Three years ago I set out on a mission to complete my first ever jam piece of art. For those of you that are unfamiliar with that term, think of a collage of superheroes on one sheet of paper. For me, it was a simple idea: Get some of the best artists to draw my favorite comic book characters. And it wasn’t just the traditional characters of Batman, Superman, or Wolverine. It included Darkwing Duck, Darth Vader, and even Leonardo. Time and money would be a big factor. Especially the money part, but working some extra jobs didn’t hurt and determination to be the first in as many lines as possible didn’t either.
Going into this year’s New York Comic Con, I was down to my last four spots on my piece. Nightcrawler, Wolverine, Deadpool, and Sinestro were the last ones that need to be sketched. I figured that since last year I was able to bang out almost 10 characters, this year would be no problem. Shame on me.
Like all Comic Cons, big or small, the importance of pre-show preparations cannot be stressed enough. I’ve been going to shows for the past eight years, and I feel like every year I learn something new.
So days before the show, I made my list of over 20 artists that I would see about getting a commission from. I looked for who could draw the characters I needed, who could possibly start a new jam piece for me, and who I would just want a side commission as well. I created a nice spreadsheet with everything from their names, the character I would want, and their location in artist alley. I checked online at various webpages to see if there was pre-show commission lists and to see if prices were available as well. I thought I had covered everything.
Little did I know about checking for certain other tidbits. For instance, Todd Nauck, has a specific rule for his commissions. He would only do four commissions each day. One commission for each of the first two people who enter the show before everyone else and then one each for the first two people the enter the show at the normal time. I did not know this and Todd Nauck was my #1 artist for this year’s show. Luckily, I was able to sprint myself to his line and be the second person in line. Nightcrawler…check.
Here’s where things got dicey. At this point in the show, even though it is still early, the doors have opened and everyone has the same mindset as me. Find an artist and get commissions. Lists fill out fast. Artists run out of time. Decisions need to be made quickly.
This is where my pre-show list comes in handy. I found the three names I needed on my list and made my way to them even though I did not have my jam piece in hand. This way, I could get my name on the artist’s list and just come back to them with my jam piece as each character got completed. Joe Prado was next for Sinestro and I was first on his list. Perfect. I then went to Mike Miller from the Injustice: Gods Among Us series and asked for a Deadpool. He said he would need time, but that it shouldn’t be a problem. Last, but not least, I got my name on Tom Raney’s list to commission a Wolverine.
With that done, I made my way to the show floor to check out some exhibitors. Legos really stepped up their game and featured DC Superhero Girls. Next, I went around to check out the collectibles. I’m telling you, if you are ever looking to add a nice statue, replica, or a peek at a movie prop, then NYCC is your place. Classic Ninja Turtle statues from the original film and seeing Harley Quinn’s baseball bat and outfit up close was a nice touch to the day. The show floor was a nice way to pass the time as I waited for my sketch.
12,500 steps later, according to my fitness tracker, I went to Tom Raney and picked up my completed jam piece. Three years in the making and it was worth every road trip, every hour in lines, and every moment spent on planning.
As I look back on these three years, I think about all the lessons I learned. Here are some of the most important tips along the way:
- Respect goes a long way. Respect the artist. Respect their work. Respect other comic book fans.
- Creativity goes a long way too. Jam pieces bring out the best in artists. It’s like they are competing with each other to outdraw each other. Works in your favor.
- Prices can be negotiated based on your commission. For instance, the figures on my jam piece are smaller than the usual commissions. Hence, I did not usually pay the prices the artists advertised. Asking is ok, but respect their final decision.
- If you are set on getting a specific artist to commission a piece, then you better be willing to get to the show early. Like super early.
- A portable chair will save your legs and back.
- Be social. You’ll be standing in some lines for a few hours.
- Be flexible. Sometimes the artist you want is either not doing any commissions or is out of your price range.
New York Comic Con never disappoints. The exhibitors are tremendous. The artists and entertainers are beyond appreciative of the fans and the access to them is handled well by the NYCC crew. As a comic book art fan, the show gives me and many others the opportunity to own one of a kind commissions from some of our favorite artists.
As I admire my jam piece, I am already thinking about my next piece. Do I focus on an all-female crew? Do I do a Batman themed one? The choices are endless, but knowing the NYCC is there to meet all my needs, I know I am good to go. Til’ next year NYCC. Thanks for everything!