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Comic Book Fans Meet Creators At Booths, Panels

Check out IDW and Quick Draw

Comic-Con 2017 is off and running. And here is one booth to check out and a cool not-to-miss panel. As usual, there is far too much going on at Comic-Con to be able to provide anything approaching comprehensive coverage so let me narrow the focus to two things.

First, if you have ever attended Comic-Con and roamed the exhibit cruising through booths, then you have probably experienced the crowds and sensory overload that is the dealers' room. But while you might be focused on how difficult it is to move around or about how long a line is for an exclusive toy, you might not be thinking about all the work that goes into putting a booth together for Comic-Con. That's why I wanted to go behind the scenes with IDW Publishing to show you what it takes to make 40-by-40-foot booth happen at a convention the size of Comic-Con.

IDW Publishing

IDW Publishing has become a marker on the Comic-Con floor with it spinning signage high above its booth. The fact that attendees packed the booth on preview night and that multiple signings went off without a hitch was no accident.

"Yeah, we really honestly start planning as soon as the last convention ends," said Ted Adams, IDW Publishing co-founder and CEO.

"As soon as San Diego Comic-Con 2016 finished, I was writing down notes and sort of getting stuff in mind of this is what we have to do next year to make things work a little bit better," added Kahlil Schweitzer, IDW marketing manager. "There’s a lot that goes into it, my day-to-day job has basically been consumed with preparing for this."

IDW’s presence at Comic-Con has evolved considerably since its first booth in 2001.

"That was still in the days when you could get one at the last minute, and I think I probably had some friends that helped me out with that but it was literally just a table, it had one book, 'The Uno Fanta' book," Adams recalled. "We had a gray metal cash box, and we sat there and sold the book and honestly, it was pretty great times."

Photo caption: IDW Publishing's booth in 2008. It is quite different from the 40 by 40 foot ...

Photo credit: Chris Ryall, IDW

IDW Publishing's booth in 2008. It is quite different from the 40 by 40 foot booth they now run at Cmic-Con International.

"The company grew and the business grew," Adams said, "and it reached the point when we had a pop-up booth, and then once we outgrew that, we bought our own booth, and it has just grown bigger and bigger. But really for us it’s a promotional opportunity, but it’s also that opportunity for fans to get a chance to meet creators, but also for creators to get to meet fans because being a comic book creator, a writer or artist, can be an isolating experience sitting at a computer or at a drawing table and creating this art. And this face-to-face interaction where fans can tell creators how their work impacted them and how important it is for them that’s a great experience for both sides of the equation."

As IDW has expanded so has its booth.

"We are always looking to upgrade our booth, often figuring ways to go up taller, it’s a very big convention center so you want to make sure that your booth stands out and that people can find you," Adams said.

That means the design of the booth is important in terms of visual appeal and function.

"When it comes to the actual booth design and when it comes to building the structure, those conversations start in about November, December of this past year," added Schweitzer.

As the Con gets closer, IDW has to focus on exactly what will be in its booth. And how it will get there.

"Our warehouse is offsite from our main offices but usually about a week before they will start palletizing all of the pallets that we’ll be taking into the convention," Schweitzer said.

This year the number of pallets was limited to 24.

Trisha Phillips is IDW's warehouse shipping manager who has to make sure all the product fits onto those 24 pallets

"It is definitely a game of Tetris," Phillips said.

"Then, as of 6 a.m. on Tuesday, is when we hit the ground running for Comic-Con," Schweitzer said.

So that attendees can enjoy comics, exclusives, signings with Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles’ co-creator Kevin Eastman and so much more at IDW booth 2743 at this year's Comic-Con International.

Quick Draw

Now for a panel recommendation.

I was covering a panel in a room and felt the walls behind me vibrate with laughter. I had to find out what was so entertaining and discovered it was something called Quick Draw.

Some people wait in line for Hall H to see celebrities on movie panels. But anyone who has experienced the sheer bliss of Quick Draw knows there are other superstars at Comic-Con like cartoonist Sergio Aragones who may be the quickest pen in the West. He’s been attending the convention from the earliest days back at the El Cortez.

"And then the parties we had at El Cortez ... I can’t even start telling you about the parties," Aragones recalled. "I remember sitting by the pool with older cartoonists like Dan O’Neil who did 'Air Pirates,' sitting playing the guitar and in the wee hours singing songs and jumping in the pool at 3 in the morning. We don’t have that because we don’t have the familiarity of a small place like the El Cortez. But now they have great dinners but a lot of fun still."

One of the things that keeps it fun is Quick Draw with host Mark Evanier.

"We bring together three cartoonists and we perform and we show the great art of merging improvisational comedy with cartooning," Evanier said. "There’s a nexus there that’s very important in understanding cartooning, and we can demonstrate it and make people laugh. Usually, cartoonists draw stuff that’s very funny, but they never get to hear people actually laughing so at Quick Draw they get to hear people actually laugh.

It's the fastest, funniest panel at the convention, and this year Sergio Aragones and Scott Shaw return for another round on Saturday morning. They will be joined this year by Maria Scrivan of "Half Full" plus a couple of highly surprising surprises. Don’t miss this showdown of dueling sharpies.

Check out all the KPBS Comic-Con coverage, including my booth highlights on our Comic-Con page.

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