OrcaFresh.net

by Rick Olney
Surviving a Comic Book Convention
One of the easiest things to do is survive a day on any comic book convention floor. You just need to remember a few key things. I’ll try to verbally illustrate them for you. 

One important thing to remember at a convention is that you’ll be on your feet for a long period of time, so come prepared in a comfortable pair of shoes or appropriate foot wear. I’ve had a ton of chuckles over the years seeing female convention goers waking around a crowded, and often hind-end to belly button floor in toeless shoes or sandals. Also - Nothing messes with the convention aisle traffic flow more than someone stopping to tie footwear, so be sure you’re properly secured in that respect well before entering the shopping area. Tucking your loose laces into your footwear is advised. So what else should you wear? Just about anything that is personally comfortable will do!

Without fail, every convention gives you some way of identifying that you’ve paid your entry fee. It allows the security factor to do its job at a con, and you’d be surprised how many convention floors have restroom facilities outside of the sales/guest area. I’m a security conscious person. That said, I always make sure my armband, hand stamp or other identifying badge or tattoo, scar, whatever are visible ready to show that person checking to see I’m not an illegal entrant. Make that person’s job easier, okay? 

Many conventions have their own way of welcoming their paying patrons. It isn’t uncommon to get a give-away bag chock full of odds-n-ends, free comics, trading cards, hot, new releases, or even a flyer here and there advertising a convention floor vendor. While these things are cool swag, most important of all is the Convention Program. A program will tell you the when and where of those nifty Panel discussions you wanted to attend. Let’s face it! Being a faithful attending conventioneer is something you spend hundreds, if not thousands of dollars on yearly. You don’t want to miss any opportunity to hear your favorite creators talk. Missing a panel discussion is saddening, so pay attention, first and foremost, to your program! Don’t dismiss it! Don’t leave it stuck in your goody bag until you’ve exited the floor that day, or retired to your hotel room for the night. 

Some quick important reminders:
• Don’t give change from your pocket or wallet when asked by another convention attendee to break a $20 dollar bill. It doesn’t happen often, but in the bigger convention settings, you can lose your wallet or get short-changed while the culprit melts into the crowd. I’ve seen this happen several times over the years.
• Always ask before taking the picture (photo, videotape) of another person. 
• Don’t assume that those people standing and watching a guest artist draw are not a line of some sort. Be polite and ask, or stand and watch until it becomes apparent to you. 
• Never set your bag down with all the comics and merchandise you bought unless you know you have it in full view. 
• Be aware of everyone around you when you’re looking through a vendor’s comics boxes for that favorite title missing issue. There isn’t a vendor that attends conventions that wouldn’t appreciate your watchful eye on other customers that look odd or give off bad vibes. Be aware of the shopper that steps behind the counter area where the vendor stands. Many times this ploy means another person is using the distraction to snatch an older, more expensive comic book from a display setting. Just recently, a Batman #1 was stolen from the 2003 Motor City Con. It was a two person team, male and female, distracting the vendor while the book seemingly disappeared. On the convention floor, security is often not as strong or present as it should be, so it is important for us all to be aware of the criminal element. And if you ever do see a crime being committed; immediately tell the vendor. Even if you have to shout at him. Don’t be a hero, though. Never place your hands on a suspected thief. We live in a litigious society, and crooks at comic book conventions are just as capable of physical violence when their plans and almost ill gotten gains are thwarted. So be careful. 

I have somewhere around 300 conventions under my ‘personally having attended’ belt, and I always follow the same routine of paying my admission, or when being allowed in as a guest, thanking my host. I scout the convention floor several times, roaming the aisles and differentiating where guests are seated. I circle the vendors offering product that have product that has caught my eye, jotting down their aisle location, and I return to them one by one and look with a more careful eye at the books I’m interested in. Now – Don’t think that you need to purchase that treasured and personally, hotly, sought after back issue immediately. Make the seller an offer. They’ll respond. You simply can’t gauge a seller you don’t know on a personal level (after years and years of buying funny books from them) as to how they’ll respond. 

Another buying tactic is to simply walk away and either come back later (increasing your bid) or come back on the last afternoon of the convention. I bought a Very Fine copy of Human Torch #20 back in 1979 for $300 dollars when it was marked at $525 dollars simply because the seller had a lousy weekend making little money. You would think that just the reverse would apply, right? Well, this seller was desperate, and yes, it was 1979, but human nature seldom changes. 

Are you selling product? If so, always have a dollar value in your mind as to what that comic book(s) are worth. No buyer of any time or substance is going to tell you the price they are willing to pay. And they’ll always ask you what you want for the book first. But foremost of all; be sure you actually want and need to part with the book(s) in question. I’ve encountered many a reader and collector that recanted selling a certain book or title run, and it is harder to replace those sold issue(s) than you can imagine. 

There is never enough time to be courteous at a comic book convention. So practice your skill at being personable while waiting in those (often) long lines for an autograph. When finally getting before that famous and sought after creator; be polite and don’t ever set anything on their table. Have your books out of any bags you may have carried them to the convention in, or have your sketchbook opened and paper clipped to the exact page where you wanted that free sketch drawn. Again, be courteous and polite to the people in front of you and behind you. Should you be unfortunate enough to get someone unpleasant either in front of you or behind you; better you step out of line and go to the rear than to subject yourself to anything that will take away from the experience you’re attempting to have and remember. 

Above all of this – Have fun! Record your memories in notes on paper and save those pictures. I have a treasured wall of myself with numerous pictures taken with people that are well known names in our hobby. Honor their memory and your time spent at comic book conventions by being respectful and furthering the experience for others.

 

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