Wednesday, March 18, 2009

something for the tolerant companions 3/18

There are unsung heroes and heroines that attend every convention... and sometimes they show up at our showroom. These are the "tolerant companions"... the friends or family of the artist/student/collector attending the convention or looking art books. These tolerant companions keep themselves busy or at least distracted, waiting patiently while their loved one enjoys the time they're just marking....I have a "courtesy pass" membership in this tribe, and they have my sympathy. So here's a few pictures to show I'm thinking of them on our travels as well....

The best bakery in Angouleme... great for walk up sandwiches and snacks to fortify you while you walk around the town (having seen enough comics, tents etc).

What's this? A flower shop... but no... it's a chocolate shop in Paris where all the candies are lovingly hand-wrapped to look like flowers. Where else but France???

And my all time favorite... this little sign above the lone, large comfy armchair in a Paris BD store. I think I have just enough French to get the gist of it.... which is "this space is reserved for those who don't like BD and are waiting for their friend/family member to finish their shopping". Of course, it may not say that at all.... but I was glad to see it and use the chair while Stuart scouted a large store at the end of a long day.

We have the same sort of chair in our showroom..... Stuart's always hoping I'll move it... but as long as I keep seeing a happy wife/child/friend who is sitting there on a Saturday... waiting while their companion shops.... I figure it's in the right place.

Monday, March 2, 2009

Our WonderCon That Almost Wasn't (Part 1)

Here's the beginning of the story of our WonderCon that almost wasn't...

As many of you know from Stuart's update to our email list, the French shipment was delayed. We had been promised this shipment would be delivered in DECEMBER. As with all French shipments, in spite of our best efforts to avoid last minute arrivals, we got yet another call that the books would arrive at the most inconvenient time..... in this case, Tuesday February 24th, our scheduled departure date for WonderCon. So instead of driving to the Bay Area on Tuesday, we decided to wait for the books. The truck arrived around 1PM. We off-loaded the 27 boxes from the delivery truck, stacked them in the hallway and started doing inventory. Here's a pic of some of those boxes:

And here's a view of some of the unpacking and sorting process inside the showroom:

Stuart says he's used to the stress of these situations. It was a difficult time for all of us... but Stuart was convinced we could prep enough of the French shipment to bring to the convention. So all of us (that's Stuart, Peggy, myself, and Stuart's sister Nancy) got to work......moving boxes around, doing inventory, putting price labels in all the individual books that were being re-packed to take to WonderCon.
But..... right here is the point on Tuesday afternoon when Stuart got sick. Really sick. Sick enough that he turned a sort of waxy color that you never want to see in a loved one. He had to go lie down. Then he couldn't get up. I seriously considered dialing 911. Long story short, I got him to our family doctor, where he was quickly seen and treated (much faster than if we had gone to an emergency room... I'm told by our friend who works at a hospital that 9 hours is the average wait time to be seen at an emergency room).
We were lucky that this event wasn't serious. Our doctor said as long as Stuart felt better in the morning, he could go on the trip. Still, I considered this a "red flag" warning, for both of us....
Stuart Ng Books has been around since 1997, and we've done our share of conventions during that time. We have expanded the amount of material we bring... but our "staff" is still just us, and our friends and family who volunteer to help us. We are always striving to meet our expectations, and yours, for the level of benefits and service we can provide. However, this "red flag" situation clearly demonstrates there are limits. We cannot risk the health of the very people who make Stuart Ng Books possible.... especially Stuart Ng.
I came close to pulling the plug on our WonderCon 2009. Peggy stayed late on Tuesday to help me continue to prep for the trip, but I was also making contingency plans. I didn't want Stuart to make the trip if he was sick.... and I didn't want him to commit to the Con and end up with a re-lapse during the week.
The drama of the day also meant we had to abandon all hope of finishing up the other unfinished con prep projects... like signage. We were too exhausted to even finish packing the van. We decided to finish loading the van on Wednesday morning and aim for a noon departure.
By Wednesday morning Stuart insisted he was feeling better. I was just as insistent that we take things slowly. We had already lost Tuesday, and if we couldn't get on the road, with confidence, by noon on Wednesday, I had declared the convention a "no go" for us this year....
Loading the van is as much fun as.... helping your friend move... and his apartment is full of cinderblocks. The boxes are heavy. And they start feeling heavier as the load-in progresses. And as usual we are bringing bookcases and shelves too....

Here's a view from the back of the van, where you can see the tables and other shelves that we bring:

So here's the van... all packed (by Stuart, me, Nancy & Peggy) and ready to go.

So was 12:30 PM and it was time to decide..... would we stay or would we go???? As far as I was concerned, we were operating under a "red flag" situation that I was taking very seriously.
These pictures you've been looking at.... I took them to prove we had INTENDED to attend WonderCon.
I didn't think we were ACTUALLY going to get there this year...

Our WonderCon That Almost Wasn't (Part 2)

So the cargo van was packed and it was time to go......

Now if it was me and I had been that sick... we would have stayed... but then I'm the one with the chronic medical condition. I spend a lot of time on maintenance and prevention.... making sure things don't go wrong. That's why I'm "worst case scenario Amy"....

but it was Stuart who got sick. He's the optimist after all, unafraid of relapses, etc, etc, etc.... So we were on the road and on our way to WonderCon.

The Gods smile on innocents and optimists like Stuart. I know this because we had exceptional luck with traffic and weather and reached Santa Barbara in about 2 hours. With our late start and all the complications, every minute we could make up in travel time was a gift.

We took lots of breaks, and I spent a lot of time asking Stuart how he was feeling.

This distracted me from my usual concerns about the weight we were hauling in the cargo van. The word problem version goes something like this:
A (average pounds per box) x B (# of boxes each travelling at 60 miles an hour) + C (slamming into our backs if there's an accident) = D (smushed to death like roadkill).
These risks are part of the "non dollar cost" of getting books to a convention. More about that later....

So it's dark, but not horribly late, when we reach our overnight stop in the Bay Area. A hot meal, shower, and good night's sleep later and things seem... well... okay. At least we're here and Stuart continues to improve.
On Thursday morning, Stuart and his brother Steve drive the van into San Francisco. I take the BART and join them at the Moscone Center.

Above is a rare shot of the bare-bones of our booth. Stuart builds this. When you arrive at the booth, all you have is the skirted tables and chairs supplied with your space. Over the years, Stuart has experimented with various display materials. We bring the black grids we use, and the wooden folding bookcases, and these are the few "off the rack" items. The most effective displays for us are items he has fabricated himself, like the white horizontal book displays.

Load-in hours are all day Thursday, and we need that long to set up the shelves, unbox the books and get the books displayed. Our entire construction and box moving crew is: Stuart and Steve. I arrive to help, and Steve has recruited Ken, a co-worker. If you're in our circle of friends and family, you get "volunteered" for some job or another when we do a convention. What a deal.
Pick-up owners often have a bumper sticker that reads: "Yes, it's my truck. No, I won't help you move." I live in fear of the day when our stalwart friends and family tell us: "Yes, we love you. No, we won't help you move books."

The fact is, we couldn't do ANY conventions without the help of our friends and family. No one has an inexhaustible supply of funds or manpower. We have been very fortunate to have these people to count on. However, this recent event with Stuart's health is a reminder that we can't take these circumstances for granted. They are not only subject to change.... they are likely to change over time. We need to be realistic. And we need to be planning ahead.... now.
We always appreciate the kind comments from our patrons regarding Stuart's booth and the selection of items we bring. When you enjoy our booth and the chance to look through all the books yourself, I hope these photos help you understand how all that material gets to you. There are lots of mom and pop vendors like us who personally transport and set up their goods at a show. It's an important part of the job, but it goes unseen by the general public. I wish there were convention elves to make all this magic happen (yes, there are teamsters that work at convention centers, but that's another story).
So by the end of the day Thursday, things were looking pretty good. Stuart was pacing himself. I was letting our friends and colleagues at the show my concerns about him. If he had a relapse, taking care of him, and the booth, and the domino effect of him being sick would be more than I could handle on my own.
Tip for the day.... My feeling is, if you aren't feeling well, the best option is to let others know. When your friends (and/or first responders) are informed, they can be better prepared to help you. It only complicates the situation if you don't say anything in the beginning.... and then can't say anything because you've passed out and no one knows why.
Everyone I shared my concerns with was so supportive. I'm sure it was this safety net of our friends, family, and colleagues at the convention that helped me stay calm about the situation.

Our Wondercon that Almost Wasn't (Part 3)

We finished set-up on Friday and the show opened at noon.

Our front table featured some new arrivals.

In the pic below, on the center of the table, you'll see the CFSL: Cafe Sale Art books, vol 1 (green cover) and vol 2 (orange).

Paris: Ankama, 2007. 1st. Square 4to (11-13"), 258pp, color, pictorial boards. NF (some wear to the oversize vinyl covers, interior VF). Since its inception in 2002, the Cafe Sale website and association has grown to over 15,000 members and become the largest community of French-speaking graphic artists. This is a selection of over 350 digital illustrations by 160 artists; including Arthur De Pins, Bengal, BenGrrr, Bone, Grelin, HK, Hubert de Lartigue, and Kness. Every illustrator is identified with his/her location, email, and website address. Foreword in English, French, Spanish, and Japanese.

Also on this table:

Paris: Delcourt, 2008. 1st. 4to (11-13"), 100pp, color, pictorial boards. VF. An anthology of Dylan songs interpreted by bande dessinee artists: Thierry MURAT, Lorenzo MATTOTTI, Nicolas NEMIRI, François AVRIL, Jean Claude GÖTTING, CHRISTOPHER, BÉZIAN, Dave McKEAN, ALFRED, Gradimir SMUDJA, Jean Philippe BRAMANTI, ZEP, Benjamin FLAO. Song lyrics in French and English.

See more covers and details on the Stuart Ng Books website, New Arrivals page:

On Saturday, we were lucky to have our beloved friend Rae to help out with the cashiering. We call her our "ray of sunshine" as her happy smile is a reminder to all of us that cons are supposed to be fun :)

Inside the booth, you could find more French Albums in flip boxes, each with a marker that described the artist and/or story. On this table you'll see the box for the newest volume in this series:
Silvio Camboni. Filippi, Denis-Pierre. GARGOUILLES TOME 2 - LA CLÉ DU TEMPS. [SN22940X] $30
Paris: Les Humanoides Associes, 2004. 4to (11-13"), 48pp, color, pictorial boards. Fine. "Grégoire is a regular little boy. Yet one night when he couldn’t sleep, he found a medallion which opens the doors of the fantasy medieval world in the Cathedral next door." A bright colorful fantasy. Text in French.

Our front corner featured the Claire Wendling artbooks Drawers 2.0 and Iguana Bay 2.0.
The Toppi artbooks,
Sergio Toppi. BAB EL AHLAM 1932. [SN25563X] $45
St. Egrève: Mosquito, 2002. Small square 4to (9-11"), 128pp, color and b&w, pictorial boards. VF. An excellent collection of Toppi’s work showcasing his extraordinary talent as an illustrator. More than 120 drawings & illustrations in color and in b&w. Examples go as far back as 1957 but the majority are from 1979-2000. Includes a 15pp interview illustrated with pencil drawings. Text in French.
Sergio Toppi . Roux, Jean-Louis. SOUDARDS ET BELLES GARCES. [SN25529X] $50
Paris: Mosquito , 2008. 1st. 4to (11-13"), 176pp, color, pictorial boards. VF. After the success of their first Toppi art book, Bab El Ahlam, 1932, Mosquito provides a new insight into Toppi's oeuvre. Fifty years of a career in the field of illustration has left abundant traces in many newspapers, magazines and books worldwide. The frail and discreet Toppi has never hidden his slightly horrified fascination for the military and soldiery. Gladiators, reîtres, mercenaries and samurai are in the parade in his work, harnessed, barded weapons, axes and swords ready to reduce their congeners lint.In the Milanese master everything is good, everything makes sense and graphics and to make in their own coin to all these thick brutes: women. Its ethereal creatures are hard to cook and it is obvious that the male will not have the beautiful role. Derrière la virtuosité du trait toujours apparait le clin d'oeil ironique de Toppi. Behind the virtuosity of the line still appears the ironic Toppi wink. The writer and poet Jean-Louis Roux commented in the background this magnificent spectacle of violence, fantasy and sensuality. Text in French.
A brand new book by Benjamin, the artist of "Orange":
Benjamin. FLASH. [SN25541X] $60Paris: Xiao Pan , 2008. 4to (11-13"), 160pp, color, wraps. VF. This is the first art book devoted to Chinese comic artist and illustrator Benjamin (artist-writer of Orange, Remember, and One Day). A large 9.5" x 12.5" format book filled with Benjamin's painterly digital illustrations of contemporary Chinese youth culture, some never before published, as well as prelims, drawings, and sketches. Text in French.
The Arthur de Pins artbook, which has a terrific following now (we debuted this book at WonderCon 2008).

Arthur De Pins. ARTHUR DE PINS ARTBOOK. [SN25566X] $40
Paris: Fluide Glacial, 2007. Small 4to (9-11"), 110pp, color, wraps. VF. The first monograph on this French comic creator, animator, designer, and commercial illustrator. De Pins colorful illustrations appear in magazines and ads, on book covers and websites. His specialty is sexy cherubic urban men and women. This book is an excellent overview of his work in all media: cartoons, comic strips, illustrations, character designs. Text in French. For adults only.
We also have the vol 3 of his PECHES MIGNONS album series.

In the pic above, you can see the artbook table corner, the wooden bookshelves with the out-of-print books, and the racks and grids along the back wall of our booth.

And here's my favorite selection from the new French arrivals:

MON CHAT À MOI. [SN25532X] $28
Paris: Delcourt, 2008 . 4to (11-13"), color, pictorial boards. VF. Text in French.
(various French artists contribute cartoons of the own cat... pic coming soon)
We really lucked out with the weather in San Francisco. There was some rain, but it came in waves and all the times that we were out and about moving items we had clear skies. On Saturday the skies were blue and beautiful. Since Rae was able to help hold the fort, I was able to go out for a walk and bring back some lunch.
We had helpers stopping by on Saturday, and for load-out on Sunday afternoon. Special thanks to our friends Dave, Justin, and Eric, and Stuart's cousins (friends and family again, getting us through it).

So, from those of us who barely made it there.... many thanks to all of you who stopped by our booth. For those who couldn't make it to the con, I hope these pics and the story give you a sense of the excitement and adventure of SNB at the Con.