And it almost didn't happen for me. It was a tough nut to crack, coordinating my appearance at this Show( If you can call it a SHOW. It's more like a gathering of Lovers of Comics) for Jorge and German. These 2 guys are top Notch. No other way to put it. They clearly have put a LOT of thought into what they want their Venue to be. Jorge has been putting on this Event since he was 16 years old. Yep, 16. And it shows. I would LOVE to have attended every single one of these Events to be able to recall how they have evolved and improved over the years. I'm sure it would read like a Textbook of how to put together a Comicbook related event, no matter what Country.
So Jorge contacted me out of the blue to ask if I wanted to be a guest for the 2011 Show. I had no knowledge of the Event, or Jorge. So I set about looking into him and Aviles , like you do when you are invited to a Comic Show you have never attended. I was blown away at what I discovered. So, since my wife and I had decided that we had done too may American Shows for too long, and we wanted to branch out with my Fan-Base, we decided it would be a great Idea to attend. BUT, because like many European Venues, it is run and paid for by the Town or city/State where it occurs, the budget is sometimes VERY limited. It's also VERY expensive to fly Americans over to these shows, well, just because It is. Expensive. $$$$$ So I explained that I do NOT travel abroad without my Stacie and tht would be contingent upon me appearing in Spain. Immediately Jorge set about figuring a way to make it happen. He felt it important that I appear there this year, and he bent over backwards to make it happen. But alas it wasn't in the cards that Stacie and I would be able to go. We have 3 kids, and It can be difficult to travel with them in School, and arranging Childcare for them. So, after I asked Jorge to meet our needs( which he did by arranging a signing in Madrid-post Aviles to help pay for Stacies Ticket) I had to tell him his efforts were in vain. I really wanted to cancel at this point because European shows can be taxing on your personal and professional time, just because of the length of the Events and the Travel. I knew it would be difficult for Stacie. BUT, she told me to go. She said that they had worked so hard to make it work, that she felt it would be an insult to back out at this point, so I agreed to attend. This sucked big time because I then had to tell my wife on a daily basis how amazing the show was, whilst conveying my loneliness due to her absence. Remember, we had JUST begun to do european shows, and traveling, globally is something special to her and me.
Jorge was as good as his word, and I was off to Spain, for the second time( Barcelona, 3 years earlier was our first trip abroad). Despite my longing for Spouse and Family, It was hard NOT to be swept away in the experience. Spain is such a beautiful Country, and I was looking forward to seeing a totally different part of it than I had experienced with Stacie 3 years earlier.
Of course( I should have known) that I would be met at the Airport by my Hosts! German and a lovely lady( I am embarrassed that I do not remember her name, but I do remember that it was HER car, she was a volunteer, she had a son that we spoke about and that she had to travel to Aviles 20 minutes or so until the weekend, when she would stay at the hotel to fully embrace her Volunteership thru the weekend) See I suck at names, but I remember details. Weird, right? 15 minutes down the road, wonderful scenery, AND weather. That awkward, stilted conversation that you endure when you first meet someone. Still, all good, Hospitality In-tact. We arrive at the Hotel, Luzzana( I hope I got that right), and it was a quaint little place, on an equally quaint street, just a few yards from the Town Square, where City Hall resided. Then, just up the street beyond and around the corner past a 14th Century Fountain, resting on top of marbled streets (Yes, marbled) , just past a Catholic School , swarming with small children, embedded inside of a beautiful courtyard( jeezus , I am throwing up at this point) , lay the Cafe/Hotel that would be my home for the next 8 days. And beyond it, just to the left was the Tent set up to House the Show itself( with a Bar, tucked in the back for the Guests that didn't open nightly until 12 Midnight) mainly because we went to dinner at around 10 PM, and Spaniards take their time with almost everything.
So I was told that beyond my meager responsibilities to the Show( ie...Press conference, panel/Q and A, and a signing) that I was on my own. That the usual conduct was to park your ass at the cafe just beyond the Tent and Hob-knob with your Fans. That meant, sitting in a chair, drinking amazing coffee, eating wonderful bread, cheese and various deliciousness while talking to your fans, drawing sketches, swapping stories, laughing, and just generally hanging out. So after I finished up with my duties to the show, I made a decision. I decided that I would spend every waking moment that I could reasonably spare sitting in that Cafe, and doing just that. And ONLY that. Because I have no idea how frequent my travels to europe will be, or how many of my fans I am able to reach on any given trip, so it was important to me to make the most of it.
I think I did. I had NO idea that the Show held an Awards Ceremony each year to recognize Guests for their various and varied efforts concerning the events. So I was equally surprised as I sat in the Theater ,during the Ceremony, and MY name was called to receive the Award for , "THE COOLEST GUEST OF 2011". So I stood up out of my seat and wandered, stunned, up the stage and took my Lady-Bug Statue, from Jorge, hugged him, waved at the audience, then kissed and hugged every person on the panel to thank them for this amazing Honor. It really was special. Even more than the 2 Eisners that sit on my Mantle, really.
So I set about my duties as a featured guest of the Show, drew Sketches, talked to Fans, drank good Coffee, good Whisky, ate good food, laughed my Ass off, reconnected with lost friends and Collaborators, and had the Single BEST Convention experience of my almost 25 years in Comics. No contest.
I hope to return to Aviles next year, this time with my wife, Stacie. And share the joy of that place and the experiences instead of having to try, and fail to "tell" her what i felt, or saw, heard or tasted. Only then, will I erase my ONE regret concerning The comic Book Show in Aviles. Then it will TRULY be perfect*.
MACON GA, OCT. 2011