Going back to Tucson for the 4th annual ComicCon, I recalled my days of drawing comics in high school. There were no recurring characters in my high school comic strip, just a series of kids who were constantly being put-upon by a large and unknowable public school system. It is no surprise that Orwell’s vision of the future in 1984 resonated with me at the time. In spite of that heavy influence, my comics were much as they are today: wry, but with heart. I didn’t hate high school or think it was evil; I made fun of high school because I was in high school.
Tucson is a weird town. This trip reinforced that perception. As I was driving past the huge dry wash that is the Rillito River, I saw a man walking in it as though he was just strolling down a sidewalk. He was clearly not exercising; he was wearing a black baseball hat and black shirt, and baggy jean shorts. No, he was clearly going somewhere from somewhere else, but why he chose a dirt path that leads nowhere from nowhere else is a mystery. Further adding to the intrigue is the fact that there are paved walking paths on either side of the river. Why walk in sand when you can utilize a path made just for that purpose?
People sometimes remark on the surreal elements of my comics. When you grow up in the desert, in a place like Tucson, the surreal is part of life. If I drew a comic strip about the desert where nothing out of the ordinary happened, that would be the greater fiction.
The Tucson ComicCon is nearly singlehandedly run by a superhero named Mike Olivares. Mike’s love of comics has manifested itself in this annual event that I am proud to be a part of. This year, the Con moved to the Bookman’s Event Center, expanding its floor space and list of exhibitors. The result was a better-attended show than last year, and one of my best shows in terms of sales. I cannot thank Mike enough for his work; this is one of those rare cases where you can point to one person and say, Without him, this wouldn’t exist.
The trick with exhibiting is not to be a salesman. Fortunately, I am a terrible businessman, so I don’t ever do this. My goal for any show is to get more people to read my comics. Conventions give me the opportunity to talk with my readers. This is the exact opposite situation I find myself in when drawing and posting comics; I do that quite easily from the isolation of my studio (or, “drawing nook”). Being in Tucson works in my favor, since I don’t have to explain the concept of Falling Rock (animals in a southwestern national park). People look at the drawings and say, That is here.
Then I ask if they want to supersize that, and bingo, I’m a millionaire.
Indeed, my lack of salesmanship earned me a rare privilege. Instead of paying me for my comics with cold hard cash, Bree and Blake, two of the nicest Tucsonans you’ll meet, offered to ply me with alcohol at the earliest convenience. I drove to Blake’s microbrewery, Borderlands, and tried two of his concoctions. The prickly pear wheat was a real treat, and I followed that up with the delightful vanilla porter. Not only was the beer good, but the establishment in which the beer was served is amazing. Borderlands is in a hundred-year-old building that used to be a saddle shop; they even left the painted sign advertising saddles and farm equipment on the brick wall. Borderlands is not open to the public yet, but as soon as I get word I’ll let you know when you can ride on over and drink yourself silly.
Tucson is a great place in which to end my convention season. I get to go back home, hang out with my parents, hike my favorite trail, and see the sun for the last time until April. And now, I’d better get back to drawing before the Deadline Clown gets me.