Saturday, March 24, 2018

NakaKon 2018

This past weekend was filled with a bit of rejuvenating energy and a return of some self reflection in a more positive manner, thanks to my favorite show to vend at, NakaKon.
You know I'm ready for a show to start when I stand arms akimbo.
Thursday night was setup, which went pretty smoothly. Nothing new in the form of what I was setting up this year. I checked out the badge for this year's show to see what the winning art looked like.
There was a competition to submit a character in all 80's style. I think I needed a little more John Hughes and even more Punky Brewster aesthetic in my submission to have had a better chance at winning.
The vendor room had it's mainstay vendors and artists from some of the previous years and a few newcomers in the mix. The aisles passed my "could I drive a 1974 Mercury Colony Park Station Wagon down this?" with ease.
An hour before the first VIP attendees enter.
With the exception of Sunday, which was a little more mild in density of people per square foot of personal space, the vendor room activity was nice and active. I would love to see the return of the lounge back to the middle of the room, as I loved how people were able to shop and sit, and look and talk and compare things they'd bought, then possibly go back for more. Kind of like sitting in between innings in a football game, when it's Par 4 to the 9th frame and your bowling ball needs more Big League Chew.

Is it obvious I do not watch sports? Nor know how to use them as examples in a blog? Someone hand me my inhaler because it's about to get a lot more dorky up in here.
An hour into the show, and the vendor room was pretty full.
It's always a nice feeling to start off a show with some commissions ready to be picked up (see the three wood 4'x4' works below).

Sometimes when I start sketching, things do not end as I think they will. Case in point, the young elven maiden below was supposed to be a beastie of some sort, but that was what I ended up with.
(Left) Warming up, and adding more sketches for a forthcoming sketchbook collection. (Right) Three 4 inch wood block commissions, Mazinger z, Dry Bones, and Naruto. 
I of course got a proliferation of photos of people who bought my art over the weekend, and/or had some cool cosplays!
"Zombie" original with new owners, a very cool Tardis cosplay, and a witch cosplay of some sort.
So for the better part of the time since NakaKon had announced the show would have Steve Blum as a guest, I was all heavy breathing fan boy extraordinaire. So for those that don't know who he is, and probably how much of your childhood animated series are awesome because of him, here is his IMDB page. Go on and open that in another tab and let the awesome overwhelm you.

You see it? You good? Awesome right? Okay, back to my post. :D
New reader and first sale of the newest digital art I debuted at the show.
Something I need to consistently remember is to bring a portable fan to the show. The weather was a bit on the cool side, but once one is set up in a room full of people hustling and bustling, it gets warm.
A requested bit of work of Prince Topaz and Lady Turquoise from Robin.
So I wanted to do a play by day sort of review, but man, I am not kidding, I got so little sleep that weekend. This show is a serious high for me, like a Rocky Mountain High for John Denver (everyone under 25 years of age, go wiki that now).
Every year I attend the show, I love to stay late on Friday nights to people watch. Not in a creepy way. Maybe like in a Batman way.... which COULD be creepy. But I'm not dressed up as a bat.
NakaKon is something of a bizarre experience in all the best ways for me, as every year I see new friends see each other for the first time, friendly gaming experiences from video games to card games to people out on the green just singing, playing, running, and talking.

I don't know if there are other shows that have this sort of energy after the vendor rooms close. I know no Wizard shows do, and every other show I have participated in has some after hours sketching meetups or things like that, but for the general attendees, not so much.
Japan has WAY cooler arcade games, and seeing them here is insane.
My favorite room was the arcade room with all kinds of arcade cabinets set up. I grew up around arcades before they recently started making the whole retro feel good comeback, so seeing a room set up like this is like that old saying of the more things change the more they stay the same. Kind of like Christmas fruitcake.
These arcade games looked like Simon and Dance Dance Revolution had baby on the Borg Cube.
I'm not complaining from lack of sleep, because the fact that people wanted me to do art for them, and that was over each of the nights of the show was a welcome relief and joy, since I didn't know if I was going to have a glorious #fail weekend like I did at Planet. Thankfully, I did not.
"Mars Mining" has a new home, and I drew a frog with horns for this young lady.
I was super happy to finally have the first issue of Ardor find an audience. I forget how many people  that attend NakaKon are also into the indie comics aspect.
Dr. Rockso kicking cosplay, and two more new readers of Ardor!
And along that line, the conversations and new people I met, that spoke to me about everything from Pokemon, to Nintendo, to board games, to artwork,... a hearty thank you to each and every one of you all for making my weekend that much more enjoyable!
The compliment of having artwork go to new homes and previous customers is such an amazing feeling.
I did spend a good bit of time also talking about voice acting to a few people, how it started at Hallmark, how it's one of the most challenging and yet incredibly insane jobs to be able to do.
I do feel bad in that I think I only got half of the people that got things from me to have their photos taken.
I know one thing I am going to do moving forward on whatever shows I do next year (yes, this is still tentatively my last convention for the year), is get better organized on note taking, business card taking, and connections.
So many thanks to you all!
One of the last commissions I worked on was a character named Charon that I only marginally knew about, because I'd not played any of the Fallout games (but had seen the hilarious play through segments that Incognito Cinema Warriors had done sometime back on YouTube).
A commission request for Charon of Fallout 3.
Finally, as the show closed down, a bit of con blues overcame me. But, judging by the number of cards I handed out, I interacted with 289 people. To everyone of you, you all rock so very much. You all made my weekend more enjoyable just from wanting to visit, to pick up my creations, to give them new homes. I am ever humbled by that.

And to the incredible crew, especially my wonderful friend Beth, who heads up the vendor room, at NakaKon. Thank you for consistently being that convention that cares, that tries, that succeeds, that listens, and that grows better and better each year.

And any of you reading this blog post, if you've not, PLEASE fill out this survey and add your email address, and be entered to win tickets (courtesy of NakaKon) to BABYMETAL, playing in May at the Uptown Theater!


I didn't get much shopping at all this year, but I did pick up a few things...
The one vendor who was closest to me just happened to be selling Japanese candies and Sega Saturn games. My wallet was angry with me.
So I have to tell you all about how totally not have ANY chill when talking to someone who is one of the major influences in your voice over career.

It was in the waning hours of the show late on Sunday, and my booth had seen as much action as a Micheal Bay free movie, so I was reclining and playing some Fire Emblem on my phone. I was musing about how hungry I was also getting when I happened to look up from my phone, and saw Blum walk past with someone else (who as I later realized was Mary Elizabeth McGlynn, voice of Major Motoko Kusanagi in Ghost In The Shell: Stand Alone Complex and whom I am a fan of as well).

I said to myself, "Oh that's Steve Blum." Looked back at my phone, and then my eyes widened, and that tiny voice in the back of my brain screamed "THAT'S STEVE BLUM!" and evidently my tiny voice and my legs are in sync with each other and I used that chair you see below to jump OVER the pipe and drape to get to him.

Mind you, I COULD have just walked 3 feet and walked AROUND the pipe and drape like a normal person, but where is the fun in not acting like an off balance cut rate ninja jumping over red drapery and totally not landing a super hero landing, instead almost twisting my ankle because I'm not 17 anymore even though my hobbies say I am? 
(Left) The chair that I used to leap over the side pipe and drape to run after Blum. (Right) Thank you Steve for letting me get some quick words and a few photos.
So I ran up behind him and Mary, who were looking for something in the vendor room, and proceeded to smoothly and slowly interject with "Mr. Blum? Steve? Steve Blum? Hey! HI! I'm that guy from Twitter? The one who posted the thing? About meeting you?"

TOTALLY COHERENT facts are my specialty. Along with ninja jumps over pipe and drapes.

I think Steve was a bit bemused and I didn't even let him answer as I was like "Oh man, I just wanted to say hello, and tell you how big of an influence you've been in my voice over career, and how when I did my first audition and every audition after that, I kept this little piece of paper with what you said in your interview with Chuck and Stacey on VO Buzz Weekly about how 'the audition is the job' and how I consider that my good luck charm and you kicked ass as Wolverine, and omg your work on Cowboy Beebop as Spike, and..."

-[note: mind you, as I am inventing the worlds longest run on sentence right in front of Steve, my voice decided that I was no longer my current age, and instead decided to emulate a 13 year old boy going through puberty]-

"...and I really had wanted to make it to your panels, but I have a booth here in the vendor room, and so I was not able to, but I saw you and I ran down here to say hello and thank you also for saying good things about Keanu Reeves in the interview you did, because he just seems like just such a nice guy and a generous actor."

SOMEHOW, I managed to draw a breath in there, and Steve and Mary were so super cool that he offered to take a photo with me, and I handed my camera to Mary (not even acknowledging that she was this super cool kick ass vo artist and director in her own right that I was a fan of as well), and they asked me if I was a vendor, I said I was an illustrator and had a booth set up just a few feet away, but they had to head to something else in just a moment.

I walked away totally on nerd cloud nine, and holding onto my phone like Gollum held onto the One Ring, and told everyone after that about the encounter, in complete total THX certified dork level cringe factor.

Until next time, support your local artists, be kind to your fellow beings, and always take the path less traveled!

Mario, the Artisan Rogue
Illustrator, Voice Actor, Writer, Animal Rights Activist

Saturday, February 24, 2018

Planet Comicon 2018 Bigger isn't better.

The updated setup, and me looking like I am about to tell you how "brutal" the new Nordic DeathCore Metal Album I'm all about is...  
I want to start off by saying that I'm not trying to be negative. I'm not. In this day and age, there's enough of that to go around. But I will be fair and open on how this is probably the last time I will be doing Planet Comicon. I know right? Sounds all click baity. Far from it. Read on inquiring mind readers!

First off, I did cover this in a series of vlog posts on my channel, I won't bog this update down with all the details on that, but you can check out the first of the three on my YouTube page.

A few things about my experiences with Planet. I started doing it about 8 or more years ago, and in some ways all of them have started to blur together. Every year, the show got bigger, the media guests invited were more well known, and more and more artists in the comics and other creative fields, started to come in to sell and stake claims.

Fast forward to 2018, and its a behemoth show. Seriously, you can burn Everest like calories walking to your booth from a loading dock, never mind as an attendee just trying to look at everything that is one display..

Now its no SDCC or NYCC, this is true. But it is a very large pop culture show. Notice I did not say "comic" show. Because, although there are a fair few creators and writers in the mix, there isn't much of a push to identify the new and constant indie creators that fill the vast majority of the tables. Nor is there much of a celebration of the unique and variable makers that fill the rest of artist alley.

With the show growing, so has the cost to attend, which for a family of four, is around just under $200 to get in the door. To get a table there if you pay early bird is around $200. That's a huge hit on wallets before they even get to spending inside the hall.

I'm not against anyone earning money. I wouldn't have three jobs currently if I didn't think that way. But I also don't understand how in this kind of economy, any show like this can hope to ask for prices like this to be paid.

It came down to this simple factor. I use a system to judge how much business interaction I will have at a convention. Every year with the exception of the first two times I did Planet, I had stacked business cards on my table. I knew how many were on the table and how many would be used up. Nothing novel right? But still a pretty good way to at least see customer interactions and people that come by to get things.

Well two things became apparent this year. One, I only handed out (I recounted it 3 times during breakdown of my booth on Sunday to be sure), 37 business cards. For a show that has a reportedly 60 to 80,000 attendance rate, that is so terrible it's on par with being made to watch Mexican soap operas.

My booth wasn't in a bad area, I was in the center of the show. I managed to get out of the show with just having earned a bit over $120. Now, I will admit there are a lot of other factors involved in whether or not someone makes money at a show like this. But my table was a $200 investment/gamble that didn't pay off. I can't justify that anymore.

But enough of all of that, let's get into the photos and the things that really were cool to see.

The nights before all of the shenanigans of Planet are like normal for me, working away at my workstation, and making sure I had everything accounted for before setup the next day.
The studio is a mess as usual...
But hours marched onwards, and after a little sleep the evening before the show, it was time to get to Bartle Hall, find my badge, and then get set up.
Pretty kick ass Ant Lucia artwork for exhibitors (should have gotten the badge signed). And the ever elusive WEST dock that you have to take the most indirect path in the world to find. If they told me the path was in a magical wardrobe I'd have believed it.
I've posted about set up at this show in prior show updates, and like all other years, it was the same old same. Drive in, dump off, drive out, park, come back, set up, and then leave praying to everything in the universe that you have a decent show.
My buddy Jake Angell made a heck of a debut setup at the show. I was freaking stoked to see his stuff and picked up a few things from him (I'll show those off in a later post).
Mega Man cosplay. More of my new series of digital works go to a new home!
To answer some of you that asked, yes, my Society6 page will have new art designs based on the robots added very soon.
I love it when old friends stop by, thanks for catching up with me you all!
I am hellaciously grateful for all of you that did stop by to talk to me and keep me company during the show.
It is so nice to see some retro arcade action, and families that cosplay together, hanging out at a con together.  
When I was living in Warrensburg, the local arcade had copy of Dragon's Lair that always was blaring in the background. I was and am still probably very horrible at that game.
More artwork with new owners!
So I discovered this insanely cute webcartoon called Corgli. And I swear it is the life definition of my own dog Kubo the mighty Loaf of le Fluff.
Kubo (two inset side photos) is wondering why o why he cannot have donuts or a pizza flag now. I ask myself that every day sir.
Because my studio is all kinds of filling up with my collections and tools and things I own, I am down to the last of the old retro toys I am searching for. And here is an open offer if any of you wanting artwork done want, and you have access to any of the toys from Jayce and the Wheeled Warriors, I will so freaking trade for art for them. They have to be in good to great condition, parts accounted for, and ones I don't already have. I only have SawBoss at this point. But the way this would work, is that they are roughly valued at $30 for smaller vehicles to around $80 for the larger ones. I would do one and a half the value amount towards creating art for anyone that gets me some of these. (So if you got me a smaller vehicle, it would be worth $45 worth of artwork) You all can email me at if you want to know more.
(Left) Sawboss vehicle I found at the show. (Right) Screencap from the show. 
So let's talk some awesome people. I happen to know two. Ben and Cristen of Brass Engine Productions. These two consistently work every show out there they can get into, and are some of the most creative and just kick ass people I've ever had the pleasure of meeting. If you see their booth at a show, go talk to them, tell them you heard how amazing they are, and then, buy something from them. Everything they have is just awesome and made with care and love.
Ben with 3D printed swords. An evil eye created by Cristin. Ben in cosplay as Talion Lord of the Rings.  Ben and Cristin celebrating his win as best in show for Cosplay.
Winding down during tear down, I was feeling pretty off. Low maybe,... nah, just off. Doing shows is a gamble, and I used to have a gambling problem, and,... well, that's a terrible comparison.

But the ladies from Dorky Dino were kind enough to share some excellent pizza with me, so midway through tear down, I just sat down, ate it, and enjoyed a diet pepsi (many thanks to my buddy Ernest for checking on me all weekend long, Aramark bros for life!), and just thought about what I was going to put in this blog update.
Pizza makes everything better. Just ask Corgli.
I'd always managed to wear myself down into the ground and after the end of almost every show, absconded from hanging out with friends. But I was happy to meet up with Brass Engine and cohorts for some after convention talk and humoured good times. It was good, no, it was more than that. I then remember that yes, shows will be hard. But the people that march along with you can make even the worst shows seem alright.
IHOP, and then no, that is not the lights of a random UFO in my rear view window...
Thank Odin that the cop that pulled me over was a nice guy. He was totally understanding about an oversight on my license plates. He saw my show badge, and asked me if I had played a show there (I guess he assumed I was a musician), but I said no, it was the big comic show and I just got done eating at the IHOP after the show. His expression softened and he smiled. After he ran my info he simply said "I'll let you off with a warning. Have a good night. Wear your seat belt, and remember... Captain America would have current plates."

I owe you one Cap.

Until next time, support your local artists, be kind to your fellow beings, and always take the path less traveled!

Mario, the Artisan Rogue
Illustrator, Voice Actor, Writer, Animal Rights Activist

Thursday, February 8, 2018


If you are coming to Planet Comicon, I will be booth #1440 in Artist Alley.
I will be there selling things I made because it is frowned upon to sell stuff off of other people's tables, no matter how awesomely funny that would be.
I will be standing the entire show, because I hate Bartle Hall chairs. If I am not at my booth, I was either kidnapped, abducted by aliens from Alpha Centauri, got locked in the bathroom stall by accident, forgot my keys, might be under the table looking for a bag of chips, or maybe pretending to be a floor lamp. 
I'd like to say I would have Capri Suns for everyone, but that was an abysmal failure on my part 6 years ago, and I've never forgiven myself for underestimating the demand for free bagged beverages and since I also work part time for Aramark, who will be providing food services, I do not want a beat down to occur from my fellow coworkers.
So do come out to the show, bring money, bring children (preferably your own...) that like shiny things, and I will have insanely low priced deals on art. There will be a lot of my creative friends there as well, and you'll hear me tell you who to check out after you all visit me.
Be there or be a random generated geometric configuration of your choosing.