Anthrocon 2004 Report

Over two years ago, I received an email from Dr. Sam Conway, CEO of the annual Anthrocon in Philadelphia. He invited me to be a guest of honor at Anthrocon 2003. I had to decline due to my commitment to the San Diego Comic-Con which was running at the same time. He then asked if I'd be interested in being a guest for the following year. I responded that I'd be glad to. I committed and the arrangements were made.

After announcing that I was to be a guest of honor at Anthrocon 2004, I started receiving warnings from fans and pros alike, of the danger of being associated with such a "twisted" fandom. That made me more curious about the whole thing. I wanted to find out for myself.

Nancy and I took the plane from Bellingham at 5:00 am on Thursday, July 8 and arrived in Philadelphia around 5:00 pm. Upon our arrival, we were picked up by a stretch limo and driven to the Adam's Mark Hotel. Once we checked in, we were given the keys to our suite on the top floor. I couldn't believe how big our room was.

After a quick shower we went back to the hotel's restaurant to meet the board of directors and were treated to a great meal. Stan Sakai, the other guest of honor, was there with his daughter Hannah and his son Matthew.

During dinner, we were asked what our feelings were about being invited to a "furry" convention. I confessed that I was a little apprehensive but was looking forward to the weekend nevertheless.

The entire hotel was booked by Anthrocon so it was quite a sight to see. There were fursuiters everywhere you looked and people wearing furry ears and tails. At first, I have to say that it was very bizarre. I felt like bursting into laughter every five minutes. After a few hours though, I became used to it and it almost seemed normal. The giant plush animals became the fun part of the crowd and somehow it all made sense.

On Friday morning, we had a quick breakfast, got our badges, and went to the exhibition room to set up our table. The exhibition floor opened at 12:00 and a mass of people, and fursuiters rushed in.

We had amazing sales right from the start. A Search for Meaning: The Story of Rex was a huge hit. My other titles were also popular and by the time Sunday rolled in, we had virtually sold out everything. This was one of our best cons ever!

Throughout the convention, I participated in an animation panel; I did a lecture on the book biz; I was interviewed by a paw-pet in front of a large audience; I had a luncheon with the super sponsors and I did at least a hundred sketches for fans. My schedule was quite busy to say the least, but I enjoyed every moments.

Many artists generously gave us samples of their works. I received several nice sketches (I'll put some of them in the fan art gallery later on). Artist Guy Gilchrist gave me a beautiful original of his charming syndicated strip "Mudpie". The talented Mary Minch dropped by my table and handed me the latest installment of her constantly improving Mice comic series. Animation designer Brian Reynolds, gave me a copy of his wonderful new art book published by SofaWolf Press, Ursula Murray Husted left a copy of her graphic novel Making Rain (a powerful mood piece) at my table (unfortunately, we kept missing each other and weren't able to hook up). Artist Cara Mitten gave us two cool t-shirts.

On Friday at 9:00 pm, there was an art show opening reception. Stan Sakai and I were asked to choose a piece for the "Guest of Honor's Choice Award". This was a very difficult task as a lot of the artwork was very good. I was impressed by the level of quality and wished I could have picked at least five winners. In the end, I was torn between two artists: TK Labus (picture on the left) and Ursula Vernon. I finally awarded my choice to a small piece (which I ended up purchasing) by TK Labus called "Shy Girl". Nancy and I also purchased one of Ursula's pieces called "Lurking Sock Puppet". We're very happy to add these two pieces to our ever-growing collection of original artworks.

One of the big highlights of the weekend was to be able to hang out with Stan Sakai and his family. Very nice people. I was absolutely delighted when Stan gave me the first seven trades of his comic series, Usagi Yojimbo, and I can't wait to start reading this epic story. He's been doing Usagi for 20 years which in my book is a monumental achievement. His daughter and son were also very friendly and they seemed to really enjoy themselves. Hannah was even sporting furry ears and sketching for people!

Other highlights included "Uncle Kage Story Hour", the "Fursuiter's Parade" and "Nighttime Dancing", where fursuiters were dancing their tails off!

There is no denying that the whole event is a little left of center, but to me, that's what made it fun. I will take weird over normalcy anytime. Nancy and I had such a good time. We've never been treated better at a convention. The organizing committee made us feel like royalty. This was a great adventure and I'm glad I didn't listen to the nay sayers.

Michel Gagné, July 13, 2004.

Click here for more pictures.