Please accept my requisite apology for the long gap between posts! I’ve been hard at work on my previously announced graphic novel, and making preparations for Convention season. My first show of the year (and the reason for this post) is my hometown show, Saskatoon Entertainment Expo, which will be taking place at Prairieland Park, May 5th, 6th, and 7th. While it’ll be tough to top the thrill of spending so much quality time with Lois Lane at last year’s show, the real draw to these Expos for me is seeing friends, and catching up with people. I’ve had families who got a portrait drawn every year of the show, and I can’t tell you what an amazing feeling that is, to be part of someone’s family tradition—and to have that trust placed in my hands.
Some of my very happiest memories of my life have taken place at our local comic show, so I’m always grateful and excited for one more year to join with the fans and celebrate pop culture in our own city.
Compare and Despair
Though it seems like these shows have been happening forever, I can certainly remember back to a time when Expos simply didn’t happen in our province. It wasn’t so long ago when in order to have a real comic book convention experience, you had to drive a minimum of 5 hours to a different province, at great expense. That’s why I get a little protective of the local shows, and grieve a little bit at the entitlement I see from some of the fans when they compare Saskatchewan shows to shows in bigger centres. I get it—it’s not news that fan culture has definitely earned a pretty bad reputation when it comes to online negativity and toxic attitudes. But I do get bummed out when I see so much negativity from local fans, and even my fellow local artists about the comic cons in our province. No show is perfect, and there are always growing pains as organizers find the best way to put on an event, particularly in a market as small as Saskatoon.
I love the Calgary Expo, too. I’m headed there as a fan this month in fact, to meet Vincent D’Onofrio, who my family loved on Law and Order: Criminal Intent. No question—Calgary puts on a terrific show, with some world class guests.
The fact is, Saskatoon isn’t Calgary. The city of Calgary has four times the population of Saskatoon, which means a far larger base of fans to draw from. It should be no surprise that a larger base means higher attendance, which means increased profit; which means a larger event like Calgary Expo (and the international conglomerate that owns the Calgary show) can attract some very sought-after guests that smaller centres simply can’t afford to bring in. And, in some cases, even when a Saskatchewan show could afford to bring in a guest, Hollywood celebrities may not want to visit Saskatchewan. I know, I know—I love it here, and think that’s a misguided understanding of our province. But that’s the reality—many celebrities are more comfortable in larger centres with more international renown.
Plus, even Calgary Expo wasn’t Calgary Expo when it was just getting started. Even with the larger audiences, they had to build steam year after year, and grow into the big show we now expect from them. Relative to Calgary Expo, the Saskatchewan conventions are pretty young, and still growing.
Ignore the Haters
So when I see guest announcements from one of Saskatchewan’s conventions being met with derision and snide dismissal, it kind of breaks my heart, especially knowing how difficult it can be to schedule guests in our province. In the first place, “celebrity” is completely subjective. What constitutes a “good guest” for one person could be a total yawn for someone else, so I find it a little presumptuous to dismiss any guest lineup as “weak” on a public post. I also personally detest that kind of negativity, though I suppose it’s nothing new when we’re talking about the internet. Spending your time and energy being insulting about a real human being, who has agreed to hop a flight to the Canadian prairies—who are you helping? All you’re doing is offending the people who are actually excited (and there’s plenty of them!), and deterring other people from attending. I shouldn’t let it bother me, I know—the most productive thing I can do is to try to ignore the trolls—or better yet, cancel out the negativity with excitement and positivity. But it’s easier said than done.
Simply put, if we want to be able to continue having comic conventions in our province, we need to support the ones we have, imperfections and all. Otherwise—sooner than you think—we’ll be back to the bad old days, of spending a day driving, to enrich a big faceless company with a near-monopoly on the convention scene. Is that really what people would prefer? Not me.
Attitude of Gratitude
As someone who began their comics career (and I use the word “career” loosely, believe me!) in the era before Saskatchewan regularly had professional comic shows, I am so appreciative that we still have the shows we currently enjoy. To be able to get my creative work in front of people in my own city, it just feels like an easy, natural decision to take that opportunity. Even when I don’t have many new pieces to show, or a new book to promote, my thinking is that every show could be someone’s first, which means it could be a chance for someone to connect with my work for the first time. No show is perfect, of course, and there’s always room for improvement. And obviously, it’s always up to the individual artist to decide what level of risk/cost they’re willing to take on. I certainly respect artists who come to a different conclusion than I do about tabling at a given show. But I respect them all the more when they do so in a gracious way, rather than a scorched earth, public hot-take approach.
Back to the Point at Hand…
Anyway, all ranting aside, I am very pleased that I’ll be tabling at Saskatoon Entertainment Expo the first weekend in May.
I’m tentatively placed at Table 209, though that could change. Just look for my big red display, and you’ll find me.
Thanks for reading, I love you.