Tagged: Scott Snyder

Emily S. Whitten: Fan2Sea, the Floating Comic-Con (Part II)

In my last column I talked about my expectations for the Fan2Sea comic-con cruise, how it fulfilled them, and some of the things I generally loved about being at a con on a cruise ship and about the way in which Fan2Sea pulled off its maiden voyage (haha!).

Today, it’s all about the details. Want to know what your daily experience will be like if (when! I hope!) Fan2Sea happens again and you decide to go? Well, I can’t say, but I can tell you what mine was like! So here goes:

Day 1

Day 1 was pleasantly low-key from the start. Because luggage was still being delivered to staterooms, I spent the first bit of ship time chilling in one of the main areas overlooking the bar, with my lovely roommate, ComicMix assistant editor Adriane Nash, and with PR guru (and former Comic Book Resources writer/editor) Steve Sunu. After some people-watching (and excited taking of first-day selfies), and a little bit of a ship tour, we wandered up to one of the main eating areas where we found plenty of food on hand; and in the midst of a mellow lunch out on deck in the warm weather, I also caught up with the ever-fun comics creator Reilly Brown (and lovely family). It was the beginning of several times when I got to actually just chill with friends I usually see in only rushed or crowded circumstances at cons, and that was super nice.

Once staterooms were accessible and we’d gotten settled in ours, I rustled up my Hot Topic Walking Dead-themed blood spatter sundress (although I do like to do full-on cosplay, I’d opted for more referential casual cosplay on this trip, given I was packing for ten days and also didn’t want to wear a lot of layers on a warm, sunny trip!). Then we headed to the pool deck, where the first two big panels, for The Walking Dead (with Michael Rooker, Lew Temple, Madison Lintz, and Seth Gilliam) and Guardians of the Galaxy (with Michael Rooker and Sean Gunn), were taking place in quick succession.

Although it was a bit windy and distracted out on the deck (which is why they moved later panels inside), it was also super cool to be reporting on a panel out in the beautiful sunny weather while literally standing in a pool. (Yes, that’s right – your intrepid reporter stood in a pool to bring you this con round-up and accompanying photographs!) And the actors fielded some great audience questions. I enjoyed the Walking Dead actors’ talking about the challenges and quirks of working on such a gruesome show; for instance, Michael Rooker shared that the bloody makeup didn’t really bother him – until he saw the zombies during lunch sitting around eating while wearing it! And one of my favorite questions to the Guardians panel elicited discussion from Sean Gunn about Gunn’s providing the rehearsal stand-in for the CGI Rocket Racoon, which the other Guardians actors would act against. Apparently at first Gunn was simply going to stand in and read Rocket’s lines, but he thought he could also provide the acting and eyelines for the others to reference, so he gave it a try – and lo-and-behold, he did such a good job of it that he ended up doing it throughout rehearsals.

After the panels we had a bit more time to explore, including checking in on the casino, which had an excellent and thorough Sin City theme, before it was time for the ship to pass under the Sunshine Skyway Bridge, which was pretty exciting considering our ship was so tall it barely cleared the bottom of it. (Also, the sunset was beautiful!) After that we headed to the formal dining room, where I confess that upon ending up at a table with some veteran cruisers, we were unable to resist the peer pressure of each ordering two appetizers and two desserts to accompany our entrees. And all were tasty! (P.S. Pro tip that I didn’t know beforehand, having not been on a cruise before – if you want to be seated with a group in the formal dining room, you have to show up with your group. But our small party also enjoyed talking with folks at the larger table, so if you don’t form your group beforehand, you might just end up making a new friend!)

The only thing that could properly finish off a dinner like that would be a great cocktail; so of course after dinner I headed up to the Walking Dead / Guardians of the Galaxy cocktail party and, on the recommendation of another attendee, tried a “twisted” peach and mixed berry daiquiri. It was a great accompaniment as I enjoyed chatting with folks at the rotating bar (which took us by surprise when it started moving!), including Lew Temple (who I was really sad to see die on The Walking Dead, and who was really friendly and laid back to talk with); and Sean Gunn (a favorite from both Guardians and, of course, Gilmore Girls, and with whom I had a really wide-ranging and interesting conversation).

The party was a ton of fun, and when it wound down, no one wanted the good times to be done – so first, a few of us had the idea of playing a round of mini golf – but the wind was so crazy up on that deck that we had to postpone that for another time. Luckily, on the Fan2Sea cruise there was always stuff going on (including, e.g., the movie theater, the in-room monster channel, and the game room); so instead we located the karaoke just in time to see Steve and Chris Sims singing Toxic by Britney Spears (yes, really – and trust me, it was an experience!). But even that kind of fun has to end sometime, so eventually, we made our way to sleep and…

Day 2

Day 2 started with a relaxing room-service breakfast on our lovely private balcony, followed by a jaunt to Key West in the beautiful weather. I confess we had all kinds of complicated plans for what to see in Key West, including a butterfly garden and Ernest Hemingway’s house; but by the time we got off of the ship what we actually ended up having time for was a scenic trolley ride, a chill lunch with friends at Fogarty’s and the Flying Monkey Saloon, and a little stroll through the streets before it was time to get back to the ship.

Back on board, I attended one of the great Master Classes offered with the comics creator guests – this one with Reilly Brown. I always like watching Reilly’s approach to art, and this was no exception. He illustrated how to use dynamic action and expression to convey character in comics, and I especially enjoyed his example of how adding details to the same base character frame can result in two such disparate characters as Wolverine and Tony Stark. (And I totally claimed that sketch afterwards.) After the class, I hurried over to the live read of Charles Soule and Ryan Browne’s Curse Words #1. I love live reads, and this one featured some of the great guests on the ship – including writer Charles Soule, and actors Randy Havens, Catherine Dyer, and Sean Gunn. It was excellent fun and very well done, and I even managed to get a couple of clips on video.

The live read overlapped with the Batman pub quiz, which was also on my must-do list, in part because ComicsAlliance’s own “Batmanologist” Chris Sims was running it and had created the questions; so as soon as the live read had wrapped, I rushed over to the pub to join Adriane, who had been holding down the fort for two of the six quiz rounds all by herself. Steve joined our team there, and despite us all missing the first round entirely and only one team member being there for rounds 2 and 3, we still came in fourth! Go team! The quiz was great, and pretty darned challenging, too! (Kudos, Chris!)

Of course, all of that hard work made us hungry, but the cruise more than took care of that with another trip to the formal dining room, before we headed back to the pub for the After Hours War Stories with comics creators. This was a pretty unique program (with no recording allowed) in which creators shared the sort of personal industry and convention stories you wouldn’t usually get at a big convention panel. The stories shared definitely made this program a favorite of mine, and I was glad they enforced the No Recording rule so that everyone felt comfortable sharing.

By that point, we were well into the late night activity portion of the day. I stopped by the Nerdlesque (it’s not really my scene, but there were definitely some creative themed scenarios being played out onstage) and then was challenged to a game of air hockey (I totally lost) and issued my own challenge for a game of pool (Adriane and I totally won!). And then somehow, it was five a.m., and way past time for all sensible reporters to be in bed. Ah, convention life.

Day 3

Day 3 was the one day Adriane and I had decided to book a specific excursion through the cruise line, since we were going to Mexico and had a longer time in port. We booked a Mayan ruins tour that included lunch and a trip to the beach, and were delighted to find the lovely and talented Gail Simone and her husband Scott were part of our tour group. We had an adorably charming and funny tour guide named Luis to show us all around; I could actually feel the history of the Mayan ruins as it was described to us; the lunch was tasty; swimming at the beach was exciting (there were reasonably strong currents and also underwater rocks to avoid!); and we had a great time experiencing it all with Gail and Scott.

On returning to the ship, despite a pretty full day in Mexico, it was Stranger Things day and of course there were con things I wanted to do; so I first stopped for a brief glimpse of Goonies, which was being screened on the pool deck; and then changed into my Stranger Things party cosplay (yes, I was costuming The Wall, with a Hot Topic picture frame dress and blinking Christmas lights!), and went to the Stranger Things cocktail party, where I had an entertaining time talking with other fun cosplayers and fans, and meeting Shannon Purser, Catherine Dyer, Randy Havens, and David Harbour – all of whom were wonderfully nice and fun to talk to! (Caleb McLaughlin and Gaten Matarazzo were also circulating, but I did not get to chat with them due to the crowd – they looked like they were really enjoying themselves, though.)

After the party, I stopped by the pub to see how the Cards Against Humanity: Writers Edition program was going; and discovered that all of the comics guests were there chilling. So I sat down for a chat; and more friends came around; and then we wandered over to the casino; and next thing I knew, it was almost five a.m. again and we were ordering hamburgers from room service. Ah, cruise life!

Day 4

And then suddenly, it was Day 4! Our last full day on the ship, alas!! It was also the day of the Deadpool Panel, which I was moderating; so I donned my Hot Topic Deadpool dress (love that store for geek dresses!) and headed to the Pacifica Theater, which, incidentally, has some really interesting props backstage. This panel featured Gail Simone, Reilly Brown, Scott Koblish, and Chris Sims, and we had a riot of a time talking Deadpool on stage and taking questions from the audience – probably the most fun I’ve had on a panel to date! We talked about everything from how to get into the head of such a character to what it’s like to draw a story that’s told entirely on the covers of comic books to what the comics creators thought of the Deadpool movie adaptation – and happily, it seemed like the audience was having just as much fun as all of us on stage!

After the panel, the Deadpool folks headed up to their tables at Artist Alley, and after a brief rest (hey, even I get a little tired after such late nights) I did too. Even though this con was, for obvious reasons, organized differently than a traditional convention, it still had sections of time set aside for fans to meet comics creators in Artist Alley, and I was pleased to see a setup that made it easy for everyone to interact, and a good number of folks waiting to meet the talented guests. While there, I enjoyed watching Scott Koblish and Reilly Brown draw, chatting with Laura Martin, Scott Snyder, and Gail Simone, flipping through some of Creees Hyunsung Lee’s cool art, and picking up a copy of Curse Words #1 (hey, after that live read, I had to have it!) from Charles Soule.

By the time Artist Alley closed, it was just about time for the Wayne Foundation Black Tie Dinner (for which I had brought my fancy sequined Suicide Squad Harley Quinn dress, because what else do you wear to a Batman-themed fancy dinner?). By now I was a Super Pro at cruising (hah!), so I’d suggested we get together a big table of folks ahead of time, and we managed to make it happen. It was great to have our last big dinner be with a solid group of friends; and fun to get all dressed up for it! But it was also nice to relax for the last bit of the cruise, so after dinner Fancy Dress Harley turned into Casual Cruise Harley, and then, fittingly, ran into The Joker. Who managed to convince me, a solid non-gambler, to go gamble. (Look, when someone says they’ll bankroll you to go play a slot machine called the “Enchanted Unicorn,” there is really only one response, and that is: “Let’s go!”) And solid non-gambler me might have to revise that solid stance, because lo-and-behold on top of the money we put in we won a whole $54! At which point I decided it was probably best to end on a high note, and Adriane and I took our end-of-cruise sad feet back to the room for one last night of sleep in our cozy little stateroom.

And thus, the next morning we disembarked in Tampa and the adventure ended with a delicious breakfast of crepes, some fun vintage store shopping, and champagne sangria and lunch at the oldest restaurant in Tampa. And I would not be telling a lie if I said this was possibly the most fun I’ve had at a comic con, and that I most definitely want to go back. Tomorrow, if possible.

But since I can’t go back just yet, I’ll just have to console myself with looking at the full album of photos I took and crossing my fingers that soon, we’ll be hearing announcements of another Fan2Sea. When that happens, I assume you’ll all be signing up to go with me!

And until then, and until next column, Servo Lectio!

Martha Thomases: New Year, New Discovery!

A new year is, metaphorically, a blank slate.

So is my brain, at least as far as this column is concerned. Usually, when I am faced with no new ideas I travel the Internet, looking to see what other people in comics are talking about. Usually, this works.

Unfortunately, a lot of media doesn’t publish much new in the week between Christmas and New Year. Journalists write things in advance (this is why there are so many “Best of” features) so they can take time off to celebrate holidays with their families.

Don’t they know some of us might get bored?

Instead, I found some sad lists and happy lists, but I didn’t find a lot of news.

I have, however, found a new comic series I love, not from the Internet, but from my friendly neighborhood comic book store. As you might remember, Constant Reader, I try to buy at least a few books with which I’m unfamiliar on Wednesdays, when I shop for my superhero fix. I try to challenge my assumptions about what I will and will not like. This means that I sometimes have to try something that doesn’t fit my preconceptions about what an entertaining book might be.

This was the case with A.D.: After Death. Although it is written and drawn by Scott Snyder and Jeff Lemire, two creators whose work I’ve enjoyed, it didn’t look at all like something I would like. There was a lot of text, and the art, while beautiful, did not seem exactly action-packed. Still, the premise (there is no more death) sounded enough like one of my favorite books that I figured I could risk one issue.

The second issue just came out. I can’t wait for the third. If I tell you details of the story, I will miss the point. This is moody and sweet and cynical all at the same time. It goes very well with the gray, rainy winter’s day I’m having as I write this.

And because I really really really dislike gray, rainy winter gloom, I would like to share this from my fellow Buckeye, Tony Isabella. He made a list of things that made him happy last month, and the last one was this: “DC and Marvel Comics. They don’t always get it right, but they keep trying and there’s no denying the big hearts of the people who work at those companies.”

We forget that, sometimes.

Decades ago, at an American Booksellers Association convention, I saw Frank Capra interviewed. Someone asked him what was the worst movie he had ever seen. He said (this is not an exact quote), “I never see bad movies. No one sets out to make a bad movie. When I’m watching something that doesn’t work, I try to see the film they wanted to make.”

We sometimes forget that this is true of comics, too. There are lots of comics I don’t like. There are lots of creators trying to tell stories that don’t interest me, or that have a worldview with which I disagree. And that’s fine. No one can make me enjoy something against my will.

What is not fine is to ascribe evil motives to people whose work I don’t like. I need to remember that they are trying to do the best they can to entertain and, maybe, if they’re lucky, illuminate their readers.

Just like me.

Molly Jackson’s Creepy Confessions


With a loaded title like that, I guess I just need to cut to the chase. Ok, so here it is. I don’t like zombies. The genre doesn’t do it for me. Seeing the struggle of humans retaining their humanity is always a good read but fighting brainless zombies is just boring. The last (and probably only) zombie movie I really liked was Shaun of the Dead and that’s only because I liked how they spoofed on zombies while keeping the essence of the genre.

So why am I taking the time to sorta bash on a beloved genre? Well, Halloween is right around the corner and I’m feeling topical. Let’s give Halloween its time to shine, especially since Christmas decorations are already in malls.

Ok, that’s not the only reason. Everyone is making a big deal about The Walking Dead premiere as well so it’s on my mind. I gave up after season two but it is one of those shows that everyone knows about it, whether you want to or not. So quick segue for the people complaining about the premiere, even I know that the comics are way bloodier than the show. Everyone’s favorite character dies in those books. Move on. And for the weird fringe group complaining it isn’t a family friendly show; seriously? Get a reality check, a parental channel blocker, and find a new cause.

Segue over. Moving on.

The real reason for my confession is that it’s time for the yearly celebration of horror in prose and comics. That’s right, this time of year is more than haunted houses and scary movies. Readers have their own events to celebrate the scariest time of the year.

All Hallow’s Read is a personal favorite of mine. Starting with Neil Gaiman, it promotes reading scary literature for all ages. But just because it is pushing prose doesn’t mean you stop there! Take this time to read something scary in comics. Just to get you started off, I can always recommend American Vampire from Scott Snyder and Rafael Albuquerque. You already know that zombies aren’t something I read much of, but if you want werewolves in the wild west, check out High Moon by David Gallaher and Steve Ellis.

But maybe you don’t have the cash to spend on new books right now. I get it, but the comics world has you covered. Halloween ComicsFest is happening this Saturday! It is a mini Free Comic Book Day but all scary comics! Mostly all-ages, in an effort to bring new readers to local shops, it also can fill that void for reading something scary this year. I won’t mention how this is the closest I come to trick or treating.

These are both important events because they get you reading. Also, they get you directed towards a particular genre. Now you might be a regular horror reader, but I’m not. This flexes my brain muscles by changing it up from my usual science fiction fair.

Exploring different types of stories is good for your imagination. So tell your friends, your boss, and the creepy guy down the hall to check out some scary comics this year. You never know what suggestions they might have for you.

Joe Corallo: The King Still Rules!

Kirby Hero Initiative

This past Sunday, August 28th, was Jack Kirby’s birthday. He would have been 99 years old. If you’re the type of person that reads the columns on a comics and pop culture website like ComicMix, you probably don’t need me to tell you who he is. I linked to his Wikipedia page there just in case you don’t know. It’ll be our little secret.

Over the years Jack Kirby’s birthday has become an event. Kirby 4 Heroes is celebrated in comic shops across the county. It’s a fundraiser for the Hero Initiative, a nonprofit dedicated to helping comic creators in need. The idea is that by using Jack Kirby’s birthday as an event date that the Hero Initiative will be able to get a bump in fundraising numbers. Seeing how they’ve been doing this for years now it must be working to some extent.

jack-kirby-pic-105717This year both myself and fellow columnist Martha Thomases dropped byNew York City’s Carmine Street Comics for Kirby 4 Heroes. They had artists throughout the day including Sean Von Gorman, Fabian Lelay, and Patrick J. Reilly doing sketches for customers as well as original artwork being raffled off from Gregory Benton.

When I first arrived I was talking with Patrick as well as Jon Gorga, the store owner and operator. Mostly just catching up. Not long into our conversation a young man came up to the register proclaiming that he has started working on comics himself as an artist paired up with a writer and asked for our advice. Well, technically he asked for any advice and we all just happened to be standing there.

Patrick started with some of the basics like thumbnailing the pages. The young man pulled out a small notebook showing the work he had done so far. He had started thumbnailing before he knew the term. We all thought that was promising.

Then he told us more about their plans.

The young man went on to discuss how the plan for this project was to produce and publish five graphic novels worth of material all as prequels to set up the main story. We were almost immediately blinded by all the red flags going up. At around this point Martha joined us.

Patrick helped to discourage this young man of that particular course of action by telling him about Story Bibles, which he had not heard of before. Those are the blueprints to a story that’s used in any medium. They can and should be referred to in order to keep the story and it’d characters consistent. Patrick also made an excellent point about working on long form ambitious projects like that and how easy it is to get burned out working on something like that or even just bored over time.

I followed that up with advice I’ve heard from Scott Snyder in the past, but I’m sure many other seasoned writers have given as well: approach comics and storytelling like this is the only shot you’re going to get at all this so you need to tell the absolute best story you have in you. In a situation like this one with someone having five prequels before the main story, you need look through everything you have, pick the best and most compelling story and do that like it’s the only one you’ll get to do. Unfortunately, more often than not that tends to be the case. You’re an incredibly lucky person if you get the opportunity to continue telling your story from there.

CarmineStreetMartha added advice she’s heard from Norman Mailer which is also something other experienced people in the story biz have shared for some time: kill your darlings. That is to say that you need to be open to cutting your most treasured moments in your literary works for the greater good of the piece. It might sound absurd at first, but it makes sense as you’re crafting a story if you’re open to it.

After we all got to give some advice and chat a bit more with him, he thanked us all and left. He was very polite and receptive. And to be perfectly honest with all of you, I’ve fallen into the same trappings of wanting to jump right into epic long-form storytelling. A lot of people do. Hopefully he’ll figure out some things along the way and find out if this is what he wants to be doing, though it was hard to not think of that famous Jack Kirby quote, “Comics will break your heart.” Or was that Charles Schulz?

It was nice to spend some time on Jack Kirby’s 99th birthday at a comic shop celebrating the life of one of the most celebrated comic book artists of all time while also meeting a new up and comer that wants to throw their hat in the ring and getting a chance to wish him luck. I bet he wasn’t the only newcomer that wandered into a comic shop this past Sunday either.

Just because Jack Kirby’s birthday has passed us by again doesn’t mean we can’t keep celebrating him though. If you didn’t donate to the Hero Initiative this past Sunday, consider giving here. It’s a good cause to help comic creators in need. The same people that shaped so many of our lives from a young age with their stories like the ones Jack Kirby crafted all those years ago or the ones that young man at Carmine Street Comics this past Sunday might end up crafting himself one day.

Joe Corallo: The Joker’s Name

darkdetective1This past weekend was WonderCon out in LA. DC made many announcements about it’s upcoming Rebirth, some of which we already had some idea about. Now we were given information on creative teams, like Scott Snyder heading up All-Star Batman with rotating artists including Sean Murphy and Paul Pope, and James Tynion IV taking the reigns on the soon to be back-numbered Detective Comics. One of the other Bat family announcements was that they will soon be revealing the Joker’s name.


The short answer is that Batman found out his name when he asked that question on the Möbius chair in Justice League #42 (42, the answer to the ultimate question of life. Coincidence?). The long answer is a combination of figuring out how to handle a decades old franchise coupled with changes in audience expectations.

Now, I know what you might be thinking. Don’t we already know the Joker’s name? Many comic historians will tell you that the Joker is Jerry Robinson. Some out there may still argue his name is Bill Finger or even Bob Kane. Or maybe it was Conrad Veidt?

His name has changed many times over the years. Dick Sprang, Carmine Infantino, Denny O’Neil (Hi Denny!), Neal Adams, and many others. Personally, I liked when the Joker was both Marshall Rogers and Steve Englehart. Maybe sharing two minds helped to fuel his insanity. In more recent years, he’s gone by Frank Miller, Alan Moore, Brian Bolland, Grant Morrison, Dave McKean, Tony Daniel, Scott Snyder, Greg Capullo, and many other names.

Conrad Veidt JokerThere are some purists out there who will tell you that no, the Joker only has one name. They’ll argue with you that his one true name is Cesar Romero, Jack Nicholson, Mark Hamill, or Heath Ledger. Some new Joker worshippers are even claiming that his real name has been Jared Leto all along. Perhaps we’ll find out soon enough.

Now that I’ve had my fun, I’ll address the long answer to that question (kind of the sort of thing the Joker does, isn’t it?) of why we are finding out the Joker’s name. The real answer is we’ve changed a lot as a society. Part of that is entertainment is different. Oddly enough, in the disposable age where we create more garbage than ever, the one thing we won’t discard is a story.

Way back in May of 1939 when Batman debuted, back when the United States was only comprised of the continental 48, comics were not intended to be reprinted the way they are today. Audiences were not expected to stick around either. No one imagined that a nine-year old reading Batman would still follow that character for decades to come. All of that came later. Television was the same way. People used to just pump out television programs and if an episode was rushed and turned out to be pretty bad, who cares! People will forget by next week. Who would ever see it again?

Now that’s all changed. We’ve gone back and we’ve read many of those stories. We’ve tried to make continuity out of stories that were never intended to have any originally because we demand that the world makes sense. We even demand that the Joker makes sense. Part of making the Joker make sense is giving him a name.

Detective_Comics_475Personally, I have less than no interest in the Joker’s name. Just tell me a good story with the character. That’s not the point of the Joker. Audiences want it though. Or we think they do. In the age of the Internet, people want to know everything about the things they like. Many people “keep up” with comics by reading wiki entries of storylines at this point. Maybe it’ll sell a few comics too.

In defense of the decision to reveal the Joker’s name, audiences do appreciate an immersive world and I do appreciate that and I even enjoy that myself. Escapism is easier in a fully fleshed out world that we can imagine. When imaginary worlds leave out pieces of information like that, it can be harder to be immersed in that world. Plus, selling a few comics isn’t and shouldn’t be a bad thing. Having issues of comics sell big in this market helps to allow the wiggle room to try more experimental comics or to keep a critically acclaimed comic that might not be selling as well afloat for a few more months.

Either way, we’re finding out his name whether we like it or not. I could have sworn Tim Burton already told us his name was Jack. I don’t see why Burton would lie to us.

Martha Thomases: Leap of Faith

Sadie Hawkins Day

Monday is Leap Year Day, an otherwise insignificant marker of the passage of time except that our calendar is weird. Because time, its measurements and our perception of it have always fascinated me, I am enthralled by the way we react to this “extra” day.

As we established a few weeks ago, I’m old. I’m so old that, when I was a kid, there was no feminist movement – at least not one that extended to Youngstown, Ohio. So I learned that girls didn’t ask boys out on dates, or propose, or do anything but wait to be noticed. The ideal woman, I was told, was beautiful, thin, blonde, busty, demure, sexy and, perhaps most of all, quiet and undemanding.

The only exception was on Leap Year Day. On the day, girls could propose marriage.

(By the way, for a look at these ideas that show how completely screwed up they are, you can’t beat the movie musical Li’l Abner, based on the Broadway show that was based on the Al Capp newspaper strip. Really, the family relationships and social contracts portrayed in it are completely fucked up, but as a film, I have fun every time I see it.)

In any case, this thinking, which assumes that our only function as women is to love a man and have “his” children, is, thankfully, a dying remnant of a doomed mindset. Still, I hate to lose a perfectly good holiday, especially one that gives me “special rights” (i.e. I get to do the same things that straight white men expect to be able to do every single day).

Especially for women in comics.

Here are a few things I suggest we all do on Monday.

  • Go to our local comic book store, the one with the semi-nude brokeback posed statues in the window, and question to sincerity of the guys looking through the books. Ask them how long they’ve been reading comics, or if they just come to the store to meet girls.
  • Grab the ass of male con-goers dressed as their favorite superhero. When they complain, ask them what they expected if they walk around like that.
  • Organize a “Men in Comics” panel for the local comic convention. Put only one man on it, the husband of an established female creator. Explain that you couldn’t have any more than that because you asked Scott Snyder to come, but he was busy.
  • After the convention shuts down for the day, go to the bar at the host hotel and explain that the male creator of that hot new book only got the job because he slept with the editor. And the new artist on the best-selling series was only hired because the publisher has to be “politically correct.”
  • Relax and read a comic book where the main character looks like you, shares your assumptions about reality and generally makes you feel like you are an active player in the universe. Since that could actually happen, please make your suggestions in the comments.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have to propose to Tom Hiddleston.

Martha Thomases: Comic Books For Everyone!

Silvestri Batman

There was a disturbance in the Force this weekend as DC announced that they were, once again, relaunching their entire line … sort of.

On the one hand, I’m sick of this. It might work as a publicity stunt for a few months, but, in and of itself it doesn’t necessarily attract new readers. On the other hand, what else can they do?

Just a few days before, my pal Val D’Orazio posted some interesting opinions about the comic book market. She looks at distribution and promotion and demographics and all the other elements that have been part of our discussions about comics since at least the 1970s.

In case you’re new to this, let me try to sum it up (which will, by necessity, over-simplify things). The emergence of the direct market allowed comics to go from a mass medium to a more sharply focused (and therefore, more profitable) business. There were risks (for example, speculation) but there were benefits (cheaper cost of entry allowed more experimentation). For a glorious few years, all kinds of books were offered from all kinds of new publishers, although Marvel and DC continued to dominate. The market grew to include graphic novels, thus entering the mass market again via bookstores. Recently, digital distribution makes it easier for new demographic segments to inexpensively sample titles without having to go to comic book specialty stores.

Or, to quote Val, “In particular, there is going to be a big market for diverse, relevant, young adult serialized content; that is where a lot of the best “new ideas” in comics will be coming from, the sorts of ideas that get optioned for movies and TV.”

Please note: When she says “young adult,” she is referring to that segment of the book publishing business that includes Harry Potter, The Hunger Games, Divergent and the like. It’s a marketing term, not a judgment call. In other words, what is currently one of the most profitable areas.

How does the current publishing model fit with future? Not very well.

I love going to the comic book store on Wednesday. Really. Even in the snow. I like to pick up a pile of overpriced (in terms of cost per minute of entertainment) paper pamphlets and read them over lunch, or over an afternoon. However, I’m someone who has been doing this for nearly 60 years. I’m certainly not the cool, young market that advertisers and publishers want.

And even though I’ve been reading comics for such a long time, I have trouble keeping continuity together. If I was a young person today, I would find the whole thing to convoluted to bother.

DC seems to think the solution is to start from scratch so everyone has a chance to get in on the ground floor. I get it. The New 52 worked pretty well for them, at least commercially.

Unfortunately, they seem to miss what I consider to be the point: they bog down their new continuity with old continuity. And they seem to think that on talent that might be well known within the comics industry will be a selling point to new readers from outside the market.

I like Scott Snyder’s writing very much, and those Marc Silvestri pages are gorgeous. I don’t mean to say those men are not talented, but that they are not known to people who don’t already read comics.

At the same time, a lot of current readers are turned off to buying current comics book series because they don’t like stories that are “written for the trade,” that is, stories that are planned for collections, not for individual issues. This is understandable. If one spends three or four dollars (or more) on a comic book, one would like to get a story.

And a lot of people who like comic book characters (like the Flash, or Agent Carter, or Lucifer, or Batman or the Avengers or Your Favorite Here) are intimidated by comic book stores. All they know is what they see on The Simpsons or The Big Bang Theory. They might enjoy comics, but they need a safe way to sample them.

Even though I’m not a huge fan of reading comics online (I think I’ll like it better if I get the bigger iPad), I think the Interwebs offer a solution. A lot of the expense of publishing comics comes from buying paper, printing, and shipping. By promoting and publishing all kinds of comics online, publishers can attract new readers more inexpensively than with paper, and save hard-copy publishing for the more popular titles.

For example, I’m an old fart who would very much enjoy reading the occasional adventures of the Legion of Super-Pets and their romps through space. I would also like more “realistic” stories, like the procedurals in Gotham Central and Resident Alien. I’d gladly pay a few bucks for the chance, especially if, as Val suggests, there is some kind of Netflix like structure that lets me binge at will.

I haven’t figured out the economics yet, but everyone involved should get paid at least a living wage – not just the creative talent but editors, lawyers, and so on.

If you want to see comics that feature people of color, or queer people, or more women, there can be comics for you. If you want to see the (mostly) all-white comics of the past, there can be comics for you.

Just as having more channels on television has brought more good shows, having more channels for comics should bring more good comics.

Marc Alan Fishman: Autograph THIS!

US dollar bills and coins in tip jar

Once again, retailer extraordinaire Dennis Barger is involved in some amazing debates and discussions within our industry. The last time his name came up we discussed the over-sexualization of the Powerpuff Girls. This time, it’s a far less provocative topic.

Already well-covered by Bleeding Cool, the recent plight of pencilers revolves around the cost of their signature. The debate: some well known creators charge for their autograph. Others choose not to. In choosing to be free, there are those who say this now devalues the ability for others to pluck a buck from a would-be fan. For some creators, the option to take a tithe of the nerditry is traded part-in-parcel for donations to the Hero Initiative, the CBLDF, or other worthy charities. And if any of this sounds familiar, My ComicMix compatriot Molly Jackson gave her two cents, wonderfully, earlier this week. So, the definitive question that we’re trying to figure out is… Who’s right?

Well, sadly our comic culture lives in a world no longer set in just black and white. Both sides have valid points. For those on “Team Charge!” the notion is simple: When you are able to be compensated for your nom de plume costs of attending the con are better covered. Money in one’s pocket, when the per-page rate isn’t pulling in proper piles of cash, is always preferred. And in the cases where a Sharpied autograph equals a rise in the value of the item it’s adorned on, the signature is merely an investment. Who could argue with having to pay $5, 10, or 30 dollars for a name, when it nets the owner $50, 100, or 200 more in potential payouts? No one should argue. That’s called good business. And let’s be fair: if you’re willing to part with a finsky for the signature of a Hollywood celebrity, why wouldn’t you do the same for the author a favorite comic?

What if the answer to that aforementioned rhetorical question was no? Well, you’d be in the “Team Free!” camp. And you’d be just as right as those crazy capitalists across the lake. Some creators who get their table space at these conventions are compensated to attend by their publishers or the convention promotors themselves – who know that their presence yields higher attendance. Charging a fan for a signature inflates the value of a comic sure, but it also takes money out of their pocket they might spend elsewhere in the convention.

Like at a smaller indie table, where they might give a chance to a new book they’ve never seen before. By not charging, there’s a potential butterfly effect to pay it forward within our comic community. That’s good karma. And if that signature on the book is for a retailer who turns that issue into more profit… the same karma applies. I bet the day Dennis Barger mints a hefty payday for his efforts is another day his comic shop stays open. And that in turn increases the potential for him to sell more comics to more kids. See the bigger picture?

Let’s also not forget: It takes seconds to adorn an issue with a scribble. To charge for that scribble, no matter how important you may or may not be can seen unseemly to some. Say that three times fast. If you do though, I’ll have to charge you.

Obviously it boils down to a personal choice. Some creators are too humble to charge for an autograph. Others embrace the entrepreneurial spirit. There isn’t necessarily a wrong choice here. And for those who posit that having some creators charge while others abstain unnecessarily devalues those creators who do… they aren’t wrong in thinking that. If a fan sees Neal Adams charging $30 for a signature next to Scott Snyder charging nothing but a smile? Well, some fans will scoop up a few more Court of the Owls trades and walk away with a few more shekels in their pocket. But, as with everything here, It’s their choice to do so.

Of course, this is where I should chime in, right?

In my own little swatch of ComicTopia, my name is worth spit. If someone wants it on something I created? Well, I’m damn flattered, and it comes at no increase in cost. And I can’t personally see any future where I’m not willing to sign for the same Free-Ninety-Nine I do now. Because frankly I don’t foresee any future where Marc Alan Fishman is a commodity like Neal Adams. And that’s perfectly OK by me. Subsequently as a fan, I’m not a seeker of autographs at any price. While I might be tempted to see Alex Ross or Mike Mignola scrawl their name on any of the well-kept tomes I own of theirs… I’m honestly too cheap to consider trading hard-earned disposable income over said scrawl. The opportunity cost isn’t greater than the enjoyment I’d sooner have taking the exact same money and buying more of their work at full retail. But then again, that’s just me. And because of that opinion – which many share – it’s not taking money out of another creator’s pocket. Because that money would never reach it that way over the sloppy drag of a felt tip marker. Maybe I’m missing out on some would-be profit. Or maybe I’m just not the target demo. Either way, I’m entitled to think that way.

And you can take that opinion to the bank.

Molly Jackson: Comic Signings – The Great Connector

Last month, I was going through a pile of old comics. At the time I was getting ready for a signing, and looking for an issue of Incredible Hulk #1 for writer Jason Aaron to sign for me. While I was going through my many piles, I found some gems I had forgotten about, including some signed issues.

You are probably wondering how I could forget about my gems. Since I am lucky enough to live in NYC, I spend a large amount of time and money going to every comic book signing I could. I had a variety of reasons for going. Some events I went to because of the book, some for the creative team and some just because I had nothing better to do. What’s $4 for an issue just to hang out with cool people for an hour or four?

Doing this, I’ve met great people who became good friends and exposed myself to amazing writers and artists. I’ve found a plethora of new series to read and collect. In fact, a chunk of my favorite graphic novels are ones I bought at a signing or comic panel event.

I can’t express how grateful I am for all the people I’ve bonded with during a five-hour outdoor wait in 30-degree weather for a comic book signing. I enjoy the time spent waiting on line, arguing with people about a character arc or TV show. I’ve argued and joked with people without knowing their name! I’ve done food runs for strangers and trusted my new best friends to watch my spot in line for a potty break. I’ve even huddled together with strangers for warmth under an umbrella.

And then, finally getting to meet the person we were all waiting for! Most of the time, I know their work but on occasion, I’ve had to fake my excitement. Still, that’s how I have met writers and artists that I love now. Like going to an panel and signing for a little know writer named Scott Snyder or one I attended for artist Amy Reeder. And there was a time at a con that I hung out with a then-little known writer, Charles Soule, just chatting about his graphic novel. By going to almost everything I could, I met and supported people throughout different points in their careers. You never know who you are going to meet.

I don’t get to go to as many signing or comic events now, due to my day job. Still, I try to go when I can, and especially to the ones I don’t know much about. It’s a great way to learn about new series. That’s how I get to find gems in my collection like Saga #1 signed by Brian K. Vaughn I found. (Yeah, I can’t believe I forgot about it either.) So, go and check out the signings in your area. You never know if you are going to meet the next big star or your next best friend.


Martha Thomases: The Comic Book Fan as Retailer

The New York Comic-Con is this week, which is hardly about comics at all anymore. It attracts more than a hundred thousand people to the unbearable Javits Center, all of them drawn to a celebration of pop culture, fantasy, and science fiction.

With all these people clearly interested in the genre, why do so few of them buy comics?

There isn’t one single answer, of course, but today I’m going to discuss the way the comic book publishers market their wares. Specifically, I’m going to talk about how they sell their books to retailers.

Comic books used to be distributed to the marketplace like other periodicals. The publishers would print and ship many more copies than they thought they could sell, ship them to newsstands and other outlets, and accept returns on the unsold copies. Because most comics and graphic novels are now distributed through the direct market, retailers order (and pay for) only the quantity they think they can sell.

Therefore, the primary customer for the publishers is the retailer and not the reader. The publisher does not care, in the short terms, if the retailer sells all the copies ordered. The publisher still gets paid. Of course, a thoughtful publisher will realize that selling the retailer too many copies will eventually cause the retailer to go bankrupt.

Too many publishers are not thoughtful. And too many retailers get into the business only because they love comics, not because they understand marketing. Or business.

If you read the (brilliant, I think) post in the link, you’ll see what information retailers are given to make their ordering decisions. He cites the example of Superman Unchained as a tragic lost opportunity. The book began at the same time the Man of Steel movie was released. It had Scott Snyder on script and Jim Lee on art. It should have been a huge hit.

Instead, it’s dribbling to a close.

The writer of the original post gives a lot of good reasons why he thinks this happened (bad title, unreliable scheduling). I think, if we step back, there are even more reasons.

The biggest problem is that the publisher thinks every possible customer is just like the retailer.

I love Scott Snyder as a writer, and I think Jim Lee’s art is dynamic and appealing. That said, I don’t think very many of the people who went to the movie know who either man is. Therefore, any new series designed to take advantage of the buzz about the movie needs to stress the character and the story more than the creative team.

The same is true for this summer’s bit Superman event, the Geoff Johns/John Romita, Jr. team. To comics fans this is great, but to the average person, a complete enigma. This is especially sad because I think Johns does a great job when he focuses on the most human and engaging aspects of the characters. His Superman is open and appealing to everyone, not just people who have been reading comics for decades.

And those people won’t ever know it, if the only way the title is promoted is to hype the creative team.

One of the biggest changes to happen to comics in my lifetime is that we now celebrate the talent. Fans know their favorite writers and artists, and will sample many different kinds of books because their favorites are involved. This is a terrific development. It shows the marketplace has matured, and allows creators to leverage their popularity into actual money.

The downside is when publishers think hiring great talent is all they need to do. Writers and artists can do fantastic work, but if the publishers don’t market these creations so that customers know what they are buying, it won’t matter.

Retailers have a responsibility as well. A well-promoted and designed store will invite in new customers and display merchandise in a way that is both fun and informative.

Consider other entertainment options that you purchase. When you decide to go to a movie, for example, you might consider the cast and, if you’re more involved, the director and the screenwriter. But first you want to know if it will make you laugh or cry, shiver with terror or clap your hands with delight. You want to know what kind of experience is being offered.

Comic book stores and comic book publishers who rely only on customers who are already customers will fail. We, as an industry, need to create new customers every day.

Or at least every Wednesday.