With convention season now in full swing, there is a solid chance that you’ll be attending a con and approaching some of your favorite comic book creators for their signatures, some artwork, or even just a brief conversation.
Here are some tips on how to get the most from that sort of experience by being the best convention-goer you can be.
Please respect the table space
Yes, your backpack is heavy. Or you’re really excited to show off your own artwork. Whatever the situation, be mindful that you don’t put your bags, portfolios, cosplay props or (especially) anything like a water bottle on top of whatever comics or artwork a creator has displayed on her table or booth. Not only is it disrespectful but it could damage what she’s selling and she’s probably going to be too nice and embarrassed to make you compensate her for lost revenue. In addition, it blocks the view and ability of other people who want to look at the table while you’re talking or looking at other items.
Don’t trash talk another creator
The comics medium is comprised of a relatively small, tight-knit group of creators. You never know who someone is friends with so don’t put yourself (or the creator) in the position of making the situation uncomfortable. You didn’t like Chuck Dixon’s writing or Rob Liefeld’s art on something? Fine. Keep it to yourself. You don’t need to create an awkward moment by drawing someone else into your distaste of another creator. And even if a creator has made his own similar thoughts publicly known via social media, you don’t know if the person tabling next to him for the weekend has the same opinion.
Be a positive person, get a positive response
If you’re meeting a creator who you really like then this is simple. Thank the creator for her work. Tell her what you like about it or even bring up a great memory. But this is not the time to offer unsolicited constructive criticism of her art or writing. If she specifically asks you for a critique then that’s a different story, but most creators I know or who I’ve met over the years aren’t at a con to get art advice from someone who never even went to art school or produced a comic. Just remember that while you’re walking around the convention for eight or nine hours, she has been sitting behind a table working and trying to make back the money she spent to get there. No creators want to get criticized at a convention. Let their editors handle that part.
Be aware of your surroundings
Are you a cosplayer who can’t move ten feet without getting stopped for a picture? Or are you someone who just saw the best Aquaman cosplay walk past and you need to grab that photo? Great…just do everyone a favor and make sure that you’re not impeding an artist’s table or booth. Sure a few seconds here or there won’t hurt, but you would be amazed at how much lost revenue there is because of creators (especially those at the end of an aisle in an Artists Alley) having their table space regularly blocked. And if you do happen to notice that you’ve unintentionally been guilty of this, do both parties the good deed of taking a brief moment to apologize.
They’re just like you and me
Yes, Brian K. Vaughan, Kelly Sue DeConnick and Greg Capullo are like rock stars in this industry, but they’re no different from any of us. They eat. They need bathroom breaks. And some of them even occasionally have a bad day but have to slog through a convention during that down time. Remember this if you see a creator grabbing a bite to eat at their table (assuming they didn’t leave to take a break). It’s probably not a great time for that photo or huge stack of autographs you want to get. And for Crom’s sake, don’t even think about asking for autographs/life advice/portfolio reviews in a bathroom. If a creator comes off a little grumpy while you’re conversing with him/her, it may not be a personality trait. He may not be feeling well (hey, convention hangovers are fierce), could just be having a tough day or may have just dealt with someone who put them in a bad mood. Sure, there are some known jerks in the industry, but just consider that your initial bad impression of someone may be the result of them not having their best day. Some creators will even mention it, but it’s not always the case.
Helpful Quick Hints:
- For a great bargain on original sketches, the best time to get artwork done from top talent artists is while that person is appearing at a charity organization booth such as the Hero Initiative or the CBLDF.
- Keep your conversations to a couple minutes. Make sure you’re not hogging up the table for too long, especially if you’re not buying anything. And don’t interrupt someone already engrossed in a conversation.
- When getting comics autographed, have them pre-removed from the bags and boards, and limit your stack to a reasonable number. If possible, use smaller stacks and get back in line again.
- If the artist doesn’t have commission prices displayed, always ask in advance of requesting artwork and be very clear on whether you want pencil only, pen and ink, graytones or full color.
- If you’re cosplaying as a character that a creator has written or drawn – and especially created – be sure to stop by and introduce yourself. They’ll appreciate it and may even recruit you to help promote their work.
- Ask for permission before taking photos of an artist’s table or artwork.
- Don’t be creepy. Don’t stalk or follow creators around. Be respectful of their need for occasional privacy.