In fact, I’m in Pennsylvania having just completed my fourth convention in eight weeks. Yup: Chicago Wizard World, Baltimore Comic Con, New York Comic Con, and last – and best – the Kokomo (Indiana) Comic Con. That latter one came highly recommended by ComicMixers Denny O’Neil and Marc Alan Fishman… and they were absolutely right.
Whereas I am now completely exhausted, I had more fun than a monkey with whippits. I saw lots and lots of good friends and co-workers, made some new ones, and I seem to have managed to avoid pissing off the usual number of people. I guess I’m maturing a bit – as evidenced by my now being exhausted. Of course, because I avoid flying these days I had my car so I took a few side trips along the way, including a great lunch and great conversation with some great folks in Chicago – you might have seen the picture on FaceBook. And it’s always fun going back to the old homestead.
So, other than some sadly not-malicious gossip, I am woefully uninformed about what happened in the comics world this past week… if anything. Anything new, that is. So, no posturing and politicking from me this week.
The main reason I still go to comics conventions after – gasp – 49 years is to talk with the fans. Sure, I do some business when I have to and I sign a lot of comics, which is good for the ol’ self-esteem. But being able to get into one-on-one conversations with the folks who read the books, watch the movies and teevee shows, invest time in deploying our medium in educational and expansionist activities… you just can’t operate in the public media without having a clue what the “end-users” desire, and what they don’t care for.
As our audience has become more and more diverse, this quest for input becomes all the more important. Well, at least to me and those who are charged with putting up with me.
So, I thank everybody with whom I spoke these past eight weeks. You improve our work, and you feed my ego. Whereas the latter is virtually insatiable, it’s all good.
Thank you, comics fans, convention promotors, somewhat bewildered reporters and my companion denizens of the donut shop. I might be exhausted right now, but it’s a good type of exhaustion.
Whew! Another New York Comic Con is in the books. As usual, there was a lot of conversations about how these big conventions “aren’t about comics anymore” and instead focus on other fan-centric efforts. I’m maintain there’s still a lot of comics at big conventions. And I’d take it step further – one of the most interesting things at this year’s show was the plethora of creative entrepreneurs who use the show as platform to launch their comic focused efforts.
Here’s a few:
Mark Sparacio is a longtime comics artist with mainstream work on Sgt. Rock, Jonah Hex and Captain Action. He’s become a staple of the convention circuit, including San Diego Comic-Con, selling his character illustrations. I was surprised, but shouldn’t have been, to see his work on a lovely Wonder Woman program cover for the Rochester Comic Con last year. Mark and his wife Lisa were working it hard at their New York Comic Con booth and I was particularly intrigued by his new graphic novel, Chelsea Dagger. It looks like a mash-up of Marvel’s S.H.I.E.L.D. and a Tom Clancy novel. Sparacio talked about his research with members of the military, and how encouraged he was. More info here: https://chelseadaggercomics.wordpress.com
It’s no relation to the Fratelli’s song of the same name, but I like that band and that song too.
Mark Vogur is a kid who loves monsters and 60s culture, and just happened to grow up to become an author. His latest, Groovy: When Flower Power Bloomed in Pop Culture, is published by TwoMorrows and even though it’s not officially on sale until Nov 15th, he had copies at New York Comic Con. The book is packed with 60s ephemera and lovingly designed with mindful respect of the source material. More on this treasure in an upcoming column.
Has “world-building” replaced “transmedia” as the hot phrase among the entertainment development community? I hope so – I never liked “transmedia”, although I get it. I ran across Liberty Endures in the small press section of NYCC, and they get both these concepts. The team behind this concept has created a fascinating world, and tells the story in comics and serialized audio dramas. Their booth was fun and their site, libertyendures.com , is too.
When it comes to comic art, I’m a bit of a traditionalist. I still love and have been recently enjoying giants from the past like Alex Raymond, Frank Robbins or Stan Drake That’s why it’s all the more surprising that I’ve become such a big fan of Space Pirates, the new Image comic by . Alexis Ziritt. This one is batshit crazy. It’s like drinking too much tequila in a biker bar that only uses black lights and everyone wears fluorescent colors. Ziritt grew up reading comics in Venezuela and just loves making them today.
Vincent Ferrante is a determined creator who’s become a regular on the NYCC exhibition floor. His company, Monarch Comics, started with Witchhunter and now has expanded to including several titles including Horror Island and Evil Monkey Man. Ferrante is out there each and every year, banging the drum and introducing new fans to what is clearly a labor of love. I tried to catch up with him this year, but each time his booth was swamped! Join the party at www.monarchcomics.com.
Tina Fine is a NYC author with a story to tell, and she’s chosen comics as her medium to tell it. Off Girl is a new comic about woman in New York City with a big problem. Artist Mark Reihill brings Fine’s vision to life with a animation-isa style. I admired Fine’s hard work selling at her booth, and even spotted her booth model, in full Off Girl regalia, on the show floor. https://www.offgirl.com
I met the Lew and Jon, the entrepreneurs of FanSets last year in the Javits Center at Mission: New York, the Star Trek Convention. They create high quality enamel pins for hard-core collectors and casual fans. This entrepreneurial enterprise has rapidly grown in a year to include several new licenses including Harry Potter, Firefly and DC comics. In fact, an obscure DC character pin, the Grown-Up Robin of Earth Two, is what attracted my attention in the first place. One gets the sense that these two co-founders work hard at these conventions and have fun doing it.
Living the dream or fighting the good fight? These creative entrepreneurs straddle that middle ground between these two abstract start-up concepts. It’s never easy, but my hat is off to these strong willed creators who get it all together and enter the arena; armed with talent but also equal doses of bravery and determination.
If a comics publisher falls in a forest and no one is around to hear it, does it make a sound effect?
Marvel Comics has been facing growing dissatisfaction over their sundry practices (both alleged and real) regarding their minority characters, their massive event stunts, some questionable actions by sundry staffers and freelancers… even the less-than-beloved reception to their new Inhumans teevee series, which premiered last month. Long-time Marvel fans – and I’m one of them myself – have never seen Marvel receive the stinky end of the stick before; certainly, not like this.
If you were on Marvel’s staff in some marketing or promotion capacity, you might have looked at last weekend’s New York Comic Con as a great opportunity to shine a light on all the groovy new stuff the House of Idea has in its pipeline. Buff up the shine on the corporate engine, so to speak. After all, New York City is Marvel’s home turf and the Comic Con claims (perhaps correctly) that they attract more visitors than the annual San Diego cluster-kerfuffle. This magic opportunity couldn’t have come at a better time.
Ahhh. Sadly, that didn’t work out so well.
First – and through no fault of their own – Marvel had to cancel the NYCC promotion for their new Netflix Punisher series. They even had star Jon Bernthal ready to entertain what was very, very likely to be a standing-room-only crowd. Unfortunately, Stephen Paddock decided to murder some five-dozen people in Las Vegas with a number of his 47 reimagined semi-automatics, and Marvel, like others in the entertainment business in a similar position, canceled the panel. For those who are unaware, The Punisher has been one of the most violent heroic fantasy characters since The Spider, back in the 1930s. It’s completely proper for Marvel to show its respect in this manner.
Still, it was a blow to their promotion campaign.
Almost immediately after that, Marvel found itself getting an overwhelming amount of criticism from just about every conceivable corner of our own personal Bizarro World for climbing into bed with Northrop Grumman, one of the world’s largest defense contractors. This bothered a lot of people, even though the campaign supposedly focused on Northrop Grumman’s aerospace activities.
Lots of folks – fans, retailers, comics professionals – pointed out that Marvel has spent a lot of time and energy bragging about how war profiteer Tony Stark abandoned his munitions business for moral reasons in their comic books and, now, their movies. If you conflate Northrop Grumman with Stark Industries (in all its names), you’re left with the reality that, unlike Stark, Northrop Grumman is all too real. In other words, they really make a lot of stuff that kills people. Sort of like Stephen Paddock, but without the profit incentive.
So Marvel killed that campaign, removed all presence from its online activities, and cancelled that NYCC panel as well. I feel their pain; nobody enjoys watching Daffy Duck get cheered on by the crickets.
Typically, one would think the only way Marvel can work its way out of their deep promotional hole is to produce better comic books. But, really, comic book sales are so low that the bad press exceeds the positive impact of better stories – even if anybodymreally knew what the general public considers “better comic books.” Besides, it takes a long time to produce comics stories – particularly when one has to consider the four-dimensional domino effect that comes along with being faithful to current continuity.
One would think that, 20 years from now, Spider-Man and the X-Men and the Hulk will still be around and all this would be on the level of a fart in a blizzard. I certainly hope that’s true, but being a Geek Culture historian, I am reminded that damn near everybody in America used to be quite familiar with The Lone Ranger, The Shadow, The Saint and Nick Carter… characters that have been revived frequently (and, often, bizarrely) but achieved little or no traction. It can happen to every commercial product. It’s been a while since I’ve been able to buy Burma Shave.
I hope this does not happen. I’ve been a comics fan since Eisenhower was president; I wouldn’t know what to do with my time.
Indian Summer, autumn’s first batch of orange-hued fallen leaves and New York Comic Con have all tumbled away, relegated to that odd intersection of fond memories and the comfortable knowledge of their inevitable return. The New York Comic Con, now the nation’s largest geek culture convention, seems to change each year. And after more than a decade of growth, it’s changing in many weird and wonderful ways.
I’ve been there from the beginning and, during the early years worked, on the show. We had a vision for the convention and it’s succeeded beyond our wildest dreams. And in many ways … it hasn’t.
The Big Picture
Each year on Thursday afternoon as the New York Comic Con bursts to life, ICV2’s Milton Greipp gathers industry leaders together to review the state of geek culture.
Comic Convention expert Rob Salkowitz was one speaker who addressed this business gathering. He spoke about the phenomenal growth of all conventions and attached revenue estimates to it all. “NYCC has grown to become one of the largest pop culture conventions in North America and a key part of an industry that has an economic impact of more than $4 billion,” reported Salkowitz.
That’s a lot of geek culture.
A Matter of Perspective
There are long-time fans who regularly attend conventions and new fans that bravely dive in each year. I routinely hear what long-time fans are thinking, and I felt I needed a fresh perspective. I wanted to hear what a new fan thinks. So this year, I invited my adventurous Aunt Elissa to NYCC. It would be her first time to the show.
Her gateway to comics was through the Archie universe. She ingested a steady diet of Stan Goldberg and Dan DeCarlo Archie comics during the 70s, and has now graduated to geek mainstays like Doctor Who and Tonner Dolls.
Elissa said she had a great time, but I wanted to dive a little deeper and understand what made this show work from a first-timer’s point-of-view.
Crowd Control or Controlled Crowds
From Elissa’s vantage point, the huddled masses of NYCC were surprisingly polite. It’s been reported that NYCC broke another attendance record and sold 180,000 tickets. But these supersized crowds didn’t faze her. In fact, she was pleasantly surprised “because everybody was very polite, very pleasant – there were a lot of people, but <they were> not intimidating to me, nor would it stop me <from attending> in the future.”
Unlike a football game, or even a trip to her local supermarket, Elissa found the crowds were a community of like-minded fans. “You’re going to bump into people, not intentionally,” said Elissa. “They’d say, ‘excuse me.’ You don’t even hear that in a store these days!”
At one point I introduced Elissa to my old friend Ivan Cohen. He’s a longtime comics professional and one of his many accomplishments is writing the Green Lantern Animated Show Comic Series. As we talked, and with perfect timing, a cosplayer dressed as Sinestro, Green Lantern’s evil archenemy, came up and charmed us all.
Sinestro took an immediate liking to Elissa. I was afraid it would be overwhelming, but she loved it.
She raved about how impressed she was with all the cosplay. Elissa attended the Let’s Get Serious Cosplay Panel – with panelists from Cosplay by McCall’s and the Overstreet Guide to Cosplay. “They have a pride and professionalism in their cosplay” she said with newfound respect.
Thumbs Up to Archie from a Long Time Fan
Elissa visited the Archie booth and she rendered a ‘thumbs up’ verdict on all the recent changes. She said she understood that the company needed “to keep up to encourage people to continue reading Archie,” and “to change with the times.”
“It’s not the Archie I remember, but also I’m not 10 years old.” She bought the new Betty & Veronica comic from super-retailer Marc Hammond right there at NYCC.
She also bought the new Josie and Pussycats comic. This was a big step as she explained she never liked those characters when she was younger. “They seemed so ditzy”, she said. But she quickly amended her recollections “But maybe that was just Melody.”
Was this Best Part of NYCC?
As it turned out, Artist Alley was one of Elissa’s favorite parts of New York Comic Con. We gave her a guided tour, introducing some of our favorite artists: Franco, Art Baltazar, Kevin McGuire, Gabriel Hardman, Corrine Bechko, Joe Staton, Brett Blevins and Tom Gianni were just a few. Before you knew it, Elissa would find an artist who’s style she liked and just walk up and strike up a conversation with them.
“I wasn’t’ quite sure what it was going to be like, “ said Elissa, but once we got there it was very clear.” She explained that she soon realized that each artist has his or her own style. “It’s all fascinating. They are all extremely talented. They’re good!”
Elissa observed that the majority of people outside of geek culture don’t have any appreciation for the artists. Meeting and speaking with artists in Artist’s Alley reinforced the idea that comics “are drawn … not just done by a machine.”
Her biggest take away from the whole show was an increased respect for the artists and creators. “It made me want to read more comics.“ She’s not ready to start collecting per se, but she is eager to read more.
Ready for More
Elissa is looking forward to next year’s NYCC. She realized that as a first time attendee, she wanted to see ‘everything’. On subsequent visits, she talked about how she’d plan better to attend specific panels.
“By the end of the night- my feet hurt. There was so much going on – I wasn’t bored. It held my attention. I wanted to see it all. “
And she’s become a big Artist’s Alley fan. “If I went again – <she’d prepare ahead of time> to know the artists and their work.”
More Respect for Geek Culture
After the show, as Elissa told her friends at home about her New York Comic Con adventure, they looked at her as if she had five heads. “They think these people are weird or strange.” But she explained it to her friends this way, “No, they are very passionate, very talented.”
Seems to me that the crossroads of passion and talent is a pretty good foundation for an industry, and a good place to spend a weekend.
I know each and every one of you sat dumbfounded last Saturday morning – your coffee in hand, and morning paper tucked firmly under arm – when perusing ComicMix and not seeing your weekly dose of Fishtastic opinions. I apologize to you. There’s no excuse for it. Simply put, I was at the New York Comic Con with my studio, Unshaven Comics, and I was too busy to produce a column worthy of your eyes. But I return this week with my now yearly diatribe about the largest pop culture convention my Lilliputian league of ne’er-do-wells attends.
If I were to be bold… it sucked. Our sales were levels of magnitude lower than any year past. As it’s the most basic measure of our meager success, I am apt to shake my head and angrily declare the six-day excursion a near-bust. But why?
On paper, everything was in our favor. While we did not come ready with the final issue of The Samurnauts: Curse of the Dreadnuts, we did have a new original piece to offer: Toolbox, as written by our own sales-machine Kyle Gnepper, and drawn by Dark Horse’s newest human acquisition, Kristen Gudsnuk. We also busted our bearded humps to produce a triptych of political posters – mashing up Bernie Sanders with Magneto (“Bernieto: Master of Social Magnetism!”), Hilary Clinton with the Scarlet Witch (“No more e-mails!”), and Donald Trump with Apocalypse (“Make Armageddon Great Again”). Simply put, product was not the problem with our final tally of sales.
And what of our now-infamous closing ratio… well, a look over my data shows an average closing ratio holding firm at our near-standard 42%. That meant nearly every other person we pitched to plunked down cold-hard cash for our wares. But unpack the specifics of that data and you start to see the bends in our bucklers. From our perch proudly in Small Press, sitting adjacent to the always-wonderful Brian Pulido (creator of Lady Death, amongst many other marvelous titles held by the diminutive powerhouse), Unshaven Comics simply couldn’t get enough warm bodies to stop and hear about our comic book. Specifically, we found a 21% decrease in available pitches to the equally sized crowd of attendees when compared to our numbers from 2015.
It’s at these times we analytical types start looking for answers. Did our bubble finally burst? Did we pitch our idea so many times it over-saturated the market? Do people not find us adorable anymore? Gleefully, the answer to all of those questions is a big fat no. Of the 723 people pitched over four days, only two dozen of them made mention of already knowing us. And in 18 of those cases, they still found something new to buy from us. The Samurnauts is still as novel a concept as it was when it debuted around the same time Donald Trump was giving pick up advice to Billy Bush. And let’s be clear: if anything, Unshaven Comics is even more adorable than in years past. So, don’t even. At all.
Why the sales slump? Perhaps it was location. Last year, Unshaven Comics took a corner spot in the back of the hall. Too often we found show-goers using the single expanse of dead space to be perfect for resetting costumes, counting swag, and reorganizing themselves. Listening to our pitch? Not so much. With that in mind, we opted for the significantly more cost effective booth in the front of the small press area. Lesson to be learned: towards the front of the hall, attendees are all trying to get somewhere. In the back? They’re just taking stock of their cash. As my grandfather would often tell me… “There is no utopia.”
Further to our real estate issues came the most interesting problem my studio’s faced in the last five years of conventioneering. ReedPop – the show runners – decided to book a live band to play their geek-twinged rock’n’roll just one aisle over (for fifteen minutes every hour, every day). I don’t know if you know this, but attempting to pitch your book amidst loud music doth not a sale make. While the band was plenty fine, their placement on the show floor was a calculated misfire on all counts. With little to no space for a crowd to assemble, they were at best audible evergreen to the folks perusing various vendors in the main exhibit hall. But one aisle over, sat angry small press booths all being drowned out. While we all scrambled to notify Reed of the folly… the best they could resolve to do was ask the band to play quieter.
All in all, I still find it hard to complain about New York Comic Con as an experience. Being in the car for twelve hours (or more, thank you New Jersey traffic) makes Unshaven Comics stronger (more on that next week). Being able to pitch to thousands of new customers every year bolsters our mission to grow our little fan base. And being a stone-throw away from ComicMixers like Mike Gold, Martha Thomases, Emily Whitten, and more? Well, it’s the gift the show keeps giving to us… if literally any of those people would have stopped to say hi. I’m not mad mind you… just disappointed. #DadVoice
Suffice to say it’s times like these I’m apt to be introspective. To look at the meager bank account of our studio, and the pile of unsold product, and wonder out-loud why others I knew at the show all boasted record-breaking revenues while we floundered. It’s at these times though that I stick to the thoughts and feelings that have gotten my little assemblage this far, thus far:
This past weekend, nearly 500 people handed their cash over to Unshaven Comics because they liked the comics we put in their hands and pitched. I got to see the smiles of my brothers-from-other-mothers as their work was complimented by complete strangers making snap judgments. It’s never been about the end. It’s always going to be about the journey.
And I’ll be damned if we don’t seek to complete the journey again next year… and come back stronger than ever.
This week’s column marks my one-year anniversary of doing this at ComicMix. Though I’m tempted to do a year in review, this past weekend was New York Comic Con so that idea is going to have to be put on hold for at least a week.
I started Thursday morning by getting to the Javits Center around 9:00 am. After going through a few different lines, getting my bag checked, getting my badge scanned, and waiting on another couple of lines, I was in by about 10:15 am. I hit the show floor and did the rounds. At 11:00 am I went to my first panel.
Body of Evidence: How We See Ourselves in Comics had panelists ranging from librarians, comic creators, a performer and my friend David Baxter, as well as a physician discussing healthy body image in comics as well as touching on disabled representation. Most of the disabled representation revolved around the character of Oracle and a point that fellow ComicMix columnist Martha Thomases has made with me before: while it’s great to have disabled representation, why is it that a woman isn’t able to heal from her exploitive attack in a world where Batman breaks his back and recovers?
While the panel had passionate panelists making interesting points, the panelists were noticeably cis, able bodied, and white or white-passing (David is half Native American). That doesn’t take away from the points they were making, but seeing people of color, trans, and disabled people share their experiences would have been helpful and enlightening. Especially at a convention that ejected Jay Justice, a queer disabled person of color, from a panel because they couldn’t accommodate the scooter she needs to get around.
That panel was far from the only one that suffered from some lack of diversity. Along with fellow ComicMix columnist Molly Jackson, I attended the Wonder Woman 75 panel on Friday. The panel was majority male, and almost exclusively white with the exception of the legendary Jose Luis Garcia-Lopez, who frustratingly talked the least during the panel. And despite Greg Rucka being on the panel, Wonder Woman being confirmed as queer was never mentioned. Perhaps it would have been during a Q&A, but the panel ended early without one. As one of I’m sure many queer people in attendance, saying that was disappointing would be an understatement. You’d think with Wonder Woman being on the cover of this year’s NYCC program for NYCC would have provided some motivation.
That night while waiting in line for another event, I was discussing the Wonder Woman 75 panel with a friend when two people on the line in front of me interjected. They told me how they attended the Queer Culture: LGBT Presence in Pop Culture panel and to their surprise the panel was exclusively cis white men, or at very least white-passing. Beyond that they discussed how that was a similar experience they had at other panels.
Friday was also the day of the DC’s Young Animal panel, and if you’ve been reading my column over the past year you could probably guess that was on the top of my list of panels to attend. The panelists included creators Gerard Way (Doom Patrol, Cave Carson Has A Cybernetic Eye), Nick Derington (Doom Patrol), Jody Houser (Mother Panic), and Marley Zarcone (Shade, the Changing Girl). This particular panel was packed and had a very enthusiastic crowd. Fans of Gerard Way hung onto his every word as he talked about how the Young Animal imprint came to be and gave previews of the books to come. They even handed out a cassette (you read that right) with a new song of his. The highlight for me was during the Q&A when someone asked about queer representation and Gerard discussed how he has been talking with Rachel Pollack about her run and Coagula in particular and bringing her back. When he had mentioned how Coagula was a trans superhero the packed panel room cheered. This goes to show how starved people are for trans representation and further pushes the point I and others have been making for some time now; reprint Rachel Pollack’s run on Doom Patrol.
While I did enjoy the DC’s Young Animal panel quite a bit, it was again an all cis white panel. For this particular panel, similar to the Wonder Woman panel, it was because of the creators that were available or asked. The only way to have more diverse panels is to have more diverse creators.
And they shouldn’t be limited to diversity specific panels. The goal of those panels is to raise awareness. The idea is for panels on diversity to be a starting point of a conversation, not the ending point. We can see that with panels like Marvel: 50 Years of Black Panther featuring different creative minds behind the character, as well as the panel on Luke Cage. When you have people of color working on comics, they get to be on the panels to discuss them. We desperately need more of that not just because it’s right, but to ensure a future for comics.
The future of comics does not encompass the same demographics as before. Women, people of color, queer people, disabled people, and people that cover more than one or all of the above are reading comics. They want representation, and they want a seat at the table. That’s not to say they never read comics before, but many didn’t because they didn’t see people that looked like them or they didn’t tell stories that were in any way relatable. Straight cis white guy with superpowers trying to get the girl doesn’t really speak directly to the experiences of many of the groups I mentioned even in metaphor. I can’t tell you how many people I’ve talked to in recent years who finally got into comics through small publishers and webcomics finally representing people like them because they honestly didn’t believe comics as a medium represented them.
Before I left NYCC on Saturday I got to be a guest at the Geeks OUT! Booth selling copies of my new comic as well as signing copies of their anthology I had been in last year. In the couple of hours I was at the booth, people of all different backgrounds came over and gushed over the items they were selling, like a t-shirt saying “Strong Female Character.” Many also stopped to take a preferred pronoun sticker from the table. They’d ask if they were free, and many asked if it would be okay to take an extra one for a friend. People were thrilled that a group like Geeks OUT! Was considerate enough to create stickers like these for everyone.
As comics fandom is becoming more mainstream and more diverse, comics need to keep up with these changes. NYCC 2016 is a good example of some efforts to keep up with those changes… but not getting there quite yet.
The New York Comic Con is this week and the geek community is totally in a frenzy. It’s been crazy how much is happening. Every day for the past couple of weeks, my inbox has been billowing with email after email of press releases and announcements. One of the more interesting announcements is from yesterday.
Comixology announced that they are expanding their digital library once again. Now they will have original digital titles (starting in 2017) from some of their many publishers, including Boom! and Valiant. Ever since Comixology announced they were adding their Comixology Unlimited subscription service, I was expecting this. They are following the tried and true path set out by Amazon (the owner of Comixology), Netflix and Hulu. Subscription service turned media giant in one big swoop.
No matter what anyone says, digital is supplanting print. And as much as I hate to admit it, comics will go digital too. When I look around the subway car, a.k.a. a micro section of New York City, you don’t usually see paper in their hands. You see smartphones, tablets, and other various more modern technologies. As print becomes more and more pricey, digital will become more and more prominent.
Another expectation of the Netflix-style journey is the appearance of original comics. Yes, I know this is an article about original comics. The ones they announced are from existing publishers. I’m curious if Amazon will take the plunge into comics publishing. They’ve gone the route of book publishing with mixed results. Amazon Studios has been fairly successful on the TV front, with shows like Transparent and The Man in the High Castle. To have a comics arm that could potentially feed straight to your TV studios could be a media game changer.
Amazon has also made the efforts to diversify, especially through TV. With that in mind, this could be an excellent way to develop more minorities comic creators. This is a company that looks to fill voids and diversity in comics is definitely a hot topic to work on. They could buy up an indie publisher and put an advertising machine behind it to rival Marvel/Disney and DC/Warner Bros.
As always, there is a downside. Amazon is quickly becoming the go-to company for everything. I can buy groceries from Amazon. Beauty care, t-shirts, dishes, furniture, a giant bucket of lube, socks, a lawn mower – the list goes on and on. Now the same company that I can buy 99% of everything I need is also actively affecting media. That reminds me of the sinister WeSaySo Corporation from the 90s show Dinosaurs. Too much influence can be a bad thing.
Print comics won’t be gone anytime soon, no matter how fast things seem to be moving. No matter what happens with Comixology or any other digital comics provider, this is definitely a step towards digital, and that’s a step forward.
The New York Comic Con is upon us once again, and I can’t wait. This year, as usual, I have a massive list of things I want to see, people I want to talk to, and, of course, merchandise I want to take a gander at (not to buy it, of course. Oh no no no! Certainly not, considering I have way too many collectibles already. I’m just going to look. Really. Just…you know, a little bit. No buying here, nosiree…um). There are also a few cool parties floating around…and you know how I love a good party.
Everyone who goes to NYCC has their own unique wish list of what they want to experience while there. But in case you aren’t sure what you want to see first, here are some of the things I’m most looking forward to. Maybe they’ll appeal to you, too!
I’ve finally managed to catch myself up on a lot of the great shows out there. The first of these is The Walking Dead. I had to take a break on that show after the first season, despite the awesome character arcs, because there was just a leetle too much zombie head-squishing for me to handle non-stop (from which information we all know how I’d fare in the zombie apocalypse. I’d be the one hiding behind Daryl). But once I started in again I just couldn’t stop – the show is such a great adrenaline-plus-compelling-character mix, with just the right balance of cliff-hangers.
So this NYCC, I am super-psyched to finally experience a Walking Dead panel without my usual concern about spoilers. So many cast members are going to be there (Andrew Lincoln, Norman Reedus, Danai Gurira, Steven Yeun, Michael Cudlitz, Lauren Cohan, Sonequa Martin-Green, Melissa McBride, Lennie James, and Alanna Masterson) and I can’t wait to see what they have to say about the new season.
Now that I’m back into Gotham (and also have had the pleasure of meeting several of the fantastic cast members and even interviewing one) I can’t miss a Gotham panel. NYCC is offering “Inside Gotham,” with David Mazouz, Erin Richards, and Robin Lord Taylor, and it’s definitely on my list. I’ve already seen a couple of Gotham panels thanks to Dragon Con, and from that I know these folks are definitely worth the price of standing in line. Gotham panel? I’m so there.
Netflix and Marvel are killing it with their partnership on shows like Daredevil, Jessica Jones, and Luke Cage. Now that Luke Cage has dropped, next up is Iron Fist. I’m particularly curious to see how the mystical martial artist will fit into the street-smart collection of characters that Marvel has developed to date – so there’s no way I’m going to miss the Iron Fist panel, which will give us a sneak peek into what’s coming to Marvel’s Netflix line-up March 17, 2017.
Speaking of The Walking Dead and Daredevil… I am kind of notorious among some friends for loudly declaring that I can’t stand The Punisher (which stems in part from his actual character, and perhaps in part from the fact that every Marvel blind box toy I’ve ever opened magically morphs into The Punisher right before I open it. Seriously. At one point I had six little Punishers, and none of them by choice. Argh.)
But I will admit that The Punisher as portrayed by Jon Bernthal in the Netflix Daredevil series was really well done; and also I will say that while Shane on The Walking Dead was an infuriating character, he was also really psychologically interesting, given the intersection of his love for his best friend, his obsession with his best friend’s wife, and the misogynistic tilt of that obsession that clearly took it out of the category of real love and into a dark, scary place, despite his firm belief that he really loved her.
NYCC is doing two spotlights on Jon Bernthal, with most of the focus being on his role as The Punisher; and given my interest in the way he portrayed both of those characters, I’m going to do my best to get to at least one.
And finally, it wouldn’t be a New York Comic Con for me without going to see the Nickelodeon Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles panel. I’ve been covering the show for four years, since NYCC 2013, and I haven’t lost my love for it (or the excellent cast and crew) at all. It’s such a great show, full of humor, and heart, and fun characters, and cool animation; and I’m stoked to see what else the cast and crew have to share with us since the last time I chatted with them at San Diego Comic Con. Whatever they bring us, it’s a guaranteed good time.
There are tons of other panels out there, and my FOMO will undoubtedly be in full swing, but I can’t do it all! So after attempting to see all of the panels above, I’ll probably move on to my other goals, such as visiting the:
There are a lot of really cool entertainment celebrities at NYCC, and I might get the opportunity to chat with a few; but when it comes to catching up with guests, my favorite people to talk to are always sitting in Artist Alley. I can’t even begin to list all the cool and talented people I want to see on this year’s comics guest-list; but I do know for sure that I’m already looking forward to walking the vast aisles of NYCC’s Artist Alley and seeing what everyone has brought to the tables this year.
One thing I really love about NYCC is that, despite the focus on entertainment guests, their Artist Alley is full of top-quality folks (and while I won’t list them all, I will say I’d be sad to miss Amanda Connor, Amy Chu, Art Baltazar, Clayton Henry, Cully Hamner, Dan Govar, David Gallaher, Dennis Calero, Dustin Nguyen, Fred Van Lente, Greg Pak, Janet Lee, Jeremy Haun, Jim Calafiore, Jimmy Palmiotti, Joe Harris, Katie Cook, Louise Simonson, Mark Brooks, Mark Morales, Matteo Scalera, Reilly Brown, Sanford Greene, Sara Richard, Thom Zahler, Tony Moy, and Walter Simonson, among others). And maybe along with seeing some old friends and new I will finally, finally meet Fabian Nicieza, after several conventions wherein we are both there and I don’t get to his table in time. Here’s hoping!
Of course after a hard day’s work seeing panels, wandering Artist Alley, and also, of course, exploring the con floor and merchandise and admiring some awesome cosplay, everyone needs to unwind. And although NYCC doesn’t compete with SDCC when it comes to the after-hours hangouts, I have managed to locate a few cool-sounding…
Sonicboombox is organizing a couple of parties this year, and I fully intend to hit at least the Friday one. This party will be at the Bowlmor Times Square, and is combined with the Image Comics After-Party. I attended that one last year, and had a really fun time; so that’s at the top of my list for this year. Sonicboombox is also doing a Cosplay dance party at Slake NYC on Saturday – and both the Friday and Saturday events feature giveaways, cosplay guests and photo booths, and fun stuff to do there (dancing, bowling, arcade games, or whatever takes your fancy). All the details for those events and ticketing can be found here.
If bowling alleys aren’t your thing, another Friday option is the Super Smashed Bros. V party, hosted by NYCRavers. This party is definitely for gamers, with a video game-themed EDM line-up of music, and a Super Smash Bros. tournament with cash prizes (for those who would rather play than dance!). It’s easy to get to via train, and goes late into the night.
Friday offers plenty of gamer-friendly options, with the GBX 2016 Electric Underground Party at Space Ibiza going on as well. With “the best anime/gaming/nerdcore music remixed into EDM” to dance to, this sounds like another one that gamers who also like to hit the dance floor would love. And, of course, as with most NYCC parties, cosplay is welcome.
The only reason I might not make it to Sonicboombox’s Saturday party is that it’s the same night as the Adult Swim Tyrannic’s Third Maiden Voyage. This is “a three-hour cruise along the Hudson, featuring a night of NY views & city sights, an up-close look at Lady Liberty, a live performance from a secret musical guest, and the company of your Adult Swim Friends & Family.” The last couple of years they’ve done this, I thought it looked really fun (being a huge fan of boats and being on the water, as is clear from my mega-excitement over my upcoming voyage on January’s comic-con cruise, Fan2Sea); but schedules never quite aligned before. This year, they have, and I RSVP’d early to make sure I didn’t miss out.
Well! That’s probably enough to keep me busy; but as with every NYCC, I’m also looking forward to having unexpected adventures. And in-between all of that, I’ll be keeping tabs on my plans via the NYCC app, which you really should have if you’re going adventuring at NYCC.
So snag that, make your plans, and if you see me at the con, don’t forget to say hey!
For those following along with the never-ending struggle in my attempt to finish The Samurnauts: Curse of the Dreadnuts #4, it becomes clear that when I declare “Each comic takes about 250 hours to complete from concept to final print,” I’m being very serious. And with this, the last issue of the mini-series, 250 hours is a massive understatement. As I was lamenting on my social feeds how I was without topic this week – because I figured no one wants to really know my lengthy thoughts about Arrow given I just started on Season 3 last night on Netflix – the consensus spoke.
Chicago’s Resident King of Nerds, Elliot Serrano, made the pitch:
Dude, you’ve been going through all these trials with life and creating your book, talk about that. Talk about the process and what drives you to keep going.
And his suggestion was liked by numerous compatriots of mine. Who am I to argue when the masses (exactly three people) demand I share the secret inner workings of Unshaven Comics?
So, let’s start at the top, shall we? This issue was supposed to be done last November. December if I was being lazy. Here we are in August of the following year, and we’re still inking pages. I myself have three left. Matt has four or five. And then the whole thing needs to be colored, have special effects added, lettered, proofed, and then printed. Shortly thereafter, the whole mini-series needs to be compiled, bonus materials built, and the graphic novel (that 125 very very very patient fans have awaited) will be done too.
So what happened?
Well, Elliot, the answer comes in two parts as you suggest. First, the quality of the final issue. Issue 1 of the series was all about the setup. For me personally, the only challenge was a cold-open action sequence, and having to learn how best to draw my Samurai-Astronauts panel after panel. While, yes, I’d completed Samurnauts: Genesis the year prior to Curse, the truth is I used as many cheats as I could to get to the final panel. Speedlines instead of a background? Sure! But I digress. By issue 4, there’s no more room to hide. Every page is the last of major sequences. Major fights. Transforming Zombie-Cyborg space pirates. Super move after super move. And probably a story somewhere in there. For Matt? It’s page after page of giant robots fighting. Suffice to say, we’d bitten more off than we could chew, but would be damned if we let it beat us.
But if our own stipulation of making the final issue be as good as we want it to be wasn’t enough, life gets in the way. As detailed before, in several columns, both Matt and I each brought another child into the world some five months ago. While we didn’t carry the children in our beer guts (thank Rao…), it was no less stressful. Another mouth to feed is another blessing on your home (yes, indeed, Rabbi Krustofsky), it’s also not fed for free. Both Matt Wright and I have more than doubled our efforts in the work-a-day world; Matt has taken to Uber’ing for secondary sources of income, whilst I have taken on massive amounts of freelance web and print design. Both of us work solid 18 hour days, minus some of the weekend when we just get to play dad and husband. Somewhere without those 18 hours, we scrape, scratch, and claw to complete panels. We still meet every Friday night to work together. We still attend conventions – with Dragon Con coming in about a week, and the New York Comic Con a month later.
So, what of the process, and what drives us to keep going? Well, it’s perhaps a bit rote to say it, but it bears stating it anyways. What drives us is the same thing we assume all other indie creators; the thrill of selling our wares to complete strangers who get what we do and want to support us. We create because we can’t exist without creating. Since our friendship blossomed in the sixth grade (with the unmentioned-until-now-but-still-just-as-important Kyle Gnepper), we’ve spend decades creating and destroying creation after creation. It’s simply part of what gets each of us up in the morning. I could work 25 hours a day, and still need to make my own work before my head hit a pillow. And to that point, the process itself is even more predictable. We work. We don’t stop working. We second guess how deep the undertaking was every damned week. But then we look at the pile of pages of the best-rendered, best-written ideas of our young careers, and we yearn to see it in the hands of those who supported us.
Sometimes, it’s the simplest of answers that drive home the most salient points. We do what we do, because we simply couldn’t be ourselves if we didn’t. And while we’re not punctual, the proof will exist in print soon enough.
Please note that Unshaven Comics is declaring that issue 4 of Curse of the Dreadnuts will be debuting at the 2016 New York Comic Con this October, even if Marc and Matt end up working 25 hours a day until then to ensure it happens.
It’s about that time of the year again for the annual Wizard World Chicago Comic Con. The show itself is very close to my heart. It’s the first comic con I ever attended as a fan. It’s where I went year in and year out to see DC and Marvel fight for comics supremacy. It’s where I went to grab bargains on lost toys and statues not found in my local comic shop. It’s where I’d attend numerous “How to Break Into Comics” panels every year and leave with my heart full of hope.
It’s also where my little studio, Unshaven Comics, would take the leap to the other side of the aisle and learn the fine art of the pitch. It’s where we’d learn that our future was with making books on our own terms and selling them to fans who appreciated the indie movement for what it was; where unpolished professionals honed their craft by presenting unbalanced final products with the hope of finding future success. This show has been, and will always be, our home show.
This is the first year since I can honestly remember where Unshaven Comics will not have a table. Let me make it known, of course, that my studio mate Matt Wright will be at the show, at the ComicMix table (Table 625! Come say hi!) to offer some commissions and maybe move a few books. But Unshaven Kyle will be visiting his mother in Ohio. And me… I’ll be at home. Working. OK. Maybe sulking a bit. Heh.
The reason? As a business, Unshaven Comics lives on the profits we earn at comic cons. But at this point our fourth installment of The Samurnauts: Curse of the Dreadnuts remains unfinished. With a hefty table cost and limited vacation days for the entirety of our threesome, there’s a commodity cost to doing said business. And with the dire threat of go big or go home, we need to have that final issue in hand by the time we make it to New York Comic Con this October. So, basic economics dictated our abandoning of the home show. Bigger risk begets bigger rewards. You dig?
Also… last year we were bitten by the DragonCon bug. The four-day excursion in Hotlanta netted us the second greatest showing at a convention ever, especially when compared to the table cost. Therefore, when we were granted a green light to return, it wasn’t a hard decision to make. Sure, Atlanta includes long car trips to and from, a potentially pricey hotel stay, as well as the general doldrums of being on the road. But with attendance that rivals NYCC, well… Bigger risk begets bigger rewards.
By abstaining from our home show this year, I’ll have time to plug away at the final pages of a soon-to-be-released comic. Without Kyle being available, we could never have seen the sales we would have needed to be profitable at a show the size of ole’ Wally World. As they like to say often on my beloved WWE… it’s what’s best for business.
But all that being said, it’s still a bitter pill to swallow. One that will go down easier knowing I’ll be able to break bread with EIC Mike Gold (and as John Ostrander notes, that means good BBQ) and the rest of the ComicMix crew that comes out. I know the show floor will be a little less bearded without me this year… but we all know the truth in comics:
Everything’s better when you relaunch the next year.