Hey, it’s that time of year again! The fanboys’/art collectors’ Super Bowl, Oscars, Grammys and World Cup all rolled into one heaping, overpriced, overcrowded, smelly mess. I’m talking, of course, about Comic-Con International in San Diego, taking place from July 24 through the 27th. (Though it will seem like a month long by the time it’s done.)
Since many folks will be heading there in search of art, commissions and conversations with their favorite artists, I thought I’d offer some helpful advice as someone who’s been on both sides of the table for the last fifteen Comic-Cons. Knowing what not to do can be as important as knowing what to do.
First, the best day to get in line for commissions is definitely Preview Night (Wednesday). It’s also the best time to meet and shoot the breeze with folks, as there are no panels or other events going on, and not all attendees show up. (Of course, there are still enough to choke the floor of the convention hall, but not all will be swarming the alley of artists.) On the good side, everyone can be fresh, upbeat and friendly. You’ll have a much better chance of getting on that commission list with plenty of time for the artist to get it done.
On the bad side, many artists themselves don’t even set up for Preview Night! Why, I have NO idea, other than many don’t have the money or time to do so, as they avoid an extra night’s (ridiculous) hotel expense, meals and so on. Also, because many have “real” jobs on the side, they cannot get the time off from work, so Wednesday becomes a travel day. Those that do set up may be rushed, harried and stressed out, as they may have just rolled into town on zero sleep and are trying desperately to set up while remembering where they put this or that. So they may not be eager to chat. Be observant, considerate and allow them some slack.
But the earlier you get in your commission request, the better. So early Thursday (whenever the artist rolls in) is otherwise best. Do NOT wait till Sunday or even Saturday. Otherwise you’ll have to pay up front and have the piece mailed to you. Good luck with that. Be prepared to wait for months (or years) for your art to get done and shipped–and usually after many, many frustrating emails and pitiful excuses. Don’t you have better uses for your money in that time, even with one percent interest rates? I do. Unless the artist treats you like a true pro and takes payment only upon completion, get your request in early or wait till the next show. Or go thru a reputable rep. (Like Craig–ahem.)
When you do approach an artist’s table, keep a few things in mind:
1. There are other fans who love his/her work every bit as much as you and want some time to chat, have him/her sign something, or get a commission. DON’T BE A DICK. You’d think this is common sense, but you’d be surprised how many folks are just plain clueless with basic social etiquette. Example: If you have to ask a question while someone else is having a conversation, wait for a pause and then say, “Excuse me; I’m sorry to interrupt, but–” Or better yet, wait till they’re finished. Don’t just butt in.
When others are in line, don’t hand the guy a whole stack of crap to sign. You’ll be holding up the line, preventing him from interacting with others, and worst of all, prohibiting him from DRAWING and therefore making money to pay his expenses for the show. You’ll also be holding up your or someone else’s commission. Keep it to THREE to FIVE items at a time (preferably three or less). That’s it. If you have more, just go back later. Again, common sense. (And if your defense is “I had him sign 20 books last year and he didn’t mind”, I guarantee you he did but was too polite to call you a jerk. But he probably thought it!) If you’re a hot babe with D-cups, it still applies. Time is money and while he may enjoy staring at your chest, you’re holding up the money train.
2. If he’s selling comics or books, feel free to look through them but for Odin’s sake, don’t READ them and put ’em back! The guy (or gal) is trying to make a living and those books don’t pay for themselves. He had to print and/or lug or ship them there, put a ton of work into them and needs to move ’em. He’s got hotel, food and travel expenses just like you, but he’s doing this for a living. If you don’t have the dough or don’t like the contents, that is understandable; you’re under no obligation. But if you spend ten minutes reading something in your greasy con-pizza-stained mitts and don’t purchase it, you will automatically be on his Douche List. And nobody likes a douche.
3. Feel free to chat if he’s not already engaged in conversation. If he’s drawing, politely ask if he minds your talking to him. (Some guys prefer to concentrate on the work or get easily distracted.) We all love having that “moment” with an artist we admire, connecting and bonding in any way that makes us feel part of his career. Even after twenty years doing this, I dig talking with someone who is familiar with my stuff and relish that connection because of my work. I have met many super cool and even amazing people over the years. As a fan, my inner child and outer geek come alive when I can gush at someone who’s work has inspired, educated or entertained me.
That said, understand that many if not most artists are also there to network and find more work–especially in this horrid economy. More than ever they need to make connections with those who can offer paying assignments. So if you are in the middle of a conversation and he spots an editor, director, writer, press person or whomever that he wants to meet/converse with, he will cut you off. Some do it politely, some not. (Just because they’re “pros” doesn’t mean they have professional manners.) Just be prepared to suddenly have your moment end awkwardly. DON’T take it personally. (It happens amongst pros as well; a “bigger” pro comes to the table and the “lesser” one gets blown off completely.) Just be gracious, say, “Nice meeting you,” “I see you’re busy; I’ll come by later,” or just “Thanks and take care” and let him do his thing. He’ll appreciate it, even if it seems rude at the time.
4. Lastly, remember to shake hands firmly, say “Hello”, introduce yourself, and at some point say “Thank you.” Thank him for his work, his efforts, the enjoyment and/or inspiration his work has given you over the years, or even just for taking the time to meet you. Seemingly trifle pleasantries go a long way to making a crazy crowded event like Comic-Con a lot more bearable. Not just for professionals, but for humans in general. Politeness goes a long way.
So how about you? Got some experience and tips to share? Comment below.
I won’t have a table this year but if you see a balding, bearded guinea guy with a superhero or Bru-Hed shirt and shorts carrying a bright-red canvas shoulder bag, check out my name tag and say hi. I promise not to be a dick or a douche.
Enjoy the show!
P.S.: If you’re not attending or prefer to order a commission from the comfort of your easy chair while in your undies, just ask Craig here!