This past weekend was my second year in a row to attend CAPE in Dallas, Texas, and I can wholeheartedly recommend that any comic book creators lucky enough to be invited out by Zeus Comics and Games should sign on for next year's event without a second thought. It's a great show, lots of fun, run by good people, and best of all, profitable.
Joëlle Jones and I flew into Dallas on Friday morning. We were met at the airport by Ian Shaughnessy, who lives in Arlington, and Chynna Clugston and her husband, who had flown in from San Diego. It was a Strangetown reunion of sorts--Chynna and Ian are the co-creators, I am to write text pieces for the eventual book--as well as a kind of old school Oni Press reunion. This was to be our core unit for the gathering, which, given our proclivities and senses of humor, is kind of a dangerous proposition. Not as dangerous as Ian driving. He got lost multiple times trying to find his own home, or anywhere else for that matter. Most distressing was his habit of turning to us and asking if we knew where we were. The fact that we were all four out-of-towners never seemed to register.
Friday night was the annual Live Art show that Zeus puts on to benefit local charities. Many of the guests were already there and hard at work when we arrived. As a DJ played in the back and a crowd of fans watched, artists like David Mack, Mike Huddleston, Jim Mahfood, Scott Kurtz, David Crosland, Jason Pearson, Lea Hernandez, and Kristian Donaldson created original drawings on large pieces of paper hung on easels. We attended this event last year, and Joëlle did an awesome piece that I was not able to win in the final bidding--an experience that we can now call a tradition.
At one point in the night, I had an encounter with a besotted writer who I had met back in 2004 at a college event. He is a professional of some reputation (read that as you will), and I engaged him in conversation to try to get him to leave poor Kristian alone. This writer seemed to miss the point that Krtistian was drawing Batman for a charity auction and did not need to be art directed into making a masterpiece that would reinvent the whole of the comic book art form. I was actually kind of surprised that the writer remembered my name, but despite knowing my name, I am not sure he actually knew who I was. Five minutes into conversing, he says to me, "Well, all I know is that Brian is really happy with what you do with his scripts."
I have no idea what that means. Brian who? And what exactly am I doing with those scripts? I did not ask, I just nodded. Maybe he was mixing together myself and Kristian, who works with Brian Wood?
Joëlle had it much better. I found her talking to a guy over in the smoker's corner, and when he heard us talking about her taking her turn at an easel, he said, "Wait? You draw? What's you name?" She said it was Joëlle, and his eyes lit up. "You're Joëlle Jones? I came here to see you!" Once again, Fables fans prove themselves to be of an exceptional quality. He had seen her one-pager in the comic last year and wanted to meet her. What luck he had in just randomly talking to her!
(To be fair, Ian did introduce me to a woman named Rebecca, whom had been a retailer at his former store, and she jumped up and down and squealed when we met. That, in itself, is both strange and flattering.)
My artwork for the night was done in the bathroom above the toilet. On a piece of cardboard framed there, I wrote "Ian Shaughnessy has Speckled Eggs." It's an inside joke, referring to the amount of freckles Ian has and speculation that he may, perhaps, have them all over. Apparently someone got the joke, as the response graffiti that appeared before the night was through was, "Gross, dude. TMI." I am not sure which made Ian more mad.
Saturday morning came up fast and we had to be at the park for the show before it began at 10 a.m. It was a nice day, and the organizers set us all up at tables under giant open tents. This was meant to protect us from the weather, but as it turns out, the shade and the wind together made being under the canopy extremely cold. We had all dressed for a sunny day, and eventually we had to move our tables forward into the light to keep warm. The downside of that was no one had thought to bring sunblock since we were supposed to be covered, and a large number of us pasty comic book types got sunburnt. Both of my arms are bright red, as is my giant forehead. My whole scalp, actually, is burnt, and it hurts to brush my hair. Raising my eyebrows sends pain shooting over my face. Look at pictures of me on Saturday night, and I appear to be irradiated.
11 a.m. I was on a panel for writers alongside heavy hitters Gail Simone, Mark Waid, and Marc Andreyko. I was the lone indie guy, dressed in black, brooding. The discussion was moderated by David Hopkins and it went pretty well, though I felt like I rambled a lot. I was surprised to hear, though, how similar all of our working processes were, and I could occasionally speak to the slightly different experience of being a novelist. (Though, to read the Newsarama blog report, I said nothing of interest at all! I told Waid how much I liked 52 before Andreyko did!) Lucky for me, too, most of the questions from the audience were ones I could not answer, since they mainly referred to the superhero stuff written by the other panelists.
The rest of the day was spent at the table signing books and chatting. I think we did about half the business we did last year (with the most popular item being, not surprisingly, 12 Reasons Why I Love Her, since we were both there), but the stock was essentially the same, and I think that was balanced out by the number of people who arrived with books they had bought outside of the show, which was definitely up from last year. The event itself was definitely bigger, with the only noticeable dip being in there not being as many costumes as 2007 (though several little kids showed up wearing adorable outfits). I met a lot of readers, but want to especially mention Greg the TCS fan and Travis, because they are the two whose names I messed up shortly after them telling me. I swore I'd remember, and look, I did!
I did a FCBD promotion and sold my last copies of Love the Way You Love vol. 1 for $1 to get people to buy it, and when those ran out, switched to vol. 2. This worked pretty well. One couple, who had been brought over by the aforementioned Rebecca, picked up a vol. 1 and the wife, who was not a big comic book reader, apparently sat down in the grass to read it and immediately sent her husband over to buy Side A. Joëlle also did many sketches and even sold a page. (Keep your eye on her blog for some of the work she did there.)
The day ended at 6:00, and we met up with a large group later to have dinner and detox. The sunburns and other ailments were overtaking us by then, though, and so the night did not go on as long as the previous one. I was glad we were able to sit with Barry from Zeus, however, and have an extended chat with him.
We flew back Sunday, and I slept most of the day and have been playing catch-up today. (Blame Mike Allred for the delay in this report. He sent the design pages for the first Madman Atomic Comics trade collection for my perusal, and also asked me to write the intro. Plus, I have Daring Students' Association to proofread.) Special thanks again to all involved, and especially Richard and Chris for being such great show hosts and Martin and Ian for giving us a place to stay. I hope to do it again next year. (And maybe we can bring Tally and Allred...?)
* See my full Flickr photoset here.
* * Joëlle still has copies of her new sketchbook made for the show available. If you're interested, please drop me a line. It's mainly new pages, but a few of them are the same, as is the cover. They are $5 plus $2 for postage. And remember, check her blog for art updates.
Current Soundtrack: Martina Topley Bird, The Blue God
Current Mood: geeky
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All text (c) 2008 Jamie S. Rich