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LESSONS LEARNED #12

By Chris Gumprich. (Originally posted July 11, 2005)

Even in a collaborative medium such as comics, writing can be a solitary profession. Sure, you have the Internet, which allows you to talk comics with people around the world, but it's not the same as meeting a few folks down at the corner bar and discussing panel layout over a pitcher of beer. Depending on where you live, there might not be a large comics community. There might not even be a corner bar.

I had no idea what to expect when I arrived at the Isotope for Saturday night's APE Aftermath party, and the awarding of the Mini-Comic Of The Year. It was one thing to see pictures of previous parties, it was quite another to experience it myself.

It was, by far, the highlight of what had already been an amazing weekend.

I am not by nature a social animal. At parties, I'm the guy you see sitting in the corner next to the keg. I was concerned that this would prove to be a problem at the Aftermath - that I would spend the entire evening talking with my friend and host Peter, and not be able to work up the nerve to talk to anyone else. And for the first twenty minutes or so after we arrived, that was indeed the case. However, it wasn't too long before the place started to fill up - and with a store that size, it wouldn't take many people - and I couldn't help but fall into conversations with people. I had two things working to my advantage - the beer, and the fact everyone was talking comics.

APE itself does not by nature provide much opportunity for conversation - you're either stuck at your table or talking to someone stuck at a table. The Aftermath gave us a chance to socialize and have a little fun, and everyone was taking full advantage of it. The vibe was unbelievable.

As mentioned, the Aftermath includes the ceremony for the Mini-Comic Of The Year Award, an award that needs no further description. It was because of this award that I finally got off my ass and put together my own mini, Recriminations, which you'll recall met with middling reviews and indifferent sales. Nonetheless, it was my first book, the one that proved to myself that I had what it takes to get into the industry. I didn't really think I had a chance to win the award (plus, I knew that the winner had already been notified), but I wanted to be there just in case the winner couldn't attend and they had to go to the next runner-up. Or the one after that. Or the one after that.

The award that year went to the very deserving Josh Cotter, creator of Skyscrapers of the Midwest, a book that you really should be reading. I didn't get much of a chance to talk to Josh, but it was clear to see how much winning the award meant to him - all the endless toil for a seemingly unappreciative audience - it's worth it to realize that you have the respect of your peers, that people are reading your work, that people are getting your work.

All right, I didn't win. But you know the well-worn cliché "it's an honour to have been nominated?" Absolutely true.

See, I was chatting with my new pal Curtis Broadway when something caught the corner of my eye. Turning, I looked at the glass display case that was serving as a bar. and I nearly dropped my beer. I gave my beer to Peter in exchange for the camera and went over to the case.

"Excuse me," I nudged a couple of guys out of the way, "but I have to take a picture of this." I pointed to a row of mini-comics. "That's my comic."

There I was, some fifteen hundred miles from home, looking at my comic on display at one of the most respected stores in the business. I knew how Josh Cotter felt - it was all worth it.

I met many people that night, both new friends and ones that I only knew from the online world, but my clearest memory of the evening was seeing Recriminations on display.

Well, that and managing to get a picture of Larry Young, James Sime, and me together. Once a fanboy, always a fanboy.

I spent the flight home working on solicitation copy and cover letters to be sent to distributors. Evening Shift was in the home stretch, and all I had to do was guide it to the finish line.

Of course, that last bit of track can be the longest yard.