You wouldn't think a two-day comics convention would require four days worth of TOTs. I guarantee you that, when I look back on these columns as they are posted, I'll beat myself up over the people I wanted to mention and didn't.
Following my "Tony's Tips Live!" panel, I did something that I almost never do during a convention. I took a lunch break. My son Eddie would be teaching that evening - he works as a tutor for the Princeton Review - and wouldn't be able to stay around for the rest of the event. He and I went to the food court below the Hyatt and had good, satisfying, and relatively inexpensive meals. He had a steak sandwich; I had a heaping helping of chicken fried rice. The leftovers went to my van.
I got back to the convention in time for my fourth and final panel of the convention. It was "Tales From the Marvel Bullpen," moderated by Mark Evanier and featuring Fred Hembeck, Len Wein, and Marv Wolfman. We told amusing anecdotes about my suffering constant abuse at Len and Marv's hands, even more amusing anecdotes about dumb mistakes we all made, and even a few warm stories about Marvel folks helping each other out.
Probably the funniest thing about this panel was that it was catered by Evanier. He bought burgers and french fries from Five Guys, one of the best burger chains in the country that they don't have near where those three California guys live. He even brought enough fries to share with the audience.
After the panel, I returned to my booth and made the decision to close it down. I signed a couple dozen comics while doing this, answered some questions, and posed for some photos. But I hadn't had a chance to mingle with the other guests at their tables and I wanted to at least say "hi" to them.
If they're not drawing sketches or selling their work, guests wrestle with how much time they should spend sitting behind their tables. The big names usually have steady lines and can, if they are so inclined, post a regular signing schedule. I am not one of those big names.
Rather than sit behind my table for the remaining three hours of Mid-Ohio-Con, I decided to visit other guests. I caught up with old pals, picked up a small pile of review stuff - you'll see the first of those reviews in tomorrow's column - and touched base with the terrific artist who wants to work with me that I'd met at the Saturday night reception. I thought this was all an enjoyable and productive use of my time.
If I missed someone who wanted to ask me some question or have me sign something I wrote, I'm sorry about that. I can answer the questions via e-mail and, if they're willing to send me the items they wanted signed - with a self-addressed stamped return envelope - I'll get the books signed and back to them with as much alacrity as I can muster. But, like most guests, I wear a lot of different hats at any comics convention I attend.
I'm a writer who wants to be there for my readers. The older I get, the less I like to think of them as "my fans." For me, it's the line between a healthy ego - confidence in my talent - and one that's out of control.
If the convention has paid some or all of my expenses, then I am definitely part of the entertainment. If the event asks me to appear on a reasonable number of panels, I'll do it.
I'm part of a community. Conventions give me a chance to see old friends, some of whom work in the comics industry and some of whom don't, and to make new ones.
I'm a salesman. If I've something to promote, as I did this year with 1000 Comic Books You Must Read, then I'm going to spend a good chunk of the show doing just that.
I'm a freelancer. That means trying to network, something at which I am supremely terrible. Maybe my next gig will come because I spoke to an editor, an artist, a fellow writer, or someone else at the convention. That next gig isn't guaranteed. I have to hunt it down and make it mine.
I can't wear these multiple hats effectively if I sit behind a table for the entire convention. On the other hand, if the only way one of my readers can get me to sign something that I wrote is to flag me down while I'm on the move, I will do the best I can to accommodate him or her...or set up a time later in the day when we can meet at my table.
Five o'clock came too soon. I pulled my van into the parking area behind the convention center, loaded my suitcase and remaining show stuff, said my goodbyes, and hit the road for my Medina home. It was a quick two-hour drive.
My daughter Kelly and I ate the leftovers from my lunch with Eddie. I unloaded the van, but left the unpacking for Monday. I listened to my answering machine messages, including the expected "we've filled the position" call from the guy I'd spoken to about a job the previous week. I also downloaded 300 or so e-mails, but decided to let they could wait for Monday, too.
I came away from Mid-Ohio-Con 2009 with wonderful memories and maybe a dozen business cards representing things on which I have to follow up. It was a very positive weekend.
My spirits got a further boost Monday evening after Mid-Ohio-Con. I received a completely unexpected call from an artist whose work I admire greatly. I'm presently developing characters of his creation for a pitch to a publisher.
Nothing's certain in comics, of course, but this looks like a good gig. If we land it, it will ease my financial concerns for at least several months to come. Wish me luck.
Thanks for spending a part of your day with me. I'll be back tomorrow with reviews of some of the swag I picked up at Mid-Ohio-Con. I hope you'll stop by.
ZERO: Burn your money before buying any comic receiving this rating. It doesn't *necessarily* mean there's absolutely nothing of value here - though it *could* - but whatever value it might possess shrinks into insignificance before its overall awfulness.
ONE: Buy something else. Maybe I found something which wasn't completely dreadful in the item, but not enough for me to recommend it when there are better comics available. I only want what's best for you, my children.
TWO: Basic judgment call. I found some value, but not enough to recommend it. My review should give you enough info to decide if you want to take a chance on it. Are you feeling lucky today, punk? Well, are you?
THREE: This denotes something I find perfectly respectable. There are better books out there, but I wouldn't regret buying this item. Based on my review, you should be able to determine if it's of interest to you. Let the Force guide you.
FOUR: I recommend anything earning this rating. Unless you don't like the genre, subject matter, or past work of the creators, I believe you'll enjoy this item. Isn't it uncanny how I can look right into your soul that way?
FIVE: Anything getting this rating is among the best comicdom has to offer. You should buy/read this, even if the genre/subject matter doesn't appeal to you. It's for your own good. Me, I live for comics and books this good...but not in a pathetic "Comic-Book Guy" sort of way.
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