By Lee Hester, owner of Lee's Comics of California.

Monday, February 25, 2008

The WONDER OF IT ALL! Parts 2 and 3

I was going to do daily WonderCon updates, but was not able to. Connie booked a room at the Marriott, so I stayed with her and the girls rather than coming home and doing the updates. Those rooms are plush, and after a hard day's conning, those 300 inch count cotton sheets and fluffy down pillows are like a slice of heaven. I slept like a baby, and wasn't wondering around like a zombie on Sunday, as can happen if you don't get enough rest.

In days gone by, I used to set up at cons, and go to all the parties. I would meet a bunch of new people and stay up until the wee hours. I would have to scream to be heard while talking over loud music. Back at the booth the next day, I would be drained, tired, and horse. Now I've wised up. I figure that you can do a good job at your both, or do a good job networking at the parties, but not both things. I sacrifice the party networking experience and concentrate on the booth performance. I bet you haven't seen me at a convention party in years. If you want to see me, I'll be in my both. That's where the action is for me. I meet a lot of interesting people and have a lot of fun. All kinds of fascinating things are brought to me for consideration. It's nice to have a base of operations like that. Also you get the special badge that allows you to bypass all the lines. That's certainly worth a thousand dollars right there. Getting a booth with drapes and a table is just a bonus.

Sales on Saturday and Sunday were better than Friday, but still slower than expected. A big curiosity was the lack of wall book sales. I was working for months trying to come up with the best wall possible for the Wonder Con, and I thought that I had succeeded. If you want to see my wall books, check out my ebay store. The wall books mostly sat around, instead of selling. I'll have to see if this trend continues at the big San Diego convention in July. If this is the case, I'll have to cut back on what I pay for collections, especially for non-key, and lower grade books.

As I mentioned last time, I tried bringing the bin books after not bringing them for a few years. Sales on them were slow, but it might be worthwhile to try them again in San Diego. We brought some comics magazines, and they did well. These include Creepy, Eerie, and Savage Sword of Conan. A really cool lady named Helen bought out all our Savage Sword magazines. I didn't think to tell Helen that the copy of SSOC#1 that she bought from us was autographed by Boris! I hope she gets a thrill when she looks inside.

Helen likes her Conan Savage!

Our bargain books sold well. Mark Crane didn't want me to bring any back,as the loft in San Mateo where we store them is getting overcrowded, so I kept slashing the price. We started out at $5 a book on Friday. On Saturday I lowered them to $2, and on Sunday they were $1 each. At times there were huge mobs gathered around the bargains. If the mobs thinned down a little I went, or sent my son or Mark Arnold out to stir them up a bit.

The crowds swarm around the bargain books.

The secrets of Barking. Okay, here is how to attract a crowd. Do not yell and scream. This does not work. It just gives everyone a headache. I advocate using a more subtle approach. Wait until someone looks over, or is walking in your direction and then engage them. Try to understand their expression and body language. Then tell them about something in your booth. Taylor each message to the individual. Don't treat the crowd like a mass. Talk to each person, one at a time, one on one. You'll sell to some, joke with others, be ignored by some, give some information to others etc. Engage the people in a sincere genuine, and caring way, and you will always maximize sales at a convention. A barker is just an idiot that doesn't have the brain cells to do anything but yell. Most people actively avoid such a person. Make sure not to be one.

All in all, it was a lackluster convention from a sales perspective. All departments did well, except for the one we were counting on - the wall books. I try to turn a profit at these shows, but there is much more to it than that. These shows have great value far beyond how many dollars you put into the register. I do them mostly for outreach. I like to meet the fans, and hopefully get some new customers for my stores. By being a fixture at the San Diego Con, the Wonder Con, The APE, and SuperCon I help assure my visibility in the industry. If you just keep a low profile and stay in your store, they will soon forget about you. In addition, I have made numerous friends over the years that I only see at shows. The WonderCon is small enough for me to seek many of them all out and also get a chance to talk to them. I have 2 stores that are open 363 days a year. If I had to depend on Conventions for my income I would be worried right now. I've been to every Wonder Con, and I'm not going to stop now!

Now on with the photo parade.

Here is an amazingly huge amazon woman. She's like a super-jumbo, punk rock Bettie Page! Everybody in the room wanted to pose with her. I compelled "Little Lee" (6 foot 7) to pose with her. We put a normal sized human in there for scale. Look at her tremble in the shadows of these giants.

Save the cheerleader.

Here are two of my favorite people, Joe and Dottie Ferrara, owners of one of the best comic stores on earth, Atlantis Fantasyworld. Make sure to visit them when you are in Santa Cruz.

Here is Suave Shaun Reilly, staff member at Lee's Comics, and dapper man-about town, with the lovely Amelia as Harley Quinn.

This delightful young girl, dressed up as a character from "High School: The Musical" is seen enjoying our selection of bargain books.

Here's my pal James Fletcher, the owner of HFA. This is the place to get beautiful prints and giclees by Alex Ross, Adam Hughes, Jim Lee and others.

I loved this baby! He's dressed in a Captain America outfit complete with flapping wings on the hat. The dad told me that you can order them online. Adorable!

Here's my pal Bill Morrison, super talented artist and writer for Simpsons comics. He's showing off the vintage Jughead hat that he just acquired. Connie, Hannah, Sophie, and Mark Arnold are all joining in on the fun. Later on, Bill bought a really nice wall book from us, a high grade 1940s Green Hornet comic.

Here's Mark Arnold with the brand new issue of his long running magazine, the Harvyville Fun Times. It is undergoing an upgrade that includes color throughout. Look for it at your finer comic book stores. Mark is with his new publishing partner, Dave Holt, and Mr. Holt's kids, along with his Harvey loving pal, Quinton Clem.

Here's my friend Steve Mortensen helping to spread the word about his great new site for collectors, Micurio. I am now a member in good standing, (but don't let that discourage you!)

Here I am with the incredible Bob Schreck, a great force for good in Comic
Book Land.

After much deliberation, this man is finally happy with the fit of his Pure Hero shirt.

Okay, do you want to see Lee geek out? Take a classic Nick Fury Strange Tales cover by Jim Steranko, drawn twice-up. (They stopped using twice up, and switched to the smaller one-and-a-half size in the late 1960s.) Now add the fact that it has unseen Steranko art. The Captain America figure was altered by John Romita. There is a note on the side in pencil that says "Change art and tell Jim." I gawked at this in wonderment several times during the con. I have never seen the likes of it. The asking price was $57,000. Luckily for me, I didn't quite make that amount at the con so I didn't go home with this. (I didn't quite make 10% of that amount either!) You see the original cover as Jim Steranko drew it. Behind it, you see a stat with the changes by Romita. For me, it's the stuff that dreams are made of.

Connie wandered around on Saturday, and got some pictures of her own. They start here. I could never get Connie to watch a minute of the original Star Wars trilogy with me, but here she is, posing with some Imperial Storm Troopers.

The both as shot from above. I think you can see my bald spot.

Wow, what great costumes. Elfquest, I presume.

That wraps up this year's Wonder Con report. You won't be seeing a lot of high energy antics from most of the attendees for a few days at least. We must rest up, recharge our batteries, and readjust to the mundane old routine, where giant Amazon women, Super-Heroes and Stormtroopers in the flesh are nowhere to be found.

Your Pal,

- Lee

Friday, February 22, 2008


Here's my Wonder Con Report from a Comic Book Dealer's perspective for Friday. Stay tuned for Saturday and Sunday reports.

The Wonder Con is a fun show. It's local to me, so I can set up and sell with a minimum of hassle.

I spent most of Wednesday getting ready for the convention.

In earlier days, my convention stock consisted of Golden and Silver age comics only. My strategy these days is to bring a variety of different products in order to try to cater to the widest number of attendees possible. I figure that many thousands of people are coming, and only a small percentage of them collect vintage comics, so why market only to that narrow group? My goal now is to engage the largest percentage of the public as possible.

For the last few years I had also stopped bringing my under $20 Golden and Silver age bin books due to slow sales. This year, I decided to try them again to see if they do better. I brought all our nice wall books, as usual. I think our wall books are superior this year, as they include several nice collections that I purchased recently, including a Showcase #22 (First Silver Age Green Lantern appearance.) Green Lantern #1, and really great original owner collection of 200 golden age books. I brought all the Pure Hero shirts, a bunch of Graphic Novels that we are blowing out for $5 each, my "Hey Kids Comics" spinner, which we loaded with great Silver and Bronze age books that we put on sale for $2 each. We had stickers from Duck and Cover, that have proven to be very popular over the years. This time we are adding their line of buttons as well.

I make a checklist of all the things I need for a convention and keep it on an excel spreadsheet. It includes a whole bunch of very mundane things like: Tape, Tape Dispenser, Scissors, Box Cutter, Strapping Tape, Screwdriver (Slot/Phillips combo) Wrench, Chord Ties, Hand Cart, Backing Boards, Sharpies, Pens, Pencils, Ruler, Business Cards, Business Card Tray, Price Guide, Calculator, Cash Register, Cellphone, Checkbook, Hand Sanitizer, Band Aids, Water Bottles, String, Binder Clips, Tables, Tablecloths, Merchandise Bags, Batteries, Wombat (Back Issue Display) etc, etc, This list is very useful, and it generally serves to keep me from forgetting anything. If you do conventions, I definitely suggest that you keep an updated list like this on your computer. It's amazing how devastating it can be to forget even one item that you need. For instance, if I forgot the wrench, I would not be able to put together the shirt display for the Pure Hero shirts. I would have to start going booth to booth to look for one to borrow. It you need several items, you can waste a great deal of time this way. Sometimes time is very short and you have to race against the clock. One example of this is when they are about to open the door to the general public, and you are not yet fully set up.

Mark Crane and I loaded up the van at our Mountain View location, and got to the Convention center before 9:30. The Moscone center has a really nifty system for exhibitors to set up. The center is located underground, and you drive your vehicle underneath to the loading docks. We got into a line of vehicles which was a block and a half long, but fortunately we got into the building in less then a half hour. We parked our van, and started loading comics on a pallet. The teamsters fork lifted it to our spot, and carried the other items in on an electric flat bed vehicle. The service was really fast and efficient. Mark and I were pleased at the ease with which we got in.

Here is our stuff on Thursday morning, moved to our booth, and ready for set up.

After the stuff got dropped off, Mark drove off to find a spot to park the van. I began to work on a set-up that would include the Podium, the extra tables, the comic book spinner, the Shirt Display, and the Sticker Display. On Wednesday drew a rough outline of the set-up on graph paper, so I had a good idea of where to put things. Still, there were changes to be make before I was fully satisfied with the set-up. Only then could we start putting the merchandise in place.

Mark and I worked quickly and we made fast progress. Setting up a convention display is almost as hard as setting up a store. It's amazing that all those people do all that work for just 3 days of sales, and then they have to tear the whole thing down. I love to watch that process of creation and destruction. My booth is relatively simple compared to many of the others, such as the T-Shirt monolith that I talked about in a previous blog. Nonetheless, it is hard work to set up. When I have a big job to do, it's great to have Mark Crane around. I like to think that I can do my share of hard work when necessary, but Mark works harder than anyone else, at all times. By 1:00 I was satisfied with our progress, so Mark and I went home for the day to better rest up for the upcoming convention.

Here's the view from the same vantage point, taken on Friday morning, a little while before opening time. We are all set up, and are joined by my buddy Mark Arnold. I put Mark Arnold on sign making duties. Mark is great at making signs. He's got great handwriting and an innate understanding of comics. He is also very witty. I just let him run wild with the signs. Mark Arnold had to leave in the afternoon to apply for a government job, so Mark Crane and I ran the booth.

We sold out of WonderCon tickets at the stores, so we expected quite a turn-out. Friday was actually quite a bit slower than we expected. Most of our sales were to other dealers such as Harley Yee (who was set up across form us) Richie Muchen, and Bud Plant. Otherwise, not many people looked at our wall books. This surprised Mark and I. We hope they will do better tomorrow. All departments were a bit lackluster. Since things were a bit slow at the booth, I roamed around a lot, leaving Mark Crane, to run the booth most of the time. A big frustration for us was the fact that our portable credit card machine did not get any reception, yet our cellphones worked. I've had nothing but problems with this thing, and I think I'm going to cancel my contract and do without one until I can find a unit that works everywhere I need it, any time I need it.

Now, on with the photo parade!

This one is a little out of focus, but I want to run it anyway because it highlights my buddy Batton Lash. He is one of the nicest and wittiest fellows around, so I always like to talk to him. He is also the creator of the wonderful, long-running Supernatural Law comic book. The Toxic Avenger will be guest-starring in issue #45, on sale soon. Make sure to reserve a copy at your local comic book store!

Here I am with a pair of fantastic individuals. It's master artist Mark Schultz, artist of Xenozoic Tales, loved by all that appreciate fine comics art. Mark did a signing at our store a couple of years ago to great acclaim. On my other side is Mark's publisher John Fleskes. John is the man behind Flesk Publications who put out and incredible series of fine art books including the Mark Schultz sketchbooks, and a new book on Steve Rude. John is the most honest and soft spoken publisher you will ever meet. In his youth, back in the 1980s, John spent a year working for me at my Palo Alto location. John will soon be presenting new editions of Xenozoic tales under the Flesk imprint. I could not be more happy to hear about this development.

Here's my buddy Rafael Navarro. He enlivens any event, and his is loved by all that know him. I could hang out with him all day, and I usually do!

Here's a view from inside our booth, to the right.

To the left, to the left.

Another view form the booth

Just outside the booth, looking in.

The view from across the isle.

Manga fans enjoying the selection of $5 books.

Here's our good friend (Free) Steve Chung enjoying the selection of vintage $2 comics on our "Hey Kids Comics Spinner".
Sorry about that camera flash, Steve.

Here's the delightful Fat Momma from Stan Lee's great TV series "Who Wants to be a Super-Hero". Watch her go nuts with donuts! Tomorrow, I'm bringing Connie and my daughters, and I know they will love to meet her! She's a super cool Momma!

Well, it's time I hit the silk to rest up for what I hope will be a spectacular Saturday, so I'm going to put this thing to bed with typos intact. See you tomorrow. Same Bat Time, Same Bat Blog!

Warmest Regards from Your Friendly Neighborhood Comic Book Dealer,

- Lee

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