Two weekends past marked Detroit FanFare's second show, and subsequently my second appearance there in Artist Alley. As with any convention, especially one that is still so young, it was a mixed bag of sorts. Moving the show from the Hyatt to Cobo Hall, the conference center contained easily four times the convention floorspace. Considering the size of last year's attendee turnout, it was certainly a move in the right direction to find a larger location. However, it is a fair statement to say that they had overcompensated, ballooning itself too rapidly. (This was, however, the result of a remodeling in Cobo Hall. The originally reserved space was about half the size.) There was a steady stream of attendees, but not nearly enough in number as was hoped.
But understand that a fair amount of this was not the fault of FanFare's organizers. Between the city of Detroit's lack of communication regarding that Saturday's Bike Tour of Detroit, significantly blocking off traffic to Cobo Hall, to being in the middle of a Red Wings and Tigers game, respectively, the convention had a fair amount of carpet pulled out from underneath it. And of course when certain special guests cancelled, whether completely or in the middle of the weekend, like Peter Weller (Robocop) or Bruce Campbell (Evil Dead) respectively, it doesn't reflect well on the show. But again, those are turn of events that are beyond the control of any convention planner.
There are always personal criticisms that can be given with any convention. But it's in my opinion that any shortcomings that Detroit FanFare may have had were easily outweighed by its successes. Everything that I liked about last year's show was still there and it had more to offer this time around, as you'll read on.
Working a full-time job has definitely had an impact on my time as a freelance illustrator, whether for better or for ill. I'll at least say that you find yourself rather tired when working a forty-hour week, attend a weekend-long convention with after-show events, then return to the regular grind right after. But the regular job provides where the illustrating does not, at least until it starts to bring in enough of an income. And I genuinely like the place where I'm currently employed, which was very understanding in letting me leave an hour early that Friday afternoon to begin the drive towards FanFare.
The first stop along the way towards Detroit FanFare was actually more of a detour, really, to the home of a couple that I consider both good friends and mentors, Adam Withers and Comfort Love. Having packed the previous night and loaded into my vehicle in the morning before work, it made for relative ease to place their displays, merchandise, and the like inside. While Flint is certainly not along the route from Brighton to Detroit, the carpooling offers three upsides: splitting the cost of gas and parking, but more importantly having good company and conversation during the drive down. When we did arrive, it also helped to have three pairs of hands to carry everything in to Cobo Hall instead of just mine, or in their case just two.
We briefly parted ways to set up that evening, where I rendezvoused with my former Kendall classmate and regular table-mate Jason Westlake. We kept in touch during the months and especially weeks leading up to the convention, planning accordingly what details needed to be addressed. But it was very good to see him again in person as it always is. There I also met Joshua Werner for the first time, a friend of Jason's. Up until that point, Joshua had been simply a name to me, a kind of second cousin to Harvey the rabbit to quote 'The Shawshank Redemption'. So it was good to put a face to the name at last. The first meeting was brief, since he also was setting up his table, but knew we would have another chance to get better acquainted.
Then a funny thing happens while we began set-up. One of the FanFare organizers, whose name regretfully alludes me (Gary Reed, perhaps?), approached us. He pleasantly asked how we were, if we were looking forward to the show, and a few other like inquiries. Of course we both were, having anticipated this show since last year, and nodded in agreement. Then he asks, perhaps a little coyly, "You see this table, here?" motioning to the one next to ours. We in turn nod again. "How would you like to have it?" As it turned out, there were some cancellations in Artist Alley and were kind enough to freely give us another table.
This worked well to our advantage as we began setting up at separate tables, since we could cover each completely on our own. And it dawned on me then: we had reached the point where we needed our own tables from now on. Jason saw this as well, and as Adam later said that evening it is all a part of growing. Regardless, we still plan on going together to more conventions down the road, which will be just fine. As with Adam and Comfort, we'll likely share hotel rooms again and of course hang out both between and after the shows.
About this time they began to shut off the lights in the Cobo Hall convention center, which was our cue to cut out for the night. There was the standard intermission of checking in at the nearby Marriott Hotel, then trafficking and unpacking our more personal items from the vehicle to our room. This was shortly followed by the five of us (Adam, Comfort, Jason, Josh, and myself) heading down to the basement level, where we had our pick of Burger King and Subway. By this hour, the rest of the food court restaurants had closed up for the evening. It wasn't that late, but apparently they run a different operation working out of the Marriott.
Here we enjoyed our evening meal together and conversed as nerds often do on topics ranging from comic-movie adaptations such as 'Thor' and 'Green Lantern' to the more nit-and-grit business aspects of comic conventions, including a slightly humorous subject that Adam aptly named "the idiot brain." I would elaborate, but Adam would give a much better explanation than what I could. And this continued on until it came time for the VIP Creators Party, held in a bar back at the Cobo Hall. Admittedly, the setting wasn't particularly ideal: too dark to draw well (though Adam and Comfort managed, being the troopers that they are) and too many background conversations to hold one well, unless you were standing right next to the other person. On the plus side, there was a free buffet table. Dinner had for the most part filled me up, but why snub free grub? So I ate again, albeit more skimpily.
The night wore on, and after a respectable amount of time had passed attending this party we retired back to our room. As the conversation in the food court had been pleasant, so too was our talk whilst walking the dusky sidewalks with their copper-glow streetlamps to the Marriott. These particular memories of fellowship with good friends of like pursuits I already reminisce about in rosy fondness. (My apologies, that little part of the poet felt the need to chime in.) This comforting lull lasted the rest of the night, until we went to bed with the white sound of a rainfall recording play. With the morning would come our first official day at Detroit FanFare, and we gladly anticipated its arrival.