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Trickster 2: The Little San Diego Con That Could [Indiegogo]

If you’ve never been to San Diego’s Comic-Con International, it’s hard to picture just how huge and insane it truly is. Last year’s attendance numbers topped out around 120,000 people, turning the little town that Ron Burgundy made famous into a nightmarish maelstrom of Twilight shantytowns, promotional blitzes and a decibel level akin to a black metal concert. While at times it felt like there was no escape — SDCC’s population seems to completely overtake everything a dozen blocks in any direction — an oasis was born just across the street from the convention center: Trickster. Providing a quiet venue of drinks, art, creator-owned merch and symposia, all while rubbing elbows with comics pros, it quickly became the place to be for people looking to maintain their sanity and experience the creativity community of comics. This year Trickster coming back and is seeking funding via the Indiegogo crowdfunding platform, offering rewards far and away greater than any free merch you can snag in the convention center.

Founded by Scott Morse, Ted Mathot and Anita Coulter, Trickster wasn’t created to be competition for SDCC, but one of the countless secondary destinations for con-goers that distinguished itself by being the rare venue catering to comics fans in an environment where TV and movie promotion are quickly becoming bigger and louder. It quickly became the little engine that could of SDCC 2011. Surrounded by skyscraper tall billboards and pedicabs emblazoned with flair, Trickster — or TR!CKSTER, as it was known — was housed in an unassuming wine bar with just a banner hanging across one set of windows. If you didn’t know about it, you wouldn’t have approached it on the first few days, but by the end of the weekend Trickster it was the place to be, with crowds swelling out to the sidewalk, drawn in by drink and draw sessions scored by DJs, Michael Allred’s rock band, live comics created on-stage by Steve Niles and Scott Morse, exclusive merch provided by the likes of Mike Mignola, and an impromptu concert by Tom Morello of Rage Against the Machine.

This year, Trickster has moved on up to a bigger venue and expanded its menu to include ticketed art workshops and storytelling symposia, free events, signings, and even more creator-owned comics available to buy. With the step up, the price tag for putting on such an ambitious event has swelled, especially for a four-day event that costs nothing to get into. Instead of turning a commercial eye to things, Trickster has set up a fundraising project on Indiegogo to raise $35,000. The money will go towards renting the space and acquiring the AV equipment that facilitates all the fun and games, without having to go looking for sponsorship that might negate Trickster’s goal of championing smaller, creator-owned press.

Almost halfway to their goal and with less than a month to go, rewards like an original script from Steve Niles for you to draw or appearing (and dying) in an issue of Criminal Macabre have already been snatched up, but Trickster still has plenty more up their sleeve. On the cheaper end are exclusive T-shirts and signed books from last year’s show, with higher donations scoring limited and numbered prints by co-founder Scott Morse and supporter Mike Mignola.

What really sets Trickster apart this year are the one-on-one cocktail hours they’re offering: the chance to sit down with accomplished pros like Gabriel Bá, Fábio Moon, Jill Thompson or James Robinson, you can discuss whatever you like, brainstorming ideas, getting notes on your own work or just chatting with someone you’d usually only get five minutes to shout a conversation with over a booth table.

Since funding is going through the Indiegogo platform, Trickster will keep whatever they raise and honor all rewards, regardless of if they hit their final goal or not, but it would be a shame if they fell short, the same way your heart breaks when a great creator-owned book gets cancelled. Trickster is just gaining traction and, if it keeps up, promises to be less of an addition and more of an alternative to the massive San Diego con. Besides being a place you can get a drink, a meal and buy comics, Trickster offers the rare chance of peeking behind the curtain of the industry, whether you’re trying to break in, up your game or just want to meet your heroes and buy them a drink. Donating is a chance to vote with your wallet to keep comics a part of a comic convention that’s become increasingly devoted to anything but.

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