Ambidextrous 335- Level Up

Will do my best not to go on and on, like I often do…

Last Wednesday was definitely one of the high points of my so-called career as a freelance writer. The good folks at WEP/Classic Media, who control the license for Voltron, among what seems like everything else, invited me out to their home base in St. Louis, MO, for a couple appearances/in-store signings to publicize the launch of the new Voltron comic series I’ve been writing in semi-secret for many months. (First issue now sold out from the distributor! Second print in stores 12/28!)

Achem…so, anyway…yeah, I’ve done my share of signings over the years, but most of them were done at the very same LCS that I’m in every Wednesday afternoon for my weekly fix, so this was a slightly different situation. Flying out for the day, being picked up at the airport, having my hotel accommodations taken care of—this was pretty much next level for me. Also, in the same early morning hours that I was checking in for my flight, the WEP people were on the St. Louis morning television shows, publicizing the new book and the in-store appearances (by me and Voltron) at Fantasy Books & Games  and Star Clipper. The former was our first stop, after an interesting and hilarious attempt at breakfast at the St. Louis Bread Company, which turns out is actually the original Panera Bread location.

That little factoid came from Tiffany Ilardi, WEP Managing Director, expert on all things Voltron and St. Louis, and a much better driver than her husband and co-worker Jeremy Corray (WEP Creative Director) give her credit for. She spent a good deal of time schooling me on everything I needed to know about the city, and initially expressing some disbelief and borderline outrage that I’d never been to the city before, even though I’ve lived in the Chicago area my entire life. Spent most of the ride talking about my “secret origin” as a writer, and I can never tell if the long diatribe sounds as ridiculous, convoluted, and unlikely as it does in my head.

Got to Fantasy Books & Games, and everything was all set up, with a giant poster of one of Alex’s glorious cover images behind the table, making me feel more than a little lucky, and it wasn’t long before people started showing up. In a strange coincidence, Diamond actually shorted them copies of the book and they had to raid one of their other locations to get a decent stack, which was too bad, cause we could’ve moved a few extra if we had them. But we blew through everything on hand, and the fans were from all walks of life—the parents who took their kids out of school early to come meet Voltron (actually Jeremy in the big suit), the older couple who picked up a couple copies to give to their daughter for Christmas (hardcore fan, still has the original toys), and the young lady that was a HUGE McDuffie fan, who I suspect will get a big kick out of Miranda Mercury.

Just in general though, I LOVE going into new comic shops, and neither of the places disappointed. Fantasy Books & Games was cavernous, probably the biggest shop I’ve ever been in, with a massive custom mural on the back wall and Marko Djurdevic’s series of giant posters depicting every corner of the Marvel Universe hanging from the ceiling on the opposite side. And I was able to find a copy of the first Fallen Angel Omnibus from IDW, which is super out of print and impossible to find. And the first person I met there was named Brandon, so I knew right from the start I’d leave there with a good feeling.

After an unforgettable lunch experience, where among other things, I told Jeremy and Tiffany my grand years-long plan for the book, touching on many of the major beats and surprises, got a chance to check in and chill out for a little bit before hitting Star Clipper. Turns out it’s the only St. Louis comic retailer that’s won an Eisner Award and after a couple seconds inside, it’s easy to see why. Though not as massive and spacious as Fantasy Books, it was one of the nicest stores I’ve ever been in. Hardwood floors, two or three fully decorated Christmas trees on the sales floor, flat screen on the wall, gallery area in the back, the place made me feel glad I was wearing a sport coat. Even still, it was warm and inviting, and felt more bookstore than comic store, which is always something that stands out.

Met another great group of people there, and I’m sure it didn’t hurt that Jeremy set up the new Voltron video game on the table next to me, which by itself drew a steady crowd the entire time. As usual, I talked almost the entire time about the book, breaking in, the new DCU, and had all manners of random conversations about comics, movies, and who knows what else. Most of them with Mike Harvey, a young comic creator in his own right, who writes, illustrates, and self-publishes his own book, which is a hell of a lot more than I’d accomplished in my earlier days.

After a great dinner at a restaurant called Scape, finished the evening back in the WEP office with Jeremy Corray, filming an interview in what I’ll call the “Voltron conference room” that’ll probably appear on the official Facebook page in the next couple weeks. Tried hard not to ramble too much, and even though it’d been a long day, felt like the perfect capper to everything. Was still pretty gassed up when I got back to the hotel room, so spent a couple hours reading comics on the iPad before bed. Already made tentative plans to return in the springtime, when the weather is a little better and something especially cool involving the book…happens in the next few months. But already looking forward to a return trip.

Special thanks again to Tiffany Ilardi, Jeremy Corray, and all the good folks at both Fantasy Books & Games, and Star Clipper, who went out of their way to make me feel welcome and like a real-life “professional writer.” Also thanks to all the people that went out and helped contribute to our first issue sell-out. Lot more twists and turns to come, so stay tuned.

Closing things out with some related links from the past week you might have missed in my flurry of FB and Twitter updates, and will be back soon…

Voltron #1- The Commentary Track

Dynamite’s Voltron #1 Sells Out, Goes Back to Press

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