09 May 2010
It's Monday morning. After a relaxing Mother's Day yesterday at the folks', I'm sitting here drinking a cup of brown thunder, chewing on my Carman's muesli bar, and reflecting on the grueling Doujicon-4 convention that I (and other locals) exhibited at on Saturday.
On the whole, I had a LOT of fun with my fellow creators on Saturday. We chatted across tables and talked comics and made a good time of it. The Monash University venue is very nice. Clean and big and open. Top notch. Really.
Here are some photos I took at the start of the day:
All set up and ready for the crowd.
Brendan was manning Jason Franks' BLACK GLASS table.
Everyone was in good spirits that morning.
The List table manned by Paul Bedford.
Philip Bentley & Bruce Mutard's table.
Some other great local creators...
Matt's comics are killer. Really funny. Buy em.
Sitting next to my brother in arms, Paul Bedford, was a blast. Lots of laughs and fun.
One of the highlights of the day. A passer-by with a bright camera.
One major 'plus' for the day, was being able to ink the pinup that I'd promised Tom Bonin for his upcoming DICKS comic. (By the way, 'DICKS' stands for 'Detectives'... but that didn't stop me being juvenile, now did it).
After spending the last few months pushing to finish my comic for the event (that I used as my deadline, by the way)...
...and paying to get my banner designed & delivered...
... and working with my publisher Gestalt Publishing to make sure the book/s were created, printed, and delivered on time for Doujicon. (Thank you to them!)...
I now, feel somewhat suckered... Doujicon-4 was a let down.
Oh, I'm still as pig-headedly determined about creating my stories. That's solid. But man... Doujicon-4 sure did it's best to kick me in the nuts. I can really, really (and honestly) see how a more fragile person might (having been defeated on the day) just say, "Oh, fuck this comics thing. I give up... what the hell am I doing here?!", after such an experience. You question yourself, your work, and your passion for comics in the face of sitting behind a table... as you hear a cricket leg chirp in the distance.
And that's not what comics need.
It needs people creating work in confidence. Days like Saturday won't do it. Comics have only just started to grow in the last few years, and days like Saturday discourage comics publishers from attending, and possibly, producing work in the future.
Look, I've always championed this convention as my favorite in the past. Ask anyone in the local comics scene that knows me. When I first exhibited there a few years ago (Doujicon-2), I was blown away and officially named it my absolute favorite convention. Period. It even out classed the bigger cons like Armageddon and Supanova (in my estimation), as a wonderful pure comics/self-publisher event. But that was then... Now, Doujicon seems to have slid downhill. Fast. From my point-of-view, it was tepid on Saturday.
Basically, THE problem, was that there was almost NO traffic going through to buy our work.
This was the scene about half an hour after the doors opened...
... and this was as good as it got later in the afternoon. Most people packed up an hour before they needed to, just because they had better things to do than sit and yawn behind their tables. There were moments that loud crowds did roll past in hordes, but they were only the cosplayers that we attached to a co-event on this day. They were just passing through, and weren't really there to buy comics and stuff. They had their own agendas to take care of in the form of sword fighting, talking loudly, posing, and flashing a lot of body fat.
A saving grace was the table arrangements and University facility itself. It was damn good. The organiser did his best to situate us with fellow creators upon request, which was great.
But in the end, it fell very short of expectations. Most who secured the $100 tables (like I did), told me that they were disappointed with the convention, and didn't make a profit... or made way, way less than they had expected to. And yes, I know it's a monumental task in organising a convention. It's huge. I know Doujicon makes a loss most every time. I know almost no-one volunteers help or money. I can see the frustrations of the organiser. I feel for the organiser as he struggles and appologises for this and that every year. I know. I know... but as it's the 4th convention, a few of us had hoped some of the creases would have been ironed out by now. They haven't. It seems that more wrinkles are appearing each time Doujicon is held. As the convention experiments with format, venue, etc each year, it doesn't seem like a 'thing' that is being refined... but rather, it seems like a different dice is rolled each time and there are a lot of fingers crossed.
I say all this not to incite anger from the organiser or those that thought differently of the event. I admire what the convention is trying to do. I will still attend every time I can, just to support the event's intent and to get my book into another reader's hands... at the very least. We need more good conventions. We do. I really adore what the event was. I miss it. I want it to have it's strength back.
I know a few might say, "Why not help the organisers with the event instead of complaining?", to which I say, "I am. I'm spending every spare moment of my time producing comics and books to SELL at these conventions." I'm not creating a product that's quick to make. It takes a lot of time and effort. I'm not selling things I've just acquired (like pens, or trinkets) and have some time to offer. No, It sucks up all my time to squeeze each issue out before the fixed deadlines. You see, the way I see it, the better books and professionally driven authors we have 'booking' $100 or $200+ tables at conventions (because it's worth it for their time and effort behind the drawing board) - the better said conventions will 'reciprocally' do. It's a win-win situation.
Let me use an analogy closer to myself, in the hopes of conveying why I don't think I'm being too unreasonable;
Say I advertised to readers to pre-order my upcoming comic book for $50 (in good faith). I tell them that it should be about 400 pages long, in full glossy colour, and be about something (roughly) literary, like the human condition... but then, when the book is finally delivered to them - they end up holding a 16-page B&W children's book about bunnies and rainbows.
Shouldn't I (objectively) understand the readers' agitation?
You see, I can't (realistically) expect to charge people, upfront, $50 for a book in one context, and then hand them the value of a $5 book in another (and do it frequently), and then get perplexed at why the buyers don't understand the obstacles I faced in getting the book out. (ie: "That was all I could give you for $50... but thanks for your $50 dollars anyway.")
That's all I'm saying.
And yes, I know. Life's gotten in the way for me too when producing my books. I've missed the mark a few times, but that's not my readers' problem... it's mine. I know that if I've committed to something, and if I fall short, then it's ultimately on my shoulders. I do try to give people value for money each time they buy my books, and I know that if I don't... they have a valid reason not to buy my work in the future. I think that's reasonable.
If the organiser/s are content and found this weekend a success under their model, then fine. I'm glad for them. But for me, if Doujicon is on again next year I won't be paying for a table unless there seems to be an improvement in the organisation and advertising toward making a crowd-busy event (so I can at least make my table money back)... like it used to be.