Free Comic Book Day has come and gone. Sleep well, friend, I hardly knew ye'.
Actually, it happens again next year. F'rnow, let's talk about the most recent one.
While I have been to FCBD events in the past, they've been small, local things. No guests -- just comics. Not many in the way of patrons -- mostly just hardcore comic geeks (and nerds -- the difference? Nerds are, in general, solitary and anti-social. Geeks enjoy like-minded friends).
This, however, was different. I was at a much bigger comic store than I'm used to. There were many comic book fans about, hardcore, and just occasional buyers (of all ages of both groups). There were parents with young kids who came, not because the parents were fans, or that the kids were fans, but because they heard "free."
The biggest difference however -- this time I was an invited guest, and there were two other artists flanking me.
I was invited by the guys at Double Midnight Comics (www.dmcomics.com), to be a guest artist for their FCBD event.
Double Midnight is located in Manchester, NH, which is about two hours away from where I live. So I packed up the car with the kids (along with the wife), and we got started to head on down to make it down by the 11 am opening time. Never having been there before, it was the first time I trusted my Magellan GPS to take me to my destination, no questions asked (in the past, it has plotted bassackwards routes to destinations I'm familiar with).
We got there with about fifteen minutes to spare.
I was the first artist to arrive, so I was encouraged to take the middle of three tables. As mentioned previously, the guys from Ben & Josh's Near Mint Comic Show (nearmintcomicshow.wordpress.com) were on hand to podcast from the event. The asked to talk to each of the artists over the course of the day, whenever we had a break.
The doors were eventually opened, the other artist were present and ready, and the crowd was unleashed. It was for the most part a very orderly operation: the crowd would come in, pick up to five (per family) of the free comics and then would wrap around and get a free sketch from the artists (some went one per artist, some didn't).
Just a note on the artist, as both were excellent and you should check them out; Dan Larson (www.circlecomics.com) and Jeremy McHugh (www.mchughstudios.com). Nice guys, and talented artists both.
The FBCD event itself was supposed to go from 11am to 2pm -- afterwards, the artists were free to go, and there was going to be a Yu-Gi-Oh or something tourney in the same room. I eventually called it quits at 5 PMish when my markers were near dead -- along with my shoulder, wrist, and knuckles (the other artists called it a day soon after). All in all, I did about 40 to 50 free sketches (based on an average of 7 minutes per sketch). As I'm not the quickest doodler, I planned only on doing free black, white, and gray head and shoulder sketches -- though it turned out a few full body sketches could not be avoided.
I never got to talk to the Near Mint guys -- we NEVER got a break. The store bought pizza for us, but I never noticed if my artist buds ever had any -- I didn't. I never got up 'cept to pick something up once or twice. Luckily I had a tea with me, or I would've keeled over (no breakfast either -- don't tell my mom). Was chewing on one piece of gum the entire time -- at about 4pm it literally disintegrated in my mouth, and I had to swallow the putrid goo that it had become.
I never really looked up to see what was going on, save for quick looks at the patrons when the requested art, and a quick look when they accepted it.
Sold a few prints as well -- enough to cover the cost of the prints, and gas for the way down.
Double Midnight generously gave us all store credit, which I used immediately (I have a stuffed Bone doll now -- taste my victory!).
While I don't remember details of every second of the day, I can mention some common points, and some other annoying events;
- Things I See/Hear At Comic Book Conventions/FCBD That I'm Officially Tired Of #1: "Did you draw this/that/those?"
I usually leave a portfolio out (and the prints) so people can get an idea of what I draw, so they hopefully don't ask me for something way out of my skill set or comfort zone. While it happens a lot less at comiccons, just because I don't have as many people asking for sketches (they have to PAY there), I heard a lot of the above question. I mean, c'mon -- "No I didn't draw them. I just like to show people pictures of comic book characters to remind them of where they are." Don't be a dunce. I am not a believer in "there are no stupid questions." There are MANY stupid questions -- and that is one. And yes, this was asked by kids and adults alike.
- This one annoying kid, and his annoying brother apparently thought sketches from the artists would take about 30 seconds a piece. If you want a quick figure drawing pose, sure. If you want something better, it was about five to ten minutes each. Well, this kid and his brother had a shouting match over my friggin' head with a mother or guardian who wanted them to leave. Eventually, the older brother when to another table, while his annoying kid brother stayed at mine, leaning, jumping, and kicking it, while rifling through my portfolio, mangling the pages, compulsively scratching at the pages as if a scent would erupt from them. You want a good piece of art kid? Don't piss off the child-hating artist (worry not -- I don't hate my own kids -- just yours).
- The one dude who was nice, chatty, and all-around fine. I had no problem with him. My wife pointed out later that his fly was down the entire time. Sorry bud, but "d'oh" to you.
- Things I See/Hear At Comic Book Conventions/FCBD That I'm Officially Tired Of #2: "My son/daughter/cousin/seamstress is an artist and draws just like that."
Always some proud mother or relative that's always exciting to spill to you that they know someone who's as good if not better than you. Why are you telling me? Do you think I'm hiring? Do you want me to praise their name? But then I start drawing, and they say things like "how do you draw that fast/well/cleanly/without looking at a picture" which makes me suspect their little darling ain't as wonderful as they proclaim.
You love them so much, encourage them. Fine. Make them feel wonderful -- but I don't want to hear it. It does me no good at all to hear it. If you want to say "my cousin Jim Lee draws comics," I'll listen for sure. If you say "my little boy draws a lot just because of you," I'll thank you and feel proud and honored. Past that, hearing about their hobbies third person is as interesting as hearing while drawing "my son is a stamp collector" -- that's just great... why does that matter to ANYONE here?
- One follower from Twitter showed in a Robin costume. A female follower. I say this not to make fun of her, or have you all point at laugh at her -- because it was totally a fun thing she did. She gets points in my book.
- I apparently missed a fight. Dunno much more than that.
- I was so swallowed up in drawing, I didn't notice that a black-suited Spider-man was only feet away from my table. My son got to meet him, so that was good.
- Things I See/Hear At Comic Book Conventions/FCBD That I'm Officially Tired Of #3: I am not a photocopier.
More than one person (mostly kids) came up, handed me a FCBD book, pointed at a part, and said "draw that." I grudgingly did it, but for frick's sake -- you have a willing and ready artist to draw something for you, and what you want is a quickly drawn version of something that is sitting on a printed page right in front of you? Have some imagination. That's like having Bobby Flay sitting in your kitchen saying "I can whip up the greatest meal possible for you, quick and for free," so you ask for a McDonald's cheeseburger like the one you had for lunch (and ALSO got for free). Take the opportunity -- because next time it won't be free -- and shoot the moon. This is why I drew TWO Sonic the Hedgehog related pictures (among other things I would never draw for fun). I don't mind drawing Sonic, but drawing exactly what is on the page? Bluh.
- Props to the people who asked for things I don't usually draw, including Hellboy, the Spirit, and the Shadow. Those were fun and challenging (no reference in front of me) -- the exact opposite of the above gripe.
- Popular sketch of the day -- Wolverine (unsurprising), followed closely by Batman. Smattering of Spideys, Catwoman, and Harley Quinn in there too.
- One 20/30-something couple waited as I drew a sketch for the guy. Her: "You used to draw like that when we started dating. Whatever happened to you drawing?" Him: "Oh, I was never that good." Her: "Sure you were -- you were awesome." Him: "I wasn't awesome -- you were just in love with me. I could do no wrong, and every little scribble I put down was genius to you." Heh.
- Things I See/Hear At Comic Book Conventions/FCBD That I'm Officially Tired Of #4: (This one is a new one) "Is that a special shadow marker?"
As you can see from the above example, I drew the initial really quick rough with pencil, then went to some Sharpie pens and plain sharpies to finish the linework. After that, I used a 40% gray Prisma to quickly shade the piece. Apparently no one ever considered the possibility that they made GRAY colored markers. I got a handful of "is that a shadow marker"s and at least one "where'd you find a gray marker?" First off, yes, it is a marker that can make shadows, but it is not reserved by the Great Art Gods™ for specifically that reason. Second, you've never seen a gray marker? I had a gray in my Crayola set when I was a kid! How sheltered are you? Or rather, how unobservant or slow are you that you could not consider that markers might be made in colors that fall outside of Crayloa's convenience store pack of ten crayons?
- One kid wanted something like a piece in my portfolio -- fully colored, digitally painted, etc. I said I'd be happy to do it as a commission, but I don't have the tools here. He didn't understand what I meant, and I said I'd have to be paid. "You get paid to draw?" Immediately, I heard a 40-something woman in the background state "It's his job... I should hope so." Thank you, lady. Thank you.
- There were actually females there -- of all ages. And I'm not just talking about girlfriends, wives, or mothers dragged along by their S.O.s or kids, but genuine female fans of all ages. Good to see. Not nearly enough hotties, though. Just saying.
- Turkey do the one dude who while I was very obviously packing to go (all my supplies put away, prints going into a carry case) walked up, looked at my table, looked at me, and said "can you draw Gambit?" "Uh, yeah..." I said, "... when I'm not already packed and ready to leave. "Oh." Yeah, oh, duncecap.
Now I make it sound like doom and gloom, but this is me unspooling, and getting some gripes off my chest. I'm sure they won't cease, but it's good to air it out.
I truly appreciate all the compliments, all the smiles, all the handshakes, and all the grateful customers. I appreciate those who bought prints from me, and immediately asked where to get frames, meaning they'd frame my work on their walls (or in one case, the nursery wall).
It was all-in-all a great experience (and artistic exercise -- an illustrative marathon). I'm sure I'd do it again next year (with more markers and a printed out sign that states my cut-off time), and I'm already changing my M.O. for the upcoming con.
Today, I still have drawings to do, but I'm enjoying taking my time.
Goodbye, Free Comic Book Day -- we'll see you next year.