My first convention of the year is a show I wasn’t able to do last year because of the wedding, but I was super looking forward to doing. Not only is it a fun time, low-key with lots of opportunity for us guests to interact with friends and fans on the floor, but the guest roster was also all of my nearest and dearest comic book creator friends that live in the local area!

Seriously, we had Alan Evans (Rival Angels), Sean and Sara Lindsay (Spinnerette), Steve Horton (Amala’s Blade), Steve Wallace (Reading with Pictures), Russell Lissau (The Batman Strikes, Will), and my partner in comics, Gabo (Albert the Alien, The Life After). We also got to meet Blake Packard (Will) and his wife, as well as hang out with married partners in comics Comfort Love and Adam Withers (The Uniques, Rainbow in the Dark).

If that’s not an impressive line up of talent, I don’t know what is. So let’s get into the adventures of the weekend!

Friday morning I packed up the car with my wife and headed out to Rosemont for a weekend of good times and great people. We got in early so we could set up and say hi to everyone, and check out the convention layout. Being in a new location (but one I am intimately familiar with), I wanted to see how Kollision Con decided to use the space and where they decided to put their rooms. They had a lot of fun activities for their attendees: game rooms, video games / arcades, a room dedicated to cosplay photos, tons of panel rooms – and a room where you could hit other people with padded bats!

The comic book guests of the show – all of them my friends, all of them amazing people!

Before the show started, my friends and I took a quick picture in front of our booths and then got behind them to start selling. Traffic was light but steady (it was Friday, after all). Thankfully with smaller shows like this, there’s more opportunity to connect with the fans on a more personal level. And that’s exactly what we did. It was awesome to see friends and fans alike coming out to the show, catching up after our holiday breaks and our New Years parties and having an opportunity to chill in a fun and social environment, like a convention.

There were also panels throughout the day. I jumped into the Making Webcomics part 1 panel lead by Alan Evans, and joined by myself and Sean Lindsay. We’ve given the panel before, and we had a small but interested audience who asked great questions.

After the floor closed, the gang went back to one of our rooms and ordered pizza. We had a fun time unwinding after the day (and enjoying some delicious Chicago-style deep dish), and then left to do more panels. I had my Evening with Trevor Mueller panel, which was populated by a loyal group of friends who know my best stories. They started off by doing a bit of a roast – taking over the panel and coming up to the front to tell their favorite stories of mine from cons or other experiences. It was a fresh take on the panel, and a great opportunity for people to rib me a bit in front of an audience. Because they know all of my stories, they also requested their favorite stories – which I was happy to oblige.

After the panel ended, the group split – with some going to the bar to hang out and others headed back to their rooms for sleep. I went to bed, because I wanted to get up early the next morning and go to the gym. Sadly this meant missing the improv that night (which runs from midnight until 2am, and I’ve done it every year I’ve attended Kollision Con), but it was a sacrifice I was willing to make.

Saturday morning Beth and I got up early and headed to the gym, where Alan was already hard at work on his cardio. Alan usually starts his day with some DDP Yoga, so he had already warmed up, too. Beth hit the treadmill while Alan and I focused on lifting and dynamic resistance exercises. I was working chest, shoulders and arms, while he was working arms. I don’t usually work out my legs or do cardio at a con, since I stand all day at the table, but he also got in a little biking before we were done.

After a quick shower, the group met downstairs for some much needed breakfast. Despite the heavy dinner we had the night before, the group was pretty hungry. After breakfast, we headed to the floor to open our tables and get ready for a day of sales.

Beth and I work the booth

Sales were a little lighter for me on Saturday (which was a strange occurrence I had noticed the last few years, since fans typically find me right away and buy on Fridays), but the fans came out strong and we had a blast. I was even invited to participate in a new panel with Comfort and Adam about creating a character. The two started off by giving a presentation on the elements of a character:

— Personality: Who is this character, and how does their image reflect them?
— Simplicity: Is their design easy to replicate (e.g.: would it look good as a character image)?
— Utility: Is their design functional, and does their design have a purpose to it?

After the presentation, the two engaged myself and Alan (as well as the audience) to make a new character right there in the room. It was a fun exercise that had a lot of audience engagement and participation. While we discuss the character, Adam started drawing a sketch of what the character might look like. It was a fun time.

After the panel, we all returned to the floor to keep selling. After the floor closed, the bulk of the group went to the casino to grab burgers (and try their luck at some games of chance) while I went to the restaurant to grab a quick bite with Blake and his wife before my panel.

My next panel was a self-publishing 101 panel, and since the audience was also interested in digital publishing, we talked about both physical and digital opportunities. My motto has always been “it’s never been harder to be published, but it’s never been easier to make a comic.” As someone who has mostly self-published their work, I wanted to provide an opportunity to how to get started, and more importantly how to finish making a comic.

After my panel Blake did a demonstration on oil painting. It was an interesting look at physical coloring (and there were a lot of engaging questions, especially from audience members who are more versed in digital coloring). The theories and approaches appear to be the same, but the execution is quite different – since oil paints are physical.

Blake even called the audience up to do some of the demonstrations, and to see his paint sets and the tools he uses to turn illustrations into stunning pieces of art.

Blake Packard gives an oil painting demonstration – this is my learning face (the face I make when intently learning something new)

After Blake’s panel, I went to grab actual dinner with Beth before her panel. Yes, that’s right – the wives of comic book creators panel actually happened at this show, and it was amazing!

Sara Lindsay had requested an opportunity to host a panel along with Tracie Evans and my wife, Beth, to talk about what it’s like to be married to someone who works on comics. Each brought an interesting and unique perspective to the table:

Beth and I are newlyweds and comics are very new to her (plus I had told her to give me a good ribbing), so her perspective was more focused on the time commitment and the newness of the world of comics to her.

Sara has been a comic fan for a long time, so she talked about her enthusiasm for being on the selling-side of the table and meeting her favorite celebrity creators.

Tracie, having been married the longest, talked about how comics has played a role in their marriage and how she supports her husband in his comic-making endeavors – or how she just shares similar passions in wrestling and helping him with his art.

All had some very insightful things to say, and then took questions from the audience (which was peppered with their husbands and friends), who challenged the girls with questions like, “If you could change anything about your husband, what would it be and why?” or “What kind of crazy con stories do you have about being at shows?”

The first (hopefully of many) “Wives of Comic Book Creators” panel. From left to right: Tracie Evans, Sara Lindsay, and Beth Mueller

After the panel ended, some of the group went to bed and others went to the hotel bar (which was closing) to meet up with some friends. We had tried to get together for drinks throughout the weekend, but unfortunately timing wasn’t on our side. Since the bar was closed, we went our separate ways – they went to hang out with their friends, and I went to the con suite to hang out with some of the staffers and volunteers that made this weekend possible.

It was a fun time in the con suite, hanging out with people who I have known for years (having met them through other shows in other roles), and talking about our future cons we’re attending this year. I’m looking forward to seeing most (if not all of them) at my next show in February, Anime Milwaukee!

After hanging out for a bit, I headed back to the room to get some much needed rest.

The final day of the show started with packing up and grabbing breakfast, and then heading downstairs to the show to set up for the day. The group was pretty tired after the long weekend (late nights will do that to you), but still in good spirits. The weather had turned for the worse, though, with icy conditions and snowfall making some of the guests need to rebook their flights and some of the local guests wanting to take off a little early.

Sales were still on par with where I figured they would be, and I even participated in Alan’s Making Webcomics part 3 panel. It was nice to get to hang out with everyone one last time before going our separate ways, and to get some final last-minute sales in before the end of the weekend.

Kollision Con was a lot of fun, and a great con to start off the year doing. The smaller con allowed for more one-on-one interaction with the attendees, more interactive panels, and the opportunity to hang out with friends and fans (as opposed to everyone feeling rushed to get to their next event or table). The new location was much more convenient and accessible from the city, especially for someone who lives off the train like me. And the new venue is one that I frequented often, so it was just like going home again.

Thank you so much to all of the staff and volunteers at Kollision Con for bringing me out again, to my friends and fans (new and old) for supporting me and my work, and to the attendees for supporting the show and attending my panels.