Last weekend, I was setup at the Emerald City Comic-Con, which ended up being a huge victory for the YI SOON SHIN Team and a very inspirational experience for me. But not for the reasons you may think.
Over the years, I have had many experiences at conventions and I’ll be honest, most of them are learned from our rapidly growing readership. I absolutely love interacting with and getting to know our audience. Everyone on the YI SOON SHIN Team values them more than anything because if it wasn’t for them, we’d be out of business!
When I started putting together my setup at Emerald City, a tall gentleman approached me. He had a deep, kind voice and he said to me, “I’m your neighbor and I just wanted to give you a warning that we’re going to have a lot of kids here this weekend selling books! We’re not here to get in your way.”
Like I said, I’ve had all kinds of experiences at conventions. I’ve had neighbors that have gone so far as to report me to show floor managers because they claimed that I blocked and stole sales from them, which is absolutely ridiculous!
If I ever did anything that stupid, I wouldn’t be selling comics period because customers would see that in my demeanor and would tell me to take my comics and shove them where the sun doesn’t shine!
I didn’t enter comics to make enemies with my fellow artists and creators. Though I hold no ill will towards the ones that see me as the enemy, I know that there is nothing I can do to get them to think otherwise, so I just let them deal with it however they like and avoid them whenever I can.
But when this gentleman graciously approached me the way he did, I couldn’t help but smile. We shook hands and I asked what his name was. Greg Hatcher. I looked at him and said, “Greg, we’re going to get along just fine!”
And we did! In fact, Greg pitched in and picked up a copy of the YI SOON SHIN graphic novel!
Throughout the weekend, Greg had middle school students from his comic book class come to the show and give away their work while taking in donations in order to pay off their table. And let me just say, that these kids had fire in their hearts and a hunger for victory! They were dreamers that were brave enough to get out there and show people what they were working on! And all of them were under the age of 20.
I go to a lot of shows. I see a lot of artists sitting at their tables frustrated and annoyed that they aren’t more appreciated. I get that. I really do. Honestly, there are points at every show where I get waves upon waves of rejections and want to smack people across the face with my books. But that doesn’t get anyone anywhere so whenever that happens, I simply sit down and find ways to put myself back into a positive frame of mind.
But whenever I had doubt this weekend, all I did was look to my right and got my second wind from these charming young folks! They worked together. Always smiling. Always having fun. Forget all the “he said, she said” crap! These kids were here to get their work into people’s hands.
In fact, one young man named Cal, was shouting over me all weekend and saying, “I’VE GOT THE BEST FREE COMICS YOU’LL EVER READ RIGHT HERE!” If he was just a little bit older, I would have hired him to be my sales director right then and there because guess what? People responded to him! People even donated money!
And not once did we get in each other’s way. In fact, Greg’s students even went out of their way to help me out. One young aspiring artist named Phung Lu, watched after my stuff when I had to step away from my table. On Sunday morning, she presented me with a wonderful sketch of Admiral Yi that I am now pleased and honored to share with all of you!
Watch out for this young lady, folks! She is going to be big some day!
That made me realize that if all conventions were like this, everyone would be doing more and selling better. If we helped and encouraged each other, we would all be more successful. Maybe I’m a bit of a hopeless romantic but I firmly believe that all Artist Alley’s could use a burst of positive energy!
Comics is a very personal business. It’s art. We’re all artists looking for ways to express ourselves through our hard work and we want everyone to see that without us having to explain why. If anyone had a right to be nervous or shy about exposing themselves, it was these kids and certainly not the artists who have been doing these shows for years on end!
I admired that my neighbors weren’t naïve enough to get sucked into all the negative vibes that tend to loom over artists setting up shop at conventions and they sure as heck weren’t looking at me as competition. They treated me like we should all treat each other–as friendly neighbors!
To me that was far more inspiring than selling every last copy of YI SOON SHIN.
I envy these young artists for having a mentor in Greg, which is something I never had growing up. I remember a teacher I had who taught a comic book drawing class at a community center program I signed up for at the age of 10. Aside from knowing next to nothing about comics, she was very discouraging when I showed more interest in writing than drawing. One time I brought comics to her class and she scolded me because we weren’t allowed to bring comics to a comic book drawing class. True story!
When I was in school, everyone was always trying to convince me to get out of comics and to stop reading them completely. “Start taking life seriously!” I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard that throughout my life.
No matter what you do in life, you need to take your work and yourself seriously. This is especially true if you want to work in comics and make a decent living from it.
One of the coolest moments this weekend took place on Sunday morning before the show room floor opened. Greg was sitting with Phung and flipping through a classic comic while telling her about some of his inspirations in the industry.
She listened so intently and with such curiosity that it made me think about my great mentors, Mort Castle and Len Strazewski–two very encouraging individuals that I met only two years AFTER I had graduated from college. Both of them steered me on the right path. Many people have helped me throughout my life but if it wasn’t for Mort and Len, I wouldn’t be where I am today.
Greg provides a genuine starting ground for his students and this weekend he not only showed them what working in comics is all about but he also showed them the kind of attitude that it takes to succeed. That kind of education is priceless and worth more than he’s probably getting paid to teach it.
A positive, go-getter attitude goes hand in hand with all the necessary tools for developing your creative ability. Because at the end of the day, doing good work just isn’t good enough! You need to get out there and inspire people! Selling isn’t about screwing people by taking their money! You are providing a service by showing them that your work has value! It’s just that simple.
I was very moved by Greg and his students and I would like to thank all of them for encouraging me to set my sights higher! I will always think of them when I’m at shows and dealing with adversity and I hope you will too!