Going to a con<b>ference</b>

edited March 2015 in On The Road
I've registered to go to an academic conference on the subject of "Queers & Comics".  It's in midtown New York City, May 7-8, put on by the Center for LGBTQ Studies.  I've never been to something like this, so I'm not entirely sure what to expect.  I assume in some ways it'll be a little like a comics convention – but no dealers, artist tables, or people in costumes being sexually harassed – just lots of panels and workshops and a bit of what-not. No program yet, but the sample topics they list:
  • This is What I Look Like: Creating Queer Characters of Color
  • Trans Visibility in Imagined Worlds
  • Political Graphic Journalism/Editorial Comics
  • Drawing Out Queerness: Artists & Scholars in Conversation
  • Queer Memoir
  • Queer Comics, Health and Dis/Ability
Alison Bechdel and Howard Cruse will be giving keynote presentations. Should be interesting, and something of an adventure, with some opportunities for some god-I-suck-at-it networking.

Has anyone been to something like this? If so, any tips or suggestions of what to bring (I'll be traveling light, to avoid checked-baggage and taxi expenses), what to do, what not to do ... ? I'm thinking of having a t-shirt made that will make me more identifiable than my (more-flattering-than-accurate) official portrait. Don't know if it'd be worth having business cards made?


  • @JasonAQuest - Definitely the business cards.  In fact, for an event like this that is priority number one.

    Make sure the business cards have your website / webcomic URL and all that jazz.
    If you can do mini-comic sample zines that would be great.

    But events like this are pretty much for taking notes and networking -- though some of the best networking happens outside the event in bars and over dinner (where people talk about what they heard that day).

    I'd look for workshops that have portfolio reviews or something like that.
    Not that you need it -- but often the people who are picked to judge portfolios tend to be editors with connections. It's a cheap way to network under the disguise of a portfolio review.  And it gets you talking to someone without needing an awkward angle.

    You won't know your entire plan of attack until you see the full program.

    If you can muster up the courage try and talk to Howard Cruse.  He's a good guy.  I've been on two panels with him and I even asked him to write an intro to my self-published comic CyberZone in the 1990s -- though he turned it down.  If you have any of his work you can ask for an autograph -- which is also an icebreaker for networking.

    But dude, even if you don't network it's okay.
    Just getting out to events like this is good for YOU as a creator.
    Seeing the community, hearing and learning about comics, etc.
    If this helps you in your career at all then it's worth it.
    I went to several events and conventions before I got the courage to open my mouth.
    My very first time at SDCC ended up with me not even going in the door because I was so scared.

    That's my two cents, bro.
  • edited March 2015
    I thought about doing a mini- or micro-comic, but have no idea how many to print. With my luck I'd fill up half my bag with them ... in both directions.  Likewise I can't see myself lugging a proper portfolio to NYC and back (nor do I even have anything on paper to show). So the most I could do in that regard would be a show-and-tell with the stuff on my drawing tablet (which includes pretty much everything I've done in the past five years). I'm not really looking to connect with editors ... publishers might be nice.

    I "know" Howard on Facebook (we've conversed in comments, and he even "liked" a drawing I posted) and I bought (by mail) the original art of one of his "Wendel" episodes, so I'll certainly introduce myself if I have the chance. Bringing my original printing of Stuck Rubber Baby for him to sign is worth considering.

    There's a guy working on a documentary about the history of gay porn comix who asked a while back to interview me, and he's going to be there. I'd already declined to do anything on-camera (it wouldn't go well) but he'd suggested audio-only and I'd supply him with art to show instead. So ... maybe that'll happen.
  • If you're going to use your tablet as an e-portfolio, make sure all of the files are arranged in logical order and are super easy to access. In my experience, editors aren't thrilled by having to wait around while you fiddle with your device (not a euphemism), and if they take the tablet out of your hands, you want them to be able to find their way around quickly. (I have everything saved as PDFs on my iPad, and when you open that in iBooks, swiping left/right brings up the next/previous page). You might want to save samples to a website or dropbox ahead of time so that you can email them (relatively) instantly, if requested to do so. 

    Just be organized, I guess, which is advice I should probably take from myself.
  • I'm paranoidly protective enough of my "devices" that if I was going to let someone fiddle with my computer, it would be under a separate login with only selected copies, so that wouldn't be a problem.
  • edited March 2015
    Already been shopping!


    I've also ordered 100 business cards, that read in part:
    Jason A. Quest
    pornographer, heretic, fantasist

  • Very nice! It sounds like you are well on your way to being prepared.
    I agree about the mini-comics, they also double as business cards in a pinch.
  • Nice pants / socks combination.

    Also... where did you order your business cards?  I'm just wondering.  I'm about to make some myself.
  • edited March 2015
    I'm putting together 8 pages first-pages and pin-ups, which I can print/cut/fold/staple into a mini-comic showcasing the kinds of stories and art (just mine, not guest artists) in JAQrabbit Tales.  I have 9 pages picked out, but two of them are works-in-progress, so one of those probably won't be finished, so I'll have my 8.

    I ordered the business cards from vistaprint.com.  After extensive research (I clicked the first result after googling "cheap business cards") it seemed like a good enough deal.  If you select the "use your complete design" option, they have a CMYK Photoshop template you can download, add stuff to, then upload. I used my favorite lettering font, and color's free so I included the logos for JAQrabbit Tales, Holy Comics, and Neverpedia.
  • I agree on the business cards. Sounds like a great networking opportunity. You may also want some samples (not to pass out to people, but to show off and then to ask if you can send them digital copies or to direct them to your website to see more).
  • edited April 2015
    Here's the cards. I should've left more space around the margin (my fault, not theirs), but the print quality's good: the black's nice and sharp, and while the color has a visible dot pattern in places (e.g. the brown leaf), it still makes me look classier than I am.

  • edited April 2015
    The panel/workshop/presentation schedule for the Queers-n-Comix conference has been posted, and of course there are several time slots where I want to be in more than one place at once.  Fortunately some of the more presentation-y sessions will be recorded and made available afterward (they expect the Alison Bechdel keynote, which is open to the public, to be a beyond-capacity crowd), so I can solve some of those conflicts that way.

    But I'm still going to have to choose on Thursday morning between "Porn This Way: Male Sexuality in Queer Comics", "Queer Memoir", and a fantasy/sci-fi panel; and "Pioneers of Queer Men's Comics", "Queer Non-Fiction", and "Publishing and Self-Publishing" on Friday morning ... and both of those examples aren't counting simultaneous panels I'm OK with missing. Meanwhile there's another time slot where I might just go out and look up at the Empire State Building instead.

    I'm not really complaining, though. I can tell that they tried to put unlike panels on at the same time (e.g. muscle-fetish manga vs. comics for LGBT youth, women's sexuality vs. Samuel Delany), and there's no way they could make the schedule work for everyone.
  • Yup, that's the pain of scheduling panels.  I know how that is.  Haha!
  • And it's a good thing that you are having troubles deciding, because it means that they lined up some really relevant/great panels.
  • Just a few days now. Not that I'm starting to stress about it or anything. :-SS

    I have an 8-page mini-comic laid out, consisting of individual pages and pin-ups from the Tales that I've illustrated. I need to stay late at the day-job tomorrow to print some copies on a decent printer. I have no idea how many I'll make.

    To save money and time, and to make it easier to schlep between Newark and the Y on Manhattan, I'm flying with just a carry-on (and the tablet as a "personal item"). One pair of jeans should last me three days, with fresh undies and shirts to keep me fresh. A couple books to be autographed. Carefully selected TSA-approved personal items. I've tested packing everything (except the minis and tablet) into my shoulder bag, and it looks like it'll work. I spent two months backpacking Europe when I was 20, so this should be easy, right?
  • I have an 8-page mini-comic laid out, consisting of individual pages and pin-ups from the Tales that I've illustrated. 
    Are the pages a complete story?
    And yep, it sounds like you've got the packing down to a science. 
  • It's two 1-page stories, two pin-ups, and four first-page-of-the-story examples. I wanted it to show off the variety of the series, and also serve as a kind of crappy little mini art-portfolio (which is why I'm only using my art), so the story pages include pieces with a few different art styles (e.g. one with photo backgrounds, one in stark black and white).
  • edited May 2015
    I made it, coping reasonably well with the crowds.  New York isn't all that bad. The bar for the pre-party last night was an overcrowded noisy bar, so I didn't stick around long for that.  The conference itself is going well. My favorite thing on first impression is that they've designated both restrooms in the conference area as "all gender". Trans- and gender-queer- friendly!

    The Y's wifi blocks access to this site, however. :)
  • I agree with Beth.  It sounds (so far) like a creative community worth being around.

    It must be better than staying home alone.
  • I agree with Beth.  It sounds (so far) like a creative community worth being around.
    And then some.
    It must be better than staying home alone.
    Yes. It was. :)

  • edited May 2015
    The Queers-and-Comics conference was definitely a great experience.  Not without its negatives, but on the whole I'm really glad I went. My biggest regret is that it took me this long to get to it.  (This was the first one, so I'm speaking metaphorically there.)

    I stayed at the YMCA in Midtown about a mile and a half from the conference venue (CUNY's Graduate Center, kitty-corner from the Empire State Building), which was the only place in Manhattan for under $100/night. A small room with a spartan bed and a little desk, with bathroom and showers down the hall. A diverse crowd, heavy on young overseas tourists, some of whom were comfortable walking to/from the showers in just a towel. :)

    There was a pre-conference kick-off party Wednesday night, at one of New York's leather bars, which opened "early" (7-10pm) for it.  I got there about an hour after it started, and the place was already packed (only part of the bar was open). There was a drink-and-draw thing going on, which I've enjoyed doing a few times other places, but there was no way for me to get a decent view of the models, so that part was a bust. And other than that, it was a your basic loud, dark, crowded bar, which made it impractical to try introducing myself to people (not already knowing anyone there "in real life"). Kind of a bad start for me.

    But the conference itself was great. I went to panels on: male sexuality in queer comics, publishing and self-publishing, web comics, serialized strips, and queer male identity. I learned stuff at all of them, though to be honest they were sometimes frustrating, because the questions posed to panelists by the moderators were things I wanted to talk about too. They all had time for questions at the end, but I would've preferred more discussion than just two-way question/answer sessions.

    There were also presentations which were pretty much just one-way (OK for those topics):
    • An introduction and interview (via translator) with Gengoroh Tagame, who is pretty much the dean of masculine gay porn (i.e. not yaoi) in Japan, though very little of his work has been published in America. (Fanta recently released a big volume of it.)
    • For the first time ever, all three editors of the long-running Gay Comix/Gay Comics (Howard Cruse, Robert Triptow, Andy Mangels) plus the original publisher (Denis Kitchen) got together and talked about the history (and possible future) of the defunct anthology. Quite a few of the past contributors were there, and they each got to speak a little about it.
    • Howard Cruse and Alison Bechdel did a joint presentation about sequential-storytelling techniques, and each gave a great keynote presentation about their career (hers was over-capacity for the auditorium, on account of it being open to the public and her being mega-famous these days).
    I managed to introduce myself to a number of people, a few of whom I could already count as fans of my comics. Without realizing who he was at first, I found myself in a conversation with Denis Kitchen. I said hello to Howard Cruse, explaining that I'd bought the original pages for his next-to-last Wendel strip. I sat next to Gerard Donelan at a panel, and asked him to sign one of the collections of his strips from the 1980s. After seeing Roberta Gregory all over the place I got up the nerve to introduce myself. I explained in person to Ivan Velez that my Facebook post about the pre-party was in no way intended as a criticism, but was about me not being able to handle crowded, noisy bars. Andy Mangels noticed me drawing on my tablet waiting for Alison's presentation and asked me about it afterward. I thanked Zan Christiansen in person for being the first to put my work in print with Anything That Loves.  And so on.  I became a little more "real" to people in the queer part of the industry (and vice versa).

    There was a table for participants to put free stuff, mostly postcards, flyers, bookmarks, buttons, and other promotional items. I put my short stack of 25 mini-comics there, and they didn't last the first day. Turns out I didn't have much use for the business cards.

    There were a couple parts of the conference I had to miss. One was a comix reading on Saturday afternoon, beginning around the time I needed to leave for the airport.  The other was an outing to see the Broadway musical adaptation of Fun Home, which I also couldn't stick around for (or afford, or even get a ticket).

    There were a few occasions between sessions when the crowd got a bit much for me and I had to retreat to the restroom to calm myself. (There was no "men's room" or "women's room" in the conference area: both of them were designated "all-gender" as a gesture of inclusion for trans participants, which I thought was cool.) But for the most part I held up OK. I was actually pretty comfortable on the streets of NY, though I definitely preferred wandering Central Park on Saturday morning. (It is nearly impossible to get lost in the numbered grid of Manhattan, except that it is nearly impossible not to get lost in the Ramble of Central Park. Little wonder it has a long night-time cruising history.) There's a place near the conference center that sells slices of cheese pizza for 99¢, which helped make up for the high cost of pretty much everything else.

    The conference was both motivational and depressing. It was full of encouragement to make comix, but also reminders of all years I wasted and the opportunities missed not making comix.  For example, I remember dreaming of having something of mine in Gay Comics... which stopped publication in 1998. People talked about selling comics in gay bookstores, and I remember buying them there ... but they largely don't exist anymore. I could've been part of that history of the 1990s and 2000s ... but wasn't. I'm running hard to catch up, but I know I never can.

    Better late than never, of course. I'm having fun, and trying my fucking damnedest to create things that only I can create, and that may possibly inspire someone else like I've been inspired. This conference has given me ideas, maybe some connections, and a kick in the seat to help me do that.
  • Sounds like a good time for the most part.
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