Con Diary, NYCC/Saturday – But Where Are The Pixie Cosplayers?

Saturday is the day everybody’s been dreading, apparently. It’s the day when everybody is able to make it into the convention, and only the strongest and bravest ever make it out again. But it wasn’t actually that bad! Here’s my rundown of Saturday in New York:

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NYCC ’13: Miracleman Returns in January 2014

That’s right, True Believers. [Read more…]

NYCC ’13: Dan Slott and Mike Allred Launch New Silver Surfer Series

As predicted/hoped from the ‘Rad’ teaser which showed up a short while ago, Marvel have confirmed that Dan Slott and Mike Allred will be working together on a new Silver Surfer series in March 2014. With these two onboard as the creative team, this could well be the most cosmic and trippy book ever made.

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NYCC ’13: Ales Kot and Garry Brown on Iron Patriot #1

James Rhodes is getting a new solo series next March, with Ales Kot and Garry Brown sticking him in a red white and blue killing machine for ‘Iron Patriot’.

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NYCC ’13: The J. Michael Straczynski panel

by Jeffrey O. Gustafson

An overflow crowed packed into the J. Michael Straczynski workshop Friday at New York Comic Con. The writing panels from Straczynski – who has experience in plays, journalism, television, film, comics and more – are always informative and entertaining, and this was no different.

He opened by stressing the importance of individual voice. “The best writers write the way they talk and talk the way they write. Writing is nothing more than putting down what you’re thinking in the clearest possible form in your own voice. You screw up when you start thinking ‘how should I sound literary, what is the process.'” He contrasted a dancer trying to dance, going through the motions, and a dancer just dancing. He also noted the importance of “specificity of ideas and specificity of language,” to boil down the ideas as small as possible.
He immediately opened up the floor to questions, letting the large audience of aspiring creators dictate the panel.

On the economic side, he noted the financial challenges facing working writers. “If you are looking for a big paycheck, you are in the wrong area.” Talking about television, “the average career of a writer is ten years, then you’re done.”

Dedication to craft is important. Straczynski writes 10-12 hours a day, every day without fail. About evolving the work, “Writing is about acquiring tools for your toolbox. Each time you finish something, you acquire new tools for your toolbox.” About motivation, though he doesn’t get writers block, “There are many days I wake up and not feel like writing.” But just as you wouldn’t no-show a regular job, writers should be dedicated and professional with their craft. On writer’s block, “People tend to get writer’s block when you are being forced write something you don’t want to do.” It is important to have other hobbies, other pursuits to help focus the mind. And to let the characters tell the story for you. “Imagine your best friend, imagine they get up in the dark and they bang their shin on the coffee table: You know your friend, you know exactly what they are going to say when that happens. Writing. Is. No. Different.” And don’t start writing until you are ready to go. Straczynski mulls story and character for days before he starts, and the story comes out at once in “a white heat.”

A writer asks about doing work for free. “What fucks us [working writers], is [people who work for free], because if you guys do it for free, they look to us to do it for free. If someone hires you to build a shelf, wouldn’t you want to get paid for that? People tend to look at writing as not a serious profession. It is. It’s no different than being a doctor or a plumber or a bricklayer.” The question-asker clarified that he was a blogger who worked for himself, and Straczynski pointed out that its different. There is a distinction between fiction and non-fiction writing, but the “goal of a healthy relationship with your work” is to be paid. To do “the real work and then squeeze in the free shit.”

(My own two cents: I didn’t ask the question, but I write for myself for free, too. I also get a great deal of satisfaction from it and folks are beginning to notice my work. But I’m writing commentary and opinion, not writing fiction. I’ve long promised myself that I wouldn’t write for anyone else for free. The work I’m doing now for The Beat, including this report, got me unfettered press access to the con, which I wouldn’t have gotten otherwise. I’m getting something out of this, and hopefully Heidi and crew are too.)

When asked by a teenage aspiring writer about young writers breaking in, Straczynski noted age should not be a factor. Straczynski was a “Jersey street kid” who ground it out in the trenches and worked his way up. Your age doesn’t matter, the work does. “The first time I ever had a play produced, I was 16, 17. The earlier you start, the better you’re going to be. Starting at 16, you have an advantage going in – you are going to get the bad stuff out of your system early on. Go for broke. Write like crazy. Be open and willing to fail. Failure is an important part of the writing process. Accept your inner failure, do not be afraid of it. At your age– Fail gloriously. Fail your heart out.” Learn everything, write short stories, articles for newspapers, everything a writer can, because that is all valuable experience for building the tools in the toolbox.

When asked about getting a note from an editor or producer that he disagreed with, Straczynski noted the importance of having a line you are not willing to cross. There are some situations where there can be a give and take with the material and the editor, but sometimes, if it matters that much, you need to make a stand. Paraphrasing Harlan Ellison, “You cannot approach this from a place of fear. The chief comodity that a writer has to sell is courage, if he is a coward, he is a heretic and a sell-out and a fink. Writing is a holy chore. I believe that to my soul.”

On showing others your work, and getting feedback, Straczynski says to wait until the work is finished. On the worry of the work being stolen, Straczynski noted “As far as stealing stuff, it almost never happens, it’s really, really rare,” then making a joke about Deep Space Nine. (Long story.)

When writing, you should do “the least obvious choice,” and explore that. “It will keep your stories fresh.” When asked about revisions, he noted that “Rewriting is the fun of it. I love the rewriting process. The rewriting part is the most exciting part of being a writer.” With revision you can refine the work, clarify the ideas, and make the work better.

On breaking in to the television industry. “A real writer gets to where they’re going by a road that rolls up behind them. What worked for me won’t work for you.” On other writers, “I don’t believe in competition among writers. What you are selling is your point of view, no one has that.”

NYCC ’13: Editing Comics the Boom! Way

by Jeffrey O. Gustafson

Thursday at New York Comic Con, BOOM! Studios held their panel, “Editing Comics: The BOOM! Studios Way.” Attending were creators Mike Kunkel (cartoonist, Hero Bear and the Kid), Michael Alan Nelson (writer, Valen the Outcast, Day Men), Eric Esquivel (writer, Freelancers), Caleb Monroe (writer, Steed and Peele, Peanuts), and Grace Randolph (writer, Superbia), and editors Dafna Pleban and Rebecca Taylor (who moderated the discussion). It was a lively and freewheeling discussion that covered the process of making mainstream comics, the challenges of dealing with licensed and creator-owned material, the relationship between creators, editors, licensors, and retailers, and much more.

Pleban began by going over the nuts-and-bolts of the average life cycle of a book at BOOM!, from the pitch, to assignments, to approving the script, art, and on through production. She stressed the need for consistency and the proper role of the editor in the creative process, noting “when we finally get to scripting, we [the editors] don’t waste the writer’s time, making them do draft after draft after draft, because one of our key jobs is to keep all our freelancers and contributors excited. Putting someone through a thousand notes or a thousand drafts will break anyone’s spirit. Including the editors.” After going through the publishing process, she notes the importance of the direct market retailer: “Retailers are our lifeline. If we don’t keep our promises to the retailers, why would they trust us on the next issue?”

Before getting into the philosophy and practice of editing, Taylor asked the panelists what distinguished BOOM! as a company. Kunkel, noted the sense of support creators receive from editorial, with editors playing the same role as producers on a movie, facilitating the creator’s vision within the confines of producing timely, quality material. Nelson agreed, “What makes BOOM! unique its sense of devotion to the creator’s vision all the while making the book the best book that it can possibly be. BOOM! is known for the quality of its storytelling, and that’s not easy.” Esquevel noted the unseen but vital role editors play. “They don’t have the sexy job of being the front-man, of being the creator,” but when they succeed, they make everyone else shine.

Monroe noted the amount of support and trust editorial at BOOM! has in creators, and the thoughtfulness they put into every project. “They spend a lot of time considering who they want to work on a book. It’s not plug-and-play.” Pleban reinforced the importance of trust. “We’re here to grease the wheels, not to get in anyone’s way… We’ll offer suggestions, if we think something’s a bad idea, we might push back a little. But we didn’t hire you because we disagreed with you. [Interference] is not fun for anyone. The moment the process stops being fun, you get bad comics. It’s that simple.” She added, “as editors, we have to not be didactic, we’re not writers, we’re editors. We don’t want to write the book for you.” Randolph: “Make sure you don’t have an editor who wants your job. That’s a book not worth doing.” 
When working on books, Taylor wants creators to be able to be pliable enough to accept notes but to not roll over and give in to every suggestion. Randolph also doesn’t want a yes-man or yes-woman from editors, “that’s not going to help you.” Pleban stressed that editorial is coming from a place of goodwill and making quality work, and that it is never personal. Taylor asked about fostering trust between creative and editorial, and Monroe noted the difference in the company culture at BOOM! where he feels he’s working with friends and that makes a huge difference in the relationship and subsequent work.

When discussing the differences between creator-owned and licensed properties, Randolph noted that with creator-owned books the buck stops with the creator, where with licensed books there are many levels of approval. Pleban, who professed her love for fandom, says she loves working on franchise comics. “Franchise isn’t scary to me. I love the problem of trying to tell a story with restrictions. It’s fun… We’re genuine fans of our franchises, we’re genuine fans of Adventure Time and Planet of the Apes.” (Esquivel calls the fun of playing with licensed books the “nerd olympics.”) At the same time, she enjoys guiding creator-owned work, “I love being able to help a creator realize their vision. I get to sit down and talk with a writer about a book that doesn’t yet exist.” Monroe pointed out the importance of BOOM! as a buffer between the creator and the licensor, and the importance of keeping the licensor on schedule as well as the creators. Monroe also appreciates the amount of experimentation BOOM! allows with their licensed books, and the necessity for telling the story with the same passion as your creator-owned material. Nelson pointed out that once you can have a track record of quality storytelling, the licensor puts more trust in the creator’s vision.

Taylor opened up the floor to questions, and Pleban was asked about editing artists. “You don’t want to give the note after the page is done. I’m not going to give a thousand notes after they’ve already finished the page, because I’m not an asshole. If you have to give a thousand notes on an artist, you chose the wrong artist.” The editors create steps along the way of production to eliminate any problems before they arise, and to let the artists do their job. She pointed out the importance of clarity in scripting, like simple directions like whether or not a scene is set in the day or night, so as not to force corrections on the colorists. Randolph appreciates that BOOM! found the artist for her creator-owned book, and the nature of collaboration between the artist, editor, and writer. Monroe noted the importance of catering scripts to the artist’s unique sensibilities.

When asked about how to initiate relationships with editors, Nelson said “buy them a drink.” Build a casual relationship with the editor and get to know them without being forceful. Esquivel said “show the editors you can do the work.” Producing consistent, finished material on a regular schedule – as Randolph pointed out, much easier today with the relative simplicity of self-publishing – will do more to get you in the door that anything else. (This is advice that I have always seen editors and creators always give about breaking in, and my own experience dealing with creators at every level of the spectrum confirms that basic truism: if you build it, they will come.) As for becoming an editor, there is no school, no set way of breaking in, and the editors had their own individual paths that has the common element of working their way up from the bottom and having genuine passion for the material. Pleban: “The nice thing about this industry is that it’s pretty porous.” Taylor noted that BOOM! Editor-In-Chief Ross Ritchie broke in by editing an anthology for fun that got him noticed.
Finally, I asked the panel about the recent nightmare stories of editorial interference and subsequent creative exodus at DC: “…Obviously you can’t speak to how other companies do their business, but as editors how do you respond to these stories, and as creators, how do you respond to last-second changes and interference?” Randolph adamantly said, “I have tremendous respect for the difficult decision it was for those creators to quit. It’s so tragic because they had their dream job and it turned into a nightmare, as you said. But at the end of the day, all you have is your reputation. Your name is on that work. It was very brave of them to quit.” Esquivel noted that he has never had anything like that happen to him at BOOM! and brought up Paul Jenkins’ recent statements about editorial interference elsewhere and why Jenkins decided to work with BOOM!. Pleban was sympathetic to the possible difficulties the editors are dealing with, noting that “it probably sucks all around, and I just feel bad.” Nelson noted that if you “no longer feel like your name on the book represents something that you’ve done, then you need to walk away, but that line is different for everyone.”

NYCC ’13: The Chew Panel

by Jeffrey O. Gustafson

Friday at New York Comic Con, creators John Layman and Rob Guillory talked to several hundred fans of their hugely entertaining, humorous, action-drama series Chew.
They talked about upcoming issues in the current stoyline. Next month’s Issue 38 will be Colby/Savoy focused and set in the FDA prison. Additionally, writer Layman revealed that a background character on the cover is the villain from the flash-forward from issue 17. 
Artist Guillory is chiefly responsible for the visual easter-eggs that are one of the series’ hall-marks. Layman never sees the gags until the very end of the production process.  Guillory, on the strengths of his art: “I think there are a lot of artists that are better than me, technically, but I think my strength is that you can read Chew without any words and probably get it.”
When asked about the amount of research he puts into the various unique powers, Layman said “I don’t do any research, everything is B.S. Except [with the names] I look into linguistic things, Latin and Greek root words, which technically are not supposed to mix. It takes me a while to find the right rhythm, what sounds right.”
“The next arc is called Chicken Tenders and it is completely Poyo-centric,” said Layman, featuring the hugely popular assassin rooster. It will be five issues plus another Poyo special one-shot. (Guillory wants a chromium cover for the story at some point.) The popularity and importance of Poyo in the story wasn’t planned but grew organically from the craziness of the eventual execution of the character. Issue 42 is a murder mystery Poyo must solve.  
The series will end at issue 60, which has long been the plan. On why 60, Layman said “Because Preacher is 60, because Transmet[ropolitan] is 60, because Y [The Last Man] is 60.” There are four story arcs left after the current one is complete. As noted, the next arc is centered around Poyo, the arc after that will be about the vampire, the penultimate arc will be about Savoy, and the final story will be back to being centered on Tony Chu. About the wacky presentations of federal agencies, “The EPA will probably show up at some point.”
There is an Absolute-like slipcased hardcover coming out, called the Smorgasbord edition. (It is currently available at the Convention and will be available in stores next month.) It is the first of three such collections, each having 20 issues. “We’ll never have a compendium with all sixty issues,” said Layman, contrasting the experience of reading the much denser Chew to something like quicker Walking Dead which is available in compendiums.
When someone asked about the book’s racial diversity, Layman said “It wasn’t really conscious. Comics are too white.” (There was a big round of applause to this.) “Rob designs the characters as he sees fit, and makes things more diverse.” He noted that there has never been any push-back from Image. 
About planning ahead, Layman said “I know where I have to be at the end of every arc and where the characters have to be. And who lives and who dies. I was kind of bummed when Glenn died in The Walking Dead, so I decided that someone else would survive as pushback for Kirkman.” Guillory noted that the day the first met, Layman drunkenly told him the plot of the whole story.
About the long-in-development television adaptation, “The Showtime thing went away.” They are with new “Hollywood people” who they feel will better represent their wants and needs from an adaptation. If an adaptation goes forward, they wouldn’t do animation if it wasn’t visually like Guillory’s distinct, highly stylized art. About live action, Guillory would want to be intimately involved with the production: “I would like to be involved, especially [with decisions about] the acting, if that would even be possible. I have very specific things in my brain about how the characters act, and how they react. It’s a humor thing. And I would like to be involved in design things, like character design.”
About their favorite issue of the series, Layman says that usually it’s the most recent issue. “I’ll have an issue that is my favorite until the next favorite comes along. Thirty was really a high-point, for both of us.” Added Guillory, about the issue’s shocking turn of events, “And a low point.” Layman continued: “I really loved 36, [which is] weird because 37 was a better comic.” (I agree.) Guillory’s favorite was the Secret Agent Poyo one-shot. Just because its so out there. I’m a big fan of cheesy ’80s action flicks. [The one-shot] is in the mode of really ridiculous action movie.”
Layman and Guillory answered questions from fans and talked for several more minutes. I’m personally a big fan of this series. Each successive issue gets stronger and stronger. The creators continue to mix inventive, high-concept, high-energy weirdness with fantastic character drama and genuine hilarity in story & art. Layman and Guillory are working a pretty special voodoo with this book, and I look forward to the final stories as they are published over the next two years.

NYCC ’13: TODAY! Check out our two panels on European cartoonists and comics documentaries

jeff and m.jpg
Today I’m moderating not one but TWO fantastic panels full of very talented people, neither of which has been seen at New York Comic-Con or at any con. Above is a still from BETTER THINGS: The Life and Choices of Jeffrey Catherine Jones, Maria Cabardo’s documentary about the late artist.

Title: Publishers Weekly Comics World presents: Doing It the Euro Way
Date: 10/12/2013
Time: 1:45PM – 2:45PM
Location: 1A15
Speakers: Emma Viecelli, Esad Ribic, Heidi MacDonald, Stephanie Hans, & Will Sliney
Description: The American comics industry has been invaded by artists from around the globe, and many of them are at NYCC. Cartoonists from Europe including Esad Ribic (Thor: God of Thunder #1, X-Men), Will Sliney (Defenders, Celtic Warrior), Emma Viecelli (Amazon Chronicles, My Little Pony), Stephanie Hans (The Mighty Thor) Alvaro Martinez (The Ultimate Comics X-Men) and more talk about their work and their native comics scenes.
Title: Making Movies about Making Comics: Three Filmmakers in Discussion
Date: 10/12/2013
Time: 5:15PM – 6:15PM
Location: 1A01
Speakers: Heidi MacDonald, Ian Fischer, Maria Cabardo, & Patrick Meaney
Description: With the rise of comics culture, movie screens and DVD racks have been seeing a rise in new documentaries that explore the comics medium and the men and women behind it. But getting these movies made can be an epic journey in itself. Join Patrick Meaney (The Image Revolution, Warren Ellis: Captured Ghosts and the upcoming Neil Gaiman documentary), Maria Cabardo (BETTER THINGS: The Life and Choices of Jeffrey Catherine Jones) and Ian Fischer (Rude Dude: The Documentary, Superhero Nation) as they go behind the scenes and show exclusive footage, including a sneak peek at the upcoming Neil Gaiman documentary.

NYCC13: Day Two in Pictures

I got five hours of sleep last night, yet managed to navigate the show fairly well.

Basically, my brain was on the same power-saving strategy my smart phone was using, and aside from weary feet, I managed quite well.

I had various panels scheduled, but after seeing the line for the JMS workshop, gave up.  Instead, I walked the margins of the sales floor, starting with The Block in 3E (where the cool kids hang out), then crowd surfing over to 3A where many small booths and retailers were located.  I ended the day in the last aisle of the book publishers, and made an amazing discovery! [Read more…]

NYCC ’13: DC Announce Stephanie Brown’s Return

The Batman panel is going on right now, and The Beat has Jeffrey O. Gustafson on the floor right now. But according to reports we’ve had from several of the people sitting in on the panel, it sounds like there’s one announcement we HAD to let you know about immediately! It appears that Scott Snyder has announced to the fans that cult favourite character Stephanie Brown will be returning to comics in Batman Eternal #3.

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NYCC ’13: Avengers Undercover – the Follow-Up to Avengers Arena

Marvel have announced their plans for the follow-up to Avengers Arena, the somewhat controversial series in which a number of trainee superheroes were kidnapped and forced to fight each other to the death by Arcade. Written by Dennis Hopeless and drawn by Kev Walker – the creative team from Avengers Arena – the series will see several teen heroes go on a new mission.

Spoilers for Avengers Arena below. [Read more…]

NYCC ’13: Avengers World #1 from Hickman, Spencer, and Caselli

The Avengers panel is currently going on in New York, and there’s all kinds of new stuff being announced – as is the wont of convention panels. Among them is the news that Jonathan Hickman, Nick Spencer and Stefano Caselli will be the creative team for a book called Avengers World.

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NYCC ’13: A Black Widow Solo Series from Nathan Edmondson and Phil Noto

Possibly one of the most demanded comics from fans, Marvel have announced today that they will be publishing a new Black Widow solo series, written by Nathan Edmondson and drawn by Phil Noto. Natasha Romanov will be in the title role.

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NYCC ’13: Loki, Agent of Asgard

Al Ewing and Lee Garbett have been announced as the creative team for an interesting new project – Loki, Agent of Asgard. Spoilers for Young Avengers follow in the article below. [Read more…]

NYCC ’13: Richard Isanove Takes Over Savage Wolverine’s Next Arc

French artist Richard Isanove has been announced as the next creator taking over on Savage Wolverine, a title which has turned into a showcase book for artists to flex their storytelling. Following recent arcs by Jock and Phil Jimenez, painter Isanove will join the title in 2014 for an arc.

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NYCC ’13: All-New X-Factor with David and DiGiandomenico


Let’s go, everybody! It’s NYCC time! Prepare for an avalanche of news updates from the convention. Let’s move to the X-Men panel, where some new storylines have been announced, as well as a relaunch – Peter David and Carmine Di DiGiandomenico will be the creative team for All-New X-Factor. [Read more…]