Newsletter #27: Unconventional Conventions

A primer to handling conventions from a seasoned vet


Hey guys, it's Scott.

And I just want to apologize for the lateness with this newsletter. I wanted to do a quick thing about conventions because today is New York Comic Con. Yesterday it started, but today is my first day there. And it's the first convention I'm going to since the pandemic, so, almost two years. And it got me thinking a lot about some advice that I've gotten over the years about conventions and taken to heart and things that I've learned and mistakes that I've made. And I wanted to just give you like a little primer on conventions, because you're all aspiring pros, right?

So, first of all, conventions, I always think of them as workplaces. One of the mistakes I made when I was coming in and I think a lot of it had to do with the anxiety I felt, being on books that I thought I didn't deserve, like Detective Comics, and then Batman, was that I didn't respect the fact that it was one big workplace, that everybody in the industry is aware of what's happening at the con is there at the con, sees reports about the con, gets gossip about the con. And so, I just didn't care. I would spoil too much on panels and I would talk to loudly about plans that we had on books and I would get into arguments with my bosses over decisions that had been made on things.

And I remember the culmination of it was sometime in I think 2012, so it was almost 10 years ago now, but it was early early in my career and I was at New York Comic Con and I was really stressed out because I just wasn't handling the pressure well of Batman and all of that. I loved the book and I loved working on it with Greg and I was super proud of it, but emotionally and psychologically it was causing me a lot of anxiety where I would wake up you know multiple times the middle of the night and just feel like I wasn't good enough for it, and the voice in my head was just round and round around, “oh, you're gonna write that sentence? That's terrible, are you going to try and fix it? Oh, that's even worse…” I'd have panic attacks, the whole thing, but just pushed through it and all that. And I was doing my best to kind of soldier on and all that stuff.

And I was at the con and Dan DiDio had made a couple of decisions about the release schedule that we had argued about beforehand. And he had agreed on a couple things that then he'd gone back on. And it wasn't like some huge deal, it was just one of those logistical things that is always upsetting, but isn't malicious or anything like that. And I went to the DC party, and I remember they had all these drinks and they were named after different books at the time. They had an American Vampire one and The Wake and Batman and whatever, and I was like, “I have to have a drink of all the series I'm on!” And then I started arguing with Dan about this stupid scheduling thing or whatever. And I got too loud and we were going back and forth and everybody in the company was there. It was a party, so people were milling about, and it kind of culminated with me being like, “you know what? Fine, forget it. We’ll talk about this another time, I'm leaving!” I was being a brat or kind of an asshole at the time.

Again, I think part of me was always looking to get fired by him in some way because the pressure was so much, but I went across town with my friends and we went to the Marvel party, and it was like maybe 10 blocks away. We just walked over, it took maybe 20 minutes. And by the time we got to the Marvel party, we walked in and everybody started saying to me, “did you get into a physical fight with Dan DiDio??” And I was like, “what are you talking about? What, do you think I hit the boss?” And the rumor had traveled that fast and was all over the party, that I had gotten into a real fight, like a fight fight with Dan.

And I remember it was actually a Marvel editor, Tom Brevoort the next day and Janine Schaefer who reached out and were like, “listen, you gotta chill out. You have to be more careful at these conventions and watch yourself.” And I really turned a corner. I mean, I've certainly had my moments since, but overall I've tried really hard to do what I'm telling you guys to do, which is to always think of it as a work party. If you want to break into the industry, if you're part of the industry, just think of it as an office, because it is. And people are looking for partners to work with, people are looking for people to hire, people are just looking for good members of community in different ways. So yeah, just keep it in mind, that's like the number one rule for me.

The second thing is, when you go to a con, try and take some time to enjoy yourself, Whatever it is that you're there to do, certainly make that a priority if that's to meet an editor, show your work, that kind of thing. But also, try have some fun. For me, that boils down to, if I'm at a convention anywhere in the world, whether it's in New York City or overseas, I try and take some time to get away from the con with friends. So if we're somewhere I haven't been a lot, or I've never been to, I always take some time to explore the area, get out of there, go to a restaurant, go for a hike, do something. Because just trying to go with friends and get away from the claustrophobic environment of a convention, it's great.

The third thing I'd say, other than try and enjoy yourself a little bit, is don't be afraid to push your work. This is something I'm going to return to a lot over the course of the semester. But I take some heat from friends now and then for being shameless in my promotion of my books, like I'll happily be a juggling bear on a unicycle for Metal or for Death Metal, and especially now for my own stuff. When they they said they wanted to name the initiative at comiXology Scottober, part of me was like, “oh, man, that's so shameless. I mean, come on, Scottober?”But you know what? If I love the books so much, and if that's going to get attention for it, great, let's do it. I'll be the clown for the books in that way.

So, what I'd say is that with conventions, don't go crazy and overdo it, but don't be afraid to promote yourself, to be there and talk to people about what you're working on. If you have a table and you're tabling, 100% be there as much as you can, or go over to the booths in the pavilions for different publishers and say, “hey, I have a booth over here, this is what I made.” The one thing is, it's great to go out and press the flesh and meet people and say you're a writer and you're working on stuff—the real thing they're looking for are your comics. So, once you have something to show them, whether digitally or in print, show it. If you self-published it, if you have half of it, if you're really proud of your stuff, don't be afraid to talk to them. They're always looking for talent, but have something to show. If you really want to go beyond just introductions and stuff.

Also, here’s a caveat. If you're going to go up to editors and creators at a con, they’re always going to be really friendly. They want to meet you, I love meeting fans, I miss it tremendously over the last couple years. I'm happy, I'm excited to see that you want to be in comics as well. But also try and go to people who you were really inspired by, who you really think might respond to your work. A lot of the time on Twitter I'll get a tweet from someone that's like, “hey, will you promote my comic I just did? Or will you retweet it?” And I'll look and they've sent it to like every creator in the industry, and with no differentiation, and all I'm saying is to do your homework. Go up to an editor who's done stuff that you can speak to. If you're going to go up to an editor, say “listen, I loved these books that you did and my work is like those.” Or go up to a creator and be like, “I loved this thing that you did and it inspired me to think about some of my own stuff like this,” or whatever the truth is. Just do your homework and it will go a long way.

And lastly, I’d just say to have fun at the con itself. I said to go out and try to get away from it a little bit, explore and have fun that way, wherever you are, but try hard to just meet people in an organic way. Hang out in artist alley, go up to someone's table, say that you love their work. Look around, see who is inspiring you, find new talent, find people who you’re gonna gel with. You might never work with them, it doesn't matter, it's just finding other people who are passionate about the same thing you are. You're there, you're part of the community, and you guys are writers. All you have to do is start writing to be a writer in my opinion. You can call yourself a writer. So, the whole fun is getting to enjoy being a part of this great, vibrant, diverse passionate, community that is comics. Feel it when you're there, you are a part of it. That’s the fun, that's what I miss the most about cons—that energy of feeling like we all love comics, we're all there. There’s some creator, some fans, some retailers, sure, but we're all there on the same carpet promoting and loving and celebrating this art form. So, go enjoy!

If you're at New York Comic Con, please come up and say hello, I'll mostly be at the comiXology booth Friday. I will be signing at my booth (O-20) in Artist Alley from 3:00-4:00pm EST. For that one, you get a ticket. That means you buy something at the booth, anything from a single comic to a book, they'll give you a ticket, and then you just come back with your ticket at the time of the signing. They're going to only give away about 100 to 150 of those tickets, though. So, you want to go real early in the morning and buy something right when the con opens, because they'll sell out fast. The other signing is at comiXology right after, at the comiXology booth. I think it's 4:30 to 6:00. The point is, if you're going to go to that signing, that one is totally free. You don't need a ticket, but you should go real early, like, go at least an hour before, because they're going to open the line and when it gets to about 200 people, They’re gonna cut it, and I’m sorry to say it's probably going to fill quickly.

I'm not trying to say, “oh, I'm so popular.” It's literally just one of those things where I haven't done signings in a couple years. Capullo is with me, it's gonna be awesome, and we didn't sign at all for Death Metal because it was COVID. There's a lot of backlog, a lot of people have a lot of books that they want us to sign. So, make a beeline for that early, an hour, hour and a half if you want to do that one. And we have free giveaways. We have posters for signing, we have pins for signing, the booth looks awesome. It's all our books and Amazon and comiXology been incredible about promoting it. There's like a billboard outside that has a movie of our stuff. So, I can't believe it. It's definitely a highlight of my whole career, and I just want to say thank you. I'm really excited to meet you guys, and come up and say if you’re in the class or an aspiring writer or anything at all.

I'm there to connect with you. So, come by!