(OR: Some years , life really gets your goat.)

 

Well, it’s that time again: that time-honored tradition of examining those news stories that slipped through the journalistic cracks over the past twelve months.

As it seems to happen far too often, the year began in JANUARY in South Carolina, when lawmakers proposed legislation requiring students be taught an NRA gun rights course. Gun safety courses were not required, however, until the ratio of teeth-to-people improved. In Florida, George Zimmerman…actually…nevermind. A prominent Republican presidential candidate suggested that judges who promote equality should be removed from office. That candidate was Ben Carson, the sole black Republican in the field of 3,126 candidates. Gwynneth Paltrow got into hot…er…water, when she recommended that women bypass traditional medicine and simply steam clean their vaginas at home. Bissell has yet to call with a lucrative endorsement contract for Paltrow or her vagina. Millionaires and billionaires from around the world flew to Davros (the island, not the leader of the Daleks) in 1,700 private planes to discuss solutions to such global concerns as wage inequality and global warming. During a Republican rally event featuring candidates Rand Paul, Ted Cruz, and Scott Walker, Sarah Palin’s teleprompter broke mid-speech. Palin continued with her speech, and no one could tell any difference.

The fun shifted just slightly north in FEBRUARY when North Carolina newspaper The Lexington Dispatch was forced to run a correction that clarified to its readers that Barack Obama was not in fact the Antichrist. In an effort to cater to as broad a family dynamic as possible, a California drive-in theater showed The Spongebob Movie and 50 Shades of Grey on their adjacent screens, which can be seen together from any point in the lot. There are probably better ways to teach kids just how absorbent a sponge can be, however. Pete Carroll finally won a Super Bowl for the Patriots. The “Waste Management Phoenix Open” golf tournament lived up to its name when port-a-potties overflowed onto the course during the tournament, cementing the game’s reputation as a crappy way to waste a day. Montana State Representative David Moore tried to make yoga pants illegal because he found them too provocative, prompting opponents to suggest the new motto, “He’d walk a mile from a camel toe.” A poet in the UK organized a gathering for less-endowed men. The Big Small Penis Party was held to give its members a boost of self-confidence, and hopefully a pamphlet about Viagra. Waffle House celebrated 6 years of offering flowers and candles for tables celebrating Valentine’s Day, for couples who like their hashbrowns scattered, smothered, chunked…and covered with divorce papers. Rudy Giuliani found it hard to believe that anyone else was alive during 9/11, much less Barack Obama.

MARCH started with a lovely lesson in irony when an Australian man pulled an axe on his friend for not sharing a bag of Doritos. They live (and I am not making this up) in a town called Darwin. The focus of evolution’s main principal shifted quickly back to the States when, in Ohio, a man called 911 to report his wife had stolen his cocaine. In an effort to make putting fingers in ears and yelling “LALALALALALA!” an actual policy, Florida officials banned the use of the terms “global warming” and “climate change.” Disproving the notion that within plain sight is the best hiding place, a Nebraska man was fined by police when they found marijuana in his car, stored in a container stealthily labeled “not weed.” Police in Akron, Ohio were on the hunt for a man who shat on 19 cars. Yep. Pooped. It was not known if the culprit was a performance artist recreating golf tournaments. In the first positive dick move in history, a South African man received the world’s first penis transplant. Should the procedure ultimately fail, however, there is a support group in England accepting new members. An Akron woman – not related to anyone in Australia – stabbed her boyfriend for eating all of her salsa. In her defense, the spice had long been gone in their relationship.

APRIL got off on the wrong foot when a San Diego man’s bus pass was confiscated by alert police when he could not provide proof of his requiring a disabled bus pass…beyond being confined to a wheelchair. In an effort to thin the number of vermin on his property, A Georgia man shot an armadillo, and the bullet ricocheted off the armadillo, then a fence, and a porch chair before stopping in his mother-in-law’s back. She lived, the armadillo didn’t, and the man still claims the armadillo was his original target. The reputation of the San Diego police continued unchanged when the police detained a trespasser at a high school until the proper authorities could claim the seal, and return it to the zoo. In what can only be seen as a victory for inactive trolling, a Great Falls, Montana man was arrested after police tracked him down with his IP address after the fugitive clicked “like” on the county police’s Facebook page’s post featuring his wanted poster.

In anticipation of a MAY vacation, a man protested the airline overbooking his flight to Jamaica by removing all of his clothes in the terminal. No one was impressed by the North Carolina man’s…conviction. A hospital in China was under scrutiny after misdiagnosing a patient as three months pregnant because of a slight tummy bulge. The recipient of the diagnosis, a Sichuan male, was not punished at work for his pregnant pause. Ohio took the lead over the Carolinas in the WTFolympics when an Ohio teen was arrested by police at the scene of a crime when the teen returned to the scene to retrieve his hat. A male version of Hooters, “Tallywhackers,” opened in Dallas. I could add a joke, but I think it’s best if I just let it hang there.

JUNE started overseas when London police held a prolonged standoff with a venomous snake that turned out to be a lawn ornament. Continuing the network’s long tradition of just not understanding anything, NBC Sports President Mark Lazarus asked the NHL to demand players shave their beards during the playoffs. Oregon newspaper The East Oregonian, perhaps affected by the recent legality of marijuana, reported the Oakland A’s baseball team had debuted a new “amphibious” pitcher who could pitch with both hands. Texas police shut down the lemonade stand of two young girls because they weren’t following restaurant sanitation guidelines and had no permits. It is not known if these officers received the same sensitivity training as San Diego police. Rachel Dolezal proved that not every issue is easily black or white. A Jewish political action committee protested the SCOTUS decision on marriage equality with a long multi-day protest. In an impressive show of their dedication to the cause, the PAC hired a group of Mexican day laborers to hold their signs.

In JULY, Pope Francis was called upon by nuns in California to settle a dispute that was setting off fireworks as the nuns were trying to keep Katy Perry from purchasing an unused convent. Proving just how far we go to protect the ones we love, an audience member climbed onstage during a Broadway show to use an onstage outlet to charge his phone. Dan Boria of Calgary was forced to parachute to safety when his flight went awry after the balloons tied to his lawn chair carried him too high. The lawn chair will be missed. Confirming his Apprentice reality show may actually be the best way for him to pick staffers, Donald Trump offered Sarah Palin a place in his administration because, “she really is somebody that knows what’s happening.” A Dallas man shot at an armadillo in his yard. The bullet ricocheted and hit the shooter in the face. The critter is not related to the armadillo from Georgia or the shooter.

Humanity’s ability to show compassion for lesser beings reached new heights in AUGUST when a robot programmed to hitchhike, after successfully traversing Europe and Canada, was destroyed when it entered Philadelphia. Perhaps hoping to make sure it could again outdo Philly, a New York City judge approved the city’s request to terminate an employee for missing 18 months of work. The employee died in 2014 from cancer, but city officials were not diligent in contacting the employee or family in that time. A man was arrested for shoplifting steaks from a grocery store by storing them in his colostomy bag. He is from…South Carolina. A woman in New York City hid nearly $6,000 in cash in a new toaster oven, which her husband returned. She went to the store in a panic, but was told the clerks had turned the money over to her son. She has no son. A fourth man was killed in Spain during the season of public “Running of the Bulls” events, proving that bulls are creatures of habit, and men are creatures of stupidity.

SEPTEMBER took us once again across the pond when in England, a 61-year-old man held up a bank by taking advantage of modern computerized banking. He demanded the teller transfer 800 pounds into his account at the same bank. A five-way custody battle erupted between three individuals and two rescue groups after a chicken was detained by police for fowling up rush-hour traffic in California. Lost in the struggle were police interrogation records regarding why the chicken was crossing the road. Planned Parenthood CEO Cecile Richards endured an arduous and angry interrogation by Congress that reminded voters why birth control is a good thing. Right-wing outcry over Doritos “Rainbow Chips,” which raised funds for the “It Gets Better” suicide prevention program, proved that the “Haterade” experiment had worked.

Following Pope Francis’ visit to Congress in OCTOBER, Pennsylvania Representative Bob Brady stole the Pope’s water glass, so that he could use the contents to bless his family and staff. Afraid of being wiped off the map by an angry deity, Blount County, Tennessee officials tried to pass a resolution rejecting marriage equality. Textbook publishers McGraw/Hill had to apologize after referring to slaves as “workers” and claiming the “workers” were simply “transported here to work on plantations.” The most fantastically absurd legislation to never make it out of committee was proposed by Florida Representative David Jolley (R) when he put forth a bill forcing Congress to work 40 hours a week. Burger King clearly misunderstood the notion that it’s healthier to go green when their Halloween Whopper turned diners’ poo green. A victory for narcissism happened in Florida when a woman broadcast a live-stream of herself driving home drunk. Police had little trouble tracking her down. New York City’s reputation for tight-knit families was on display when Jennifer Connell sued her 12yo nephew for breaking her wrist during an enthusiastic hug. Hoping to get any notice whatsoever, Playboy announced it would no longer publish nude pictures of women. A South Carolina man was arrested for calling 911 to complain his girlfriend refused him sex. The police statement was simply, “no, you can’t do that.” A Florida man was arrested for leading police on a dangerous high-speed chase. He denied the charges, admitting that his dog was driving. Proving that experience is the best teacher, a Seattle woman, who was doing very well on all of her driver’s education tests, failed the behind-the-wheel final when she drove the car into the school’s lobby. Subway settled a class-action lawsuit acknowledging their foot-long sandwiches were, in fact, only 11 inches long. To be fair, the company is run by men. An Indiana woman, while on a waterfowl hunt, was accidently shot by her hunting companion. The SPCNRA has not yet made a statement regarding the hunter’s companion, her dog…Trigger. Billionaire Sanford Weill rescinded a $20 million donation to struggling Paul Smith College when the college would not rename itself for the donor. Entrepreneurial spirit and parental rejection of hipster children crossed paths in New York when a Brooklyn woman began renting herself out for $40 an hour to hipsters to be their mom, offering shopping, laundry, and cooking services, and guilt-free maternal advice. No word yet on if she has rates covering her taking customers’ places at family gatherings.

With one year left before the next election, NOVEMBER started with members of Ben Carson’s advisory team stating publicly that Carson cannot grasp foreign policy. Apparently, he kept identifying Maryland as the Middle East. A Florida officer being honored for 100 DUI arrests showed up to the ceremony drunk. He was suspended, which gave him more time to plan a political career. Allergan, makers of Botox, and Pfizer, makers of Viagra, merged in a $160 billion dollar deal. Investors from both companies were excited for the deal, but only Pfizer investors visibly so. A Georgia college student forged paperwork to show he was arrested and in jail in order to convince college officials to allow him to retake a missed exam. For the forgery, he was arrested and jailed. And possibly given an Alanis Morrisette CD. Americans bought a record number of firearms on Black Friday. The only joke here is how little Americans value life.

As 2015 wraps up, the beginning of DECEMBER shifts our focus to the Midwest, where Norman, Oklahoma police received a bit of attention when an officer drove a suspect home instead of processing him. The suspect, a donkey, was cited for making an ass of itself. Albemarle County in Virginia shut down all of its schools after phone calls from parents raised concerns for the security of students and teachers after an assignment involving Muslim history and culture was given. Apparently the primary concern was that “learnin’ was happenin’.” The newly christened USS Milwaukee had to be towed to port just 20 days after launch due to a complete lack of propulsion. Seems they were using cheese to grease the engines. Closing out 2015, also known in the Lunar calendar as the Year of the Goat, an Oklahoma City man was arrested while engaged in intimate relations with…you guessed it…a goat. The man was expected to bleat guilty.

Good luck, 2016. You’re gonna need it.

How Losing My Job Turned Me Into A Con-Artist

NOTE: If you missed seeing us at any of these shows, you can order all of our books by visiting our web site, Deans Family Productions, and clicking the Store link.

Not long after Heroes Con 2014, but just before the second anniversary of my web comic Crass Fed, I was laid off from my job as manager of a Northern Virginia comic shop, a position I had held for several years. It didn’t pay well at all, but the job afforded me the ability to tailor my schedule to my child’s needs. It also gave me a number of regular customers that I regarded as friends. My position also allowed me to help certain creators with promotions and a chance to broaden their audience.

I was laid off with a Monday morning phone call, and the rest of the day left me slightly stunned. The next day started the inevitable, “what now?”

Late that night, in the shower, “what now” turned into “why not?” (I should explain that, since my back injury made it difficult to stand for longer than a few minutes at a time, I took to showering at night. By showering just before bed, I could recover from any spinal stress during the shower with a hopefully good night’s sleep.)

On the drive to Heroes days earlier, I was doodling while my wife drove the second leg of the trip. I happened to draw my daughter’s favorite toy, a cow, in a space suit.

In the shower, a title came to me like lightning, and an idea began to form into something that could be a very big thing for me. I quickly had ideas for a handful of stories that could be silly for young children, include facts and information from various areas of learning, and feature puns (of course).

Crass Fed Kids was born, and the first book, Moo Thousand and Pun, was forming…quickly.

For the next couple of hours the first draft of the story flowed faster than the coffee that helped me write. I turned in, even though I wasn’t sure I could get to sleep, I was too excited that this could actually be something…worthwhile.

I did manage to get to sleep, and a few hours later I drove Kidlet to camp, and got back home quickly to call my wife and tell her all about my new idea. And, true to her wonderful nature, she simply told me to run with it, because what did I have to lose?

The next few weeks were spent refining the text and working up preliminary art for a basic first draft. I sent copies out to a few friends – both artists and parents – for feedback. My wife kept telling me how good the book was, but she’s biased. My friends all said it was worth doing. One friend expressed that he was impressed because so many people say they are writing a book, and never do it. I had, and done so quickly. Another friend read it to the children she sat as a nanny, and they had made her read it three times. In a row.

With that confidence, I began work on the final version, and research into printers. Between a basic part-time job to help pay bills, caring for Kidlet, and other family stuff, the next few months were quite busy. But, I was able to get lots of research done while also finishing the book.

I also picked the brains of several creators I admired who had also self-published their books, like Bloop creator Steve Conley and Roboy Red & Buzzboy creator John Gallagher, for ideas on what to do next. Unfortunately, nerves set in. Was I wasting my time? Instead of chasing a dream, should I be finding a better paying job?

And, what would I do once I was finally done with the thing?

After Christmas, I started to push more towards getting the book actually made. I started researching Kickstarter, and talking to suppliers about support material to offer as rewards. I ordered proofs from two different printers, and chose the best proof to determine which company would print my book.

The campaign launched on February 19, 2015. In no time at all I had my first backer, and over the next few days, friends and family piled onto the udderly ridiculous bandwagon I was hoping to launch. I even did an interview with the Comics DC blog, and appeared on the children’s variety web-show, The Chris-O-Matic Show, to promote the book and campaign.

The list of folks started with friends and family, but soon complete strangers were backing my vision. A welcom and unexpected re-tweet from Mark Waid led to admired creators backing the book, and several former customers added their support, humbling me with their generosity and faith. One friend, Erica Schultz, went so far as to back the book twice!

It took a lot of self-promotion, but on March 21st, the project was fully funded. I was going to get to launch a cow into space!

Provided I got over the panicky feelings.

Money for the Kickstarter campaign came in and immediately paid for UPC codes, printing of support products, and three versions of the book, including a version just for people who backed the initial campaign which included all of the promotional cartoons and images I created for the campaign.

Our savings were used to buy table space at Awesome Con (D.C. in May) and Heroes Con (Charlotte in June), and signage. We had become regular attendees at Heroes, but Awesome Con would be a test run, not only to see if there was an audience for my ideas, but to test our ideas for displaying and exhibiting at a convention.

While waiting for Moo Thousand And Pun from the printers, I helped my wife organize and print her own book, Con Grub, a cookbook of recipes to be made in advance of attending a convention to provide healthier options than concessions over long and exhausting convention weekends. I also finished up a comic with my Kidlet, The Mighty Hippofartamus. Hippofartamus was an idea she came up with one morning before school, and I helped her structure it into a story, and I did loose layouts for her to ink.

By the end of May, we each had a book to sell at our first convention, less than a year after I lost my job. Awesome Con in D.C. was my first show as exhibitor, and I doubt we will ever look back.

For years I had advocated a philosophy of saving a little of one’s convention budget for trying out, and ultimately supporting the dreams of, new talent. Now, and somewhat suddenly, I was that new talent. (Talent being used with tongue in cheek.)

AWESOME CON, May 2015, Washington, D.C.

For our first show, we were lucky to exhibit close to home. We could Metro in to the show, making travel expenses minimal. And, if we sold a lot we were close to replenishments. We would also have some friends nearby, like Cuddles and Rage, Amy Chu, Jamal Igle, and Carolyn Belefski should we need encouragement or advice.

Awesome Con is a media show first, comic show second. Artist Alley isn’t very structured, but we were lucky to get placed near the stage for Kids Love Comics, a convention-within-a-convention featuring some of the best creators of All-Ages comics. Deftly run by John Gallagher and brothers Mark & Chris Mariano, Kids Love Comics draws a large family crowd that’s usually open to trying new things.

We were situated between two interesting tables: one featuring an artist duo creating prints, mini comics, and pins, the other featuring…well, we weren’t quite sure.

Our neighbor was constantly giving us advice on how to exhibit, and what we should charge. This advice was offered without request between his numerous trips to the concession stand. Based on our observations, our neighbor spent every dollar earned on food. Also, we found out that he had never exhibited before…and Awesome Con was also his first convention ever as attendee. We weren’t giving his advice too much weight, and when we found out his history with conventions, his advice suddenly was carried away with so much hot air.

It didn’t help his case that the clothing item he was selling was being offered to try on to everyone who should stop by his table…without being cleaned or sprayed with disinfectant between wears.

Several of our visitors were friends, but a few strangers came up and checked our stuff out. We only sold two books, both Moo, that first day. However, the very first sale was to Thom Zahler, the creator of Love and Capes and Long Distance, and someone whose work I have enjoyed for years. I had heard that my first sale would be a big deal, but to have it be a creator I admire made it all the more special.

Our friend Sean Von Gorman zipped by like a whirlwind, dropping a small handmade sign onto our table that read “Free Eye Contact and Smiles!” That goofy little sign stopped several people enough for them to take a look at our books. In no small part to that sign, Saturday was huge, with friends and strangers alike buying our books. Several former customers from my shop, who didn’t know we were there, also bought books.

Con Grub was the big seller, with Moo a close second. The ephemera created for the Kickstarter (prints, buttons, coloring books) barely sold.

By the end of the show, we were exhausted and invigorated. And, we had sold enough books to pay for the table, and enough notes to change things a bit for Heroes.

We ordered a couple of different display items, and planned for our trip south.

HEROES CON, June 2015, Charlotte, N.C.

Heroes has become, along with Baltimore and SPX, the family reunions we never want to miss. Our first trip to Heroes had afforded us the chance to finally meet in person two of my favorite people, Kelly Sue DeConnick and Matt Fraction, and spend quality time with other great creators like Corinna Bechko, Gabriel Hardman, Jamie Cosley, Dave McDonald, Todd DeZago, Criag Rousseau, Matt and Suzanne Wieringo, Drew Moss, Bob Frantz, Joey Ellis, Hoyt Silva, and many, many more.

With every visit to Charlotte, our comics family grows larger and more enriching. And now, we were joining the fold. With our car packed to the gills, we set out with hopes that this would be a great show financially as well as a fun family time. The latter would be a given, with the chance to finally meet Evan Shaner in person, and sharing the table with old friend Bob Frantz, tabling for the first time as an all ages creator.

Being farther from home insured that we would get a fair amount of strangers buying our books, especially when the families started shopping. While Moo earned the most money, Hippofartamus was the winner at Heroes, thanks in part to its price point, and part to Kidlet’s marketing throughout the show. Even though the fewest copies sold were of Con Grub, my wife felt she was the winner, as an executive chef of a nearby winery and restaurant bought her cookbook, and upon sampling one of her cookies, said he felt it was good enough to be served in his restaurant.

It took days for my wife to come down off that cloud.

I also drew my first commissions at Heroes, for a father and daughter pair who asked for me to draw Shakes the Cow in their respective sketchbooks. In the father’s book I drew Shakes as the Adam West Batman, hanging from the Batladder in the famous scene with the shark in the 1967 feature film. For his daughter, I drew Shakes as Clark Kent, pulling open her shirt to reveal the iconic “S.”

Unlike Awesome Con, Heroes sales were steady throughout the weekend, with few slow periods for me to take advantage of and go visiting friends.

One friend, Scott Fogg (creator of the upcoming Phileas Reid adventure comic) asked me to take part in a special video presentation for his adorable daughter. By being posted on YouTube, the video made me cooler in Kidlet’s eyes. I think.

Kidlet also got to spend a few minutes with one of my idols, Brian Stelfreeze, as he gave her a quick tutorial on drawing.

As with Awesome Con, prints, buttons and coloring books barely sold. However, we made enough book sales to pay for our table, but Heroes was more valuable for many other things that reinforced it as our favorite time of year.

VIRGINIA COMIC-CON, August 2015, Richmond, VA

I would love to say that my hometown convention was another success. However, in an ironic twist, the convention with the lowest table cost was also the only show at which we did poorly.

Our close friends the Cosleys were our table neighbors, and while they did better than we did, it was a bad day of sales for both. Thankfully, we did the show more to spend time with them, and my godmother who still lives in the area.

We only sold one copy of each book, and none of the extras.

In the weeks between VA and Baltimore, I was able to put the finishing touches on my second book. The Bear From A.U.N.T. is a parody of the 60’s spy genre for the tween set. With influences ranging from the obvious Man From U.N.C.L.E. to James Bond and even Jack Ryan, Bear quickly became a platform for another series. Also, by using the “graphic journal” format popularized by the Wimpy Kid books, I was able to play more with dialogue and longer gag setups than is afforded in a children’s storybook.

I also created more eye-catching signs for our books, and played again with the display setup. We were going to be directly across from the Kids Love Comics pavilion in Baltimore, and at the end of Artist Alley, along one of the main thoroughfares. We had a chance to catch the interest of lots of potential customers.

SPX, September 2015, Bethesda, MD

We didn’t exhibit at SPX, but it gave us the chance to show friends the proof of Bear, and share a meal with a couple of our comics kids Tara O’Connor and Claire Connelly. We also added to our Cuddles and Rage collection, which is about to take over our refrigerator.

BALTIMORE COMIC CON, September 2015, Baltimore, MD

Baltimore is a lot like Heroes. It is focused on the craft more than the marketing, and as such the number and quality of talent at the show is huge. It’s another show that allows us to catch up with friends and is our second family reunion. We got into town Thursday, and had dinner with good friends Nicky Soh and Eryk Donovan, two previous winners of the Wieringo Scholarship at SCAD.

Bear debuted at Baltimore, and it was the first sale of the show. And, as with Awesome Con, my first sale was to an admired creator and friend, this time it was Eryk. Friday ended up being a good day, both for friends and sales. I finally got to meet Ken Marcus (creator of Super Human Resources, a book I championed at my shop when it first released years ago), who just happens to be a mutual friend of Matt Wieringo and Jamie Cosley. I also reconnected with a trio of old customers I had dubbed the Three Amigos, despite their unwillingness to learn the salute.

We also got a welcome visit from Cuddles and Rage, who always brighten our day, whether or not we’re harassing them to sell us more of their stuff.

One of my longtime favorite creators, Jeff Parker (Flash Gordon, Batman 66, Interman) was going to be at the show Saturday and Sunday only, and I was hoping to find time to introduce myself. However, he surprised me completely by swinging by after arriving in Baltimore to introduce himself to me. To say I was flustered is an understatement.

Another Friday highlight was when Tom King, writer of Omega Men and Grayson for DC and Vision for Marvel, stopped by and bought a copy of Kidlet’s Hippofartamus. Being friends, Tom and I chatted for a few minutes about various topics before he left to get back to his own table. After he left, I reminded Kidlet that Tom writes her favorite character, Dick Grayson…and her jaw hit the floor.

Saturday was bizarre, as it was very busy, and very crowded, but with few sales. Thankfully, the carryover from dinner Friday night with the Three Amigos and our friends at Vitamin M Studios and zombisaur Bags was so fun and entertaining that it made up for any feelings of malaise from the lack of sales the following day. (Plus, trading smart-ass texts from across the aisle with our friend Joe Endres didn’t hurt.)

My wife had to return to D.C. Saturday morning for a memorial service, leaving Kidlet and myself alone for much of the day. Visits from a couple of friends, including one of the convention photographers, helped pass the time. Saturday looked bad until the last hour when three quick sales helped us at least equal Friday’s take. A short but enjoyable dinner led to an early evening.

Because of my wife’s trip, I wasn’t able to take Kidlet to see Ming Na Wen’s panel Saturday afternoon. My friend Christy Blanch, moderator of the Wen panel, did thank Wen for me for providing girls like Kidlet with a fantastic role model of a smart, clever, kick-butt female hero to admire. Kidlet was bummed to miss the panel, but when she literally ran into Wen near the restrooms, she forgot all about that.

Sunday was, well, amazing. First, we had an amazing breakfast of low country fare with the Wieringo, Dezago, and Rousseau families. After a slow start, a handful of big sales led to the day almost equaling Friday and Saturday’s sales combined. We also sold books to Mike Rhode of the Comics DC blog, and Cleopatra In Space creator Mike Maihack (who knows a fun cow book when he sees one).

My wife got to have her own brush with celebrity when Paul Blackthorne (Arrow) passed our table while my wife was elsewhere. She returned shortly thereafter, and when I told her she had just missed Blackthorne, she scooted off to “just happen past him” and tell him she loved his work. He smiled at her, said “thank you, Darlin’,” and moved on.

I got to get away from the table to talk with friends, and finally meet the amazing Ramona Fradon, creator of Metamorpho, and a legend in comic art. Unfortunately, Kidlet wasn’t with me and every time Kidlet tried to visit Fradon, she had a line. I was able to get Kidlet a Fradon sketch of Captain America, though.

We had a strong final day, and we not only made enough to make up the table fees, we made enough extra to make up for the shortfall of the Richmond show. Once again, we didn’t sell any prints, but buttons and coloring books were at least more popular items.

As Baltimore wrapped up, I got to spend a few minutes with Christy Blanch and Mark Waid, presenting them both with gifts of Moo and Bear. Christy is a huge Man From U.N.C.L.E. fan, and Mark helped make Moo happen. I then sent my wife over with her cookbook, which also happened thanks to Mark, who was encouraging of the idea at last year’s Heroes.

After packing up, on our way out we ran into Blanch and Waid again, and my wife and Blanch were able to finally meet in person. Much like Heroes, Baltimore began and ended with good friends, and people we still can’t believe have accepted us into the community of creators.

Comics are a fun escape from the world’s problems. An art form combining the best of the written word and the flowing line. Comics can bring a lot of joy to their readers.

But you can never be prepared for the tremendous warmth and encouragement and friendship their creators can bring to your life when they accept you as friends. My wife and I, and even the Kidlet, are only children. And yet, we have found people that we feel have become our children, our siblings, our elders, and have brought us so much happiness that we can only begin to appreciate or reciprocate.

Our first year exhibiting was a roller coaster of stress and joy, made possible and successful by these and many other people far too numerous to mention without forgetting someone.

I can’t imagine we will ever be able to repay all of these amazing people for everything they have done…for everything they have made possible.

Simply put, they allow me to say with conviction that we have one hell of a family. And it is huge, and powerful, and grand.

Thank you all.

The annual tradition of facepalms, silliness, and snark continues!

 

South Carolina once again started JANUARY off with a bang when state senator Lee Bright proposed that teachers be armed with machine guns in school. Indiana Police chief David Councellor shot himself while trying out a gun in a gun shop, only the second time he had shot himself. Utilizing more conventional means to deal with people he didn’t like, an Oregon pimp sued Nike for not adequately warning consumers of the dangers of potential injury to one’s feet when using Nike shoes to stomp on people’s faces. A “celebrity” boxing match featuring George Zimmerman was cancelled when more people expressed offense at the match than wanted to punch Zimmerman. A London man was arrested and tried for performing sexual acts with a sheep in public. His defense hinged on the fact that he approached the sheep when the cows in the field turned him down. Pope Francis, with the aid of some local children, released two doves of peace which were immediately attacked by a crow and a gull. A petition to have Justin Bieber deported reached the required number of electronic signatures to trigger a response from the White House. Their response was to re-think their original response to the Death Star petition of 2013. An Alabama man robbed a pizza delivery driver by ordering two pizzas and having them delivered to his house, at which point he held up the driver at gunpoint. It did not take police long to find him.

The author of the Harry Potter series got FEBRUARY “Rowling” when she revealed that Ron really should have ended up with Hermione. The 17 people left on earth who had not read or seen the series screamed, “hey! Spoilers!” Maine police responding to a report of domestic violence instead found a pig that, squealing with delight, had been put into a pen with 5 sows in heat. Former Kroger employee June Ann Blocker of Kentucky bought a car to drive it into the storefront of the Kroger where she worked, which she had done in exactly the same way once before in 1999. South Carolina scored a hat trick in February when a woman was jailed for failing to return a rented video, a police officer shot a 70-year-old man at a traffic stop when the man reached for his cane, and the state legislature confiscated the funding to the College of Charleston after the college assigned Alison Bechdel’s Fun Home as reading. High marks for innovation were set when a San Francisco Girl Scout sold out of cookies when she set up her stand outside of a medicinal marijuana store. George Zimmerman, wearing a bullet proof vest because he feared for his safety, signed autographs at a Florida gun show. About 20 “fans” showed up, but it was not revealed how many of his fans wore hoodies.

MARCH began with a stunning victory for the arts when Adele Dazeem performed a rousing rendition of the winning original song “Get It Snow” at the Oscars. A Nigerian man was arrested for having relations with a goat, despite his insistence that the goat had consented. It is unknown if his email campaign to raise defense funds was successful. The Kentucky Baptist Convention took a shot at luring new members with free steak dinners and guns. A 5-year-old girl in upstate NY was placed on the wrong bus, so she spent the day at the wrong school by simply telling everyone that she was a new student. German customs officials intercepted 12 ounces of cocaine that was addressed to the Vatican, ensuring that the canonization celebrations of Popes John XXIII and John Paul II would be a lot less interesting than planned. A Louisiana highway was shut down when a truck overturned, covering the highway in corn dogs. The driver clearly couldn’t cut the mustard. Gwynneth Paltrow announced over social media that she and husband Chris Martin were “consciously uncoupling.” She explained that it was different from divorce because it scores more in Scrabble.

APRIL went to pot quickly when a Texas woman was arrested after calling police to complain about the quality of marijuana she purchased from a dealer. Competitive eater Matt Stonie ate 100 marshmallow candies in two minutes to win an Easter-themed event, but hasn’t said a peep about it since. In an effort to boost flagging sales, McDonald’s announced an updated look for mascot Ronald McDonald that would hopefully be “less Gacy-like.” Police in Florida were able to track down a would-be robber when they examined his holdup note to find a completed job application on the back. An Indiana cat missing for five years was reunited with its owner, who has yet to get an explanation from the cat for its Russian prison tats.

Irony got MAY going when over 100 attendees to a Baltimore Food Safety conference got food poisoning. A woman called 911 when Subway put the wrong sauce on her flatbread pizza. Contrary to expectations, the woman was from North Carolina. A student at Quinnipiac called in a bomb threat to the school’s graduation ceremony to keep her parents from learning she had dropped out and was pocketing the tuition money. A Tolkien fan took LSD and dressed in chain mail armor before attacking a woman’s car with his sword. Officials were only surprised because the Portland, Oregon resident hadn’t attacked a food truck. A drunk man in Murfreesboro, Tennessee was arrested for sexually assaulting…an ATM. The bank has since changed its policies on deposits and withdrawals. A British man was arrested for robbing a jewelry store after police used his cellphone, which the thief left behind, to go directly to his house. A South Carolina EMT volunteer was arrested for using his emergency lights to get through traffic while delivering pizzas during his day job. France spent over 20 billion on new trains for the national railway. Unfortunately, officials forgot to make sure the new trains could fit through the tunnels in between the stations. Now former Sacramento Kings owner Donald Sterling was rewarded handsomely for his racism, and made an honorary citizen of South Carolina.

In JUNE, a church in Alabama had to quickly remove a billboard promoting their children’s school when people complained about the quote accompanying the advertisement, which was properly accredited to Adolf Hitler. In an effort to appeal to Hispanic voters in an upcoming Arizona election, blatantly white guy (and unfortunately named) Scott Fistler changed his name to Cesar Chavez. A former Goldman Sachs employee sued the company because his bonus was “only” $8 Million. The German press had to pussyfoot around a delicate story when an American student had to be rescued from a giant stone sculpture…of a vagina. A Minnesota burglar was quickly arrested because he logged in to his FB account during the robbery and forgot to log out.

Another month started off with a bang when in JULY a Pennsylvania woman was shot in the leg during a demonstration of a new holster at a gun show. Bill Hillmann, one of the authors of Fiesta: How to Survive the Bulls of Pamplona, celebrated the publication of his book by running with the bulls in Pamplona…and getting gored. A Virginia man claimed a previously unclaimed area of land between Egypt and Sudan and declared himself King, so that his daughter could be a princess. Manuel Noriega sued a videogame maker for using his likeness without permission for a Call of Duty game. A minor-league baseball manager fielded a plan to expand awareness of pancreatic cancer by getting colonoscopy on the South Carolina ball field during the seventh-inning-stretch.

AUGUST came in like a lamb when police searched 18 hours for an escaped lion, only to arrest a South Carolina man for calling in an hoax. Metta World Peace, nee Ron Artest, changed his name to The Pandas Friend [sic] after signing a contract to play basketball in China. A story that produced less buzz than expected was the discovery of some 50,000 bees living in the ceiling of a woman’s New York home. A North Carolina man was arrested by police after a 9 month search when he signed up for a doughnut eating contest that was sponsored by police. The 12 residents of Cormorant, MN, elected a dog, 7-year-old Duke, to the mayor’s office.

SEPTEMBER started off on an high note when a Florida couple rapeled down the side of their hotel after getting married. Guests were concerned that after “taking the plunge” literally, how the couple would react to questions about when they would have a bun in the oven. The New York Times issued a correction when an article referred to Dick Cheney as “Former President,” even though it answered a lot of questions about the Dubya presidency. A man was arrested for breaking into a Massachusetts home to cook corn. When praised, the arresting officer blushed and replied, “Aw, shucks.” A Northern California nudist colony was accused of stealing water from a nearby stream. Charges were not filed, however, because police really didn’t want to know how they carried the water back to camp. A skunk was rescued from a beer can in Ohio, prompting denials from Miller Brewing that the source of their signature flavor had been discovered. Sarah Palin’s efforts to start a new Family Fight Club reality show failed miserably. A young woman in Columbia (the country, not South Carolina, surprisingly) was rushed to an hospital with severe stomach pains. Doctors found the root of the problem, a small potato inserted as birth control that had literally taken root.

Oddly, OCTOBER started off with a scare when a flight from New York to Charlotte was delayed when a number of live crabs escaped their container in the cargo hold, and officials had to wait for Samuel L. Jackson to round them up. A New Jersey library thought it was getting “we confirm all things twice” engraved in Latin on the new library’s wall. Instead, “Nos Secundus Coniecto Omnia” translates to “we second-guess everything.” The engraver also got the Roman numerals representing the year wrong. A Michigan Funeral Parlor began offering a drive through option, but only for mourners who decline to super-size their grief. A polar bear was caught breaking into a home in Alaska. The bear allegedly wanted to see if it could, in fact, see Russia. 18 tons of Crisco was stolen en route to a Florida grocery store. Authorities hoped Florida residents could find other sources for their sunscreen. Pittsburgh won a contest to find the country’s “ugliest accent,” but no one is yet able to understand the city’s response. A naked Oregon man was chased by police, and captured when the pants he stole during the chase tripped him up.

New Yorkers hungry for odd news in NOVEMBER were not disappointed when a man was arrested at a DWI stop by New York police when the man tried to eat his test results. In an effort to “break the internet,” noted philosopher Kim Kardashian bared her backside (again) for a magazine cover. Unfortunately, Kardashian was unsuccessful because people were people were too busy watching the European Space Agency landing a probe ON A FRICKING COMET! Twelve tons of frozen turkeys spilled onto a California highway after a tractor trailer flipped over. Witnesses said it was the most flipped birds on the highway since they were last in Jersey. It was anything but a Beautiful Day for U2 singer Bono when he broke his arm during a park bike ride after his personal jet lost his luggage. Recovery of his possessions has been difficult since all the streets have names. The Polish town of Tuszyn repealed a plan to name a playground after Winnie the Pooh because the bear possesses an “unclear gender” and dresses immodestly. They are apparently considering naming the playground for Kim Kardashian. An Oregon police dog was fired for poor performance, and not because of rumors that he was acting like a bitch.

For those who liked to get high, DECEMBER was a downer when Pizza Hut announced that it would not import the chain’s Australian menu item, Doritos Crust Pizza, to the States. The daughter of Korean Air’s chief executive forced one of the airline’s planes to land when she threw a tantrum because of the method by which she was served nuts. “That’s how we always serve you nuts” was the attendant’s defense. Technicians from a laboratory on the Austin campus of the University of Texas realized that 100 brains were missing, only 28 years after the fact. Sony engaged in a unique promotion strategy for their new comedy, “The Interview.” A pair of carjackers in Florida were caught almost immediately after their heist because they couldn’t drive a stick shift. South Dakota pulls out of its planned “Don’t Jerk and Drive” safe driving campaign, despite record interest in driver’s education classes from teens. The year closed out where it began, when South Carolina Sheriff Wayne DeWitt was arrested for a DUI Hit-And-Run, and in keeping with South Carolina tradition, his arrest is not expected to hurt his re-election chances.