NYCC’s “Women of Image” panel from 2012


Yesterday’s kerfuffle concerned a convention that wouldn’t name a colorist as a guest. Although a smallish type kerfuffle, it did lead to a day of praising hard working colorists on Twitter, so good came of it.

Jordie Bellaire and Matt Wilson, the colorists in question, didn’t name the con that committed the deed. I corresponded with someone involved with the convention and I won’t either. Suffice to say it is a local show. The person I emailed with had reasons for not listing these colorists as guests — they didn’t seem like very germane reasons and I said so, but I got no response to that.

Why not name the show? I don’t think there’s a need to put it up on the internet (but catch me in person and I’ll tell you.) I was not impressed with the conversation I had with the organizer, and word will get around soon enough in the freelance community. The convention business is a competitive one, and people will go where they and their friends are treated better. The same goes for fans.

It does raise an issue I’ve long had with the way many shows are run where diversity is concerned. And yes this is the old “Why aren’t there more women/minority/indie guests?” thing. There is one show I go to that is constantly criticized for not having many female guests. While hanging in the lobby one year I ran into a friend, a woman creator who constantly travels to packed appearances and has been on the NY Times bestseller list for weeks at a time. She lived a few miles from the convention but wasn’t listed as a guest. Why? I guess it wouldn’t have been too…….expensive? Misleading?

When you look at the names of the attending professionals on a convention site, it doesn’t mean that the show had to pay for five nights at a four-star hotel to bring them there. A lot of people are local and pay parking or transit fare themselves. The comics industry is still so small of stature that most of us are just happy to get in somewhere for free where we can buy a $5 hot dog.

It doesn’t cost you, the convention organizer, anything more than a minute of time to add a name and a picture to a website. You just go to the guests page, type in a name, and bam! you’ve got diversity. You can have your featured guests that you paid to bring to the show who will draw hundreds of fans on a page and put big stars and dollar signs behind their pictures to show how special and expensive they are. And then you can have a special page for people who were just on the guest list—colorists and women and indie creators. And it makes you look like you have a vibrant, exciting show with lots of professional support. Maybe you will draw five extra people to see these guests. Maybe you will draw fifty. Either way, it’s a plus.

Maybe some day you will even pay for an indie creator or a female creator to come to your show and be a special, magical guest. It sounds crazy, but I’m sure it could happen.


  1. This is such a media generated non-story. Nobody in the history of our little planet has made the decision to go or not go to a convention based on the attendance of a colorist. Sure, it’s a little tacky not to put them on the website but, at the end of the day, people attend cons for artists, writers and celebs and that’s just reality. Why can’t we just accept that while colorists (and printers and editors and shipping companies) are all important cogs in getting a book to the consumer, they just aren’t a factor when it comes to con attendance and the people running the show know and understand this.

    It’s all well and good for comic types to kvetch on twitter but the general public could care less.

  2. Well, what happened on twitter is an excellent example of the beginning of change. Social Media can change peoples understanding on a great deal of matters. Colorists should be praised and should not be considered along with editors,, publishers, and distributors. These colorist today are mega-talents. They need to be brought to the forefront and should be worshiped by fan boys and fan girls. Comic books are a creative team. The cohesiveness of the medium, ideally, should include even letters, and the team should be notorious, but that would be in a perfect world. I say that things should change and more days like yesterday need to happen more often.

  3. Alex says: “Nobody in the history of our little planet has made the decision to go or not go to a convention based on the attendance of a colorist. ”

    This might be true for majority, but comic conventions are created by more than just one *type* of professional. By your logic only writers and artists should supplement a convention. Sorry, but I’d rather attend conventions that are inclusive, not exclusive (for whatever reason). Conventions are organized to celebrate the medium in all forms and (if possible) as many aspects of the profession as possible. And colorists truly do influence the way a book looks and works nowadays. Plenty of people go to conventions looking for work and some of those people are colorists. So… why not have professional colorists as guests or attending pros?

  4. Alex, I don’t think the point of the article was that Bellaire, Wilson or the Beat are saying people visit just because of colourists. In fact, the last three paragraphs pretty clearly state the opposite. It’s also not to say that this is a giant issue of extreme importance to the public, either – the idea that big things should be ONLY what something like the Beat covers is in itself ridiculous, too. How many comics stories, period, are of importance to “the general public”? Almost none. Comics stories as a rule exist for a niche audience and not the “general public.”

    Bellaire’s original piece makes a cogent argument for how separating the work around a comic issue into “penciller” and “everybody else” shows a lack of understanding of the actual craft itself. Further, she talks about how it affects a colourist’s bottom line not to be allowed to have a table and sell some product. You might not care, but the argument is there for why others do.

    Plus, every convention I’ve been to has had entire aisles devoted to less well-known (or completely unknown) artists and crafters, including ones that have never been published or written about. Local artists that nobody knows are able to sign up at most conventions and sell their Legend of Zelda sketches, and people don’t complain about that – it’s part of the culture. Nobody is there to see them, but they’re allowed anyway, which further makes a decision to not allow colourists (who are, it should be noted, artists) to have tables.

    Finally, the growing reality of many conventions is that an arguable majority of people aren’t there to see comics writers or pencillers at all, but in fact to see media guests and celebrities. As someone who sees conventions from the media side, convention PR treats the media guests as the only thing worth scheduling and working with me over; if I want to talk to a comic artist or writer, I’m literally told to just go over to their table and talk to them. Does that mean we shouldn’t let writers and pencillers have tables, if even the convention organizers admit that they’re not the draw? No. That would be ridiculous, and it further shows how arbitrary the distinction this unnamed convention made actually is.

  5. I second Mr. Haspiel’s Villarrubia line. I met Jose at my first TCAF–he signed my Voice of the Fire book and from then on, I’ve secretly wanted to be his friend. His colours on Sweet Tooth and Promethea are amazing.

    I’d also say, personally speaking, I’d rather meet Laura Allred or Dave Stewart instead of almost any writer on any Big 2 book (and most pencillers), if only to tell them how much I love their colour work.

  6. A few years back the wonderful guys who ran the comic con in Toronto had me as a guest (along with a bunch of amazing creators of the female persuasion). It was a great con with happy pros and attendees. And quite few folks folks showed up at my table with *stacks* of books to sign, saying how glad they were to see my name on the guest list. I can’t tell you how positive the whole experience was all around.

    (sticks tongue out at Alex)


  7. There are very few pros who alone can bring fans to a con. Most cons rely on having a variety of pros (pencilers, inkers, colorists, editors, letterers, etc.) in attendance. If you’re at a con and you get your book signed by Mike Mignola (who is probably someone with a name that drives attendance) and then you get Dave Stewart’s signature, then the con just enhanced your experience. If con organizers don’t facilitate experiences like that, then they’re being short sighted.

  8. I like how this matter is being handled online. We don’t really need to see the name of the convention posted, word will just get around.
    But it is a classy way to give the organizers a heads up that comic creation is a small industry, and the participants talk to each other.

  9. I would go to a convention for a ton of colorists. Many work harder on their books than the writers & artists. And many early colorists are completely unknown- not seen as worth crediting in the mastheads.

  10. I live in Argentina so it’s hard for me to travel to Cons, On my First SDCcon in 99 I think, I saw Pamela Rambo and asked for her signature in some of my Preacher comics, I liked her colors! In another con I was most interested in meeting Bill Crabtree.
    In 2009 I went to NYcomicon, I didn’t talekd to many writers or artists, but I WANTED to talk to Laura Martin!
    on the same con I met Jose Villarubia, one of the niciest guys there are!
    Colorists are awesome!!

  11. Thirty to forty years ago, comics coloring was done in two stages — an in-house artist (or editor!) would take a photocopy of the art, and fill it up with watercolors, or colored pencils, and mark it up with numbers indicating which of the limited palette of 56 colors that could be used, should go where. (Prior to photocopy tech, IIRC, the colors were indicated on an onionskin overlay) Then the “color guide” was sent along with the original inked page to a sweatshop in Connecticut where a dozen middle-aged, anonymous women would painstakingly cut rubylith “mechanical” overlays according to a formula by which four-color printing would produce said 56 colors.

    It was tedious as hell, and entirely mechanical, and there was very little “art” to it, mostly craft. But starting in the early-1980s new techniques were developed which, thanks to computer scanning technology, colors could be painted directly onto art-boards and computer-scanned to reproduce the whole gamut of colors available via four-color printing. And thus coloring comics has become a true art-form, as vibrant and as vital as inking, and hell yeah colorists deserve the same recognition and respect as the rest of the creative team.

    I suspect that anonymous convention organizer must be at least 70 years old.

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