This past weekend was the epic weekend called Anime Iowa. I enjoy attending the smaller shows like this, since it allows more opportunity and time to connect with the fans and the other guests. And Anime Iowa provides those opportunities in spades. They treat their guests and attendees extremely well, and everyone is in high spirits and having a fun time.

So with that said, let’s hop right into the recap of the weekend.

After work, I hopped in a cab and headed over to the airport to grab my flight to Cedar Rapids, IA. The flight out was uneventful, but I had a very pleasant conversation with a girl from England who was on holiday and visiting family. She wasn’t really into the whole comic or anime scene, but we did find some common ground in our love of music, movies, and traveling around. I also met one of the other comic guests while I was boarding, a guy named Chris Malone (who works on the Archer series on FX).

I was surprised to be greeted not only by my normal escort Mel, but also the Con Chair herself, Jen! It was a veritable party as all of the planes arrived at the same time, and we grabbed out gear and headed out towards the con.

Chris Malone and I (two of the comic guests) on our way to the con! It was a “Novembromance” in the making.

At the hotel we got into our rooms, unpacked, and walked around – myself being the veteran, I showed Chris and Brooke Stephenson (another comic guest, and coming in all the way from Japan!) all of the short cuts around the hotel. We eventually grabbed a liaison to take us out to buy some snacks and beverages, and were back in time for a night cap.

I stayed up with April and Bethany, mutual friends of mine from Samurai Dan and Lady Jillian. It was great to get to catch up – and also an opportunity to actually talk to them. Our past get-togethers were always between panels or after events, when I was already pretty sleepy.

I had some guest obligations that night before bed, including a staff meet-up in the con suite. All of the guests were present, and it was an opportunity to meet all of the other guests (and say hi to guests I already knew). One of the Japanese guests, Nabeshin, translators hadn’t shown up yet. However, Brooke speaks fluent Japanese (having lived there for the last 11 years), and the two of them got along swimmingly. Nabeshin seemed to be very pleased there was someone there he could talk to and hang out with.

Eventually, I went back to the room and went to bed. I didn’t want to overdue it on the first night, after all.

I got up earlier than I wanted to (I was up late the previous night), and went to the gym. I like working out on Fridays at a con because 1) the show typically starts a little later in the day, so I don’t have to get up SUPER early, 2) working out gives me a boost of energy, and generally puts me in a good mood, 3) the gym is usually empty at a show – but this time, there were some people in there working out.

Brunch at Perkins

After working out, I grabbed April and Bethany and we went to a local diner called Perkins for breakfast. The meal was enjoyable, and it was nice to get to catch up with them some more. They were doing a routine for the Masquerade half-time show, involving whip tricks and spinning weighted sticks. It’s a very impressive routine, and they were going to practice some new tricks during the show today (the Masquerade was Saturday night). It started to rain outside, and because I wanted to dry off before I set up, we decided to walk back and head up to the room for a quick change.

After that, I headed down to the show floor where they had put all of the comic guests next to each other – except for Brooke. She was over by the cosplay guests. Well, this didn’t make a lot of sense in my mind, and together her and I moved her table next to mine. I was sandwiched between the other two comic guests, which was nice. This way, we could watch each other’s tables during panels or breaks.

We also had a chance to chat and connect a bit. I found out that Brooke and Chris are also November birthdays, so we started calling ourselves the “Novembros,” and coming up with funny handshakes and head nods as our nonverbal way of saying “sup?” to each other. Were got a big kick out of it.

All set up to sell comics!

The floor opened and we started selling our books. Pitches were flying left and right, and money was exchanging hands. At some point, someone pulled the fire alarm and we had to quickly cover our products and go outside. Thankfully they let us back in rather quickly, but it didn’t make a lot of sense to set back up since we had opening ceremonies shortly after that.

Another satisfied customer – @$$hole! box set sold!

Hanging out with Brooke Stephenson (another comic guest) during opening ceremonies!

Opening ceremonies ended, and we all headed back to the floor but unfortunately we had noticed a change in tone and pace. People weren’t buying as much as they were earlier in the day. Sales were lower than expected because of it (this seemed to apply to everyone in the Marketplace), but I was still in high spirits. It was only the first day, and there were plenty of opportunities for more selling in the days to follow.

I didn’t have any panels that night, so I was free to go grab dinner with April and Bethany. We decided to go to the restaurant in the hotel, which has some very tasty dishes. They were kind enough to buy dinner for me, which was much appreciated.

Enjoying dinner with April and Bethany

After dinner, I tried to meet up with Chris and Brooke, who had gone to a local pub for dinner. Unfortunately we weren’t able to meet up for a planned artistic session, so instead I hung out with April and Bethany some more before going to sleep.

Saturday morning I got up as late as I could, but still managed to grab some breakfast before the floor opened up. I was surprised to find myself the only comic guest on the floor for a while, but then it dawned on me that the other guests had panels in the morning.

Breakfast of champions – fuel to get through a full day of selling

My first panel wasn’t until the afternoon that day (Self-publishing 101), and both Chris and Brooke joined me for the panel. It was refreshing to get some new perspectives and insights on their experience. Chris works in a very indie style of comic making, literally stapling his comics at his table. Brooke had insight into the Japanese self-publishing market, and the differences between selling at conventions there vs here. It was a very informative and fun panel, and always a blast to learn more about how other people are making their own comics – and teach techniques to other aspiring creators. There’s no one right way to make comics.

Buy books filled with this cute alien from this smiling bald man

After the panel we returned to the floor, and my focuses shifted to commissions. I had forgotten that Anime Iowa was such a strong commission show, and I was heads down for most of the day working on sketch cards (and a lot of 8x10s). Unfortunately I was so busy with them I neglected to take a lot of photos, but topics included Link and Zelda, a self-portrait of a girl and her boyfriend, several characters from video games including Final Fantasy VII’s Zack, Dragon Age Inquisition’s Cassandra, and so many more.

After the floor closed, we had several hours to kill before the con was buying us dinner (in exchange for attending a sponsors and guests Cards Against Humanity game), so Brooke and Chris retired back to my room where we snacked on some chips and hung out. We talked about the craft of comics, our approaches, and started bonding over stuff going on in our lives.

Time flew by very quickly, and we went to the event. Dinner was some a BBQ place that everyone seemed very excited about, and the food was tasty. All of the guests were in a single room, and we split off into smaller ground and rotated among groups of CaH players. It was a fun time, but after a short while I started not feeling very well. On the third rotation, Brooke pulled me aside and said she also wasn’t feeling so well. We bailed on the next game and went back to our respective rooms, and I was temporarily ill. Once I was done, though, I felt fine – so it must’ve been something I ate. I rested for a while and drank a lot of water, trying to hydrate up.

After that, I wondered around the con a bit, checking out the rave and the other late-night events. Time flew past, and I eventually went to bed (much later than I should have, especially considering I had a 9am panel the next morning).

The alarm went off, and I quickly got ready and ran downstairs for the panel (Making Webcomics). The panel started with 3 people in attendance, so I got started and kept it pretty informal. Over the course of the hour, however, the group grew to about 30 people. Chris also eventually joined me, since he has a webcomic series, and it was great to get his insight into his process and approach as well.

When the panel ended, I quickly went to the sponsor brunch (where guests and sponsors get to enjoy a meal together). I was hungry after last night, and still very thirsty. I consumed my meal, chatted with some attendees, and then headed to the floor to continue selling. More commissions started rolling in, and I even got to meet a fellow Thrillbent contributor who does a lot of coloring work. It was fun to catch up with her, and she even requested a commission sketch card.

During this time, Chris went to grab some breakfast and Brooke still hadn’t shown up yet. Alexis Tipton, one of the voice actor guests, was walking around and she hung out behind the table with me for a while. Eventually she started conducting business on her phone and I worked on commissions, and then we returned to our conversation about cons, attendees, and our approach to panels (speaking of which, she had to run off to her final panel of the weekend).

The hours flew by, and Brooke eventually showed up to finish off the last day of sales. We all continued selling our wares and goofing around behind the tables until the final call was issued, and the floor closed and we all had to pack up.

It was bittersweet. Anime Iowa has given me some incredible networking opportunities, but more importantly it’s introduced me to some very close friends. People I otherwise would have never had the opportunity to meet. Since this was the last meeting of the Novembros (Mel was also a November birthday, so our party continued to grow), we decided to commemorate this with one last selfie!

The “Novembros!” From left to right: Brooke, Mel, Chris, and myself

I went to closing ceremonies briefly, said a few words of thanks on the stage, and then headed off to catch my flight back to Chicago.

Anime Iowa was an absolute blast! Seriously, if you’re looking for a fun show with lots of opportunities to meet and talk to guests, as well as good food and good times, I highly recommend this show. It was my third year in a row as a guest at the show, and I really hope to be back again next year.