I awoke on Saturday not quite over the cold that had plagued me much of the previous week, and a tentative “hello” voice test resulted in a fragile croak that cracked on the second syllable. A day full of talking to people in a loud convention hall clearly wasn’t in the cards–at least not wisely.

“Screw that,” I thought. “WizardWorld Portland ain’t going to do itself.”

And so it was that I loaded up my backpack with cough drops, Sudafed, and kleenex–as well as some Atroxity promo materials that I stashed in a separate compartment, because otherwise eeew–and biked out west to meet Lee for some pre-con breakfast.  We  chose My Father’s Place, since it was (1) suitably divey for my inclinations, (2)close to the convention center, and (3) sure to carry the ingredients necessary for a much-needed hot toddy (i.e. booze).

My people, the line.

That’s a lot of people jazzed up about comics, cosplay, collecting pop culture celebrity autographs, or all of the above.

After breakfast (and glorious, glorious hot toddies), we biked up to the convention center and waited in line, adrift in a river of hoodies and costumes. Lee recognized some sci-fi and videogame outfits that I didn’t know because I’m not always a good geek, but we also saw a fully-armored Sauron that filled me with nerd lust because in some ways I really am a great geek.

We entered the halls and gave ourselves a little time to acclimate to the audiovisual assault that is a massive comic con like WizardWorld.  We took pictures of some of the standard genre icons that were near the front door–the Delorean from Back to the Future, R2D2, etc.–and once that business was over we checked the map and cut our way through the crowds to reach the one thing we were really there for: Artist Alley.

See, the whole reason we were there was to meet fellow creators of small press/indie comics and make some connections. We wanted to see what they were working on and show off what we had so far of Atroxity. Lee had suggested we consider renting a table, but I was hesitant to invest in such a thing when we didn’t have a physical product to sell to offset costs.

As it would turn out, Lee was right.

Regardless, we found Artist Alley and dove in headfirst, meeting one friendly face after another as I popped cough drops, washed my hands repeatedly, and tried not too sound like I was going through puberty.

I’m always amazed at how approachable and cool most fellow creators are. Sure, there are instances of polite-but-taciturn artists just looking to move some product, but for the most part everyone at these things is just excited to show their comics, check out other comics, or just talk about comics in general.  I can honestly say that my time at these cons has brought me in contact with some incredible people, and it’s creatively invigorating to be part of such a great community.

Lee doesn't exactly look out of place with a lightsaber in his hand.

Lee doesn’t exactly look out of place with a lightsaber in his hand.

On Saturday, we broke the chatting ice by first approaching Jackie Crofts and James Wright, who were there promoting Nutmeg, a comic book that is “a cross between Breaking Bad and Archie” (their exact words, if I recall correctly–I was on Sudafed at the time). They were generous with sharing tips on launching a successful Kickstarter, and their comic has a playful pastel look to it that is worth checking out.

Up next was George Wassil, who was showing off Oh, Hell: The Graphic Novel. He asked us for our elevator pitch, which we rattled off. George then promptly told us that we need to work on our elevator pitch.

He was right, of course.

George gave us a few other great tips, and we perused some pages of Oh, Hell, a comic about teens being shipped off to a boarding school in hell. The writing seems sharp and the art has a  lush and funky art style that I liked a lot.

After we were done talking to George we refined our pitch to “a man wakes up naked in a mysterious dystopian city and has to figure out where he is, who he is, and how to escape.” We can probably do better, but this was the best we could come up with at the time (remember, I was on Sudafed).

Also awesome was Lucy Bellwood, a fellow Portlander who had a variety of impressive projects on display.  Her work covers too many different genres to cleanly lump it under one label, but it all had an appealingly whimsical visual style to it. She also chatted to Lee and I about all things Kickstarter (this was an ongoing topic throughout the day), and was kind enough to invite us to some local comic social events. Super cool.

And she called Atroxity’s Justice Light Knights “potato men,” which killed me.

Just hanging out with an old friend.

Just hanging out with an old friend.

We met plenty of other talented people with great-looking projects, but one other stood out: Andrew Kafoury and his impressive-looking No’Madd: City of Empty Towers. Andrew–another fellow Portlander– was friendly and all to happy too chat about how he launched his book (and bond with me over a love of fantasy world maps–I wasn’t kidding about how I am sometimes a great geek). No’Madd looks fantastic, a swords and sorcery epic with black and white art that reminds me of some of the classic fantasy work from Frazetta or Wrightson. I look forward to getting my hands on a copy of the book and settling in for the ride.

It was about this time that my voice collapsed within itself to sound the way a pile of dried bark looks, and so Lee and I decided to call off the jam, leaving the convention center and walking through the Wolverines and Pokemon taking a smoke break outside.

It was a great experience, even if my voice still hasn’t quite fully recovered five days later, and I now have a surplus of inspiration to channel and comics to read. I’ve been keeping in touch with the people we met, and everyone continues to be friendly and helpful.  Again, super cool.

The one other takeaway I had from the con, though, was that Lee was right: Atroxity is a fully launched project with a finished script and over fifty pages of gorgeous drawn and colored art. While we’re still attempting to build up a readership to match our ambition, such endeavors are really what cons like WizardWorld Portland are for.

“You’ve got to get your ass a table,” as we were told by one of the artists we talked to.

Next time, we promise.

P.S. All of the above pictures were originally posted in the Atroxity Twitter feed, which is completely worth following (of course).