SPACE Invaders: Small Press Convention News
by Gary Scott Beatty, Owner and Production Manager, Aazurn Publishing
It's March, "Adam Among the Gods" orders will come in the middle of the month from Diamond from their Previews preorder catalog and lovely wife Carol and I are sitting behind my first "artists alley" table at the Ninth Annual Small Press and Alternative Comics Expo (SPACE) in Columbus, Ohio.
SPACE is actually ALL artists alley, the midwest's largest gathering of small press, alternative and creator owned comic artists, writers and publishers. Event coordinator Bob Corby puts in tons of time making sure this long-running show goes smoothly. Small press god Dave Sim (Cerebus) brought an exhibition of the artwork for his Secret Project 1, "Judenhass," but I'm more interested in the down to earth small press artist/writers here and how they're making their mark in the world of graphic storytelling.
Thanks to my years in the advertising and promotions biz, I'm practiced at planning trade show displays and was able to set up a six foot table with materials all brought in on one, two wheeled hand truck. It fits neatly into the back of my van, where I should be able to handle it myself at other shows this summer, as long as I don't throw my back out. Hulk I aint.
Carol will be with me here and at Wizard World Chicago, the two conventions I planned with actual hotel stays. This world of comics gets even more glamorous for me this summer as I find state parks to use to crash on a mattress in the back of my van. Hey, $18 compared to $90 for a hotel room? No contest. I'm used to camping, I don't have to share a "room," and the midwest has excellent state park systems.
The Ohio presidential primaries will be Tuesday, and apparently political events are cutting back on SPACE attendance. The value of SPACE for me has turned out to be contacts with many small press exhibitors and information gathering. My years of attending conventions as a spectator has left me with more show stories than many of the artists here, except for the old-timers. Turns out most of them remember talking to me from years past.
Still, there were some revelations here for me, since the non-spandex crowd is more plugged into the new and more willing to take risks with format, distribution and story:
- I ran into two writer/artists whose online comic strips caused publishers to approach them to print their work on paper. I didn't realize any publishers were looking to internet strips for content.
- Pam Bliss, long time indy comic creator with gentle, kid friendly work like Kekionga, told me Tony Isabella told her we're ALL small press publishers now. When you compare the quantities sold of simple 1950s Disney comics, compared to anything from Marvel or DC today, you realize what he means.
- I heard from more than one exhibitor about the value of T-shirts. One told me he makes much more from T-shirt sales than from comic sales, with much, much less effort to produce them. When you consider that a shirt can cost three to five times what a comic book costs, this news is impressive. A snappy idea for a shirt is still working for creator Eric Adams (Lackluster World) - years later, he's still receiving word of mouth advertising because people are still buying, wearing and talking about the shirt, which is not only clever, but relates to his comic's story line. Eric writes about the nuts and bolts of comic creation and selling for Newsarama.com, much like our own ComicArtistsDirect.com - check him out.
- I learned more about indy comics as art and craft, with screen printed comics, hand decorated comics in paint and other materials, books in different sizes and shapes, and more. A book is a book? Well, maybe not. With this crowd, the slickness and standard size of "Seductions" might have actually worked against it, although I do remember, years ago, dealers complaining in a forum about anything that doesn't fit in a standard comic bag.
Some of the horror stories I've heard from pros about artists allies did not happen to me at SPACE. The creators sitting around me were some of the nicest people I've met at cons. No problem there. No one blasted music, hit on my wife or chased customers away with hard sell tactics. A good beginning.
As I wrap up my dealings with Diamond Distributing and Brenner Printing this month, I'll return to them to write a wrap up column about these relationships. The summer convention season is upon us - how will Wizard World Chicago compare its polar opposite in the comics world, SPACE? Sign up for email updates to find out and, if you haven't been here from the beginning, read the entire Aazurn Publishing saga at www.Aazurn.com!
Thanks for being interested! We're having a blast telling stories over here.
PUT YOURSELF ON THE EMAIL LIST to learn when Aazurn comics are available and where to buy them! See below!