Born with no natural sense of direction, I have five words to say: Thank God for Garmin GPS. Comfort can attest to this fact when I tried to lead us to our parking space in the opposite direction. It's almost scary that they would entrust me to navigate us to Detroit, but I digress. The drive down went very smoothly last Friday morning and we checked ourselves into the hotel on schedule. Now, you must bear in mind that I'm more accustomed to small town living, having grown up and still residing in my hometown of Perry. So to enter a building the size of the Marriott was, needless to say, a little daunting. That, and when you add in a crowd of hundreds, if not thousands, of Youmacon attendees it was at times almost suffocating. (Especially the elevators. Good Lord, those elevators...) Feeling halfway lost, the claustrophobic confines only exasperated the situation. As I understand it, the volunteer workers were severely understaffed to handle this convention.
I spent a good deal of that Friday afternoon with the crowd, waiting in the registration line for over three hours. That isn't to say it was without its own rewards. While my patience eventually buckled, unfortunately denying myself the real anime convention experience that I hoped to have that Friday, just looking at the elaborate costumes that the cosplayers wore around me was in of itself a treat. Not every day you witness a silent dance-off between The Nightmare Before Christmas's Jack Skellington and a Mario Brothers' "Shy Guy," which was a hilarious spectacle. Really wish that I had taken a picture of that, now. Oh, well. Moving on, after a nap in the hotel room and a few phone calls to my girlfriend and family, I drove out to Dearborn and met with Jason at the Hyatt Regency. We set up our displays that evening and afterward had a late dinner at the Fairlane Town Center. Word of advice, don't take the chairs down from the tables in the food court. The gals working there don't like that.POV from our Detroit Marriott hotel room
Arriving back at the Marriott, we met up with Adam, Comfort, and a friend of theirs, whose name eludes me, in the hotel's own small food court to chat. Even at that hour of the evening, there were lots of anime con attendees around, which I'm sure was due in no small part to Youmacon's twenty-four hour-long activities that weekend. So I was very thankful when Adam and Comfort shared that they had brought along a "white noise" background soundtrack, which helped to mask the hallway ruckus that ensued into the early hours of the morning. Something that I'll have to keep in mind, should I go on another convention business trip like this. I tend to be a light sleeper as it is.
"The design of our convention center is one that has all the creators interspersed with each other. In other words, there is NO artist alley as all the creators will be blended together. That means that a creator self publishing Bob’s Comics may be next to Jim Starlin or across from somebody like Patrick Zircher."I also appreciated that this was strictly a comic convention, meaning no wrestlers, former Playmates, or other obscure "celebrities," though in defense of Motor City there have been some excellent guest stars, like Doug Jones (Abe Sapien, Hellboy and Hellboy II: The Golden Army), Julie Newmaar (Catwoman, Batman 60's television series), or John Schneider (Jonathan Kent, Smallville). And of course Detroit FanFare had its claim to fame, featuring Stan "The Man" Lee, but I'll touch more on that in a bit.
In addition to the convenient parking, integrated layout, and trimming the fat, the volunteer workers were fantastic and friendly to boot. Making regular rounds, they offered bottled water, snack-sized bags of Oreos and chips (all of which were free of charge), and would sit at your table should you need to leave. Just incredible service. Regrettably, the only downside to Detroit FanFare was how little business we actually had, which wouldn't have been so bad were it not for the additional costs of a hotel, gas, parking, and dining out. Still, we're grateful for the business that we did get and for the comic con attendees, who took the time to talk and look over our artwork. Also, a personal thanks to Shawn Amberger, who neighbored us on my side of the table, for the friendly chats we had occasionally during the show. A real nice guy, who I'll hopefully run into again at future conventions. I'm sure that Jason feels the same way about the artist who was sitting on his side, though I didn't have the pleasure to chat so much with him.
As I mentioned earlier, the special guest star of Detroit FanFare was Stan Lee. Having Spider-man as one of my childhood heroes, I would've liked to have met with him. Given that the tickets were thirty dollars apiece (forty if you weren't an exhibitor at the convention, who had paid in advance) and already hemorrhaging money, however, it was an opportunity I begrudgingly declined. Stan Lee was also kept away in another room for signings, so to add insult to injury I never got the chance to even see him in person. From what the artist sitting to Jason's side attested, Stan Lee was accompanied by two bodyguards who acted as middlemen, taking whatever article was intended for autographing and passed it between themselves before going to him. Couldn't help finding that mental image of the elderly Stan Lee with a pair of imposing men both odd and amusing, like one of those diminutive mobsters bookshelved between two rectangular thugs in The Triplets of Belleville.
Not much to my surprise, there were many attendees who I've seen frequent the Motor City Comic Con. As I understand it, many of the exhibitors there were pulled off of the Motor City guest list and sent invitations. That might explain why after years of retaining to a springtime show they suddenly decided to revive their autumn show, which conveniently happened to fall on the same weekend as Detroit FanFare. Guess they didn't take too kindly to the competition. However, this convention was pushed to a later date, then altogether canceled. But I'm veering off onto another rabbit trail again. It was nice seeing a handful of familiar faces and even nicer when they recognize you. Among those attendees was Paul Maiellaro, who recruited Jason and myself last year for The Treasure Chest of Art, which auctions original sketch cards to benefit their pediatric charity. Especially since the "Shots 4 Sketches" after-show charity event fell through, I was more than happy to accommodate Paul with another sketch card.
an excellent animation, by the by -- I highly recommend it
Thor sketch card for The Treasure Chest of Art
Given past experience, Sundays tend to be more casual but scant on attendees. That, and given this was also Halloween, neither of us expected a big draw. But it was a very pleasant surprise to see a pretty decent turnout. With the children's costume contest that morning, perhaps that helped. Either way, it was cute to see the kids in costume trick-or-treating from table to table. Afraid that I didn't take any pictures again of that, but I did manage to snap a few shots of some adult attendees in costume. The people are generally friendly, so I still don't understand why I have to work up the courage to ask. Slight case of social anxiety, I suppose. But I was very pleased with the pictures that I did take while we were there. A good way to preserve some of those memories, especially for someone whose memory isn't always so good.caricature of Cajsa, whose bottom teeth made this all the more adorable
Guy Davis again, whom I've made a point of seeing since the past couple Motor City Comic Cons. A personal favorite, Davis does some amazing work for titles such as B.P.R.D., a sister series to Mike Mignola's Hellboy, and his self-created The Marquis. With each visit I've requested a sketch card of a Marquis character, and to show some of my gratitude made Davis one of the series' namesake. And I have to say, having him thank me for the personal token was rather euphoric. Getting that feeling of approval from a professional that you admire is one of a kind. And as if to put a little extra spring in my already spry step, Davis said that he would post the sketch card on his Marquis blog. So to return the kind gesture, I'll also post his sketch card. (Heck, I was already going to. Who am I trying to fool?)
twice, just to avoid using the congested elevators at the Marriott, had taken its due toll on us earlier that day. After saying our goodbyes in the parking lot we parted ways, myself driving back to the Marriott to pick up Adam and Comfort. Having worked it out over the phone, the couple were already packed and waiting at the entryway by the time of my arrival. Soon, all was loaded onto the van and we were off toward Flint. And let me tell you, having Adam and Comfort along for the ride made the time go by. Seemed like the trip was almost over as soon as it had begun, and truth be told I would've liked to have driven for a few hours more, just to continue our delightful banter over those delicious Quizno's sandwiches. Having dropped them off, it was a tranquil evening ride back home.
Will I be attending Detroit FanFare, or perhaps Youmacon, next year? Well, unless my current financial situation should change considerably within the time before either show, I'm afraid that I doubt it, as much as I would like to. But fear not. I'll still plan on Motor City Comic Con again, come next spring, and possibly JAFAX near my college romping grounds in Grand Rapids. Hopefully I can persuade Jason into attending the latter as well, since the Youmacon crowd left a rather sour taste in his mouth. But as I've been told, anime conventions can be very lucrative and the attendees have an unparalleled exuberance not seen at most comic conventions. We shall see.