By the time these words hit you, I’ll have trekked across the barren wasteland known as Wisconsin (sorry, Cheeseheads!) to arrive at the Midwest Comic Book Association’s Spring Con, held annually in Minneapolis. Since Unshaven Comics started seeking conventions outside the Chicagoland area, Spring Con has long been a desired destination. Our compatriots sang nothing but praises for the show each year without fail. And with careful planning, we’re elated to schlep our way west (for once) in order to hawk our wares to the unsuspecting Vikings fans.
I always look forward to a new convention. Unshaven Comics has built a reputation on the cold sale. Why? Because we embrace the fact that no one knows us from Adam. Or the Atom. Or Adam Strange. Or Dr. Strange. I could go on. The simple truth is our Artist Alley table represents a pop-up artist’s commune. But a Domo Trading Card or hand-made commission by Matt is only an expression of our physical talents. The sale of a Samurnauts book is a representation of two very important things: it’s validation of our ability to create a fulfilling piece of fiction, and it’s assurance that we are able to tap into the market and minds of like-minded fans. It’s cliché, but it’s true; there is no greater satisfaction professionally.
Even better, Spring Con is very much a dying breed, one we hope to continue to pump life into. As a convention that isn’t owned by some large conglomerate seeking to grow its mound of gold atop the mountain… it’s one of those “wacky” shows that seemingly is founded first and foremost on the celebration of the culture. Not ‘pop’ culture – tacky, silly, D-List, exploitative wastes of time – comic culture.
Panels at Spring Con? Adam Hughes being interviewed by Bill Willingham. Jeff Parker and Steve Lieber discussing their process. And rather than purposefully gouge show-goers with inflated concessions and needless gifts? How about free autographs, free picnic areas, and free parking. And the coup-de-grace? Over 250 comic creators on hand, ready and waiting to interact with fans. While Reed and Wizard may boast similar numbers… they aren’t the type to offer a free dinner for their artists. Spring Con does. Sensing a theme?
Don’t get me wrong. Unshaven Comics would not be in business (such as it is) without Reed and Wizard. C2E2, Chicago Comic Con, and New York Comic Con combined for over a thousand book sales last year. In all honesty, if we top a buck fifty by the end of Sunday night, it’ll be a banner convention for we beardly boasters.
Spring Con – which is nearly all volunteer run – exists first and foremost to bring people together. For over 26 years now, it’s been a staple of the great lakes (one would assume). Reed, Wizard, and the like also desire to bring people together… but their purpose is profit, and no one questions it in the least. The fact that they continue to pick on the local conventions like MCBA, and try to push them out of town only endears them harder with the community of creators. Of course we all also attend those for-profit shows too; we need to eat at some point.
This brings up my last li’l point. You see, many people (OK, like three or four) have asked us how we’ve attained the successes we’ve enjoyed to this point – specifically regarding our track record at making all attended conventions lucrative.
Well, I could (and will eventually) spill those beans at a later date. For now though, how about one juicy secret. We count everything. We count books in, books out, dollars in, dollars out, number of pitches, number of unique customers, number of up-sells, yadda yadda. And when we do a new show, we bring our data with us to try to figure out what sort of business we should expect. And when we leave the show, we debrief on the car trip home. Spring Con brings with it the most important thing Unshaven covets… numbers. But I digress.
Should you find yourself in or around the Minneapolis / St. Paul area today or tomorrow? Make your way out to the state fairgrounds, and find your way to our table. We’ll pitch, you buy. Sounds like a plan! There’s nothing more invigorating than a new set of fans to be made. I’ve built a semi-career around it. So, for the time being, I’m happy to declare it: