An Awesome Recap of Awesome Con…

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If you’ve been following Dawn Griffin or myself on Facebook or Twitter at all, then you know that this past weekend was Awesome Con DC – the first comic book convention held in the Washington DC area for over 15 years! Before I begin talking about my experiences at this show, I thought I’d give a little bit of background information about Ben Penrod first.

Ben was the brains behind this show and, thanks to my attending several of his smaller shows he holds in Southern Maryland and Annapolis, I’ve gotten to know Ben pretty well over the last few years. So much so, that I interviewed him about Awesome Con a while back when he was just beginning to get into the groove of planning the show. You can read Ben’s interview by clicking the link here.

Thanks to my relationship with Ben, I also know a very small fraction of the amount of Herculean effort he had to go through in order to get this show off the ground such as:

  • Planning the event almost an entire year in advance
  • Preparing a media blitz I have never seen – including radio spots on DC 101 during the morning rush hour
  • Constant Press Releases of new stars who would be attending the show as guests

In fact, I was able to give Ben some minor feedback for one of his press releases for the show not too long ago late one night when we were both on Facebook. I also suggested that he use www.gotprint.com for all of his postcard printing as well. In return, he asked me for a Capes & Babes strip he could put into the program, so that was a real honor.

The main point in all of this is that I know personally exactly the huge amount of work and money Ben put in to trying to get this show off the ground.

So… what was the results?

In a single word, it was AWESOME.

And no, that’s not me trying to be a smart you-know-what. The fact is, there’s really no other word that could describe this show and do it justice. Although the turnout may not have been equal to the same crowds that have been forming the last few years at the Baltimore Comic Con, for a first year show, the crowds were astronomical. How astronomical was it?

  • Online ticket sales were stopped three days before the show because demand was so high
  • The event was featured in the Weekend section of The Washington Post on Friday
  • A follow-up article was written on Sunday in The Washington Post’s Metro section – featuring color photos of the costume contest on Saturday
  • One day passes were sold out by 1 o’clock in the afternoon on Saturday – in fact, my best friend and his family had to all buy two-day passes just to see me on Saturday
  • The word on the convention grapevine was that there were over 3,000 people attending on Saturday alone
  • Once the doors opened at 10:00am on Saturday, Dawn and I saw nothing but a constant stream of foot traffic in front of both of our tables
  • By the end of Sunday, we both far exceeded each of our best cons by huge margins
  • In two days, I managed to do 18 caricature sketch cards – also far exceeding what I did in Baltimore last year
  • AND I’m still getting requests for caricature sketch cards from people who gave me their e-mail addresses and wanted me to mail the finished cards to them

With all of that being said, here are some additional highlights of the show…

Dawn and I did a panel at the show…

We invited Charles Dowd to join us and were were moderated by Dan Nokes. Dan did a great job but I think he should have joined us in our discussion of “Five things we would do differently” if we started out today. I don’t think the three of us actually got through each of our five things, so that could have gone better but for the 20 or so people in the crowd, many of them came to our tables afterward and told us the panel helped them quite a bit. If we do this again next year, maybe we just call the panel “Things we’d do differently” and leave it as that.

C’mon, there had to be something bad about the show…

Actually, there really was only one thing that was a bit bad but that didn’t have anything to do with Ben or the show directly. Leaving the show was a little stressful because in and around the DC Convention Center, you weren’t aloud to park and unload or load your car unless someone was sitting in the car at all times. That’s an impossible situation if you’re a one-man operation like I was.

Getting set-up was a breeze though because I was able to get everything set-up on Friday night before the show. Sometimes, it pays to be only 25 minutes away from the venue. It was interesting driving under the convention center, parking at the docking bays and then watching the union guys be amazed that I only had a few things for them to load up. I was told my four wheel dolly was probably going to be considered too big to bring into the convention by myself – something about crazy union rules. But apparently, that was bad information as I was seeing lots of artists pack up and carry all of their stuff out on dollys that were bigger than mine.

Dawn had to leave early so I was by myself when it came to packing up. I would have been in a huge pickle had it not been for Chris Otto (www.adogslife.com) and Ben Taylor loaning me a hand by sitting in my van while I loaded up my stuff. So, from a personal stand point, thanks guys. You were a huge help.

Okay… maybe there was one other thing that was a negative about the show but once I tell you what is it, you’ll wish you could experience that “negative” at every show you go to.

It was literally so busy and so jammed packed with starving comic book fans, you could not leave your table – for anything! In two days, I left my table three times… once for our panel on Saturday morning and two trips to the men’s room – one on Saturday and one on Sunday. I think I must have inherited my dad’s truck driving bladder, to tell you the truth.
Thankfully, James Rowe – a friend who has gotten many a commission from me – was willing to help me out by grabbing me a pizza at the concession stand on Saturday. On Sunday, my wife made Dawn and I peanut butter and Jelly sandwiches that Dawn slyly hid in her purse as you weren’t supposed to bring food or drink into the event (but many people did).

But had it not been for a bunch of creators getting together for dinner after the show on Saturday, none of us would have talked to each other at all during the event as I had heard from many of my friends they were trapped at their tables drawing and selling consistently both days.

Like I said, I tend to try my best not to be a negative guy but I would gladly experience this kind of negativity at every show if it equals the amount of sales I ended up with. Who needs to talk to other artists anyways, right?

Below are some of the few photos I managed to take of various convention activities – including my best friend, Jeff, his wife and their two young girls (who, incidentally bought all of Dawn’s Abby’s books and can’t stop telling me how awesome they are).

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A Note Regarding Upcoming Podcasts….

Some of you may be wondering where our regularly-scheduled bi-weekly podcast is today. Due to the timeliness of this article, we opted to post it today, and move the podcast. Head back THIS FRIDAY for our latest Workshop Podcast! And in just 2 weeks, on May 8th, another Chat Podcast will go live, in which we discuss Awesome Con DC and other AWESOME comic con experiences! It’ll be a feel-good show, just in time for con season being in full swing! We hope if you have been pondering hitting a comic con to see what it’s all about and start networking, or if you want to exhibit and promote/sell your comics… that you seize the opportunity and make 2013 a landmark in your comic career! What are you waiting for?

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3 Comments

  1. I volunteered for Awesome con on a whim, if anyone remembers the large individual leading the wristban/line management that was me, and all I need to say is that the people who came to the con were awesome!
    So many nice people, the families warmed my heart to see, and everyone was pretty understanding with the lines and crowds.

    More than once I saw the con-goers helping out with some of the merchants picking up items that were dropped, and it looks like everyone had a great time.
    Cannot wait till next year, but I want to see this just expload with more people!

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