7:00 am: Awake. What the hell! This is supposed to be a vacation. The Dallas Webcomics Expo doesn’t start until eleven.
10:55 am: I’m at the door to the ballroom where all the artists are already inside and set up. I am surprised to find I am the only one in line. This can’t be a good sign.
11:00 am: Two more people show up and they open the doors. All eyes are upon us. It’s an awkward feeling. Note to self: Show up fashionably late next time.
11:02 am: Walk up to Joel Watson’s table. Joel does the webcomic Hijinks Ensue. I really only know him through Twitter. Nice enough fellow. I thumb through his book which I eventually buy ($20). I tell him who I am and that I do a comic as well. I hand him a business card which will probably get thrown in the trash. He signs the book and sketches a really great anthropomorphic potato on the inside. Sweet! I thank him and move on.
11:10 am: Probably one of the biggest names here is Scott Kurtz, who is one of the pioneers of webcomics as we know them today with his daily strip PVP. At his table was a comic box marked FREE!. Inside were copies of his Image books. I grab a few and tell him I’m not just here for the free stuff. “Go ahead, take ’em! That’s what I brought ’em for!” He was busy talking to someone else so I went to the next table where I met Will Terrell of Super Zeroes. I look through his mini-comic and decide it’s worth $15. That and another $5 gets me a quality sketch of his bulldog character Potato (a theme is building. It’s at this point that I decide I’m gonna collect sketches of or relating to “spuds”). Will asks me a bunch of questions about my comic and I try answering them without sounding like a total amateur. I realize I wish there was a way to describe what I do without using the words “Far Side”. Will and his wife/girlfriend(?) are very friendly and he’s a superb cartoonist. While I’m waiting on the sketch I turn back to Kurtz and tell him I would like to buy a copy of How to Make Webcomics. “Oh, I’ll just give it to you.” I can tell he’s not happy with the way attendance is at the show so far. I explain that I had lost my original copy of the book, to which he says, “Oh, now I’m REALLY giving it to you for free!” He quickly sketches his character Skull on the inside and signs my other free books. Wow! So far I’ve spent $40 and got 8 books and 3 sketches. Nice.
11:30 am: I now walk over to Nate Bramble’s table. He does Hermit Hill. His table is really nice with lots of comic displays and prints. He notices my old Spud Comics T-shirt and say’s he thinks he’s seen the comic before which perks me up. His book is only $10. I pick it up. No sketch.
11:35 am: I notice that Samantha Wikan is at her table. She does the comic Life’s a Witch. She’s also a great Twitter friend and comments on the site from time to time. She recognizes me from the shirt and asks if I’m “Mr. Easterling”. We’re thrilled to see a “familiar” face at the show and I meet her husband who is also very friendly. We talk a little about her book which is published through Lulu, the same place I’m thinking of using for mine. I decide it’s worth $30 (it’s huge AND it’s in color). She’s absolutely beside herself that she’s made her first sale. I’m happy to be of service. I walk around some more not wanting to wear out any welcomes.
12:00 pm: The first panel of the day. “Story & Character Development”. Even though I don’t really have stories or characters I decide to sit in. Beats wearing a groove in the floor looking at the same 37 tables. It’s given by Mike Hankins, Jonathan Caustrita, Hannah Scott, and Scott Kurtz. There’s probably ten people in the audience, including myself. The panel starts out kind of clunky, no one not really knowing what to say. It picks up speed thanks to Kurtz’s witty remarks. Some interesting thoughts on how they write and work. Basically, as expected, they all do it differently.
1:00 pm: I notice a table in front of the main doors where some people have set up some flyers. I lay down a stack of my business cards. Later I see a couple of teenage girls pick one up. Cool! Off to lunch.
2:00 pm: Attendance has picked up considerably. I walk back to Samantha’s table and ask if I could get some pictures of her table. She happily obliges and then asks her husband to take a couple photos of me and her. I ask how it’s going and she says “really well” and I think she means it. It looks like DWEX may be a success after all.
2:10 pm: I sit down at the kids’ table where they have blank sheets of paper telling the children to Make Your Own Comic . At the top is a cartoon flying armadillo holding a pencil. I draw a guy under it getting his eye poked by the pencil.
2:30 pm: I notice that Carlos Castellanos and Hector Cantu of Baldo are at their table. Carlos immediately recognizes the name on my shirt. “Hey, I follow you on Twitter. Are you him?” he asks. It’s great because he’s acting like a fan of me (and this is a guy who’s got a syndicated strip in over 250 newspapers!) His book is also only $10 and he graciously signs it and sketches a potato on the inside. “Hey, can you sketch something in my sketchbook?” he asks. I’m dumbfounded. “Sure,” I say and draw my own spud with a pen I got from Samantha’s table. “See, your potato looks better than mine,” he says. This makes the whole trip worth it.
3:45 pm: I attend another panel: “Marketing, Promotion, Monetizing & Merchandising”. This one is a LOT more crowded. Panelists are Kris Overstreet, Joel Watson and Michael Moreno. We are told not to use services like CafePress and Zazzle for our merchandise. And we are told not to just have the name of our webcomic and character on our t-shirts. I’m sitting in the audience with my CafePress shirt that has the name of my site on it. I feel like a turd.
4:45 pm: I’m getting tired and ready to head back to the room when I spot a trucker’s cap with the characters from Icecubes on it. “Bad, bad Leroy Brown, I presume?” I say to the man wearing the cap. “Spudly!” Leroy says as we shake hands. He brought his six-year-old son with him. We talk about the show and I tell him that it was a ghost town earlier but now it looks like an honest-to-God convention. He suggests that if I’m up for it next year we could share a table. I think it’s a marvelous idea. I ask him if he could sketch something out for me and he happily does a full page drawing of his penguin character with a potato in the corner. My day is complete.
All in all it was very different than I expected. I had hoped to get the Spud Comics name more out there, but I was just happy being a fan and meeting all the wonderful artists. I really do hope they do this again next year. Only then, I’m gonna be the one behind the table.Stumble It!