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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Tricks and Swag: A MicoCon Round-Up

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skills4bills

Here’s the equation: Guy walks into a comic book convention. He pays $7 at the door and spends 6 hours at the event, stopping to talk with each dealer and exhibitor along the way. At the event, there are 80 exhibitors and 40 dealers. Assuming this man has no refined taste and will read any comic whatsoever, how many gimmicks does a cartoonist need to part him from his money?

It goes without saying that there are financial risks and rewards to exhibiting at any convention — even at St Paul’s one-day-wonder MicroCon, which charges creators absolutely nothing for their tables and even feeds them lunch. I benefit tremendously from the generous Midwest Comic Book Association and their two annual cons MicroCon and FallCon, particularly since last weekend I sold books for a mere 25 cents each and spent most of my time walking around to interview people. Even on a bad day at MicroCon, Sarah Morean still leaves with a profit. This would not happen at any other show. I know this, and I understand that until I really sell myself, I’m never going to make enough money from my books to cover the after-con meal and beers I both seek and require.

I’m fine with the struggle, it keeps me motivated, but maybe you’re different. Maybe you want repeat customers and money to burn. A harem of colorists offering shoulder rubs between sketches. Notoriety confirmed at bigger shows like APE and Wizard World, where fans will navigate a treasure map full of artists just to see in-person what you’re working on next. Sounds lofty, but it can happen to you!  And I’m learning that it’s more likely to happen if you spread (and spend) a little blam and glam to make your table memorable, if not recognizable, for con-goers.

I talked with some indie creators last weekend who splurged on big billboards and gimmicks to achieve their big dreams, and asked what works and what doesn’t when it comes to dealing like a pro at conventions.

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