Fallcon 2009 Walkabout + Round Up

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fallcon2009postcardThe Midwest Comic Book Association throws a big event each year called Fallcon.  In most ways it’s a con like any other con.  Costumes, long boxes, xeroxed minis that don’t sell well, and a lot of dudes wearing black coats.

To me, the identity of Fallcon was apparent long ago: it’s just your average hero-worshiping local comic convention.  Make of it what you will, but in the end, creators go because their friends go and the more they go the more friends they know.  It’s fun, but even if you come out a few books light, you’re not leaving with a book deal and you’re rarely getting out with a date.

Fallcon is a hospitality show that fosters comics love in the Twin Cities.  It works that way because it’s basically the pet project of a very successful local comic book shop owner.  Comics love = comics business.  Our good fortune comes as easy as that but it’s not a formula that could work everywhere.  Luckily, this show is very good at achieving it’s mission, but it’s also been decidedly predictable.  Until this year.

I recently noted a change of tone in MCBA’s marketing strategy.  At least, it seemed new to me.  I perceived this year, for the first time, that the identity of Fallcon is slowly attempting to morph.  Into what, I don’t know.  But while Fallcon certainly appears to be just another fanboy-centric con to you — look again.  Look at that postcard!  This year the MCBA slogan for this show was realized by me for the first time.  Suddenly I couldn’t think of Fallcon as “just a con” anymore because, as the postcard notes, it is “A Comic Book Celebration.”

Wait.  “Celebration.” That’s like a party!  Huh-freaking-zah.  We’re all friends here.  It’s about time we got down.

That word “celebration” got me totally psyched to attend Fallcon this weekend, but looking back on things, I think I took it the wrong way.  All weekend long I sought evidence that Fallcon was much more than a sales floor, but was in fact one big swinging bash the likes of which Saint Paul, Minnnesota, would not see again until its next annual, epic appearance in 2010.  We were gonna tear down the rafters and spike the cola and open a kissing booth and gamble on real life Superman vs. Batman combat bouts in the adjacent conference room.

I took my camera and snapped what I could, but found none of this highly anticipated debauchery.  When I finally discovered the source of Fallcon’s celebration mojo, however, I was pleasantly surprised.  And while I’m sure that the celebration aspect of Fallcon takes on different forms for different people, to me it has become something very specific.

I’m taking you now on a photographic tour of the 2009 Fallcon.  Maybe the fruits of my walkabout will prove “celebration” enough to you, but it wasn’t until I reached the final piece of evidence that I really knew what it meant to have a comic book party.

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Comics: Read Them Out Loud

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Jon Thompson tells the crowd about his favorite myths.

Some of the best mini-comics I own came from a friend of mine who no longer makes them.  It’s a sad truth for comics that when you’re good at art and good at writing and good at storytelling, you’re often good at many other things.  Anders Carlson was just a guy who moved on.

Still, before he exited the comics scene (that never even looked to recognize him — which is why you’ve never heard of him), he let me in on a little secret. “Read your comics aloud,” he said.  “Read them to your friends, like a bedtime story.  Then take their advice.”

It’s a program that really worked for him.  Somehow, it shaped his cartoonist’s voice in such a way that his comics always sounded smart and whole. The pacing perfectly broken up with expressive pencil-drawn imagery that told really excellent, interesting stories.

He was also the first person to tell me it was worth the extra money to get the edges of your books trimmed, so the pages don’t stick out beneath the cover.  More good advice.

At the 2009 Zinefest (I swear this will be the last time I bring it up), authors and artists were encouraged to get up in front of a crowd and read their books to each other.  It’s not quite like what Carlson imagined – there was no critical feedback – but it’ll do. And if you’re ever in the habit of writing comics, I recommend you do the same.

Below the cut, some examples of comics read – live! – without the use of imagery.

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