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Thursday, June 25, 2009

HeroesCon Report

HeroesCon this year was, I think, the best show I've ever been to. It's so much fun, so laid back, and it was the first real show I've done since Crogan's Vengeance came out. It was really nice how many people brought their copies of Vengeance for me to sign. It was also great seeing so many of my cartoonist friends in one place. I sold a lot of books and a lot of Smokers of the Marvel Universe posters (including a few to kids [with parents in tow], which I felt kind of bad about... I had to throw in an impromtu PSA each time), and got to talk extensively with cartoonist heroes of mine, including Jeff Smith, Roger Langridge, and Don Rosa (with whom I have a surpising amount in common, including a Kentucky upbringing, an affinity for the books of George MacDonald Fraser, and a collection of first edition H. Rider Haggard novels, among other things).

I cannot underestimate how great a show this is. I give it my strongest possible reccomendation to any cartoonist considering thinking about attending. It's so comics-focused (rather than media-focused), it's incredibly family friendly (kids get in free on Saturday, for example), the panels are great, the organizers treat everyone, from newbie through superstar, with the highest degree of respect and kindness, and the fans/attendees are the nicest and most enthusiastic you'll find anywhere. Plus, for being as busy as it is, it's also the most relaxed, laid-back show around. The evenings are spent with the majority of exhibitors hanging out and shooting the breeze in the hotel lobby bar, the mornings catching a liesurely breakfast... if there's a comic show in heaven, I expect it's modeled after HeroesCon.



I also had about a dozen students go out, far more than have ever come before, and they really did a great job. They had their own tables with the Temple of Cartoon Mojo booth, and really made a great show for themselves. They also owned the room at the afterparties, and I couldn't have been prouder of how well they carried themselves. There was no doubt in anyone's mind that they were true professionals, including mine.




On Saturday I did two panels. The first (pictured above) was a panel about all-ages comics that featured (from left to right) me, Roger Langridge (of Fred the Clown and the Muppet Show fame), Jeff Smith (of Bone and Rasl), and David Peterson (of Mouse Guard). It was moderated by Andy Mansell, on the far left, who definitely knew his stuff and really asked some great questions.
This panel was especially exciting for me because Jeff was one of the main reasons that I'd gotten into comics in the first place. Bone not only changed the tone of comics to where it'd be more accepting of the subject matter on which I prefer to focus, but also was the vanguard in the fight (and it was a fight) to get graphic novels off the ground and into stores - I had a long conversation with Jeff and Colleen Doran about the down-and-out-warfare of the introduction of regular trades to comic shops, exhibiting at shows, etc, and although I felt professionally indebted to them BEFORE, I had no idea how much.
I also got to have a solo dinner with Roger (though felt guilty about dragging a vegetarian to a Tex/Mex restaurant), as well has share him with a number of buddies to go get smoothies, which was loads of fun. He's one of the nicest folks in comics, in addition to perhaps being our medium's greatest living draftsman, and it's always great to see him (though it' all too rare an occurence, him living in England and all).

I also had a chance to meet Guy Davis, and get an original page (which is, of course, gorgeous). He was as friendly as can be, and was doing free sketches, though I figured that with a page, a sketch would have been greedy. I also got to meet Aqualung's Paul Maybury, whose art I was unfamiliar with but am now completely nuts for. He's going to be doing a project for Oni, which is always exciting to me... it's selfish, I know, but I love it when people I like do work for my publisher because it means we'll get to hang out at the Oni table at the bigger shows.

I also did a Steve Ditko lecture (he's the guy that co-created Spider-Man) with Ben Towle and Craig Fischer, and their presentations (especially Craig's, which was mind-blowing) were easily the academic highlights for me.

I got to see my see-at-every-show friends, which is great (the Athens, Savannah, Nashville, and Carolina crowds), but I also got to meet up with my I like-em-but-only-see-them-occasionally colleagues, like Jim Ottaviani, Alec Longstreth, Mike Maihack, and Greg Means, as well as Indie Spinner Rack's Mr. Phil, with whom it's always great to hang out. Phil gave me my contributor copy of Awesomer, now available online and in comic shops, and so far it's a riveting read! It's got a full Crogan Adventures short story in it, featuring David Crogan, the smuggler. If you're a completist, pick it up! I also got to meet Finder's Carla Speed McNeil, who was not only wearing a great colonial-style pith helmet but turned me on to wear she got it. Now I can finally score a monocle!

I also got a LOT of graphic novels at the five-dollar bin (including a number of books that I'd had at one point but given away), and 19 of the 54-volume Carl Barks Library in Color books. Score!

All in all, a great show. I haven't mentioned half the people who it was great to see here, and that's no reflection on how great it was to see them... I simply don't want to bore blog readers with a litany of names and links. But it was, really, a great show. Anyone who's considering an invitation for next year, take it! It's a heck of a time.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Heroes Con this Weekend!

Hey, everybody! First off, I want to congratulate my good friend Hunter Clark for finishing his first book last week, an Oni project called The Return of King Doug. It's an amazing looking book, with a lot of buzz going for it already (Ben Stiller already optioned it to make it into a movie), and it should be out on shelves fairly soon... it's really gorgeous, and it's been great seeing how incredibly good Hunter has gotten over the course of its execution. He'll be at Heroes this weekend, so if you know him, flag him down and give him a pat on the back, or buy him a congratulatory drink. He's already started on his next project. I was going to post a panel from it (he's been using my scanner lately), but he dragged all the files to the trash, so you'll have to use your imaginination.

Later this morning I'll be heading off with fellow professors Nolan Woodard and Pat Quinn to HeroesCon, one of my hands-down favorite shows. And for those of you who've never been to a show, I want to talk a little directly to you.

Before I started trying to make a career in comics, I did read them. Not a ton of them, but a select few - Bone by Jeff Smith, any number of comic strip collections (especially Foxtrot and Zits), whatever graphic novels might be showcased by NPR or an independent music magazine, a couple of webcomics like PVP - but of these, I was a passionate reader. I enjoyed them a great deal, would have bent over backwards to get to have a conversation with any of the creators...

...and yet I never, nor did I ever have any inclination to, attend a comic convention.

It's not hard to guess why. Films and television have conditioned us to view comic conventions as being full of overpirced toys and people dressed up like Klingons or Spider-Man. And, to be fair, there are a lot of shows where that seems to be the norm, including San Diego Comic Con. But there a few - all of the indie comic shows (SPX, MOCCA, APE, STUMPTOWN, etc) and a few of the bigger, more encompassing shows (Heroes being a good example) where there are few to no costumes, few to no toys, no video game displays, no third-stormtrooper-from-the-left bit actors charging for autographs... just comics and the people that make them. People that are, more often than not, happy to talk with you for a little while, to answer your questions.

Some shows are more akin to literary conferences. There are panels and lectures by many really amazing artists, writers, cartoonists, and critics. Think about it - if, say, Diary of a Wimpy Kid guy was doing a lecture and reading somewhere, and you were a fan, would you be willing to drop 10-15 bucks to go? A comic show offers that sort of thing, PLUS the chance to talk with that cartoonist afterward or before, to get a sketch, to get a book signed, etc. It doesn't have to be a full-blown nerdfest, and often isn't (be careful, though... the majority of local shows ARE, as are any of the WizardWorld shows), so if you're a fan, give it a try!

Speaking of sketches, I thought I'd post my sketch "rules" here, for anyone going this weekend.

• SKETCHES are free. Rough drawings, the sort I do in my own sketchbook. I'll do these in people's sketchbooks, or on paper, or whatever.

• Finished, inked drawings that look ready for publication? Those cost money. Not a lot, but some, usually fifteen bucks, sometimes a little less, sometimes a little more, depending on the subject matter. I do these on my own board that I bring 4x6 inches. This may seems small, but it's roughly the size of one of my panels, so I can get a good amount of detail in there. I do them this way for two reasons.
1. People usually have toothy paper in sketchbooks that they bring themselves. This paper is not only incompatible with my style of inking (I need smooth paper because I draw quickly, and have a slick line), it also has a tendency to fray my brushes, making the following five drawings I do look terrible.
2. When a lot of people want drawings, it seems unfair for me to neglect them to spend time on a larger drawing for a single person, even if the money comes out being the same. People made the effort to come out to the show, and I want to be sure that anyone who wants a finished drawing has the chance to get one. If anyone wants a larger, more intricate drawing, then they can contact me via e-mail and we can work out a comission that way.

That said, I'll also have a lot of other 4x6 drawings that I've already done available for sale! What you lose in the magic of seeing it drawn before your eyes, you make up for in an assurance of quality, knowing what you're gonna get.

Here are a few examples... I've got about fifty or so. These are going to be ten bucks each. For those of you unable to go to cons, I will eventually set up a mail-order store on my site, but that won't be until probably December.




A couple of the many portrait-style pics.



Also, I'll have a few bigger pieces which will cost more. Here's one (click on the zoom-in to see the real one, which is 17x5"):



Oh, and panels! I'm doing two panels and attending three more. Here are the ones I'm in, so swing by!


12.30 pm MAKING COMICS FOR ALL AGES | Room 217A
Join moderator Andy Mansell as he sits down with Jeff Smith (Bone, Rasl), Roger Langridge (The Muppet Show Comic, Fred the Clown), David Petersen (Mouse Guard), Chris Schweizer (Crogan's Vengeance) and more as they discuss making comics that kids and adults alike can enjoy! Sure to be a can't-miss conversation.

3.00 PM A IS A+: A STEVE DITKO CELEBRATION! | Room 213BCD
Midnight Sun cartoonist Ben Towle and Thought Balloonist blogger Craig Fischer host an extensive tribute to one of the most creative and enigmatic figures in comics: Spider-Man co-creator Steve Ditko! The first hour will be a screening of Jonathan Ross’s provocative BBC documentary In Search of Steve Ditko (2007), featuring interviews with John Romita, Alan Moore, Neil Gaiman, and other high-profile Ditko fans. Following the documentary, two comics legends who worked extensively with Ditko--writer/editor Roy Thomas and artist/editor Dick Giordano--will share their memories of the man and his art. The tribute ends with Ben, Craig, and cartoonist/educator Chris Schweizer (Crogan's Vengeance) analyzing their favorite Ditko pages and dissecting Ditko’s contributions to comics history.

Also, a good number of my students will be there shelling their wares and meeting people, at the Temple of Cartoon Mojo booth. There's some great works from them, and I think three or four guys from Savannah, so it should be quite the table to check out!

That's it! I'll have pictures this time around (I always forget to take any). Have a great weekend!

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

SCAD Tragedy

As the folks who read this blog may or may not know, I’m a professor of sequential art (comics) at SCAD-Atlanta, the metro branch of the Savannah College of Art and Design. Though I’ve never attended or taught in Savannah, I do try to visit often when events are held or when my wife (who also works at SCAD, in admissions) has business there.

This week, the Savannah campus had a tragedy with the death of Jeremy Mullins, a professor there specializing in web comics and alternative comics. He died while hiking, falling from the Kaaterskill Falls in New York.

With an enthusiasm all-too-rarely found in academia, Jeremy put in tons of out-of-class time with his students, taking them on trips to indie comic shows, spearheading publication opportunities, founding the excellent comics podcast SEQALAB (one show away from its hundredth episode), and giving loads of support, guidance, criticism, and help to lots of future comic creators.

MacArthur, in a letter to the Comics Reporter, wrote this:

“…his career in teaching had even only begun, but I'm writing through tears to tell you that his presence has impacted a chunk of this generations' young cartoonists.”

That’s no exaggeration. The majority of the indie kids coming out of Savannah’s comics program (there are about ten right now who will be really making a splash within the next year or two, I guarantee) were really cultivated and helped by Jeremy, and his passing will be a huge blow to the department.

It's summertime - convention season for artists, make-money-time for students - and so I ask that, if you've got a little bit of extra dough with which you can part, you make a donation to the Jeremy Mullins Sequential Art Scholarship.  His life was dedicated to helping mold aspiring cartoonists into professional cartoonists, and such a scholarship is, I think, a fitting memorial. 

Here's the info:
Jeremy Mullins Sequential Art Scholarship, Savannah College of Art and Design, P.O. Box 3146, Savannah, GA 31402-3146. For more information, call the institutional advancement department at 912.525.5868.

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Promotional Banner for San Diego

My editor, James, called me Friday to ask if I could put together an image for a banner for San Diego Comic Con, something to promote the entire Crogan Adventures series. So I've been working on it or the last couple of days - something that showcases the variety of periods, the adventure, the exotic locales, etc. Hopefully, this does the job. Here's the big image:



And, because the blog only allows for smaller images, here are some close-ups of the details:



Junichi and Calloway



The tramp steamer (whose name I haven't completely settled on yet, so it's absent from the hull) amidst some junks and sampans in China



Catfoot



a Tuareg raider attacking Peter



Daniel, upside-down.

Whenever I've got spare time I've been working on a larger commission work - all of the Crogan characters together - and I thought that maybe I'd be able to use it for the banner, but the dimensions were wrong, and as it's meant to be really big and viewed from a distance James thought it better to have a montage-type thing.

I'll be at HeroesCon this upcoming weekend - I won't have anything new to sell, save for original art (a post about that, and my Heroes "rules", in a day or so).