Another year, another MSU Comics Forum in the rear view mirror. 2016 marked the ninth year for the comic book show, and my third time appearing. Fun times were had, and it was my best one yet.
Friday – Sergio Aragones’ Keynote Address
I’m glad I had the hunch to show up to this year’s keynote address early (an hour early), because the theater filled up, and fast. Sergio Aragones, a favorite cartoonist, is known for his work with MAD Magazine, and his creator-owned comic, Groo. His keynote address was a whirlwind of anecdotes, advice, and cartooning magic. Basically, everything I hoped for, and more.
But, my favorite part of the evening came before the keynote even started. I killed time by sketching, and paused while Aragones walked up the aisle. I set my sketchbook on my seat’s arm-rest-desk-thing as Aragones approached.
“Practicing?” he asked.
I said yes.
To my surprise, and delight, Aragones picked up my sketchbook and started to flip through the pages. We chatted about filling up sketchbooks while I mentally told myself to keep cool and not say anything dumb.¹ My sketchbook is just random quick drawings and thoughts, and nothing fancy or “finished.” Aragones said he liked my cartoon expressions, handed the sketchbook back to me, and went on his way.
Aragones talked about how he got into cartooning, and the places his career took him over the decades (he started cartooning for MAD in 1963). His career started in Mexico before he ended up with MAD Magazine in New York City. Aragones had plenty of MAD related stories to share, like how he would let himself be locked in the office at night so he could read through the archives.
Aragones’ shared his thoughts on cartooning as an art, bringing up expressions and movement as key features. He touched on how researching a subject makes his drawings better, and why he stays away from political cartooning. A favorite story was how his comic, Groo‘s “barbarian” setting meant he didn’t have to draw airplanes and cars.
Aragones is an energetic and captivating speaker, and the room could have listened to him all night. Aragones treated us to a bit of live cartooning too, which was worth the trip alone (like Stan Sakai’s Keynote in 2014).
Give the keynote address a watch [video link].
Saturday – Artist Alley
I always say, I treat artist alley at the MSU Comics Forum like “spring training.” It’s true, because I haven’t had a show in months (my last show was Grand Rapids Comic Con in October).
I felt a bit rusty, that’s for sure. I even forgot my tablecloth! (thanks to table neighbor Bruce Worden for lending me one). The show gave me a chance to play around with my table layout a bit, which was my first time using my new vertical banner.
Stephanie joined me for the day, and she helped with my table layout too (she has years of retail experience, so I just say OK).
Saturday marked my first time trying something new: giving away my mini-comics instead of selling them for a dollar. I think this is the way to go, since they don’t cost much to make, and it gets my comics in the hands of people. It also helps break the ice, I think.²
The big seller was my coloring book and my stock is just about empty (I’m down to my last four of my original run of 40-ish). This was my best MSU Comics Forum yet, and once again convinced me to get working on a new coloring book, and FAST.
¹ Which is a challenge on a normal day.
² More importantly, it let me clear out some older mini-comics I’ve carried around since 2014.
Daniel J. Hogan is a geeky cartoonist and writer living in Michigan. Daniel is available for freelance writing and cartooning commissions (Contact Daniel). This post contains affiliate links, unless it doesn't.