This was my second time at Wondercon, having regularly exhibiting San Diego Comic-con International since 2003, I'd been anxious to make it to the other show put on by the same folks, and last year I took the plunge. My wife and I had both previously been to San Francisco, but last year with my getting a small press space at the show, we thought it'd be a great opportunity to explore the city (in addition to my doing some Super Real business). We opted to drive down from Portland, an 11 hour drive south on Interstate 5, and stay downtown.
So, after exploring the city last year via cable car, taking in firsherman's warf, and driving the corkscrew streets, this year I went to the show myself, strictly for the con, and while 2 or more people driving may save some funds, one person is certainly cheaper, and a hell of a lot faster to fly.
I was to share hotel expenses with my friend Randy Kintz from Portland, but things didn't work out and I ended up completely solo. So instead of splitting the rate on the con hotel, The Argent (at $160 per night), I opted for a place called The Mosser, that appeared almost as close, but for only $50 a night if I took the base single with shared bath down the hall. Yes, no bathroom in the room, but when you're travelling for cons, you have to cut any expense you can. All the info on the web made the hotel look very nice, despite the price, so I took a chance.
I had a direct flight Friday AM of the show and arrived at SFO well ahead of schedule to blue skies and warm weather (same as last year). After making my way long distance to the baggage and figuring out the shuttle setup I found a shuttle (all major airports have shared-ride shuttle service to downtown/local attractions for a fraction of the price of a cab, with no prearrangement necessary), and then had to promptly wait 30 minutes for another passenger, any passenger, to show up. After that mild delay it was straight to the con hall.
I made it to Moscone Center South, the new location for the show around 9:30/10AM, with the con opening at noon, got checked right in and on to my artist alley space to set up shop. So everything went smooth.
Friday, it turns out, was my best day of the show, buoyed by an original art sale, and Saturday was the busiest day, with Sunday being my next best day in sales. Yes, the busiest day of the show was my worst (but still a good day). The con was much larger this year in terms of floor space, having moved to the new (actually older), much larger hall, and only occupying about half of that space. The show has plenty of room to grow. As for growth, attendance felt better this year, on top of what was already a solid show last year.
This time I exhibited in artist alley as opposed to getting a small press booth, and artist alley was a good size. Turns out my friend Jason Kruse whom I'd met at the infamous Las Vegas Comic Con a few years back, where he was my neighbor, was one aisle over, and we got to catch up and talk shop (check out his book THE WORLD OF QUEST and watch for a write up of it on TSL! soon). I had also planned to meet up with my friend Dave Dwonch from NPC Comics' SPECIAL EDucation at the show as well. I met Dave at last years show, and aside from being a nice guy, and talented up-and-coming creator, we're sharing some expenses at the upcoming Pittsburgh Comic Con.
Turns out I tagged along with Dave and his crew Saturday night... but I'm getting ahead of myself, back on Friday, I had yet to check into my hotel, until post show. Now, doing a few of these weekend con excursions, I've learned the hard way to be sure and double check the hotel BEFORE arrival and the day of check-in (common sense I know, but a simple thing I forgot at Wizard LA/Long Beach back in '05 which left me roomless). Any way, I'd confirmed the room Thursday night and let em know it'd be a late check in, so no worries upon leaving the show. In fact, it turned out The Mosser was much closer than I'd thought, only about 2 blocks from the con, and right across the street from the Marriott. It was a nice, older, boutique hotel, well appointed an all that. Soooooo, at the desk the clerk tries to upsell me to the private bath at an extra $20 a night... nope. But then she says, "Well, your room is on the 8th floor, and we have no elevator."
Yes, no elevator, or rather, the one they had didn't work.
But, I wasn't caving, "Cost cutting, cost cutting, it's all about cost cutting!" I told myself, and I hiked all 115 (give or take) stairs to my room, luggage in tow. Now to be fair, most of my luggage is con supplies, and at the hall, so it wasn't too bad, but that didn't stop me from sweatin to the oldies an stoppin along the way to catch my breath.
Yay! 3 more days of this!!
The room though was nice, and the bathroom was only 2 doors down, and everything was clean and good to go.
I'll be back to the Mosser next year (but hopefully they'll have a functioning elevator!)...
So, back to the show.
Though they pack them in well, and especially on Saturday (though Sunday was no slouch), and put on a good con, the crowds at Wondercon are very Comic-Con (as in SDCC)... that is to say, they may be bringing in more people to the show, but just like San Diego, it's a "mixed" crowd, made up of a majority of non-fandom.
While in the alley I had neighbors who were MIA on Friday but both showed up Saturday. Juston Dutta the exhibits manager moved one of them around the corner to the next aisle, so I got to split an open table with Adam and John Byrne (no, not THAT John Byrne) of THE STRANGE ADVENTURES OF H.P. LOVECRAFT. Adam is the co-artist/co-creator and John (again, not the famous/infamous comic creator) was his father. They were both nice, but I got a lot more chances to talk with John, who was great. Great neighbors, and the book, well Adam had previews (where he does the covers, colors, and letters) and it looks really good (do yourself a favor and check the link above and keep yours eyes open for it!).
I also got the chance to meet and talk with Stormcrow Hayes, the author/co-creator of Tokyopop's OEL manga AFTERLIFE. Afterlife was one of many OEL titles from TPop that I'd been anxious to check out, though like many of their titles, my shop missed getting me a copy. So, I was able to pick one up signed from Stormcrow (aka Sam... shhh don't tell), and read it on the flight home. It's a great, great work, and I'll be talking it up here soon too!
So, aside from meeting friends, making new ones, networking and the like, which on it's own makes the con a success, there's the best part, meeting fans, making new ones, and sketching and talking with people at the show! I did lots of sketches, sold art, tons of sketchbooks (the 2006 vol2 print run is going fast btw), and scores upon scores of books. It was a great show by every estimation, on every account.
One of the new fans I met at the show, Ted, was nice enough to scan the two sketches he had requested at the show for me to share...
As you can see, he came up with some unique outfits for a couple of the girls from Super Real!
I've been playing more with using markers for con sketches, and though they don't scan the greatest, I think they turn out pretty nice (but I've gotta keep improving of course).
Another sketch from the show that I can share is this one that was inked by my buddy Dave...
While it wasn't the best work from me, I think he did a great job finishing it up with inks, something I never do myself.
So, back to Dave and his friends, and Saturday night!
Dave and his friends were all local to the bay area, and we were going to just go across the street to the Chevy's bar, but someone suggested a restaurant where one of their friends was a cook that was close by.
Long story short, it was close, but not so much by foot, though only several blocks away, it was through some not so nice parts of town shall we say, at night, and once we eventually got there, it was a very fancy, small, Italian upscale eatery most of us were reluctant to enter in our full con gear etc., but enter we did.
After seating us at a bar just off the open kitchen, where their friend was working, we decided to get beers and cut out (as the menu was very pricey), only after informin the waitress of this, she still proceeded to pass out plates much to our confusion. It seemed they weren't taking no for an answer, that is until their friend in the kitchen started passing out free gourmet pizzas for us to try.
So, a couple beers and couple pizzas later, we were off back towards downtown for more beers.
However, while dining I'd mentioned, or asked about The Isotope Comic Lounge, legendary downtown San Francisco comic shop and bar (yes bar), and even though these guys were local comic-savvy soldiers, they'd not heard of the place! For those who haven't heard of it yet either, the Isotope is the creation of James Sime, a bartender turned shop owner, who stocks everything good in comics in an upscale boutique environment, with couches for reading, and even yes, drinking. Now, I'd heard all kinds of great things about the shop, and the events they put on, especially during Wondercon, so after a quick phone call to 411, we had confirmation of an Isotope event and directions, and off we went.
Another long story short, turns out the same friend who had fuzzy directions to the restaurant guided us to Isotope before leaving, unbenknownst to me, so as the now 3 of us made our way on foot, deeper and deeper into the late night shenanigans of the red light district, we pushed the panic button and hailed a cab.
Good thing too, we were still several blocks from the shop.
Anyway, I won't go into too many details, but the Isotope exists, it's as swanky as it sounds, and stocked with an amazingly diverse range of product, all for you to peruse as you imbibe the FREE, yes FREE, open bar spirits (that is for the event anyways).
We had a good time, and I wound up staying longer as they had to cut out to make it back to town in time to ride BART home.
If you're ever in San Francisco, be sure and check out the Isotope!
(Hopefully they'll have some picks up soon that I can later add in here...)
So, free dinner, free drinks, comic shops, and lots of comic talk... it was a good night!
Which brings me back to Sunday, the final day of the show...
Directly between my hotel and the convention hall is the big downtown attraction, The Metreon, a shopping mall anchored by Sony and featuring a large theater, and the San Francisco arm of the local Things From Another World comic shop chain.
Since my time was limited, I never got a chance to check that out, but I did cut through the mall block that AM and discovered a nice, large park in the middle of the block, with a large green space, great landscaping and unique architecture leading into the Moscone Center...
Definitely a nice thing to have across the street from a convention hall.
And I'd be remiss not to mention the fabulous California diner that is Mel's, which is a mere block away from the convention hall...
I must admit, having explored more of the immediate are around the con this time, Wondercon is hands down the best location I've been to to take in a con.
You have tons of hotel options, restaurants, bars, shops of every variety, and the amazing tourability San Francisco offers.
It's not only a great show, it's a great convention destination.
I'm very much looking forward to next year!
Please realize, as lengthy as this report was, it's a fraction of what transpired, and a big hello and thanks to everyone who I met and talked with, and other friends I got books from. I hope to share more items, or con swag, in the coming days and weeks (especially with 3 big shows to go in the next month)!
See you at the shows!