15 May 2014

I drove 628 miles round trip to buy your minicomic: The fuo 2014 Fluke report.

This is Fluke. (Image stolen from Fluke.) 

(EDITOR'S NOTE:  I started writing this soon after Fluke but then I got busy with work that pays me money.  Sorry.  As much as I'd love to spend all day creating "content" for you to share with your mom on Facebook, I gotta get paid. The kids gotta have their My Little Ponies.)

Fluke is a mini-comics and zine festival that takes place in Athens GA USA every spring.  I love it.  I think this is year twelve of the show.  I think I've been to maybe seven of them?  I like it so much that when I don't go I have Henry Eudy drop in by parachute to write a report about it for file under other.  (Or maybe he drives there?  I forget logistics.)  The point that I am trying to make with this opening paragraph is that Fluke is great.  I love it.  You love it.  We love it. 

I love Fluke so much that I requested to have off from work the Friday before the show months in advance so that I could drive down before the show and enjoy Athens.  This request was denied.  So, I had to leave after work and drive in the rain all Friday night showing up in town sometime in the Saturday AM.  Same as always.

The way you (and by you, I mean I) get to Athens GA from southwest VA is to drive to Kingsport, TN then get on Interstate 26 and take it through the Carolinas then on into Georgia.  I'd like to take a moment to talk with you about the abomination that is Interstate 26.  

I once read a book about traveling through Mongolia and post Soviet Russia and how terrible the roads were.  As in there were not any roads.  I'm assuming it was a lot like Interstate 26.  Calling Interstate 26 an "interstate" is the most flattering lie I could direct at Interstate 26.  Interstate 26 is a nightmare.  It is driving for three hours on road so bumpy that you have to keep telling yourself over and over that you do not have a flat tire.  Yet.  How do people in North Carolina live like this?  If you drive that road more than once a week I assure you that you are living with a constant concussion and you are most likely brain damaged right now.  Brain damage being the only thing I can imagine that has prevented every single citizen of North Carolina from marching on their state capital and demanding that Interstate 26 be improved and/or just murdering everyone in the building. 

Sections of I-26 have sings that read "Future".  They have said this for years and years.  The future is never going to come to North Carolina.  I guess the future can't happen everywhere.

Eventually, I made it to Interstate 85 and headed on into Georgia.  Touching tires to asphalt on I-85 after hours on I-26 is like arriving at Disney World after a days long journey.  I can only imagine what it must feel like for pilgrims to arrive at Mecca but I'm guessing the elation is much like that moment when you realize that all of I-26 is behind you. 

This concludes the Interstate Highway System review portion of the report. 

Around 12:20 or 1:30 AM (some time with a 30 in it) I finally arrived that the home of cartoonist extraordinaire and Fluke organizer Patrick Dean.  Patrick had graciously offered me couch space to I took him up on it as I am cheap and don't like sleeping outside. I presented my host with a collection of Werewolf by Night comics as is the custom.  Patrick gave me the tour of his lovely home.  He has some very impressive original art but I mainly looked at his kids' toys. We then talked about Jack Kirby and Steve Ditko for a while.  Again, as is the custom.

The next morning everyone got up and I met Patrick's wife and kids.  Patrick's son showed me his toys.  We had a nice breakfast and then it was time to get out there and make Fluke happen.  Patrick lives a few minutes outside of Athens and I enjoyed the drive into town.  The non-Atlanta parts of Georgia are very pretty.  Trees, ponds, ducks, covered bridges, Waffle Houses with giant bulldogs painted on the side... it's nice.
We went to Kroger and picked up a giant cake for the show.  As is the custom.

This is 40 Watt Club around 9 AM before the Fluking starts.

We got to the 40 Watt Club around 9 AM and met up with Fluke organizer, writer, editor, publisher, retired pod-caster and all round swell fellow Robert Newsome.  This is a good two hours before the show starts but there were already a few exhibitors waiting to get into the show.  Which is odd, because Fluke adopted a pre-show registration process last year so these guys knew they had a table.  But, who am I to question their enthusiasm?   I drove six hours in the rain.

At 9 AM on a Saturday, 40 Watt Club is an empty place.  It was strange to be in a bar in the AM and not be intoxicated.  I pressed on. Robert and Patrick's friends showed up to help set up for the show.  They included Joey Weiser, Michele Chidester, Drew WeingDavid Mack and maybe some other people I apologize for forgetting.  In my mind, I call this group of people Athens Force and when I think the words "Athens Force" I see it in my mind in the font from the cover logo of  Atari Force.  They showed up to help load in the tables but the tables were not there yet.  Drama!
Not really.  The tables showed up a little while after 9:30.  We probably had them set up and ready for Fluking by 10.

Somewhere previously in that last paragraph, I should have mentioned that while we waited for the tables two fun things happened.  1) Patrick Dean went to Waffle House to get a knife to cut the Fluke Cake but he also bought and ate a bacon, egg and cheese biscuit because he felt it was the polite thing to do.
2)  Robert Newsome played with the Fluke megaphone.  Fluke has a megaphone.

This is Michele Chidester using sorceress powers to make a cake appear. (She did not really use sorceress powers to make it appear.  Patrick Dean bought it from a grocery store bakery. I saw it happen.  Both Michele and Patrick may have sorcery based powers but I'm pretty sure the cake was just eggs, flour, sugar and whatever else goes into cakes.  What does go into cakes?  I honestly have no idea.  (It's probably sorcery.)

This is the stage of 40 Watt Club.  Famous people have performed music on that stage.  I have never seen that happen.  I have seen people buy, trade and read minicomics and zines in a rock club though.

This is Robert Newsome harassing complete strangers with a Megaphone.  (He totally knows who those people are but the thought of him harassing strangers is funnier.)

 It was my understanding that the Earth revolves around the sun so the appearance of sunshine moving is just an illusion.  But, since these guys have an exact street address of where the sunshine has moved, I may be wrong.

Tables hungry for Fluking.

The line was backed up all the way to where the sunshine had moved.

At 10 AMish, exhibitors were allowed into the show to set up.  This is great because a lot of the exhibitors are my long time pals.  It only takes a few minutes to set up so that leaves some time to socialize.  As soon as Henry Eudy came through the door I flagged him down and asked if he wanted to share a table with me.  This is because I love him.
He said yes.
We used his cool Halloween skull tablecloth to cover our table.  It looked nice.

This is my table setup.  Kinda orange. 

After the tables were set up, the knife was acquired and Patrick ate his biscuit, the non-exhibitor patron type people were welcomed in at 11 AM and Fluke was on.

Also at 11 AM, 40 Watt Club's bar opened.  I believe I was the first customer.  I ordered Jim Beam with Ginger Ale.  Five bucks and a tip.  It was good. 

This is me making a face at Henry Eudy. (Image stolen from Henry Eudy.)

This is Henry Eudy (the world's most dangerous man) making a face at me.

 Robert Newsome.  The longest reigning The Atomic Elbow Professional Wrestling Zine World Heavyweight Champ of the modern era.

This is Robert Newsome yelling at my shoes with a megaphone.  (He is not really yelling at my shoes but, again, made up stuff is funnier.)  (Image stolen from Fluke.)

Now there are people in Fluke doing Fluke things.  I see Rich TommasoJ. Chris Campbell and Jason Horn.  We are doing Fluke y'all!   (Image stolen from Fluke.)

This is Adam Daughhetee doing Adam Daughhetee things.  (Image stolen from Fluke.)
Adam and Shawn Daughhetee had the new Dollar Bin comics zine thing and it looked great.  It contains an Adam Rose pin-up by me.  You should track them down and buy 12 copies.

That is Eleanor Davis on the right being tall and awesome. (Image stolen from Fluke.)

Yes, David Mack and Joey Weiser would like some cake. (Image stolen from Fluke.)

Fluke does not have an awards show or panels.  Fluke has cake.  I think we started eating the cake around noon.

It was probably also around noon that Patrick's wife showed up with more biscuits from Waffle House.  Patrick ate them.

Henry Eudy's cake kind of fell apart.  He cried for a while and then murdered all of us.  (No, he did not murder us.  But again, made up stuff is funny and murder is hilarious.)  (Image stolen from Fluke.)

That is Adam Casey doing Adam Casey things. (Image stolen from Fluke.)

 This is people Fluking.

The show had a good crowd.  All of the tables were sold out in one day of registration so we knew the room would be full.  I think the walk up non-cartoonist attendance was steady.  Not the most shoppers I've seen at Fluke but it was a rainy day and the day before Easter.  I didn't sell as much as I have in the past but a lot of the business you do at a show like this is with other cartoonists and I did not have anything new on my table that the folks that I already knew had not already picked up.  I was also out of what have been my two best selling comics so I guess I need to re-print those and finish some new stuff right now.

 Here is a picture I took from one of Henry Eudy's sketchbooks.  I think it is great.

Henry Eudy seemed to do very well.  Henry's table is a good example of my multiple price points philosophy in action.  Henry had small prints and comics in an affordable price range.  And his stuff looks great.  His bigger prints with their bold colors seemed to bring folks over and the smaller stuff gave them something to walk away with.

I didn't ask anyone about sales or numbers but Rich Tommaso seemed to be very busy.  He had a solid variety of Recoil books on his table.  The all look great.  Picking up some stuff from Rich was one of the main things on my to-do list.  So I did.

Other things on my to-do list included getting whatever Drew Weing and Eleanor Davis had to offer and getting anything that Patrick Dead had that I was missing from my collection.  I did those things and it was good.

I really was not focused on selling. I was mainly there to talk to my comics friends and see what was new.  I talked to J. Chris Campbell about Brad McGitny.  I talked to Rich Tommaso about Patrick Dean.  I talked to Drew Weing about Margo Maloo.  I talked to Robert Newsome about Jimmy Valiant.  I talked to a lot of people about wrestling.  A lot of people talked to me about how rad my Brad McGinty t-shirt was.  I regretted not talking as much as I wanted to to many other people.  (Sorry bros.  Get at me at HeroesCon.)

 This is Patrick Dean announcing that Fluke has cake for people to eat.  I really should have put this picture up above the pictures of people eating the cake but get your own blog and don't tell me what to do. Maybe try tumblr.  All the kids love tumblr.

Here are more Fluke people.  I'm pretty sure I've known everyone in this picture for about a decade but I don't know any of their names.  (I know some of their names but, again, comedy.)

Here is another picture that looks almost the same as the other pictures I took from behind my table.  Walking around and taking pictures honestly never occurred to me.  Professional photo journalists just stand in one spot and wait for something exciting to happen right?  Well, that's what I did.

The dude on the left is me and the dude on the right is my pal writer and former co-worker Todd O'Brien.  The last time I saw him was a previous Fluke show about 5 years ago.  He grew a beard.  And a hat.  Maybe he bought the hat.  I didn't ask.  Look, if anyone can grow a hat, it's that guy.

After Fluke we all went to the Bizzaro-Wuxtry comics shop.  As is the custom.  It is great.  You should go there.  They have at least one of everything.  Also, Devlin, the gentleman that runs the shop, bought copies of Fluke peoples' minicomic and zines to sell in the shop.  Go there now.  I several different minicomics on sell there right now.  Right now!

This is Robert Newsome playing with a Hulk toy at Bizzaro-Wuxtry.  I thought about cropping out that bending over dude's back but whatever.  When I put this picture on my facebook page it wanted me to "tag" all of those masks because it thought they were all real peoples' faces.  Ha hah hah!  The joke is on you Zuckerberg!  You may be worth a billion dollars but that website you "invented" that is just MySpace with the customization features turned off does not know the difference between a Sylvester the Cat mask and a human being!

We eventually left Bizzaro and headed out looking for some dinner.  I was super hungry having eaten only breakfast, cake and some tic-tacs.  Patrick was starving having only eaten at least breakfast, cake and three bacon egg and cheese biscuits.  Robert, Patrick, my pall Todd and I ended up at Yummy Pho where we found Rich Tommaso, his girlfriend and another fellow to whom I apologize for not remembering his name.  I ordered grilled pork.  It was great.  Robert and Patrick ordered these huge bowls of crazy Vietnamese noodles.  These bowls were the size of bowls you would use if you were going to make a large quantity of food that would then be served in several smaller bowls to several people.  They ate it all and did not die.  I was impressed.

Yummy Pho was very good and very affordable.  I recommend it.  I wish I was there eating right now. (Even though Robert Newsome thinks that adults should not say the word "yummy".  I kinda agree with him.  Maybe mothers can say the word yummy to their own children but a grown man should probably never say it unless talking specifically about a Vietnamese restaurant with the word "yummy" in its name or Chester Brown comics.)

This is a picture of the stuff I got at Fluke.  Actually, I got other things but those were for my kids and they took those things before I took this picture. 

After dinner and a stop in a record store (it was record store day) it was time to say my sad farewells and head back to Virginia.  Huge enormous thank-yous to Patrick Dean and his family for having me.  Thanks to Robert and everyone else for hanging out and having a swell time.  I miss you all already.  Let's do it again. 

Your best pal ever,

Shannon Smith

p.s. Say you want a leader but you can't seem to make up your mind. I think you'd better close it and let me guide you to my twitter feed.
p.p.s. Let's pretend we went to high school together on facebook.
p.p.p.s. Google + is another place you can read the same thing I posted here.
p.p.p.p.s. I'll tumblr for ya.
p.p.p.p.p.s.  Yeah, I do Instagram too now.  I guess it's a law or something.
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