I LOVE THE SMELL OF BAXTER STOCK IN THE MORNING. If its summer, it must be Comic Con International, which, if it gets any bigger, will soon become our 51st state. If you're interested in comics, its the place to be. And, if you've just published a comic, say, "Raider: Out of the Shadows"(click here to buy a copy or six) its the place you need to be.
Now, I'm not one to do something impulsively. This was a well thought out Hannibal Smith plan. A lot of people go to Comic Con to sell their books and have their hopes dashed upon the rocks of the industry. I was determined not to have that happen.
So here was my plan:
Publish Raider as a graphic novel instead of the traditional comic book format. More bang for the buck, and a complete story to boot, so hopefully an easier sell. Plus, at least a year-long shelf life in comic shops.
That was the product I had to sell, but not necessarily a plan.San Diego Comic Con is so big you have to set your watch back an hour when you cross into Artist's Alley. You gotta stand out from the crowd.
My first plan of fireworks and scantily clad cheerleaders fell apart when I learned that I couldn't set off fireworks in the convention center and all the former XFL cheerleaders had gone back to their regular jobs at "gentlemen's clubs."
So I went with what I do best. Caricatures. I'm fairly good and I'm certainly fast, and I figured it'd give me five minutes or so to evangelize people on buying my book.
But if they paid for a caricature, how could I get them to spend even more money with me? Then the idea hit: FREE CARICATURES!
After all, people like free stuff and that would generate a line, and that would help drum up interest too, right? Then, I could make them fill out a form to get a caricature done, and cleverly generate a mailing list as well.
Now, some of you might see a flaw in this plan. Don't worry, I had seen it too. I'd have to do four straight days of caricatures, each about nine hours a day. Thirty-six hours of caricature. At my pace, that was well over four hundred caricatures.
Arm strength aside, my biggest problem was getting people to work my booth. If I were drawing, I couldn't be taking money, too. Fortunately, a number of good friends stepped up to the plate and came to my aid: Bob Ingersoll, Roger Price, Roger Stern (writer of the new "Smallville" novel, based on the way-cool TV series) and his lovely wife Carmella Merlo, the equally lovely Karon Flage, and probably attractive but not quite my type Greg McElhatton.
I couldn't pay them, of course. I did bribe them with a trip to Ghirardelli Chocolate, which seemed to work. And I gave them a free shirt and copy of my book. Heck, I even signed it for a nominal fee. How could they say "No?"
The booth did really well. I sold a number of books and shirts, and met a boatload of really nice people. There was one guy from Moore Action Collectibles who was particularly nice. And one girl who loved the book and said she was "honored to have met me."
Wow, I have an ego and all, but I never would have guessed anyone would feel that way. It was comments like that which made my numb arm and hurting back feel a little bit better. "Raider" is my first major book, and I'm glad it connected with people.one would feel that way. It was comments like that which made my numb arm and hurting back feel a little bit better. "Raider" is my first major book, and I'm glad it connected with people.
THESE AREN'T THE DRAWINGS YOU'RE LOOKING FOR
I've recently started working for the fine people at Beckett Publishing, who took a bunch of guys working for them, including me, to dinner Friday night at the Marriott restaurant. I can't say enough good things about my newest employer, Jeff Amano. Any man who insists I have more wine and dessert is certainly tops in my book.
But at dinner, there was another party of note having dinner behind us. It was an odd collection of people, Stan Lee, Mark Hammill, Gary Owens, the guy who does the voice of Spongebob Squarepants.
Now, I like to think I manage to keep my geekness in check when I meet famous people. Heck, I went up and said "Howdy" to Stan, since we have mutual acquaintances. But, geez, Luke Skywalker was having dinner behind me.
I did okay. I would turn to Bret Blevins, who was sitting next to me and calmly say "Bret, would you please pass the rolls OHMIGOD THAT'S LUKE SKYWALKER and the butter, thank you."
Bret is a damn fine artist and nice guy, and storyboards for Warner Brothers. He's worked on Superman, Batman and currently on Justice League. He was a little taken aback by having the last Jedi chowing down behind us as well.
"I'd like to go up an meet him, " Bret said, "but I don't know what to say."
"Gee, Bret," I replied. "You could say that you really enjoyed his work WHEN YOU WERE STORYBOARDING HIM ON 'RETURN OF THE JOKER!' Oh, and then introduce him to your friend Thom."
Later that night we were all leaving, and Bret did meet Mark and introduce me to him. Mark's a swell guy, and I'm not just saying that because he said he saw my booth and thought I was doing some nice work.
Then I said the words that would change my show. "Why don't you drop by the booth and I'll give you a copy of my book."
The next day, Mark Hammill dropped by my booth.
I gave him a copy, as well as a card for Mid-Ohio-Con (the hands-down best comic convention on the planet) and he said "I really like your art. I have to ask you something..."
Mark needed some artwork for his movie, Comic Book: The Movie. And he wanted me to do some of it.
I wouldn't get paid for it, but I would receive credit in the movie. And Mark, aware of the reality we live in, also said he'd sign the sketches so that I could sell them on eBay. As soon as I get them back, some (but not all) of them will be for sale. I'll sign them too, if that doesn't bring down the price.
The downside, though, was that he needed them that day. Which meant that I had to stop doing caricatures to draw. Or, as my friends pointed out "So you're taking a break from drawing... to draw?"
Draw I did. And I got Mark his sketches on time, which will be used as the sketchbook concept drawings of the characters through the years. Mark is playing the expert on a character called "Captain Crusader," you see.
Mark even promoted "Raider" and my booth before his panel/filming at the show. Unfortunately, I wasn't there. The con ended at 7:00, and I was closing up my booth as he was looking for me up in the panel room. I did make it up there to see him film the scenes, though. You can probably see me in the final cut, standing in the background wearing my Raider t-shirt.
Just when I though it couldn't get any weirder, I ran into Mark the next night. He spoke effusively of my drawings and how much he liked everything. Then I noticed there was a camera crew around him. As Mark left, his assistant came up to have me sign a release for the documentary (or mockumentary, I'm not sure) of the film. So you may see me in more than just the one shot.
I'M SORRY ABOUT THE WHOLE TEA THING
One of the cool things about Comic Con is getting to meet new people. And not just the guy who blew up the Death Star. Walking back from the con, I met a couple Vancouverians, Brenda and her friend Steve (I think that was his name. If not, let me know and I'll fix this.)
Steve is apparently a regular bit player on my latest guilty pleasure "Stargate SG1." So it was cool to meet him. Plus, he's a comic geek as well. He saw my name tag and that silly "H" in my name, and said "Thom with an 'H." Just like Thom Kallor-- Star Boy from the Legion."
Frighteningly, I knew that.
I also met a trio of world travelers. Rik from Australia, Rachel from Belgium, and the lovely Charlotte from England. The latter two weren't even there for the show, just traveling in the United States and ran into the convention. We talked seemingly all night. I managed to impart the important things, like telling Charlotte about the Ghirardelli Chocolate store which was right across the street from her Hostel. Her birthday was a couple days after I left, so she planned to go there to celebrate.
I didn't see the other two again, but Charlotte managed to get into the convention and waited patiently in line to get drawn. So gave her a shirt and she bought a book with the promise to let me know how she liked it...
...I'm still waiting, Charlotte.
TO INFINITY AND BEYOND!
The Convention ended, and none too soon for my aching arm. As is my, and many people's, way, I headed up to LA for a couple days with Herd Brothers Roger Price and Bob Ingersoll. Who knew what adventures would await us?