Commissions and HEROES

Hi All!

Sorry for the radio silence of late, but writing and drawing two books at once is a lot of work!

But…I did it!  Shakes and Stanley will each have a new adventure for readers this year, and both will debut at HEROES CON in Charlotte on June 16th!

I will have copies of both MOO FAST, MOO FURRYOUS and THE CASE OF THE CHICANE MUTINY on hand, plus copies of Shakes and Stanley’s previous adventures, and a few other fun things.  Don’t forget, every hardcover book gets a free SHAKES print!  (Ask nicely, and I might even make that TWO prints.)

Also, I will doing commissions at the show, but you can order them early from me by emailing me via the contact form to figure out exact pricing.  Here is a sampling of my non-book art, along with basic pricing.

Commissions Advert

 

Let me know if you have any questions!  Once I have the table number, I will update this post accordingly.

See you all there!

Cheers!

~JRD

The 2016 ICRVN Year In Review

The new year had barely begun when, very early in JANUARY, an Ontario man was arrested at the American border trying to smuggle over 50 turtles into the States. Most of them, perhaps planning for a shorts sell, were in his underpants. A group of armed, angry white guys took over a federal facility in Oregon, apparently to protest a shortage of snacks and sex toys. A South Korean man created a robot that drinks so the young man would no longer drink alone…reinforcing the reasons he was drinking alone in the first place. A Portland man was arrested after stealing a python from a pet store by hiding it in his pants. He was given away from the sound of a python laughing from the young man’s pants. Th town of Whitesboro, New Jersey voted to keep their town seal of a white man choking an American Indian. (They later realized, “Oh. Right. Racist as hell. Got it.”) A woman in Georgia went on a rampage in a Waffle House that included throwing plates at other customers and stripping naked. Customers described her as clearly scattered, and somewhat smothered and chunked. Maine Governor Paul LaPage blamed the state’s drug problems on “guys from New York named D-Money, Smoothie, Shifty,” implying they were Black. Later that day, three leaders of the Maine drug trafficking ring were arrested: James, Jody and Donna (all were white). A Texas man was discovered trying to smuggle marijuana in with him to sell to other inmates after his arrest. The drug, hidden between the man’s butt cheeks, was found thanks to a new crack down on crime. UK Film Censors had to watch a 10hr film of paint drying. The film was made as a protest to UK rating laws, and given a rating of “suitable for ages 4 and up.”

The chaos of January was buffered slightly at the beginning of FEBRUARY, by the announcement of a new technological advancement. English scientists revealed a new way to store information: nanostructures protected inside glass disks. Because glass is heat resistant and chemically stable, the storage could last billions of years. Or until it drops onto the floor. A typical example of regal opulence, a Cambodian village spent $40,000 making a luxury custom-built toilet for a Thai princess’ scheduled 2-hour visit. While she didn’t use it, she did take its picture. February closed out with historians claiming in a new book that Hitler suffered from a combination of genital malformities. Man…Kick a guy when he’s down.

MARCH would not be very active for peculiarities, but it started with a doozy. A St Louis man was taking a naked selfie with his favorite thing: his gun. Which went off. Shooting off his other favorite thing. Later in the month, two thieves in New Mexico were apprehended by an undercover cop when the thieves asked him to help start their stolen car.

Craziness returned to the upswing in APRIL when a woman in Florida was arrested for cocaine possession and during processing, when officers found a crack pipe hidden…in her vagina. Shortly thereafter, a woman in Tennessee was arrested for an outstanding warrant, and during processing officers found heroin hidden…in her vagina. The woman tried to eat the heroin before officers could obtain it. Not long after that, an Iowa woman was arrested after she tried to hide from police in her oven, which thankfully, is not a euphemism for her vagina. Perhaps proving that shipping and delivery jobs are too strenuous, a FedEx worker fell asleep during his shift loading a plane bound for Texas. He was halfway from Tennessee to Lubbock when he woke up. April ended when an alleged thief fled a crime scene by jumping a nearby fence. Secret Service officers patrolling the White House grounds nabbed the thief immediately.

MAY started off a slow summer when an Illinois woman sued Starbucks for putting too much ice in her iced coffee. Ted Cruz showed just how much he cared about women during the last two days of his campaign by letting Carly Fiorina fall off the stage, and then punching his wife in the face twice while hugging an advisor. Conservative Virginia congressional candidate Mike Webb posted a screen grab of his computer…forgetting to close the open porn tabs. Continuing the political slide into ridiculousness, a Virginia woman’s family made a political statement in her obituary, stating she preferred death rather than choose between Trump and Hillary Clinton.

Relatively speaking, JUNE was fairly quiet, save supporters of the orange Nazi twinkie starting their own dating site. Like their savior, participants had to be either emotionally, intellectually, or actually bankrupt.

JULY did not disappoint those of us who take relief in silliness, starting with a Nashville man found in bed with a mannequin stolen from a nearby sex shop. The thief’s lovemaking was described as ‘wooden’ by the mannequin. A North Carolina couple was charged with a count each of misdemeanor assault by police who caught the couple fighting…with pizza rolls. A Swedish soccer player was given a red card for passing gas near the referee, proving referees aren’t the only stinkers in sports. Joey Chestnut reclaimed the Nathan’s title (and potential gay icon status) eating 70 wieners on the Fourth of July in the annual Hot Dog eating contest. New Hampshire police captured 500 fugitives by inviting them to a Pokemon Go contest. A Tennessee woman started a fire in her apartment when she tried to barbecue a brisket in her bathroom. Firefighters responded and put out the fire by turning on the shower. A woman in the UK staved off a robber by repeatedly beating him about the head with a pack of bacon.

In AUGUST, a Michigan woman was arrested trying to escape the women’s restroom by climbing through the ceiling. She was trying to ditch her court-ordered class on decision making. George Zimmerman was punched by a bystander after Zimmerman boasted at a Florida restaurant that he “was the guy who killed Trayvon Martin.” (The only joke here…is Zimmerman.) NYC officials removed a statue of a naked Donald Trump. City officials stated that “NYC Parks stands firmly against any unpermitted erection in city parks, no matter how small.” Anthony Weiner got caught sexting again. His wife, Huma Abedin, left her husband after finding out he was still an awful prick.

SEPTEMBER began with a Royal Canadian Mint employee proving even Canadians can make asses of themselves when he was arrested after smuggling $140,000 worth of gold…in his rectum. A Polar Bear in the Polish Poznan Zoo found new toy that had to be taken from the bear before the WWII grenade could explode. A manhunt in Germany, following an assault during Oktoberfest, put police on the lookout for a blonde male wearing lederhosen.

OCTOBER was a busy month, with members of the general public across the country panicking when they began seeing creepy clowns wandering thru various neighborhoods, instead of on the campaign trail where they belonged. Alabama voter Joshua Hughes expressed regret on social media after Hillary Clinton became the official Democratic nominee for getting a “Feel the Bern” tattoo…on his genitalia. An explosion at a gas station in Florida was caused by a woman who used the vacuum to suck up gasoline which had been spilled in her trunk. After the explosion, she shut her trunk and drove off. A Texas man, Rogelio Andaverde, staged his own kidnapping to be able to hang out with his friends after his wife refused permission. A woman took a fight from Charlotte, NC, with her support animal, a duck. The duck became an internet sensation, particularly since it took care of its own bill. The school board in Charleston, SC, removed pregnancy and STD prevention lessons from a curriculum to replace it with lessons on abstinence. The Bundy family who led a takeover of the federal wildlife refuge in Oregon were acquitted on the evidence that they were white.

NOVEMBER came, and proved that we were apparently ready for the apocalypse to get here sooner, rather than later. But, before we rush headlong into oblivion, men worldwide showed their privilege when a study on a new male contraceptive was ended prematurely after study participants started to feel like a natural woman reacting to the pill…with mood swings, acne, and a lowered libido. (Spoiler: they couldn’t handle it.) After the election to end all elections (somewhat literally), Hitl’orange-elect supporters protested Starbucks by having baristas write Trump’s name on coffee, instead of their own names…after they bought the coffee.

 

I have written this tongue-in-cheek focus on the ludicrous news bytes that pass our feeds for close to twenty years. This year was a little harder to write.

For the most part, I write about the stupid crap people do to themselves or their family for peculiar reasons, like the guy who accidently shot a family member when the bullet ricocheted off an armadillo. Things that are so goofy that you have to laugh.

But…this year was different. A week out from 2017, and folks are currently mourning George Michael (and in much smaller numbers, mourning Liz Smith and Vera Rubin), while breathing a temporary sigh of relief over Carrie Fisher, who died one day before her mother. My generation is being reminded of our own mortality…almost daily…with the passing of yet another celebrity. We have lost so many artists and celebrities that we have come to speak of 2016 as an anthropomorphized entity, and not just a measure of time.

November brought about a political revolution sprung from the basest racism of the KKK in the guise of what seems more and more like a foreign puppet in exchange for political leverage for business interests. In its wake are a growing number of hate crimes, making everyone who thought our country was more progressive than it really is back to reality.

People voted for a president because they either shared his racism and misogyny, or they hoped so much that he would take care of them they felt they could gloss over those qualities.

Politics and society have reverted back to the worst years of the 1950s, so much so that I still wait to see who this generation’s Emmet Till will be. That time is coming, I fear, and we will lose many battles as we struggle to bring our country back to where we thought it was. That is a long way away.

The election of Obama, and the progress we as a country had made was, sadly, a mere phantom, covering up a rebellion of a different sort.

We are not what we thought we were, and it will take a lot of work, and lot of understanding, and a lot of talking, to make us what we thought…what we should be.

We’ve been forced to take our two steps back. But, if we can learn to make change…real change…happen in a peaceful way, we will make our one step forward, and another. And another, and exceed even what we thought we once were.

Consider the words of both David Bowie, and the advice of Marvel hero Luke Cage’s mentor, Pop Hunter:

We can be heroes, always forward, just for one day…

And every day after that.

Or, as George Michael put it…you’ve got to have faith.

Hope and Thankfullness

It would seem difficult to find something to be thankful for this year.

The Republican party is gone, with a new American Nazi party in its place. Artists and musicians who shaped not just a generation, but an era, are passing almost daily. Natural disasters which take dozens of lives, caused by climate changes, are happening more and more often.

And yet, it is in times like these that we need hope. The current icon of hope, Barack Obama, is leaving to return to the private sector, and we are left with an incoming president who cares so little for anything other than himself that he refuses to denounce hate crimes. Germany is leading a growing coalition of nations concerned for the rising white supremacy movement in America. (Germany. Let that irony sink in for a moment.)

Social media is becoming toxic, thanks to the ease at which we can create our own echo chamber. Social media has also made it easier to spread lies when we share “headlines” without checking the veracity of the story, so long as keywords in the headline agrees with our preconceptions.

It’s also ironic to write about being thankful today, when considering the historical context. American Indians are being sprayed with firehoses to protest an oil pipeline from crossing their land and potentially ruining their environment. The initial festival now known as Thanksgiving may be the one time white European immigrants have spent an extended period of time with American Indians without resorting to violence.

It’s hard to find good out there these days.

So…we have to make it happen ourselves.

Social media has also altered how we define and perceive friendship. Our personal value seems tied to “likes” and how many “friends” we have, or the number of followers.

I’m too old to get caught up in that, and have managed to be fairly good about using social media as a platform to trade ideas and tricks about art, or keep up with old friends and family (“real” friends, based on the pre-1997 definition) for when a phone call isn’t convenient at the time. I have even become friends with a few people I have “met” through Twitter (rarely do I “friend” someone on Facebook whom I have not met in person).

One of those friends had been quiet for a while, which is not uncommon when he gets deep into creating a new book. However, I found out that he and his wife lost their toddler earlier this year. I felt awful for not knowing. But, I found something that made me think about today.

Several children were saved by his passing because the boy’s organs were donated. For what would have been the boy’s second birthday, his mother created a hashtag, “fortheloveofotis,” for acts of kindness in their son’s name.

We need more of that.

It doesn’t need to be attached to a hashtag for social media, of course, but it did help me realize that even in our darkest times, we have the great capacity for hope.

When I think of the things that give me hope, things that I am thankful for, it starts with my wife and child. My wife is a stern woman when it comes to my future, never letting me give up. That’s a daunting task. My child is a kind child who cares little for the things that make us different, but is also aware of how cool it can be that we have those differences to make life more interesting.

I am also thankful for a group of friends in the comic and book community that have embraced me and offered advice and fellowship, that are amazingly too numerous to mention. (However, a handful have been truly amazing in their encouragement and enthusiasm, that I would be remiss in not thanking publicly: Mark and Chris Mariano, John Gallagher, Liz and Jimmy Reed, Christy Blanch, Kyle Roberts, the Cosley Family, and the ever-growing “Drew Crew.” Thank you all.)

My family is basically my wife and Kidlet, and my Godmother. When I was young, my grandparents were gone, and the split that sent my mother and father in different directions also separated me from all but my mother. My father started another family, and echoing my childhood, the youngest child was shut out at a young age by my father and his wife. I had managed to keep up with that child for a while, but by the time I met my wife, my step-sister and I had lost track of each other.

My sister found me a couple of weeks ago. We’re going to see her, and my nieces, in a few days.

On a day we generally celebrate with family, those who share a bond of genetics and blood with us, I share the day with a family of my own choosing. People that I care about that enrich my life. My blood relatives are scattered throughout the country, and have not been a part of my life for decades, for a variety of unpleasant reasons.

Today, I celebrate my real friends that I love, and cherish, and whose company I enjoy.  They are my family, and I am thankful for them. And for you.

Enjoy the love of your family, whomever they may be, and try to spread a little love… little hope…in their honor.

Cheers.

Convention Recap: Hampton Comicon 2016

Hampton Comicon is a new one-day show run by the people behind Tidewater Comicon. Being a one-day show made it easier to exhibit and work within the Kidlet’s school schedule.

Hampton is the home show for a handful of friends, specifically Drew Moss, Bob Frantz, Eryk Donovan, and Kevin Cuffe. It isn’t easy to get us all together under one roof, so when it was clear they were all involved, we signed on, too.

Hampton starts really early, at 9am for VIP ticket holders, and after our three-hour trip to Hampton, we opened up with all of the other groggy and caffeine-craving artists. (Hampton Convention Center bans outside food, so many of us were forced to throw out breakfast and coffee upon entering.)

We had an end-table, at the front of row C, which included Peanuts and DC artist Robert Pope, Eryk, Action Lab and Archer artist Sam Ellis, author Nancy Collins, and Marvel artist Reilly Brown. Definitely an eclectic group.

As far as sales go, Hampton was great! ALL of our sales were to people we had never met before. To end our second year exhibiting without a single sale to a friend was fantastic, and proof that we are on the right track.

We sold four plush (none of them Shakes, oddly), and four books. MOO didn’t sell, so it was a little weird to have the primary character not do nearly as well as Pigasus and Stanley. Three of the four plush were Pigasus, my wife’s mascot (the fourth was Percie the Penguin). The four books were one each of BEAR, and two TEMPLE OF MOO’D.

While we didn’t do nearly as well as our best one-day show at FredCon in July, it still stands as a great show because all our sales were to new customers. And, hopefully, they will become repeat customers. A few kids even got free sketches, so maybe I will see them again in the future, too.

The highlight for me was borne out of some confusion. One of the organizers came up, pointed at me and said, “I remember you from Baltimore, can you do a panel?”

I said, “sure,” and headed off to present at a panel I knew nothing about. As it turns out, the panel was about art, both in practice, and as an enterprise. I was in great company that was also pretty amusing. With the exception of author Collins, the ENTIRE row C was on this panel! And there I was between Reilly Brown on my left, and Robert Pope on my right, with Eryk and Sam Ellis on Pope’s right.

We got four questions. Not because the panel was poorly attended, or no one could think of any, but because we all just started chatting. It was like a group of colleagues having a drink after work, talking to the new kid, and just sharing our wisdom. And, even though my wisdom is both shorter than Brown or Pope’s, it is also from a different aspect of the industry (self-publishing), so I was able to contribute.

Several people came up to us individually and as a group and thanked us for the panel, a couple of folks saying it was one of the better ones they had ever attended. That’s definitely a win.

After that, the show slowed down, allowing me to chat with friends for a bit, and pick up a comic or two. I even swapped a copy of MOO with Brown for one of his great sketchbooks, so I hope his new son enjoys Shakes.

After the show we had dinner with “the Drew Crew” (Drew, Bob, Eryk, Kevin, Marc Deering, and friends old and new) and then crashed before the drive home.

It was a whirlwind show, but a good one, and especially if The Drew Crew is back, we will be too. And, I definitely want to get on another panel sometime soon. That was fun. Although, I suspect my panel-mates had a lot to do with that. Thanks, Boys!

And thanks to everyone who organized, patronized, and socialized. We had a blast!

Convention Recap: Baltimore Comic Con 2016

To fully understand the impact of this past weekend, I offer a little backstory.

In early 2011, my mother had died after a prolonged illness, and for much of the time leading to her final weeks, I was her primary caretaker. In the few years leading up to her passing, I was working at a comic shop, and was becoming friendly with a variety of creators on social media. I had attended a handful of conventions in my youth, and I found out that three creators in particular, Francesco Francavilla, Paul Tobin, and Colleen Coover, would be at the Baltimore Comic Con.

My wife, whose ideas of comic conventions were not unlike the general public’s preconceived notions, agreed to go along to help keep an eye on our then-six-year-old Kidlet. I had established a virtual relationship with Francavilla, Tobin, and Cooper, and meeting them was an honor and a pleasure. I even got to introduce myself to Francesco with my usual humor. He was busy enough that we sat and talked to his wife for nearly an hour, and it was her advice that convinced me to start up CRASS FED, my old web comic.

My wife, however, got the best of it, finding the handful of creators we interacted with to be nothing like the preconceived notions the general public have of comic fans and creators. (She even got to watch me fight through fanboy paralysis when I happened to find Stan Sakai with no one at his table, and spent ten minutes desperately trying not to faint.) She enjoyed herself enough to want to come back the following year.

A medical emergency for my mother-in-law meant Baltimore 2012 was just me, the Kidlet, and a friend. I got to see Francesco again, plus Drew Moss and Bob Frantz. Kidlet and I also got to investigate a relatively new thing, the “Kids Love Comics” pavilion, which was really just a six-by-six area where kids could get a mask, or a cape, or draw their own heroes. Surrounding this pavilion were creators who made books aimed at younger readers, with the hope of getting, keeping, and nurturing readers. One man in particular, John Gallagher, was running the show essentially by himself, and he was doing a heck of a job running his table, and making sure that every kid got a few moments of uninterrupted attention.

Also there was Jamie Cosley, whom I had met thru Twitter, and who has since become a close friend, mentor, and collaborator. Subsequent trips over the next couple of years created, and expanded, our “comics family,” to include folks like Todd Dezago, Matt and Suzanne Wieringo, Craig Rousseau, the Mariano Brothers, Liz and Jimmy Reed, and more.

In 2013, we added an annual trip to HeroesCon, which expanded the family further to include the DeFractions, Amy Chu, and Erica Schultz, Joey Ellis, and more.

On the way home from Heroes 2013, my wife realized that not only was she having a good time at these shows, they were becoming exactly what some people expect from a family reunion: wonderful, exhausting trips that we hoped wouldn’t end.

Right after the 2014 HeroesCon, I was laid off. The anger and frustration with the manner in which I was let go wore off by the second day, transforming into concern and confusion, as I wondered what was next for me.

As it almost always happens, I took a shower that night…and it hit me.

On the drive to Heroes, my wife was behind the wheel and it was about 2am. I was doodling on my phone, and I sketched a goofy image. It was the Kidlet’s favorite toy, a cow, and I had drawn it as an astronaut.

In the shower, an idea and a title came to me. I kept repeating it to myself until I was finished with my shower and dried off. I fired up the computer, and typed for a couple of hours.

I had a rough draft, and ideas for a handful more books. My wife and Kidlet were asleep, so I waited until the morning to share what had occurred to me.

Shakes the Cow had been born, and MOO THOUSAND AND PUN was underway.

I self-published MOO and debuted it at AwesomeCon 2015, which was my first convention as exhibitor. Another book quickly came to mind, and by the time Baltimore 2015 rolled around, I had published MOO THOUSAND AND PUN and the BEAR FROM A.U.N.T.: THE HONEY DON’T CASE, and was a “veteran” of three conventions. At the end of Baltimore 2015, we were packing up and saying goodbyes to friends.

John Gallagher, along with his co-conspirators for Kids Love Comics, Mark and Chris Mariano, offered me a chance to join the pavilion, and be a member of Kids Love Comics.

In the following year, I published the follow up to both books, TEMPLE OF MOO’D and BEAR FROM A.U.N.T.: CASE OF THE PUSHY OCTOPUS. OCTOPUS debuted at Baltimore 2016, along with a new chapbook from the Kidlet, and plush Shakes toys, handmade by my wife.

There is a Beatles song I have thought about a lot these past two years, With A Little Help From My Friends.

Before Baltimore 2016, we had exhibited at seven shows across Virginia, DC, and North Carolina.

Only one show, VA Comicon, was a bust. It was the only show where we didn’t sell enough to make back our table fee – at a show where tables were less than 100 bucks. At every other show, we made back at least our table fees.

And we could not have done so without our friends. In addition to the backers for the Kickstarter that helped publish MOO, friends came by our tables and picked up original art, coloring books, extra copies, my wife’s cookbook, Kidlet’s comic, and more, to help us out.

It was pretty amazing…but I having dealt with depression for over thirty years meant I couldn’t just enjoy the slow success. Doubt crept in as always. Luckily, it wasn’t enough to keep me from creating.

With four books, and new plush toys from my wife, we drove to Baltimore with hope, and a hopeful ace up my sleeve.

Not only did my invitation from John Gallagher and the Marianos allow me to join the Kids Love Comics family, it brought an invitation to submit art for the annual Yearbook. This year, Baltimore was celebrating the 75th anniversary of Archie Comics, and I was invited to submit a picture of my character interacting with some or all of the Archie gang.

I'm telling everyone I worked on a book with Francesco Francavilla!

I’m telling everyone I worked on a book with Francesco Francavilla!

I drew a picture of Shakes as a soda jerk at Pop’s, serving Jughead malts, while Archie looked on, bored, waiting for Jughead to finally finish ordering drinks. It was accepted, which meant a large number of attendees would be coming by to get my signature in the yearbook (a full book of autographs yields a prize of free art).

A late start meant we couldn’t set up until Friday morning, so we went to dinner with the Wieringos, and a friend and winner of the ‘Ringo Scholarship from SCAD, Nicky Soh. If you ever get to Abbey Burger Bistro, try the antelope burger. I’m pretty sure I heard Peta folks scream with every bite. It was a late night, and eventually we got to sleep, excited for the new day.

Some sample sketchcards that were available at BCC:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Friday started with some frustration getting our stuff into the convention center, but once we got set up, it was just a challenge staying at our table and not running off to visit friends. Luckily for the Kidlet, she had no such restrictions.

Before the show began properly, I got to spend a few moments with friends Thom Zahler (Love and Capes; Long Distance), Joe Endres (Scamped), and Christy Blanch from Aw Yeah Comics Muncie, and a wonderful talent in her own right. (Write?) I even tracked down the Kidlet to go shopping for Lego figures (don’t ask how many) before I planted myself at table 3004.

We were seated next to Marcus Williams and Greg Burnham, creators of a fun historical fantasy called Tuskegee Heirs, which involves, yep, descendants of the famed aviators. They were great neighbors, as we spent some of our limited down time having fun. Right behind us was seated Joe Endres. Thanks to my wife and Christy Blanch, Endres and I were supposed to engage in a “Carol Channing Impersonation Contest” all weekend. Unfortunately (luckily?), my throat was killing me so we only managed the occasional Channing Shout Out to each other, which simply confused everyone in ear shot, but had my wife in hysterics. So it was worth it.

We got to go spend money at the booth of one of our favorites, Cuddles and Rage, and see the lovely April Alayne, and the custom-satchel-wiz Zombisaur. Emily Swan and Nicky Soh also had tables in Artist Alley, along with another of our “kids,” Eryk Donovan.

At the rate we’re going, by 2020, half of the artist alleys at Heroes and Baltimore could be listed as dependents.

Friday, sales-wise, was wonky, and almost entirely made up of friends’ purchases. With two exceptions.

First was a rather fun goofball named Justin, who is the creator of the MOVIE BUFF GAME, a trivia game in which the game is run entirely on what knowledge you already have. The cards have no trivia on them whatsoever, but are strategy cards dictating flow. Everything else requires you to outsmart your opponents. It’s a fun game that only takes a couple of plays to get the hang of, and when you are really into it, it can even get diabolical.

Justin came by after Kidlet had spent some time with him at his booth learning the game. He later brought back his wife, and they picked up both Shakes books and a plush for their toddler. That sale saved our Friday, and set up a big moment for my wife.

At the middle of the day, a little boy walked up, smiling, arms outstretched, and said, “COW!” The look on his face when we handed him his very own Shakes was priceless, and made my wife’s weekend.

Those two exchanges may not have broken records sales-wise, but they sure as heck won the day for us regardless.

(After we got back, Justin posted photos of their child with Shakes, and my wife has beamed ever since. Their kiddo is a cutie, and any support you want to throw at them, we heartily encourage.)

Friday after the show, I got to have no fewer than three fanboy fits.

Jose Luis Garcia Lopez was in the lobby of the hotel as we were waiting for dinner, and I got to go thank him for everything he had done in his career. Garcia Lopez was not only an influence in my storytelling, but I got great joy out of everything he has done. Simply put, he is one of my heroes. (I had sent Kidlet with a copy of his Batman 66 book to get signed to her, but she sneakily had him sign it to me. Silly Kidlet.)

After that, in walks Walter and Louise Simonson. I wished Walt a Happy Birthday, and he agreed to take a picture with Shakes. (More on that later.)

I recovered from those two interactions to have dinner with Brian Stelfreeze.

Brian kept me in comics in the early 1990s, and at three previous shows he has been an angel with the Kidlet. We took him out to dinner to thank him, and we had a great time, making jokes, telling anecdotes, and talking shop. He was great with the Kidlet as always, and they even have a contract, wherein she gets a full painted commission if she is taller than 5’9” by Baltimore 2020.

Saturday was the big day, with the majority of fans there for just the one day. One customer liked my art and asked for a “cowmission.” When I asked, “sure, what would you like,” she replied, “can you draw a penguin?” My wife tried to stifle a hearty laugh as I pointed to my banner, which features the now infamous avatar of almost twenty years. “I think I can handle that,” I replied. She pointed to my “Cow Tipping Appreciated” sign and asked me to draw it for her. We also sold two more plush Shakes, one to an adult who also came forward, arms outstretched, calling, “Cow!” I suppose we’ve struck a chord.

Some of the drawings I did Saturday when I was really punchy:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Choopie and my wife (right).

Choopie and my wife (right).

Kidlet got a surprise when she discovered she had been written and drawn into the newest PERHAPANAUTS graphic novel, INTO HOLLOW EARTH, in a couple of sequences with her favorite chupacabra, Choopie. Writer Todd Dezago knows us well, and captured Kidlet’s character perfectly, and artist Craig Rousseau did so just as perfectly with pen and ink.

I didn’t find out until Sunday, but my friend Christy Blanch, moderator extraordinaire, moderated the panel featuring Kristian Nairn of Game of Thrones. Christy showed a picture I had given her of Shakes as Hodor to Nairn, and he signed it!

Good thing the Man Eating French Fry was fried in peanut oil.

Good thing the Man Eating French Fry was fried in peanut oil.

The highlight of the day was a Mr. Peanut cosplayer, who wore a hard-shell (ha!) costume, and had to bend over completely at the waist to see my portfolio. He bought a piece of original art, a cartoon I had drawn earlier of a “Man Eating French Fry.” We are still giggling over that.

A couple of friends rounded out the sales day just before a fire alarm shortened our day.

Dinner was our usual trek to the Irish Pub, Tir Na Nog on the Inner Harbor, and it was the normal annual meetup of friends in the “We All Live Within 15 Miles of Each Other in DC, But We Only Get Together For Dinner Out Of State.”

Yeah…we’re weird.

Sunday was a bit of a whirlwind. Kidlet had popped a fever Saturday after dinner, so she and my wife stayed in the room. I went to breakfast with some friends, and then over to the convention. Like a doofus, I had forgotten coffee, but friends grabbed me something to drink.

Most of Sunday’s sales were to new fans, save a couple of folks with “comeback cards.”

Sample free sketches for returning customers.

Sample free sketches for returning customers.

I had been talking with Steve Conley (The Middle Age) about the yearbook, and he suggested adding a business card to the page when I would sign my page in the yearbook. I did that one better by printing postcards with all of our information on one side, and a blank area on the other. When folks came up to get their yearbook signed, I asked how the scavenger hunt was going, and when I gave them back their book, I showed them the card and said to come back later for a free sketch. This way I could show them what I do when they had more time to listen.

 

Squirrel Girl!

Squirrel Girl!

On Saturday, there were two adorable kids in costume that got sketches, one of whom was dressed as Squirrel Girl. I mentioned we knew Erica Henderson from exhibiting, and that I would share a picture with her of the girl in costume. Her eyes got huge, and every time she saw us during the rest of the show, she smiled and waved.

Sunday, a dad and son came back to get their sketches, and while I worked, they looked through my books and picked one up. The cards worked!

The best part of Sunday for me was an early sale by a young mom with a little girl. They decided on MOO, and went on their way.

Not half an hour later, my phone buzzed. The mom left a message on my Facebook Author page, and she told me that her little girl had made her read MOO to her four times during lunch.

The rest of Sunday was fellow exhibitors and friends stopping by, saying goodbyes, and in some cases hellos and goodbyes, and slowly packing up. We made it back to the hotel, lazily ordered food, and tried not to keep each other up from snoring. The drive home was a quick one, interrupted only by a quick stop at the drugstore before we landed at home to fight falling asleep at four in the afternoon.

Last COWmission of the show.

Last COWmission of the show.

We were lucky to be guests this year. With only seven shows under my belt before Baltimore 2016, I am still a newbie, still green. We’re still learning what works and what doesn’t, still learning the best times to take a break from our table. Still learning. But, Baltimore 2016 will also be important as the first convention (eighth overall) in which sales to new customers and fans exceeded friends’ purchases, both in numbers and amounts!

John Gallagher, Mark Mariano, and Chris Mariano showed great faith in us, offering us a spot in the Kids Love Comics pavilion. It’s a small, tight family, and it meant the world to us to be included. Simply put, we were honored. We got to hang out with Chris Giarrusso, a family favorite, and Dawn Griffin, who is as much a goofball as I am. We got to see Tim King for all of five seconds, but also got to chat with Franco and Howard Chaykin.

My BCC takeaways, including an autograph from Hayley Atwell.

My BCC takeaways, including an autograph from Hayley Atwell.

Oh, and, we met Hayley Atwell.

There are so many moments with friends, family, and new friends, new family, and icons of my youth, that I am sure I have forgotten someone.

Joe Endres and I talked about an idea for a new book.

Chris Mariano gave me very kind, and much-needed words of encouragement.

Brian Stelfreeze and Hayley Atwell made the weekend for my Kidlet.

Kyle Roberts asked me to be a part of his sketchbook that includes artists I have no right following.

The COWmission for Kyle "Aw Yeah Muncie" Roberts of Spider-Shakes.

The COWmission for Kyle “Aw Yeah Muncie” Roberts of Spider-Shakes.

A stranger (who asked to not be photographed – which made me create my own backstory for him) bought my original art page for my entry in the yearbook. (The proceeds I immediately gave to the ‘Ringo Scholarship.)

Ramona Fradon stopped to ask if we knew where her table was, echoing my fanboy moment from this past HeroesCon.

These shows are filled with people I idolized ages ago, and people I am just getting to know.

These shows have provided me an outlet for my creativity, and a battery to fuel it.

And most importantly, these shows have given me, my wife, and my Kidlet, a glorious extended family that no other job nor industry could have provided. None of what I do now could ever have been done without them.

In other words, Thank You, Baltimore! We will definitely see you next year!

(Want to see what Shakes was up to while I was tableside? Check out her recap here.)