25. Advice from Some Pros at the Free Library of Philadelphia Comic Con

FLP Comic Con

Checked out the scene at the FLP Comic Con yesterday and I’m glad I did! When I inquired about it last week, one of the staff sent me a very nice email telling me that I’d missed the application deadline, but encouraging me to get a (free) ticket and visit. I hadn’t been to the central branch of the Free Library in ages.

I enjoyed my experience at the Bucks County Free Library Comic Con (see post no. 24), the library staff were pleasant and helpful, I enjoyed meeting fellow comic creators Daniel and Ava, enjoyed chatting with my friend, Christine. Enjoyed seeing people cosplay (if that’s an accepted use of the word).

Old doodle in C's StudioOld doodle found in a sketchbook when Cameron was cleaning out her studio last weekend. Perhaps it expresses metaphorically the crazy spirit and energy of Comic Cons?

I couldn’t help but notice, however, that most of the people who came by my table seemed distracted and preoccupied and not particularly interested in comics! I sold exactly two t-shirts and two comics. Daniel, whose been making comics for about 10 years, said anytime his profits cover the table costs (only $10 in this case), he considers it a success. By that measure I succeeded too.

I can’t help but wonder if this is really the best way to get the word out. Perhaps the FPL version would include avid comic fans, tap into that billion dollar demographic art historian Hillary Chute refers to in her book, Why Comics?

The Bucks Comic Con only had about 15 tables. The FLP Comic Con had about twice that. I went there really wanting to be impressed, inspired, and to find some great comics. It didn’t work out that way. I do have strong opinions about what constitutes a good comic. With one notable exception, I didn’t really see anything that grabbed me, although I do want to take a closer look at Ink Brick: A Journal of Comics Poetry, which I find an intriguing concept.

I have trouble getting into the current superhero stuff. I treasure some of the old stuff, particularly by Jack Kirby as I’ve mentioned before. I know some of the new stuff is good, but somehow it doesn’t hook me anymore. Horror comics (or books, or movies) don’t interest me. There were some kids’ comics too, but they didn’t grab me either. My sense is that some of these artists are going to be great –someday. There’s lots of energy and spirit here. They all are ‘way ahead of me when I was at a comparable spot in my timeline.

I don’t know how well stuff sold. I got the impression that sales weren’t exactly high. The table fee for artists was $25 unless they were presenting in one of the panels offered. In that case fees were waived. I did see an interesting panel, “Origin Stories: Spotlight on Jessica Abel and Matt Madden.” They’re the authors of a great book, Drawing Words and Writing Pictures: Manga, Graphic Novels, and Beyond. Jessica and Matt’s work constitute the exception I mentioned above. Jessica is an Associate Professor and Chair of Illustration at PAFA, where Matt has also taught among many other accomplishments. They talked about their 25 years in comics, their influences, and they projected a tangible sense of encouragement.

I gathered up some nerve and approached them after their talk. I explained I had a comic –digital on comiXology, print on CreateSpace and plaintively queried, “What now?”

They agreed that Comic Cons were great for meeting other artists and networking. But not so much for sales. They also confirmed that the big comic conventions, like “The Great Philadelphia Comic Con” at the Greater Philadelphia Expo Center next April, can be expensive. The cheapest tables in “Artist Alley” as it’s called, are $175 if you apply early.

Jessica and Matt suggested that my next step is to go to the comic shops and bookstores and ask them to take the comic on consignment. That’s not a prospect that appeals to me. The one time I approached a comics store about a self-published comic, the owner told me the comic wasn’t in the right format (even though I saw lots of nonstandard formats in the shop) and blew me off in less than a couple of minutes.

But who said it was easy to survive in the jungle of comics publishing?

P.S. A very goofy brass band played a gig at the FLP Comic Con riffing on “Star Wars” themes. They have to be seen to be experienced, but they are excellent musicians. Check out Wookiedelphia!

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