I was told when I moved to Texas that the Dallas comic con was fun, but the one to watch out for was the Austin Comic con.
It turns out they were referring to the Wizard World Comic Con.
Well, I took the family with me on Friday, and it turned out that the organization was pretty well setup, the volunteers were very well informed and helpful.
Taking into account that I wen with a small child, I had to rush through most booths.
But as a comic lover, I was a bit disappointed to the quantity of movie/tv stars, and the quantity of space assigned to them versus the comic area.
Well, tomorrow I will be taking my nephews with me, and will be able to spend more time with the artists and creators.
Pictures will be included.
Half way into plotting my latest work, I had to take a step back and rethink a lot of things I was doing. On my tenth or so re-read I realized I was picking up elements from TV shows I’ve seen in the last 10 years, and that bothered me to no end.
Granted, they were not big things, but what really bothered me is that they were actually pretty crummy ideas.
A professional acquaintance who actually works on TV took the time to go over why TV shows can’t dare to stray too far from their formulas: “We are working with a language that has been agreed upon by the majority of the networks, and has been honed and fined tuned through the decades, and handed down to us by predecessors. “
One of the main problems I see is the perception of the industry on how society is.
Hollywood and TV writers seem to live in some kind of alternate of alternate reality, where kids act stupid and just run into oncoming traffic, chasing after balls, young teens are all moody, and parents refuse to communicate with each other.
Don’t get me wrong. There are those instances in real life, and plenty of them. My problem is that they also are crutches for some very lazy writing.
But then I have a skype session with my longtime friend who left comics in the late 90’s and has found steady work on TV. To summarize the conversation he said:
“Lots of people who work in Hollywood have never worked a 9 to 5 job in their freaking lives. And Hollywood (include TV production in this statement) don’t have a clue of what real life is, because the industry itself puts them in a unreal bubble. Working writers and successful writers get paid a boatload of money and then they become detached from everyday life necessities.
And I am not referring to the poor schmuck who is serving coffee at Starbucks waiting for a miracle and someone to buy their script. Heck No! I am talking about those insiders, who started 10 years ago as personal assistants, and eventually moved up to assistant producers, and now they are part of everything that is wrong with the cultural machine of mass media that is Hollywood and its TV side-business.”
As he was able to explain to me, there are these producers living in mansions, snorting coke and getting hummers in hot-pools that receive a call from someone higher up who says: “I want a TV show about a dog and cop”
They finish their coke and their oral sex and call assistants to get the whole thing started. Then, they call 10 recent grads from some University and ask them to prepare a few scripts. Much later, after the casting and the scheduling of the shooting, they give those scripts to one hired writer who gets paid a decent amount of money to put up with the crap from the producer, and that writer will put together a frankenstein monster of a script and get the credits.
Agreed, with the advent of good competitive TV, the scenario described above is less and less prevalent, but it still out there. And what is worst, the culture that allowed said scenario to exists, its still there.
This gets fed by the fact that the majority of the public want to consume easily recognizable entertainment, and thus they wouldn’t feel comfortable viewing in a movie theater experimental movies, or avant garde theater, usually they would leave the theater in droves.
And of course this same audiences that I am talking about that consumes movies and tv like they are microwavable dinners, are also the majority of the mass consumers of comics.
People usually want to consume things that are familiar to them, and that translates onto most popular media, like movies, music, or comics.
My advice? Slowly move away from your comfort zone. Keep a couple of Capt America or Batman’s under the bed, but star reading the independents, the weird, the genres you never though you would enjoy, and the ones with strange art, and strange story lines.
And stop watching TV!! Or watch less. Your brain will thank you.
This post owes its existence to a night hanging out with other creative minds, and amongst beers and wine, and confiding in each other where our love affair with the graphic medium started.
I heard lots of interesting stories that night, but I decided to just tell mine.
Love Affair #1
Warren Publisher does Will Eisner The Spirit.
I was a really young kid, in kindergarten, in The Bronx, in New York, and I had to walk past a few newstands and some bodegas, and some of them had comics on the windows, or in racks.
Of course I would check out the Spiderman or the Superman comic against the glass, but one day I saw this.
It was love at first sight.
The lettering of the logo did remind me of Superman’s but the indentations made it look like they had been roughed up. And the hero really looked roughed up!!! Superman was never worked over like that. And speaking of which, anyone notices how this character actually looks a bit like Clark Kent?
The perspective, the puddles, the wrinkles, the flying papers and trash… i remember noticing all of these details from the cover and being amazed and coveting this comic for ever…. but a 5 year old barely has two wooden nickels to rub together, so it would pass almost 10 years before i got to read it… and when I read it, I found it even better than what my imagination had made up.
The late Master Will Eisner has pages and pages of admirers on the web, analyzing all aspects of his amazing art, and his unsurpassed storytelling technique, so you don’t need me to add to the lot.
Suffice to say that as a first love, Warren’s publication of The Spirit by Will Eisner was amazing.
So, as some of you readers may have noticed, I’ve moved to the South last year.
I left my beloved NYC with ambivalent feelings. On one hand I love New Yorkers, those cosmopolitan people who mind their business, but who band like a cohesive unit whenever a crisis strikes, and who in many ways are always the vanguard of technology, trends, fashion and culture.
On the other hand, New York is being sold to the wealthy, and everyone else who is not wealthy, can go and boink themselves.
Another factor is that NYC is a city with 19th century infrastructure and design, trying to adjust to the 21st century. For example: parking sucks and is prohibitively expensive; the NYC subway and rest of mass transportation is deplorable in terms of cost and delays; the cost of living is through the roof, both in terms of housing cost, and in terms of daily expenses; people who don’t live in the city and come in, think they have to behave like assholes to blend in (tremendous fallacy); etc…
I got to a point in my life where the beauty of NYC and the pluses did not compensate for the long list of minuses. So a year later the family is now trying to settle in Texas.
We’ll see how that works out. We are still in trial period.
One of the first things I’ve been able to do is go to the Dallas Comic Con Expo.
Let’s start by saying that the event was a blast.
Although Texas prides itself in doing everything bigger, but this time it has to be pointed out that the state didn’t live up to that motto.
Held at the Irving Convention center, the venue was large enough for the artists and celebreties in attendance, but not large enough for the quantity of fans that poured over to show their love for the media. As someone pointed out to me, this is the only event accessible to someone from Matamoros (South) to Dalhart (almost 1,400 miles) in the Spring. I will insert here that fortunately for Texas, there still is the Austin Comic Con on November, and it promises a better line-up of comic-book artists and media stars.
There are also Huston Comic con and San Antonio Comic con, but more on that later.
The well-versed traveler will remember Dallas as being the city of the 40K/Year millionaires, and the city of the small-town people who want to behave like they are big-city folk, and I was expecting my fair share of that in the convention. Fortunately, most of the attendees I interacted with were all wonderful open-minded people, doing their best to be affable and have a great time. One thing you have to give Texans credit for is that they try to remain polite and gracious, and it shows in many endeavors they take.
One of the most severe problems encountered at this particular event had to do with the the organizers planing like “small-town” folks, and being disorganized to a fault. The parking situation was terribly disorganized, and often we saw cars leaving a lot, but the attendants were not directing incoming traffic to fill the spots, instead keep sending traffic further down to more distant lots. That, under a 95 degree sun, makes for an unpleasant stroll towards the convention center. And people in Dallas are not accustomed to having to walk. Most of the city has pretty decent parking conditions, and it is fair to say that the residents are accustomed to park fairly near their destinations. Also, in the defense of the people attending, you don’t want to be walking under the scorching sun while in a plastic/foam/leather costume, sweating like a hog in a steam room.
Another improvement could have been the allocation of rooms. On the big day, Saturday, we found the autograph signing room to be huge but mostly empty, while the room where the costume contest was being held was cramped beyond belief. I even saw the fire marshal entering and advising the organizers to start removing attendees, due to fire hazard/safety conditions.
I think the organizers didn’t expect the amazing attendance they had, and were unprepared to deal with the contingency (something very common in the business world in Texas, if I may say so. If you don’t believe me, just look at the construction in the road 114, one of the access roads leading to the Irving Convention Center, and how incredibly poorly signaled the changes are on the road. Locals tell me that construction was supposed to be done 1 year ago, and they still have 1 year to go! But the signals indicating lane changes, alternate routes, etc… DEPLORABLE! Keep in mind that has nothing to do with the organization of the Dallas Comic con)
Kudos and congratulations have to be given to the fans themselves and the guests.
John Romita Jr. and Jim Steranko where the headliners of the event on the comic side.
The ironic thing is that despite trying to catch them for a few years (more than 5) at the NY Comic con, I ended up meeting them at this comic con in the heart of Texas.
JRJR was there with his adorable and wonderful wife Kathy. She made the amazing request that anyone with small children or handicapped conditions were moved towards the front of the line. I feel the pain for the ones without kids or disable relatives, but in this case I applauded and congratulated her profusely.
Also, standing in line you get to listen to more conversations of the artist with his wife, and realize what a wonderful chemistry they have, so you should thank her twice for making you stand in line longer, and letting you in a small window of their interaction and their human kindness.
Romita was a pleasure to talk to, even though it may have been the customary 5/7 minutes you can spare in a table as busy as that one. But I repeat, he (and his lovely wife) made it completely worth it.
And right next to him was the Master of Elegance and Graphic Storytelling himself, Jim Steranko.
Amazingly his table was not as full as it could be expected, but that only gave me more time to enjoy his company.
I had him sign a couple of Nick Fury’s that I’ve had with me since the 70′s, and I finally got to express to him my admiration, telling him how I’ve always ranked him up there with Will Eisner himself in the realm of graphical storytelling.
He regaled me with some stories about living in PA and how he is contemplating moving down south, but he is indecisive between which state to choose.
I mentioned how I kept missing him at different conventions in NYC and how ironic is that I finally got to meet him at Dallas. I never mentioned anything of my brief incursion in the field as an artists, nor my work in Europe. (I never do. I’ve learned to just show up as a fan, and convey my admiration for the artist. Been doing so for the last few years.)
I know this makes me look like fanboy, but I left Jim’s table feeling I had met a beautiful being, and feeling as an improved human myself for having met him in person.
NOTE TO FANS: Always ALWAYS ALWAYS put your money where your heart is. Even if it is just $1.00. Try to buy something at the table of the artists who is signing your stuff. Otherwise you are just acting like a leech. Seriously. Like those guys who arrive at a table with a stroller and boxes of comics, and pull 20 or so issues and ask to get them signed, but DO NOT PURCHASE a single item at the table.
At JRJR he had a large charity box, where I dropped $20.00, since he didn’t have anything for sale, and at Steranko table, I bought a print, and payed a few extra $5 to have some extra items signed. IT IS NOT about saving money. It is about supporting the artist with your dollars. I made a mental computation regarding how much I could spend, and I spent it on the artists.
I am not saying walk in the room with $1,000 in cash and make it rain on the artists. Heck! I couldn’t be more strapped for cash myself right now, so I know the economy is tough, and we are in a recession! But all you have to do is be selective with your money.
Instead of buying a Tshirt or some other frivolous item like that at the kiosk of some merchant, you should make sure you have covered the artists you appreciate first. The merchant should understand that if you don’t support your artist, he/she would have nothing to sell either!
If you are counting your pennies (a very commendable virtue) know that most artists will have small ticket items at their table, (like $5.00 prints/cards or something like that) but everylittle bit helps.
I can count myself blessed to have in my small collection one of the last books the master Gene Colan signed in one of his last public appearances, before his sad sad passing. He did sign some Tomb Of Draculas for me, but that book I bought at his table will always have a great emotional value for me!
Anyway, that needed to be said.
After that I returned the next day with my young nephews to get them to enjoy the fanfare and the costumes. Being barely under 10 they still don’t have a grasp on the concept of autographs and creators nor artists, and they still think that comics magically happen, so getting so see some artists doing their craft right there at the table was an eye opening experience for them.
Well, suffice to say that the organizers got a commendation for effort, but an “F’ for actual implementation.
I hope they listen to the complaints for the irate fans in a constructive way, and learn for future conventions how to not make the same mistakes.
Other issues that needed addressing, for example: The signing room for the TV celebrities was MUCH larger than the room where the costume contest was being held. And the convention was all about showing off your costumes.
On Saturday, tickets were sold out, but they still allowed people without tickets to parch, and pay the $5.00 fee, only to find out they couldn’t get in. I hope they refunded those visitors.
I want to stress that the organizers made a fairly good attempt at making things smooth. They were present at the premises, and were trying to correct the mistakes. They were just rookie mistakes, and all people who attended the convention and found a serious problem with the organizations should communicate what they saw/experienced in a very courteous manner to the organizers, and ask them politely to try to correct it next time.
In Texas and in the rest of the world things go smoother if you are courteous and polite. Something we all should learn from the Lone Star State.
In my next post, I will comment on some items I purchased and some new artists I met.
Another year has gone by… And although it was full of good surprises and brave endeavors, I still look back and somehow find it lacking.
Yes, Darick Robertson has produced amazing work, David Finch has graced some new myths with his amazing inks, and Millar and Ennis have consolidated themselves as more comic book icons, and the list goes on. DC relaunched all his pantheon of heroes (minus some, of course), and managed to give collars to most heroes, put some pants on others and steal the clothes of the backs of alien princesses who didn’t mind having them stolen in the first place.
Why then am I feeling so… blah? Maybe because mid year I got involved in the relaunch of a series that I had peddled (unsuccessfully, of course) to the Big Two back in the 1990′s.
Being the visionary that I am (I say this humbly and sarcastically) y got turned down often while receiving statements to the effect of “This stuff is not good for this market. We don’t do things like that here in the US. Maybe you should try Europe.”
Now, 20 years later, and one V for Vendetta later, they are telling me that maybe the market could be ready. So here I am, working on the vision of a superhero that is commercialized and disfranchised and dragged through the mud of his city, and the backers are pulling out saying “Wow, man. This is too dark. Too ambitious. Too real. Too close to home, man.” And nope, I am not feeling betrayed, nor am I feeling desperate nor desolated. I put away my new sketches, I actually bundled them with the old ones from 20 years ago, and just lean back and wish things were different.
I wish… that our market was totally composed of IDW’s. Publishers that have an investment with the creators, and want projects to move forth, be successful, make money, gain fans. Imagine a whole industry where the actual creators are the direct responsible for the successes and failures of the creations, and sharing into the profits to a higher degree… Oh my god… I am sounding like one of those confounded socialists!!!
I wish… that the superheroes give way to a more mature audience and a more mature creators. I am so sick of going over seas to comic cons, and getting constantly asked about the american classics, like Milton Cannif, Alex Raymond, Al Capp, Will Eisner, Richard Corben and only as a perfunctory annotation do they ever stop to talk about people in tights… I want to see Ltnt. Blueberry next to Superman, and Corto Maltes next to Spiderman. I want to see their equivalent counterparts be created on this side of the Atlantic.
I want to see the American Incal, or the counterpart sagas of Jodorowsky. Heck, I don’t even think the US has produced the American Manara.
I wish…to see the hardcover album become a normal staple in the American comic book stand. The format with Album pages, with hardcover luxurious colors, with a page count between 46 or 64. The way Pilote use to publish them, or Darguard use to. What is the comic Album? No, it is not the graphic novel with a hardcover. Here, we publish a floppy monthly, with barely 14 pages of story, and eventually, when we gather enough issues we release it on a graphic novel. It it really sells well, we release it as a luxury hard cover. But in Spain, France, Germany, Holland, Italy and lots of other European countries, the artists and writer put together a work of art that is between 40 and 60 pages long. It gets drawn in large paper, A4-sized, approx. 21×30 centimeters that is 8.4×11.6 in, but also often we find 11.657″ x 16.93″ .And then it gets published in a luxurious hard cover album. Eventually it may sell as a softcover. And not as an afterthought, not only if the comic is wildly successful. From the get go. No cheap floppy-cover 16 page issue comic, but a full fledged album.
I wish… for more digital comic releases, in an affordable and profitable manner for all involved. Alas, much in the manner that the book publishers were revealed to have done recently by being in cahoots and plotting to keep digital books artificially high, so have comics books not gotten there yet. The main thing that digital comics have going for them is the voragine and appetite for digital media that youngsters who have grown up in the digital age seem to profess.
I assume they are going to follow the tactic of waiting it out. Waiting it till people who want digital comics no matter what, they stop caring about the overpricing. Maybe it will reach a plateau , maybe not. Time will tell.
Most products that come to mind go through a series of evolutions, adding changes that sometimes are motivated by social need, others by survival instincts.
For example, when I say “pair of jeans” what comes to mind? (Here comes into play your social environment, your cultural perspective and a series of other factors.)
Jeans started as a fabric originally worn mainly by sailors of the coast of Genoa. That material was later imitated by french cloth-makers in the city of Nimes, and the name DeNim came to be.
Much later it arrived in the US, where Levi Strauss took it, improved it, and made it similar to what we know today. But not quite. Buttons and rivets were mainly used in the confection. It was Lee who introduced the first zipper on the venerable pants.
But here I ask you: Should we crave a return to the classic jeans, the ones originally made for miners and farmer? Are our current jeans, with fancy labels and sometimes more than $100.00 sticker price related to the original product in more than name?
The same applies to the most widely recognized American superhero.
Superman, as envisioned by Jerry Siegel and Joel Shuster, was somewhat of a rogue, a dark knight in a blue suit. He was also camera shy, and stayed away from the public eye as much as was possible.
But above all, he was an Avenger!
Just notice this cover:
Superman can cause terror. Superman doesn’t care about the consequences. This is the late 1930′s. PC is not widespread. Soon we will be at war against the Krouts and the Japs!
And DC will produce their pro war bond cover later on…
Actually the “Slap a Jap” slogan wasn’t originated at DC, to be fair.
Those were different days, and less likely to pull punches. No black characters, females knew their place, and foreigners who weren’t white were usually trouble.
Among my sarcasm maybe you can infer that not everything being simple is necessarily better.
Heck! If we want simplicity, why aren’t we living in caves, hunting and gathering?
I repeat, Superman was originally conceived as an avenger.
Actually, if you want a Superman that comes close to the original idea, you have to thank the latest iteration in Action Comics, by the hand of Grant Morrison and Rag Morales, where a idealistic Clark Kent is at odds with the powers that be and rule Metropolis, and at times ran afoul with the law, but goes to great lengths to bring evil doers to justice.
Another matter altogether is the answer to the question: “Whose Justice?”
That’s why Supes has been considered by many comic books sages and critics a disguise for fascism, a caricaturization of absolute power. And that caricature has been maligned, much in the way the Camel cigarette logo was chastised for being aimed at young adults and even children.
FULL DISCLOSURE: My answer to that argument has always been: “Lets NOT raise children that are enticed to consume poison because the box has a cute animal in it!!” but if we compare our academic stance in math and sciences versus the rest of the industrialized worlds it is obvious that no one listens to me.
Superman has elicited a never ending trove of metaphors and comparisons. His uniform has been contrasted with the patriotic colors of the US Flag. His underwear outside his pants has been maligned as a symbol of male chauvinism.
He has been criticized for being white skinned with blue eyes, and he has been also criticized for having Jewish creators, and not looking more Caucasian.
Then, in at the end of the 40’s, DC decided to really cash in this cash cow, and started treating supes like the geese of the golden eggs, by growing a family of superboys, supergirls, superdogs, super whatever….
There was: Superman’s Girl Friend, Lois Lane, Superman’s Pal Jimmy Olsen, Supergirl, the adventures of Superboy, Krypto the superdog, even some small episodes where Lana Lang or Jonathan Kent were the main characters of the plot. No wonder DC eventually put out a title called “Superman Family”!
Then the 50’s came and superman was completely sanitized and any vestige of his bad-boy days were bygone. He was became a device for contrive and off the wall storytelling, a manual on “how to to put a character in contrived situations, and create truly unbelievable stories.”
And thus our current era superman was born. The superman concerned with hiding his identity from Lois lane, much like a kid plays hide and seek, for plays sake. And he was given colorful foes, and crazy situations, where he even plays romantic ding-bat to Lois silly advances, and at the same time the writers had to come up with unimaginable handicaps to keep things interesting.
All the way through the 70’s Superman was supposed to be safe, kid friendly, following the Comic Book Code, like most comic book superheroes.
Till his rebirth in the early 90′s, where eventually he even grew long hair, which, by the way, many suspect was the reason why Doomsday had to kill him.
But by then, many venerable writers wanted to explore different aspects of the myth, and publishers had already accustomed the readers to endure some lack of continuity from time to time. Nowhere in DC i think we see that more than in the WonderWoman series, where between the 40′s and the 70′s the amazon went through different incarnations, professions, identities and plot lines.
So now, in the Superman post 2000, which do you like and follow?
The graphic evolution of Superman
Thanks to http://www.supermansupersite.com/evolution.html for the reference and the great info.
Also, if you want to join the myriad of readers who think that superman is at times somewhat of a dick, go over here…
and have a blast perusing the many samples of startling covers and art they have!!