By William Christensen
Hard to believe I just kicked off something like my 25th Chicago Con, I have been coming to this show in one form or another since I was just a kid. Many owners and locations ago, this show was where I first discovered many books and filled out loads of holes in my collection.
These days it is a home field show for us where we try to put on the biggest song and dance we can. Hard to top last year, when we had Warren Ellis as our anchor, Max Brooks holding down the fort on the other side of the booth, and 4 or 5 of our artists as well. Needless to say, that show was a monster for us. So I came into this year having to adjust my expectations, but after a fantastic Wizard Philadelphia and a great San Diego, I have high hopes for a great show.
This con report is just based on life at the Avatar booth, which tends to be its own little world these days, immune to some of the problems others have been having. Both SDCC and Philly were up for us in sales this year, which is not the case with the majority of vendors from what I hear. But I end up being so swamped at shows between meeting fans, talent, business meetings, and helping sell things at the booth, that I just don’t get a very well rounded con view. Anyway, all I can talk about is my little slice of the World.
Preview night was a bit of a mad dash to get ready. The unions seemed to be running very late with things like getting carpets down, delivering tables to our booth, etc. Stuff that is always invisible to the fans, but can be a source of annoyance for exhibitors as all those issues need to be sorted out before you can really build out your booth. So by the time the doors opened at 4 PM, we were not done setting up, books were out for display, but the physical back booth wasn’t up. Oh well, we worked on it as we could during that first night, and the final touches will be done today. It is one of the downsides of a having a huge booth (we have a 4-sided 20 foot x 20
foot booth) , there is a lot to get done and it is very easy to fall behind schedule.
However none of that mattered, once the show started we were jumping. Preview Nights are an interesting beast, as these are the people who have purchased weekend passes or premium ticket packages. So they tend to be focused on what they want to find and come in the door ready to shop. They usually are very organized, and have specific books they want or need. Man, we got hit hard and fast. Jacen Burrows had a line for autographs in short order, but the super-star of that night had to be Mike Wolfer. The Gravel fans were out in force, wanting to talk to him about upcoming story stuff, find out what else he had written and drawn, and pick up copies of his trades. It is so rewarding for me to see Mike get the attention he deserves, he has been with me almost since the start of Avatar and is a work-horse who never complains, he just does one great book after another.
Sales were dominated by trades and the con exclusives. Frankenstein’s Womb of course coming out strong, but other convention editions were all brisk. Trades all seemed to be doing well, Wolfer books in particular, but really I think some of everything went. Overall, a very solid start to things. We will see how the weekend
unfolds, but looks to be another hit show for us. The best part for me was the fact that four separate people came up to me and said whole reason they came to the show was to see the Avatar booth and pick up books they missed from us. You just can’t beat that, and really does make all the hard work of putting on these events seem worthwhile.
William Christensen is Editor-in-Chief and Publisher of Avatar Press. Bleeding Cool invited any other booth owners to submit their own View From Booth #XXXX.