Conventions and commuting
I put up a couple of polls regarding comic conventions around the end of last year. One asked what your main reason was for not going to them… lack of money was the clear winner there, followed by distance.
I hear ya.
The poll was meant from an attendee perspective, but from an exhibitor standpoint I could also add “need some time to recuperate” to the list. I recently got around to updating our live appearance list for 2013. Emerald City Comicon, then WonderCon Anaheim, the Long Beach Comic Expo, Phoenix Comicon… also just confirmed heading out to a Free Comic Book Day appearance, which I still need to add.
Might seem like a lot, but compared to some peers we know on the convention circuit, this schedule is nothing. They have times of the year where they’re setting up shop at some show or other nearly every weekend, sometimes at places hundreds of miles apart. Since most conventions aren’t really springing for hotel or travel expenses except for their biggest names, they’re also often driving to keep their costs down. I know one couple who commuted back and forth from San Diego to the L.A. area for each day of a convention rather than eat the cost of a hotel stay. That’s at least a three or four hour drive, both coming and going. Picture a show which might go 2pm-8pm on Friday (with a few hours beforehand for setup), Saturday hours of 10am-7pm, and Sunday 11am-5pm (now a few hours for teardown), and think about what time that leaves for sleep, much less anything else. But they were still there and smiling for all their fans or whoever else might happen by.
That is some serious commitment right there. Truth to tell, I doubt Dawn and I would be capable of doing the same. Certainly not on a regular basis, and then probably not while remaining bright and cheery during a nine hour stretch of meet and greet with convention attendees. And anyone who’s ever attended a convention as fans (including us) can tell you the bummer stories of meeting a creator who seemed grumpy or inattentive. I don’t wanna be that guy, the guy who drags down your whole day. It’s entirely possible I already have been that guy, but I do try not to be, and lack of sleep/stress sounds like a great way to stack the odds in favor of “hatred of humanity” (another popular poll choice for staying away from cons).
I’ve also never been all that great at traveling, especially long-distance. Some guys sashay out the door with some clean underwear and a toothbrush. Me, I fret about what I need and (especially) what I might forget. Then beat myself up when I inevitably forget something anyhow. I try to arrange the pieces of the travel puzzle as thoroughly as possible, stacking the odds against mishap, and yet still always feeling like something will go wrong until the pleasant surprise of arrival. It’s not that I’m afraid the plane will crash, it’s that I’m deathly afraid of missing the flight.
Now, take that attitude and add the complexity of transporting and setting up a convention table space on top of it. I’m fortunate that Dawn is much better at the packing and unpacking, and can, for example, take care of that while I’m reparking the car. But still, if there’s any kind of schedule involved I can never quite relax on most trips until we’ve reached the destination, and if there’s a convention on the other end that relaxation doesn’t truly set in until maybe 15 minutes or so after the table is ready.
I had hoped that this was merely the jitters of starting out, but after three years I think I just have to admit it’s a personality flaw… err, feature? that’s not changing anytime soon. So while I’m definitely looking forwards to Emerald City and Phoenix this year, you can bet I’ll have some stress in the transit no matter how much I get pre-arranged. Sure, sending a good chunk of our materials by FedEx worked out perfectly in 2012… but what about this year?
With how much of a worrywart I am you’d probably think I become an absolute basketcase when something really does go awry. And I won’t deny there is definitely some panic and harsh language, but between the two of us Team Wolf has managed so far to muddle through, get ourselves and our displays to the site in working order, and present a largely non-grumpy face to the public— even when Dawn had to be at Emerald City with a sprained ankle and a terrible cold (and on my end I had to haul everything from our hotel in addition to hauling her in her wheelchair).
A couple weeks ago I went back through every last one of these writer’s blogs that I’ve written since Zombie Ranch began, including all my reports on various appearances we’ve done. Not everything made it into those reports, of course, since I doubted the average Joe or Jane wanted to hear about how we ran out of the food we brought and were half-starved on our last day exhibiting at SDCC 2011… but oh gods, if you ever get the chance be more prepared than we were. Our only local option was the convention center’s hot dogs, which we’d already determined the Thursday before to be a fate worse than hunger.
Is it worth all the trouble? For a good show, absolutely. Like I said, 15 minutes after everything’s ready to go, I get groovy, and though we do love sales since they go towards covering our being there, as long as there’s some good nerdy conversations to be had I’m usually a satisfied Clint. That said, since we’re not aggressively pursuing making our appearances profitable, 2013 may mark the end of our live shows beyond occasional local Southern California events. Not the end of the world, especially considering I just got done talking about how much I can get stressed out with the long-distance wrangling… but Emerald City for instance really is a great show. I just wish it were closer.