With Further Ado #296: Those Moments That Only Happen at Conventions

We just folded up the tents and struck the sets for ITHACON 47, the nation’s second longest running comic convention. It was a rousing success We have so many folks to thank. And I’m eager to write all about it too.

But I was struck by one conversation I had on the showroom floor, and it made me connect the dots on one big idea.

Just about every ITHACON exhibitor/dealer with whom I spoke gleefully explained their sales were strong and/or better than last year. That’s really important for a small show like ITHACON. We want to keep it comfortable for everyone, but we need to attract the right attendees. Folks who will be engaged in panels, cosplay, activities and who are eager to see what the dealers have brought.

However, one high-end comics dealer (who’s an ITHACON regular now) said that his sales were soft. But he blamed that on trends and not the show per se. He told me that his CGC graded comics have been selling better via online auctions that at comic conventions. That’s a fair point, and next year I would like to find a clever way to entice the type of customer he’s looking for to come to our show.

But it got me thinking about the amazing types of things that can only happen at conventions. And I have a great example for you.

As a bit of background, I will freely admit that we stole an idea from Frank Cammuso and Geek/Art CONfluence. Cammuso is an amazing artist and storyteller, and as an educator, he also leads live model drawing classes. For Geek/Art CONfluence, they had a Batman cosplayer pose and the art students, pads in hand all took these opportunities drawing him in various 5-minute, 10-minute and 20-minute poses.

A talented Ithaca College art student, Leanna Yatcilla, took this idea and ran with it. So…for the past three years, ITHACON has hosted Cosplay Sketching sessions. Cosplayers strike various poses, and a ring of art students render them.

This year, just as Leanna and our current ITHACON students managing this event (Nicco Bellucci and Sophie Michaels) were packing it all up, comics artist Walter Simonson happened across these students. (Mike Gold doesn’t let me us the adjective “legendary” anymore ..but c’mon. Walter is legendary.) I kept my distance. I didn’t want to intrude, but I just loved this moment as young artists got a chance to interact with a master.

I posted this photo on social media and he’s how Walter explained it :

The girls were very sweet. A couple of them had been running a sketch session with (I believe) cosplayers as models. I happen to stumble across signs about the session when I was taking a break and wandered over to see what it was like. I got there too late to see the actual drawers but saw a few of the drawings left behind table. Fun. And one of the girls who had been monitoring the session came over to see if I needed help. Several of us began chatting. One of them is graduating so we talked some about the transition from college to whatever comes next. She had a good attitude about what that involved. None of them had any idea who I was but in the modern paradigm, a couple of them looked me up on the Internet on their phones. Made me laugh. They were a pleasure to chat with. I hope it all goes well for them.

I’d say that was my favorite moment of ITHACON, but I had so many favorite moments!