I-Con Report, part 2
The names on the con badges were printed very small, in about 8-point font. We hadn't brought the badges Isabel made for previous cons. We should've, just so people could tell who we were. I couldn't read them without my glasses, and even then I'd have to lean in and there's that awkward "Have I heard of this person before?" moment that took a second too long because of the small print on the names.
If you're a cartoonist, it really helps to make yourself a namebadge that's easily identifiable. It should have a recognizeable piece of your art and your name printed large. The first con I went to, I wore an ascot. I don't any more for a number of reasons. Firstly, I know this is a borderline case, but I think dressing as your own character is too gimmicky and comes across as a little desparate. Secondly, Brisbane doesn't wear them consistantly so the relevance is kind of lost. Thirdly, I lost them.
We had four panels, all on Sunday. This was our first time doing panels. To prepare, we saw Stan Sakai's "How Usagi Yojimbo Came to Be". I felt mildly intimidated when I realized that he had been doing this since I was nine and Isabel was more likely to eat her crayons than color with them, and I couldn't possibly become as good as that. At least not in one afternoon. It did, however, make me wish we had gone to all of his other panels.
Our first panel was "Getting Started in Online Comics" or something like that. It featured us, Bill Holbrook, and Mookie. It was at 10 AM on Sunday, when the con first opened. It was in a different room than was listed on the schedule. A marathon closed down the road most people used to get to the con. There was only one person in the audience, Dressari, and that was because he came over with us. He'd had dinner with us and Bill the night before and didn't have any questions left over. About 45 minutes in, we went back to the dealers room because nobody else had shown up and they had to relocate the belly dancers' panel to that room because the anime dance had caught fire the night before. I'm not making any of that up, honest. The only thing that would've improved it was more audience, and I'm not even sure that would've helped. They drew Kevin, Tipper, and Dominic on the chalkboard. I considered writing a two-panel exchange between Kimberly and Brisbane up there, but couldn't think of anything that'd stand on it's own especially well.
We headed back to our table for a little while and waited for for our next panels, which were a three-hour block, one right after the other.
What I feared most was that there would be a large audience who were more familiar with our comic than we were, who would ask us detailed questions and embarass us about apparent contradictions in the characters' personalities or the timeline. Ask us things like "Do you really expect us to take the comic seriously with the lounge guys in it?".
I was entirely wrong. What I should have feared most was an audience that we outnumbered, half of whom had heard of our comics once or twice but hadn't read any of it.
The first panel was "Why anthropomorphic characters?". Bill, Isabel, and I each had about five minute answers for that. Mine was the simplest - because there were a lot of other good comics out there that did it and it made the characters seem more iconic. The fact that it was the only way to tell them apart, back when I had a new artist each week, was just a coincidence. There were two people in the audience. They were both very nice and helped us by asking questions to fill the time. Sam "Uncle Kage" Conway was in the next room over. He's famous in the anthropomorphic con scene for his panels. He also had a three hour block that we were scheduled against. It sounded like his reputation was deserved. There were a few times I felt like we should call it off early and head over to see what was going on his side of the wall; it seemed like he was having a better time of it.
Then we had "Three comics at a time" panel, which featured a few aspiring cartoonists who said they'd email me if their comics ever go on-line. We were also scheduled for "The Daily Grind of Updating Webcomics" at the same time. I had hoped they'd combine the panels. They seemed similar enough. There were hints that they might, but it didn't happen. We went with Three Comics; it was in the same room as our panels immediately before and after. During the panel, all I hoped was that somebody told the people at the other panel why we weren't there.
For those of you who missed it, the secrets include: use blue pens or tracing paper so you don't have to erase pencil lines, simplify character designs, use pre-made backgrounds and, the big one - don't do anything else. Three people were in the audience. We seemed to have an upward trend that way.
Our final panel was "Writing with Furry Characters", which featured Isabel, myself, and Amadeus. It seemed like a bit of an awkward fit, especially without Bill there - he had to leave to catch a ride to the airport. He would've been perfect for that panel, as his characters live in a much more anthropomorphic world than ours do.
I'm informed that Amadeus was to do with a film they showed at the con the night before. He would've been perfect for the panel excepting the small fact that he didn't show up. Word on the street was that he was last seen having dinner.
If you were to replace our characters with humans, there would be very few points requiring explanation or changes. You can count the number of species-related character traits on one hand. Species has, purposely, not been mentioned in You Say it First or Unlike Minerva. (That got a bit awkward when people talked about Brent, their pet whose species only remains nameless because we can't think of anything good to call it). There's nothing especially "with furry characters" about our writing. About twenty minutes in, I kind of had to admit it to the crowd - which had swelled to ten people - we must be doing something right! Half of them left a couple minutes after that. I think a few of those people were aspiring novelists. We have no real advice for novelists. Neither of us has written fiction prose in the last six years, and the prose we had written back then isn't a thing we generally choose to show off.
Neither of us, in fact, view "anthropomorphic" as a genre. It isn't. There are a number of specialized anthropomorphic subgenres with their own styles and rules, but it's no more a genre than "movies featuring bald actors" or "songs about weather" is. I haven't read any anthropomorphic fiction - actual prose fiction - since Wind in the Willows. I'd wager money, though that there's less stylization and that readers of said fiction are less "trained" than readers of other conventional fiction. A lot of fiction out there is attenuated to the fact that the average person who buys a romance book, this is the twentieth romance book they bought. If anthropomorphic fiction has that kind of fine-tuning on it, we're unaware. So not only do we not have anything useful to say on the subject. We don't believe that anything really useful can be said.
After I came clean - and I felt much better afterwards - the topic changed as people started asking us again about how to start comics. This was territory we were familiar with. We've started an awful lot of comics.