Tagged: Wizard World

Mike Gold: Mutt & Jeff & Marcia & Me

Do you remember the name of the first comic book you ever experienced? I do. It was a copy of DC Comics’ Mutt and Jeff, one of the very first daily newspaper comic strips and purportedly the first to be anthologized in what we today consider the comic book format. It was made as a subscription inducement giveaway.

This happened to me sometime around late 1953 or early 1954, when I was three years old. Okay, I was precocious (a synonym for “obnoxious”) but hardly anybody was that precocious. No, the comic book was read to me by my sister. Being almost seven years older, and much to her understandable chagrin, she was pressed into service as my babysitter. That certainly pegs her as precocious as well.

Marcia picked up a comic book from her stack, Mutt & Jeff #34, March 1952, and proceeded to read it to me. My sister had taste: that issue sported a cover by the legendary Shelly Mayer. Being only slightly out of toddlerhood, I learned how to recognize the shapes of the word “Mutt” and the word “Jeff.” DC ran the daily strips in two-page spreads, each one carrying the “Mutt and Jeff” logo. Page after page of them.

Proud of my achievement, I pointed to each logo and shouted, “Mutt and Jeff” over and over and over. For some reason, my sister/babysitter did not murder me on the spot.

What Marcia couldn’t have known at the time was that she had opened Pandora’s Box.

That initial experience led me to discover the comics in the newspapers, and over the next two years, those comic strips taught me how to read. This is actually quite bizarre as our paper of choice carried Pogo, Li’l Abner and Abbie ‘n’ Slats, and they didn’t quite speak English, at least not as we spoke it in the Midwest.

The newspaper strips led to my discovering comic books on my own – initially by finding Marcia’s own four-color stash, later by coercing my parents to buy me a comic book or two at the neighborhood drug store.

Of course, my love of comics led to many friendships and, ultimately, to comics fandom. A piece in the paper led me to fanzines, which led me to the conventions and then to advising comic shop retailers and organizing comic book conventions, and then to the first of two tenures at DC Comics, the co-creation of First Comics with Rick Obadiah … and to ComicMix with Glenn Hauman. With a whole lotta other stuff thrown in; allow me some modesty, okay?

Last weekend, I left the Chicago Wizard World show a day early to go to Detroit. Marcia Judith Gold Bashara had died at the age of 73, due to heart problems. I was fortunate enough to see her one last time on my way to the convention, spending a day with Marcia, her husband and my friend of 53 years Salem, and my wonderful nieces Heidi and Cheri.

Yeah, it’s really tough to type these words.

I used to tell people – usually, people writing articles about comics – that we comics people who were born during the baby boom and Fred Wertham’s anti-comics crusade decided to get into the racket as revenge for our parents’ tossing out our comics sometime in the mid-1960s.

And there’s some truth to that, but if not for my sister Marcia’s sharing her enjoyment of the comic book medium, I might not have had any comic books for my parents to toss.

For the record: about 15 years ago, I returned the favor by introducing Marcia to Will Eisner’s graphic novels. She absolutely loved them.

•     •     •     •     •

A tip of the hat to the many, many people who consoled me at Wizard World and to my fellow ComicMixers who helped pick up my load. And, most of all, to Maggie Thompson for consistently being there with her advice, her intelligence, her wit, and her charm. Which actually means “to Maggie Thompson for being Maggie Thompson.”





Marc Alan Fishman: The Art of the Con

This past weekend saw the eighth annual Chicago Comic and Entertainment Exposition. You likely know it as its Star Wars designate, C2E2. Unshaven Comics, my li’l studio, has never missed this show. It’s always been profitable for us. To get to the nittiest of grits, it fell to the middle of the pack in terms of the serious sales numbers. We’ll get into that minutiae in a bit.

This year marked a very special metric for my wee company: it was the second time in a row where we saw falling book sales and fewer potential customers. This comes in spite of ReedPop – the owners of the con – boasting continually increasing attendance. In the nine-years Unshaven Comics has attended comic conventions, we’ve never seen a disappointment such as this.

So, what gives?

My first fear was that our series, The Samurnauts, was no longer appealing to the glut of pulpy purveyors in attendance. But data shall always set us free. Our closing ratio – the rate at which our cold pitches to new fans turns into a sale – has remained steady. Our lifetime average sits at 40%. C2E2 2017 clocked in at 37%. All in all, that’s well within reason to figure that our book is still of interest to all within earshot. Consider that fear squelched.

The next fear: Attendees are being more frugal. A cursory conversation held with numerous cohorts located in the Artist Alley and/or the vendor area disagreed with that concern. While some said the show remained on par with previous year metrics, just as many boasted increases in their sales. C2E2 usually hits shortly after tax time, so plenty of people walk in with money to burn. Fear two, forgone.

This leaves me in a lurch, as the culprit seems dutifully apparent. It if wasn’t our pitch, nor the pesos in pockets that left us plinking for purchasers… then the blame falls squarely on the specific location from which we tried to cultivate sales.

The layout of a comic con floor could be debated ad nauseam by any number of qualified debaters. ReedPop slices their floor into simple(ish) sections: Exhibitors, Vendors, Small Press, Celebrity Autographs, Artists, and Crafts-folk (“The Block”). To be fair and clear, Wizard World, the only comparably sized menagerie of conventioneering, fields mostly the same sections – save only for smashing together the craftspeople and artists into a single alley.

At this particular show, ReedPop placed the small press folks at the very foot of the con floor. When you entered the show you walked right past us as you made your way into the exhibitor area. Many cohorts in the Artist Alley were instantly jealous of the prime real estate. “You’re right at the front. Everyone will see you!” they exclaimed to us in yellow-bellied jealousy.

Oh, but, the Mephistos in the details, kiddos.

At the beginning of each day, con attendees enter the show floor with the bloodlust and fervor akin to nothing else on this mortal coil. When the torches were lit to allow entrance, a wave of humanity gushed into the hall racing towards the four corners of the massive McCormick Place. Large swaths of nerds sprinted toward the autograph area to queue up. Other groups walked in and immediately bee-lined towards Artist Alley, to secure those autographs. Whoever was left – the groups without Orange Lantern avarice in their immediate milieu – strolled briskly by our row.

“Folks! Can I tell you about our comic book?” Unshaven Kyle would beckon.

“Sorry, we just got here. We really need to see the whole show first!” the masses would reply (mostly kindly, I would note).

By the time we’d see those folks again, it’d be after they’d done exactly as they said. But having taken in the entirety of the show – including all the other areas opposite the exhibitors who sold goods – were simply on their way out, with their arms already full of the days’ haul.

Now, I could write a screed seven articles long as to why Unshaven Comics was… coerced to capitulate toward Small Press instead of our preferred Artist Alley. I could divulge dirty details that would paint ReedPop in a light far less-than-desirable. I could even continue to lay blame on anyone or anything save for Unshaven Comics itself. But, that simply isn’t necessary. As the WWE VP of Talent and Creative might say, it’s not what’s best for business.

The truth of the matter is that Unshaven Comics was not alone in having a less-than-perfect show. Whether it was the specificity of our booth location, or any number of other factors not yet discovered, reality is what it is. We left the show having sold enough product to pay for the print run of books brought. When we tally the cost of parking, food, and the table itself, it’s more than likely the show placed us severely in the red.

What happens from here? Well, we lick our wounds. We crunch the numbers and we match our passion for making comics to the logic of how to best profit in the long run. There’s no pithy conclusion to reach this week, my friends. Just sober numbers, and sober planning going forward.

Stay tuned. The best is yet to con.

Marc Alan Fishman: Everything’s Better When You Relaunch

unshaven bbq brisket

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.

Marc Alan Fishman: Defending Wizard World


Last weekend, Unshaven Comics were the guests of ComicMix, sitting in their booth at Wizard World Chicago. ComicMix was more than generous to allow the squatting, and I figure it behooves me to publicly thank them here.

So, after treating an insane bout of con crud upon coming home, I’ve had some time to troll social media to see what the world thought of the 39th variation on the original Chicago Comicon. The consensus amongst most of my friends was largely positive. But a few folks took to their feeds to take Wizard to task and dog-pile on the once crown-jewel of Chicago-based comic conventions. Perhaps it’s the massive dehydration I’m working myself off of, but I’ll be damned… I feel compelled to defend Wizard World Chicago.

First, let it be said: I myself have taken to putting Wizard World on blast before. I’ve also given them helpful advice. Suffice to say, WWC is my home show. This was the first con I ever attended as a fan. This was the first con I ever showed in as a creator. I have a love/hate relationship with it, as it is for so many cherished memories of our youth that don’t hold up upon later scrutiny. But somehow, within reading the dour thoughts of a random Facebook friend left me desiring to stand over the limp body of WWC and shout “leave her alone!”

Let’s be honest with ourselves: The advent of the Mega Con has mutated what was once the Comic Con. The big publishers now save their budget for San Diego, New York, and maybe a small handful of others. Why the Chicago snub? Same reason I assume they aren’t showing in Austin, Seattle, Baltimore, or a handful of other large metropolitan shows: It’s expensive, and thanks to the marketing of the TV and movie brands, the need to remind people they publish comic books isn’t as needed as it once was. Erecting a large booth, paying the travel and hotel costs of big named talent, and hosting panels with executives (who should be back bean-counting, and figuring out ways to enrage the internet) just doesn’t make sense when balancing the books at the end of the year. Obviously I could argue that the millions of dollars of profit earned for those TV and movie licenses might otherwise bankroll a larger convention showing – especially in America’s third largest city – but even if that were true, the big boys would sooner show up at C2E2.

So, without the big named publishers (or, really, any named publishers), Wizard World Chicago has opted instead to promote its contractually obligated appearances of a litany of celebrity guests. Because of this, my wife got to meet Nathan Fillion, Jeremy Renner, and Brett Dalton – all of whom were super nice and gave my wife lasting memories and keepsakes. A large showing of fans making their way to WWC come primarily for these meet-n-greets. I was once amongst those who bashed this concept. Spending potentially hundreds of dollars for an opportunity to take a picture with someone, to me personally, seems like a complete waste. But on the same token, taking into account how many hundreds of dollars I once used to purchase comics, graphic novels, statues, and other miscellanea leaves me at a stalemate. Autograph seekers are a part of pop culture as much as comic book collectors. And as much as it pains me to say it: Nathan Fillion will bring far more paid attendees to a convention than the promise of that one penciler on that book you like.

Wizard World Chicago has been a show in flux over the last few years. Call it growing pains, if you will. The shift from being a show that celebrated comic books first and foremost to the more general pop culture has left some in a state of bitterness. I myself was one of them for a long time. But hindsight is always 20/20. Comic books are a part of pop culture. Wizard is a business, and as such, pop culture is larger than comics alone. The shift to truly becoming a pop culture show means larger attendance. More vendors. More exhibitors. More panelists and programs. To decry the death of the Chicago Comicon because of Wizard is to blame San Diego, Reed, and the other convention giants around the country.

Wizard World Chicago is many things to many people. So long as comic books are at least some of those things? Then, leave WWC alone. It will never be what it once was. But if it continues to draw a large crowd willing to checkout the always-expanding Artist Alley, then who are we to judge? For those seeking the old-school Comic Cons of yesteryear, well, there’s still plenty of fantastic one day shows. Wizard, simply no longer is one of them.


Mike Gold’s Off To See The Wizard


I haven’t done as many comics conventions this year as I usually do. By the end of 2015, I think I will have been to maybe five. That’s less than half of what I did a decade ago.

It’s not that I don’t like comics conventions; in fact, I love them. Most of the larger shows really aren’t about comics. They are pop culture shows, much like ComicMix is a pop culture website. We differ in that ComicMix is a pop culture website for comic book enthusiasts and the comics medium is our focus. ReedPop, to note but one, runs clusterfuck shows in New York, Chicago, Seattle, India (several; it’s a big place), Singapore, Sydney, Paris, Indonesia, Vienna, and probably Mongo. These shows have little to do with comics, the ReedPop staff acts like they wouldn’t know a comic book if it bit them on the ass and probably wouldn’t get my Mongo reference without Googling, and they seem as though they couldn’t care less. If you’re real nice to them and try to explain to them a different point of view, they might actually patronize you. And among comics pros, mine is not a minority opinion.

Yeah. I know. There goes my chance at scoring pro invites to Mumbai. I’ve been to their shows; I’ll live.

So it’s probably a bit surprising that this weekend (Thursday though Sunday) I’ll be at Wizard World Chicago, which is really in Rosemont but next to O’Hare International. Yes, Wizard World is a pop culture convention. I’m going for any number of reasons: Chicago is my home town so it’s an excuse to see my many buddies in the midwest comics field, it is an outgrowth of the old Chicago Comicon which I co-founded and worked on for ten years, it really has a massive comics focus and one of the best Artists Alleys around… and because my pal and Wizard World consultant Danny Fingeroth asked.

For the record, ComicMix is at table #1024 at the show, and I’ll be on two panels: the How To Get News Coverage panel on Saturday at 12:30 that ComicMix is running , and the Chicago Comics History panel on Sunday at 12:30. Check the con schedule; these things have a way of changing. I’ll be sharing the stage with a great number of close friends.

And the food. Damn, I need an Italian beef sammich.

This is not the only big show I enjoy. For example, I love the Baltimore Comic Con and I love Heroes Con in Charlotte North Carolina. I also really enjoy the smaller cons that are oriented to independent comics creators such as MoCCA in New York City. These shows are full of people who couldn’t care less who’s drawing next week’s Spider-Man but love the medium every bit as much as… well, as I do. By and large they’re young and full of enthusiasm and they put their money where their mouths are. Over the years we’ve hired a decent amount of talent at these shows.

If you happen to be at Wizard World Chicago, or you happen to be in or near Chicago this weekend, drop by and say hello. We look at portfolios when we can, we’re usually polite and we only bite when we’re hungry.

Or when the moon is full.



Marc Alan Fishman: Looking For Comics, Found Nothing But Posters

Harley Quinn Deadpool Little PonyAhoy, mates. You’ll forgive me (or not, I don’t know how easily you get ticked off) if my post this week is a bit less meaty than my norm. My excuse: Thursday morning, on the way to the top of my stairs – a box of magic monkey balls safely in tow – my cat decided he’d prefer to be under foot rather than elsewhere. I decided that kittycide didn’t suit me. So, my other other option at the time was to return down the same flight of stairs from whence I came. Unluckily for me, my shoulder (and the hard ground/basement door) stopped an otherwise elegant descent. By the end of the evening, I’d have one less arm at normal usage then I’m normally used to. So, here I sit, in mild agony, pitter-pattering away for your enjoyment. But I (as per my usual) digress.

These past few weeks I was becoming quite excited over the notion of finding some indie comics to share with you after visiting Wizard World Chicago. And while there were indie titles to be had, my injury prevented me from really digging into the alley in a manner conducive with true discovery. So, my epic journey will have to take place at the next convention for Unshaven Comics – the Cincinnati Comic Expo in September. With all of that now covered, I can still share with all of you a trend I caught at Wally World that leaves me a bit perplexed.

In my few jaunts across the Artist Alley, my gaze could not travel for nary more than a yard before it was stricken by a 10 foot tall monstrosity packed from floor to tippy-top with poster-prints of every marketable pop-culture icon, in nearly any style you could think of. Seemingly every row was packed to the gills with pin-up Harley Quinns, macabre zombie Deadpools, or Whatever Anime Hero Is Hip This Week Mashed Up With Whatever Cartoon the Kids Dig. Perhaps it’s always been this way, or maybe the Universe saw my desire for small publishers and pelted me with prints instead. Or more likely, the trend is hitting its peak. And for great reason.

As I have detailed before, an independently produced comic book is rarely a profit-making machine… unless you have the capital to afford a large (1000+) print run and don’t mind sitting on a ton of product in between shows. Prints, on the other hand, can be produced in small batches, stored in any number of space-saving receptacles, and can be produced for less than a dollar a piece at nearly any reputable printer within earshot. Prints tend to run anywhere from $5 to $20 a pop, so you can safely do the math. More to my point, a poster of a well-known character sells itself. A comic of original art and concepts does not. If I were Steven Dubner of Freakanomics, this argument would be over. And for what it’s worth, I see that point loud and clear.

But as I said: this trend leaves me perplexed. As an artist myself, there’s a desire to show the world my take on a litany of licensed fare, sure. But at the cost of doing nothing but? Not a chance. To have ambled about the Alley and see dozens of visual artists all fighting for capturing the essence of someone else’s creation in their style, all in hopes of snagging profit doesn’t ring true to me. Even worse? When those would-be creators toss a few of their actual comics into a rack and shuffle it lazily some uncared for corner of their table… capped with a scrawled sign declaring “COMICS”. As a presentation, it makes the point clear: “Buy my sexy Poison Ivy and give me money. Oh, my comic? Yeah, it’s this other thing I do.” And there my friends, is the dark truth that kept me up all weekend. It could have also been searing shoulder pain.

Let me be clear: I have nothing against those who want to showcase their ability to produce a fine pin-up. Behind me sits a coiled pile of prints I’ve dropped coin for that proves that. But when it comes at the cost of people pushing their creativity, I draw the line. Or, more truthfully, I curse our industry. Creators making original books trying to find a way (yes, internet included) to be profitable… only to find their only money-making endeavor at the bottom of a pile of Doctor Who and My Little Pony prints (made without any licensing fee mind you) represent too much of our ilk. When the Artist Alley appears more like a swap meet of grey market wall coverings, we don’t elevate the medium.

All we do is dilute our brand, and hope to have “made table” instead of making something new. There’s nothing artistic about that.


Marc Alan Fishman Becomes a Viking!

SpringConBy the time these words hit you, I’ll have trekked across the barren wasteland known as Wisconsin (sorry, Cheeseheads!) to arrive at the Midwest Comic Book Association’s Spring Con, held annually in Minneapolis. Since Unshaven Comics started seeking conventions outside the Chicagoland area, Spring Con has long been a desired destination. Our compatriots sang nothing but praises for the show each year without fail. And with careful planning, we’re elated to schlep our way west (for once) in order to hawk our wares to the unsuspecting Vikings fans.

I always look forward to a new convention. Unshaven Comics has built a reputation on the cold sale. Why? Because we embrace the fact that no one knows us from Adam. Or the Atom. Or Adam Strange. Or Dr. Strange. I could go on. The simple truth is our Artist Alley table represents a pop-up artist’s commune. But a Domo Trading Card or hand-made commission by Matt is only an expression of our physical talents. The sale of a Samurnauts book is a representation of two very important things: it’s validation of our ability to create a fulfilling piece of fiction, and it’s assurance that we are able to tap into the market and minds of like-minded fans. It’s cliché, but it’s true; there is no greater satisfaction professionally.

Even better, Spring Con is very much a dying breed, one we hope to continue to pump life into. As a convention that isn’t owned by some large conglomerate seeking to grow its mound of gold atop the mountain… it’s one of those “wacky” shows that seemingly is founded first and foremost on the celebration of the culture. Not ‘pop’ culture – tacky, silly, D-List, exploitative wastes of time – comic culture.

Panels at Spring Con? Adam Hughes being interviewed by Bill Willingham. Jeff Parker and Steve Lieber discussing their process. And rather than purposefully gouge show-goers with inflated concessions and needless gifts? How about free autographs, free picnic areas, and free parking. And the coup-de-grace? Over 250 comic creators on hand, ready and waiting to interact with fans. While Reed and Wizard may boast similar numbers… they aren’t the type to offer a free dinner for their artists. Spring Con does. Sensing a theme?

Don’t get me wrong. Unshaven Comics would not be in business (such as it is) without Reed and Wizard. C2E2, Chicago Comic Con, and New York Comic Con combined for over a thousand book sales last year. In all honesty, if we top a buck fifty by the end of Sunday night, it’ll be a banner convention for we beardly boasters.

Spring Con – which is nearly all volunteer run – exists first and foremost to bring people together. For over 26 years now, it’s been a staple of the great lakes (one would assume). Reed, Wizard, and the like also desire to bring people together… but their purpose is profit, and no one questions it in the least. The fact that they continue to pick on the local conventions like MCBA, and try to push them out of town only endears them harder with the community of creators. Of course we all also attend those for-profit shows too; we need to eat at some point.

This brings up my last li’l point. You see, many people (OK, like three or four) have asked us how we’ve attained the successes we’ve enjoyed to this point – specifically regarding our track record at making all attended conventions lucrative.

Well, I could (and will eventually) spill those beans at a later date. For now though, how about one juicy secret. We count everything. We count books in, books out, dollars in, dollars out, number of pitches, number of unique customers, number of up-sells, yadda yadda. And when we do a new show, we bring our data with us to try to figure out what sort of business we should expect. And when we leave the show, we debrief on the car trip home. Spring Con brings with it the most important thing Unshaven covets… numbers. But I digress.

Should you find yourself in or around the Minneapolis / St. Paul area today or tomorrow? Make your way out to the state fairgrounds, and find your way to our table. We’ll pitch, you buy. Sounds like a plan! There’s nothing more invigorating than a new set of fans to be made. I’ve built a semi-career around it. So, for the time being, I’m happy to declare it:

Go Vikings.


Marc Alan Fishman: The Con Con

Fishman Art 130817So after all that hemming and hawing, Wizard World Chicago came and went. Unshaven Comics saw record sales, happy fans, and well… that’s all we needed. The vibe itself of the show was tepid at best. Many many folks stopping by were quick to talk about their excited meetings with John Barrowman, Wil Wheaton, and Zach Quinto. Others simply said the show was OK, and that they were having a good time as always.

As always, the looming undercurrent of complaints crept around the edges. Full weekend passes cost nearly $100. The show floor itself (due to circumstances beyond Wizard’s control) was split between two floors, with significant bottlenecking of crowds throughout the day. And for those of us showing, Artist Alley seemed to have significant dead-spots – places on the show floor where traffic seemed to never pass by. Attempts to move (and move, and move) seemingly did nothing for the sales. I would guess that roughly a third of the exhibitors left unprofitable, and grumpy.

But I digress. I’m not here to give a thorough analysis of this particular con. Nor am I going to politely make suggestions on how Wizard might improve their exhibitions. I did that last year. And the year before that. I wave the white flag on Wizard’s practices. It’s clear that they want to be micro-San-Diegos in pop-culture-scope and have no desire to really cater to comic creators or the fans that-there-of. My biggest gripe found its way to my Facebook feed via the illustrious Gene Ha.

Gene caught a story over on The Beat that declared Wizard was moving in on comic-con competition in Minneapolis. It’s Wizard World Minneapolis show (a new one amongst their cadre of dates and locales) is scheduled a mere two weeks before the Midwest Comic Book Association’s already established SpringCon. Well, well, well Wizard. Good on you.

Once again, Wizard chooses to horn in on territory where locally owned and beloved conventions have scheduled. Just as they purchased Mid-Ohio Con in Columbus and took over the New York Comic Con in years past. When asked for comment (in case you didn’t read the link above) Wizzy just piddled in the corner… essentially blaming the convention center, and kicking the dirt by it’s boots like a child trying to lie, and failing. It’s maddening.

Wizard has deeper pockets than small comic-based shows. It’s a fact. They book bigger halls, bag bigger stars, and charge exhibitors considerably more. And the fact that Wizard Chairman John Macaluso himself commented that “Scheduling conflicts do no one any good,” he’s merely playing coy in my not-so-humble opinion. What Macaluso isn’t saying is that the conflicts are plenty good for him because the odds are in his favor. His shows snipe in dates weeks earlier than his competition, and brings in pop-culture stars from movies and TV… which invariably draw in a larger audience. And in a smaller city like Columbus or Minneapolis? The average con-goer will have little to no reason (or a plethora of discretionary funds) to attend one con right after the other.

In short, the little guy gets boned, unless they spend their time creating guerrilla marketing efforts such to undercut Wizard all in an attempt not to go under. Mid-Ohio simply caved. And now? The same Cincinnati/Columbus area will see three conventions within a six-week period: Wizard’s Mid-Ohio Con, the newly formed Cincy Comic Con, and the elder Cincinnati Comic Expo.

Is this the fate of Minneapolis looks forward to? Conventions fighting over guests and rolling the dice on their attendance? In the end, if that happens everyone will lose. And when the competition has a deeper wallet, the battle becomes that much harder to fight. We proud dwellers of the Artist Alley are left in waiting, trying to figure out what move to make. Especially those of us making the choice to venture beyond our hometown borders… Where profitability of these shows determines whether we’re eating a nice steak dinner after the show, or supersizing on our way home, with merchandise still in tow.

As it stands, Unshaven Comics this year alone has visited Dayton OH, Ft. Wayne IN, Novi MI, Charlotte NC, and the Chicagoland area several times. Later this year we’re going to Cincinnati, St. Louis, Baltimore, New York, Dearborn, and Kokomo. It’s our hope that Wizard takes a step back, and considers making the shows its known for good again… rather than simply expand it’s empire of bullying.

SUNDAY: John Ostrander

MONDAY: Mindy Newell


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