c2e21

To say the lead-up to C2E2 2013 wasn’t easy for me would be to say that the Atlantic Ocean is “moist”: it would be a massive understatement of something much bigger and farther reaching than myself.

Things had been going so well.  I was getting settled in at my new day job.  My anxiety counseling was going well.  I had returned to doing portraits at Oaks Park, which had paid for the printing of the “Edgar Allen Woe” book and my new line of prints.  I was excited.  I was thrilled.  This show was going to be great.

…Then April rolled around, and the phrase “April showers” became distressingly literal, especially in a city like Portland where it rains enough already.  I got rained out for three straight weekends at the park.  Then a MASSIVE printing error occured with the “Edgar Allen Woe” books that only barely got resolved in time.  Then the Boston Marathon bombings happened.  Then I found out my hometown of Wheaton was suffering the worst flooding it had ever seen (though fortunately my family home was undamaged).  Then a bunch of roommate drama I won’t discuss publicly occured, the resolution of which oddly made me ANGRIER if you can believe it.  Then the arrival of my prints got delayed until the morning I was leaving to set up at McCormick Place.  For me, seeing them arrive on time was akin to a parent being told their baby wasn’t going to die in the emergency room.

C2E2 hadn’t even started and I was already ready for it to be over.  My calorie intake plummeted and my booze intake increased just to get through it all.  “Oh Goodie!” updates became non-existent, the “Edgar Allen Woe” Kickstarter got delayed, and I was behind on what few commissions I had.

It also broke my heart for Hal Stern (my good friend and table mate) to be forced to cancel at the last minute because his schedule was as crazy as mine (perhaps more so, since HIS involved international travel).  Not only was I unable to share my favorite con with my friend, but I had to cough up enough product to fill the other half of the table in less than a month.  No pressure, right?

I want to state something unequivocally though:

I would not have been able to display at C2E2 this year without Hal Stern.  He and I had split the table, but we sadly weren’t fated to share it.  I am un-dyingly grateful to him.

Despite everything though, my work schedule allowed for me to take a proper week off for the convention, so I was flying out on Tuesday April 23rd and flying back Tuesday April 30th.  At least I got to spend a proper week with my family, in any case.  Still, I feared the worst.  I kept having flashbacks to December (the month that led me to counseling in the first place), where my art didn’t sell, my networking opportunities dried up, and I had my heart broken (twice!).  If anything, the stakes were much higher this time.  And it was at my favorite con, which fell on the one year anniversary since I left Chicago for Portland.

I wasn’t sure I had it in me.

– THURSDAY –

My platonic life-partner Elanor Ruth Smith (half of Aiyeese’s inspiration) had been seeing this gentleman named Kevin for quite some months, and they were hitting it off quite well.  Elanor is more than just my best friend.  She’s family.  I’d lay in traffic for her.  And her previous beau had been “less than accomadating”, to put it kindly.

…Then Elanor told me Kevin was a Brony.  So when we finally met in person, I only had one question:

ME: “Who wants a flugelhorn?”
HIM: “I want a flugelhorn!”

I turned to her and said “…He’s good”.

Kevin also gamely offered to help me unload my stuff at McCormick Place before the show.  Since I didn’t have a car and there was no way in Hell I could afford a rental (I already had enough money tied up into the show as it was), I gamely accepted.  It didn’t take us long to unload, since my whole table set-up fit in one large plastic tote and three USPS Priority mail boxes.  It’s amazing how your entire destiny can ultimately fill so small a space.

On my way out, I discovered a booth offering glasses of Galaxy Hero IPA (the show-exclusive micro brew) to the artists and exhibitors.  I finish setting up for the show and C2E2 has a cold beer ready for me?  I knew there was a reason I loved this show.

Welcome home.

Welcome home.

We got out of Dodge and Kevin was kind enough to drop me off at the apartment of my step-sister Nicci, who was celebrating her birthday that evening.  Coincidentally, my older brother Michael was celebrating HIS birthday on Saturday (though he’d be spending it at the Kevin Smith Q&A).  I wasn’t kidding when I said a lot was coming together this weekend.

Don’t believe me?  Not two hours after setting up I found myself at the Double Door to see my old friend Mojdeh (the other half of Aiyeese’s inspiration) play in her band Radiant Devices.  I thought back to when I had seen their initial shows, and marveled at the world of difference.  I don’t have much else to say except that their set was brilliant, and you can catch a glimpse of that brilliance in the photos below.

Radiant Devices‘ new album is coming out next month, and their new single “Much Less Desired” is already available.  Check it out below:

– FRIDAY –

First and foremost, there’s this picture:

Kind of says it all, doesn't it?

Kind of says it all, doesn’t it?

Second of all, check this out…

I broke even for my table the first day.

Buy somethin', will ya?!

Buy somethin’, will ya?!

No, really.  I’m as surprised as you.  I’ve never broke even for my table on the first day (if I’m lucky to break even at all).  I got to my table, set up, and within the first hour I was selling stuff (which also almost never happens).  Including to Applejohn here:

Howdee!

Howdee!

My former Blick co-workers Megan and Monnie came by my table eventually, with Megan in particular cos-playing as Hermione (and later Korra on Saturday and Sunday).  Since we were now free of the shackles of Blick, we all discussed and debated heading by the Blick booth not twenty feet away, where our old general manager was.  Eventually, it became a non-issue.  I’d like to say this shows how much we moved on, but then again I’m blogging about this so obviously we haven’t moved on that much.

Megan in on the far left.  Once again C2E2 becomes home to another Nerd Singularity...

Megan in on the far left. Once again C2E2 becomes home to another Nerd Singularity…

...Meanwhile I have a private one of my own with this fine pair buying my book.

…Meanwhile I have a private one of my own with this fine pair buying my book.

The first day had two big highlights for me though: first was Justin “Jew Wario” Carmical happening by my booth for his series “Con Men”.  Seriously, you should have seen my face light up when I saw it was him.  After my first display at C2E2 in 2011, it’s fascinating the tangential connections I’ve gotten to Channel Awesome and That Guy With The GlassesJustin himself though had recently left, though I didn’t press why.  I just told him I was happy he was still continuing his “Pokemon” movie reviews with Linkara and Suede, which he seemed flattered over.  I was happy to do a brief interview for “Con Men” and invite him back to my table before the weekend was out.  But we’ll get to that.

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The second meeting also took me completely by surprise: Martin Klebba, who was there with other cast members of “Pirates of the Caribbean” in the autograph section.  I however was excited to see him because I knew him best as Randall the Janitor from “Scrubs” (FTR, even he thinks the final season was shit).  Knowing that, he suggested we get a picture of him punching me in the nuts like his character would.  I was oddly proud to do so.

Presented without comment.

Presented without comment.

There was one event before the end of the first day which I can’t adequately explain: big group of cosplayers met up in Row R for what I can only suspect was a costume contest.  All I know is that they lingered for a while, shouted a lot, then eventually left.  Did I just see a real life Big Lipped Alligator Moment?

Here we have a live re-enactment of "Ultimate Showdown of Ultimate Destiny".

Here we have a live re-enactment of “Ultimate Showdown of Ultimate Destiny”.

As 7PM rolled around and the floor closed up, I left the venue buzzing from my success.  I immediately headed over to Plan 9 Burlesque to celebrate with my pal Katie Faris at their after party, where they were showing off “improvised Star Trek”.  I had made a gentleman’s bet to buy her “all of the drinks” if my first day was successful, so I had to be true to my word.  Katie is a passionate “Nu-Who” fan, but lately I’ve had to give her the crash course on “Classic Who” (basically start with Tom Baker’s first saeson and go from there).  We spent a short time gushing over “Pyramids of Mars”, which she had just watched and is one of my personal favorite serials from the classic era.  I discovered, however, over “Improvised Star Trek” that she hadn’t watched much of the show, in any of the incarantions.

I quickly bit my tongue.  “Star Trek” cliches and tropes are in my blood, and any fan will tell you they’re a class unto themselves.  I could go all night about them.

After sharing “all of the drinks” with Katie, she introduced me to her fellow dancers and co-workers at Plan 9.  Choruses of “Oh, here’s my friend Seamus, he’s so talented, he did this one piece I really like…” sang through the small theater, and as I pulled up samples on my phone to show off people kept saying “Wow, that’s really good!” or “Hey, would you draw something for me?”.  Flattered, I shambled back to Nicci’s apartment where her roommates were still up.

“Nicci really loves you a lot,” they said.  “She thinks the world of you.”

Blushing, I replied “The feeling is mutual” before passing out.

Really, after everything else, hearing that was the most rewarding.

– SATURDAY – 

First off, this photo:

Mmmyup.  That about says it all.

Mmmyup. That about says it all.

Second of all…I equaled my take from Friday.

Make no mistake: Saturday was pandemonium.  I regretted I couldn’t get up from my table to wander around a bit, but perhaps it was better I didn’t.  I managed to get up for five minutes to use the bathroom and grab some coffee, and almost had a panic attack from the amount of people I discovered were on the floor.  I already had enough setting off my anxiety.  I didn’t need to add to it!

The biggest reactions I heard were at the autograph panels behind me, as Jason David Frank AKA The Green/White/Red Ranger kept coming and going for various reasons, and his return was always signaled with uproarious applause.  It made me all the more sad that I couldn’t get a Green Ranger print done in time for the show.  Make no mistake, I had one half-completed.  But it wasn’t turning out like I had hoped, and in a desperate attempt to have all my ducks in a row for the show, I jettisoned whatever I could to get the plane off the ground.

…I did however manage to get a Fifth Doctor print done in time to celebrate Peter Davison’s presence at the autograph booth, and two fans were kind enough not only to buy the prints, but to have him sign them!  Pictures are below.  According to both, he really liked the piece.  I was beside myself just at the prospect of him liking it.

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My brother Michael and his friend Sean ducked in and out of my table quite frequently, dropped off the books and prints they picked up here and there while sampling as much of the floor as they could. According to them, the pandemonium was bigger than I could even imagine. Michael told me parking was almost impossible (Twitter helped me help him there) and getting books signed at Alex Ross’ booth was quickly out of the question. Still, they managed to hit the Kevin Smith panel just fine like they had hoped, and I got to give Michael a copy of my new “Rush” print I had reserved for him for his birthday like I wanted. Sean was even kind enough to pick up one of my original prints. He picked up a copy of “Unraveling“, which given the recent circumstances I found fitting.

The show ended again, but I wasn’t much in the mood for the after-parties.  I needed some “me” time.  I took the Red Line up to Ontario to enjoy a Portillo’s Italian beef sandwich and a schooner of beer.  One more day to go.

– SUNDAY –

Sunday was a bit quieter than what I had seen thus far, with most of the families making the rounds this day more than any other.  My prints and books sold alright, but my $1 sketches were easily most popular this day.  I continue to find it’s a great way to attract people to your table and if you’re displaying at a con, I highly recommend it.  It makes you flex your artistic muscles a bit, and while you’re drawing it it encourages people to peruse your table and see what else you have available.  Not to mention I guarantee few other tables will be offering it for that price (cheapest sketches I heard about in my row were $10).  Check out the ones I did below:

My $1 postcards also proved to be a hit, with Mr. Saturn and Ultros from “Final Fantasy VI” being my biggest hits.  Those two are always a great litmus test for me to weed out my kind of fan.  Zombie Ness in the picture below deserves special cred.

Look at that Giygas tattoo!  I love this guy!

Look at that Giygas tattoo! I love this guy!

Jew Wario was true to his word and came back to my table.  He was kind enough to buy the first volume of “Oh Goodie!“, and I did a $1 sketch of him in his Yanki J costume.  He was also kind enough to hang around my table and gush about movies with me for fifteen minutes before he and the “Con Men” team had to be elsewhere.  Easily the best meeting I had all weekend.  I can’t thank him enough for his kindness.

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Because I couldn’t leave my table very often and traffic was surprisingly slow in our row (at least compared to the rest of the con), I couldn’t get as many pictures of the LLLLLadies of the show as I normally like. Still, I got some great ones and got to see some great cosplayers this year. Devi and Charlotte would have been delighted to see the amount of drag that was becoming popular. Check those out below too:

The lights went out at 5PM and the show ended to uproarious applause.  Kevin managed to sneak in through the back way just fine and he was kind enough to take my stuff back to my mother’s house.  I was in a celebratory mood and was insistent I hit up Katie’s performance at Plan 9‘s “Uncanny Sex Men”.  Katie in particular brought the house down with her Silk Spectre performance.  I sadly couldn’t take pictures (not kosher during a burlesque show), but here’s a picture of her in costume when she stopped by my table.  I’ll leave the rest to your imagination.

Va-Va-Voom!

Va-Va-Voom!

Afterwards we hit up the bar around the corner where I reveled with dancers and artists alike.  Somewhere over the course of the night, an interviewer asked us about the growing influence of the con scene.  I had been considering a lot of this for a major “Oh Goodie!” storyline for next year, and gave her my two cents:

Nerds, for the longest time, were made to feel like their interests and hobbies would mean they would die as lonely freaks.  The emergence of the con scene has shown this is definitely not the case.  Instead, we’ve united with those who share our interests and forged our own unique social groups from that.  Whats more, being a nerd has evolved past simple “speculative” or “fantastical” fiction (basically the “Star Wars” vs “Star Trek” argument).  Nowadays, being a nerd is all about “possibility”, where the imagination or the constructs of fictions can take us.  Two of the biggest franchises at cons these days are “Doctor Who” and “My Little Pony”, both of which are based around time travel and whimsy, essentially.

On Saturday I did a brief interview and touched on my Rush prints, and the interviewer pointed out how Rush is considered a “guilty pleasure” band.  While remaining polite, I immediately called bullshit.  There isn’t a single Rush fan I know who feels guilty about liking them.  More likely they’ll trumpet their love from the rooftops at the slightest provocation.  Enjoying Rush, “Star Wars”, “Star Trek”, “Doctor Who”, “My Little Pony”, or whatever is no longer a source of isolation.  It’s a source of bonding in your passion for such a thing.  If anything, we’re at the cusp of the “awakening” of the American nerd.

The interviewer seemed impressed and called my words “very eloquent”.  I was beside myself for a second.  Here I thought I was just rambling after too many pints.

– EPILOGUE –

The weekend before I left for C2E2, when I was at my most distressed, I stumbled into a lecture by none other than Gilbert Hernandez, who is most famous for co-creating the indie series “Love & Rockets” with his brother Jaime.  It felt like an odd book end for my career thus far.  I had stumbled into a panel with Jaime during my last semester of college, officiated by my lovable dinosaur of a professor Zak Sally.  I didn’t know who he was at the time, but “Love & Rockets” (along with “Persepolis”) became one of the primary influences of “Oh Goodie!” Volume 1, so here I was years later in a completely different place in my life meeting, essentially, “the other brother”.

What I find just important though was what I was doing before I met Gilbert: I was in no hurry to go home, so I went to Powell’s on Burnside and finally properly poured though the tie-in novel for “Clockwork Angels” that Rush had released, written by Kevin J. Anderson (yes yes I know, he ruined “Dune”, moving on).  I won’t rattle off the whole plot, but it boils down to this: the main character finds himself pulled back and forth between the forces of anarchy and order throughout the whole story, before deciding to leave them to their battle and instead finding a piece all his own.  And he realizes that in spite of all the hardship he’s experienced through his journey over the course of the book, he’d do it all again.

Despite all the stress and strife, I realized I don’t regret coming to Portland.  While it was nice to visit Chicago for a week, I realized how much the city nickel-and-dimed you on a daily basis and how hard it would be for me to really live there.  I had taken a huge risk just a year before, and a lot had gone wrong, but a lot went right at the same time too.

And, wouldn’t you know it?  I flew back to Portland, and I got the hour increase at my job I had been requesting.  And I had two, bright, sunny, cloudless days at the park with the Cinco De Mayo celebrations in full swing (Mexican families are easily my best customers).  And not only are my commissions back on track, but I got a bunch of new ones to boot (e-mail me if you want one too).

And “Oh Goodie!” is far from done.  I have way too many ideas to let it end.

The good things in life are only temporarily, so enjoy them while you can.  Plus side, this means the bad things won’t last forever either.  It’s only for now.