Comic-Con 101: How to Handle Fans

I know, I know— You’re an up-and-coming creator, and you’re just happy to have any fan pay attention to you at all. But as you progress in the comic business, you need to treat fans in such a way that hopefully maintains their loyalty but also maintains your sanity. It can be very stressful and weird, but don’t worry— They’re normal people like you and me. Let’s start with the elephant in the room—

Image by Artzone AI with lettering by Tony D

Never Disrespect Your Fans

If the woke creators made one mistake, it was that they disrespected their fan base. Calling your fans names, even if you’re mad at them, is not a good strategy ever. No matter how annoying or ridiculous a fan gets, if they’re a fan, you work for them. If complaining about you is how they like to enjoy your work, so be it. If they have other political opinions or beliefs, who cares?

Story: When I switched artists in one of my comics, I had fans screaming at me online. I could’ve been disrespectful, some of them were, but instead, I just said stuff like, “Give the new guy a chance.”

Now, that being said, you don’t have to listen to those complaints if they’re disingenuous and out of control. But there’s no point in confronting them about it or calling them names. In fact…

photo by Pixabay

Never Get Confrontational With Fans

I cannot stress what a bad idea this is, even if you get confronted first. You’re not there to start arguments; you’re there to sell comics. The fans can buy it or not. Fans that buy it are your fans; fans that don’t are someone else’s fans. No one wants to buy a comic from someone they perceive might start an argument with them. That’s it. That’s as basic as it gets. Think about it. If you saw a guy at a con arguing with fans about his comic, does that make you want to walk over there and buy the comic?

Story: Had a fan who bought everything at my table, but he stunk to high heaven. He was a nice guy, but something was up. I guess I could’ve pulled him aside to tell him, and he might’ve thanked me, but he might’ve just as easily freaked out. Or been so embarrassed, that he’d never show his face again at a con. I excused myself to the bathroom at one point to get away, but he was there when I got back. Eventually, he left, and yeah, he was an older guy who should’ve known better. Ask yourself, are you there to solve people’s problems or sell comics? I made my choice. No regrets.

But these are obvious tips and, honestly, it’s highly unlikely you’ll be put in a situation where you’re actually arguing with fans. Most people are normal. They may feel awkward and not know what to say, but most people you meet at a comic book convention, or signing are very nice and want nothing more than to support you and your comic.

Image by Img2go

Never Hit On Your Fans

I’m sure there are creators that have crossed this Rubicon and survived. In fact, I know one of the creators in particular who was notorious for dating any beautiful woman that showed up at conventions. Unless you are as savvy and as smooth as him, I would recommend you never do this.

Trying to date a fan can blow up in your face in a myriad of ways. You’re not at the convention to find a date; you’re there to sell your comics. Some conventions have a variety of social events outside of the con. If you absolutely must shoot your shot, do it in a non-committal way. Alerting a fan that there’s a social event afterward is mostly neutral, but even then, the invite is a risk.

Story: I knew a creator who got a phone number from a girl who had shown up to see another creator. When he informed her that the creator was married, he offered himself up in his place as a joke. She gave him his number, and they dated for a year.

I’ve also seen creators get into fistfights over girls on the floor of the con, and I’ve seen married people blow up their marriage, cheating very publicly at these events. It can get very ugly, very fast. If you do this, tread extremely carefully.

Image from Img2go

But despite the best intentions, you may find yourself in an uncomfortable position and not know what to do. Remain calm, friendly, and polite— Just be prepared for who might eventually visit your table and how to best channel that fan energy in the most positive way.

The Fellow Creator Fan: The fellow creator fan is a comic creator as well. Maybe he isn’t as far along as you, and maybe he was even inspired by your comic. The only danger here is, you might get trapped in a long conversation about his comic when you really should be selling yours.

Be patient. Answer his questions, and wish him well. Remember, you never know who is going to be the King of Comics in a few years; it might be this guy! If he’s been at your table too long, invite him to whatever you’re doing post-con. If you’re hanging out in the hotel bar later, that’s usually the perfect place to meet up and network. Treat him like a fellow professional and lead by example. If he acts unprofessional or does something weird, put yourself in the mentor-student role. Calmly school him on the etiquette if he doesn’t know. Chances are, he’s looking for a little direction to pursue his comics career. And hey, if he’s talented, you might find yourself another member of your creative team.

The Collector Fan: These guys are usually looking for one thing and one thing only: pristine collectibles. For whatever reason, they’ve decided your comic might be one that accumulates in value one day. They might not even read your comic.

My only advice is to be extremely careful handling their comic when you sign it, and you probably shouldn’t offer them any special discount that you don’t offer to anyone else. They may ask since they’re all about the money. Unless they’re going to take a lot of books off your hands, I would just politely tell them you can’t discount them. They may also ask for a bag and board. I never have them at my table, but you’re at a comic-con— Someone sells them.

The Reader Fan: Being a writer, these are my favorite because they’ve actually read the comic. Usually, they’ll have some questions about future issues and what inspired this or that. These are perfect fans to have at the table because as you are talking to them about your comic, other people passing by will slow down and listen. Hopefully, the good vibe is spread around, and when they see someone else standing excitedly at your table talking about your creation, they’ll stop, look, and buy.

This is your time to shine. Don’t be shy about getting louder or including other fans who walk by the table in the conversation. (See my column about crowd work.) Hold court and be the king. This is your comic, your table, your vision, and your enthusiasm will be contagious.

Photo by Pixabay

The Cosplay Fan: Unless they’re dressed like one of your characters, you want to finish with this fan as soon as possible. There’s nothing wrong with cosplayers, but they often get stopped every ten seconds for a photo, and half the time, they don’t have money in their costumes anyway. Be polite, but keep things moving. If they’re not getting the message and seem to be camped out at your table for the day, say things like, “Hey, thanks for stopping by” or “Well, it’s been great to see you”, etc. Hopefully, they’ll get the prompt and move on.

The Kid Fan: Depending upon the audience for your comic, you should be a little wary. Kids aren’t too responsible with their money, and they may not even have permission to spend it. If an unaccompanied minor comes to your table to buy, be patient but also make sure it’s okay with their parent/guardian that they can buy at all. You don’t want to get halfway through signing a stack of comics only to find out the kid has no money and his mom has no intention of paying for them. And just because you think your comic is appropriate for the kid, doesn’t mean their parent/guardian will agree.

Typically, when a kid and parents come to the table, I make my pitch to the parents first. They have the money, they make the decision, and some people absolutely do not like it when you try to sell something to their kid.

Photo by Pixabay

The Hardcore Fan: These fans just love everything you do and bless them all. If you make it, they not only buy it but tell their friends how awesome it is. If you can get 1,000 hardcore fans, you can probably support yourself full-time by making the comic.

The only real danger here is that hardcore fans can burn themselves out on you. Try and pace them as best you can. You might be tempted to bombard them with everything you’ve ever done, but resist that urge. You want to dole it out over a period of time so you don’t create a pace of new material that’s impossible to keep. If you have any previews, hardcore fans would love to see them.

The Normie Fan: These fans will drift in and out according to what they like and don’t like about your work. Your average normie can turn into a super fan or can just as likely get disinterested, and you’ll never see them again. Give them your pitch, but don’t be too aggressive selling them. You don’t want to oversell them on your comic and chase them away.

The Social Media Stalker: For this one, be wary. It’s a lot harder to gauge someone’s true intentions via the Internet. Trolling is an international sport online, so don’t put too much faith in anyone online until you’ve interacted with them enough to know they’re not crazy. Feel free to make suggestions like, “Hey, it would be great if you could repost my tweet.” Then sit back and see what happens. If they maintain a level of positivism and don’t make any demands on you, great. If they start getting weird, pull back. Don’t cut them off; just slowly keep taking longer and longer to respond to their queries.

Photo by Pixabay

What The Fans Can and Can’t Do

There are things you want fans to do and don’t want them to do. We already established that you’re going to treat them with respect, but you also want to channel their energy to help them have a good time and hopefully sell more comics.

Can’t: Turn Fans Into Friends: It’s not that you don’t want friends or that a fan wouldn’t make a fine friend— If you turn a fan into a friend, they’re no longer your fan. You’ve lost a sale, and that’s not the reason you’re making comic books. (I mean, if that’s what you want to do, by all means.) You’re not going to make every fan you meet a friend because, ideally, you’re going to need thousands of fans. You’re not going to be a very good friend to that many people.

I put this at the top because it’s a mistake young creators often make. There are exceptions, but these should be exceedingly rare. Don’t start inviting people back to your house the moment you get a couple of fans.

Can: Be Friendly to Fans: You do want to have cordial exchanges with fans, so it’s okay to be friendly. If you decide to make a fan your friend or it just happens, you’re not breaking any hard and fast rules. Just understand, that the moment you cross that Rubicon, the relationship has changed. You should probably vet any rando you meet at a con who immediately wants to be your friend. They may be needy wannabe creators looking to impose on your time and leverage what little pull you have in comics. Be nice, but it’s best to keep fans at arm’s length.

Can’t: Let Fans Represent You: Do not let fans speak for you or represent you in any way. Fans are well-meaning, but they may not understand the etiquette of doing, say, a panel discussion at a con.

Story: I was at a show doing a panel discussion, and a very excited fan of mine sat down next to me at the beginning of the panel. I quietly asked, “Are you on this panel?” He said something like, “No, I thought you could use my help.” I said, in a very friendly tone, “Nah, that’s okay. I need you in the audience, though.” He cheerfully moved his seat.

What was he intending to say or do to “help” me?” I have no idea, but I wasn’t going to be surprised, in public and in front of a bunch of potential fans. He was nice enough, but I barely knew him. Fortunately, that’s as far as it went.

Can: Let Fans Sing Your Praises: Talking about you is not the same as speaking for you. You want fans to say positive things. In the world of books, a good book review on Amazon means sales. In comics, you want fans to ask their comics retailer to carry your book. You want fans to mention you on social media, forums, or wherever fans congregate.

A great thing that Ethan Van Sciver and other creators do is that they repost fans posting pictures receiving his crowd-funded books in the mail. Fans posing proudly with your product is always positive. Encourage this, reviews, and chatter whenever you can. Fans, especially the hardcore ones, might ask what they can do for you to help. Give them these things to do. They may even come up with websites where you get reviewed or get attention that you didn’t even know about.

Image by Pixabay (Talk about working for peanuts!)

Can’t: Turn Fans Into Employees: Again, just like with turning them into friends, you’re changing the very nature of your relationship. It’s not impossible, but you want to vet people very closely before considering anything like this. In general, I think it’s a bad idea because you lose a fan. It’s one thing to give someone a free comic or a couple of bucks for helping you load your car, it’s another to actually hire someone.

Can: Turn Fans Into Street Teams/Fan Clubs: Fans who want to help spread the word are always welcome. You might get someone who starts a fan page or a wiki. If you have enough volunteers, you might turn them into a street team to pass out flyers or help gather people for an event or a promotion.

Remember, they’re not your employees, so it’s on you to make it fun at the very least. The cheapest reward is usually to give away some free comics, or sketches or buy people beverages. Fans who really go above and beyond deserve some kind of special shout-out, possibly on your social media. It’s important to thank fans who do this, so hopefully, they’ll continue to sing your praises.

Can’t: Don’t Take Care of Fans: Fans are great, but some might have unrealistic expectations of you. Don’t let a fan guilt you into doing anything you’re uncomfortable with. If you’re okay giving them a short ride or loaning them five bucks for parking, that’s on you. But be warned, you don’t really know this person. That’s not part of the relationship; you’re just someone who makes a comic book they read.

Again, it doesn’t mean you can’t be nice and polite. You should always be that way around fans, but when a fan imposes on you— Don’t be afraid to draw a line. “I’m sorry, I can’t do that. I have to get home.” You can give a more detailed explanation if you want, but you don’t owe them that. If they get upset, you can just walk away. You’re not their therapist either.

Can: Help Fans In Your Own Way: As a comic creator, you can offer advice on making comics, and you might be mildly famous to get the word out. For instance, if a fan has a fundraiser because he’s the victim of a disaster or has a medical fundraiser or something like that— Using your platform to alert people to help is perfectly acceptable. (Again, make sure you know what you’re getting into.)

Maybe it’s a fan’s dream to be a character in a comic. Your comic. That’s an easy fix. Just get them to sign a release saying it’s okay to use their likeness and then have them drawn into the comic.

Image by Pixabay

Handling Rando Fans

You don’t know these people, so you must compartmentalize them away from anything private. This is to protect you from crazy weirdoes who could do God-knows-what under the wrong conditions. You may ignore some of these rules for convention people, dealers, or other professionals who are known to you. (But make sure you know them.)

Most people are fine. You don’t have to be paranoid, but by keeping them at arm’s length for a while, you can vet them. People with some kind of nefarious agenda often don’t have patience or are quick to anger when you refuse them. You don’t have to be rude; just draw the line politely.

  1. Never let fans handle your money.
  2. Don’t let fans overhear private conversations with your friends or creative team.
  3. If a fan gets behind your table or is invading your space, ask them politely to move back.
  4. If a fan asks, do not agree to anything, especially regarding work, appearances, or your comic.
  5. If a fan has a business proposal of some sort, tell them to put it in writing in an email.
  6. Don’t let fans move your car or handle other valuables like your phone.
  7. Be extremely wary of fans offering you homemade food, but if you turn it down, be extremely polite as well.
  8. Don’t let fans follow you back to your hotel, your car, your home, or even a bathroom.
  9. Don’t let fans read your text messages over your shoulder.
  10. Don’t engage in sexual activity with fans you just met.

Any fan who continues to press you on the above may have some other agenda in mind. They might just be weird and socially awkward and just need boundaries defined. However, there’s a small chance they are sizing you up for something bad or, at the very least, to impose on you for money, clout, and/or your time.


Ultimately, it’s still about keeping your fans at arm’s length because this is what professionals do. Part of this is for your own protection. The more fans you accumulate, the more likely someone will drop into the mix that has bad intentions. There is always an inherent risk in fan interaction, so don’t make it a policy to immediately add fans into your friend circle. Only after you get to know someone should you ever open that door.

Most fans are just normal people who like comics. Together, you can enhance the fan experience by guiding them down the best path to help you. That’s rewarding for them because it’s probably their goal in the first place. You, of course, get to reap the benefits of more sales and hopefully last longer in the medium.

That’s all this week, fanboys. See you at the con. strives to be an apolitical, balanced and based pop culture news outlet. However, our contributors are entitled to their individual opinions. Author opinions expressed in this article do not necessarily reflect the views of our video hosts, other site contributors, site editors, affiliates, sponsors or advertisers. This website contains affiliate links to products. We may receive a commission for purchases made through these links. We disclaim products or services we have received for review purposes, as well as sponsored posts.

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