Convention season is in full swing, and no matter which show you’re headed to, it’s important to know how to navigate the social landscape of comic creators, cosplayers, fans and more. While some attendees focus on cosplay, shopping or panels, other fans visit conventions specifically to meet their favourite comic book professionals. Writers and artists have traditionally received the most attention, but you can find comic pros of all kinds (inkers, letterers, colourists, editors, designers and more) at any good show. Meeting your heroes can be intimidating, which is why we asked creators to weigh in with some tips for fans on how to approach them at conventions.
Adam P. Knave Co-Writer: AMELIA COLE, ARTFUL DAGGERS & NEVER ENDING Editor: MOLLY DANGER
Pros love meeting fans at conventions. It is, quite honestly, the best part of every con for me. So don’t be nervous, and if you are, that’s ok too! No one is going to judge you. I know I’ve been nervous meeting some creators I adore, we all have. So just go ahead and say hi!
That said, you may want to remember a few things:
We’re working. If you come up to us at a table we will always be happy to say hi and chat, but if there are other people around try to not block them from exploring and don’t hang around too long. People will pass tables by if they seem blocked. Five or so minutes is probably the max, just due to the reality of the situation. We might also be having other discussions when you show up. That’s all right, just hang back and we’ll be more than excited to chat in a minute. I promise.
Do not be offended if we reach for Purell or just want to fist bump instead of shaking hands. Con crud is a serious thing and we don’t want to get it OR pass it on to you! It’s nothing personal.
If you met a creator at a previous con, please don’t be mad if you aren’t remembered. I find that I remember more people than I think I will but still, there are literally hundreds of people each day saying hi and we might only see you at one show a year. So while we try, we’re only human.
Always remember the creator you’re seeing is a human being. Don’t come up to a table just to tell someone you don’t like their work. We don’t come to your office and say you suck at your job. It’s just not cool. Yes, this happens. Not often, but you’d be surprised.
And please! Do not rest your stuff on the table, on top of books and art. We are trying to sell that stuff and your backpack may be heavy but it might also damage things we are selling. It also blocks other people from seeing table items.
Antony Johnston Writer: WASTELAND, THE FUSE, UMBRAL, ALEX RIDER, THE COLDEST CITY
Ask us questions. Comic creators aren’t always the most verbose of people, and when asked to describe what one of our books is about, you may get little more than a mumbled answer of, “Well, I guess, it’s like, there’s people fighting and stuff…” But believe it or not, we don’t expect everyone we meet to know our work, and we generally enjoy telling new people about it. If something looks interesting to you, ask us. Don’t be shy!
We may not want to shake hands. You may only want to shake hands with one pro. But so do hundreds of other fans just like you, so sometimes we decline. Maybe I’m an artist and need to rest my drawing hand. Maybe I can tell there’s “something in the air” (experienced con-goers are good at that) and don’t want to be laid up for a week when I get home— we don’t get paid sick days. Hell, maybe I just feel under the weather myself, and don’t want to spread it around. Most pros are happy to shake your hand. But don’t be offended if we’re not.
We need to eat too. Grabbing time to eat at a con is nigh on impossible when you’re running a table. Sometimes we have no choice but to snack right there at the table. If someone you want to visit is eating, and you’re OK for time, maybe give them a minute to finish before approaching the table. If you do, I guarantee everyone will be less stressed and more comfortable.
If there’s a line, limit your time. Most pros are happy to chat, look at portfolios, give advice, and so on — so long as there’s nobody else waiting. And remember, we can see behind you, so we know when a line is forming. We may ask you to step aside, and let others through. It doesn’t always mean we don’t want to continue the conversation. Maybe just step aside and hang back, wait till the line is gone, then come back. That’s cool. But please don’t block everyone else from getting the same time we’re giving you.
Buy something. If we’re at a table with things for sale, let me assure you, NOTHING puts us in a better mood than when you buy something. If you want a pleasant experience with a creator, buying something from the table is the closest thing to a cast-iron guarantee you can get. However, buying something does not give you a license to ask us out for dinner, hold up the line for 30 minutes, get our phone number, etc. Don’t make it weird.
To Joe, signed… Amazon? Pros love shopping online like everyone else. We get it. But when you thumb through every book, hold up the line for ten minutes, then ask for a discount because you “can get it five bucks cheaper on Amazon,” it breaks our heart. Yes, you could buy it cheaper online, then wait two days for it to arrive. Or you could buy it right now, right here, from the creator of the book sitting less than three feet in front of you, and get a unique experience and signature that online shopping will never replicate. If that’s not worth five bucks, what are you even doing at a comic show?
Fans should always remember that no matter how popular the creator or how amazing the work that they do, the people behind the comics we love are human beings. They wake up and eat food the same way we do. Treat them as such. It’s easy to geek out and get all nervous around them, but just remember that they are no different than you and me.
Don’t bother creators while they’re eating at their booth/table. It may be their only break of the whole convention. Definitely don’t approach them while in the bathroom.
Don’t talk smack about one creator to another. You never know if someone is good friends with someone in this very small industry and you may be creating a really uncomfortable situation.
BE RESPECTFUL OF COSPLAYERS! We have been seeing more and more signs — but just because someone is wearing spandex doesn’t mean you have the right to grope them, sneak a picture of their ass, or sexually harass them.
Dave Acosta Artist: CHASTITY
Do ask questions. Creators are there to interact with like minded people and get the word out about projects. Freelancing is an isolating gig, and it’s always nice to know your work is affecting people and not just going into a void!
Don’t bad mouth other creators/companies. These people are our colleagues and sometimes, our friends.
Don’t place anything on the tables. I’ve heard many horror stories about overstuffed backpacks and sweaty drinks ruining merchandise and one-of-a-kind art.
Michael May Writer: KILL ALL MONSTERS
Without speaking for all creators, I imagine that most of us love being approached by fans for a quick encounter, regardless of whether we’re at our table or not. Though maybe not in the bathroom, and if you catch a creator away from her table, the key word to keep in mind is “quick.” A brief mention of how much you love their work is awesome, but that’s not the time to bring out a stack of comics to sign or to get into a deep conversation. Most creators can only get away from their tables for small amounts of time, but they’ll gladly let you know when you can find them at their tables to sign and have a longer discussion.
When approaching pros at their tables, it’s important to remember that they exhibit at shows for two main reasons: to meet fans and to sell work, usually in that order of priority. Don’t feel obligated to buy anything and please don’t feel awkward about just saying hi, but a pro’s table isn’t the place to sell YOUR work to them. Professional creators love giving back to the comics community and most are willing to take a look at your portfolio or comic to offer some free advice, but it’s rude to make them a captive audience to a sales pitch. I’ve actually had someone approach my table, look at my name, and say, “I know you’re getting my emails, so I don’t need to talk to you.” That says that I’m only valuable to that person as a commodity, which is a crappy way to treat someone. I’m happy to talk to everyone who stops by my table, whether they buy my comic or not, so let’s treat each other like human beings and not just potential income.