You hear that? It’s the sound of convention season being in full swing. We both are excited by and dread that sound. For it means delightful con fun goingness - as well as utter exhaustion as we begin going to one con every week to every other week - *phew*
Us with the blanket we did the artwork for at from ACen. Also, note that Comfort has finally gotten herself an animal hat - something she's always wanted!
So, without further ado, welcome to the convention report for Anime Central 2012! It’s our fourth year at ACen, which was the first anime con we ever attended back in 2009. Back then, it was such a killer show that we started adding a bunch of anime conventions to our yearly list. Could it hold up in year four? Read on to find out! (And to see the sketches we did…)
A Wolverine tattoo by Adam
This year was different than usual. Last year we did some artwork for ACen's program and did a design for a blanket they were selling as merchandise. This year, we did even more art – including a Giordano’s pizzaad and the big preview for next years’ show – and were added to the Art & Production Staff. Besides getting our table for free, we also got the opportunity to have a free room at the con hotel (provided we were willing to share with a couple other staffers). As we clearly have no problem sharing our room, we jumped at the opportunity.
So after swinging through Grand Rapids to see friends and family (as is our custom when traveling to Chicago), we landed in Rosemont ready to set up and find out who our roommates were. As it turned out… we didn’t HAVE any! Either they swapped rooms to be with friends or they just never showed up, but we wound up having a whole huge nice room all to ourselves. After the humongous shows we’d just got done with, having a room of our own to relax and unwind was kind of nice. We missed having friends to kick back with at night, but there’s something to just chilling with your best friend (a.k.a. each other) after a hard day’s work.
Buffy and Faith by Comfort
On a down note, we found out we’d picked up some ticks while walking with Comfort’s Aunt Rebecca through the Chicago Arboretum. D’oh. Thankfully there were no bites, just a couple ticks that had hitched a ride in our clothing. So much easier to deal with than bed bugs!!! Though it did have us scratching at ghost-tingles all weekend.
The show launched on Friday bright and early. Whereas most shows start a little later on Friday afternoon, ACen gets going right off from day one. We were pretty well-rested though and ready to face the day. Our table-neighbor was friend and colleague Alan Evans, creator of the BEST wrestling webcomic ever conceived by man, Rival Angels. It was a pretty laid-back day on Friday, sales-wise, but we had a number of people coming up to us representing the new fan phenomenon we’re getting this year: the “What’s the new stuff?” fan. These are the people who have been so impressed with your work so far that they’ll put down money to buy whatever your new book is. They just trust you as a creator enough to believe that if you’ve made it, they’ll probably enjoy it. Needless to say, this is quite the humbling and exciting experience. What do you say to something like that? Such raw, pure enthusiasm? Just thank you, we guess – so thank you, fans, for enjoying what we do and sharing your enthusiasm with us. You make our job worthwhile!
Ryo and Anubis by Adam
Also on Friday we started our three-day Creating Comics seminar - rather then our general one day version we do at most cons. Having done it at MegaCon earlier this year created a lot of interested and excitement, and people have been asking us when we'd be doing the 3-day again. Lucky for us, ACen was kind enough to allow us to run the whole shabang - a large commitment for a show, but we do our damnedist to make it worth their time! Friday’s panel on Writing and Marketing and it went really well. It’s probably our favorite of the three days because, to us, the story is the most important part of what we do - and understanding selling yourself in this new world unfolding in publishing is just interesting to talk about. We got a lot of great feedback and had some good conversations after the seminar, which is a big part of why we do these panels in the first place.
Back at the alley, we wrapped up Friday with a couple sketches to wrap that night. The crowd was buzzing and energetic and we were having a good time. Our table was right at the front of the alley – literally one of the first things you’d see as you entered the convention - and generally, eaisily forgotten. But it didn't seem to hurt us at all that weekend.
Deus EX by Adam
Friday night we made our annual trip to the BEST Thai restaurant we’ve ever found; The Golden Elephant. It’s so good that we go out of our way to make sure we eat there every time we’re in Rosemont. This time, we got to bring our old college friends Aric and Laschita, inspirations for two of the villainous Gamers Three from The Uniques #7. We get to see them only occasionally, and get to spend actual time conversing with them even less, so it was a real treat. The whole weekend was uplifted by the chance to be with such good people for a night.
At the hotel, we considered heading up to the “Green Room” where staff and guests could gather, but it was quite dark and we had sketches that absolutely had to get done. We didn’t want to go into Saturday with a sketch-deficit. So instead, we chilled in our room together and enjoyed each other’s company. It was a nice night.
Saturday was busy. Not just for business, but part of the fun of anime cons for us is the “fly on the wall” aspect; being situated right at the entrance, pretty much, let us watch all manner of adorable shenanigans as the excited attendees flooded through. Impromptu photo-shoots broke out, a girl saw someone she apparently hadn’t in a long time and leapt into their arms, and many, MANY squeals were had. This is the energy of anime conventions we’re always talking about – it makes us feel a lot younger and a lot older at the same time seeing as we are now 30 and 31. Goodness, how time flies...
That day we gave the second of our seminars on creating comics; Character Design and Sequential Storytelling. It’s the funist of the three dissections and focuses on what makes good-looking characters and how to put pages together that work both as art and as solid storytelling devices. Other people can teach you HOW to draw – we want to teach the WHY. It went so smoothly we had a lot of time for Q&A, which is rare because of how often we get so into delivering as much information as possible that we run the clock down too quickly.
One of the many original characters we drew this past weekend by Comfort
All in all, Saturday was a good day. Business was great without being overwhelming. And we did a LOT of talking and answering questions with people who had been coming to our panels. We can't tell you how encouraging it is to see the excitement in a new or potential creator's eyes. Having taught for 10 years before we struck out onto this crazy comic creating adventure, it does our hearts good to be able to teach and inspire people again. Even if only for a weekend.
That night we had to pass on a chance to go out with our friend Dirk Tiede (of Paradigm Shift fame, another excellent web series) who wanted to go into Chicago to an awesome Mexican restaurant. We had too many sketches sadly to do to take such a trip, and opted instead for Chicago pizza. Here’s a sweat deal: because we did their ad in the ACen program, Giordano’s gave us a free pizza that night. And if you don’t know Giordano's, it is excellent food. It may not be “pizza” to everybody, but whatever you call it, it’s delicious. We cannot recommend eating there enough when you're out in the land of Chicago!
Lloyd Irving by Adam
After a nice meal and chatting about stories and stuff (as we often do when it’s just the two of us) we decided that dammit we were GOING to enjoy that green room! We went up, found the one corner that had decent light, and pulled up some chairs to draw. Which, of course, nobody ever understands here at anime shows. To most people, conventions are FUN! They’re PARTIES! To us, cons are work. We bust our humps; people pay us to draw them things and we have a responsibility to deliver! But we can have fun while we work, too, and that’s important. So yeah, we were drawing all night. But we also got to talk with Alan, joking around about this and that. And we got to have a talk with our friend Trevor Mueller about Mass Effect 3 and the whole ending controversy surrounding it. Even 'Con Mom' Debbiewas kind enough to come over and get us away from our drawing boards for a spell and have some real fun! It was a really nice time being up there, we got all our drawings done, and we got some delightful chit-chating done ta' boot. Hooray responsibility!
Sunday wasn’t as busy as it's been in past years, but that didn't hurt us at all. When it was all said and done we had handily surpassed last years’ earnings and demolished what we could expect from comic cons of comparable size to ACen. It remains a great show with a great crowd and a great atmosphere.
We did our last panel near the end of the day: Coloring and Lettering. It was mostly a demonstration seminar where we actually walk through how we use Photoshop and Illustrator to color and letter our books. This part of the panel was tough at MegaCon – we vastly overestimated the time we had and underestimated how much material we had to cover. But this time we were ready and it went much better. But we had to rush back to our table because we knew that this was the busiest time of the day on Sunday and we were missing a lot of sales while the panel was running.
Original character duo by Comfort
Original characters Vs. by Adam
When we got back and Alan told us some of our pushier fans had been quite unsettled at our being missing, but everything worked out fine. It was a pretty packed last half-hour before show-close, and in the end we came out well ahead and didn’t even have to completely tire ourselves out to do so. Which is part of the reason we love ACen so much. Great business, great people, great atmosphere, all without the body destroying exhaustion that comes with a show like Emerald City or C2E2.
Another original character by Comfort
Deadpool and Dex-Starr by Comfort and Adam
And that was that. We headed home that night, stopping along the way for dinner with Comf’s brother Steve and his lovely young girlfriend Marcella. It was the perfect way to end the weekend, and we slept soundly and happily that night.
We’ll be hitting the road again soon for the Summit City Con, but in the mean-time we’re rolling on Rainbow in the Dark #7. Page layouts are coming along well and it’s looking good, gang. Can’t wait to share some stuff.
In the mean-time, we’ll be keeping updates coming along right here. Enjoy the photos of the costumes we saw at ACen!