To those who follow the exploits of my little studio, Unshaven Comics, you know the last time we tabled at a con things didn’t turn out so good. Well, this past weekend at the MCBA SpringCon in Minneapolis, MN, Unshaven Comics got its groove back.
Let’s be clear: C2E2 is a major comic convention in a large city that charges lots of money, populates itself with celebrities across the span of pop culture, and lives inside a massive convention center. MCBA SpringCon is a fan-built comic convention in a smaller city, that charges very little money to attend (and nothing to table at), populates itself with comic makers and dealers, and lives inside the state fairground center. The two shows are nothing if miles apart in scope and direction. But that’s really aside from the point I’ll be trying to make here.
C2E2 was deflating in multiple ways. First off, it was a money-sucking show for my very cash-strapped company. While I’d like to defend Reed (the fine folks behind the show), they did give me a call after my article posted to take down considerate and constructive feedback, and vowed to work with me (and others) to make next year better. That much is good. But beyond those promises, the show itself was a spectacle for fans. You came in and got swept away in the multitude of activities, artists, dealers, panels, and what-not. To “do the show” meant to walk for hours — meaning if we didn’t sell you on your first pass around, it’s likely we never saw you again. In addition, the basic logistics of the show were taxing to boot. Over $20 a day to park. The food was very expensive. But I need not rehash any further.
In contrast, SpringCon is a show that oozes sincerity and joy. While it was an arduous drive from Chicago to Kenosha to Minneapolis to make our way there (six hours, beginning after our day jobs on Friday night), at very least the show itself comes with an unmatched amount of love for their guests and creators. Free parking, and free meals for the creators! Donuts in the morning! Lunch and then dinner on Saturday night! Always delivered with a smile. For attendees, a low cost of admission opens up a show floor peppered with true giants of the comic industry — like Gena Ha, Dan Jurgens, and Zander Cannon to name but a few — and filled in with solid dealers and smaller artists (ahem) to boot. And all of this is done based on a powerful volunteer army. Literally, everyone, there is there to make a great show… nothing more. It’s infectious.
Two anecdotes stand out over the course of the weekend that truly left Unshaven Comics as verklempt mishpochas:
On Saturday, amidst a day where we sold more books than we’d done in any given day at C2E2, one fan returned to us late in the afternoon. Bewildered, he sheepishly made his way to our table. He’d go on to explain that he purchased our book (which, yes, we all recalled), but had not been given his change. Now, normally, two of us Unshavens handle the money in succession so as to never run into this problem. The customer gives cash to Kyle, Kyle gives it to me, I get the change, give it to Kyle, who gives it back to the customer. This way, we never mess up. But hey! Mistakes happen, right? We happily hand the kid back $15 and send him on his way. Kyle and I look at one another, astounded. “He didn’t just try to grift us, did he?” “I hope not. I mean, he really didn’t look the type.”
The next day, shortly before lunch, the same fan returned. “So, I got home yesterday and realized I’d miscounted. Turns out I wasn’t short like I’d thought. Here’s your money back. I am so sorry!”
Honesty. Integrity. It was truly one moment out of a decade of tabling at conventions where a fan had stolen our breath with an act of selflessness. And this kid was indicative of everyone who dropped by our table over those two days. Everyone was happy, laid back, and in no rush. Our pitch was met with glee (or a polite Minnesota-Nice “No thanks!”), and we were met by more than half a dozen fans who’d remembered us (our last jaunt to the state of great lakes was 2014) and demanded new books. To say it put the wind back in our sails would be an understatement.
And then came my favorite moment of the entire trip. As is so often the case on the longer car trips, Matt and I wind up waxing poetic on the finer plots of The Samurnauts when Kyle inevitably snoozes in the back of the van. In between the passing car headlights on a dim stretch of I-94, Matt and I wound up finding a single plot thread to tie together the next three unrelated Samurnauts projects that up to that point were truly disjointed adventures. As we excitedly expounded detail after detail, I was instantly reverted to a younger self — one whose passion to create incredible original worlds was met with a kindred spirit who could build on top of my own ideas and make them even better.
Soon thereafter, Kyle woke up from his nap, and (as he is wont to do) put a bow on top of the entire fleshed-out idea, giving us a narrative through line to carry out the next two years of material. All that, and we even came up with a catchy sub-title to my next Samurnaut book… which had been a lingering fear of mine now for the last couple months.
I’ll end on lyrics of the now late Chris Cornell — who encapsulated the MCBA SpringCon for me and my mates.
I got up feeling so down / I got off being sold out / I’ve kept the movie rolling / But the story’s getting old now
I just looked in the mirror / Things aren’t looking so good / I’m looking California / And feeling Minnesota / So now you know who gets mystified
Show me the power child / I’d like to say / That I’m down on my knees today / It gives me the butterflies. / Gives me away / Till I’m up on my feet again
I’m feeling outshined