As I’ve been saying in recent news posts, September has been my insanely busy month of the year. Three cons in three weeks. It’s honestly a feat I didn’t expect to do so early on in my career, but with the help of my friends it was not only doable but downright enjoyable. Sure, there’s moments of stress, but that comes with every job. Since you all know how Geek.Kon went in my last convention report, let’s skip ahead to where I was two weekends ago, Aoi Uma Con, located in Louisville, Kentucky.

Before I start, let me preface this with the fact that, despite what I say, I did not hate this convention; I just feel it hasn’t shown its full potential yet. And since this was its first year, that’s to be expected. The organization that put on the show is a group called Nostalgia conventions, and they have a pretty definitive track record for putting on stellar conventions, so in about two to three years, Aoi Uma Con will be a pretty big deal. Heck, they’ve already secured an even bigger and nicer location for next year’s show!

Also, a word of advice if you’re on staff with Aoi Uma or Nostalgia Conventions: Please, please, please give Vic Mignognia fewer panels. If there was one thing I could change about this show, it would be that. For those of you who don’t know, Vic Mignognia is a voice actor best known for his role as Edward Elric, main character of the major hit anime Full Metal Alchemist, as well as a laundry list of other credits. When it comes to his job, Vic is excellent at what he does. When it comes to conventions, especially small cons like Aoi Uma, he’s very much an arrogant big fish in a little pond.

The reason I make this little plea is because any time Vic would have a panel (and he had a lot of them), the rest of the convention would go silent because a staggering majority of the attendees would be clamoring to get into his panels. Now I’m not saying he doesn’t deserve his fans or anything like that, but think of what effect this has on the rest of the show. The other panels, the artist alley, the dealer’s room: They all become ghost towns for an hour (or hour and a half if Vic wants, which is another problem I’ll address in a minute). The more panels he was given, the more often people have to go without sales. Another thing that bothers me is the fact that this con (and many other like it) is that they are willing to bend over backwards for this guy, often to little or no benefit on their end. Vic’s 60-minute Q&A panel turned into a 90-minute Q&A panel? Tough shit; you’re 60-minute panel right after just became a 30-minute panel. Spend long enough on the convention circuit and you’ll hear more sordid tales about the guy than good ones.

And should Vic ever read this, let me just say one thing: Vic, please don’t walk around with your arms around your fans, regardless of how old they are. It’s just creepy, man. Also, be nice to the convention staff and other guests. These are my only two suggestions for you personally, though I emphasize the former suggestion more strongly.

I digress…

Friday was relatively quiet, but I still met some pretty awesome people. For those of you who don’t travel much, the whole “southern hospitality” thing is real. Folks down south at these conventions are very friendly, incredibly polite, and will not hesitate to pay you a complement, making for a very enjoyable working environment, even during the dry periods. Despite sales being mediocre at best for the whole weekend, I did not once feel unwelcome. The only thing that truly bothered me on Friday was the fact that I had to pay for a badge, despite being under the notion that it, y’know, came with the table. Sure, some cons don’t sell them with the table, but it’s explicitly stated during the registration process and is often incorporated into the table registration process so you just pay for them both at the same time, despite being two separate transactions. I’m not really mad about it anymore, I just found it to be a bit underhanded and caused the con to start off on the wrong foot with me.

Griping aside, the congoers were fantastic and con staff was very friendly and made me feel welc—ahh shit, time for me to complain some more.

One other thing that majorly bothered me on Friday was another artist. I don’t know their studio name because none of the artists or dealers had their names printed in the convention book (Hint hint, AUC.). Anyway, we’ll call this artist group “Studio AssHat” or SAH for short. SAH was at the far end of the hallway selling buttons. Normally not a big deal, but these buttons that SAH was making were simply vector tracings of anime and cartoon stills. To me, this does not constitute legitimate art. Tracing something and then calling it original art is a fallacy and a dumb one at that. At best, it’s tenuous fanart. Even still, many artist alleys have rules regarding fanart, specifically stating that it can’t be traced; it must be freehanded. The higher-ups who run Aoi Uma were having none of it, and within two hours of the convention opening, Studio AssHat was told to pack up and get the hell out. Good riddance.

I digress once more…

Saturday at Aoi Uma was pretty awesome. Sales were great, customers made me smile on a pretty regular basis, and an overall fun time was had. Sure, the day started with Vic sucking away the crowd for another panel, but there were more people there that day, so the effect was lessened. Still, his panel was about his recording of the book of John. Like, from the Bible.  Seriously, dude, do you have so much of a pious ego that you have to have a panel where you listen to a recording of yourself reading a chunk of the Bible, and then talk about it? I’m fine with people being religious and stuff, but one of the first rules of public speaking is to know your audience. Anyway, despite Tricky Vic, I enjoyed Saturday. Mystery boxes sold out and some jewelry designs sold out to the point where I was selling the display models. Saturday evening was met with the most delicious Mediterranean food I’ve ever eaten. Falafels, hummus, lamb kebabs… All of it fantastic.

Sunday was much like Friday in that sales were sporadic, which is to be expected at smaller shows. My good friends Ryan and Treavor of Tasty Peach Studios suggested that, since they live in northern Indiana, and our next show was in northern Indiana, that rather than spend a ridiculous amount of time and money driving back to Wisconsin just to come right back the same way a few days later, I just stay with them and we all drive to Ramencon together. This turned out to be a fantastic idea, because not only did I get to spend the week with some of the greatest people and friends I’ve ever met, but I got to spend both of their birthdays with them! (Ryan’s being the Tuesday between shows and Treavor’s being the Sunday of Ramencon.) There were putt putt golf games, fantastic meals, the hottest salsa I’ve ever tasted in my life, and just plain fun times. I can’t thank these two enough for opening up their home to me. If you ever see them at a convention, and you probably will, show them some love and buy some of their insanely adorable and awesome merchandise. You will not be disappointed.

Thursday afternoon, we made our way to Ramencon in Merrillville, Indiana. Upon arrival, I noticed that this was the nicest hotel I had stayed in over the last three weeks, even trumping Geek.Kon’s location. (Sorry, Geek.Kon, but these guys wooed me with free wifi in the rooms and a built-in Starbucks. I still love you, Geek.Kon!) Since the lovable Tasty Peach scamps Ryan & Treavor were staying with her nearby family, I had a hotel room to myself, which was pretty nice. Since we weren’t able to set up early, I took Thursday night off and just chilled out. I was going to get dinner on my own, but the hotel’s Irish pub (more on that later) was overrun by squawking fiftysomething women from the adjacent Mary Kay convention also taking place in the hotel. I decided to order room service instead.

Friday morning, I set up my booth and was met with a day of pretty fantastic sales (for a Friday) and an overall calm day. Really, there’s not much more to it than that. Calm day was calm, good sales were good, cool attendees were cool.

Saturday was one of the most fun days at a convention I’ve ever had. My day started with a particular gentleman (and convention guest of honor) by the name of Doug Walker stopping by my table. I struck up a polite conversation which turned into a 40-minute laugh riot, which then turned into an invitation to dinner and drinks with none other than Ryan & Treavor. Saturday sales ebbed and flowed depending on the nearby panels and events, but were ultimately fruitful in the end. I also met the incredibly lovely and talented Kieran Strange, one of Ramencon’s musical guests and all-around awesome person. She’s also adorably British, super friendly, and has an infectiously positive personality! If you ever see her at a show, check out any panels and concerts of hers and show your support.

Saturday night was a night I shan’t soon forget. Once artist alley and dealer’s room closed up for the evening, the four of us went to the hotel’s Irish pub, where I had some of the most fantastic beer ever and hands down the greatest French onion soup in my life. The four of us exchanged stories of every variety, ranging from the very nerdy to the very deep to the very personal at times, but never once did we stop having fun. Since it was also Treavor’s birthday dinner, a round of birthday shots were in order. Three words: Johnny. Walker. Gold. At eighteen bucks a pop, this stuff was marvelous. The drinking didn’t stop there. I mentioned that I still had some hand-crafted Jolly Rancher vodka in my car, so we did the “you damn kids” thing and drank more in the hotel’s parking lot while leaning against my car. Deciding to call it a night, Treavor and Ryan trekked back to their sleeping quarters, leaving me and Doug to our own mischief. In our “three sheets to the wind” status, we headed over to the game room where Doug achieved a feat no other individual has done in the history of forever: He beat me in Super Smash Bros. Brawl. I couldn’t even blame it on the drinks, because he had had just as much as me! Bravo, good sir, bravo. I expect a rematch next time we’re able.

Once again, Sunday was a calm day with calm sales. Having pulled in a few more sales and made a new friend, the weekend was declared a success and I finally made my way home after being on the road for ten days. I will definitely be attending Ramencon next year.

To every person who stopped by my table, thank you so much. You’re all awesome and I look forward to seeing you all again in November for Youmacon in Detroit, Michigan.