Tagged: iPad

Emily S. Whitten Talks With Reilly Brown

I’ve been a fan of Reilly Brown’s artwork since I first came across it in Marvel’s Cable & Deadpool, and have been following it off and on ever since. There are a lot of artists I like out there, but Reilly is consistently a favorite of mine – his characters’ expressions and the way his drawings capture the energy and emotion of whatever’s happening on the page really appeal to me. I also consider him among the pioneers of the digital comics medium. One of his current projects, Power Play, is a digital comic that was the first effective use of the medium that I had ever seen. To pull from my thoughts when I reviewed the Power Play preview in 2011:

“This is the kind of thing I geek out about, because it excites me to see the potential of the medium being explored to enhance the reading experience. In places it reminds me a bit of the Watchmen stop-animation type video comics they did around the time of the movie, only I never had the patience to watch all of those, since I’d read the book a million times already and they moved too slowly from one frame to the next. But having the ability to read at one’s own pace, and still get the animation-like effects now and again, is fantastic. Being able to see one or two panels at a time, zoomed in or close up, is great. I love the panning from one part of a panel to another, and the fading from full color to monochrome for effect. Having the direction of the screen shifts follow the action is cool; or having the shifts follow the narrative and captions. Also I like how Reilly has the characters in similar poses in a couple of frames, but shifting from one frame to the next gives you the action of a head turn or tilt like in animation.

This is truly the future of how digital comics should be read. I definitely wish I had an iPad so I could experience it in a bigger window, but with only a smartphone, this is hands-down the best way to see digital comics on a hand-held device. For comparison, I downloaded DC Comics New 52 #1 preview and tried reading it on my Droid 2. Now, I know on a computer the usual format is fine; but on a smartphone? It’s fairly unreadable. All the zooming in and panning around necessary just to see one page is a total pain, and not something I have the patience (or eyesight) for. The Power Play layout is infinitely better.”

Given Reilly’s dynamic art and his excellent use of the still-fairly-new digital comics medium, I always consider him one to watch. I’ve also been telling him since something like 2009 that I was going to sit down and interview him one of these days. Finally, at this year’s Baltimore Comic-Con, we made it happen. So here we go!

Emily: So, Reilly, what’s your favorite project that you’ve ever done?

Reilly: My favorite project that I’ve ever worked on is Power Play. I just love doing any creator-owned stuff, especially when I get to sit down and make my own character designs. And not having to feel like the shadows of all of the other decades of awesome artists that have worked on a project before me are looming over me is really freeing. It’s also fun to play around with the digital media and things like that.

Emily: Tell me, what was the genesis of Power Play?

Reilly: It started with me and Kurt Christenson, the writer; since we were both in the same studio at the time, and we’ve been friends for years, one day I said, “You know what, why don’t we do a project together?” and he was like, “Yeah, man, I’d be into it.”

When it started out, we just wanted to do something small, just a quick little simple thing; but as we were spitballing ideas, it turned into this idea that we realized could be really cool if we tried to turn it into something big. The basic idea is that I really wanted to do a story that is based in New York and really uses New York, the real city, as a backdrop. Because so many comics take place in the city but “New York” is just generic buildings in the background or whatever. When I’m walking around the streets, I just see so many cool things – like architectural things, or construction things, or just random things on the street, that are totally normal, but I don’t always think about them when I’m just sitting at my drawing table. And so many of the comics writers don’t even live in New York, so – you know, how do you really make use of a place if you’re not there? I wanted to incorporate New York into a comic.

Emily: How long have you been in New York?

Reilly: I grew up in New Jersey, so I’m right across the river, and I went to school in Virginia but then I moved back after I graduated. So around January 2005 I moved back to New Jersey, with a studio in New York; and I just really wanted to do a story where the writer and I walk around town and plot things out as we go, and just, say, point to a thing, and say, “Okay, the character could jump from that building to that lamppost; and then take a photo reference while we’re there – I actually have photos of most of the backgrounds.

Emily: I didn’t know you actually walk around to plot the stories. That’s pretty cool. So tell me, what’s your favorite hangout or place to go in NYC?

Reilly: There are so many good places to hang out, and it changes all the time. Crocodile Lounge is always a stand-by for me, to go play some skee-ball; and you get a free pizza with every beer. Actually, that’s the bar they go to in the first issue of Power Play; where Mac turns into beer. And…I don’t know, there are too many awesome places to choose from — and half the time, the place is not going to be there in six months.

Emily: That’s true. So who’s you’re favorite character from Power Play, and how does he or she relate to the city?

Reilly: That’s a hard one. I love Gowanus Pete, and the Ice Queen, and Mac…all of the characters are so much fun to draw, and I just feel so close to them.

Emily: Who was the first one you came up with?

Reilly: It was probably either Mac or Gowanus Pete… or the Ice Queen. The studio’s right on the Gowanus Canal, and I remember Kurt and I were having a conversation trying to come up with different characters and their powers as we were leaving the studio and walking to get some lunch. I wanted all of the characters to have kind of goofy origins based on things or places in the city, and just take it to a ridiculous degree; so we were around the Gowanus Canal, which is the nastiest body of water in the country, I mean, it’s horrible. It’s like, multicolored; it’s really just a run-off ditch for a bunch of different waste dumps and things, seriously – look it up. Every now and then you’ll see them testing it to see the different acidity levels and different bacterias and diseases and things people find in there, like they’ll find a dead shark in there, or something like that, or a tiger skull; weird things. So the joke I’ve always had was that if anyone fell in there, they would be horribly mutated – so Kurt and I were walking around talking about different characters and different ideas and powers or personalities, and as we were crossing the Gowanus, there was a really big poster or mural or painting or whatever of the silhouette of an octopus, and Kurt looked at it and said, “Well that’s a character,” and I was like, “Yeah, that’s Gowanus Pete right there.”

Emily: That’s great. You’ve done a really cool digital thing with Power Play – tell me about your digital process and how that all happened; and what your thoughts are on digital comics.

Reilly: The thing that really drove me to do a digital comic was pretty much that no one else was doing it. I saw an area that seemed ripe for comics and for comic artists to play around with, and nobody else seemed to be jumping on it. There are a couple of little webcomics here and there that do stuff; but none that really stood out or that did it for a long-term thing.

Emily: I think we should be making a distinction here; because Marvel and DC and all are doing digital comics, in the sense of putting their stationary paper comics online to be viewed with digital readers; but what I’m thinking of is the way that you’ve manipulated the panels and images with Power Play. So that’s what we’re talking about here.

Reilly: Right; well ComiXology came out, and they were translating all of these Marvel and DC comics, so the typical, mainstream, superhero comics were finding this new digital home through their application. And I was looking at this, thinking, “This is a really cool thing; somebody is going to see this and start making comics designed specifically for ComiXology, or this type of digital format, and they’re going to do it in a way that uses the new digital storytelling techniques.

The thing is, ComiXology did a great job of translating the comic to the iPad, and there are other companies that have tried doing that, but they’ve seemed to trip over the fact that the comics page and the iPad screen, or even the computer screen, aren’t the same shape. Everybody else was stumbling over this, and you had to scroll, or everything was shrunk too small, or you had to zoom in yourself, or there’d be all sorts of problems with it; and ComiXology had found a pretty simple way around that, and it worked great, and it looked great. Yeah, there were a few hoops they had to jump through, but the way they solved those problems; like their guided view thing, you know, where they would actually zoom in on a part of an image that needed to be zoomed in on; and then they would zoom out for the rest of it; or it would pan from one thing to another, and fade from one thing to another, was great. And I thought, “Man, look at all of this stuff they’re pretty much doing by accident at this point; somebody’s going to come around and do this on purpose and it’s going to make an awesome comic.” But nobody was doing it, so then I thought, “Well maybe I could do it. Maybe I’ll be the guy to do that!”

So that’s why we started working on Power Play. I was talking about how we came up with the idea for Power Play; and one of the things we wanted to do was to take advantage of the new mediums. You know, one of the big problems in the entire economy right now is that young people don’t leave their houses or spend money. They’re just on Facebook, downloading things for free, and sharing with their friends, and it’s at the point where if something is not on Facebook, nobody’s going to see it, or at least not as many people as should see it. So we said, “Whatever we do, we want to get it in front of as many people as possible, so let’s come up with a way of doing a really great thing that we can link through Facebook, and everyone can share it; and that takes advantage of that. “ And ComiXology was developed so perfectly for that. So we jumped on that.

Emily: I still point to your comic to show people how this can work. I know there may be a few now, but it’s still not as big as I would expect.

Reilly: You’re right; I’m surprised more people haven’t jumped on it. There are a few others that were first adopters like me, like Alex de Campi and Christine Larsen (Valentine). They actually beat me to the punch; we were already working on Power Play when I saw that come out, and I was like, “Aw, crap, we’re not the first anymore! We’ve really gotta get this thing going!” There’s also David Gallaher and Steve Ellis’s Box 13, which ComiXology actually hired them to make; so it’s really made for their app. And reading that, you really see how their [Steve & Dave’s] thought process is developing on how to use it. How they are learning. At first, it was just as simple as, let’s just make the panels the size or shape of a screen. But then they started seeing more potential. I was in the same building – Steve Ellis’s art studio was just down the hall from mine – so I was working on Power Play while they were working on that, so we’d bounce ideas off of each other. So it was cool to see how some of that stuff ended up playing in their comic.

Most recently, Marvel had their Infinite Comics, which I was happy to be a part of. They have the big AvX [Avengers vs. X-Men] story, and I’d been talking about what I’ve been doing with Power Play to Marvel for awhile, like, “Let me do one of these for you!” I talked to all the editors… Nick Lowe was the one who was really spearheading it over there; or at least when I was talking to them Nick Lowe and Jordan White were the editors that I worked with on that. They’re awesome for seeing that potential and taking a risk, because, you know, Marvel doesn’t often do stuff like that, where they don’t know how it will turn out; and it’s pretty impressive to see a big company like that try to take a risk on something that’s so new. But at the same time I was doing this, Mark Waid was starting his Thrillbent thing, so he was talking all about it. So he wrote the three AvX Infinite installments, and I drew the third one; which was cool. And that was all ComiXology stuff, and it’s all just like how Power Play was done.

Emily: That’s fantastic. I’ll have to look that up, because I haven’t seen it yet. So now, what does the future hold for you?

Reilly: Well I’m not exclusive with Marvel, but I’m currently working on some Scarlet Spider stuff, and we’ll see what happens from there. I’ve still got Power Play going on, and I’ve got some other side projects… I have so many things going on right now!

Emily: It sounds like it! Well Reilly, thanks so much for talking with us , and I look forward to seeing what you come up with next!

…And until then, ComicMix readers, remember to tune in next Tuesday for my interview with Dean Haspiel, and Servo Lectio!

TUESDAY AFTERNOON: Why Does Michael Davis Read Comics?

WEDNESDAY: Mike Gold Attacks Mars Attacks!


Avengers Second Screen App now Available

Marvel Studios has announced that people with iPods and iPads can now download the Avengers Second Screen app to access additional bonus material to extend your Avengers film experience.

Here’s the fact sheet:

App Overview:                     Second Screen transforms the movie watching experience by allowing viewers to explore the story behind the film perfectly synched on a second device, like an iPad™ or laptop, without interrupting their enjoyment of the movie. By accessing the Second Screen companion application on their Internet-connected device, consumers are able to dive deeper into the film by engaging with key elements of the movie.

This groundbreaking new application allows users to interact with their Blu-ray™ player by simply starting the Blu-ray movie, and then syncing Second Screen to the film automatically by following the easy on-screen instructions.  Once connected, they can explore interactive galleries, play games, and learn interesting facts about the scenes they’re watching.

Features:                              Enter the S.H.I.E.L.D. database on your second screen device accessing personnel files, comic book origins and exclusive interactive content with The Avengers Initiative: A Marvel Second Screen Experience. By downloading the app, you can:

–          Become a S.H.I.E.L.D. agent and participate in the Item 47 Comic-Con experience either remotely or in the field.

–          Examine the confidential files of the Avengers including heroes, agents and villains.

–          Sync to the movie and explore exclusive behind-the-scenes interactive content such as visual effects labs where you can explore sequences layer by layer.

–          Seamlessly link the characters, stories, and scenes of the movie back to their comic book origins through the interactive Marvel digital reader.

–          View the major events of the Marvel Cinematic Universe – Phase 1 on the definitive timeline of all 6 movies.

Devices:                                                iPad or PC/MAC computer with FLASH

Formats:                               Optimized for Blu-ray™ and included in Combo Pack releases.

NEW – Now works with iTunes Extras

Access:                                  Visit http://itunes.apple.com/us/app/avengers-initiative-marvel/id539555261?mt=8

Select your version (either iPad™ or Web)

Sync to the movie or explore on your own

Currently only available in US and English-speaking Canada

Dracula World Order goes Direct to Shops and Digital

Former BOOM! Stuidos exec/writer Ian Brill has been teasing us all week with some images and today he finally unveiled what he’s been up to. His new book is bypassing the Diamond distribution system and while he’s not alone in this bold step, he is one of the ore high profile people doing this. Here’s the formal release:

June 8th 2012 – Los Angeles – When Ian Brill set out to write a new vision of Dracula, he called on some of the greatest talents in comics to bring it to life —Tonci Zonjic (WHO IS JAKE ELLIS?), Rahsan Ekedal (ECHOES, SOLOMN KANE), Declan Shalvey (THUNDERBOLTS, 28 DAYS LATER), and Gabriel Hardman (HULK, BETRAYAL OF THE PLANET OF THE APES). This June 13th, comic fans everywhere can find DRACULA WORLD ORDER at select retailers across the North America and exclusively worldwide digitally on comiXology across their entire platform including iPhone, iPad, Android, Kindle Fire and the web.

Following in the foot steps of Sam Humphries’ OUR LOVE IS REAL and SACRIFICE, Ian Brill’s DRACULA WORLD ORDER is self-published by the author and is offered digitally on comiXology while at the same time a very limited 300 copy print run will be available from these retailers:

  • 4 Color Fantasies in Rancho Cucamonga, CA
  • Beach Ball Comics in Anaheim, CA
  • The Beguiling in Toronto, Canada
  • Collector’s Paradise in Winnetka and Pasadena, CA
  • Comix Experience in San Francisco, CA
  • Desert Island in Brooklyn, NY
  • Laughing Ogre Comics in Lansdowne, VA, Fairfax, VA and Columbus, OH
  • Meltdown Comics in Los Angeles, CA
  • Midtown Comics in New York City, NY
  • Speeding Bullet Comics in Norman, OK
  • It can also be purchased online from Things From Another World.

Featuring an all star cast of today’s best artists and written by Ian Brill, DRACULA WORLD ORDER tells the story of how the greatest villain of all, Count Dracula, takes advantage of a world on the brink of economic collapse. In a world where the top 1% of the population are vampires, the rest of the human race are prisoners…or the 1%’s next meal. Dracula’s own son Alexandru leads the 99% in rebellion against the Vampire elite – in a battle that will leave you breathless.

Within four startling chapters Tonci Zonjic (WHO IS JAKE ELLIS?), Rahsan Ekedal (ECHOES, SOLOMN KANE), Declan Shalvey (THUNDERBOLTS, 28 DAYS LATER), and Gabriel Hardman (HULK, BETRAYAL OF THE PLANET OF THE APES) bring their amazing talents to Brill’s story. With Zonjic, Jordie Bellaire (BETRAYAL OF THE PLANET OF THE APES, FANTASTIC FOUR), and Stephen Downer (DRACULA: THE COMPANY OF MONSTERS, DRACULA THE UNCONQUERED) bring searing color art, with the amazing Josh Krach lettering the book. All of this under an amazing cover by Shalvey and Bellaire.

Advance praise for DRACULA WORLD ORDER:

“This would be incredibly cool even if it didn’t have some of my favorite artists working! Brill is making one of those books that get me excited about comics, and I would like to read a lot more of this. Read DWO and spread the word, this is the real deal!” says Jeff Parker, writer of HULK and THUNDERBOLTS.

Brill will be celebrating the release of DRACULA WORLD ORDER is dual signings on the release date.  He will be at Beach Ball Comics in Anaheim, CA from 12-2 and Collector’s Paradise in Winnetka, CA from 5-8.


Original Comic Art and Digital Comics: The Common Bond

A stroll around a comic convention is a lot different today than it used to be when it comes to experiencing original comic art which for me, as a young aspiring comic artist, was the highlight of any show. I would always immediately venture directly towards artist alley where pros and amateurs alike would form a welcoming community of comic art practitioners. To me it seemed less like an opportunity for the creators to market their work and more of a joyous reunion of folks with a common bond: The love of comics and a need to create them.

Maybe it is just a product of comic conventions no longer being the casual events they used to be, held in basement ballrooms of fading city hotels with the most sophisticated displays being a hand lettered card stock sign hung on a pipe and drape background.  Professional comic artists were not viewed as the superstars they are today. They were heroes that we related to more like a favorite uncle who always new how to appeal to our inner child. Their art touched us in a personal way that established a relationship that was respected between them and their fans.

Those were the days when you did not wait in line to meet your favorite creator. At best you gathered around their table and shared as a group, listening to their stories, watching them sketch, and learning from their teachings which, though small casual tidbits of technique, were gems of insight into the magical world of creating comics.

Stacked high on their tables would be pages of original art that could be thumbed through and purchased  for prices as low as ten or fifteen bucks! The opportunity to scan through those pages was a chance to stare into a window of a professional comics bullpen. Each page told a production story that was highlighted by the scents of bristol board and india ink often commingling with odors of white-out and rubber cement.

To be able to view those pages and see script notes in a corner, blue lines behind lettering, pen strokes appearing as a texture on the surface and brush strokes laying a deep wash in large shaded areas with a barely visible “x” etched in pencil beneath was a hands-on lesson in every page.

I always got a kick out of seeing revisions. Panels or words would be cut out with an x-acto and replaced with art that was cut to fit perfectly into the hole and secured from behind with a strip of masking tape. Splash pages had photostat logos pasted on leaving a trail of ever yellowing rubber cement beneath.

Every page was art, yet each was also just a mechanical, a production board from which final films would be photographed on large upright “stat” cameras. Each was a path of history, chronicling the creation of the page through the hands of the writer, penciler, letterer, inker, editor and production hand. Void of color, the line art resonated with a power of its own lending a new found appreciation for comics in black and white that would empower the independent comic publishers of the day.

It is still possible to marvel at original art at conventions but the atmosphere is so much more hurried that it is difficult to be absorbed into each piece. Those “uncles” are slowly passing away leaving a void where once was a nurturing wisdom behind the craft of each page. In its place is a new energy that is equally intoxicating, a new brand of comic artist with an entrepreneurial spirit hawking their own works.

It is  thrilling to see the new, unlimited variety of comics, invigorating to see the community widening to include a wave of talented women that was always sadly lacking in that bygone era. What is missing is the original art, replaced by an ernest need to sell small print runs and assorted related merchandise or to direct readers to a growing web-comic. The art exists, but digitally, and can be panned easily on an iPad evoking a sterile creative process free of the sensory stimulators that fueled a personal romance with comic production in my formative years.

As I sit here at my keyboard, I’m suddenly realizing that I am now one of those “uncles” I came to embrace. Not that I could hold a candle to any of them but I have an opportunity to share from my experiences, as they did, only from the venue of this blog instead of a convention table. The new generation of comic creator, who creates digitally, shares too, through all kinds of forums and social networks on the internet.  An aspiring comic creator no longer has to wait, as I did, for an annual comic convention to experience the knowledge of a comic pro, they can watch a tutorial on Youtube or follow a comment thread on Facebook!

Yes, I miss the sensory experience of the creative process of comics. Yes, I wonder if creators are losing an opportunity to cash in by not having physical comic art to sell.  But it is not worth pining over any of my attachment to these relics while I am witnessing the future of comics as it blossoms before my eyes. The community of comic artists is no longer small and relegated to a musty convention hall. It is vast and continues to grow. It exists at our fingertips any time we wish to access it.

Today’s comic artists are creating much more than original art. They are creating the future of the medium. Support them any way you can if you love comics. Go read their web comics. Buy their print on demand books. Order their merchandise. Join them on forums and share ideas. Learn from them and teach others. We are all part of the same comics community that began in those old convention halls. Embrace that past and build the future.

Bill Cucinotta and I, here at CO2 Comics, are committed to both and are excited to be part of this growing comics community of artists with a keen eye on the future. No matter how comics are made we intend to maintain that common bond we always had with those comic creators in artist alley: The love of comics and a need to create them.

Celebrating Thirty Years of Comics History!

Gerry Giovinco

Mike Gold Can Count To 32!

I used to provoke this asinine debate – one of a great many – that if we refer to comics published circa 1943 to 1950 as 52-pagers, we should refer to contemporary comics as 36-pagers. I always got pushback from my fellow fanboys; consistency is in the mind of the beholders, hobgoblins that we may be.

Well, finally, decades after I threw in the towel, this debate has been resolved. And not in my favor.

This physically came to my attention in the form of an advance copy of IDW’s Frankenstein Alive, Alive! It’s by Steve Niles and Bernie Wrightson, which is some amazing pedigree. Of course, Bernie has been known for his efforts with the Frankenstein Monster since well before his first name grew that extra E, and Steve has been l’enfant terrible of horror-themed comics for the past decade. Both earned their high reputations the hard way: they worked for it. Joining the two is sort of like taking bits and pieces of two gifted bodies and stitching them together.

Hence, Frankenstein Alive, Alive! It is at least as brilliant as we have every right to expect. You’ll probably just gawk at the art for a couple hours, but the joy is totally revisited once you realize you’re actually supposed to read the thing. It comes out next week. If you want it early, get yourself your own column.

But that’s not my point… which is why I can get away with such a short review. After reading Frankenstein Alive, Alive!, I had the uncanny feeling something was missing. No, not my brain, Igor. I went back and counted the pages.

32. Not 36 counting the cover. 32 total. The cover was there because you can’t publish a pamphlet starting with page two, but it had what we in the publishing racket call a “self-cover.” That means there’s no four-page addition on higher quality paper surrounding the interior. It’s all of the same stock, all printed at once without the additional collating and binding step and it saves a bit on shipping costs, saving the publisher money. The story page count is 19 pages, a tad short but there’s plenty of groovy supplemental material.

So I checked another IDW book set for the same week’s release: John Byrne’s Trio #1. I haven’t read it yet, so you won’t have to suffer from another half-assed semi-review. But it, too, is 32 pages total.  We get 20 pages of story here, but there’s advertising material in the back.

So, are we being short-changed? Well, maybe a tiny bit. For $3.99 we should get more than 19 or 20 pages of story. Otherwise, no, not in the least.

The thing is, self-cover comics have been quietly creeping up on the racks for a while now. I prefer to read comics on my iPad, so it took the power of a Niles/Wrightson collaboration to make be return to the traditional stapled way of life. I can hardly fault publishers for this effort, given the higher quality of paper stock generally used these days.

But it is a bit of a sea change, one of the last before the 36… sorry, 32 page comics pamphlet disappears into the digital ozone. And that saddens me, ever so slightly.

Whoops. I got over it.

THURSDAY: Dennis O’Neil Waves The Flag!


MARC ALAN FISHMAN: How an Indie Comic Creator Prepares for a Con

Hello, all! With but a few short days before my little company, Unshaven Comics, takes C2E2 by storm, I figure I might as well abuse what little power I have to hype it up. Then I thought that you can get more flies with honey than poo. Maybe my metaphor sucks, but I think the point is clear: Hype is good, but sharing experiences is better. So, consider this the MTV’s True Life: I’m an Indie Comic Creator of articles. Except there will be 10% less talking head interviews.

The first time we crossed the aisle to become “creators” instead of “fans” the whole world was turned on its ear. Whereas I used to mill about the Artist Alley with careful consideration to not make eye-contact with the would-be pitch men, here I was in their spot muttering “How Rude!” under my breath when passersby floated past our table without so much as a nod of the head. It was a sobering experience, all in ten minutes. Luckily for me, Unshaven Comics has been and will always be a communal effort. Sitting next to my two best friends of nearly twenty years makes the cons only a pleasure, never a chore. But I digress. With every con we’ve attended, big or small, we’ve always learned a new lesson to bring to the next.

Lesson one? You can pitch anything you want, but if you don’t believe in it, it shows. Our first con, Wizard World Chicago 2008, we had only The March: Crossing Bridges in America to sell. Don’t get me wrong, we were (and still are) proud of the work. But it was commissioned work. Educational too. 54 pages of upbeat messages, smiling, walking, and immigrant empowering narrative. Pitch that next to the guy selling the Anime Crime Noir story features boobs and guns and see where it gets you.

Simply put, we learned at con #1 that if we were to be successful, we would have to promote material that made us excited to create. For many artists in the alley, their work sits on the table as a testament to their exploration of the craft, or their desire to turn a quick dollar. But for those people pitching their wares because they truly believe what they created is something to note… those are the folks we gravitate to.

Lesson two. Presentation matters. Our first con? We had some sloppy Café Press tee-shirts, a too-long table skirt, and some books. Over time, we added to the menagerie: Business cards, higher quality tee shirts, an 8 ft. banner to sit behind us, and a black tablecloth made our little slice of Artist Alley a bit more homey. We’ve since decided to drop the massive backdrop. Trust me, carrying three paint buckets full of cement, a pile of painted PVCs, and all your materials doesn’t make for an easy trip from car to table. Still to come? A handy rack to display multiple issues. Maybe a small red carpet for those standing at our table. Heh. Artist alley showcases to the masses where you as a company (be it a one manned structure or a small self-publisher such as ourselves), and if you look like you just rolled in from Kinkos, it’ll show on the table.

Lesson three. The pitch. Simply put, we wouldn’t be a success without Kyle Gnepper. Not only a founding member of the company, lifelong friend, and contributing writer and production assistant… at the cons he becomes something far more powerful. He becomes a visceral selling machine; Fearless, hungry, and completely oblivious to whoever stops in front of his cone of selling. Like Hal Jordan facing down Darkseid, Kyle has pitched to Dan DiDio, Tom Brevoort, Mike Richardson, and numerous creators without any knowing smirk just passion to show off our wares.

Did they buy the book? DiDio did, because I guilted him into it. Now you can’t necessarily count Matt or me out of assisting in sales. We both bring our own flair to the pitching process. Matt’s steady hands produce copious commissioned sketches, delighting many passersby. I stay between Matt and Kyle… part salesman, part artist. Sometimes I’ll doodle on the iPad, other times I’ll help us market and coordinate future events, partnerships, and relationships. Don’t knock it… it’s what landed me here at ComicMix.

The final lesson. Growth. Every con we try to bring something new to the table. For C2E2 we are debuting a live action Samurnaut, as funded by our fantastic Kickstarter backers. We have three books (and one repackaged book) on sale at the table, as well as posters, and commissions. Last year we almost sold 1000 books across all the conventions we visited. This year? We plan to break that barrier, and continue making new material. As we gain new fans and followers, we’ve gain amazing friends. And while we may never grow out of the artist alley, get our shot at the big time, or graduate to ‘featured guests’ at any con… the best lesson we’ve learned puts it all in perspective:

It’s not the prize at the end of the quest you do this for… it’s the thrill of the journey.

This weekend, Marc Alan Fishman and the Unshaven Comics crew will be at Booth K19 in Artists Alley. Don’t be offended if fellow ComicMixers Glenn Hauman, Adriane Nash and Mike Gold are hanging around interfering with sales from time to time.

SUNDAY: John Ostrander Leaves Morocco!


I’ve seen the light.

I’ve seen the future of comics.

I had a meeting yesterday with a company that is going to change the game on the net and can change for comics and creators. I’ve haven’t been this excited since I was 17 and my very first real girlfriend Yvonne Stallworth said, “My parents won’t be home until the morning.”

At 17you know what that means, right fellas?

Poon tang…yeah.

Or in my case spending the night saying; “Please…please…please.”  Before you think I was begging for poon tang; “Please, Please, Please” is the title of a James Brown song I was singing… as I was begging for poon tang.

I can’t talk about the company or what they are doing…no that’s not true, I can talk about it but I’m hedging my bets just in case I’m wrong…which, by the way, I’m not.

That way if they crash and burn I’m protected and if they succeed I’m golden!

All the above said, I’m at a lost as to what was the last game changing moment in comics.

I guess it was the New 52 from DC.

I guess.

I’m not sure because to say something is a game changer is a big deal. Because it’s such a big deal I started thinking, what does it take to be a real game changer?

This is what I came up with. Areal game changer is a person or event that creates a new way of looking at things and years later that way has become the way.

So, with my personal criteria noted what follows are what I consider the most important game change decisions or people who have done so since I’ve been reading comics. You may disagree and if so feel free to amend, add or challenge some or all of my choices.

This list is in NO particular order.

  • Todd McFarlane’s Spider-Man
  • Image Comics
  • Jack Kirby
  • Stan Lee
  • Dwayne McDuffie
  • First Comics
  • Mike Gold
  • Milestone Media
  • Death of Captain Marvel
  • Death of Superman
  • The New 52
  • The iPad
  • The Killing Joke
  • Crisis on Infinite Earths
  • Secret Wars
  • Death of Barry Allen
  • Neil Gaiman’s Sandman
  • Neil Gaiman
  • Kirby’s fourth world
  • Death of Gwen Stacy
  • Dave McKean
  • Bill Sienkiewicz
  • San Diego Comic Con International
  • Teenage Ninja Mutant Turtles
  • Alan Speiegal
  • Arkham Asylum
  • Paul Levitz
  • Jenette Kahn
  • Axel Alonzo
  • Howard Chaykin
  • Dark Horse
  • Mike Richardson
  • Len Wein
  • Marv Wolfman
  • The A.P.E convention
  • John Jennings

Like I said the above list is in no particular order. Don’t send me comments about McFarlane being before Stan Lee, the list is in no particular order.


Now. Have at it!



MIKE GOLD: The Paperless Chase

According to Pew Research, one out of every five adult Americans now owns a tablet or an e-book reader. That was before Apple announced its new e-textbook initiative.

Imagine buying all your college textbooks for about a hundred bucks and then carrying them around in a 1.33 pound device. You’ll never need your locker again. Students won’t pop their spines carrying a backpack that is so heavy PeTA wouldn’t let you strap one onto a mule.

And if you’re a comics fan, you’ll never need to schlep around a couple hundred long boxes. Well, not unless you want to.

So people should just stop bitching about electronic comic books. It’s not controversial any more. It doesn’t begat bootlegging; certainly not now that the government is shutting down bootleg sites. Just as soon as publishers start releasing their books at a fair price point – there are no printing costs, no paper costs, no shipping, no returns, and no alternate covers, so $2.99 (let alone $3.99) is a rip-off.

“But I like the feel of the paper,” you might whine. Yes, and I enjoy hearing the crack of the buggy-whip. Deal with it. Stop cutting down trees and milking our ever-dwindling oil supply to print and distribute all those books and magazines you read once – if at all. Publishing is an ecological nightmare; e-publishing doesn’t cure the problem but, like the hybrid and electronic engines, it helps. A lot.

The other by-product is even more interesting: we are breeding a new generation of readers. People are buying e-books and magazines and newspapers and we’re reading them on our iPads and Kindles and such. For a full year now, adult hardcovers and paperbacks, adult mass market books, and children’s/young adult hardcover and paperback have exceeded hard copy sales. In the past year, Borders finally bit the dust, Barnes and Nobles continues to cough up blood, and tablet/e-reader sales skyrocketed.

Tell me where our future lies.

If sales slow down considerably – forgetting how Apple’s sold zillions of iPads to schools and to businesses, forgetting how the iPad 3 is coming within the next 10 weeks, forgetting textbook sales – then it’ll take as long as, oh, maybe three years before over half of the population of American families have one.

Yes, you don’t have to use the device for reading. You can do a lot of other things with your tablet: play games, surf the Internet, write stuff, listen to music, watch teevee, even make phone calls via Skype. All I need is a comfy chair, a toilet, a shower stall, a refrigerator, a microwave and a great pair of headphones and I’m set for life.

Comics store owners – the smart ones – are beginning to adjust. They’re filling in the vacuum created by Borders’ vaporization by expanding their trade paperback and hardcover racks. They’re getting involved in more comics-related tchotchkes, more heroic fantasy movie stuff, and more innovative and distinctive product in general. They no longer have to endure as much terror as they go through the monthly Diamond catalog to guess which non-returnable pamphlets are going to put them out of business.

So, again I ask you – as comics readers, as book readers.

Where does our future lie?

THURSDAY: Dennis O’Neil



From Laurie S. Powers’ Blog-
RIDING THE PULP TRAIL is now available as an eBook for the Nook, the iPad, the iPhone, the iPhoneTouch, and the Kindle!!! At the price of $4.99, you get 340 pages of some of the BEST pulp Western stories around! (Not that I’m biased or anything.)

Here are the links to the various formats:

Buy it at Barnes & Noble for the Nook ($4.99)

Buy it at the Apple store for iPad, iPhone and iPhoneTouch($4.99)

Buy it at Amazon for the Kindle ($4.99)

Here’s what one reviewer has said about RIDING THE PULP TRAIL:

Laurie Powers has been gathering, preserving, researching, and publishing the pulp work of her late grandfather, Paul S. Powers. Here, she has gathered six of his stories that have seen print and six that were previously unpublished in a handsome trade paperback edition. The first story is a reprint, the second unpublished, and so on in that order. There is one Sonny Tabor story. The stories are a delicious mix of action, humor, and colorful characters. All are infused with simple morality and the need for justice in a land where the law is sparse and sometimes suborned by evil. What struck me most about the stories were their seeming freshness, as though they’d been written this year and not 60 or so years ago. Their most pulpish attributes are the titles, which glow purple and proud. A few favorites: “Guns at Jailbird Ranch;” “Buzzards Hate Bullets;” “Judgment Day on Whiskey Trail.”
A huge vote of thanks goes to Laurie Powers for discovering the lost manuscripts, resurrecting the old stories, and making them available in a handsome package. She also contributes an informative introduction detailing her discovery of Paul S. Powers’ career, previously unknown to her, and how she came to gather the stories for this volume. Let’s hope it’s the first of many.

JOHN OSTRANDER: Hits and Misses

Like everyone else, I watch too much TV and see the occasional movie or read a book or two and I have my own reactions to them. Here’s some of what I’ve seen, good bad and indifferent.

Boss, on Starz starring Kelsey Grammar as a tough mayor of Chicago. I’m an old time Chicago boy and a series set in Chicago, dealing with its mayor, and using actual Chicago locations, will always attract my eye. I was so looking forward to this. However, by the third episode, I was taping it and I haven’t gotten around to watching those episodes and then I just stopped. I didn’t care. Too much melodramatic bullshit.

The main character, Tom Kane (obviously named for Tom Keane, a formerly very strong alderman in Chicago, later imprisoned), is diagnosed in the opening moments with some sort of brain disease that can’t be cured, can’t be operated on, and is going to mess him up royally before the end and, of course, he opts to tell no one. We never get a chance to see who he is without the disease; it’s part of what defines the character from the beginning. His wife is an ice queen although very supportive politically. They have a daughter who is now an (I think) Episcopal minister. The parents are estranged from her because she has also been a junkie in the past and looks like she’s going to be that way again. The mayor also has a young female aide who is pretty and has sex with inappropriate men apparently in semi-public places because, you know, ratings.

The creators have a good cast but they don’t apparently trust the setting enough to generate real material because they saddle it with all the nonsense above. You only have to look at political drama in Chicago and Illinois in recent years to find plenty of material. The prison bound Rod Blagojevitch alone could have been a stunning model for a TV series if some of his doings (real or alleged) didn’t appear so preposterous. He sounds too made up. He’s also a hell of a lot more interesting to me than Boss turned out to be.

You want something of Chicago that has real snap and bite? Max Allan Collins has released a volume collecting his Nate Heller short mysteries called Chicago Lightning. I recommended his Nate Heller novel, Bye Bye Baby, earlier and I’m equally enthused for this. It runs the gamut of Nate Heller’s career and is great reading. Highly recommended.

Anyone who knows me knows that I’ve gotten heavily into Westerns. I’ll plug myself by reminding folks that DC is releasing The Kents historical western miniseries that I wrote. It was originally done in twelve monthly issues and then gathered into a single TPB. This time they’re releasing it in three 100-page spectaculars, each gathering four issues (it was written that way, every four issues an arc). The first two of these are now out and the third will be out next month. Some of my best stuff, I think, and my artists – Timothy Truman and Tom Mandrake – have been my partners-in-crime for a long time.

Anyway, this is really a prelude to my looking in on AMC’s western Hell On Wheels. Another series I was looking forwards to and, again, I started taping it and then abandoned it. Very violent (which is okay but it seems violent for the sake of violence) and I haven’t gotten into the characters. You could spot who was going to be dead early on. It wants to be Deadwood which, even with its faults, was superlative. I may give it a try again at some point but I’m just not feeling drawn to it right now.

Finally, to end on an up note – Martin Scorsese’s Hugo. Saw it and loved it. It’s a love letter to the movies from a master film maker who loves movies. It drew me in from the opening frames. There’s a long tracking shots (who does long tracking shots these days? How many directors can?) that pulls you right in. I’ve seen some grumblings about its length and pace, but you won’t hear that from from me. Scorsese loves movies but he also loves story and he weaves a wonderful, rich, emotional story with a wonderful cast and an eye towards detail.

We saw it in 3-D and that’s how it should be seen. Simply one of the best uses of 3-D I’ve seen, and I’m including Avatar. This is what happens when a master filmmaker gets a new tool – not a gimmick, but a tool – and figures out how to use it. Every effect is to tell the story and make it more real, more immediate.

I also know a lot of people who are waiting to see it on DVD or their iPhones or iPads or whatever and that would be a mistake. It’s meant to be seen in a theater; if I could find it somewhere near me in IMAX, I would go see it that way. I’ll own the eventual DVD but it will simply remind me of the experience I had at the movie theater. That’s what Hugo was for me – an experience and one I’m so glad to have had.

All the above are just my reactions. Your mileage may vary.

MONDAY: Mindy Newell