In the long-long ago, my lil’ independent studio sold its wares (original comic books, graphic novels, original art, and nifty posters/postcards) predominantly at comic conventions. These comic-cons as they once were called, assembled hundreds of thousands of like-minded nerds, geeks, dweebs, dorks, and outsiders. These fine folks would shamble about the grandiose exhibit hall, cash-in-hand, learning all about series like The Samurnauts and … lesser comics. They were truly the best of times.
But now, we are of the age of Corona. Conventions, exhibitions, fairs, assemblages, meetings, seminars, and bazaars have been forced to become online husks of their former selves. The last 8 weeks have felt both like an eternity, and gone in a blink of an eye. More to the point? The world now will not be the same world again.
In the wake of the September 11th attack, America spied on it’s own people for a while (more publicly than they like do already I supposed?) and beefed up security at airports. This pandemic — which I’d like to point out could have been better handled by a literal monkey with a typewriter versus our current leadership — has ravaged its way from sea to shining sea. Will there be a vaccine? Maybe. But reports have stated it is equally likely the COVID-19 becomes a part of the new norm. Another boogeyman to fear, met perhaps by permanent adjustments to social distancing. And that’s where my head is at today.
You see, in an attempt to purchase a mother’s day card and gift, I donned my face-mask (+1 to armor for the head) and headed to [local big box store I choose not to buzz-market for]. As I turned into the parking lot, I denoted the line to enter. It snaked out of the building along the sidewalk pushed back to a completely different building. An eyeballed estimation of 80+ masked folks awaiting their turn to shop. I turned around, and headed to a [different big box store with slightly less traffic]. Gifts and cards bought.
This trip out into the wastelands left my mind reeling about the near-future. With some states lifting stay-at-home orders and accepting that flattening the curve isn’t worth a few thousand people dying needlessly… how much longer until the first “mass” gatherings begin again?
Could you imagine a comic convention letting in an audience 5 at a time in 5 minute intervals to a quarter-capacity and moving to a one-in-one-out policy? Artist alley tables limited to one artist only, tables and booths 6 feet apart, and everyone required to be tested for fever and wear mandatory face masks? WHAT FUN! The worst part? Fans and creators alike would flock to it. For some? The chance to even be in the confines of new people would be enough incentive. And for Indie creators like Unshaven Comics? It’d be the only opportunity we’d have to attempt to make money as a company again.
But Marc, you plead, its not like comic shops aren’t still open! Unshaven Comics could be selling through them as we speak!
But the rules of the long-long ago are the same in the now. An indie book remains a pebble in the ocean of more recognizable properties. And comic shops are already having to find ways to remain open — including having to do nightly Shop-At-Home live webcasts to hock merchandise an item at a time. Me convincing them Samurnauts will fly off the shelf is insulting to us both. My books have been, and will remain, sold first by my Unshaven Lads and I. Simply put, I might as well attempt to sell Unshaven merch on live webcasts too, and now compete pixel-for-pixel with the same stores I support offline. No thank you.
For what it’s worth, Unshaven Comics is specifically lucky-ish. 2 out of 3 of us continue to have day jobs (I’ll get to our 3rd momentarily). We’re treating this downtime as time to create content. When the world is safe again to open, we’d love to emerge with new books, new art, and fresh beards.
But, as it were, one of we Unshaven Lads drew the short straw. Unshaven Matt Wright — or resident penciler, inker, craft-beer-drinker, and painter extraordinaire has unluckily landed on his company furlough list. No day job means money has to flow from somewhere. And what better time to ply his trade making amazing commissioned works, while curves are flattening. So, at the bottom of this lil’ column you can see where you can get your hands on some Unshaven art. I can’t recommend you do enough; I love Matt’s art so much I founded a company with him!
Until that time that “normalcy” exists, the best we can do is the same as everyone else: We stay safe. We check in with one another. We try hard not to think the old normal is a state we’ll return to… Because normal is relative; change is coming.
For those interested, Unshaven Comics’ Matt Wright is offering an amazing “I’ve been furloughed and I’d still like to feed my family” special on all commissioned artwork. 9”x12” black and white: $25, 9”x12” Color: $50, 11”x17” Color: $100, 9”x12” Painting: $125. All commissions are 1 character only. Or add $15 per extra character if you’d like! To see examples and to order YOUR commission-during-COVID, visit facebook.com/UnshavenComics and read the pinned post!