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The Raleigh Super Computer Show 2002 Report

Browse Through the Computer Show Slide Show!

The Raleigh BlueStar Super Computer Show was a very different venue for Plan Nine and its artists. Held about twice a year in Raleigh, North Carolina, USA, this show is like many of its ilk around the country, where local and traveling retailers sell heavily discounted hardware and software to bargain-conscious techno-geeks. I've been to the show in Greensboro, NC, several times myself, looking for good deals on software, scanners, networking hardware, and (this time) memory. David Allen of Plan Nine had the smart idea of bringing in our books to this show. Not only would we not have any real competition at this event, but many of Plan Nine's strips are targeted at tech-savvy readers. The people that usually frequent these shows are exactly who we'd like to target, and it's a sure bet that the vast majority of them have never heard of online comics. It was an excellent opportunity.

Now, if only the weather would cooperate....

[Oh, the weather outside is frightful...]

The night before the show (Thursday, January 3, 2002), brought one of the worst snow storms in recent memory to much of the Southeastern United States. Being a West Virginia transplant to these parts, I've been driving on snowy roads for years, but frankly (and I apologize to my native North Carolinian neighbors, but it's true)... folks around here don't know how to deal with snow and ice. They did little to nothing to clear the roads, and by Friday morning, the first day of the show, many roads were virtually impassible. While I was confident in my abilities, I certainly wasn't confident in the abilities of others on the road. Nevertheless, I gave it a try, and managed to get about half-way to Raleigh before I was forced to turn around. The hour-long trip from my house to Raleigh turned into a four-and-a-half hour ordeal of dodging vehicles stuck in snow banks mixed with watching tow trucks clear one wreck to watch another appear less than two minutes later.

[Defaced GPF Strip]

Of course, J.D. "Illiad" Frazer (of User Friendly) and Pete Abrams (Sluggy Freelance) arrived by plane the night before and were safely within walking distance of the show floor, while Bill Hollbrook (Kevin & Kell) somehow managed to drive from Georgia (where the weather conditions were worse) all the way to Raleigh on Friday. Since I got turned around, the three of them decided to make me the Target of the Day, and proceeded to go through a copy of the first GPF book and "enhance" some of the strips. Some were quite "colorful," so I won't reprint them all here, but click on the image to the left for a small sample. (Note to other Plan Nine artists: Never show up late or leave early at a con, or you might suffer the same fate. ;)

From a financial standpoint, the show wasn't a huge success. According to those who were present, Friday was virtually dead, with little floor traffic and no sales. Saturday picked up considerably, with lots of folks with "cabin fever" getting out to check out the deals. Of course, we got quite a few strange stares and curious glances, but it seemed that a lot of folks were almost afraid of us. "Why are these people here without any hardware, software, or computer books to sell?" their faces seemed to say. I knew should have brought a few spare modems, networking cards, and other hardware knick-knacks to spread across the table. That would have gotten their attention. :)

[It's the Four Stooges!]

Nevertheless, there were quite a few fans who showed up. By far, Pete and J.D. were the stars of the show and were rarely seen without at least a few people talking to them. Bill and I had our share, and quite often the fans just made their way down the table, seeking each one of us. And fans weren't the only ones to show up; Chris Wright, the diabolical mastermind behind Help Desk, made an appearance to be a fan boy himself.

[Button, button, who's got the button...]

Of course, even with fans and book signings, the real fun of most shows and cons is spending time with your peers, fellow cartoonists. This was my first time meeting J.D. Frazer (although I have spoken to him on the phone before), which was a real treat. Pete and Bill both shared with me some of their upcoming secrets, while they got sneak previews of Surreptitious Machinations. And the pet project of the weekend was drawing bizarre little buttons and giving them away to fans and to each other. There were some... interesting crossover sketches that I'm sure die-hard fans would salivate to see. Alas, most of those will remain in our private collections. Sorry, guys. ;)

While we didn't sell much, it was still exciting to meet new fans, see old friends, and talk shop with colleagues. There were plenty of inside jokes floating around (What do you expect when you get four cartoonists in one place?). And I walked away with new memory for the computers... Demeter bumped up to 512MB RAM, while Minerva went up to 384MB. Although it was a snowy start, it was a great time.

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