Wow, where to begin summing up my experiences at the Emerald City Comicon this past weekend? I’m typing this on my laptop on Monday afternoon (March 7) while on a plane trip back to L.A. from Seattle so I can write things down while they’re still fresh in my mind. The whole trip was such a whirlwind that last Thursday when it began seems like weeks ago which makes it hard to think back that far. I’ll give it a shot:

After landing at the Seattle airport, I procured my rental car (a KIA Soul. If I had The Choice is Yours by The Black Sheep on my iPod, I would’ve been blasting it – Gangster Hamster style – on an unending loop while driving) and made my way to the Sheraton Hotel amid rain and hailstorms, which I pretty much expected from the city. I unpacked what little clothes I had, then dragged my suitcases over to the Seattle Convention Center across the street and started setting up my booth. Once I began unpacking all my gear and merch, I knew the past few stressful weeks of preparing for this event were all worth it: I had a 10’x10’ booth all to myself, and it might have been a tad embarrassing to be sitting in a booth surrounded by bare walls and tables, twiddling my thumbs, truth be told. (Not to mention a colossal waste of time and money.)

Fortunately, this was not the case. I immediately set up my banners, one of which (the vertical one) I hadn’t even seen until the moment I pulled it from its sleeve, and I was happy with both of them. I had several copies of Volume 1 of the JEFbot book the printer had given me a day or so before my flight, but I was having the rest mailed to my hotel and they hadn’t arrived yet, which wasn’t exactly comforting. I had brought up half my new shirts (Perv and BOTrage) in my suitcases, and laid those out, but would have to wait for my buddy Michael Cornacchia (the Cornfather) to bring the other half (The Power of Chub and The Power of Scrawn) when he arrived on Friday. I also posted four posters on the back curtain (Nerd Rage, Chubman and Scrawn, Oasis and The Cornfather and jefbot) and got my BOTtons set up (15 new designs!) in a plastic jewelry/crafts case I had bought. It all took a couple of hours to unpack and position, and by the time I was done, the Convention area was getting ready to close.

While I was setting up my booth, Elizabeth Guizzetti, the author/artist of Famine Lands, was readying her booth – and I couldn’t ask for a better neighbor, especially at my first comic convention. She showed me the ropes, gave me tips on fan interaction and displaying merch, and basically just made me feel at ease. When we were wrapping our booths up, she invited me out to an event that I believe happens before ECCC every year called “Drink and Draw.” Well, with a name like that, no further explanation was necessary and I said yes, even though I desperately needed sleep at that point due to all the lack of it I’d been experiencing for the past couple of weeks. But, this was an opportunity to meet some other creators and, hell, I wanted to party with some cool people at a comic convention. I told myself beforehand to try and leave early and not drink much, but that didn’t happen. Instead I stayed out late drinking, which I’m glad I did, since I had the opportunity to meet some awesome people, including Brian Meredith, the Exhibits Director, who’s just a fantastic, fun guy, and I’m glad I got the chance to hang with him a bit, especially since I wanted to thank him in person for letting my lil ol’ webcomic into the convention. I was surprised to find out he was familiar with JEFbot and thought it would be a great fit for the convention, so of course, after this revelation, I was glowing, and it was a great way to end the night.

The convention didn’t start until 2pm the next day, so I was able to sleep in a little before getting up and hitting the local coffee shop. (There were seemingly hundreds of them in the neighborhood. Especially Starbucks, which had a shop or two on every corner.) After I had gone back to the hotel and was riding down the elevator with some more merch in a suitcase, I started up a conversation with a guy who I noticed had an exhibitor badge on, too. As we walked to the convention hall, we talked about ECCC, webcomics in general and how excited I was, this being my first convention on the other side of the table and all. As we split to go to our separate booths, I asked what his name was, and he said, “Ryan.” And that’s when I realized I was talking to Ryan Sohmer, author of Least I Could Do, one of the most successful comic strips around and also one of my favorites. In hindsight, it was a good thing I didn’t know who I was talking to since A) I probably wouldn’t have struck up a conversation with him or B) I would’ve totally geeked out on him, fanboy style. Anyway, with a start like that, I knew this convention was going to be amazing.

And it was. After working on my booth a bit more, I got a call from Michael Cornacchia, one of my best friends and inspiration for the Cornfather, saying that he had arrived at the hotel and was waiting for me there. After we met and dropped off his stuff, we had lunch at the famous Pike Place Market, got more coffee (this time at Seattle Coffee Works), picked up some snacks and water from the local Walgreens, then quickly made our way back to the hotel, right when my delivery of books showed up, astonishingly. We then sped over to the Convention Center to work on the booth a bit more and set up the books before Comicon opened.

I have to admit – I was a bit nervous when I first heard the Opening Trumpet blare (someone played a trumpet at the start and end of each day of the convention) and people started flowing into the hall. I had no idea what to expect. I had no idea if people would want a book. I had no idea if anybody would even show up at my booth! Fortunately, my fears were unfounded as I had a great location (thank you, ECCC!) so people started coming by immediately, and I met a couple of JEFbot readers right off the bat, who bought the book and some merch to boot! And soon after those fans were on their way, a couple of people intrigued by the JEFbot banner came over and bought books after Michael and I had talked to them for a bit. And this was the way it was throughout that first day: Sometimes we’d be chatting with fans. Other times we’d be pitching the book to people who’d never heard of JEFbot. And still other times we’d sell a shirt or two because people thought “The Power of Chub” and “The Power of Scrawn” were funny unto themselves. I don’t want to make it sound like we were selling books and merch the entire time – far from it – but there was a steady flow of traffic going by the booth which meant we were constantly handing out postcards and pitching the book throughout the day. Also, I was doing free sketches on sketchcards I had made for the convention that were free with purchase of a book (or free if anyone asked for one, really) so that kept me busy, too.

By the end of the day, I was exhausted, but still really pumped at how well everything had gone and how cool everyone I’d met had been. I remember making plans with my booth neighbors for dinner that night, talking to my buddy Joenis of the L.A.W.L.S. webcomic, and starting to pack up some stuff on the floor of my booth when I heard a “Hi, I’m Wil.” I looked up and who should be there but Wil Wheaton, my… err, jefbot’s archnemesis, holding out his hand, which I then shook. Yep, Wil stopped by to say hi, (further making it harder to think of him as anything but a swell guy) and that was the perfect capping to a perfect day. I’d met a bunch of readers, sold more books and merch (even selling out of a few BOTtons) than I thought I might, and Wil stopped by (he was hosting a few panels as a media guest at the convention) and made me feel completely welcome. Seriously one of the best days I’ve had in a long time.

I think this is a good place to end what has become an epic post. I’ll go over the merch in more detail and wrap up the rest of the con in part 2, which I should have posted in the next couple of days. Thanks for reading, and if you were at the con, leave a comment and say hi!