Tagged: Artist Alley

Marc Alan Fishman: Rejected!


This past week, Unshaven Comics was once again given the most sincere and polite brush off from a show promoter to be a part of the Artist Alley. The show was ReedPop’s C2E2, in Chicago.

For the record: Unshaven Comics has never missed exhibiting at this show. We consider it our home show. But a few years back, we were denied access to the part of the floor where we feel the most comfortable. We were faced with a hard choice — pay over twice the cost to have a table in the Small Press area, or forgo the show. We bit the bullet. We sold our beards off. And we still made profit.

For the record, Unshaven Comics is not a small press company in my estimation. We’re a studio that produces a single book, penalized for having the gall to want to share a single 8-foot table.

I’m not going to lie: I’ve been bitter ever since. Bitter still now, the third year in a row I have cut a check for a larger sum of money than I’d like, to ensure our localish fans know we still are alive and well.

Am I mad at the promoter, ReedPop? No. I don’t even fear repercussions for posting this op-ed. Reed isn’t concerned about the comings and goings of a speck of dust on the outskirts of the indie comic market. For as much as I’d like to inflate my resume of comic bookery, the simple truth is if Unshaven turned off the lights in the studio tomorrow maybe a few dozen people would really notice. I’m not saying this for pity. I’m just well-aware of the beast we’re trying to slay. In the land of content, he who can only produce (at best) a book a year, is not high in demand.

ReedPop, as all show promoters, are in business to do one thing: get butts in a building, spending wads of cash. And with the advent of on-demand printing, digital publishing, and affordable content creation tools out there, the industry feels choked to the nines with creators all vying for the same spaces. Granted, some of these artists are just trying for a quick smash-and-grab, applying a few filters and a few simple style choices to produce a litany of printed kitsch meant to attract the lowest common denominator. This is a topic for a whole other piece.

At the end of the day, show promoters must choose from those who apply for their space who will best attract those aforementioned butts. Whatever their selection process may be, Unshaven Comics must adhere to the same application rules as literally every other artist in line. Whatever boxes we check or don’t check off is all in the eye of the beholder. But this article isn’t really in defense of those choices. I am not a show-promoter. I know some amazing show-promoters. They have an unenviable job in my humblest of estimations. I write this week to tell you honestly how it feels to be told we’re not good enough.

But before I do, let me dog-pile on the pity party. C2E2’s rejection of Unshaven for their Alley wasn’t the least bit surprising to me. Since we’ve upgraded to the small press area the last few years, I believe we’re earmarked as suckers who they know will pay… and so we pay. And we still make it work. So it goes. It’s the combination of their rejection compounded on being recently turned away on a pair of smaller local shows that really shook me more than I’d honestly thought they would.

To hear from shows that are in my backyard declining to offer my studio a spot while I see literally dozens of my friends and colleagues being welcomed as guests of honor leaves me feeling truly rejected. On the precipice of finishing the final chapter in our Samurnauts mini-series (seriously… it’s being colored right now. We’re so close I can almost taste it.), 2017 is a do-or-die year for me and my bearded brethren. Every show counts. Every show is an opportunity to declare victory over a beast that has taken five years to slay. And to be told we’re not good enough, while our friends are lauded with social media call-outs is a gut punch I’m finding hard to shake off.

We have an amazing fan base. That I can include people like Mike Gold, Martha Thomases, John Ostrander, and Glenn Hauman amongst them is one of those little factoids that keep my heart beating and pen moving every night. That we still have fans — strangers met at conventions who have purchased our wares and continue to support us — clamoring for Unshaven to continue to fight our way into any show that will have us? Well, it’s the lit matches I’ll continue to use every time our fire begins to dim.

And I know right now, this article may be reaching any number of compatriots in the exact same boat as my little production house. Talented, driven creators being denied access to tens of thousands of potential customers… all so the guy who just sells posters of cheesecake pinups or indie darlings whose ‘zines aren’t worth the artisanal rice paper they’re printed on can hock their wares next to the same standby medium-famous artists and celebrities that are always there. Well, to you, I say be bitter with me.

We live in a gilded age, whether you believe it or not. There are more cons out there now than ever before. So, if ReedPop says no, so be it. Take the anger and the money you would have dropped on that show and find another. And another. Take your books to the local comic shop, and offer to do a signing. Do anime shows. Book shows. Craft fairs. Flea markets. Go anywhere and everywhere. And keep making your comics and art. The more you produce, the better you’ll become. The better you become, the better your product. And eventually, the better your product, the more people will notice. Those people have butts. And those butts wind up walking into big shows. And with that…

…you just might be see the acceptance you deserve. If you don’t believe me, be my guest and quit. More room for Unshaven Comics.

Tweeks WonderCon 2016 Adventures

This year WonderCon was in L.A. for the first time. While we are fans of the Anaheim Conventions Center (and not just because they have the best ice cream), it was kind of exciting to try a new convention center out. It wasn’t bad, just a little confusing (as you’ll see in the video, we get lost). But we’re really happy it’s returning to Anaheim March 31 to April 2, 2017!

As you’ve probably seen in our videos over the last couple weeks, we got to meet a ton of really cool people — and don’t worry, we have more interviews to come, but this week you’ll get to see what else we did at the con, like the DC Rebirth press launch, the panels, and the shopping.

Marc Alan Fishman: To Print Or Not To Print

Artist Alley

Truly, that is the question.

Last week, I began unpacking my feelings in regards to the trolls of Artist Alley who find it cute to poke the starving artists (well, most of us are starving – I eat decently, thanks to my day job) about presenting unlicensed material. I like to think that I made it pretty clear where I stood in response to those who choose to hate the player not the game. So that brings up a whole new set of feelings in conjunction to that aforementioned game.

As I’ve noted, Unshaven Comics (my little studio, should you not be in-the-know) produces prints as means to an end. A quick laugh by a passerby is all we need to stop them and pitch our real product du jour. And if The Samurnauts isn’t their bag, but a poster is… well, money is money. Money allows us to make more Samurnauts. Hence, it’s always been a win-win situation. Put in economic terms (because I’m a Freak like the time spent to produce a single print yields far more profit in the short term than any comic we’ll ever produce. Let’s break that down.

I’m presently working on a poster for the upcoming New York Comic Con. In total, the piece will take me about 10 hours of actual work to complete. This includes gathering all my resources, laying it out in a sketch, and digitally rendering it. Because my time for Unshaven Comics is free (we’ll come back to that next week, don’t worry), the only cost is the 10 hours I could have been using to work on pages for the next Samurnauts book, and the .88 cents I’ve negotiated to produce the print at a local print shop. Now, we turn around, and sell that poster for anywhere between $3.33 and $5.00 depending (prints are 1 for $5, or 3 for $10… such a deal!). Any way you cut that, it’s a lot of profit. As a benchmark: each comic we produce – largely in small batches due to our severe lack of capital investment – typically costs us $2.85 to print, and we charge $5 for it. Each comic also takes roughly 200-250 hours to produce. Simple math dictates prints are where the money is at.

Take a walk down Artist Alley way and you’ll see that those who are there to move comics are few and far between. Over the last several years, I’ve seen the rise of the back wall at each eight-foot table. Where prints used to pop up as scattered constellations throughout a sea of roll-up banners and a small press affairs… now, a comic convention is a claustrophobic conclave of poster prints from the floor to the ceiling. The average attendee now merely meanders up and down the alley, snickering, stopping, pointing, and absorbing the breadth of artistry Velcro’d to muslin cloths – c-clamped to teetering tri-pods. It makes Unshaven Comics look pathetic to be honest. In our brazen attempt to always bring that cultivated 25% of sheer desperation to our presentation, we’ve adopted a diminutive structure where we’ve lavished the passersby with a short display of half a dozen pieces… half-heartedly hanging from repurposed shower rings.  Again, all in an effort to get a chuckle and a stumble.

I’m honestly of two minds on the subject. As as business man? I respect and admire the printmakers. I’ve more than proven that the economic gains of displaying a mountain of one-off work makes complete sense. Con-goers merely wander past, see what they like, and out comes the wallet. There’s no need for detailed pitches. It’s all short-sales, and deal-making. And because a poster is quick and dirty (depending largely on one’s style of course), with each show, a professional artist can snap up the zeitgeist without batting an eye. Hell, if you’re curious, let me make you a mint right now:

Draw all the Doctors in a single piece. Now FireFly. Now some of those new Star Wars characters. Now Steven Universe. Now Rick and Morty. Go find your local print shop with a digital beast getting dusty in the corner. Negotiate a price– say fifty cents a pop, for a run of 100 each. Go buy a table at the next convention within driving distance. Rake in the profits. Thank me later.

On the other hand of course, my inner auteur beckons. Yes, I know auteurs are saved for film, but screw you, it’s hip and makes me sound smarter than I actually am.  You see, to produce a piece – even if it’s brilliantly rendered in a style truly original to you and you alone – that is in effect not your own intellectual property – is to be profit-minded first. And I can’t help but feel that is antithetical to the spirit of an Artist Alley. There is a considerable difference (to me personally) for a lovingly made Warhol piece versus a Kahlo. And this is in fact not a digression. Put simply: art made from another’s creation is still personal, but will never be as personal as a project plucked from within. In my heart of hearts, I’d buy 1000 of Dan Dougherty’s independently made comic books in lieu of even the best-rendered Poohvengers print any day of the week.

Of course, I’d never say that to his pretty face though…

Marc Alan Fishman: Bill Cosby, Subway Jared, and Arthur Suydam

Fat AlbertAre there good guys anymore? Perhaps just you, my loyal readers. This past week we’ve seen enough to be stark (no, not Tony) raving mad.

First, the Associated Press finally caught Bill Cosby with his pants down – so to speak. Any more of his bluster is now faced with the truth that under oath he admitted to having drugged women prior to engaging in sexual activities.

Speaking of sex crimes… Subway’s own Jared Fogel was detained this week under suspicion of owning child pornography. To be fair, he may yet be absolved – a former employee of his was previously caught with the same material – but the PR damage is done.

And in our little neck of the blogosphere, artist Arthur Suydam was caught pilfering adjacent tables at a recent comic-con akin perhaps to Hitler’s taking of Poland. Maybe I’m being a bit harsh? I was all soft and gooey last week. Screw it. Let’s get snarky!

The story, as Artie would have you believe, was that he arrived at the convention and was shown to his table. He set up as normal, and life was wonderful. Apparently you see, the promoters mistakenly displaced several artists in order to meet the request of Arthur taking on four tables in the Artist Alley. Now let’s be clear: no one was denied a table space. However, the promoters did have show materials (guides, programs, etc.) with those aforementioned detainees placed next to Suydam. Clearly as folks made their way around the show, trying to find those people who clearly weren’t Arthur resulted in a stalwart fans having to do a bit of unnecessary sleuthing to trip over their intended artists. Was Arthur in the wrong?

I’ve only a little doubt that he took up four tables rightfully. As I recall at several shows I’ve been at with him, he does typically squat over a larger footprint than others. This is necessary so he can display his mammoth one-note zombified prints. I’ll not deny he has artistic talent. And as a businessman, if he’s somehow able to make profit by paying for what constitutes a vendor-sized space selling his posters? Who am I to nay-say his entrepreneurial spirit!

Wait! I remember… I’m an indie creator who has to play by the rules with conventions. Conventions that likely never let individual artists usurp multiple tables within the Artist Alley. Why? Because the exhibition space is sold for those needing more than an eight-foot table to their name. And while Arthur himself may be more noteworthy due to his run as a Marvel Zombies cover artist then, say, a completely unknown artist, that shouldn’t necessarily grant him carte blanch to take a table away from someone who deserves an opportunity to be at the show too.

Now, I’m not a convention promoter, nor am I an event coordinator. But certainly if someone asked me to purchase multiple alley tables, my instinct is to immediately offer a space on the show floor proper, if real estate is so sought-after. The only time I’d be apt to let a man become his own island is if my Alley has more space than interest. At the comics convention Suydam attended, I sincerely doubt there weren’t a few people on a waiting list who would have chomped at the bit to be at the show. Instead, the comic convention world at large had an opportunity to call out Arthur on his bad practices.

It would seem, akin to the aforementioned Cosby, that Arthur Sudyam is a long-time criminal offender without an actual rapsheet. Many folks who can continue to enjoy their anonymity came forward during Tablegate (or the better coined #Sudyamized) to denote their stories of Arthur usurping space much like the shuffling zombies of his milieu. And given that Sudyam had to have his people respond to the allegations that swam across Bleeding Cool, Comic Book Resources, and Newsarama, it only makes him feel that much more guilty.

Beyond the small guys proclaiming their hatred, the well-named (and wonderful) Erik Larsen and Mark Waid stood tall to declare their spite as well, showcasing Sudyam’s posting of twitpics with obviously Photoshopped crowds to prove his, ah, drawing power.

Artie’s response: In a few words, he chalked it up to his people posting on his behalf as a representation not only of his line but the con experience in general. No harm, no foul he said. Sorry. I cry foul.

Simply put, Arthur Sudyam’s enterprise preys on show promoters, and blots out the sun of neighboring booths. While it’s not like he himself forces gawkers from lingering away from smaller tables to his mountain of material… it stands to be noted that it’s purveyors like him that make Unshaven Comics feel infinitesimal when all we have to our names is a 30” wide pop-up banner. But the mob has spoken, and Arthur Suydam’s name is unmistakably synonymous with ill-will. I’d consider that a win for the good guys.


What Marc Alan Fishman Looks For In A Comic Book

Following up on my column last week, I had to sit down and really ask myself what it would take to sell me on a comic book. Not to toot my horn of Stereotypical Jewishness, but the thought of wasting as few as five dollars on a product I won’t wholly appreciate causes me to back out of a deal faster than the Marvel greenlights new films. The fact is I am oftentimes a skeptic when it comes to consumption of media. Either the creators have to be known to me previously, or come recommended by a trusted friend or critic.

When I self-discover, it’s typically after I’ve consumed everything else on my personal docket (which, admittedly, is rare). Most recently, I consumed the movie Chronicle. It was on my DVR, when I had two hours of alertness left in me and literally nothing left to watch. I really enjoyed it. And now because of it, I’ll be more inclined to not hiss at the next movie iteration of the Fantastic Four, knowing that the director and one of the announced stars were both great parts of the aforementioned flick. But I digress.

It starts with the pitch.

This year at Wizard World Chicago, I’m going to attempt to be a blank slate in the Artist Alley. Rather than seek out what looks interesting to me (“art first” if you will), I’m going to randomly choose tables with indie comics, and straight-up ask the person behind the table to pitch me their book. If the pitch is tight, the hook is something original, and the book is five bucks or less, I’m taking it home. Regardless of genre, art style, or any other number of factors. This is me trying to break the bad habit of judgment and reward those who know how to represent their product. I wholly understand that artists are not salesman, and I shouldn’t punish someone for not being a huckster (like me…). But in those cases where the pitch can’t sell me on a book, I know then it’ll be my duty to sell it to myself. For that to happen I need something to latch on to.

The older I get, the crankier I become when I consume media I’ve consumed before. I freely admit, I don’t tend to like fantasy, westerns, or horror because of that fact. Each of those genres tends to cling to tropes tightly, and just gnash any number of them into their prose to fill the void where originality might be otherwise. Oh, that medieval epic you’ve penned… does it have dwarves warring with elves? Egad man, it’s never been done! Oh… but this time the dwarves has mastered ice magic?! Sorry, my bad. That being said, noir, superheroes, and hard science fiction concepts wind up on my shelf more often than not. For me, those stories tend to use genre only to set mood or environment, not drive plot. Think Kill Bill vs. any anime revenge story produced in the last decade.

If the plot doesn’t grab my gonads off the bat, then it’s time to just look at the damned book. On a purely aesthetic level if the comic is doing something visually I’m not seeing elsewhere? That’s a big step in the right direction. Moreso, if the medium being used is wholly uncomicy then I’m even more apt to perk up. Not to namedrop my own books, but screw it. The Samurnauts continues to sell well – beyond the well-practiced pitch – because we combine painted panel art for half the book with more typically sterile digital fare. Should I see a book rendered originally in paint, charcoal, or mixed media? It’s going to ring a bell or two near my buying hand because the creators are changing the language necessary to enjoy their piece.

Ultimately what will sell me a comic will be the passion on the page. Certain comics and concepts just ring true when you hear them come from their creators. I’ve mentioned more often than I’d care to admit that Touching Evil by Dan Dougherty is one of the best books I’ve read in the last decade. And truth be told, the pitch did nothing for me at first. But even a single page in, after Dan let his guard down, and gave me a glint of his creative process, I was sold. And one issue later? I was a card-carrying member of the Touching Evil Empire.

So, by the time these words will hit your eyes, I’ll be milling about the Artist Alley. And next week, you’ll hear all about my exploits amongst my brethren. Until then, I bid you good reading.