For me, Comic-Con goes into full-swing two weeks before the show starts. To begin, I wanted a new Flesk catalog for the show. I designed it over a weekend, had it printed, and it arrived with us five days before the show started. Then late in the week prior to the event our new titles, Flesk Prime, Mysterious Islands and Bruce Timm’s Naughty and Nice Teaser were all delivered. At that point I had everything I needed and could concentrate on packing for the show. Fortunately I can drive to San Diego. I load up the truck early Tuesday morning and get there by the afternoon.
The Comic-Con staff makes it about as easy as can be for pickup trucks and vans to drop off material. By 2:00PM our books were headed inside. After my assistant James Walker and I grabbed our badges and were walking back to the parking garage we noticed a line of a few dozen people waiting to get into the show a full 27 hours before the doors opened. People had tents and coolers, and looked quite excited about the upcoming show. One of them jumped up to check out the Comic-Con bag that James was holding. I still remember those days when I was that enthused about attending. I still think it is fun event. But my goals have changed. When I arrive I am focused on setting up our booth and the work that follows, rather than what I will buy and who I will get autographs from. It’s not a vacation anymore.
Just as we were retrieving my truck, Mark Schultz called. He had just arrived at the San Diego airport. Since we were close by, James and I drove over to pick him up. Con mode started in the Midwest for Mark as a fan recognized him at his connecting flight and asked to flip through his originals. Mark said he politely asked for the individual to come by the booth during convention hours to give everyone a fair chance. The price of fame…
I’ve been arriving on Tuesday for the last few years to take advantage of the city of San Diego the day before we are fully engaged in work. Getting the chance to relax and spend quiet time with some friends beforehand really helps to be prepared for five days of talking non-stop. The Balboa Park gardens, museums and a nice local restaurant have turned into a yearly pre-con respite.
By Wednesday afternoon I was ready and anxious to get started. I altered the configuration of our booth this year by opening it up and creating a more obvious artist signing area. It worked out well in providing more of a walk in space for people, plus gave us extra table space and still allowed us ample room behind the counter. I took some video that will be posted on the new Flesk website once it is ready in a few months.
We stayed busy throughout the show. Every year I tell my helpers at the booth that I am going to go out and walk around, and then every year I don’t, except for 15-20 minutes at a time and never stray far. When I return it is inevitable that someone was there looking for me. I’ve accepted that the show is so big now that it’s impossible to see everything I would like to and talk to everyone I want to. In a conversation Craig Elliott he reminded me how fortunate we are to be able to do what we are passionate about for a living. As tough as the days get, we get to play for a living. Craig is one of the most positive and balanced people that I know. He helps remind me that we have to be grateful for everything we do get to do and not focus negatively on what we can’t.
I did get to spend some time talking to my favorite locals in my Comic-Con neighborhood (about a five aisle radius). Gary Gianni, Jim Keegan, Frank Cho, Steve Morger at Big Wow, Jim Silke and Mike and Christine Mignola, William Stout, Craig Elliott, Cathy and Arnie Fenner, Bill Carman, Geof Darrow, Richard and Wendy Pini, Brent Anderson (Who unfortunately had his car broken into and had over 100 pages of original art stolen!), Dan Brereton, Arthur Adams, Terry Dodson, Aaron Lopresti, and more. The one artist I was anxious to meet who I wasn’t able to find was Alan Davis. I still like getting autographs and art once in a while. I’m a fan, too.
I was thrilled to meet Jordi Bernet. He was the one individual who the other artists were anxiously seeking out and enthused to meet. Gary Gianni told me how excited he was to meet him, as did others. Bernet is greatly admired by his peers. He’s a true master of the form. I don’t buy many comics, but Jonah Hex is a beautifully drawn comic-book and something I always pick up when Bernet is doing the art chores.
Thursday night I had the welcome opportunity to be invited to the Spectrum dinner hosted by Arnie and Cathy Fenner. Bill Carman, Arlo Burnett and William Stout rounded out the party for a pleasant evening of storytelling. Bill is probably one of the best tale weavers I know. His stories are fascinating and what makes them especially impressive is that they are real.
Our bestsellers for the show, in terms of units sold, were led by the Bruce Timm: Naughty and Nice Teaser, followed by Flesk Prime, Mysterious Islands, and Mark Schultz Various Drawings Volume Five. One surprise was my bringing five to ten more copies of each Gianni book that sold last year, the individual titles selling out by Friday and Saturday. You never know what will or will not be popular.
Every year I get a regular flow of book proposals at the show. In most cases these tend to be unsolicited. I think San Diego is both an extremely tough place to try and get the attention of publishers and also a good place. It is a good option since you can physically pin down a publisher and make a positive personal impression instead of sending an email into a black hole, but also a bad place since a publisher may not want to be approached without prior notice. As I write this I realize this is a long topic best suited to a dedicated blog. I’ll write more in the future. Send me your questions. What would you like me to cover?
What made this year a smooth one was the help of a few new helpers at my booth this year. Besides my good friend James being my right hand man, my pal Randy Dahlk chipped in, as did Laura West, Jocelyn Liang and Jackie Huang (all three being exceptional artists). Thanks to you all.
See you next year!
Text and photos © 2011 John Fleskes