My name is Marc Alan Fishman. For eight years now, I have been an active comic book writer, artist, letterer, and publisher. For six years, my company Unshaven Comics has peddled our wares in the artist alleys at dozens of conventions. From the small, such as Kokomo, Indiana, and Orland Park, Illinois, to the large, like C2E2 in Chicago, and the New York Comic Con, we’ve put thousands of miles on our cars in an attempt to break-in to the industry we love nearly as much as our kin. But in all our travels, the furthest west we’ve sauntered was Minneapolis this past spring.
We’ve never been financially viable enough to venture to the Valhalla (or perhaps Ragnarok) of comic book conventions. The San Diego Comic Con is a nearly week-long mecca of geekery. For a small operation such as ours, it stands to dream that selling in the same fabled halls that stars and nerds alike flock to, could lead a sale of The Samurnauts to future fame and glory. Oh, how the mind races at the thought! But with each passing summer, those daydreams dissipate as the deluge of news coats my social media feeds. And here I sit, in the wake of yet another SDCC, ruminating on what it feels like to not be a part of the central hub from which our industry grows from. In short, it feels both amazing and frustrating.
It feels amazing because I’ve little doubt that amidst the choked-with-nerd floor-space there’s a frantic energy that isn’t conducive to how Unshaven Comics does business. We’ve parlayed busy cons, but I have a sneaking suspicion as fans fight for line position to see the Avengers assemble, or catch a sneak peak ten-second look at a movie not debuting for another calendar year there’s little desire to open one’s mind to a brand-new not-known comic, and even less among those few of the 130,000 attendees that are old school fans who are there (gasp!) for the actual comic books the show was originally built around. So I ask rhetorically: how easy is it to grab the attention of them when the entire show is one massive press-conference after another?
When every news outlet, blog spot, and nerd-based industry member is there first and foremost to get the scoop – and leak footage for click-baiting articles – on the stuff that gets them click-throughs, link-backs, and ad impressions… where does that leave artists in the alley? And when the alley itself is studded with industry veterans with well-known names and pedigrees… I say once more with bearded fervor: what chance do three Chicago kids with no known fans west of the Mississippi going to do to garner attention short of faking a medical emergency? Hmm, maybe that’d be a great hook. But I digress.
Simply put, it feels amazing to miss the SDCC because it means I can sit peacefully at home with the Unshaven till in tact. I can sift through all the news releases, teasers, and interviews at my leisure. I can do all of this and smell fresh as the morning dew. Those people in line waiting for a chance to get Chris Hemsworth to wink at them? Maybe not so much.
Which of course leads to why it’s so frustrating that I’m not there, nor have I ever been. The other side to the sword I wield cuts hardest when I realize I am only a spectator and not a shareholder. And to mock the size of the crowds is only to hide the desire to be in front of them. Even if the tides draw fans from the alley away to the exhibitors, there’s simply too many opportunities amidst the show-goers to not catch a few on our hook. And while the economics of it all likely falls no where near profitable when one considers the price of the table, transportation, shipping of merchandise, not to mention meals and other sundry expenditures… a sale to someone new is a sale to someone new. Unshaven Comics exists because of that conceit.
And while I’d lament that it’s not fair to pitch when you’re sitting next to a convention colossus like Katie Cook, much could be gained through smart networking and the camaraderie earned by being table neighbors. Simply by existing alongside those whose work we covet, creates a recognizability to those in power who work their way around the alley. Over the course of our businesses life, we’ve pushed issues on Dan DiDio, Ross Ritchie, and even Mike Gold. Of course, none of them said anything to us after purchasing the issue, but we figure it’s because they’re still in awe. In short: missing the con means missing the sale. And when that sale is the most likely to reach those within the industry we want to sell to? It’s a missed opportunity.
And what lamentation about San Diego would it be if I didn’t mention having to miss out on the Black Panel, and all of the sundry Michael Davis-related ventures. Having only known the Master of the Universe via e-mails and shared column space, I’m at a loss having never shaken his hand in person. And I say this not in jest. In every instance that I’ve been able to break bread with a fellow ComicMixer, it has been a memory saved for the archives. To miss out on San Diego, is to miss out on seeing people I’m honored to call friends.
And with that, so ends this little aside. Another year passes, and San Diego reverts to the whale’s vagina it’s known to be (don’t flame me, Ron Burgandy said it himself). Will Unshaven Comics ever make the journey out yonder to be amongst the gilded nerditry? As loyal Cubs fans utter, the motto remains:
There’s always next year.