come to a sudden stop within a few months, but that was how it was with minicomics and self-published comics in the ‘90s, so no change there. Maybe there is a larger proportion of webcomickers who either aren’t interested in print at all, or else believe they can better serve their fans by selling their merchandise entirely through online stores, and skipping the expense of buying tables at conventions. And I suppose another barrier is the move towards making graphic novels (or book-sized collections, for strip comics) rather than the old “floppy” comic. A 100-200 page book represents a year-or-two’s worth of effort, rather than the month-or-two’s worth needed for a 24-page issue. So I guess in print terms we’re losing a lot of those start-ups that never make it to their first year.
For myself, I wondered if I belonged in a big media show like Fan Expo, where so much of the focus is on the movie stars like Leonard Nimoy and Bruce Campbell, and when comics are mentioned at all it’s only in terms of the Hollywood-supported superheroes. But you know what? Despite the fact that probably less than 1 percent of the attendees were willing to give my table a second glance, that was enough to make the weekend worthwhile. Same was true for my pal Jay Marcy —he does an autobiographical comic, very different from mine and not at all genre-ish, but he told me he had record sales this weekend (Go Jay!). So do we self-publishers still belong at these big shows? Yeah, I think so. I wonder if, as the desire to “monetize” webcomics grows, we’ll start seeing more of us in the Small Press areas of Fan Expo again?
I’m pleased to report that I sold a lot of books this weekend, and between this show and the upcoming Word on the Street, I expect to need to make a second print run before next year. The next edition will likely feature different cover art, and while we’re about it we’ll fix some of the small interior things that are bugging us, so if you have a burning desire to own the original edition of Galaxion Book 1: The Jump, you should probably order it soon!
Finally, though I didn’t manage to take any photos this weekend, plenty of other people did. Here is a video interview in which we talk about my Star Blazers influences, and in this photo gallery on the CBC website (it’s the 24th one in the set), you can see me hard at work on the next page!