The Beat’s Annual Survey 2015, Part Four: “Grandpa Con versus In-name-only-Con”

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Gary Tyrrell, journalist

2015 Projects: I was invited to write a short piece on webcomics that will be part of an upcoming college text on the history of illustration.

What was the biggest story in comics in 2014?  All-ages graphic novels stomping all over the traditional content of comics. This was the year that Raina Telgemeier and Kazu Kibuishi took half the spots on the NY Times bestseller list between the two of them, and they are between them buiding up an entire future generation of comics readers.

What will be the biggest story in comics in 2015? Scott McCloud’s “The Sculptor”, which richly deserves all the praise it will be garnering.

What guilty pleasure (of any kind) are you looking forward to in 2015? This makes me a terrible fan of paleontology, but I kinda want to see Chris Pratt riding a motorcycle with his loyal pack of hunting raptors running alongside.


@joe

Joe Field, retailer
2015 Projects: My ongoing project, for the last 26 years, is Flying Colors Comics & Other Cool Stuff. And the 14th Annual Free Comic Book Day will be here before you know it (First Saturday in May!) There are other projects at various stages not yet ready for airing.

What was the biggest story in comics in 2014? The continued mainstreaming of Comic Book Culture which has been percolating for a dozen years but is now approaching full boil. More than that,  all comics, whether print or digital, are on the continued rise.

I do think this amorphous thing we call “the comics market” is more tribal than ever and more splintered, as well. It’s a thousand specialty mini-markets within the larger specialty super-market. I’m hoping for a 2015 with less friction, less victimization and more peace and acceptance at all levels of the industry.

What will be the biggest story in comics in 2015? While 2015 will start with the first million print run comic book in more than 20 years with Star Wars #1 (retailers are hoping it will also be million selling), I’ll bet there will be even bigger stories that will affect the comics market in more long-term ways.

What guilty pleasure (of any kind) are you looking forward to in 2015? My first trip “across the pond” to visit some family history (and take in some live music) in Ireland and England.


marinaomiMariNaomi, cartoonist
2015 Projects: My book Dragon’s Breath and Other True Stories is still relatively new (jointly published by 2D Cloud and Uncivilized Books in September 2014).

I’m coming out with a graphic memoir about working at hostess bars in the U.S. and Tokyo, Turning Japanese, published by 2D Cloud in September 2015. The first half of the book can be read on 2D Cloud’s website:

I’m also curating the Cartoonists of Color and LGBTQ Cartoonists databases

What was the biggest story in comics in 2014? Alison Bechdel winning the MacArthur Genius Grant. I think this gave a lot of hope to cartoonists, especially queer autobio females such as myself.

What will be the biggest story in comics in 2015? I’m looking forward to finding out! Hopefully it involves more cartoonists getting the recognition they deserve, plus making tons of money to boot.

What guilty pleasure (of any kind) are you looking forward to in 2015? I’m too old to bother with guilt in my pleasures. I look forward to relishing it all.


josh_frankelJosh Frankel, publisher Z2 Comics

2015 Projects: There are a ton of projects in the works right now. However the one I really want to talk about is Miss Lask-Gross’s Henni. Our new 2015 graphic novel is amazing a great treatise on women’s rights, religion and being true to yourself. Also the art is amazing! It seems poised to do really well sales wise which is always great! Seriously check it out.

What was the biggest story in comics in 2014? Hmmmm if I had to venture an opinion it would be the continued bleeding of comics into mass media. Not just with movies but also television. Another story I think more in the comic field is how women are getting more represented in the medium not just creator wise but story and protagonist wise, also about time too! Women buy around 50% of graphic novels and it’s an underserved market as women read 70% of books in general. So the main artery for expansion in comics will be women. Oh one more thing the Kirby settlement. Guess that is three stories but all important

What will be the biggest story in comics in 2015? Mass media wise Avenger’s Two I wouldn’t be surprised if it sets box office records. In pure comics form I am interested to see how BOOM does as their market share has increased steadily. Lastly the effects of Star Wars going to Marvel will be very interesting to see vis a vis Dark Horse as that represented 25% of their floppy business.

What guilty pleasure (of any kind) are you looking forward to in 2015? Comic wise probably Secret War. I dig Hickman’s narrative thrusts. In general this will be the year I get a Piecaken if I can swing it

curtpires2Curt Pires, writer

2015 Projects: Mayday at Black Mask Studios, Chris Peterson’s drawing it and it drops in March. Pop TPB also drops in March over at Dark Horse. Everything else hasn’t been announced yet.

What was the biggest story in comics in 2014? The continued rise of Creator Owned at all companies.

What guilty pleasure (of any kind) are you looking forward to in 2015?  I don’t believe in the concept of guilty pleasures, to be honest. Excited to see many new creator owned projects, from interesting creators, however!


garrity_photo1_smallShaenon K. Garrity, cartoonist

2015 Projects: Still drawing Skin Horse every day.  I put my other webcomic, Monster on the Week, on hiatus while I had a baby, but I’ll be announcing plans for the next season after the new year.

What was the biggest story in comics in 2014? Me having a baby.

What will be the biggest story in comics in 2015? Me never having a baby again.

What guilty pleasure (of any kind) are you looking forward to in 2015? Bitch Planet.


 

Rob BErry Avatar-webRobert Berry, cartoonist

2015 Projects: creator of a comic adapting James Joyce’s novel ULYSSES into a digital learning platform, comics professor at UPenn

BIGGEST COMICS NEWS STORY OF 2014? Funny, in 2013 I said it DC Comics move to California. In 2014 they’ve completed the transition and I think that’s really disappointing. But for me the most pleasant and wide-reaching news of the year is the settlement reached between Marvel Comics and the Jack Kirby estate. That should have some positive repercussions on creator rights and recognition for many artists who labored in the work-for-hire system and, I hope, give freelancers today a better idea of what to expect.

BIGGEST NEWS STORY OF 2015? Accepting the difference between digital consumers of comics and the regular print comic collector. We have a really good opportunity now to broaden the audience for comics through people newly interested in geek culture. But pricing a digital “hey you might like this” comic the same way you price a print “hey you should polybag this” product is just stupid; its throwing away the new reader for the profit and stability of comicshops. Somebody, some publisher or self-publisher, is going to understand that this year a develop a product for mass consumption online and very, very solid sales in paperback. Comics are quick reads and, as such, really solid selling ephemeral products; that’s their history. But that doesn’t mean people won’t pay very solid dollar amounts for the collected editions, the prestige object. The new product that understands and adapts to that market mathematic is going to win the day.

GUILTY PLEASURE OF 2015? The 50th anniversary of the Reed and Sue’s wedding in FANTASTIC FOUR ANNUAL  #3 (October, 1965). To my mind that’s the first watermark of “the Marvel Age” and its something I’ve personally toyed with in sketchbooks for years and years. I wonder how Marvel will handle it? Like most guilty pleasures, I look forward to the disappointment I know will follow it.


JenSorensen

Jen Sorensen, cartoonist, jensorensen.com and  fusion.net/GraphicCulture

2015 Projects: I’ve recently begun working as Comics Editor for Fusion, a startup media company from ABC and Univision aimed at socially-conscious young adults. I’m curating political cartoons and graphic journalism for a section of the website called “Graphic Culture”. It’s a dream job, and I’m super-excited about building the section further in 2015 — the whole website is still in Beta. We’ve published some great stuff already that I’m very proud of!

What was the biggest story in comics in 2014? The return of Bill Watterson

What will be the biggest story in comics in 2015? I’m a bit biased here, but I would like it to be about the growth in popularity of socially-relevant comics in digital news media.

What guilty pleasure (of any kind) are you looking forward to in 2015? More Serial. And cheese, of the edible variety.


MK REED g2MK Reed, writer, mkreed.comaboutabull.comcutegirlnetwork.com

2015 Projects: My webcomic, About A Bull; everything else to be revealed in 2015.

What was the biggest story in comics in 2014? How many freaking amazing comics came out this year! The Wrenchies, Seconds, Through The Woods, How To Be Happy, Beautiful Darkness & Beauty- SO MUCH great stuff came out this year. Not even going into all the awesome webcomics & minis coming out.

What will be the biggest story in comics in 2015? Raina Telgemeier has the 5 top books on the NY Times Comics Bestsellers list.

What guilty pleasure (of any kind) are you looking forward to in 2015? Being able to talk about my own projects again. <_<


 

bentowleBen Towle, cartoonist

2015 Projects: I couldn’t me more excited that my webcomic, Oyster War, that I’ve been working on for the last few years will be coming out as a print graphic novel in the second half of 2015. I don’t think the publisher’s going to make an official announcement until the spring, but keep an eye out for it in the coming year!

While that’s moving into production, I’m getting a few proposals together that will hopefully find a home somewhere in 2015.

What was the biggest story in comics in 2014? The Kirby settlement. Obviously this long-running dispute just being finally over with is a big deal in and of itself, but it’s even more notable that it was settled out of court rather than adjudicated. We’ll never know how SCOTUS would have ruled on this one, but clearly Disney/Marvel had some qualms about the possible outcome. Personally, I’d have really liked to have seen it go to the Supreme Court, but just seeing “Created by Jack Kirby” on Marvel properties makes this a huge deal.

What will be the biggest story in comics in 2015? Well, maybe not “big,” but important. I’m wondering if 2015 won’t be the beginning of the end for the ever expanding “con-a-weekend” trend. I think we’re soon going to reach a breaking point where the number of comics/pop culture cons each year are just non-sustainable and some are going to have to hang it up.

What guilty pleasure (of any kind) are you looking forward to in 2015? I’m generally all about those comics, ’bout those comics, no music… but I’m pretty psyched for Mad Max: Fury Road. I’m pretty sure the film will feature some cars that explode.


Kurt_Busiek_destaque

Kurt Busiek, writer

2015 Projects: ASTRO CITY, with Brent Anderson, Alex Ross, Alex Sinclair, Wendy Broome and JG Roshell and THE AUTUMNLANDS: TOOTH & CLAW with Benjamin Dewey, Jordie Bellaire and JG Roshell again.

What was the biggest story in comics in 2014? Spider-Woman’s butt!

No, Thor’s a girl!

The Marvel-Kirby settlement?

I dunno. I haven’t had the energy to pay attention. Biggest news for me has been Image’s continued growth and strength with creator-owned books. So I’ll vote for that, but when the results come out I’m sure it’ll be something I haven’t thought of.

What will be the biggest story in comics in 2015? Fallout from DC’s West Coast move. But again, I’m sure I’m going to be wrong.

What guilty pleasure (of any kind) are you looking forward to in 2015? WALT & SKEEZIX Book 6!

Not that I’ll feel guilty about it. But I don’t feel guilty about much, in comics. Pleasure, though? You bet.


Glenn-Hauman-for-HeidiGlenn Hauman, journalist

2015 Projects: All of the stuff from ComicMix Pro Services, doing all the things that comics creators don’t want to deal with or don’t know how to do. http://www.comicmix.com/pro-services/ There are so many neat projects coming up in the next year…

What was the biggest story in comics in 2014? Comics seriously go Hollywood. It’s finally here— DC people are packing up their apartments, selling their houses, and leaving for sunny Burbank. Meanwhile, there are twenty, count them, twenty TV series based on comic books in production right now, never mind all the movies. The infrastructure of Hollywood is relying on comics in a way that they never have before.

What will be the biggest story in comics in 2015? Not all of the comics adaptations are going to succeed. Amazingly, this is going to surprise a number of TV and movie executives.

What guilty pleasure (of any kind) are you looking forward to in 2015? I don’t feel guilty about ANY of my pleasures, beatniks— I just don’t admit them all in public.


mark-siegelMark Siegel, publisher/cartoonist, First Second

2015 Projects: PIGS MIGHT FLY, by Nick Abadzis, with artwork by Jerel Dye. Because every second I spend in their world makes me happy.

What was the biggest story in comics in 2014? THIS ONE SUMMER by Jillian and Mariko Tamaki, getting an unprecedented seven starred reviews.

What will be the biggest story in comics in 2015? Something nobody saw coming. The death of an iconic creator. The redemption of another.

What guilty pleasure (of any kind) are you looking forward to in 2015?  Upgrading my Valkyries.


amychu2Amy Chu, writer

2015 Projects: Vertigo Strange Sports Stories, Geek Girl’s Guide to Making Comics, Girls Night Out #4

What was the biggest story in comics in 2014? The rise of female readership in comics and their influence on content– Ms. Marvel, Gotham Academy, Batgirl

What will be the biggest story in comics in 2015? The DC Convergence event

What guilty pleasure (of any kind) are you looking forward to in 2015? Binge watching Orphan Black and binge playing Final Fantasy.


 

jimmie robinsonJimmie Robinson, cartoonist

2015 Projects: THE EMPTY, by Image Comics

What was the biggest story in comics in 2014? The changing landscape of comic conventions in North America.  How they have affected professionals, cosplayers, retailers, the industry and how the average Joe on the street might view fandom in today’s world.  The media lens, via TV, Movies, News, the Internet, etc. is like a genie out of the bottle.  It won’t go back in and we all have multiple wishes for what we hope will be the best for everyone.  Nonetheless, some people may not transition well during this time.  That’s a story as old as the invention of the wheel, but I personally don’t mind the change and I welcome the fans, readers and guests on every level.  Conventions have never been about making money for me, but I know it is for some. I’m happy to just break even, if that.  I tend to look at conventions as opportunities for the future, such as making connections in the industry for future work, making connections with fans of my existing work and enjoying the community at large.

What will be the biggest story in comics in 2015? I’m predicting more fall out of Grandpa Con versus In-name-only-Con. In fact, I predict the return of the 1990s style comics.  The boom of the 1990s will become the new childhood nostalgia and cool retro style of tomorrow.  Hyper stylized characters, buxom women, giant laser guns, and splash pages will become the rage.  We will experience a backlash of all the deep-meaning and well-thought out comics of today.  Readers will crave something different from the the alternative comics.  In short, the pendulum continues to swing back and forth.

What guilty pleasure (of any kind) are you looking forward to in 2015? I am very much looking forward to San Diego Comic Con.  2015 marks my official 20th year in comics as a professional and this upcoming year San Diego has invited me as one of their guests — which will personally be a real honor.

 

$2000 statue and more stolen at New York Comic Con

stolen dunny

While the harassment problems seems to have been put under control, by and large, there are a rather alarming number of reports of theft from the show, including this one, about a hand painted “Dunny” statue worth $2000 being stolen from a booth. The culprit was caught on tape taking the items at 7:25 after the show closed and fled on foot.

Nick Curtis, an associate editor at the magazine, said the 20-inch, high-priced action figure had been hand-painted by artist Jon-Paul Kaiser during the event.

“What had been done is that an artist did a live painting of it during Comic Con, making it essentially a one-of-a-kind piece of art on a 3-D canvas,” he said.

The bunny-like figurines are typically 3-inches tall, mass-produced and retail for $15, Curtis said.

The thief also stole a Popaganda “TDY” figure worth $80 and a Goodley Toy action figure worth $100, police said.

I also saw tweets indicating that writer Amy Chu’s laptop was stolen, and there’s a report of an artist having some pages stolen as well.

Thievery doesn’t invite the same kind of “they were asking for it” response as other kinds of claims, but unfortunately, these incidents are a reminder that leaving valuable things lying around is not a good idea at a crowded con. It’s also a sad comment on an otherwise peaceful crowd.

I know of one creator who had his laptop stolen right off his table at a foreign show. (I also know of several people who had wallets stolen at comic book after partys over the years—enough so that I’d rather stand around with 20lbs of equipment on my shoulder than leave them unattended.) While these kind of thefts are not uncommon everywhere, there do seem to have been several at this year’s NYCC.

Anyway, keep an eye on valuables!

Amy Chu Kickstarts a Third Volume of ‘Girls Night Out’ [Interview]

For the last several years, writer Amy Chu has been a familiar face at comic conventions around the World – just last year I bumped into her at Thought Bubble! Among other things a contributor to The Beat, Amy is perhaps best known for her self-published anthology comics ‘Girls Night Out’, which have so far been printed into three volumes. Each of these tells six stories or so, loosely themed around an idea, or phrase, and with a starry line-up of artistic collaborators.

And for volume three, ‘Girls Night Out: The Way Love Goes’, she’s successfully headed to Kickstarter! At the time of writing she is well ahead of her target, making this her second successful Kickstarter campaign for the series. A self-publisher, she works with a number of great creators on this latest volume – including Larry Hama, Trish Mulvihill, Janet Lee and Craig Yeung. I couldn’t let this Kickstarter pass without taking the opportunity to ask her about the latest edition of her series – and thankfully she found time after Emerald City Comic-Con to offer some answers! Hurray!

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Kibbles ‘n’ Bits, 12/19/13: These amazing links will change the way you think about clicking on links

§ The Comics Reporter Holiday Interview series has kicked off with Paul Pope! Your morning coffee reading is assured for the next few weeks.

§ The Hollywood Reporter’s legal reporter Eriq Gardner has a devil’s advocate In Defense of Shia LaBeouf suggesting that LaBeouf “seemed to be making the case for his transformative “fair use” of Clowes’ work.” It’s not a terribly compelling argument, or accurate, given the level of adaptation in the film, but it does mention this little tidbit:

In 2007, LaBeouf starred in a film called Disturbia, which almost every film critic in America saw as a remake of Alfred Hitchcock’s Rear Window. In interviews at the time, LaBeouf admitted it was a “homage.” When the rights-holder of Rear Window sued, one publication called it “the most obvious lawsuit ever” while Nikki Finke at Deadline Hollywood said the only mystery was why the lawsuit took so long — saying it was “a total duh.” Three years later, the defendants won. The judge found dissimilarities in setting and mood and concluded, “[t]heir similarities derive entirely from unprotectible elements and the total look and feel of the works is so distinct that no reasonable trier of fact could find the works substantially similar within the meaning of copyright law.”

That doesn’t apply to HowardCantour.com which actually IS based on the Clowes short story, but there you go.

§ In his spare time, Chip Zdarsky likes to correspond with Applebee’s.

§ Best ofs! The USA Today guys have their lists, and I guess they don’t go much for indie stuff.

§ LGBTQ magazine The Advocate suggests 10 Great Graphic Novel Gifts.

§ Zak Sally has started writing about the 21-year history of his publishing company La Mano.

i had the normal trajectory for my generation: superhero stuff (mostly Marvel), then slowly losing interest in that whole deal. still loving comics, but not getting what i wanted out of them. i’ve told this story too many times (that might happen a lot during this), but at the moment i was about to give up, i ventured into the back room “smutty” section of the comic store, and picked up 2 comics: Love and Rockets #20 and Yummy Fur #1, and my life changed. it really was one of those moments– everything changed, right then and there. something i thought i knew about comics, but had never really seen with my own 2 eyes –that they were real art– that was now REAL. i had proof. you could do anything with them.


He’s also having a sale.

§ Julian Darius takes a very close look at the new Miracleman coloring and lettering, and after seeing a closer analysis of all this, I’m feeling better about it.

§ Long-time Marvel writer and industry veteran Don McGregor is the subject of a long interview at 13th Dimension, and he talks about writing comics’ first interracial kiss.

You wrote the first interracial kiss into a color mainstream comic script back in the 70′s. Today, people younger than you and I might not think that was such a big deal, but it really wasn’t too long ago that that sort of thing was verboten. What did you have to go through at Marvel to get that into a comic back in those days?

The hallowed halls were a minefield.  I was so naive.  I believed in the Bullpen in print.  I never understood why people were shocked by Watergate.  They’re politicians.  Business as usual.  But I guess I wanted to believe in the Bullpen Bulletins.  It was a creative environment.  I didn’t realize that there would be so many agendas and that there were people who would be prejudiced and did not want any color but white in the books, and certainly no intermingling between people of different colors.

§ Occasional Beat writer Amy Chu is profiled in Hire This Woman: Writer Amy Chu.

§ The Guardian weighs in with another Graphic Novel 101 called Why read graphic novels? which suggest the usual Moore/Clowes/Ware/Satrapi grouping but adds Isabel Greenberg’s Encyclopedia of Early Earth.

§ While some celebrities have had a rough go of it in comic book land, SNL’s Taran Killam had gone about things the proper way with The Illegitimates which imagines a far-flung group of James Bond’s illegitimate offspring teaming up:

Killam’s been developing the idea for seven years, and is serious about being a proper comic writer, Andreyko reports. “It’s not like some of these Hollywood guys who come into comics and just put their name on something. “There’s no carpetbagging — he just wants this to be the best comic it can be.”


They all do, they all do.

§ Comic Shop Closure Alert! Savannah Comics is closing up to merge with Comics & More, a store in another part of town. Significantly, the closure isn’t because of comics, but rather because of a hugely unprofitable movie rental business. The story does include a rather priceless anecdote however:

Lucky for Durden, Savannah’s cinematic appeal has lured plenty of movie stars into the store over the years. “We’ve had Ben Affleck, Gwyneth Paltrow, Sandra Bullock,” Durden said. “Robin Williams not too long ago.” Back when they were an item, Affleck and Paltrow frequented the store for magazines, he said. Affleck was filming “Forces of Nature” at the time “and they all had Sundays off and they would come to the store and buy magazines.” Durden doesn’t recall any of them ever leaving with a comic, though.

§ I have to confess, I’ve often had a cup of coffee put in a paper bag but it usually goes very badly.

§ I had missed the news that they are making a fourth Narnia movie. That means that we’d finally get to see a Silver Chair movie! This is easily the oddest of the C.S. Lewis fantasies, what with that whole Bism business. PLUS Puddleglum.

§ Comics blogger had a secret blog for years!

§ Finally, it turns out M. Night Shyamalan also stole a movie plot from a comic book.

Thought Bubble 2013: The Pretty Much Almost Full Report

So Thought Bubble 2013 has come and gone, a massive celebration of British – and foreign – comics talent, lead by the mighty Lisa Wood and featuring creators from all round the world, fans from all walks of life, and comics of every size, shape, style and form you could ever imagine. Here’s a rundown of all the things I got to see – which maybe equates to almost half of everything that was going on this year.

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On the Scene: MegaCon: Three is A Magic Number

MegaCon cosplay: Catman and Captain Universe

MegaCon cosplay: Catman and Captain Universe

 

By Amy Chu

Last week’s MegaCon in Orlando marked my third convention in three weeks. Seattle’s Emerald City and Toronto ComiCon were fantastic, but I was looking forward to some warmer weather down South.

MegaCon is the mama bear of the three conventions – bigger than Toronto, smaller than Emerald City, and just about the size of Chicago’s C2E2. While many aspects of the conventions look similar (oh look! It’s Sir Patrick Stewart and his TNG crew for the THIRD week in a row)  they have their own personalities, differing in the range of cosplay, guests, gaming, and for me, FOOD.

Every con should have a cupcake truck

Every con should have a cupcake truck

Arepa con todos

Arepa con todos

In my previous Toronto ComiCon Beat article, I mentioned with awe the two food trucks on the convention floor. MegaCon had TEN. Granted they were not on the floor, but parked outside in a nearby lot.  Still, when they pulled up at 4 pm offering a wide range of cuisines – fresh seafood, Jamaican patties, pastrami, and cupcakes I was not one to quibble.  I had freshly fried conch fritters and an incredible creation called “arepa con todos.”   For those unable or unwilling to go outside the Orange County Convention Center, there were some still some decent options inside, including a Cuban cafe where I purchased cafe con leche and a guava pastry for breakfast the next day.

 

an all brick banner

an all brick banner

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With the slew of “celebrity guests”, stellar displays by the Greater Florida Lego Users Group, and the wide range of cosplay, perhaps lost on the average MegaCon attendee is the legacy of CrossGen. MegaCon was, at one point in its venerable 20 year history, owned by the upstart publisher.  On the guest list were a few notable names formerly employed by the bankrupt company that still reside in Florida.  CrossGen made a splash in the industry by offering salaries with benefits instead of the usual freelance contracts.  After its bankruptcy in 2004, some creators stayed behind. Florida, after all, aside from the comfortable weather, also happens to be one of the few states without a state income tax.  Marvel artist Jim Cheung actually had a few old issues of CrossGen titles at his table. Near Cheung was another ex-CrossGen artist Mike Perkins, who inked many of their titles between 2001 and 2004 and now works on Astonishing X-Men with Marjorie Liu.

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Inker Jose Marzan, Jr. at MegaCon

 

There were also some rare convention appearances by industry veterans like Chuck Dixon, the creator of the popular Bane character, and writer on several CrossGen titles. Eisner award winning Jose Marzan Jr.,  the inker known for his work on the entire run on “Y the Last Man” also worked on CrossGen titles. I was also thrilled to see along the back wall the legendary artist Jose Delbo making one of his three convention appearances this year. His wife showed me some original Detective Comics and Batgirl pages from the late ’70s and early ’80s. You can view some of them on his website josedelbo.com.

Legendary Jose Delbo

Legendary Jose Delbo

 

At the end of the day, the unofficial “BarCon”, where comics guests unwind after hours on the floor and on panels, achieved a new level of surreality.  The Doubletree Seaworld, where most of the comics guests stayed, was also host to a high school technology conference that weekend so teenagers swarmed about, not in cosplay, but in blue blazers.  One the first night, outside on the patio Jimmy Palmiotti and Amanda Conner held court with Justin Gray, Dave Johnson, Dan Panosian and other friends. At the next table were the likes of Adam Hughes enjoying a cigar, and Francesco and Lisa Francavilla.

The icing on the MegaCon cake is visiting the Magic Kingdom or one of the other many theme parks. I learned that many artists like to have their fun after conventions when they have made money off of their commissions. On Monday, EPIC Comics proprietors Almando Rodriguez and Kenny Hosey led our small group on a trip to the various Disney theme parks. Less than two years old, the store in East Orlando recently got a shout out from BBC America for their TARDIS soda vending machine.  Now on my bucket list: getting a Mountain Dew from that machine. MegaCon, I will be back.

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Toronto ComiCon: Tales of Poutine and Bacon Donuts

CN Tower from the convention site

CN Tower from the convention site

by Amy Chu

Toronto ComiCon this past weekend was my first convention experience in Canada and a very positive one. Organized by FanExpo, it is much smaller than the massive Fan Expo in August. Since it was right on the heels of Seattle’s Emerald City Con and before MegaCon in Orlando, I could have taken a pass, but thought it would be a good opportunity to hang with Craig Yeung, inker on X-Men Legacy, and artist on Girls Night Out on his home turf. It doesn’t hurt that Toronto is a very pleasant city, the organizers generously comp table space for pro creators, and… POUTINE.

There it was – the fabled dish of fries, gravy, and cheese curds I had heard so much about, right inside the convention. Food options inside convention centers are typically pretty dismal and expensive. The Toronto Convention Centre was no different, except for two food trucks that were hard to miss as they were parked INSIDE the Metro Toronto Convention Centre. One was selling decent looking tacos, and the other doing pretty good business in pretty sizable beef brisket poutine and fried Nutella bombs. Yes, you heard me. Artists may be too busy drawing commissions and selling all day to think about food, but I am a writer, and I need to eat.

Beef Brisket Poutine

All comic cons seem to be experiencing a surge in popularity and Toronto ComiCon is no exception, having grown from a fan appreciation event into a two day convention of its own. The floor quickly got crowded and the show sold out, much to the surprise of many regulars, and to the dismay of some of the would be attendees who had traveled some distance. Artist Mike Zeck (Captain America, Punisher) made a rare appearance and signed many, many books for fans. Before the show opened, he chatted with some of the other artists, and shared some war stories in producing Marvel’s crossover series Secret Wars.

Mike Zeck making a rare appearance

Mike Zeck making a rare appearance

Marvel artist Craig Yeung at work

Marvel artist Craig Yeung at work

To ward off the inevitable food coma after consuming a big bucket of poutine, I bypassed the convention center coffee stand and two intimidating Daleks, in search of the Second Cup, a Canadian chain similar to Starbucks. $2 bought me an excellent cup of rich coffee that beat Starbucks, and a wifi code that worked in the nearby convention lobby area as well.

8 pm rolled around quickly enough after that. Artist/writer Katie Cook (Gronk, My Little Pony), illlustrator Agnes Garbowska and I gathered at a nearby Thai restaurant with Craig and his friends Mike Del Mundo (Marvel cover artist) and Marco D’Alfonso (Deadpool). It was perhaps the opposite of Emerald City’s barcon, in that the server could only find three bottles of Sinha beer for the table, less than what many people have in their fridge. The conversation turned to talk of ponies and Bronies. I was astonished to find that Cook goes to 15 cons a year. Many comic fans are surprised to find out she is the writer on IDW’s hit My Little Pony, and not the artist. As Cook explained, it was the humor from her webcomic Gronk that got IDW’s attention.

The next day, Daylight Savings Time threw some people off, including myself (note to con organizers: always a good idea to remind people when they are about to lose an hour) Learning from the previous evening, we wrapped up Sunday by retiring to a different venue – this time the nearby Loose Moose, a large and friendly pub boasting an impressive variety of local beers and…bacon donuts.

Next stop: Orlando’s MegaCon

Bacon donuts and local beers at the Loose Moose

Bacon donuts and local beers at the Loose Moose

On the Scene: After Hours at Emerald City Comic Con

Men in plaid ECCC'13

Men in plaid ECCC’13

by @AmyChu

Day 1

After an exciting first day at Emerald City Comic Con on Friday, a sea of attendees flooded the many downtown venues around Seattle’s Washington State Convention Center. But the place to be for the evening was the bar of the Sheraton hotel where many of the comics professionals gathered.

ECCC, like Heroes Con and Baltimore Comic Con, is a creator favorite because of its focus on comics over video games and other flashier media. So it’s not surprising that the large space quickly filled up with an impressive roster of talent. I spotted “I, Vampire” writer Josh Fialkov in a distressed Green Lantern tee from his expansive collection of shirts (I don’t believe I’ve seen him wear the same one twice.) While many readers are sad to see the end of “I, Vampire” in April, Fialkov will be going green and red soon, taking over “Green Lantern Corps” with artist Bernard Chang, and also the “Red Lanterns” series.

Fialkov introduced me to the tall, familiar looking gentleman on his left. I noticed him on my flight earlier because he resembled a junior version of “Locke & Key” writer Joe Hill. He was, in fact, James Tynion IV, the rising star for DC’s “Talon” and Scott Snyder’s backup writer for “Batman.” Tynion is taking over “Red Hood and the Outlaws” with issue #19 in April.

By now the bar was packed and everyone was having a good time. I did a sweep of the room with Dynamite Founder and President Nick Barrucci. Barrucci and Dynamite generated a fair amount of buzz earlier in the day by revealing fan favorite Gail Simone as the new writer for a relaunched “Red Sonja.” Simone was previously exclusive to DC making the announcement even more interesting. Amidst the sea of beards and plaid, clean shaven Jim Zub stood out, happily socializing. The creator of the brilliantly hilarious Skullkickers series has also been working on a Dynamite title, the fantasy “Pathfinder.”

Near the elevators, I ran into Marvel’s peripatetic talent scout C.B. Cebulski and his wife Mutsumi returning from dinner. They had been in Seattle since Wednesday, taking advantage of ECCC to adventure through Seattle’s culinary landscape. For foodie nerds, Cebulski’s blog Eataku is an invaluable resource for convention eats as well as drinks. I offered him the Flying Monkey Dogfight Pale Ale to try. The Flying Monkey was the official convention beer by a local microbrewery American Brewing Co. I have seen C.B’s encyclopedic beer knowledge in action before and was curious to hear his rating. Cebulski took the glass, and like a pro beer taster, swirled and smelled before sipping and pronouncing it to be “good.” Whew.

By 11 pm you couldn’t swing a cat without hitting an Eisner or Harvey winner like Jim McCann and Janet K. Lee whose “Lost Vegas” seemed to be selling briskly over the weekend. Or Francesco Francavilla whose beautiful creator owned pulp action comic “The Black Beetle” with Dark Horse has been flying off the shelves. Mark Brooks, exclusive artist to Marvel, seemed to be enjoying himself immensely. Lately, he’s has been busy with covers for Marvel and enjoying the creative control of doing all the pencils, inks and colors himself.

Tynion and I went in search of Scott Snyder and finally spotted the writer of the moment off to the side. Batman: Night of Owls trade may be #1 on the New York Times hardcover graphic books bestseller list, but here he was, staring glumly at a glass of water. By the time he arrived, the bar was so packed, it was impossible to get the bartender’s attention. I left as they strategized what to do.

Day 2

On Saturday the star of the show was the sun, making a rare appearance for Seattle, and brightening the convention mood even more. After the show floor closed at 8 pm, I walked back to the Sheraton with artists Derek Fridolfs, Dustin Nguyen, and Peter V Nguyen. I asked Peter what was up with all the female fans stopping by his table. He told me his secret: his Nightwing prints were very popular with the ladies and he was half seriously considering doing Gambit next.

At the Sheraton bar I ran into Vertigo’s Mark Doyle, editor of Saucer Country, New Deadwardians and their hit American Vampire. He introduced me to Brooklyn based artist Robbi Rodriguez. Rodriguez is working on a new series for Vertigo, “Collider” involving physicists investigating bizarre anomalies. Soon we were joined by artist Andy MacDonald, the artist on the new Yen press graphic novel Zoo by James Patterson. He and I compared bourbon and scotch notes as the DC folks decamped for their dinner.

The bar lobby was bustling, this time with more fans. Comics pros who were tied up at company dinners or up in their hotel rooms busily working on commissions started trickling in again. The Marvel crew finally returned from their event – I gave Marvel editors Sana Amanat and Jeanine Schaefer the seats vacated by Doyle and Rodriguez. Amanat, who edited Marvel Illustrated and several of the Ultimate Comics for Marvel, has been busy with “Captain Marvel” and the hit “Hawkeye” with Matt Fraction and David Aja.

Before long it resembled the previous night’s crowd again. Everyone seemed to be having a great time. For the first barcon of the year, it was an auspicious start.

 

New York Comic Con: A Foodie Perspective

by Amy Chu

Food sadly often takes a back seat at comic cons for pros who are working the shows. But by the time the floor closes everyone’s usually ready for something that’s not a lukewarm hot dog or power bar. Fortunately New York Comic Con is close to some of the Big Apple’s tastiest neighborhoods.

On the first day of the con Thursday, Artist Alley closed at 9 pm one hour after the main floor, which meant several hundred artists were literally starving by the time they left their tables in the North Pavilion. Fortunately, just a few blocks away Times Square and Hell’s Kitchen offered a huge selection of interesting restaurants. Our group ended up at Qi Times Square on 43rd St. and 8th Ave, a modern Thai restaurant with Phillippe Starck furnishings, where the food is authentic and surprisingly affordable. A group of artists including Marvel penciler Jim Cheung (Avengers Vs. X-Men), inker Dexter Vines (Nova), Peter Nguyen, Carl Petersen, Agnes Garbowska, and Eddy Choi, Executive Assistant to DC’s Jim Lee happily downed a range of dishes including the Bangkok fried rice and stewed beef noodle before the kitchen closed at 10:30.

Food & Comics panelists Ron Richards, Chris Consentino, Geoffrey Zakarian, and Marvel’s C.B. Cebulski, and Dalibor Talijic

But Friday was the real foodie day for NYCC as hundreds of fans descended upon the Food & Comics panel. The chef speakers included Chris Consentino, owner of the restaurant Incanto and winner of Top Chef Masters, and Geoffrey Zakarian, executive chef of the swanky Lamb’s Club. With iFanboy’s Ron Richards moderating the lively discussion, Zakarian and Consentino described the creative side of the culinary world while Marvel’s most famous foodie and talent scout C.B. Cebulski and artist/foodie Dalibor Talajic (Deadpool, X-men, Ronin) explored the similarities in both fields. The panel is a New York Comic Con tradition, and the brainchild of Cebulski who actively blogs about food on his site Eataku.

C.B. Cebulski talking avidly about comics with the dinner guests.

 

Joe Quesada showing off his steak at the Lamb’s Club

 

A few hours later a much smaller group of fans headed to the Theater district to meet up with Cebulski, Marvel’s Chief Creative Officer Joe Quesada and writer Jonathan Hickman for a private four course dinner organized by ReedExpo at Zakarian’s Lamb’s Club. In a private room upstairs, pros and fans swapped favorite comics memories and talked about their projects over glasses of wine. Hickman, who is writing Avengers and New Avengers for the Marvel Now launch in December, generously dispensed advice to new writers. Chef Zakarian circulated, took pictures and signed the guests’ menus. Everyone enjoyed the dishes, which included a savory uni carbonara and beef ribeye. Cebulski loved the steak which he proclaimed to be one of the best pieces of meat he’s had in the city. The Marvel guests graciously played musical chairs so they could meet and talk with everyone in the room.

Dessert at the NYCC Marvel dinner. Dark chocolate souffle with sour cherries, stracciatella ice cream.

Saturday night, after packing up at Artist Alley, a large group of artists ventured to Koreatown before the annual Marvel party.  Just within walking distance or a short cab ride from the convention center, K-town is a very dense neighborhood with over a hundred restaurants and bars within a short radius around 32nd Street and Broadway. Because of the growing size of our group we headed to Kang Suh, a popular 24 hour restaurant that is remarkably adept at handling last minute table requests. Within 10 minutes they had cobbled together a long table for us. For most of the group it was their first time sampling Korean barbecue which is cooked tableside at the restaurant. Marvel colorist Justin Ponsor (Avengers vs. X-Men) was a big fan of the kalbi short ribs. Brian Shearer (Dr. Who, Transformers) enjoyed the seafood pancake haemul pajeon. Others at the long table included inker Guillermo Ortego and penciler Emma Lupacchino (X-Factor) who are both working with Fred Van Lente on Valiant Comics’ hit Archer & Armstrong, as well as Garbowska, Nguyen, and Cheung from the previous night.

By the time Sunday rolled around so many creators were hungover, tired or busily trying to finish commissions before the show close at 5 pm. We still managed to squeeze in a stop at Hallo Berlin on 10th Ave. between 44th and 45th Streets, in Daredevil’s old neighborhood of Hell’s Kitchen, where we enjoyed their signature sausages and beer before heading to our various homes.

Conventions can be tiring, but at least in New York, you can be well fed too.

Sausage party platter at Hallo Berlin