Tagged: Wizard World Chicago

Marc Alan Fishman: To Boob or Not To Boob

A short one act play, in response to this recent hubbub during the Wizard World Chicago Comic Con.

To boob, or not to boob, that is the question:

Whether ’tis nobler in the mind of cosplayers to suffer

The slings and arrows of outrageous fans and parents

Or to take arms against a sea of tsk-tsks,

And by opposing, end them.

To diet (to fit in a form-fitting costume) – to sleep on the floor of your con hotel suite –

No more; and by a sleep to say we end

The heartache, and the thousand natural shocks

That the display of flesh is heir to. ‘Tis a consummation

Devoutly to be wish’d of the fans to see.

For those not playing along, let’s cut to the chase. This past weekend, a cosplay maven – with distinct permission to come in her much-worked-upon Silent Hill cosplay – was jeered and leered at by some in the crowd, and ultimately (and incorrectly) walked back to her hotel room to change.

Per her posting, she had gotten the proper clearances, but miscommunication amongst the staff of the convention center and the con itself led to her removal. To her credit, she took the whole debacle in stride. As she commented in the aforementioned post: she expects some of the reactions she gets in her guise. As is her opinion, the human body can become a work of art; as such, her costume (the effort clearly of many hours of construction and creation) is her craft. If convention attendees find her faux – décolletage to be too much so be it. She clearly takes proper steps to ensure she’s meeting the criteria to cosplay by the rules.

This of course begs us to ask questions. Is she bending the rules to the given extreme? Is a well-produced facsimile of a naked body part – aligned to some measure of a costume – an allowable choice of expression within the confines of a convention? And if you personally find something akin to the display of the naked human body to be unsettling or offensive, are your rights inherently more potent than that of the cosplayer?

Let’s be clear: I’m not a show-runner, and thank Rao for that. What I am though, is a parent. My children, ages five and one, were attending Wizard World Chicago at the same time this particular cosplayer was doing her thing. The cosplay-picture-posing thing… not the being politely escorted away thing. Now, amidst snapping pics and moments with Wolverine, Batman Beyond, Deadpool and the like, my children nor my wife happened to see the naked-esque participant.

But what if they had?

Would I be chiding the choices of a fellow artist? Hardly. As it were, I sincerely agree with her opinion. The human body is not offensive. A nipple or breast out in the air – be it constructed, make-upped, or otherwise displayed – is of no more or less value to me personally than an ankle or an earlobe. If the costume itself requires the display of one’s personal nether-regions (augmented as necessary), and it falls within the rules of the given convention? Let it all hang out!

It mostly comes down to the show-runner. So long as their rules are on display in some fashion, the responsibility will fall on the patrons of the con to choose whether they feel they can enjoy the show or not. For a more family-focused show, perhaps there will be need to be more specific about the display of human flesh. But as with all things: we are all in shared space at a convention. Choosing to air your negative opinion in any way shape or form will always be far more offensive to me than any exposed tit.

As a parent, perhaps I wouldn’t make a choice for my kids to see this particular cosplayer – moreso because she looked genuinely scary – but if they had seen her? So what. My job as a parent isn’t to protect my kids from the world. It’s to help them interpret, understand, and appreciate it.

With a bare bodkin? Who would these fardels bear,

To grunt and sweat under a weary costume,

But that the dread of something after death –

The undiscover’d titty, from whose bourn

No traveler returns – puzzles the will,

And makes us rather bear those ills we have

Than fly to others dress as yet-another-Harley Quinn?

Thus conscience does make cowards of us all,

And thus the native hue of resolution

Is sicklied o’er with the pale cast of thought,

And enterprises of great pith and moment

With this regard, their currents turn awry

And lose the name of action. – Soft you now!

The fair Pyramid Head! – Nymph, in thy orisons

Be all my sins rememb’red. Sorry I stared a bit too hard at your cosplay.

Mike Gold: My Timey-Wimey Toddlin’ Town

Well, last Sunday my pal John Ostrander did a lovely and quite informative column around his inability to come up with a topic. And tomorrow, my pal Denny O’Neil has an equally interesting column addressing the same basic issue. So, damn, I’d look pretty lame if I pulled the same stunt today, wouldn’t I?

Yeah, I know. I should be used to that.

So, instead of impressing you with my astonishing ability to wax on for 591 words about how there’s an echo chamber between my ears – it’s August; there’s supposed to be an echo chamber between my ears… or, at least, the Attica! chant – I’m going to write up a couple of paragraphs about a comic book show I’ll be doing in 15 days. Stream of consciousness, to paraphrase Kris Kristofferson, means you have nothing left to lose.

Danny Fingeroth, who’s name will magically reappear in Denny’s column tomorrow, finally found the one way to get me out to Chicago’s Wizard World show August 24 – 27. No, it’s not the availability of that wondrous delight, the Italian beef sammich. I get back to Chicago three or four times a year, so that’s not quite a deal maker.

No, Danny suggested we do a panel about America’s first mammoth Doctor Who convention, held as part of the Chicago Comicon (since sold to Wizard World) way back in 1982. Larry Charet, who, along with Bob Weinberg and me, were sponsors of the Comicon back then and Doctor Who had pretty much just taken a serious hold among American geekdom. We massively underestimated the number of folks who would be interested in attending… by… well… a lot. We made the Chicago Fire Department nervous, which, historically, is a dick move. We made the American Nazi Party nervous as well, but you’ll have to attend our panel in order to find out why.

I believe this was one of the first, if not the first, Doctor Who show that attracted the attention of a 15-year old named John Barrowman, who had been living in nearby Joliet Illinois at the time. John also will be a guest at Wizard World, so hopefully, I’ll be able to find out. Not that we’re taking credit for inspiring the man who became Captain Jack Harkness on Doctor Who and on Torchwood… but, with him no longer part of Arrow (at least for the time being), maybe the good folks at BBC-Wales can get him back to the timey-wimey stuff.

Of course, going home for Wizard World puts me back in the neighborhood of a hell of a lot of friends, as well as a gaggle of good folks that I haven’t pissed off for a while. Writers, artists, retailers, media folks, actors, broadcasters – it’s a fun place to be. And I’ve always had a great time at Wizard World Chicago, even though it’s actually in Rosemont Illinois, a town sandwiched in between the City of Chicago and the Airport of O’Hare. If you go there, check out Rosemont’s water tower and, if there are children around, try not to laugh out loud.

A month later, I’ll be at the Baltimore Comic-Con, one of my favorites. A damn good show run by damn good people.

That’s the reason we started these big comic book shows. Friendship, seeing people from all over the planet and making rude and obnoxious comments about the high price of stabbed comic books.

At least, we think those are comic books in there. Outside of the cover… who knows?

Marc Alan Fishman Celebrates the Wee Con

Kokomo-ConAs I fully decompressed from Wizard World Chicago, I looked towards the end of the Unshaven event calendar. On it: the Cincinnati Comic Expo – competing against the Cincy Comic Con, Cincinnati Comic Con, and the Cin City Comic Massacre (I think two out of three of those are real). Then, onto the mammoth New York Comic Con, which will boast near San Diego level of attendance. And, finally, gracefully, completing at the Kokomo Comic Con, in Kokomo, Indiana. You’ll get there fast, but take it slow. Sorry, it had to be said. And with it being said, I’m elated that once again, Unshaven will return.

The show itself feels like the comic cons I only heard about from old timers (like everyone on this site minus the Tweeks, Emily, and myself, heh heh heh). It’s pop-culture D-lister, and flashy/trashy exhibitor free. In their place, small publishers (ahem), independent freelance artists and writers, comic book and toy dealers, and a great handful of truly unique artisans – like the educational toy makers Cogbots, and the Highwind Steamworks, steampunk jewelers extraordinaire. The best part? The guest of honor, one Denny O’Neil.

Perhaps I’m a bit jaded in my love for the show. I was a crucial stepping stone in introducing Mr. O’Neil (who I’ll be uncomfortable calling anything but, until perhaps we shake hands in person) to the show-runners. As Unshaven had previously been attendees at the show for four years running, we had become more than a table-fee to Shawn Hilton and his crew. I dare say we became friends. Sure, his store is always ready to stock our books. And sure, I may have ensured we got prime floor real estate for making introductions for way-more-well-known-legends, but at the core of it all, the Kokomo Comic Con and its purveyors are fans first. I respect that. Hell, I live that.

All buzz marketing aside, Kokomo Con represents something I am coming to cherish more and more: a convention that can be enjoyed in a single day; where comics and community trump blatant commercialism. Before I get too deep into that sentiment, let me make something clear: I’m not saying Wizard or Reed or the San Diego Comic Con (or whatever gigantic conglomerates exist in the comic book convention circuit) are bad for building their Frankenshows.

As a strict capitalist, Unshaven Comics couldn’t exist without them. But with this past Wizard show, there’s certainly an energy drain when you sit behind the same table for four days straight, and see an unending queue of potential customers. And those customers are always quick to denote that they “just got there”, and are “checking everything out.” Every sale is a war with their desire not to miss some unlit corner of the show before potentially returning for a purchase. But I digress.

The single-day community convention is devoid of such pretense. It exists to excite for one day, and one day alone (duh). Because of that, the attendees tend to enjoy all of the convention. There’s no need to arrive hours early for the potential of snagging that autograph by the third extra in that show you watched back in the eighties.

Even if the entirety of the Kokomo Conference and Event Center is packed to the nines with booths, a show-goer will be able to peruse everything with time to confer with every artist and dealer. The air of the show itself is that which I revert to when I think of comics and my ill-gotten youth: it’s all about discovery, discussion, and debate. Find me a swatch of NYCC floor space where someone is truly digging through a long-box for that Suicide Squad #18, and I’ll eat my beard. At the smaller shows, the fans that arrive at the door are there first and foremost for guys like me (and way more for guys like Mr. O’Neil). And while we’ll never sell as many books in a given day there versus a NecroNomiCon… the sales we do make tend to make us life-long fans in lieu of passersby giving us a pity purchase.

At the end of day, there’s room of course for both kinds of cons (and to be fair, I think the Cincinnati Comic Expo will reside somewhere between the two). But phaser to my forehead? Color me simply. The shock and awe of the major shows has worn me thin, and in their wake, I yearn for intimacy. A show where one need not shout to hold a conversation. A show where you’re invited to learn, to discuss, to debate, and to celebrate specificity. A show where you can get that cherished issue of Green Lantern / Green Arrow signed, and not have a security guard breathing down your neck to move it along. A show where a truer comic book fan may truly be themselves… all without having to drop significant coin on that selfie with the best friend of The Great American Hero.

And that, my friends, is a convention worth looking forward to.


What Marc Alan Fishman Looks For In A Comic Book

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

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

It starts with the pitch.

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

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

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

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

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


Marc Alan Fishman: Con Shopping Extravaganza!

While I am buried deep under a pile of production – completing “The Samurnauts: Curse of the Dreadnuts #3” in time for Wizard World Chicago later this month – Editor Mike reached out to inspire me. In other words, he didn’t want me to bore ya’ll one more time with my annual bitching session regarding the passion of the indie creator. Instead, he suggested I suggest to you, my adoring public, a few books that I’m reading and loving right now… that do not come from the big two publishers. There was only one problem with this prompt.

Since I’ve been knee-deep in digital art-ing, lettering, editing, coloring, and laying out(ing?) a comic for the last month or so… I’ve basically all but stopped reading comics.

Of course I could fall back on my staple suggestions: Touching Evil by Dan Dougherty, Solution Squad by Jim and Rose McClain, Product of Society by Cheeselord Comics, and Monkey Fist by Sun Bros. Studios. But then it dawned on me, I could kill two birds with one stone! I could excite the masses about the passion of indie comics without suggesting any particular book at all. Indeed kiddos, I could be that good.

When the book is off to the printers and my life is freed up once more to consume amazing comics, I’ll find myself at Wizard World Chicago. And where better than the annual comic con to take a chance to immerse myself in sequential fiction not otherwise touched by Mickey Mouse or Brother Warner. My plan is simple:

Seek books within Artist Alley, and Artist Alley alone.

Across dozens of tables will sit books built first and foremost out of passion. While it’s likely true that Scott Snyder is symbiotically betrothed to Batman, at the end of the day the caped crusader is not Mr. Snyder’s own creation. Not to get all Robert Kirkmanny here, but there’s something to be said when a book is wholly the idea of a given writer (and/or artist). Without the constraint of an editorial office, calendar, or marketing strategy, an indie title has the least weight on its shoulders to succeed. Of course the alley cat who peddles the pulp sure wants due-payment and fortune. Suffice to say though, there are far fewer hands in the cookie jar wanting their rightful crumbs. Because of that, I’ve found that the independent book tends to push the edge harder conceptually speaking. And because of that, the books may not be as polished on the page, but they read incredibly in the mind.

Set a budget, and buy a breadth of material – not pour a fortune down one well.

As a creator I want nothing more than passersby to be so enamored with The Samurnauts that they feel compelled to purchase every last ounce of material available at the table. But turn that table around and I’m often a misanthropic cheapskate. In a case of “Fool me once, shame on me…” a few times I got snookered into less-than-stellar indie titles in my early twenties. Because this was well before the near-affordable print-on-demand days, these indie rags went for double the price of a typical DC or Marvel book. And they weren’t in color. And they were poorly written, drawn schizophrenically, and sold to me under false pretense.

Well, a decade later, and I’ve crawled out from the behind the rock. My tactic is simple: Get the pitch, agree with the pitch, look over the product, ensure the product is priced appropriately, and make the damned purchase. But I digress.

The key to making the most out of exploring the Artist Alley is as I’ve noted above: it’s all about trying out a ton, not committing to an entire series without first enjoying only a taste. If an artist is worth their salt, they’ll make their line of work available to me after the show is over, or at very least offer up to me the next shows they’ll do. In the day and age in which we live, social media is the great uniter. And any artist in the alley not taking advantage of the free services that open their art and products to the world simply do not deserve my continued business.

In essence, my trip through the convention will be amassing an unencumbered anthology specific to the genres, art styles, and creators I find most akin to my wants and desires. And with an open mind (and an empty stomach…), I’m going to make it a mission to be social. To look every creator in the eye, and proudly ask them to tell me about their comic.

And in a few weeks, I’m going to let all of you know exactly how it went. Excelsior.


Marc Alan Fishman… “and now a word from my sponsor.”

Samurnauts 2Hello all. I freely admit that this week I’m in production hell. I have 11 pages of my own story to letter. 18 more to letter when I get pages in from Matt and Kyle. And then we have to make sure Matt’s beautiful sepia ink washed pages are properly flatted, and carry a steampunk look worthy of Samurnauts quality. All of this needs to be done by the time we’re supposed to be clocking in to our day jobs, come Monday morning.

This is if we’re lucky enough to have some copies of said new book in time for this week’s Wizard World Chicago. Simply put? We have to have the book done. Why? Because issue one debuted at Wally World last year. To show up literally a year later with nothing new in hand, save for a couple Adventure Time/Star Wars posters? Not our style.

So, when in need of inspiration this week to submit a column (instead of phoning in one, like Michael Davis did this week. What?)… I turned to my rock. My redeemer. The one person who above all else makes me a better man. My lovely, intelligent, not-standing-right-behind-me-feeding-me-adjectives wife. I asked her to compile some thoughts of our now 10 years of courtship-turned-marriage. So, I present to you now, my ComicMix brethren… a little sub-article action from Mrs. Kathy Fishman.

Kathy Fishman: So I Married A Comic Book Maker

When I first started dating Marc back in 2001, I wasn’t big into comics. My knowledge didn’t go beyond recognition of Superman, Batman and Wonder Woman. I didn’t know about the Justice League. I didn’t know there were companies called DC and Marvel. Not to say I wasn’t a nerd in my own right, mind you. I’m a big movie and pop culture nerd. I retain facts that normal people don’t. Marc likes to joke that I can name certain production people like best boys and key grips, accountants and caterers. I’m actually pretty passionate about movies and it irks me to no end when people don’t get a quote just right. But that’s me.

When Marc first told me that he wanted to make comics for a living, I won’t lie: I was skeptical. I thought he would get bored with it or completely abandon the project when things didn’t quite take off. Little did I know about Marc’s perseverance and commitment to this idea. With the help of his “brothers from other mothers”, Matt and Kyle, Unshaven Comics took a few years to really get off the ground. In 2008, they started with a commissioned piece entitled The March, which after years of attending Wizard World as fans, they were now on the other side of the table. It did decent enough and I ran after Dan DiDio to give him a copy and ask him to visit the table. I did corner him, but he never did come to the table that year. I was mortified.

Since those humble beginnings, I’ve watched Unshaven Comics come to create something that all ages can enjoy. C’mon, who doesn’t love an immortal kung-fu monkey? Each year, old fans ask when the next one is coming out, and I’ve seen first hand how each con attended by Marc and the boys garners a wealth of new fans. And each year, we get closer to San Diego, the holy grail of comic conventions. I admit it; I’m in this game for the eventual vacation to visit Michael Davis (What?).

So what has it been like for me to watch my husband try to live out his dream while juggling a day job, a wife, a toddler, freelance work, bills and just life in general? Well, it certainly has not a bowl of cherries. It’s annoying because we don’t spend a lot of time together. It’s frustrating because something will get in the way of production like an emergency freelance job which leaves poor Marc frustrated. But, at the same time, it’s awesome to watch the process. It’s awesome to watch little faces (and big faces) light up at the mention of the word “monkey”. It’s precious when our son Bennett sits on daddy’s lap, and proceeds to steal his Wacom pen, and runs around the basement to Marc’s chagrin.

If this endeavor takes time away from his family and there’s no guarantee it’ll be lucrative, then why do I let him do it? Because I like seeing him happy. Because I know he’s passionate about something. Because I promised to support him. Because I believe in the end product. Because I love him. Who am I to take away something he loves? It’s not some hobby for Marc. This is what he wants to do. It’s not my place to squash that.

To Marc, and really to all the Comic Makers out there: I say keep on keeping on. Frustrating or not, I will support you and Unshaven Comics until the day you decide to no longer make comics (Marc: which is never!). In the immortal words of Stan Lee, with whom you share a birthday: Excelsior!

SUNDAY: John Ostrander

MONDAY: Mindy Newell


Marc Alan Fishman: Crunch Time

Fishman Art 120727Here I sat, with my blank screen yelling profanity at me for not knowing what to bitch about this week. And like every piss-poor English student in high school, I’m opting to begin this week’s column with a “when I didn’t know what to write…” introduction. Well… When I didn’t know what to discuss this week – be it a lamenting on the newly announced Superman-Batman movie, going over both my desire and fear to attend SDCC, or finding another excuse to discuss why I’m seriously considering purchasing the Summer Slam Pay Per View E I opted instead to use a timely fallback. What’s on my art table right now?

Well, after learning that having a toddler running around in one’s life makes working on a comic less than easy, Unshaven Comics is finally rounding the bend on producing our next comic. The Samurnauts: Curse of the Dreadnuts #2 will end up encompassing about 200 man hours when it finally reaches a printer. As it stand as of this writing, we are amidst final coloring (on my half), final inking (on Matt’s half), and prepping to create the cover. In simpler terms? We’re screwed like non-white kids wearing hoodies in Florida. See, MOTU? I can be racially charged too!

By the time you gentle readers afix your eyes to my ramblings we will have essentially one week left with which to letter the book, finish the cover, and put it all together in time for our home show, Wizard World Chicago. And somewhere in there, we’ll have to be sure that we spelled things right, that the story makes sense, and most important… the book is leaps and bounds better than issue 1 without lessening the impact of said first issue. This is where and why Unshaven Comics exists, kiddos. We built our studio on passion. We take pride that the books that land on our table earn us fans, respect, and and a continual sense of determination to continue to create. And boy did we wish we’d only just started working, because ComicMix Pro Services sure coulda come in handy. Hey Mike, where’s my check for name dropping?

This passion is every reason why I’ve little to no doubt that over the next week or so, I personally will be working every evening well into the following morning. This passion is why I’ll gleefully pull all-nighters – live screen-casting via Google hangouts for the morbidly curious – in order to meet our printer’s deadline. This passion is what makes seeing a fan plunk down a fiver for my lil’ rag the best feeling in the world (short of everything having to do with my wife and son). This passion may never make me, Matt, Kyle, or our Samurnauts rich and famous… but it will remain our legacy without fail.

If Unshaven Comics ever had a mantra to live by it would be “doing what we do, one fan at a time.” We know that those who are lured by our whimpering and desperate eyes from behind our artist alley table, are likely to give us that chance to earn their fandom. With a book built not for profit margins, and licensing security, but for the enjoyment of sequential fiction, we know that we leave everything on the page. This is our crunch time, and I appreciate those that respect we who toil for our wares. Wish me luck, everyone.

And come August? Get ready for a book that features zombie-cyborg pirates with jetpacks, transforming motor-cycle super armor, steampunk warriors, metal tentacle pirate ships fighting giant robots, and an immortal kung-fu monkey in a spacesuit.

Back to the grind!

SUNDAY: John Ostrander

MONDAY: Mindy Newell


Marc Alan Fishman: Wizard World Redemption

Hello, everyone! After last week, I figured it’d only be fair that I give Wizard World a little hand up, since I was so quick to toss them into the gutter. Suffice to say I saw a ton of responses via Facebook, Twitter, etc. in support of my disappointing feelings at this past Wizard World Chicago. So, with all eyes from their ivory tower now squarely pointed at me*, I shall make an epic journey for Wizard, giving them the laundry list of things I’d like to see them do to reclaim their former convention glory.

Remember what started this whole shebang – comic books. Just because you can’t lay claim to the publishing giants does not mean with some delicate planning, you can’t land the amazing creators behind said publishers. Suffice to say, if you bring them, the fans will come. People love Marvel and DC. But they don’t come to the convention just because there’s a chance to see DC Direct action figures and snag some Marvel posters. More often than not? The mainstay of your crowd – the real comic fans – want a chance to meet the creators behind their favorite book. Whatever Wizard did to shun so many artists and writers? Well, it’s time to send out some apologetic gift baskets, and comp the way for the names that will draw in the most people.

And if you should be so lucky to entice a gaggle of cool creators, the next step is simple: plan a convention that celebrates the medium through intelligent discussion and good old-fashioned fun. What this means? Programming. Even in the larger convention halls, your crowd can peruse the show floor in about two hours, if they take it slow. This means that there is time in every show-goers’ schedule to enjoy something more than just spending their money.

In my youth, I recall amazingly fun panels: the Silver Age Trivia Contest, hosted by Mark Waid, the CBLDF Sketch-off, where top names like Jim Lee and Phil Hester jammed on audience suggestions for charity, as well as countless “how-to” panels where small gatherings of 50 or so fans got live demonstrations on everything from digital inking to script writing. At their core, the conventions are here to celebrate comics, not (just) corral all our cash.

Next up on the list? The non-comic stuff. Hey, I freely admit that these shows have grown to encapsulate all of Nerdtopia. And it’s cool if the show plays well with others. Comic geeks are also Trekkies, Jedis, Whovians, Vampires, and Otaku. So bring on the D-List Sci-Fi Channel celebutaunts. Bring on the retired WWE wrestlers. Create a dais of former Starfleet Captains and Wookies. Just don’t make them the sole reason to come. And better yet? Find a way to reduce the gouging. No need to pay for a show floor ticket, if you’re only there for some pictures. In the past, there was a nice area off the main floor where photo ops and autograph seekers could assemble. Do it again and you can bring back something all good shows have… a laid back traffic flow, instead of a jam of fanny packs and unwashed masses.

The last bit I’d like to touch on is something I yearn for: the promotion of the little guy. For a company like mine, these conventions are the single best way for us to gain a following. We sell books, hard, and do our best to connect to every fan that walks past our table and makes eye contact. With just a little help from show promoters (ahem, Wizard World…) we “indie guys” could have access to the fans en masse. And that could make all the difference in the world. Back when Wizard was huge, tickets came with a grab bag of materials. Offer the opportunity for indie creators to make samplers to place in these bags. Offer up panels to unknowns, who can help lead discussions, debates, tutorials, and demos. Con attendees interested in the content alone might then be converted into legit fans.

In short, Wizard World is well within the grasp of greatness. A few apologies, a few comps, and a few good planners could help take their show from the doldrums their in right now, and slowly rebuild them to be what they once were. The first step though is to admit there’s a problem. As the industry slowly crawls towards the advent of creator-owned content, the convention circuit will quickly become the single best way to connect fans to the industry. Don’t lose sight of that just because you can nab Sookie for a few autographs. We’re the reason these shows started, and dag nabbit, we’re the ones who can make them great again.

* I’m safely assuming that Wizard scours the net for mentions of their cons, and have no doubt flagged me as a ne’er-do-well on their hit list.

SUNDAY: John Ostrander


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

SUNDAY: John Ostrander Leaves Morocco!

Wizard World Chicago, the Photos (Day 3)

Whilst walking the show floor today, the last day, at the 2010 Chicago Comic Con, we Unshaven
lads did our duty (one final time) to bring you the shots you know you love
to see. So, enjoy the final cavalcade of comic enthusiasts who went
that extra mile… and brought delight to all those on the floor who finally gave up looking around for DC, Marvel, Image, Dark Horse, IDW, Boom! or
Dynamite. Kudos to these cosplayers for being the bright spot
in a convention of tremendous letdowns.