Adventures at SDCC 2013 with Corey Brotherson and the Steampunk Syndicate – Day 3,4 and 5

Join comic creator Corey Brotherson (Magic of MythsClockwork Watch,Stolen, Fight or Flight)  as he gives us a front row seat at the behind the scenes goings on as a UK creator/exhibitor at the biggest geek convention on the planet – San Diego Comic Con.

Days 3, 4 and 5

First of all, an apology.

I’ve had to write these since getting back to the UK. Initially it was because Day 3 was uneventful until the night, when I got home very, very late. However, little did I know that the following day I’d have an accident which would totally kill my laptop. As in: I couldn’t even switch it on. Don’t ask. Just be careful what you wish for…

In any case, it put me behind these write-ups. So please, grab a cup of joe and prepare for a rather “Giant-sized Man Thing” Celebrity Special report for the final few days of Comic-Con. Swampy!

Day 3

The calm before the storm?

Day 3 was surprisingly quiet. Not in the sense of there being few people – there was the now expected Early Morning Exclusive Toys rush at the start and crowds were plentiful – but more in the sense that it felt more like a usual con, albeit with larger crowds. Sales were great, with the combined Season 1 and 2 edition of Magic of Myths and Tick Tock IPA flying off the table. Interest in the books was high and lots of smiling, friendly faces made it a fun affair. Fatigue started to creep in, but it’s overcome by the pleasant enthusiasm by all involved. I even discovered that one of our table neighbours is part of the dev team SuperGiant Games, who is developing Transistor for PlayStation 4. Looks like I’ve got another feature for my day job at PlayStation.com in the pipeline…

***

SDCC exhibitor newbie tip #5:

Days at SDCC are LONG. You may well know this, but as they start from 9am and finish around 6/7pm, you’re on your feet a substantial amount of time. For consumers it’s essential to wear comfy footwear, but it’s just as important for exhibitors as well. You’ll never sell as well sitting down as you will standing up, so chances are you’ll be standing most of the time, even if you’re just welcoming passers-by to your table. While tip #4 (dressing up) is handy, make sure you factor in something which won’t leave your feet like two tender beef patties on a BBQ by the end of the day.

***

As more people start to attend wearing more elaborate costumes, Yomi and I start to reel them in with photos of them holding our books. It’s a great tactic as many oblige and it creates a buzz around our table as well as furthering interest in our stories. Although one guy dressed as Bane – or maybe it WAS Bane – refused to play along, shaking his head when we try to hand him a book. We couldn’t tell if his words were muffled or he just couldn’t speak past his breathing mask. Or maybe it’s because he’s still sore that no one liked his freestyle rap.

 

Yomi managed to get talking to one of the organisers of Comic-Con, who is impressed it’s our first time at the show – she reveals that the waiting list to attend is massive and we must have something they and customers want if we managed to beat it. Further still, only around 100 tables are allocated for Small Press, so competition is especially fierce. Suddenly all that paperwork we had to go through doesn’t seem as mountainous or painful.

The rest of the day passes without incident, so we head out and have a few drinks with some of our fun new contacts. It’s a night full of laughs – and alcoholic slushies, which are surprisingly potent. We eventually meet up with Jimmy Aquino of Comic News Insider, who brings with him TV presenter and writer Jonathan Ross and artist John Cassaday (X-Men/Planetary), who are all in great form and proceed to launch into an array of dirty jokes. It all makes for a memorable night… although we’re told that Saturday will be the busiest day of the whole Con (uh oh), so we should go to bed early.

Naturally, we end up turning in at nearly 3am. Whoops.

Day 4

“What’s up with all these horse heads? They’re freaking creepy,” says Yomi between yawns.

I agree, the bizarre number of people wearing strange horse head masks is kinda unsettling. Maybe they were actually hallucinations from the lack of sleep. Barely 4 hours is nowhere enough to get through a day at a 10 hour convention, let alone SDCC. It’s punishing, and strangely enough, despite the increased crowds, very few people are buying. In fact, after a few waves of sales, many fob us off with a polite “okay, I’ll come back later” or “sounds cool, let me think about it.”

It turns out, as stated by our lovely new friend who works for Comic-Con, Saturdays are crazy busy but many people hold off buying because they want to see if you’ll cut your prices on the following (last) day to shift stock. Shrewd. A quick chat with others around nearby tables reveals that we’re all in the same boat – inconsistent sales, strange behaviour and a slightly demoralising dismissive feel. That’s the nature of any sales driven business, at times.

 ***

SDCC exhibitor newbie tip #6:

If you’re going through a bad patch of sales, the worst thing you can do is slump into a corner and look beaten. Inside you may be dying, but a smile and friendly face keeps people coming, even if they’re not buying. This is especially true at the super friendly SDCC, where many people will make eye contact and ask how you’re doing.

***

Despite low sales, there’s plenty of interest in the books, as many are taken in by the unique elements of Clockwork Watch, while others suggest Magic of Myths would be ideal for an animated series. John ‘Doctor Who/Torchwood/Arrow’ Barrowman gets chatting with Yomi, saying that he may well send over his sister to grab some copies of Clockwork Watch, given the chance – a very nice surprise.

One thing which became quickly evident over the duration of the con is that the artwork – and the artists involved – are very, very important. The most asked question of the entire week? “Are you the artist of Clockwork Watch?” We feel Jennie’s absence as she adds another draw (no pun intended) to our table that we can’t fill – when you have two giant art banners behind you, it’s only natural it would be one of the main talking points. I make a mental note to create a Magic of Myths banner and also to kidnap both Sergio and Jennie for future conventions.

Another thing that became clear is that people still really don’t know what ‘adaptation’ means and thus tend to treat you as the poor kid hanging on to the *real* creators. As time went on, the conversations were becoming startling similar:

Customer: “Oh, so what do you do?”

Me: “Well, I’m the writer and co-creator of this,” *I point to Magic of Myths. The customer nods with interest* “I edited this,” *I point to Tick Tock IPA*the customer then smiles and nods* “and I adapted these two books.” *I show them Clockwork Watch: The Arrival and Breakaway. The customer looks at me as if I’ve been talking in an entirely different language.*

Customer: *puzzled* Oh.

One classic moment came when I explained to one rather blunt customer who asked what Yomi and my roles were before signing the books. Upon learning that I was the adapting writer and editor and Yomi was the creator, he thrust the books at Yomi and said: “YOU sign these.”

I was starting to feel a bit like Banky from Kevin Smith’s Chasing Amy, who was the butt of many a joke for being ‘just an inker’. “Oh, you trace…” *look of pity*

By the end of the day we’re both battered and bruised from exhaustion, but have enough time to do a couple of on the spot video interviews about Clockwork Watch and being a black comic book creators from Britain. Fun stuff, although we also hope that we won’t be edited in a ‘Rock Bottom’ style from the Homer Badman episode of The Simpsons. If our clips end up as ‘Yomi Ayeni and Corey Brotherson: Portrait of an Ass-Grabber’, we’ll be consulting our… ah, who am I kidding, we’d probably love the publicity. “Sweet sweet caaaaan.”

One final note of the day, which turns out to be painfully prophetic. We met up with an old Birmingham writer mate and fellow Aston Villa supporter, Ben McCool (Choker; Pigs; LOOKOUTS), who introduces us to a cool friend of his, who works for Seagate.

That’s Seagate the back-up storage company.

You can probably see where this is going.

We have a quick chat about how backing up data is important for creative people and set up some future plans.

A few hours later I spill a sizable amount of water on my laptop, killing it almost immediately.

Thrills and spills at Comic-Con. Sigh.

 

Day 5

The last day. And also, the shortest one. My travel back to Los Angeles airport means a 4 hour trip, which in turn means I only have an hour’s attendance at the Con. It’s saddening, but there’s also a sense of my body trying to punch itself in victory – it’s survived a week of little sleep, 12 to 18 hour days and all the ups and downs that came with them. My voice is virtually broken to the point where many customers can’t understand me and my whole body aches.

The logistics of travel also throw up another issue – getting Yomi’s trailer, Gladys, into the town centre, finding somewhere to park her and then lugging all my clothes to the Convention Centre to my suitcase (which was acting as storage for our gear at the show). It results in a 5am start, a 7am drive into town and a frantic set up and tear down before customers are let in by 9am.

There’s a nervous energy surrounding both Yomi and I.

Maybe it’s fatigue.

Maybe it’s the prospect of travel – for me it’s a mild, but easy journey. For Yomi it means getting out of a busy San Diego with Gladys and then making a 12 hour drive across mountainous regions to drop her back off at Reno.

Maybe it’s that we’re sad to see this all go after virtually 10 months of set-up, culminating in a manic week of work.

After all the intensity, this is where it comes to end. All the costumes, meet-ups, mad dashes for wi-fi, threats of dancing/singing, panels, horse heads and randomness. It’s punishing, painful, rewarding, fun and downright mental. And tearing down my part of the table (leaving Yomi with a handful of Magic of Myths copies, just in case the discount hunters come-a-sniffing) seems far more final than it should.

Then we get wind of someone giving out forms to apply for next year’s Con. And we both smile. Yomi runs off to grab one and returns. The question everyone asks as I leave the show floor, towing a large suitcase, backpack and San Diego Comic-Con carrier bag?

“Will you be back next year?”

The grin on our faces should tell you the answer.

See Corey’s previous SDCC posts here

Reporter: Corey Brotherson

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