Thursday, July 14, 2011

The Tenth Comic-Conmandment: Thou Shalt Accentuate the Positive

If we're going to be honest here, many comics/movie/television/video game fans have negative attitudes, or at least fall into complaining and/or snark so easily that they can be Debbie Downers. Even creators, when speaking with one another, often grouse about how a convention is going for them, how it could be better, how it's not about comics anymore, or even how they should have just stayed at home. Well, they might have that last one right.

Don't be that person.

Sure, frustrations abound at comic conventions. There are lines for everything from signings to bathrooms. There's never enough space in the aisles. There are too many fans of that thing you hate, and not enough of that thing you love. You couldn't get into that super-important panel because no one left the room from the panel before. Your booth location doesn't get any foot traffic. You spent an hour in line for food, and they sold out of the last hot dog right in front of you.

Relax. Take a deep breath. Find the positive.

The short time you're at a comic convention should be tremendous fun, even with with minor hassles involved. Relish every moment of it. If you find yourself drifting into wet blanket territory, change things up. If lines are a problem, find an activity that doesn't have one (despite appearances, there are plenty). Having trouble navigating the aisles? Use the lobby for a clearer walking path. Shut out of a panel? Pull out your grid and find another. Heck, there's one time slot in the upcoming San Diego Comic Con in which there are three panels I want to attend.

Keep that positive attitude, and use it when talking with others about comics, too. Comic conventions are one of the few opportunities that us geeks have to sing the praises of our favorite properties to an audience that might actually be interested. Yet so many attendees become hyper-focused on whining about stories they didn't enjoy. In conversations, focus not on the stories you find disappointing, but on those that you love. Create new fans for your favorite characters, creators, or stories through your positive attitude.

That's what a comic convention should be about. Spread the love of a story, a character, a creator whose work you enjoy. Bring new fans into the fold. Enjoy the time with like-minded people, even impenetrable throngs of them. Most of all, have fun!

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

The Ninth Comic-Conmandment: Thou Shalt Talk to Strangers

Because a number of comic fans, myself included, have led lives in which they've felt unaccepted or like an outsider, many, myself included, find themselves socially awkward.  The web series Awkward Embraces plays this social ineptitude for wonderful comic effect, but in real life, it can be a difficult obstacle to overcome.  Well, if you're going to overcome it anywhere, a comic convention is the place.  

Being among so many like-minded people provides the perfect opportunity to make new friends.  While for a lot of us, the Stranger Danger impulse keeps us away from others, at a comic convention that inhibition can be relaxed a bit.  Start out light.  You don't have to dive into your manifesto on how Sue Dibny should be the Spectre right out of the gate.  (Though, she should be, dammit!)  Instead, a simple bit of appreciation for a tee shirt or a comment about a shared situation like standing in a line can be the perfect icebreaker, and can lead to a memorable moment, if not a great friendship.

A few years ago in San Diego, I stood in the Hyatt bar wearing a blue lantern shirt that I had Zazzled up before DC started selling them in droves.  A fellow--I believe his name was Paul--came up to me, admired the shirt, and asked if I was the writer of Green Lantern.  While I wish I had a career path similar to that of Geoff Johns, I told the truth.  Still, this simple comment led to a ten minute conversation about the Green Lantern title and where we thought the story was heading.  While we neither traded info, nor become besties or anything, that brief conversation stuck with me, and was one of the highlights of that convention.

If you're looking for the best opportunities to meet people in San Diego, you'll find them in the hotel bars after the show.  That's pretty obvious.  Less obvious, and possibly even better, is the hidden cafeteria in the mezzanine area behind small press.  On more than one occasion I have met a new friend over lunch by sharing one of the few tables in this area.  Just make it clear that you have an open seat at your table, and you'll find someone to share it pretty quickly.  Possibly even me.

So when you return home, try to bring back not only clothes, books, and autographs, but a few great memories and perhaps a new friend as well.

Friday, July 1, 2011

The Eighth Comic-Conmandment: Thou Shalt Consider Others

Comic conventions can be loud, crowded, sometimes frustrating events.  Yet this doesn't absolve us attendees from trying to be on our best behavior.  One easy rule of thumb that will make a comic convention more enjoyable not only for yourself, but for everyone: be considerate of others.  This rule is useful in everyday life, but at comic conventions there are a few ways to apply this rule more specifically.

When interacting with creators, consider their point of view in the exchange.  Are they trying to eat a quick bite of lunch, or use the restroom?  Perhaps then you should give them some space.  Have you been at their table for fifteen minutes, having a friendly chat, but at the same time blocking their products from passersby?  Think about possibly wrapping it up, or even just turning sideways, so that their booth can be seen by potential customers.  Are you about to pitch your story idea to them without them asking you to do so?  STOP.  No good will come of this, I assure you.

Be considerate of your fellow fans, too.  Beyond the cliche advice about bathing, deodorant, and the wonders of simethicone, there a few basic things you can do to keep everyone around you happier.  For example, almost every comic convention attendee carries luggage, whether it be a backpack, messenger bag, or one of those ridiculously large Warner Brothers bags.  Keep in mind that your luggage is a part of you; when you turn, it turns, and potentially becomes a weapon to those around you.  Try to avoid playing out a Three Stooges scene by whacking someone with your bag. 

Also, when you see those longboxes of bounty waiting to be plundered, it can become easy to focus on comics to the exclusion of everything else.  Attempt to keep your head on a bit of a swivel and pay attention to those around you that may want to dig into a box nearby.  Offering a little space or moving your to-buy pile out of someone else's way makes it easier for them to look, and helps the dealer sell more books.  Admittedly, I have difficulty with this myself, as my checklist is in a three-ring binder, and can take up a good piece of real estate. 

Finally, remember that wherever you are in a convention hall, behind you there's likely to be someone else who's trying to get somewhere.  Consider this person when you're stopping to look at a booth or take a photograph.  Step to the side, keep the aisle clear, and allow others to pass.  Easy to do, easy to forget to do.  It happens to the best of us, but a little more diligence will make the day better for all.