1.) FanExpo is growing so fast it’s honestly hard to believe. Five years ago this was just another shitty corp-con where James Marsters was the headliner. This year? Stan Lee. Nimoy and Shatner. Full editorial presence from DC and Marvel (and promises from both that next year FanExpo will have full portfolio review as per San Diego and New York). A horde of others besides. Don’t get me wrong: in many ways FanExpo is still a shitty corp-con. (And certainly not on par for awesomeoness value with the Toronto Comic Arts Festival, of course.) But it’s one that’s exploding. If it keeps growing at this rate, in two years or so it’ll be the second biggest con on the continent after San Diego; it’s already certainly bigger than anything else other than possibly New York.
2.) Of course, it would be really nice if the con organizers would act like they know they have a rapidly exploding convention on their hands, as opposed to, and I am just saying, a bunch of irresponsible idiots. Last year’s FanExpo had major crowding issues in the larger, southern half of the Metro Toronto Convention Centre, so bad that they had to stop selling tickets. This year FanExpo couldn’t get the southern building for the con and, instead of purchasing the reservation from the organization which bought it (something other major cons have done in the past), settled for the smaller northern building. The main hall of the northern building is about half the size of the southern building. When they reached building capacity on Saturday (which happened at around noon), they didn’t tell anybody but let people exit (because there isn’t anywhere worthwhile inside the con to get good) and then didn’t let them back in. If the FanExpo organizers don’t get their heads out of their asses and make sure to get both buildings next year, they’ll have overcrowding issues that’ll probably make this year look wonderful in comparison.
3.) That having been said, the gaming area – off to one side, treated like the idiot stepchild of the nerd community – was full but pleasantly so. Justin Mohareb worked his ass off to provide a solid little gaming convention tacked onto the enormous behemoth groaning beneath its own weight that is FanExpo. It was a lovely experience, especially since I was volunteering and therefore did not have to pay for stuff. Well, if I had wanted to eat breakfast with James Marsters, that would have been extra. But I do not think eggs and bacon become better when you eat them with Spike.
4.) Because I was mostly not doing stuff other than helping people play board games, I didn’t do much con stuff. I generally never do. I made an exception this time and went to the DC Comics “how to get into comics” seminar, which was originally supposed to be Joey DeCavileri’s gig but ended up being Dan Didio’s instead. I want to make something clear before I go any further: whatever my beliefs about Didio’s creative tendencies as an editor, I’m a professional and I know a professional when I see one, and Didio was the consumnate professional. He was polite, honest, friendly, and tried to be as supportive of the attendees as possible without failing to be realistic.
5.) Which is important to note because I didn’t really go to the panel to learn how to get into comics, because frankly I did the research on that years ago and know the score. I went because I wanted to see the competition – this is perhaps not the nicest of reasons, but it’s the truth. The good news, from my perspective, is that a lot of people in that room aren’t interested in writing except on their terms, which is stupid: you have to start compromising to write professionally practically from the first word. You have to cut back against your own indulgences. Somebody commented a while back that one page in Al’Rashad contained the first sentence they considered “Birdian,” and that was entirely on purpose from my perspective; I know my tics better than anybody and I know when not to use them.
6.) A pause from this discussion about writing to say that I saw more people dressed up as the Doctor at this con than I have ever seen anywhere, which is good because the Doctor is a good costume: you get to wear nice clothes and most of them are relatively easy to put together. Only the Third Doctor (lace shirt and archaic jacket), Fifth (cricketer’s dress) and especially Sixth (ugly what-the-hell coat plus whiteboy afro) are a bit hard to manage. Heck, you can convert your Harry Potter costume into a Fourth Doctor easily enough: just don’t put on the glasses and fake scar, and cram jellybabies in your pocket.
7.) Also a good costume: Deadpool. This is because no matter how terrible your Deadpool costume is, people love Deadpool and will say “hey! Deadpool!” at you. If you are very fat and dress up as Deadpool, people might even not call you “Fatpool.”
8.) But I digress back to my original point. Of course, there were the usual band of “my question is HOW DARE YOU SIR” types, but Didio shut them down quite excellently by being both respectful and saying over and over again that their issues weren’t the point of the seminar. The point of the seminar was how to get work for DC in any of the major disciplines. He stressed the often low-paying nature of the gig frequently because he wanted to be honest; he explained to people, patiently, what editors looked for in art submissions multiple times. He said, straight-up, that writers looking to get work at the big two have to basically steal somebody else’s job, which means the bar is higher. Much higher. And of course people got offended by this, because people are stupid.
9.) Writing isn’t a zero-sum game, of course. But publishing, to an extent, is. That’s how things go: there isn’t enough paying work for everybody who wants to get paid to get paid, and if you don’t know that, grow up. Didio was patient with the people who didn’t understand that, as he was patient with the dreamers who want to change the business or grow the field. Dreams like that are great, but they don’t get you hired.
10.) And he was patient with the people who obviously didn’t understand the point of a pitch. Multiple people tried to debate Didio when he brought up “the gun pitch.” I’d heard about the gun pitch before (from Paul Levitz, actually, years ago). The gun pitch is “I want to tell the story of the gun that killed Batman’s parents.” And Didio explained that the problem with the pitch is that it’s not a Batman story, which is of course obviously true: if you’re telling the story of the gun that killed Batman’s parents, it ends when the Waynes get shot, which means it could be a story about any old gun.
11.) The debaters didn’t get it, of course. “Well, I’d like to read a story about the gun that killed Batman’s parents.” But the point of getting hired in any freelance industry is not “I can do this well,” because lots of people can do that. It’s “I can make your life easier if you give me work.” Pitching the gun story doesn’t make anybody’s life easier, because you’re not gonna give that story to somebody you don’t already know and trust.
12.) Another aside: the shopping at this con was miserably bad. When people are essentially paying a premium to get in the door to buy stuff, there should be, and I am just suggesting this, something resembling a sale price. If I can get it significantly cheaper at Amazon, your sale price is probably not very good. This goes for guy selling the Justin Bieber standups too. Especially the guy selling the Justin Bieber standups.
13.) One more thing: if you want to argue with Dan Didio about the gun pitch, it’s really easy. The trick is to make it a Batman story. You can do it in one sentence.
14. “Somebody is killing people with the gun that killed Batman’s parents.” That one’s for free.