Carter Comics looking back at 2017 and looking ahead to 2018

Hello everyone!

The fact that I haven't had time to write here since the beginning of the year should definitely indicate just how busy my 2017 was. Now, I'm back here writing with just a week and a half left in the year. I guess now's a great time to look at how the last 12 months went for Carter Comics. I'll cover the good, the bad, and the just plain weird.

THE GOOD: Simply put, Carter Comics took everything to a whole new level this year. From the convention appearances to sales made to number of books sold to new artist contacts I met, I can clearly see an improvement on promoting and selling my work in 2017 compared with last year. Highlights of the year include an unexpected success at the new small Earth Realm Comic Con at Align Gallery in Highland Park,  breaking my all-time sales records at Wondercon Anaheim, then breaking it again at San Jose's Silicon Valley Comic Con, my first Free Comic Book Day at a legendary Culver City comic shop, and absolutely killing it in attracting crowds and making sales at both Glendale and Reseda outdoor artwalks. At the Earth Realm show in late winter, myself and a handful or artists set up shop in a tiny art gallery for three days braving heavy rains, a presidential inauguration, and a march protesting said inauguration.  These three adversities not only brought us closer together than we already were (figuratively and literally), but it eventually attracted the few people who braved the elements and other events to come see us. One man in particular, who was a family member of a 13-year old artist prodigy vending with us, purchased art and books from nearly every exhibitor at the show. The result for overcoming all those odds: 15 items sold and a $160 profit after paying just a $25 table fee for a three-day event. In the spring, my fourth appearance as a small press vendor saw me debut the often-delayed but finally completed 4th issue of Damn Tourists (completed at the end of February), and in addition, start a "buy issue 1 get issue 2" free deal with my Damn Tourists series. While the crowds in the small press area weren't nearly as consistently crowded as artist alley, the attendees that did wander into our area ate up both my 2 for 1 deal and Damn Tourists in general, purchasing full sets of the book series and selling out of issue 2. A few even purchased a full-set of my Cosmic Force series (five issues), and a few of my Mongoose Mondays books. The result of this new sales strategy: 42 books sold with a $217 profit, up from my last showing there in 2014 when sold 22 books and made a $122 profit. As mentioned previously, my very first showing at Silicon Valley Comic Con was even better. Here I sold out of issues 2,3, and 4 of Damn Tourists, and even picked up a custom print and t-shirt from my talented table neighbor. Also, thanks to a good friend of mine who I saw for the first time in five years, my all-time convention sales record was broken in just a month after Wondercon with 46 books sold and a $224 profit. In the late spring, I got to participate in my very first Free Comic Book Day, which is an event that takes place at multiple comic shops in California. I set up shop with some other artist friends of mine at the Comic Bug in Culver City. Despite car-trouble to and from the event, and nearby thunderstorms threatening our outdoor event, the show went very well. While I sold some books, the highlight of the show was getting to do free sketches for comic fans of all ages.  Finally, going into fall, were two shows that absolutely took me by surprise: Glendale Open Arts and Music Festival, and Reseda Rising Artwalk and Night Market. For the Glendale show, I had done a smaller 2-hour version of this outdoor art event the year prior on a Friday night on a sparsely populated side street, but this year's show could not have been more different: An 8-hour Saturday outdoor event which closed off a major Glendale Street anchored with numerous restaurants and shops. 8-ft tables with canopies and lights for the evening hours totaled just $15 each for vendors, but I qualified for an artist grant from the show promoter and wound up with a free table. The happy result was a show that drew in alot of attendees right off the street and in front of my table, and with lots of money to spend. I ended the night with 35 books sold and a $208 profit----the most that I had ever made at a one-day show. Reseda Artwalk sales were only less than Glendale because I sold most of my inventory at Glendale, and was unable to restock for the Reseda show that took place the very next week. That of course, meant that I sold out of whatever books I had left (Damn Tourists again), with a show tally of 22 books sold and a $136 profit, up from last year's show where I sold 9 books and made a $75 profit. Vendor spaces for both shows were $50 by the way.

THE BAD: Yes, like the old sitcom theme suggests, you have to take it with the good. You can only get better when you recognize your failures, and mine were at the following shows (four of which I made no sales at): The Hive Art Gallery show and Zinefest in downtown LA, which really didn't turn out to be the right fit for me, as attendees were not there looking for comics (or at least my comics), Comic Invasion at the City of Commerce Public Library was more of an interactive panel event then a proper comic convention, with the few attendees frequenting the panels more than the vendor hall. Also the hard-to-find location resulted in low attendance. The final San Fernando Valley Comic Book Convention of 2017, a show I had done previously three times a year since 2014, unfortunately had a less-than-stellar December due mostly to the extensive wildfires in Santa Clarita, Sylmar, The 405 freeway/Sepulveda Pass, and of course Ventura. The diehards that did come by were mostly bin-diving for great deals on old comics. Announcing the hourly raffles was fun though. Stan Lee's LA Comic Con at the Los Angeles Convention Center (which I called "Stan Lee's Lookie-Loo Comic Con in response to a facebook post about how the show went for vendors), took a huge step back from the improvement it made in 2016 by in my opinion adding too many celebrities that commanded most of the attention and money of the attendees (After Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson was announced, the fate of Artist Alley sales was sealed). Last year, which was the first year of the show's name change from Stan Lee's Comikaze Expo, showed alot of promise with a large Artist Alley far away from the celebrity stage, and some attendees that were willing to take a chance on new art and comics. That show in 2016 resulted in 16 books sold and a $136 profit. This show unfortunately drew a different type of crowd mainly there for brand name products, which resulted in the same number of books sold, but with a $90 profit (though I did get interviewed for a dailymotion video podcast, and got to spin the Price Is Right wheel, which was featured at the show).

THE JUST PLAIN WEIRD: Yeah, these shows were just random: PartyPunx at The Airliner Bar in Lincoln Heights combines a smaller version of a local artwalk via the Bar's back patio outside, with live local bands inside. It was an interesting collaboration, though I wasn't entirely sure how many bar patrons would be purchasing art or books after spending money on drinks. We got decent crowds and sales (vendor spaces were free), but the difficult part of the show was the hours: 9 PM - 2AM. Luckily I had some vendor friends helping me load my car in the wee hours of the morning after the show was over. A Geranium Festival and Artwalk? Yep, that happened in Monterey Park following the Commerce Comic Invasion show. With just a $15 table fee it wasn't much of a financial gamble, but the customer base was.........interesting. An older Japanese crowd (many of them speaking only Japanese) came by my table, but my lack of bilingual skills prevented any kind of conversation. I wound up with a few sales from other vendors which made up for it, but yeah, this show was just a little weird. Finally, while Comic Con Palm Springs was a decent three day show (being able to save on a hotel by staying at a friend's place helped, along with alot of last minute buyers), but this one interaction with a customer classifies it in the "weird" category:  A guy in his mid-20s came by my table, looked at my single pieces of comic book artwork, and said to me: "I don't get it."  I explained to him that they were comic book panels, but he still responded by scratching his head. I haven't had quite that kind of reaction to my work before or since.

PLANS FOR 2018: So, what does this mean for Carter Comics next year?  For one thing, being extremely picky when it comes to exhibiting at new shows (especially the smaller ones). No more appearing at the same show that occurs more than once a year. Instead, I will pick the time of year that I will be vending at that show. Also, look for a new book release schedule. Currently, I try to release one new book a year to debut at Wondercon, historically my biggest show of the year. Now, I want to increase that by releasing two new books a year, with the second book debuting at a fall show such as Bakersfield, or if I decide to give Stan Lee's LA Comic Con one more try. So for 2018, expect issue 6 of Cosmic Force at Wondercon, and my second Cosmic Force Prequel "Just Imagine," at the end of the summer ready for Bakersfield or LA Comic Con. Lastly (but not leastly. Yes, I'm making up a word),  I will be working on new monthly Mongoose Monday games via flash animations. Those will be done the 1st of the month starting in February. In the meantime, I will be taking a much-deserved rest from both my day job, conventions, and social media. So, thank you all who have supported me through likes, comments, social-media lurking and then telling me later in person that you've followed me and my work. No matter the method, it all means alot to me.

Merry Christmas and a Happy 2018!

Allen Carter
Carter Comics