Dragon Con 2021 – Review Part 2

After taking Saturday to go hang with family (and watch the Georgia Tech Football game that I’m still not sure how they lost… or actually, I know exactly where they lost, I just still can’t believe it), we ventured back down to Dragon Con on Sunday for what would be our last day.

Actually, before I go into Sunday, I wanted to say that this year’s Dragon Con felt like being in a time machine about 10 years earlier. With a self-imposed attendance cap (and what ended up at an estimated 42,000 people), I just looked on Wiki and it has 2011’s attendance at 46,000, so the 10 years feel was right on. Regardless, in this last decade, the convention has expanded to other hotels and America’s Mart because, well, it had to. And this will sound both stupid and obvious, but the difference of having 85,000 people and 42,000 people spread over the same area meant that this year you could breathe (ironic as we were all wearing masks). The Dealer’s room wasn’t so full that it was bursting at the seams. You could actually take a minute and look around and not worry about being in the way. The lines for the panels we chose were of normal length and didn’t have any problems getting seats.

I really hope that they don’t try to jump back to that 85,000 number next year. I know the money is better that way, but the experience was so much better this way.

In addition, all the other guests really stuck to wearing their masks in the hotels. I think I only saw 2 people not wearing them (the old “chin-diaper” look). I know it helped put us at ease that this wasn’t going to end up as some super-spreader event.

Anyway, we managed to get into the Zachary Levi panel. We’d done it in 2019 before we’d even seen Shazam (since we knew him from Chuck mostly) and were blown away by his frankness in dealing with mental issues, his frankness about his roles, and just how personable he’d come off. This time was no different as he still managed to mix in some cool anecdotes and made us laugh while still not shying away from the harder questions about his upbringing.

After that, we went to see Harvey Guillen (Guillermo) from What We Do In the Shadows. While I only know him from the aforementioned TV Show, there were plenty of questions about some of his other roles. Probably the biggest takeaway for me was just this idea of something always happens for a reason (or if you’re meant to do something, the universe will find a way). He had a couple of roles that seemed to work out just perfectly… apparently, even his audition for Shadows was one where he only got the shot because he showed up to a friend’s party and met someone whose boyfriend (husband?) worked for the show. The actual role of Guillermo was supposed to be a 40-something-year-old man (Harvey isn’t 40), but they humored him and gave him the shot. Then he said he’d blacked out in the process of doing it… just had no memory of it at all. Time went on and he’d heard nothing, so he figured that was it. And at the last minute, he received the call that not only did he get the job but it was starting that next week.

Finally, we decided the Smallville panel had been a ton of fun, but we were bummed we hadn’t seen Michael Rosenbaum (Lex Luthor). However, all four of them were there for this panel… and we got to see Michael in action. He was all over the room, answering questions (even those not meant for him), getting everyone to sing along with the theme song, and just generally someone who I could tell from this panel and the previous one would have been hilarious to have on set with you (the never a dull moment type of guy).

When it was done we had another panel on the list and some years we will do the Masquerade, but the previous two days had begun to wear on Courtney (and me as well) and AEW was having their Pay Per View at 8 that evening, so we opted to head out.

***

With so much trepidation in the weeks leading up to this event due to the Delta Variant, I am so happy we decided to go. Here’s to another one in the books and looking forward to next year!

***

John McGuire is the writer of the sci-fi novel: The Echo Effect.

He is also the creator/author of the steampunk comic The Gilded Age. If you would like to purchase a copy, go here!

Click here to join John’s mailing list and receive preview chapters of upcoming novels, behind the scenes looks at new comics, and free short stories.

His other prose appears in The Dark That Follows, Hollow Empire, Tales from Vigilante City, Beyond the Gate, and Machina Obscurum – A Collection of Small Shadows.

He can also be found at www.johnrmcguire.com

 

Dragon Con 2021 – Review

It was, as they say, a game-time decision. After the cancelation last year, our 2020 passes were rolled over to 2021. There was definitely a large part of me who kinda hoped they might do the same again, but we live in Georgia, and Georgia is going to Georgia to be sure. With the numbers from the Delta at the top of mind, my wife and I weren’t exactly sure whether we were going to go or not this past weekend. Given that we are both vaxed, I was less concerned, but still, when you are going to be hanging out with 40,000 of your friends in a relatively small area for the weekend… well…

So we made the decision to go, at least on Friday. I figured that if it was half the s-show that I thought it might be, we could always bolt. If things were alright then we would end up coming back on Sunday (Saturday the in-laws were in town).

The doubts began creeping in when a few of my friends went down on Thursday night to pick up their badges and reported waiting in line for nearly two hours. As many years as I have been going, the ticket line has been the most hit-or-miss thing with the whole con. I remember some years where 2 hours was considered a short wait time. Then a handful of years ago something changed and the process seemed like it had sped up. To hear about the back-slide was disturbing to say the least.

I would like to say, after having been to Gen Con, I really wish Dragon Con would step up and mail you your badge. Gen Con charges an extra $10 for the process and it is the best money I’ve ever spent.

FRIDAY

We tried to give ourselves about 75 minutes to get through the line and still make our first panel at 11:30. I dropped Courtney off at the Sheraton and then went to park the car…

And found out she’d already gone through the line. 5 minutes. No problems. It was the same with me. I’m not sure if everyone came on Thursday or maybe they didn’t have the volunteers or what changed in the preceding 12 hours, but I was overjoyed!

Our first panel was with the Smallville cast. Courtney and I watched Smallville through about season 4 or 5 when I believe we fell behind in our viewing and the DVR ate the intervening episodes (and I kind of, sort of, but really didn’t, write an episode for the show). It’s always been one of those shows I would have liked to go back and finish out (and after this panel Courtney mentioned possibly doing that after we finish our Chuck rewatch). Still, it was great to see Tom Welling (Clark Kent), Laura Vandervoot (Supergirl), and Sam Witwer (Doomsday) talk about the show with such a fondness. I hadn’t realized it had been 20 years since the show debuted.

They talked about stunts gone awry (Laura passing out in the harness which they use to have them fly). Sam having appendicitis in the midst of a shoot and no one realizing it until late in the evening. And the fact that Tom had it in his contract that he wasn’t going to put on the suit. I’d always thought it was an executive decision for that not to have happened before the very end of the show, but Tom talked about how very early on (Season 2) they started talking about it. He put an end to that as he wanted the show to be about Clark’s journey prior to him being Superman. And once he’s in the suit, that’s really the end of the show.

It was such a good panel, the only bad thing was that Michael Rosenbaum (Lex Luthor) wasn’t going to be there until Saturday… which meant we might need to check it out later in the weekend to see what wackiness he might bring.

At this point we decided to hop over to the Exhibit Hall for the 4 floors of artists, dealers, cosplaying, clothing, comics, and just about anything else you can think of. We made our way through. Learning from 2019, we resolved to go through the entire thing on Friday as we knew it would be our only real chance to do so. Courtney bought some jewelry, a trio of shirts from the folks that make the Unstable Unicorns game. I ended up browsing through hundreds of $5 graphic novels only to end up with a pair of them. And even though I rarely get to play live other than conventions, I bought a new Flash dice bag for the impending Origins Convention. Finally, we bought a nice piece of artwork, a bit of a cutout of Buttercup and Westley from The Princess Bride surrounded by “As You Wish”.

Of course, by the time we’d gone through all of that, it was dinner time and we’d missed the two or three panels in the early afternoon. After dinner, Courtney and I split up… she went off to a Lucifer panel and I went to a pair of writing panels (one on Indy Writer secrets and the other on controversies in writing). The first was interesting, though the biggest thing for me coming out of it was more about using these types of panels as motivation. One of the panelists said something that really stuck out (James A Hunter): your best marketing is your next book. He’d written 35 books in the last 6-7 years with the thought that if you are prolific enough (and are writing decent enough stories) the odds of something hitting are only going to be increased. You take 35 shots and surely something is going to go in.

Now, I doubt with the day job being a necessary thing to put food on the table and a roof over my head I’d ever be able to have that much product in such a short amount of time. But, I also realize that putting out a book every 4 years isn’t going to get me where I want to go either. Sometimes it is hard to see where the road might be on this writing journey. These panels are like little check-ins for my psyche. I know I need to be a bit more diligent with all of it.

We ended our day with a comedy show. We’d done it once before and both really liked dipping our toes into some of the later nightlife which is the biggest part of the con to elude us. A bunch of laughs later, and it was time to head home so that we could go spend the day with family before returning on Sunday.

***

Next week find out what happens when you see the “same” panel twice but with a new panelist.

***

John McGuire is the writer of the sci-fi novel: The Echo Effect.

He is also the creator/author of the steampunk comic The Gilded Age. If you would like to purchase a copy, go here!

Click here to join John’s mailing list and receive preview chapters of upcoming novels, behind the scenes looks at new comics, and free short stories.

His other prose appears in The Dark That Follows, Hollow Empire, Tales from Vigilante City, Beyond the Gate, and Machina Obscurum – A Collection of Small Shadows.

He can also be found at www.johnrmcguire.com

Bracketology

Image by Jeff Jacobs from Pixabay

Little teams facing off against Goliaths. The blue bloods going against the mid-levels. The unknowns hitting their last-second shot. The upsets.

That’s exactly what indy comics feels like.

It feels like you are the unknown quantity and you know that you just need one chance in order to prove that you belong. But the thing is, during the regular season those big dogs never want anything to do with you. They don’t want to schedule games against you. Heck, they wouldn’t know where to go if they did. So you have to struggle and scratch and claw alongside others of your ilk. You’ve got to put in the work the same as if you were playing in the big arenas across the country.

You’ve got to create for yourself because no one else in the big leagues is going to be of much help to you.

Those dark hours you spend in front of the computer, all those loose scraps of paper with little bits of genius on them, the whiteboard where you’ve mapped 60 issues of your storyline out, and everything else you do to keep those ideas alive. Trying your best to wrap your head around the plots and put them in a coherent format so that an artist can bring your vision to life. The Fear has to take a back seat during those moments when you are creating.

 

But in the tournament it’s different. You finally get your chance to show off your skills and your stories to an even bigger audience. They can’t ignore you completely anymore. They can’t outright dismiss you, even if they would like to.

But here’s where the analogy fails. You see, while those little schools are all competing for the handful of slots just to get on the big stage, it doesn’t have to be like that for the independents. We don’t have to be competition for each other. Instead, we can be another ship in the fleet, raising the sails of anyone and everyone we can.

Hopefully, as the world begins to return to something that might resemble “normal” (though that word feels like it will always have an asterisk beside it, much like we say pre-911, I see us saying pre-Covid19), we’re going to start venturing out to the comic book conventions. You’re going to walk down those aisles where the big creators are, and that’s great. I love doing that as well, but I would say that maybe, just maybe, you take a venture down to where the indy creators are. Take your time down there. Those guys and gals have poured their free time into those books. Each one might not appeal to you, but I’m willing to bet that there are a few in there which will feel like they were made just for you.

This might be the closest thing to the Big Dance many of us are ever going to get to (and that’s ok). Not everyone is trying to work at Marvel or DC. Many creators just want to be able to put their vision of the world out there in some form or fashion. They are hoping that a handful (well, maybe more than a handful) of people are going to give them a chance. That they are going to stop and look. Pick up a comic and flip through it. To have those conversations where you can hear the excitement in their voice while they pitch you their stories.

It’s not always about the big splashy moments. Sometimes it can be about the little ones. A reader and a creator connecting with their mutual love of the form.

***

John McGuire is the writer of the sci-fi novel: The Echo Effect.

He is also the creator/author of the steampunk comic The Gilded Age. If you would like to purchase a copy, go here!

Click here to join John’s mailing list and receive preview chapters of upcoming novels, behind the scenes looks at new comics, and free short stories.

His other prose appears in The Dark That Follows, Hollow Empire, Tales from Vigilante City, Beyond the Gate, and Machina Obscurum – A Collection of Small Shadows.

He can also be found at www.johnrmcguire.com

 

The Atlanta Science Fiction and Fantasy Expo – A Review

As I wrote last week, I had a table at the 5th annual ASFE this past weekend.

Most conventions have some kind of fee to gain access to the creators and products within. I remember many years ago discovering that these smaller conventions even existed (this is pre-internet, where it felt like to find anything out about anything took rumour and innuendo and all sorts of luck). And while that one wasn’t all that big and could be walked through in less than an hour, it was cool to be able to interact a little bit with the creators.

I’ve always thought that the ASFE was a little like that except it was completely free.

Obviously, given its location in a mall in the northeast Atlanta metro area, the hope is that people who are going to see the latest Marvel movie decide to swing by the Expo and see what all the commotion is about. What this really means is that you get an interesting cross-section of people who wander through the area. There are obviously the people who know about the Expo and have come to check it out or they know one of the independent creators are going to be there with their wares. You have some people who like to support the local artists. Then you have the people who are completely unaware an event might be going on, but then are almost forced to walk through the area and hopefully, something catches their eye.

Having been there for the first one and pretty much all the other ones in between, it’s been an interesting process to watch. While there certainly has been table growth since the early days, it is more about the other stuff surrounding it where I see the greatest growth. The number of panels over the two days has increased probably ten-fold.

One of the products decorating my table space.

As to the actual interactions with the public, obviously, I am there to get my products in people’s hands. I came with copies of The Gilded Age Graphic Novel, The Gilded Age COloring Book, The Dark That Follows and Hollow Empire novels. And like any convention, you have an uphill battle in trying to convince them to purchase your wares. Of course, with some people, those who want to support the local artists, it really becomes a matter of making sure they don’t walk away empty handed.

Personally, I think I have a decent enough pitch for my stuff, but I’m sure, like everything else, it could use some refinement as well!

And, no convention would be a good one without the ability to see old friends. So many people over the last decade-plus that I’ve gotten to know through the old Terminus meetings or at these smaller conventions or those friends who always come out to support me. It is appreciated beyond what you know!

So that closes out another year of the Expo. See you next time!

***

John McGuire is the creator/author of the steampunk comic The Gilded Age. The Trade paperback collecting the first 4 issues is finally back from the printers! If you would like to purchase a copy, go here!

Want to read the first issue for free? Click here! Already read it and eager for more?

Click here to join John’s mailing list.

His other prose appears in The Dark That Follows, Hollow EmpireBeyond the Gate, and Machina Obscurum – A Collection of Small Shadows.

He can also be found at www.johnrmcguire.com

Con Life: On the Road Again

February has come and nearly gone! Almost every day this month has been filled with convention preparation and art making. That’s typical for February. Besides ChattaCon in January, March is when the convention season really begins to ramp up all over the country. Unlike last year, I have two conventions coming up, back to back! I’m currently prepping canvas prints and originals in my actual studio. In my extended studio, I’m working on the display for behind my table, bagging and boarding prints, and boxing up playmats, books and other merch.

My display and inventory has tripled in size over the last three years. That means I’m bringing more to each show, but it also means I’m less worried about not having enough inventory. I will have a dealer table at my next three events. It’s going to be a busy spring!

Vendor Tips

Here are a few of my vending tips for artists.

  1. Have a bottle of water handy – When you’re talking to attendees all day long your throat will get dry. It’s not uncommon for artists to lose their voice after a long a weekend.
  2. Bring a backup battery – For your phone or tablet. Chances are you’ll be using one of these to run credit cards sales.
  3. Be prepared for anything – That might be easier said than done, but do it. Example: You’re vending at a smaller event. You might be thinking, I don’t need to bring as much inventory to this convention, do I? I don’t really need to bring my big display, do I? I say, whatever the size of the event, you should always be at your best and you never know–that small event could be your best show of the month.
  4. Bring pens for signing stuff – Sometimes it’s the little things that are the easiest to forget!
  5. Stock your own kitchen – I usually bring food for breakfast, snacks if I don’t have time for lunch, extra coffee for the room, etc. You save a money this way if you’re only going out to eat once a day.

Convention Schedule

March

March 9th and 10th – Atlanta SciFi & Fantasy Expo – Decatur, GA

March 15th-17th – MidSouthCon 37 – Memphis, TN

April

April 26th – 28th – JordanCon – Atlanta, GA

Convention Updates

LibertyCon ran into a serious issue with their hotel. They’ve had to not only change hotels for this year’s convention, but also change dates. The con will now be held June 28-30th at the Marriott and Chattanooga Convention Center.

I’ll return with an update in late March!

The Truths About Comic Conventions

This past weekend I spent time holding down one half of a table at the Atlanta Science Fiction and Fantasy Expo.

Conventions are a strange thing. I can’t claim to have done the rounds as much as some of the other people I run into at cons, but at this point, I’ve parked myself at many different tables over the years. You never know quite what to expect, who may be interested in your products or who might just stop by and chat. There are a few things that always occur at conventions… without fail.

As soon as you step away from your table someone will come up wanting to buy one of your comics/novels.

It never fails. You are starving or your bladder is full, so you step away for a few minutes and when you come back the person who graciously watched your table for you says, “Hey, a person came up wanting to buy X thing, but I didn’t know the price so they said they’d come back later.”

You always have more product on hand than anyone could reasonably expect to sell in one day.

If it was possible, I’d try to take every single item I had in my possession into the con… “just in case”. When really, I should have about half that number in my cart/bag/arms and leave the rest in the car. There’s no reason I couldn’t run back out to the car to get the thing that’s suddenly selling out (unless I’ve parked 10 miles from the con, I suppose then you’d want to carry it all inside).

Your pitch probably sucks, but everyone around you has it all figured out.

You stumble or stammer over your pitch to a potential fan and when they leave you are absolutely sure it was because you hadn’t done the correct job in “selling” them on the product. And that may very well be true, but if you listen to the people around you… the words flow like honey past their lips. They are smart and you are dumb. And so on and so on.

That one guy/gal who is just doing gangbusters and you cannot figure out why.

Maybe they have a particular art style. Maybe they have been doing the circuit long enough to gain fans who come to really see what new thing they’ve developed. Maybe they are popular and you’re just out of touch. No matter the reason, they will have the line of people while you are staring at nothing.

There will be times that you miss out on a sale because that one person has decided you are their new best friend!

Some people come to cons to see the costumes, some come to buy toys, some come for the artists, and some come just to talk. Those people are both a blessing and a curse. The blessing is that you get to really engage with someone you might never have the opportunity to in any other setting. Plus it might mean the day just flies by instead of dragging minute by minute. But it comes at a cost, the longer you talk to the one person, the less able you are to talk to the next person who walks up to check out your stuff.

Those people almost never seem to actually buy a comic.

Nuff said.

***

John McGuire is the creator/author of the steampunk comic The Gilded Age. Want to read the first issue for free? Click here! Already read it and eager for more?

Click here to join John’s mailing list.

His prose appears in The Dark That FollowsTheft & TherapyThere’s Something About MacHollow EmpireBeyond the Gate, and Machina Obscurum – A Collection of Small Shadows.

He can also be found at www.johnrmcguire.com

March 3-4 – The Atlanta Science Fiction and Fantasy Expo

This weekend I will be manning a table at the annual Atlanta Science Fiction and Fantasy Expo.

Here’s the thing that makes this event so cool – it’s FREE to attend. Located inside North Dekalb Mall, you can wander in, walk through the tables and check out the various wares people are selling. Tons of creative types from artists to writers to cosplayers to comic creators and a bunch of other things I’m certainly forgetting about.

Check out the website to see all who is going to be there, and if you are around Noon on Saturday, stop by the Kickstarter Panel I’m a part of and say hey! Sadly, the Gilded Age is still being printed overseas, but I’ll have copies of my novels and possibly some other goodies… plus there will be plenty of other things for you to check out!

***

John McGuire is the creator/author of the steampunk comic The Gilded Age. Want to read the first issue for free? Click here! Already read it and eager for more?

Click here to join John’s mailing list.

His prose appears in The Dark That FollowsTheft & TherapyThere’s Something About MacHollow EmpireBeyond the Gate, and Machina Obscurum – A Collection of Small Shadows.

He can also be found at www.johnrmcguire.com

A little something happened on the way to the Convention

This week’s blog was going to be a convention report on Anachrocon, the steampunk con I went to over the weekend. The same con where I was to sit in as a speaker on my first panels ever. I could talk about how the panels went (really well, I actually got invited to sit in on another one, but had to decline due to day job commitments). Or talk about the people I met and talked to. Or even about the other guys and gals on the panels I sat in on.

Yes, it was all planned out and would be the easiest blog post of all time. The words would flow like… well like wine or water or soda or whatever you might drink.

Then this happened…

window smashed

 

Apparently a book bag sitting in the back seat is too much of an inviting target for some people… though they left the comic box also sitting back there. I was annoyed, mostly because I felt put out because my day at the con was now over. Suddenly I get to deal with some real world problems as opposed to trying to have conversations with people. However, what they got was a couple of comics, a Square card reader, some pens for signing comics, and some laptop power cords (though the laptop was not inside the book bag). As I thought about it more it seemed that the bag probably was worth more than anything within it.

Today it occurred to me that there was one other item in the bag which I had forgotten about. There would be no reason to contact the officer to add this thing to the police report, but it is priceless to me.

I had placed my notebook in the bag before I left the house.

My notebook that I use to jot down any number of wild and crazy ideas. The notebook that houses many a random line of dialogue that I might overhear as I got about my life. When inspiration strikes, it gets written down in that notebook.

And it is gone.

On Sunday, while I was talking on one of the panels, a question arose from the crowd asking about ideas and what you do with them, how do you ensure that you don’t forget that random idea at either 3 in the morning or 1 in the afternoon. I talked about writing it on scratch paper and then compiling all of them at the end of the week.

messy-desk_final

This is a what my wife has to deal with taking over the desk every week.

But I also mentioned the notebook. I never know when a moment of inspiration might strike me. Half the time I hear some scenario on the radio and I take it one step further and suddenly an idea appears. And I have to write them down. Far too many of those moments get lost in the Ether way too much during the course of a day. And while I didn’t have the notebook with me at all times, it traveled with me just enough to get some decent stuff.

Luckily I tend to be one of those people who constantly hits the save button, and the best way to do this with those scraps of paper is to put it into the notebook or type it into the computer. So probably about 1/2 of the notebook exists on my computer in half-finished ideas.

But there are still some of them that are now lost forever.

Now I’m saying that any of them are Steven King/ JK Rowling ideas which will cause me to start a book empire, but there are things in there that my brain came up with… no one else could have invented those words in just that way. And you/me/whomever never knows exactly what might or might not work. Maybe some of them need a little more seasoning.

But they are mine, and now…

Gone. Lost.

 

400px-Lost_main_title.svg

Not this type of Lost.

I wish I had some kind of nice ribbon to put on top of this story, and maybe one day someone will return it to me (I believe it has my address/email/phone number inside it). I’m not holding my breath exactly, but I will hope a little bit for that day where I’ll hold it in my hands like I’m Indiana Jones just before the Rock Trap is triggered. My fingers will tingle and I’ll be able to, for a moment at least, travel backwards in time to see what a younger version of me wrote down.

And say “This guy can’t even write!” 🙂

Hey, a guy can dream.

 

John McGuire is at Atlanta’s Anachrocon This Weekend!

This weekend (Saturday and Sunday) I will be at Anachrocon in Atlanta, Georgia. While I’m still unsure whether I’ll have a table, in theory I will be participating in a couple of panels talking about collaborating with artists in order to make a comic book (that should be on Sunday, though I am not sure of the time).

GildedAge_Front Cover-tessera

Regardless, if you are at the con, come find me and we’ll chat about all sorts of things I’m sure. And if you are trying to find me you can always hunt me down @JohnR_McGuire on Twitter.

Hope to see you there.

John McGuire