How can I begin to tell about the awesome time I had at Comic-Con International, the biggest comic convention in America? I was on the wait list for an Artist Alley table, and my main goal was to enhance my career. I got all my merchandise ready, and felt that even if I didn't get a table, I could still benefit greatly from the portfolio reviews and informative creator panels. It was a bit of a risk - the plane ticket was pricey all the way from NYC, but I got to stay with my sister and brother-in-law :) The risk was totally worth it, as I ended up getting a table half-way through the convention!
At other conventions, I don't really get to walk around and fully enjoy the fun due to working at my table, but this time I got to do BOTH! My favorite thing to see was the life-sized recreation of the town of South Park, complete with some of the most popular scenes. Neil DeGrasse Tyson sponsored a virtual reality section too.
Did you know that at SDCC, there is a whole section for folio reviews? Other conventions I've been to don't have this. I researched the listed companies and what they were looking for, and the week before, I got together 3 folios: storyboarding, comic, and coloring. These were reviewed by people from Nickelodeon, Disney, and comic companies like Action Lab and Arch Enemy. I did this all Thursday, because I knew it would just get crazier with each passing day so I had a better chance of being chosen. If the list is too long, no luck - I didn't get in for Cartoon Network which was only on Friday. I actually went to SDCC a decade ago and just had a student folio. I noticed a considerable difference in the response to my work now that I have years of professional experience in the comics industry! I think artists at any stage in life can benefit from these reviews - people pointed out things in my work I'd never thought of before. Many cards were exchanged... we'll see what happens!
Most of Friday I sat in on a bunch of panels. I was amazed at how many wonderful creator-themed topics SDCC had! Everything from industry pros telling their career stories to cool Photoshop techniques and more! My top 3 were: 1. Artist as Brand: Rise of the Artist Entrepreneur, where indie creators talked about the struggles and rewards of business stuff and owning their creations. 2. Creating Comics with the iPad- I had no idea of the incredible advances in technology and freedom artists can have on-the-go. 3. Cartoon Creatives: Women Power in Animation- since I'm considering getting more into the storyboarding world, it was great to see many strong women with major roles in the industry!
I've gotta say, New York Comic Con has been lacking in creator-themed panels in the past few years, probably due to a "fans first" policy. But before I began tabling at NYCC, I remember they used to have more good artist panels. Last year I didn't find many good NYCC panels to blog about that I'd be interested in as a creator (if I had time to go) - they focused on celebrities and fan themes. By the way, SDCC "pro passes" are still FREE, whereas NYCCs pro passes keep going up in $ each year. Overall, I feel that San Diego CC respects, appreciates, and represents creators more than NYCC.
Every day I got to the convention super early and checked in with Artist Alley registration to see if a table opened up. And Saturday morning IT HAPPENED! I couldn't believe it! Little did I know, SDCC's Artist Alley is notoriously difficult to get into, with the waiting list being "years long." It's complicated to explain exactly how I was able to get this table, but it was a combination of being qualified, prepared, persistent, some tips from the inside, and some luck! If one of these aspects had gone wrong, I may not have gotten in, but I guess it was meant to be!
I realized that SDCC's Artist Alley is different than other artist alleys because it's made up of mostly old pros that have had major industry work for like decades! I was right next to Len Wein, creator of Wolverine and other X-men characters! Ken Penders, one of my heroes from Sonic the Hedgehog, was also tabling. So there were giants like these, and then... me, somehow! :PI was sketching up a storm though, and was successful enough to pay for that plane ticket + more :) There was lots of encouragement among the rest of the artists, with words like "good luck, kiddo!" and I did feel like I fit in there more. Oh Katie Cook was in the row right behind me! Her career has grown so much over the years, she's very inspiring! So it looks like the next generation of cartoonists is on the rise at SDCC.
Overall, I had the most ideal experience this year at SDCC, with a great balance of fun, constructive folio reviews + networking, informative creator tips, and making $! If you're on the west coast and in the comics or animation industry, SDCC IS A MUST! If you're in the midwest, it's worth a road trip! If you're on the east coast and have a place to stay, the plane ticket is definitely worth it. If you don't have a place to stay, hey AirBnB is on the rise. It's cheaper if you stay farther from the convention and take the trolley. Hope to see you there next year!
Did I mention that I got sick the week before SDCC? Just like what happened last year before NYCC! I guess I burn myself out preparing. I went to the same clinic and they recognized me :PLuckily antibiotics are like tiny microscopic superheroes! Comic cons are exhausting enough without being sick.