By Peter G.
In 2014, people gathered in Orland Park, Illinois, for DanCon, an independent comic convention that focused on local comic creators. But it wasn’t just any DanCon, it was the final DanCon. Dan Royer, the awesome guy behind the whole thing, had decided he was finished. As the con wound down that day, people were asked to contribute a piece of art as a farewell gift to Dan and a thank you for everything he had done.
Eventually, it got around to me. I thought for a moment, then drew a picture of Doctor Whooves and Twilight Sparkle poking their heads out of the TARDIS and saying, “See you next year.” “We’ve been to the future. We know you’re going to do this again.” He thought the piece was cute, but said it was wrong, there wouldn’t be another.
Well, that’ll teach him to doubt magical ponies. Shortly before Wizard World Chicago that year, he announced one more go round for DanCon in 2015. I patrolled the Rosemont Convention Center looking for him. I found him, and when he saw my smirk, he knew exactly what I was going to say.
As always for DanCon, the hall was packed with talent, with a slight difference. Usually, there is a fairly even split between the creators and vendors. This year? Overwhelmingly in favor of the creators, by at least a three to one margin. Actually, there seemed to be a smidge more creators. The show has three areas around the Orland Park Civic Center – there’s the main room as you come in the main entrance, the side room if you turn left, and the hallway along the back behind the main room. Usually, that’s set up for gaming and such, but this year, extra creators were put back there. If this is the end, no one can say it didn’t go out as big as it could.
I don’t know why I always get nailed with some sort of illness before the DanCon shows, but the shows are always great fun, and it’s a chance to meet a lot of great people and make them fans of this art form I love so much, so I drug my ass out of bed, made some ramen and ginger tea (because breakfast is the most important meal of the day), loaded up, and trudged on over to Orland Park. My set-up is pretty minimal, and can be done in about fifteen minutes. This year, I took less than usual. Some was by design (left the sketch supplies behind) and some was situational (I was unable to get more Doctor Whooves comics ready in time). I figured I would be done in no time, and without the Doctor Whooves stuff to draw attention, I would spend most of my time coding on my computer.
I got there, and I got the first hint that coming there was the best thing I could have done. When you aren’t feeling well, good friends and good company are the best medicine. I discovered I would be along the back hall sitting next to Joe McFee. McFee is the awesome guy behind Xigency Studios (www.xigencystudios.com). His two most popular comics are Amazonia, about a giantess working for the police, and the Amazon Wrestling Federation – if you grew up watching GLOW (Gorgeous Ladies Of Wrestling), this is the book for you. McFee and I go back, and we always have fun catching up at C2E2. This time? We’d be in proximity the entire show. We greeted each other like no time had passed, and the illness fell away.
I have to say, there was an air of finality to things. Set up at DanCon is usually more lively, with lots of people talking and catching up, a group of comic vagabonds intersecting once a year. This year? Lots of setting up done in silence. I half expected people to finish with their displays and then start sitting Shiva. I think McFee and I were the liveliest portion of the floor.
There was only about a half hour before the doors opened, so I did a quick loop through the areas to see who was there. Sharing a table in a corner of the main room was Mikey Babinski and Christa Smith. Babinski has done art for just about every second tier publisher and for the Big Two. He was also the inker on Doctor Whooves – The Fluttershy Effect. Smith did the color flats on the story. They had prints of the “cover”, and Smith was thrilled that she could sign it – Smith is an MLP fan, and she’s also a Whovian, calling her local DJ service “Bad Wolf Productions.” Also there on the other side of the hall from them was John Mytech, who did the lettering on the story.
Also turning up was a fellow BC brother in arms, the ever well-dressed Dirk Manning. We didn’t have much time to catch up, and I didn’t even have time to really visit with the fun folks at Instant Press (www.instantpresscomics.com). Rene Castellano, David Gruba, and Jewell Walton had a new comic in their amazingly funny “Wolfman” series, Time Of The Wolfman. The cover features the Wolfman in a Doctor Who thing with 3D glasses and a long multicolored scarf. They should be at C2E2, I’ll get a copy then. Also on the list of people I hoped to chat with were Gabriel Bautista (Elephantmen, The Life After, The Spirit), mainstay Brian Babendererde (Soul Chaser Betty), and Serena Guerra (The Mice Templar).
But the doors opened, and there was a constant steady flow of people. McFee and I didn’t have much time to talk as we gave our spiels. We got a lot of interested looks from people, and in fact, I didn’t get any coding done. How did I do? Made almost double table. This year, I was playing with a short set, having only my Sound Waves comics and the Hannah Singer books. Hannah carried the day, with lots of people finding it interesting. What really helped sell the series, though, was mentioning a couple of the stories. People who hear the set-up usually assume they are Christian stories like those Chick Tracts or something. I find that mentioning things like how one of the Heavenly representatives is gay and God doesn’t condemn him to Hell establishes that I don’t run with the Fundies, and makes them more open to trying the books. You gotta know your audience.
Remember how I said there was an air of finality to this show? Usually, there are four or five people wandering around, handing out fliers for other comic shows and trying to recruit vendors and talent. This time? There was only one. It was the tireless and incredibly giving Paul Maiellaro. Maiellaro is the big dog for the Chicagoland Entertainment Card Expo. It is a pop culture show for cards, comics, movie memorabilia, and so on that raises money for the Treasure Chest Foundation. They exist to buy toys for kids in hospitals (and trust me, something that simple has an astonishingly profound effect). He’s got another show coming up September 11 and 12 in Carol Stream. Details are at www.chicagolandexpo.com. It’s a worthy cause, and Maiellaro is one of the greatest guys in the world. I highly recommend him.
There was actually an uptick in cosplayers this time. I didn’t see any duplicates except one – Star Lord from Guardians Of The Galaxy. Two different guys, each of which managed to find a Sony tape player and orange headphones (God bless eBay), although I think I spotted two Annas from Frozen.
The activity kept up, and I didn’t even realize the time until people started breaking down. Usually, you’ll have some early birds taking down a couple of hours before the end of the show. This time? I think we were well within the final hour before it started. And no matter how they did, if they made table, made out like a bandit, or made nothing, no one seemed particularly happy. No one really said anything. That air of finality hung like smog in the convention center.
As I started carting my stuff out once the doors were closed, I talked to Dan. He reiterated that this was the last one. I calmly told him I’d heard that before. When I told him I didn’t believe him last year, I had a smug feeling that I was right, and it turned out I was justified.
This time? I’m anxiously nervous that I’m wrong.
Peter G’s newest Hannah Singer story collection, “Hope Springs Eternal”, is not only available now from Amazon USA, but all three books are also available in the UK, Germany, France, Italy, and Spain. Previews of each story available at the sites, as well.