The end draws near for the universe. Can the Horsemen save us all from a fate and destiny worse than death? The story continues in issue #3 on comiXology. Digital comic book fun!
For the birds: how do you hire artists?
Was asked in an email about the process of how we find and hire artists for our comic books. So, how do we do that?
1) You match the subject and style of the script to an artist style (manga, realism, cartoon, abstract, etc…)
2) If we worked with someone before who matches the proposed script style, we query them. We already have a relationship and know how they work (rate per page, turn around, willingness to adhere to notes). But if no one fits from our artist file, we move on to number three.
3) Put out an add in penciljack or digitalwebbing. We describe the parameters of the story and style. We state it is a work-for-hire gig or a collaboration. We mostly do work-for-hire. Then we wait for portfolios and resumes to emailed to us.
4) Go through the portfolios. Normally, we get an onslaught for a few days. Then, the slow methodical examination proceeds until we find two or three likely candidates.
5) Detective mode commences. We Google the artists and look for the work they did not send and for professional issues that might tweak our working relationship. Basically, a background check for potential conflict. If we find that the artists has been involved in certain behaviors like denigrating other artists or being chronically late missing deadlines, we tend to pass. But, just like Dr. House, if they are beyond amazing at what they do, a bit of assholery can be tolerated. A little. Not much.
6) Contact others who have worked with them before (editors, artists, writers) and get a report if possible.
7) We discuss the artists in committee. And choose.
8) A work-for-hire contract is offered, most of the time; however, certain usage of images and properties can be negotiated for the artist’s use, if we like them. Deadlines are set during this interaction as well as page acceptance (sort of like final cut in film industry terms).
9) Set up a payment system and give them access to our file sharing service where they can add pages when done and we can review them.
It is not really any different than most hiring processes. We don’t do super-extensive background checks into criminal activity or credit like most companies. We really look for someone who is reliable, and if there are deadline issues, then they will contact us and not hide. We have had submissions from some artists who were quite skilled but had a bad reputation for not working well with others. The comic book industry is very small and word gets around. So, if you want to be an artist in comic books, be nice and be professional above all. We love people with passion for their art, but not hotheads. We above all want to communicate and understand. We don’t penalize for unforeseen circumstances.
Note: we do get portfolios all the time through our contact page, and if we like them, we do keep them on file and try to find work for them in the upcoming pipeline of projects.
So, The Great Con is a memoir and memento mori, done in parts over the years looking back at how Wayward raven got started and my personal turmoils and tests. It is not done. It is a work in progress and there are over 63,000 words to it so far (25,000=100 pages). There is a problem. It might never be finished. The end, that needs to be written, is far too upsetting for me to recall and transpose onto the screen. The suffering and death that need to be expressed cripple my ability to design the words in the best order properly.
But, considering it might never get completed or published, sharing some offers a semblance of connection with the world outside the cloistered fate that pins my doom to such discrete domains of isolation. The first part of this memoir was posted as The Great Con: NYCC and Beyond on October 3rd.
You can read it here if you have not already: http://waywardraven.com/blog/2016/10/3/the-great-con-nycc-and-beyond
My life has not been challenging because I forget. It is because I remember.
The Great Con
Chapter: 2 Stacked against.
My mother was sick and I made a promise long ago when I was all of ten years old that I had to see through.
On a West Virginia morning in a hillside home slanted next to a roadside Episcopal church in Cross Lanes, my mother told me the story of horseback riding. Tales of galloping up switchback dirt roads and trotting on twisted piedmont passes fill my mind with blue skies and running free through forest filled with mountain-men and wildlife. Her tone brightened as she spoke of white tents and show rings on the green fields of Virginia stretched and slatted into my nimble mind. She competed. She was good. There was awe in the distances and unfamiliar tracks of flatland where the contests took place. I was born in Alexandria, VA but moved to Cross Lanes as an infant as it was my father’s assigned church by the Episcopal Diocese after he graduated from seminary school.
My mother was an accomplished equestrian before she went to college, where she met my father. As a result, they got married after my father, being two years older, graduated. She had to decide between marriage, her horse life, and now kids. A yearning filled her solemn brow as she stared through a bay window overlooking the slope of the hill green with pine, Concord grape vines, and honeysuckle. A mother’s sadness was hard for a young boy to deal with. I wanted to vanquish the sadness as it made me feel helpless. In the confused but noble spirit of a son yet to be splintered by age, I promised to her that I would one day get her a horse, a black horse with a white star between its eyes like the one in the story book we read years ago. A lamenting smile pulled across her face. I said I wouldn’t let things make her sad or hurt her. And I meant it. I still do.
As I was ragged failure at being a member of a band, I was living in Connecticut in 1998 at my mother’s house so close to the coast that walking to the beach took but a moment, a moment never taken advantage of though. My mental health was on the edge of asylum (long story but I’ll get into that latter when the story of how I got into reading and comics comes about. It’s odd so stay tuned). It was a time of confusion and failure as I could not hold together relationships that would allow me to pursue music. New anxiety was planted in my fertile imagination. It bloomed to grow out of control. All my dreams were dead, killed by the spear of idealism, but writing fiction remained and I had a backlog of tales to tell from my college years, which framed and nailed my heart into a box.
One vernal morning, July to be exact, flush with the scent of juniper hoisted on humid air rolling in from the south and low tide, I went to wake my mother. She was bedridden by cramping she normally associated with as some in polite company call it “Lady Issues”. She was to go on vacation the next day and I watch the house while plotting a plan to move on. No reply to the knock. So, I knocked again. Nothing. Nada. Just silence that stung me with paralysis. Not one to enter someone’s room without an invitation, I called my mother’s husband Anthony to ask him of his encounter with her earlier in the morning. He wakes her up to say goodbye every morning.
Anthony said she just grumbled when addressed and turned away. I was told this is not unusual at the time and had him stay on the phone. A curious tingle of fear whipped though my stomach and I opened the door. My mother did not respond to whispers. She did not respond to my plain voice. She did not respond to yells. Trembling hands betrayed me and I almost dropped the phone. In a burst, I went over and shook her shoulder like a petulant child wanted their parent to wake up so they can turn on the television and watch cartoons. A brief relief flashed as she turned over and her eyes opened to slits. Odd.
The sound of Anthony’s voice, tinny and distant, coming through the phone made me pause. Something was wrong. I had seen my mother in various states of disarray from chemicals and exhaustion, but this was different, off, terrifying. The room smelled sickly of sugar and decay. I shook her shoulder again as she tried to turn over to her side.
“Mom, you okay?”
“Mom, what’s wrong?”
“Mom! Mom! Mom!”
Her eyes moved with a slight spasm and what was once white was now almost egg yolk yellow. Jaundice was the term that escaped me in the moment. My shaking hands stopped. The anxiety left. A calm of nothingness, perfect numbness, saturated my existence. My mother looked at me with pulsating consciousness, on and off, onand off.
“What year is this, mom?”
“The birds don’t sing here,” she replied.
“Who is the president, mom?”
“It’ll never be Reagan but I hope,” she said.
Yup. That confirmed it. My mother’s blood was toxic, septic, or she had a stroke, either way, I told Anthony to come home because my mother was in trouble. And she was.
We took her to her primary care doctor, who basically dismissed her. Most likely thinking she was drunk or recovering from a binge or something, but she had quit drinking. He told us to take her home and sleep. This was disconcerting and it should have made me angry but I was capture by a state of persistent shock. Not shocked. Shock like when people experience trauma and can’t feel anything. On our way out, a nurse looked at my mother and grabbed Anthony’s arm.
“You should take her to the hospital,” she said.
And we did. Found out her liver was failing a day later after misdiagnosis by specialists. Specialists tend to only see their specialty kids, so remember that. Availability heuristic and all. Even smart people get caught up in bias, bias being a mental shortcut created by past experiences so the brain can conserve energy. After a doctor from Yale-New Haven Hospital, who happened to be on rounds at the small hospital nearest to our town, he discovered my mother and quickly had her moved to New Haven for treatment. We were told that soon her liver would, in a word, pop. There was backpressure caused from scarring and they needed to do a bypass procedure. The excess fluid was also leaking into the rest of her body. Her lungs were filling with fluid and she would drown if not drained. I won’t bother you with the specifics of chest tubes and freaky keloid wounds that resulted, but I will tell you that swelling was involved everywhere on her body and her legs ballooned. Sorry I didn’t come up with a more inventive description for that but it fits perfectly in the most disturbing way.
She was moved to Yale-New Haven Hospital where the stabilized her condition surgically. Then the prognosis: not good. She needed a liver transplant or would be dead very soon. For the next few months, I went to visit my mother in the hospital and bring her requested items almost every day. She seemed to get a little better and they released, but in a couple weeks she had to be rushed back. Fun thing was that the EMT’s took her to the wrong hospital. It was the days before medical rescue personal had cell phones where they could access patient records and they are on orders to take a patient to the closest facility during an emergency, which is was but also wasn’t. She would remain at the hospital as her condition deteriorated. The doctors said she didn’t have long and they concealed her in a negative-pressure room but she was moved up to the top of the donor list. They did move her to a small room after a time but she was fading and the confusion that spiked her mind returned. She didn’t make much sense after that and was emotionally impulsive. Not impulsive hugs or smiles. Impulsive tears and rage.
The phone rang at three in the morning.
A really good match came at the tragic expense of another family on October 19th. My mother was lucky. She survived the surgery but her life was changed: tons of drugs, doctors’ appointments all the time, weakness, disability, and a compromised immune system where the probability of cancer increased in drastic degree. And insult to injury, my grandfather, her father, the Honorable Denis R. Knapp (a Federal Court Judge) died on Christmas Day. We almost were not able to go because of her frail condition but were able after many phone calls and weeping.
This brings me back to the New York Comic Con. Remember that cancer probability for my mother, well it became certainty, she had oral cancer treated on 2002 with surgery and radiation. A new lesion, pre-cancerous in initial diagnosis, was discovered on her tongue month before the New York ComicCon 2012. She had been complaining about pain in the region for a time. A routine procedure to basically scrap it off was scheduled for that Thursday, the first day of NYCC. Nothing to fret as she had precancerous lesions removed before. Worry was with me but I hid it as well as possible, until the panic attack of course, but I shoved it down deep as the day went on. Then, I had to take the train back to Connecticut.
Exhausted, weak, and smelling of hard labor, even though I simply stood in one place most of the day, I sat in the only seat I could find on the packed, bulky Metro-North train. The seat was faded red faux leather with a slit down the middle that tickled my back with every bounce and grinding, unexplained stop. I don’t like being tickled so you know. The trip back shook and rumbled down the corridor transforming from urban stone to suburban green. It was quite quick, much faster than going in, but my mind moved to worry right before my station stop. The oranges and burnt reds of the fading twilight passed on to a sheer of inky night staining the depths of my sight. The nimble chatting that filled the train car at departure was now silent, killed by rhythmic motion of the train and the riders’ desire for home. The train stopped. The doors gushed open. An air tainted with heat radiating off the asphalt street corkscrewed by as I exited.
The walk to my mother’s house was a blur of streetlamps strobing as I hustled my footsteps and a buzz of conversations filtering out from El Fresco dining that bulged onto the sidewalks from the restaurants of downtown Fairfield. Of course, there were bugs. Buzzing. Biting. Following me all the way through the oak lined lanes, the elm walled drives, and to the sea. Well, close to it.
A chirp greeted me as I fumbled with the front door’s aged lock. It still found my ears as unfamiliar but down on the ground was fuzzy little black and white tumbling whirl of fur. His name was Ziggy and he was my mother’s new dog, a Havanese in a show coat.
The family dog, my dog, died after being with me for fourteen years of heartache, abuse, self-abuse, trauma, chaotic biochemistry, and the occasional minor victory. His name was Logan and he was one hundred and twenty pounds of pure Golden Retriever love. His death was not unexpected. He was old and his golden fur was purged to white. He limped but he still fought to get up on the couch though we wouldn’t allow him to anymore. We were afraid he would hurt himself getting down. No more stairs for him but the puppy spirit never left as he wagged and licked and erupted with bubbling low barks. Logan’s presence and attention was the only kind thing I could count on for many years. He saved me as only a loving dog could.
Oddly enough, I was beginning to feel almost human again near the end of his life. No more did long stretches of Depression’s apathy disperse my care. Sadness and hopelessness did not hold sway, I could for fleeting seconds feel that most foreign thing other humans called joy. In one last act of generosity, Logan expired a day before we were schedule to have him euthanized after the veterinarian’s earnest imploring. We never had to suffer the doubt of questioning whether we should have put him to sleep or not. No more would I ponder if he felt abandoned and alone while the needle went into his arm. It would have haunted me. Then, he was gone and so was the joy. (I miss Logan every single day and even now tears fill my eyes while trying to compose this).
Don’t get me wrong, Ziggy was and is a fantastic little dog but I never liked little dogs. Trepidation crept in the recesses of my thoughts that I could never enjoy such a creature’s company. Mark, after my expression of doubts regarding the new puppy, told me to give it a week. He was right. Though I could not say I loved Ziggy at that moment, I did look forward to his attention, which I took as a sign of possible redemption.
There on the couch as I entered the house was my mother holding Ziggy and Anthony her husband. They looked sunk and gaunt and defeated.
“Couldn’t do the procedure,” my mother said in a voice altered by medical procedures.
“Why not? You didn’t take your meds this morning did you?” I asked as Ziggy’s bark began to cut through the silence.
“No, I did everything right. They found something. They found a new tumor. It’s cancer.”
Stunned and shaky from low blood sugar, had not eaten much that day, I stood as the sound of a car speeding by slashes though the open windows. The air was thick with malevolent moisture. Sweat cascaded down my forehead as I forced a question.
“Surgery. Need to go back to Yale tomorrow for some exams. This time they will be taking out some of my tongue, hemi-glossectomy. Might lose the ability to speak and swallow,” she said as she petted Ziggy who settled into her lap.
“How will you eat? What about work” I asked.
“I don’t know.”
Sleep didn’t come until long after midnight. Waves of speculation cursed me with pricks of anxiety and worst case scenarios. Worriers with real worries will worry about worry until that leads to worrying about worrying of worrying. And it did. To cut to the chase, I didn’t make the morning train to New York and the convention but after dealing with some issues I’m not allowed to talk about, I made the train for the end of the convention. Had to go and there was nothing I could do to help at home until the next week anyway. Plus, there was a hotel room booked and there were comic book industry events that needed to be attended. Networking is a massive part of the entertainment industry. There would be drinking that night as well and my nerves were firing like firecrackers with a thousand lit fuses. Needed to put them out.
According to Mark and Alex, Friday went pretty well. They even gave interviews. It was close to shutting down time when I got there but I was able to fill them in on my situation. This would not be the last time I crushed enthusiasm with these guys and planted a massive bummer on the soil they sewed. Mark and Alex have suffered the slings and pointy, pointy arrows of my outrageous misfortune over the years but this was the first time. They should have run. Too late now though guys. Muahahahah!
Okay, back to the con and evening’s ribaldry. Even near closing, the con was still throbbing with people clutching plastic artwork cylinders and lazy bags wanting to be full. Collectors with wheeled carts and rolling suitcases continued their wide-eyed rounds seeking that next precious overlooked issue or free artist’s signature who did the pencils and sequential in his favorite childhood book. (note for non-comic book folk: sequential art refers to the panel structure layout of a comic book. A penciller is the artist who interprets the story script and creates the panel layout of the book to tell each page’s story and then they fill the panels with composition that will later be inked to set lines and depth.)
At this time, I was itching to drink. Hadn’t been seeking to get drunk in a while, though it accidentally happened a few times, and because Logan was around before, the need to erase myself for flicker of history wasn’t there. It was years before, but not then. However, the great apathy solution was dissolving my brain and veins. Depression was a stealthy monster and a masterful thief. My emotions were being stolen, all but the ones that savage your will to exist, by an injection of warring chemicals and none of them liked me. Luckily, we brought booze to the con. The drinking began as Mark and Alex relayed stories until the ending bell.
Out into the night, the Manhattan night, sleek, sultry, unforgiving, enchanting, and fenestrated, we went to mock the gods and lift mortals to pedestals built on a foundation of whiskey bottles. First, we ate as any season pro would tell you. Pro drinker that is, and not pro comic book talent. Though there is great overlap in the categories. Shots were had during my fried chicken feast and the warm fuzzy confidence percolated up my spine but before the serious consumption occurred, we had to drop my bag off at the hotel. Oops, forgot to tell you I had a bag. Sorry.
A pub, a pub of hidden bathrooms and secret downstairs escapades, was the initial condition on which the evening was based and all cause and effect flowed. Boring and cramped, a sardine bar, we fled into the street level alkaline glow softly pushing out through Korean groceries, textile shops, delis in the process of shutdown, sneaky little bodegas, electronics stores, until the divagation brought us to a wine bar on the second floor of a Midtown office building.
This was not the usual scene of vagrant personalities and suburban functional alcoholics I was acclimated to, but it was nice as whisper of conversations flitted and spasm in the dark corners. We sat a block of a table with low chairs, an IKEA nightmare made manifest… with wine, expensive wine (Mark flipped for the tab). The day’s sales total was explained and I was surprised that making back the table’s cost was in reach. The possibility arose that we might even make break even, since Saturday would be a tidal surge of comic book fans, celebrity autograph seekers, cosplay professionals, weekend warriors, and the throngs of crazy who couldn’t get a weekday off to attend. As total expenditures came to the forefront, including hotel costs, I knew we wouldn’t break even but this was our debutant ball. A ball where few people could dance well, a ball where bottled water cost more than a train ticket home, a ball where vendors in leather skullcaps sold swords on the show floor, a ball where personal hygiene was questionable, a ball where we would dance and make an effort to gain attention, a social media commodity.
Mark talked of his wife and two daughters, the youngest at the time but a baby, and Alex spoke of his fiancée as well as his life growing up in Queens, which I found fascinating. Found out he has been to Greece and his family had an island, not like super-wealthy people buying islands in the Seychelles, but his ancestral island. I just listened to Alex speak about coding and city life as we palavered and sipped. A warmth, which I wanted extinguished, ignited and smoldered. That bastard child emotion hope came to my door with papers stating I was indeed its father. What was I going to do? Quitting was still the overwhelming choice, but now but came into the picture. Bloody but. Why do you do that to me? I was done fighting and writing. Been trying to make a living at it for over a decade. It was to be expelled, and then I would only write when necessary to exorcise the demons of the past. I was a writer as I had to write but I didn’t need to make a living out of it. There were other ways with less pressure to conform and the ever-present rejection, which infiltrated and corrupted compositions and concepts with appeasement. That is innovation and inspiration killer.
So, I was filled with doubts about my doubts. Another day to ponder the quandaries would come. Then, broken memories. Edges of scents. Dull sounds. Vague recollections of a walk and some sort of cheese. And End scene. All went dark. Exit stage left, pursued by a bear carrying two handles of whiskey.
An unfamiliar phone rang next to my head barricaded by pillows that smelled like baby powder and bleach. I had no idea where I was. A fumbling of hands and the phone receiver echoes through the room chilled by the AC.
“Yup,” Mark’s voice said with all the grog and ire stacked from the night before and I understood where I was. I peered to the hotel room but the blackout curtain, quite aptly named, were shut.
“You up?” I asked.
“Answered the phone didn’t I,” Mark said.
“Good morning and fuck you,” I said with as much jocularity I could muster.
“Likewise. Holy shit, it’s later than I thought,” Mark said.
“Who is using the bathroom first?”
“Shower or shit?”
“I’ll shower first so not to be stained by the second.”
Mark pulled back the blackout curtain and the sun punched me in the face like the god Thor would if I insulted his mother. It hurt. It really hurt, so I cowered to the safety of the bathroom’s dull yellow illumination. Luckily, I left my bag near the bathroom door.
Yes kids, much of the hotel stays you will have while exhibiting at conventions will directly deal with showering, shitting, shaving for the guys, do you have enough water to fight off a hangover, and bedding. I’ll get to tips on how to make the hotel experience more pleasant later in the story.
A furious cab ride to the Javit’s Center through weekend traffic was jostling. There were cosplayers (people dressed up as characters from comic books, tv, anime, scifi…etc.) walking the streets from a mile away. Kids with blue hair and replica battle axes sauntering next to a girl with a Green Lantern t-shirt pushed through the sun and steam saturating the air with enthusiasm curving happiness on their faces. The cab encountered so much traffic that we decided to get out four blocks early. Thank goodness we did. The crowd was like an evacuation, fast, orderly and serious, but enormous. As Mark and I dodged and darted through, I asked if it was like this the day before. He said, “No. Not even close.” Adrenaline cut my hangover and it bleed away.
My hands began to tremble, sweat and clutch but in a good way. I was excited. Not anxious. Excited. I had not felt this about anything in over a decade.
The last time I remember being that excited was the last time I had sex, which was after a party where I played the rhythm guitar in a basement jam session. That was in 2002 and the month before I made a vow. The vow was not to have sex or pursue relationships until I was a successful writer. As of writing this memoir, the vow holds and it’s easier than you think when Depression is involved. Sexual desire is one of the first biological drives assassinated in my case. Hope was next but I had an active role in setting up the death of sexual desire, or at least the act of such.
The non-religious voluntary celibacy is a tough concept for many to take in and I understand. When I was a teenager, sexual desire made me an irrational and stupid beast, a creature driven by instinct alone. The regrets from the hormone-period are legion. Money, time, education, opportunities were all wasted on the pursuit of a girl. I dare not call it love. I just thought about her all the time and scenes where and all other considerations were cast to the forgotten periphery. This was driven by sexual desire. She was my conceptual ideal and I had not yet learned that ideals did not exist and striving for perfection, and or perfect beings, was folly. Actually, I did know. I just did not care and that’s the point of contention that follows me into the future.
To clarify, this was not at the hormone-period onset. That time was overwhelming and transformed me into a loon, as I was not prepared for it and had no male figure in my life to explain. My father, the beloved and revered Reverend, decided to dash out when I was fourteen. Not a fucking word. Gone.
Back to the no sex thing, in a manner, I was back to being a pre-hormone-period person, and my bout with the Romantics lead to being a Byronic Hero who was then killed off by mental illness. As I sat ruminating on night after reading Sartre’s Nausea for the tenth time, an epiphany hit me. Much of the teenage years, if you are a male with sexual opportunity are not only saturated with testosterone but guided by it. You are a thrall. A mindless automaton who thinks he’s a real boy. Yes, I know that the biological drive to get the best mate and procreate is the source of much behavior but I was not conditioned to think this. I grew up in a social sphere of supernatural goals granted by Christian belief systems. The Yaweh god magic, immortality granted by a magic spell pledge, and the mythos was burned into my identity. The Infinite Regress of Cause and Effect and Teleological Argument of foolishness and Pascal’s Wager and the Freewill Dilemma, all weak theodicies never shown through the self-authority granted by Bronze-age plagiarists to a book read by confirmation bias and crafty social planners with their eyes on seat of power crowned in blood, crucifixion, history and the special place by god’s side, ego. The point being is that I failed in my courting and never got the girl. I failed to use reason, which would have displayed my errors. I was controlled. This did not sit well.
The whole give up on sex vow made sense. I never wanted to have children. Not once did the thought/daydream cross my mind of me holding a baby boy or girl or me watching them play sports or get an A on a test. Never happened. At that time, most women of my age, young at the time, were not out there openly on the hunt for breeding partners, but they can smell a never-going-to-have-kids-guy a mile away and subconsciously avoided me, which was smart of them. Damage, thy name is… With sexual desire as the pair-bonding bridge, people start relationships that lead to partnerships and families. Pretty much all the things that betrayed me, so I took the celibacy vow with one modification: no telling anyone.
Eliminating sexual thoughts was impossible but they diminished in frequency over time. I was now out of the game entirely and this was not without negative consequences. Without the desire to find a mate, the desire to endure the punishment of being a stepstool for corporate bourbon smelling paunch-men with delusions of grandeur and taking orders from humans I suspected couldn’t breathe without conscious effort left me. I was extricated from the mechanical, hierarchical, social system that only existed due to belief that people thought it should exist. The social constructs are illusions. Oh yeah, the sex thing. Forgot.
It gets easier with time and when Depression messes with you neurotransmitters and testosterone levels drop a tiny bit. Even though I overcame sex, sex was the preoccupation with basically everyone else in my world, and made me even more of an outcast, an exile. I could hide my vow as I could talk about sex to my friends but I never let them know I gave it up. Many apologies, I’ve been rambling on about me and my, to put it bluntly, dysfunctional life but it is integral to the overall theme of this book. And now back to why you are reading this, COMIC BOOK CONVENTIONS and the why. Back to NYCC 2012.
Indeed. I was excited.
Now flushed with an emotion almost forgotten, we whisked through to the artist entrance and, I must admit, skipped a few feet as we jogged down the long stone hall to Artist Alley. The show was about to begin.
“You ready?” Mark asked with a smile as he pumped his fists with enthusiasm.
A double fist bump began the day along with us chugging a couple bottles of water. Alex arrived with a face both happy and sad. Sad because he didn’t get to sleep enough. None of us did.
The crowd that day was a spectacle of costume and energy. From giant robot cosplay to Jedi and obscure manga characters to old school villains like the Joker from Batman thrilled the lanes between tables. The first lesson of the day was that cosplayers don’t buy when wearing costume. Make sense. Not where to put things and they are there to get their pictures taken with others so heaving a cumbersome bag along did not make sense. Of course, there are the plain clothes civilians. They are there to soak up the scene and investigate all that the convention has to offer. Some stop and chat. Others look at your merchandise without a word. It is all well and good. To each their own. Sales were decent in the morning and a routine had been established: mark pitches, I add comments, Alex pitches, I put items in bags for customers, we sign books if people want us to, and bathroom breaks.
Out of the surging crowd, around noon, a burl of a young man came towards us with a loose leaf book in hand. His hair was like a malnourished dragon coiling and clawing at the sky. His eyes were plump with cheese curds and a smile, both joyous and coy, was round with what I can only assume was Pabst Blue Ribbon. He was all yells as he bounced back and forth on the balls of his feet. It was our first encounter with a socially awkward person who was going to try their best to impress us. Mark was attending to the bathroom at the time so it was just Alex with me to contend with the mania spiraling in his eyes.
The precise words he used are not all that important. It was his delivery and disconnected flow of thoughts that would forever leave a mark on us behind the table. First, he talked about his book and how a famous comic book writer, a writer who I did not know of, was going to buy a copy of his book. He then said he spoke to Mark the before about looking at his book. Alex tried to remind him that we were here to sell our books and not buy them from attendees. He looked at Alex as if he were made of bugs who spoke Farsi to him through telepathy. He then proceeded to talk about what he was doing at the con and I saw Mark walk by through the crowd with an expression of disbelief. The fellow bounced away after saying he’d be back to talk to Mark.
Mark safely slipped back behind the table and his eye widened.
“He’s back,” Mark said and Alex shook his head.
A tale of how he came by earlier, when I was in absentia, and pitched the book to Mark was conveyed with minor quips and puns. The fellow’s book was a collection of single pages, not in any order, with notes about characters and plots so outlandish and disturbed that David Cronenberg would wince. All I can remember was something about one character, an ample breasted tiger/horse woman engaged in sadomasochistic sex magic and that’s all you need to know too. The day resumed with pitches and conversation that got easier as the sun rose and set but before the show ended, the fellow who bounced on his feet came back. Mark gently let him down about buying his ragtag collection of notes and then the guy asked if Mark could give him a ride home to New Jersey. Not Newark or Jersey City, he wanted to go to central New Jersey. Flabbergasted is not a sufficient word to describe the condition that held us but it will need to do. Luckily, we didn’t have a car.
Though dealing with people was something I was not fond of at first, it grew on me. I felt something pressing in my bones. I felt alive and was thrilled to have found a tribe. I do not like groups, one reason it was difficult for me to become an active member in a Rock N Roll band, and I am very suspicious of groupthink, mob mentality and tribalism. At many point during my life, I’ve seen how biases and hierarchy were established by the unthinking interchangeable masses of a group and transformed into virtue even if the group itself had a modus operandi of nonconformity. We’re group/social animals and most humans don’t get over subconscious drive/instincts even if they proclaim freewill and thought. They just follow but follow because it is beneficial and brings parochial rewards. In the act of following, they found happiness and special status, which allowed them to subvert guilt and fear. The rewards I sought were always in upending bias and debilitated perceptions.
However, finding people with similar preoccupations, hobbies, and passions buttressed my collapsing mind. I was not alone. I was Geek. I was Nerd. Always had been but I buried it as I was afraid to admit this in the past and this self-betrayal consistently caused problems throughout my life, which compounded while implanting hollows of uncertainty. True, as Voltaire said, “Uncertainty is an uncomfortable condition, but certainty is absurd” but when uncertainty comes to simply accepting who you are, over decades, that’s absurd.
Elevated and alive, we three made our way out of Artist Alley triumphant. We broke the sales estimate, by two times, and we knew that valuable lessons in customer service as well as interaction were learned, which would serve us well in the coming years and they did. Mark and I ate and then went back to the hotel to rest. We were invited by our well-connected friend at Marvel to a big time industry party later. Once we flopped upon tight fitted sheets and pillows chilled by the constant conditioned air, eyelids sank and closed accidently.