Production Blog for the new anthology from Jason Rodriguez, coedited with James W. Powell
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Monday, July 31, 2006

James W. Powell: A Collector No More?

For those who don’t know me, let me explain that I’m a holdover from days gone by when people bought comics in mint condition, encased them in Mylar, and stored them in dark, cool climates. So even though I was heading to the San Diego Comic Con to learn what it takes to be a comic’s professional, I was also ready to spend tons of cash. I was geared up to either ship home a box of goodies or check extra luggage on the flight back to Denver. I was even prepared to defend my spending when my wife asked how much everything cost.

But I certainly wasn’t expecting this.

Not only did I not buy a single book or piece of art at the convention, but I didn’t even have a strong desire to buy anything in the first place. “Is this for real?” I asked as I walked and walked and walked, looking at all the cool shit I could buy but didn’t want to. “Am I really not interested in anything?”

The first time through the booths I was pretty overwhelmed. There was just so much to do and see. Quickly enough, though, two thoughts popped into mind. First, I realized that no matter what I bought, I wasn’t properly prepared to keep it in mint condition. I certainly wasn’t going to put any books in my bag, and I didn’t have a poster tube to keep any prints or original art safe from the mobs of people bumping into each other. The second thing I realized was that there was simply no way I could decide what to get. I mean, how to you decide if a Frank Cho sketchbook is better than the other 200 sketchbooks available at the show? And don’t get me started on figuring out what to buy from Artist’s Alley.

So within two hours of entering the door, my brain was already shutting down. I had no desire to buy. Sure, I continued to look, but my wallet wasn’t burning a hole in my pocket like it usually does.

Hard to believe, I know, but that’s the way it went. It was pretty surreal. But there’s another obvious reason for the way this all went down. Although this was my first convention and I wanted to make the most of it as a fan, by primary goal was to meet some of the writers and artists I’ve worked with on Postcards. I was there to network and start learning the ropes of what it’ll take to actually get a foot in the industry.

One of the first things Jason told me at the convention was that it looks unprofessional to talk to an artist or writer with a handful of comics and other collectibles in your hand. I argued this point once or twice, claiming that I don’t want to be a professional if I can’t be a fan, too. But I understand Jason’s point. How would it look to talk to a representative at Top Shelf while fumbling around with books from Oni? Or what message would I send an artist we’re interested in for volume 2 when I’m trying to keep from damaging art from the guy a few rows over?

In a way, I felt like I was in limbo the entire trip. I wasn’t a fan, yet I wasn’t a professional either. At the same time, though, I was a little of both. I didn’t want to have a handful of loot when meeting people, but I also didn’t want to not have that handful of loot. It was confusing. And tiring. But that might’ve been from the lack of water and food and all that walking.

Even though my friends who know me best still shoot me odd looks for coming back empty handed, I did come away with something more valuable than anything I could’ve paid for. By working on Postcards and finally meeting face to face with the talent on the book, I’ve come to realize that the story is the only thing that matters. It matters to me as an editor who wants to help writers hone their craft, and it matters to me as a fan who now would much rather lend out great books than have them stored neatly at home.

I want to make great books. I want to buy great books. With Postcards, I get both.


Dembicki said...

That's a really nice, enlightening column, James. Thanks for sharing!

12:35 PM  

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