Guy Hasson is the CEO and head writer of New Worlds Comics. His sci-fi series, Wynter, was called by many reviewers “The best science fiction series on the shelves today.” He is also the author of The Emoticon Generation and Secret Thoughts. You can follow him on Twitter here.
by Guy Hasson
We just got back from our first convention, in which we had a booth and sold our first trade paperback ever, the Goof TBP.
Here are some of the thoughts and experiences we had at the con.
One of the most touching moments came from an 11-year-old kid.
In the morning of our first day there, a young kid, probably 11 years old, came to the booth, and checked out Goof. He flipped through a few pages, and was hooked. He said, “I want to buy this.”
He then pulled out his wallet and saw that he didn’t have enough money. He said, “I’ll come back later with more money,” and went away.
After lunch he came back.
He pulled out his wallet, spread out all his coins and bills and counted them. They weren’t much, and it wasn’t enough.
He said, “I’ll come back later.”
Evening came, and it was almost time to go home, when he came back with his father.
He told his father, “I want this one.” And you could see in his eyes and in his tone: he so desperately wanted Goof.
His father picked it up, completely humorless. He flipped through the pages, and you could see on his face he didn’t understand what the hell comics were all about. He asked his kid, “Are you sure you want this?”
I told the father that his kid would get a signed copy, and I volunteered to explain what Goof was about. The father nodded. And as I started explaining, I could see the father’s eyes completely glaze over. He was not the right audience.
“Are you sure you want this?” the father asked again four times, and each time the kid said “I want this.”
“Are you sure?” the father asked again. “Because there’s this other thing you want. And you can only have one.”
“I want this,” the kid said for what seemed like the thousandth time, and his eyes were always looking down.
Looking at them, it seemed to me this was not the first time they had that kind of conversation. It had taken place many times and for many different reasons.
The father hemmed and hawed, and couldn’t make up his mind.
The two weren’t native English-speakers. I told the father of my experience when I was a teenager. “As a guy who really liked comic books when he was that age,” I told the father, “I can tell you first that you don’t just read it once. You read it over and over and over again. And because this is in English, you learn English. Comic books help you learn English.”
And that was it. An argument the father could relate to.
The father said “Okay.” He made sure one last time that this is what the kid wanted, and he bought the comic. I signed it, the father took it, put it in his bag, and headed into the crowd. The kid followed him, looking down the entire time.
That incident left a deep impression on me. I remember what it was like to connect with a comic book that fast, to know that what’s inside is what you need. I remembered how deeply I wanted certain comic books and certain books, and how at that age we are at the mercy of our parents who control the money.
That feeling the kid had? That’s why I’m writing. That’s why I created New Worlds Comics. It’s why I create the comic books I create.
Do you remember being like that?
I won’t forget that kid.
I’m used to going to cons as a guest or a speaker (in my previous and current career as an SF author), and sometimes just as a fan. This was my first con in which I had a booth, in which we sold, among other things, our first trade paperback, Goof TPB #1.
It was a chance to get to see how people make decisions about buying comic books. This next one surprised me.
People choose to buy comic books because they’re worth something to them. How do you think they measure that worth?
From my own limited point of view as creator, I assumed that the ‘worth’ of a comic book comes in the experience it gave you, the reader: Did it excite you? Make you sweat? Make you laugh? Make you want to read it ten times over? Did it blow your mind? Did it touch something deep inside you?
Those are the things I am searching for, but apparently different people are looking for different things. The decision to buy a comic book seems to be based on many standards, many of which I’ve never thought of.
Here’s the one that most amazed me.
A lot of people look at graphic novels, check the price, and then check the number of pages. They divide the price by the number of pages in order to see how much they’re paying per page. Is it 13 cents a page? 15 cents a page? 20 cents a page?
They then decide if they’re getting their money’s worth by how little they’re paying per page. If it’s 13 cents a page, for example, then the comic book is a good deal and they should buy it. If it’s more, then they’re getting screwed and they’ll buy a different graphic novel that is 13 cents a page.
The price-per-page never occured to me as the deciding factor of how much a comic book is worth. For me, the length of the experience of a comic book lasts determines how much it’s worth: Will I come back to it? Will I think about it later? Will it stay as part of my emotional experience? Will I talk about it to other people?
Live and learn.
So there we were, sitting in our booth, selling, among other things, the Goof TBP, and the whole wide roster of visitors paraded in front of our eyes for three days.
There are things you notice only when sitting down and looking at something long enough.
First, it looks like a crowd of people. In the morning of the first day, it was all teenagers, most of them awkward. I sat there thinking how different this was from my first con, 13 years ago. Back then I didn’t know anyone else who liked SF & F. The cons were full of people, usually outsiders, that found SF & F during their childhood or teen years. You couldn’t help think how much more popular the cons are today. And how perhaps the facts that geeks are popular in TV and film makes outsiders explore SF & F as a place that might make them cool.
Towards evening, the grownups came. There were also costumes, all the time, from morning till evening. And every person with a costume who was approached by someone wanting to take a picture immediately posed for it. Okay, this is at least somewhat about getting attention. At least for the cosplayers I saw.
The next day the stream of people continued, but patterns hadn’t really begun to form in my eyes.
I spoke to a fellow author about my idea about why cons are more popular today. She said it’s just the opposite. “Look around,” she says. “Teenagers come the first day. But now there are tons of grownups. And they’re bringing their kids.”
“Look around,” she said again. “It’s not just outsiders you see. It’s also a lot of cool kids, or ‘regular’ kids.”
I looked around. She was right.
She explained, “It’s all because of Harry Potter and Percy Jackson. They opened up fantasy and science fiction for everyone. Everyone. Regular kids are brining their friends here to enjoy themselves. Grownups like us are bringing their kids here and they’re bringing their friends, too. Everything’s changed.”
She was right. I think maybe we’re both right at the same time.
The third day came.
And as I was watching the hordes move past and past and past, it all came together: The bright colors, the feeling of celebration, the dancing, the sword-fights, the games – it was almost exactly like a gay pride parade! (Okay, no sword-fights in a gay pride parade.) And it occurred to me that the con today, the one I was in, and perhaps most of the others have turned into Nerd Pride, where nerds (I am one, I’m not using that word in a negative manner,) wear their nerdom proudly and celebrate it.
And so it was decreed: From this day on thou shalt no longer be called a Con, thou shalt be called Nerd Pride!