As anyone who has read this blog before knows, I’ve been going to comic conventions for years. In September 2008, I saw one of Tim Sale’s convention sketches in the back of Captain America: White #0 and needed to start meeting these artists and collecting their art. (Note: Four and a half years later, we still haven’t seen issue #1. Tim Sale, what gives?) Since then I’ve traveled across the US and even into Canada for comic shows. But they’ve always been that, comic shows. And I’ve always been in front of the table. Until this weekend.
I’m friendly with a bunch of the employees at my local comic shop, the always recommended That’s Entertainment. So when they needed some extra help at their booth at this weekend’s PAX East, they asked me. Gaming isn’t really my thing, so I was a little apprehensive, but I’ve been trying to say “yes” to things more often (job interviews, trips to the bar, girls).
I ended up behind the table for Friday and Sunday of the show. For eight hours a day, the booth was packed. I hardly had time to eat a snack, let alone leave the booth. But even stuck in our 10’ by 10’ box, the thousands of people we saw taught me a few things about conventions, gamers, and nerd-dom.
Gamers Are Super Friendly – At comic cons, even if everyone doesn’t read the same books, they can bond over comics as an artform. Gaming is a pastime, as well as an artform, and a social pastime at that. And so, gamers are very personal. These aren’t sweaty, bug-eyed people slouching around, getting Cheeto dust on everything. And they aren’t the hate-spewing teenagers you hear over your headset during a round of Call of Duty. (I mean, they are, but they hide it well in person.) I’m not surprised by any of this (after all, I frequent comic cons), but I was surprised at how much they want to talk about themselves, about you, about your shop, about the con. I talked to people from New England, old England, Ohio, Texas, Nova Scotia, and all over. In the line at the food court, we talked about the lack of choices and the impending diarrhea after consuming convention center steakbombs and energy drinks.
Also at the foodcourt was the greatest thing ever. A Ron Swanson/Super Mario Bros. Mashup. Unfortunately, they had run out of breakfast meats. Ron is disappointed.
Everyone Is into Something and Someone Is into Everything – We’re all geeky for something. All of us. Whether it’s something mainstream like the NFL or my personal arenas of Star Wars and Marvel Comics. But without proper discourse, you can never tell what those things are going to be. That cute girl with the nosering? She’s really into Godzilla. That jacked black dude? Roots hard for House Stark. That chubby Canadian girl? Resident Evil is still her favorite game. My point being, this was my newest “don’t judge a book …” moment. On the other side, it doesn’t matter how niche something is, someone digs it. I sold an Earthworm Jim action figure this weekend. That game came out in 1994! But it hasn’t been forgotten by that guy. One exception to this rule: I couldn’t convince anyone to buy our copy of Home Improvement for Super Nintendo. (Still the best Tim Allen-based video game.)
Gamers Come To Spend – At an event as large as PAX, you want your booth to have something special. It’s not too hard to find a copy of Super Mario Bros. 3 (best game of all time), but what about one complete in the box? At PAX, you can find it, if you’re willing to pay. And the crowds were certainly ready to pay. I sold a copy of the Sega CD game Snatcher for $150 cash. The customer didn’t even flinch. Another guy was interested in Suikoden 2. I told him it was $120 and his wallet came right out. But spending isn’t just about big price tags. We had some less expensive things like toys and Game of Thrones posters. I was told “Shut up and I take my money” plenty of times this weekend.
You Can Find Sweet Deals – At comic conventions, the cheap stuff you’re going to find are long boxes filled with dollar books or $5 trades. And they’re all junk. Old copies of the Beavis and Butthead comic or tie-ins to World War Hulk. A waste of time to even browse through. Like I said above, I sold Snatcher for $150. As I type this, the leading eBay bid for a copy is $250. That $150 isn’t cheap, but for that guy, it was certainly a bargain. And on the last day of a con, no one wants want to haul all that stuff back home. Let’s make a deal!
So my first non-comic show was a great success. Who knows where I’ll end up next? After all, Boston Anime Fest is just a few weeks away.