Achem. Hi. My name is Kristi McDowell. You may remember me from such articles as I Am Captain Marvel, Code Monkey Steal Heart, and 0 Shades of Grey: Female Antiheroes on TV. I sort of fell off the face of the planet over the last few months as I’ve shifted some of my focus from writing about comics to writing comics. I promise, I’m not here to pitch my wildly unique and well-regarded comic book that you can find in not one, but five, New England comic shops as well as on my website. Except for that one time right there. I’m here to talk about the behind the scenes aspect of trying to make it into the comic book industry.
First, this is a very interesting time to be doing this. I remember attending a panel at Boston Comic Con in which one of the panelists discussing writing for comics said that any time someone finds a way to break into the comic industry, meaning more specifically into the bigger publishers, that way gets closed off and the next person has to find another way in. I can’t tell you how hard it was for a writer who would love a chance to write for The Hulk or Birds of Prey to hear that. But the other side of that conversation was to encourage new creators to self-publish. So, with that encouragement, I did exactly that. Last year, a buddy and I formed our small publishing company and began to hit the cons.
Over the last two weeks, I’ve gone to a couple of New Hampshire shows. The first, Free Comic Book Day with Jetpack Comics, was in Rochester—a town that really gets involved in the festivities. Local businesses and restaurants participated in a scavenger hunt and offered free bags of chips to cosplayers. But the biggest draw wasn’t the potato chips or getting more free comics by completing the scavenger hunt. It was the appearance of Kevin Eastman and Peter Laird, creators of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, who were there celebrating Free Comic Book Day and 30 years of TMNT.
Set-up for the convention, held in the Knights of Columbus hall, began at 8:00 AM. I got there a few minutes after that and the line of people wrapping around the building was a pretty accurate indicator of what the day was going to be like. While there were many cosplayers from many different fandoms, this was definitely a predominantly Walking Dead and Ninja Turtle party. The wave of green body paint crashed mightily against a sea of zombie makeup and it was glorious.
I participated in a few shows last year, but this was definitely the best run convention I’ve been involved in, in my still early career as a comic writer. Volunteers were everywhere, making sure all of us vendors knew where to go and how to find help if we needed anything. Before the doors opened to the public, for a nominal fee, we were also give the option to order lunch and have it delivered by the volunteers. Let me tell you, as someone who loves to eat, that pretty much made my day right there. Jetpack Comics really took care of us there. Throughout the day, the volunteers checked in with the artists and vendors to make sure we had water, weren’t feeling too flushed in the very warm space, and just to make sure we were having a satisfactory experience. I sort of felt like a star.
Unfortunately, I didn’t really have the luxury of spending much time waiting in line to meet Eastman and Laird (I kind of wish they allowed vendors an opportunity for at least a friendly “hello” beforehand, but I understand why they didn’t/couldn’t), but speaking to people who did gave me the impression that the pair were friendly and seemed to really appreciate the fans. I did, however, have the awesome experience of meeting Rebekah Issacs. Inexplicably, she had no line at all while I was wandering the convention (which managed to utilize it’s space brilliantly by using a double ring system for vendors’ tables, maximising the amount of people that could fit in the space without crowding anyone). Her art on Angel & Faith has always stood out to me, with her bold lines and great expressions, and I’m sure her work on Season 10 of Buffy the Vampire Slayer is equally good. I guess she might have been overshadowed by the Turtle team, but that meant I had some time to really get a quality experience from meeting her, which was definitely appreciated. She might be the nicest person (after Amber Benson; she hugged me!) that I’ve had the pleasure of meeting at a show. I also met Thomas Sniegoski, who is writing prose novel sequels to Bone and who was part of the writing panel I had seen at Boston Comic Con last year, so chatting with him about his projects, working with Christopher Golden, and writing for comics was a real treat.
So how did I do? Not too shabby. It was Free Comic Book Day, so the expectation was that most people were there for the freebies. Of course, we were prepared with free teasers of our two book series and those were very nearly gone by the end of our seven hour day. We sold quite a few books, but the most rewarding part of the whole experience was our very last sale. A young girl, maybe thirteen or fourteen, came over to our table with one of the teaser books in her hand. She had gotten it from a friend at some point during the day, read it, and decided to come back for the first issue of the series it promoted. My goodness, if I could bottle the feeling of meeting a brand new fan who had to have the first issue of a book she’d just read eight pages of advertisement for, I would market that and get into an entirely new industry.
But I’ll just keep that feeling for myself and let it fuel me for every hurdle in this crazy thing called comics. Because aside from my wedding day, that was the best I’ve felt in my life.