This title sounds ominous, doesn’t it?
Regardless, Julie and I have been going to small cons in Central Illinois for the past 5-6 years. They tend to be only one or two a year for us. However, last year, we did a total of four signings. Come 2019, and we have done only one this year so far: Peoria Quad Con at the RiverPlex on the river front. Perfect for us as it’s only a 45 minute drive from our home and it has been our best convention in quite sometime. In fact, this has been the best convention I have displayed at since doing the first comic book convention ever in Metropolis, IL back in 2007. (Metropolis has been hosting the Superman Celebration for decades but never had a comic book convention outside Superman connections until that year. At least as far as I know.)
Upon reflecting on our time this past Saturday, the events of the day have been going through my mind. Ink and Feathers Comics has its beginnings dating all the way back to 1991 with the publication of The Mask Conspiracy. My dad, Myke, went to his first convention in Rosemont, IL , the Chicago Comicon (way before it was bought out by Wizard World) with no book. He had a binder with the entire book photocopied for fans to look through. His sole purpose for having a booth was to take pre-sales for his first graphic novel. As I was there with my mother, I watched as my dad did the “hard sell”. How do you convince people to buy your book when all you have are photocopies to show? Much to his showmanship and tenacity, he was successful in securing pre-sales. The Mask Conspiracy was a mild success (it prompted a sequel in 1997) and to this date, I have been selling the last surviving copies at these small comic book shows along with new publications I have published throughout these past decades.
This past Saturday, those remaining copies returned to their birth home. You see, The Mask Conspiracy was originally printed in Peoria, IL way back in 1991. In fact, the first copy ever sold was at the local mall in a music store. Suffice to say, that store is no longer there but I remember fondly the first words that were ever uttered by the purchaser (one of the store’s employees). “This is kick ass stuff!” This quote has led me on a 28 year journey to studying Sequential Art work and producing my own work.
(To purchase one of the last remaining copies of The Mask Conspiracy, click here.)
Unfortunately, my work has been sporadic. A topic that my dad and I spoke about while we were attending this new exciting and local convention. I plan on doing more. I am in the process of working on two new story lines (one involving Terry Freedom’s characters and the other with The Critters), already written out one (of possibly three) short sci-fi/horror stories that I would like to get illustrated and printed, and had some people stop by and ask me about freelancing again.
Freelancing. One gentleman made me feel like I was attending a job interview. After flipping through my original work, he asked my about my influences (Julie’s as well as she had prints of her fine art displayed as well), had I done any digital work, did I own a Wacom tablet, what kind of tablet was it, why I didn’t produce digital comic work, had I done any animation work, would I be interested in doing freelance work again….the list goes on. Everything he asked me, I had done when I freelanced for six years. Six years of struggling to pay my school loans (I’m still paying them off), having to move back and live with my folks in my late thirties, and trying to develop a customer base. In reality, it was all just bad timing. The economy had just tanked as I re-entered academia life and it was in the toilet when I left school. I had to fight everyday for work during those “freelance” days and it wasn’t enough to support myself.
Everyday as I sit at my desk at my current job, I keep thinking about comic/illustration work. My time sitting on my rump is time I’m not spending doing my passion projects and it’s a little disturbing. However, Julie and I need to pay bills and eat. My passion projects must stay in the background and I shouldn’t be bothered by it. I’m not the only person in the world that life has done this to.
It was also at this convention that I met Carmelo Chimera. Perhaps you have heard of him. If not, here are some research facts. Carmelo’s bio claims he has a LAW degree. He runs his own comic book stores in the suburbs of Chicago. He has done a national promotion for GIVING away one of his comic book stores. FOR FREE! (Look him up!)
He took nine years to finish his graphic novel, The Magnificent (a graphic novel he signed and I have finished reading by the way. Check it out here!), and has successfully ran three Kickstarter promotions. And he asked me if I would be interested in doing something with him. Well, not in so many words.
When we exchanged books per my suggestion (I tend to do this with other artist/writers to get a glimpse of the independent community’s’ work. Plus I am a nerd and like to collect comics. The trading of books has led to owning signed works from MANY underground artist BEFORE they became FAMOUS. More on this some other time) he flipped through my portfolio that houses some of my “practice/throw away” original pieces that I have for sale. I was given some nice compliments (Thanks, Carmelo) and he asked if I ever did other work besides my own. How much do I charge to do page work? I was thrown back by his questions. How much do I charge?? I haven’t even thought about it in over a decade.
As we conversed further, I told him that my work on a project was contingent on if I felt passionate enough for the work. If I don’t feel a connection to a project, the work suffers and I would only work on something that I felt passionate about. He mentioned a short work he had been working on that he felt might fit my style. I told him to send a sample my way.
One thing to note: I was definitely complimented by the inquires. For years now I have been thinking about finding like minded artists and putting together new work. This convention seems again to be timing as these past few days, the thought of doing a new collaboration sounds interesting and exciting to me. Could a new beginning start once again for IF Comics in Peoria as it did 28 years ago? We’ll see what the future holds.
(Missed our previous posts on our original Sleeping in Panels blog? Visit the FIRST Sleeping in Panels blog here!)