So, with all my free time, between work and life… I’ve finally started getting back up on stage to do open mic stand up comedy. Years ago I did some open mic at the La Jolla Comedy Store and it was a humbling experience to say the least. I quickly learned that my mind would go blank once I got up there and tried to formulate a sentence. In order to overcome this fright or get any better at it, I was going to have to do it a great deal more than the time I had available.
Well, that excuse has worn it’s welcome and time has only provided my balding jokes with that much more visual impact. Thanks time. My friend Joe had been pushing me for over a year to get up there and just do my jokes. I kept coming up with newer and lamer excuses. Pitiful. Then, in January, when I imagine most aspiring comedians are having their New Years resolutions about finally getting up and doing some stand up, I see that my friend Jaqai has gone up all Willy Nilly at Lestat’s and done a whole set. Wha? I didn’t even know. Excuses-destroyed. So, starting in February (thanks to some coaxing from Jaqai), I started mounting the stage again and it actually feels pretty good. Unlike the Black Plague, I am not “killing”. So far, I’m more like hay fever. A disruptive laugh here and there. Is’sokay. For me, doing stand up isn’t about thinking “Hey, I’m funny. The world really deserves me. Your welcome.” I started doing this again because I personally watch a great deal of stand up (both recorded and live) and I enjoy it from a performance angle. “It’s the professionalism that I respect.” Good and bad performances are equally interesting to me. I just realized I’m dissecting comedy. How fun is that? My favorite part of the joke… the explanation.
Okay, I just wanted to give you a heads up and let you know that between my comic book work and exercise (ha.. that joke is for me) I’ve been doing open mic in and around San Diego. I even bombed in Portland recently. As part of my rehearsal and motivation, I’ve been keeping a sketch book of some of my jokes and only releasing them after I’ve actually physically done the bits on stage. That way, if I think they’re so funny, then they must be strong enough to try out on stage in front of actual live people, right? Okay, to be honest, most of the people in the audience are other aspiring comedians, but they’re mostly alive. You can check these cartoons out at the Most Funnest Twitter feed @mostfunnest. I also post previews of the jokes at the Most Funnest Facebook page. If you’d like to see more than a cartoon on your computer/phone/tablet… then head out into reality. I’ll be at The Comedy Palace Tuesday night, April 21st. Doors open around 7pm. It’s much fun and San Diego has a lot of great comedians that pop in to try out new jokes and there’s humus. Again, Tuesday evening at the Comedy Palace. I’ll be the tall red head.
Hey! I still have some red hair.
The convention definitely felt like it was starting to wind down, but from such great heights, there was still a long way to go. We ran into more friends, namely Ron and Mocha Joe who both work for the convention. Attending Comic Con for nearly thirty years, you tend to meet and become friends with a lot of the convention staff. This had been the best run and one of the more enjoyable cons I had attended in quite awhile, and my friends all seemed exhausted and ready for the finish line. I stopped to say hello to Peter Steigerwald, of Aspen Comics. He handed me an ashcan for an upcoming book of his. I then headed over to say hello to Bob Chapman of Graphitti Designs. Graphitti T-Shirts were sort of my de-facto uniform in high school. Quality comic shirts. Bob showed me the new archival Kelly Jones Batman book he’s working on for DC. Part of his “Gallery Edition” line. He had a press copy that looked gorgeous. I can’t wait to see the Ronin edition. Diana Schutz, great friend and my Grendel editor showed up, so I got to say hi again.
Next, we headed up stairs to watch some panels and unwind before I had to do my panel. The annual Jack Kirby retrospective is really nice. Fantastic Four was my favorite comic book growing up and I’ve always been a huge Jack Kirby fan (duh). I never met Jack, but I did see him descend the stairs near Golden Hall at the old convention center. He had a throng of people around him and he seemed to look out past all the people to me and give me a look of “Hey, how’s it going kid?” Seems fanboyish.. but I could care less. Jack’s art and stories are great and the panel just added to my appreciation. I especially enjoyed a story Scott Shaw relayed of the time Jack offered to turn Scott, Mike Towry and three other friends into comic characters. He drew them into an issue of Superman’s Pal Jimmy Olsen as the San Diego’s Five String Mob. How cool is that? Mark Evanier shared some great stories. I’ve always been an admirer of Mark’s. My first cons were spent watching him, Sergio Aragonés, Stan Sakai and Tom Luth talk and actually work on issues of Groo. Watching Tom color blue lines with water color and watching him lift the acetate that held Sergio’s line work made me go home to try the process myself. Their openness and kindness went a long way to make me want to work in comics.
Next, I watched a panel on the women of Marvel Comics. Now, I don’t like that they have to make a distinction, but I understand it can help out those interested in pointing out the fact that there are a lot more female comic creators and fans. I don’t mean to sound like I take that for granted, but I look around and see some of the most talented creators in comics nowadays and a great deal of them are women. I feel like Stephen Colbert when he talks about not seeing color. People are just talented… sometimes they’re women. My favorite comic is Saga, which is drawn by Fiona Staples. Beautiful artwork. Two of the best colorists in out industry are Laura Martin and Jordie Bellaire. Roberta Gregory, Allison Bechdel, Marjane Satrapi, Tatjana Wood, Colleen Doran, Julie Doucett… not really a new thing if you look, but yes, probably more prevalent. Some of my best editors, going back decades have been rad ladies… uh… I’m going to stop there. If you don’t realize that comics are swinging in the direction of female creators and readers, then you’re already missed the boat. Nothing I say is going to help you. The industry is evolving in a good direction and there’s going to be less “me hate, me smash…” and more “that character is really interesting and difficult to figure out in a good way” with a tinge of “wow, she’s drawn like an actual woman.” I myself, suffer from too many male-centric trappings and comic book tropes and I have plenty of room to learn to write and draw women better. I’m all behind women creators leading the way by example. Look at that. I got back up on the soap box and I don’t think they even ship soap in wooden boxes anymore. I’m pretty sure, if there are still soap boxes, they’re probably made of cardboard and wouldn’t support my Sasquatch Ass..uming I’ve gone off on a tangent…. the Marvel panel was sort of “Rah Rah”, but that was cool. It was really cool to see so many happy creators all in support of each other. Ms. Marvel is doing great and Katie Cook is really funny and personable. Yay more talented females for our industry. We all win!
So now was the time. I had been asked to do a live sketch at the Comic Book Legal Defense Fund panel to auction off. The name of the panel was You Can’t Draw That! Art Jam. Celebrating the Sixtieth anniversary of the Comic Code Authority. Back in 1992, when I was coming up with the idea of a pumpkin headed lord of the dead called Zombie Love, I quickly realized I was writing and drawing a lot of non approved Comic Code rules. This, tied into the hysteria at the time about censorship here and especially in Canada (The True North) made me think a lot about the comics I wanted to produce.
Around the time I first started self publishing Zombie Love, a young man by the name of Charles Brownstein tracked me down at a convention and requested an interview about my new self published comic. Charles knew the whole story behind Zombie Love and was extremely supportive of me, my comic and self publishing overall.
Now, here we are at Comic Con International 2014 and Charles has me up on stage to draw a sketch that is representative of something that would not be Comics Code approved. I could go with a Zombie Love sketch, but I decided to go with my undead vampires and their bloody goodness from the pages of Vampyrates.
Okay, let’s get something straight. Drawing in front of people can be awkward. You have to get over some self conscious feelings, you should be able to talk while still drawing (apparently I stop and gesticulate too much) and ultimately you should have enough concentration not to mess your drawing up. Charles Brownstein handled the bulk of the talking, which was good and Gabriel Bautista went up first. Gabo did a really beautiful water color and then was off to sign at Image or Oni (I’m forgetting which). Now it was my turn.
I decided to do some colored pencil on colored paper. I think people like to have colored pieces. I touched on my early concerns about censorship and how it could sink a young self publishing company or upstart comic book store. I remember the days of Hart Fisher problems and I mentioned how censorship concerns
weren’t just about the fifties and EC Comics. We talked about stores and creators running into legal troubles for just wanting to sell a story in a book and just because it didn’t meet up with someone’s perceived moral code, others felt they could ban it. I actually got a pretty good laugh from the audience when I mentioned that the Bible probably isn’t Comics Code approved with the zombies and all.
Con continued to wind down. We got some food at Shakespeare’s. Maybe a beer or two. We then headed home for disco naps (living in San Diego for con is nice). We finished out con with a nice industry/friend party downtown. We ran into C.K. and his nephew again. I also got to see Alex Sinclair and his wife Beck. We had both been judges for the Eisner’s at the beginning of the week and here we were now getting to relax and talk to a lot of our DC brethren. I talked with fellow colorist, Richard Horie. I met a woman named Adriane Nash, who was fun to talk to. I ran into Bob, my former Oni and Batman editor. Also, got to catch up with Matt Wagner and he showed me some of his sons colors over some new Grendel artwork. Look out comic world. Grade A talent. Matt also told me about his panel with Quentin Tarantino. Sounded like a lot of fun. Zorro/Django sounds epic. This couldn’t have been a better con for me. Friends/Charities/Drawing/Great food and drinks… I could go on and on, but I shouldn’t. Con is over and I have a ton of comic books to produce before October and the third annual Comicfest. Oooofff…Go Team Comics!
Saturday morning, approaching downtown and the mass that is Comic Con, I felt good in knowing I had no real commitments. Normally, for comic conventions, I have a table to mind or a panel to attend or a meeting to be had. Work, work work. When I first started attending the San Diego Comic Conention, back in 1986, I just showed up and went where I pleased and did what I wanted to do. That is what Saturday felt like and it felt great.
Earlier this year, my Vampyrates co-creator Kevin Ring and I attended the Comixology panel at Wondercon. We asked a ton of questions about what and what not to do to get our book up on their service. They were more than helpful and answered all of our worrisome questions. Long story short, here we are a few months later at Comic Con International and our book is now available on the site and we wanted to take the opportunity to thank them and ask them a whole slew of new questions.
First off, Chip and the rest of the panel were really insightful and answered everyones questions. Fellow panel members included John D. Roberts (one of the co-founders of Comixology), Brandon M. Easton and N. Steven Harris (Writer and Artist of Watson and Holmes), Becky Cloonan (Fantastic artist and storyteller) and Joshua Fialkov (Writer).
Becky and Joshua both appear to be enjoying some real success with having their books made available on Comixology. Becky has worked with DMZ (I colored that) creator, Brian Wood. I especially liked Demo and her ashcan edition of Wolves. Joshua was really helpful on the Comixology panel at Wondercon, so it was good to hear where he is now. I had seen a bit about Watson and Holmes the previous night at the Eisners. Hearing more about it at the panel makes me want to pick the book up even more.
I lined up at to ask a questions, and that’s when they picked a random guy out of the audience and handed him a free Kindle Fire HD. Nice. Much applause. Then the guy in front of me asked a question which raised even more applause, to which they awarded him a Kindle Fire HD.
I then asked my question veiled in the form of a request. I commented on how numerous people on the Convention floor were glad to see me and asked what I had been working on. I would tell them, “Besides Grayson and some upcoming Justice League United, Kevin and I had just released a digital version of Vampyrates on Comixology.” My friends or fans were always interested or appreciative, but I quickly realized if I had some form of Comixology or Amazon gift card in my pocket, representative of Vampyrates, I would be able to make a sale right then and there in person. Get it? I could reply, “Oh, you want my new digital comic? Here, you give me two dollars and I’ll give you this gift card I have in my pocket which is redeemable on Comixology.”
It drives people to the Comixology site/service and it’s just another way for Kevin and I to make a sale to a potential new reader. Immediacy. You could even sell the gift cards in comic stores to people who look at a printed copy and decide they don’t want clutter, but would love to buy your digital comic now. Perhaps a portion of the sale could go to the store.
The guys from Comixology all seemed to like the idea and Chip Mosher (Comixology evangelist) was really cool to give Vampyrates and I a hearty shout out to everyone in the room. To which, some people came up to me afterwards and asked for more information on how to pick up the book, which was cool.
Kevin and I are still dabbling in this new market of Digital Comics, but so far, I love the direction we’re heading in. Now to get issue two out as soon as possible.
With the Comixology panel complete, I wanted to drop by the DC booth and see my Superman and Justice League editors. Of course the DC booth was packed, but I did manage to see Ray Fawkes (Current Constantine writer and we worked together on Justice League Dark and one of my all time favorite projects, Mnemovore for Vertigo) and say hello. Soon enough, I found my editor, Eddie, and we caught up and we chatted about the Superman/Wonder Woman annual I had just finished (Should be available next Wednesday). That’s when a gentleman I didn’t recognize showed up in front of us. The crowds at San Diego are pretty thick, but I could tell this guy had something to say. I said hi, and he introduced himself as Tom King. Too hilarious, he writes Grayson along with Tim Seeley… the book Mikel Janin draws and I color. That’s how strange comics can be. I work with people all over the world that I either meet or end up never meeting at all. We mainly communicate by email or phone, to collaborate and tell these amazing stories. Tom was super nice and he introduced himself to Eddie, who was also happy to meet him. Tom then pointed out that he was about to sign at the DC Booth with Tim Seeley and insisted that I sign as well. I don’t know why I was hesitant, but Eddie insisted as well and pushed me over there. Next thing you know, I’m meeting Tim Seeley and sitting down next to Gregg Hurwitz (soooo nice and quite a charming family) to sign fresh copies of Grayson. Lot’s of die hard Dick Grayson fans and Batman fans in general. As if this weren’t cool enough, I got a tap on my shoulder and there was Emanuel Simeoni, the artist I worked on Talon with. He’s from Rome (Italy, not Georgia), so yeah. Totally nice and really cool. If you haven’t seen his art, hunt it down, really great stuff.
Kevin and I ran into more people, attended more events but pretty soon, you get hungry. Warrior needs food! In years past, there hasn’t always been what I would consider a lot of great places to eat downtown. Each year, that changes more and more. Kevin asked, “What about Mexican?” I rarely refuse good Mexican food, I live in San Diego for Crom’s sake! Kevin recommended a place that piqued his interest based solely on the smell he experienced walking past earlier in the week. I was game and it turned out to be a great choice. The name of the place is the Blind Burro. First things first, while we’re waiting to be seated, I see someone that looks familiar, but she’s all done up in zombie makeup and wearing shredded scrubs. I hesitate to see if it’s the person I think it is and finally decide to ask the person sitting across from her. Turns out it is my Vet Tech and we all laugh. Comic Con. Kevin tried many of their margaritas and I had my current favorite beer, Belching Beaver’s Peanut Butter Milk Stout. Mmmmm. I ended up meeting a random guy that turns out works at Naughty Dog with a friend of a friend (Hi Malcolm). I mentioned how I used to art direct location based rides and video games at Angel Studios (Rockstar West) in Carlsbad. Turns out he used to work at High Moon Studios as well, which was right around the corner from Angel/Rockstar. Small world dismissed by Comic Con. I finished up my Mole Tacos (I’m just going to leave that for the non spanish speaking readers) and bacon wrapped jalapenos. We headed out to figure out what’s next. Or course, we ran into more friends that walked with us all the way up Fifth. We dropped them off at Henry’s Pub and continued the Drink and Draw just up the street.
My friend and former Wildstorm co-worker, Mark Irwin, has put out the invitation to many a Drink and Draw, but it always seems to fall the day before I have a book due. Well, ask and Comic Con provides… The place is one of those below street level sites that usually house a bar or night club, but this turned out to be a brand new (three days old) comic store. I’ve probably already bored you with the friends I kept running into, but needless to say, I saw people I haven’t seen in years. Really good to see my friend Saleem, who’s an talented inker and is currently working on video games. I grabbed some colored construction paper and some colored pencils and found a spot up front where my friend Lee was sketching on his portable Wacom tablet.
The people to my left were art students from San Francisco, really nice and equally talented. Turns out he had liked the first issue of Grayson a great deal. The models were professional. I got a few good sketches done, but I think the quality devolved as the night progressed. Oh well. Still fun. I told Kevin we could leave whenever he liked and soon we were off. Seeing Fifth avenue that crazy and that packed made me think twice about leaving. Everyone seemed to be having so much fun, but I realized I had a panel the next day and perhaps it was time for me to cash out on such a great day. I made the right decision and got some really good sleep. Ahhh…
So with all the zaniness going on downtown and knowing that I wanted to attend the Eisner Awards as stress free as possible, I decided to hang back and take a breather day for Friday of the con. I spent most of the day working and figuring out deadlines for my August and September books. I also spent some time working on con sketches and a bit of Vampyrates work. Then it was time to re-engage the horde. The plan was to stay out of the melee and try out Uber for the first time. The idea being, avoid trying to park downtown and have someone drop us off. Long story short, that didn’t happen. Then we thought we might be able to luck out and find parking at the Hilton: Bayfront. Okay, you can stop laughing now. An artist can dream, can’t they. So I ended up parking about ten minutes away and hoofed it in my purple leather dress shoes.
I’m a colorist, purple is approved. I made it to the dinner fine. We saw Kristen Schaal in the lobby. Cool. Then we sat down at the judges table and relaxed. I ran into Sequentialtart and Gutterzombie friend, Stephanie Chan around the same time Alonso Nunez showed up with three of his young students. Alsonso runs Little Fish, a great comic arts school here in San Diego and the plan is to have me show up and teach some comic coloring one of these days. His students had really great energy and if they are any indication of our future comic artists, then we are in good hands. Patrick Brower, of Challengers Comics & Conversations, was there and we talked about Chicago and how I need to get out there again. C2E2, I’m looking at you.
I could go on and on about who won this and who deserved that or which presenters were the funniest, but I’m just going to focus on the Retailers award. Okay, I have to mention the comic I recommend the most to people, Saga, won a bunch (yay Brian and Fiona) and Jordie Bellaire won for best coloring (which I enjoy very much… Her colors are really bold and striking) Okay, back to the awards.
Alright, I want to say this with some form of tact… but I may fall short. I’ve lost my share of Eisners and it’s sort of a bummer. Yes, it’s an honor to be nominated and it really shines a light on all that hard work you put in on late nights, but… winning would be cool. I was thinking about this a lot from the time I was asked to be a judge until the announcements of the winners. I thought of how cool it would be to have one my locally nominated stores win. I actually shop at Southern California Comics, and Villainous Lair has a heart of gold when it comes to their shopers. I thought of the 37 stores that we looked at, OK Comics from Leeds was the one I wanted to visit the most and reminds me of two of my other favorite stores (Secret Headquarters and Bergen Street) I thought of how many times I’ve been told of how great Alternate Reality Comics of Las Vegas is and how the owners, Ralph and Katherine, are two of the nicest people in comics (I met Ralph and he is extremely nice). I’ve already mentioned, in an earlier post, how much all of the judges liked The Comic Bug. There were 37 stores to choose from, I feel like I should talk about each of those stores, because they all deserved to be on this short list… but it came down to two. The other judges and I all had these final two stores at the top of our lists, and we were evenly split on who should be number one. Legend Comics and Coffee of Nebraska and All Star Comics of Melbourne. Two really strong candidates from our vantage point. I can’t speak for the other judges, but early on my top three in order were, OK Comics, All Star Comics and then Legend Comics and Coffee. Upon hearing that All Star and Legend were at the top of everyone else’s lists, we focused and deliberated for probably an additional hour.
I don’t want to reveal too much more, because quite frankly, I don’t know if it’s gauche to talk of such proceedings. For me, it came down to what do I want to see from comic stores in the future or moving forward. I’ve haunted many a comic store for nearly thirty years now and I think the audiences of the future want something different than what we’ve come to expect from traditional comic stores. I don’t like exposed/worn comic boxes. I do not like design tactics that separate me, the customer, from the possible purchase that may be an expensive limited comic. I would like our industry to embrace all the newer female readership we now have and listen to what they want from a shopping experience. Comic stores are the face of our industry and just like when I learned how much a good point of purchase display could help my book, I like to think that an entire store’s aesthetic can help improve all of our sales and interface with new readers. Okay, it sounds like I’m getting on a soap box, but this stuff means a great deal to me. I started self publishing my comic book, Zombie Love in 1992 and I worked with a lot of retailers across the United States and Canada figuring out that there are better ways to run a publishing company or retail store. The Spirit of Independence tour (1994-1995) taught me a lot about what an independent publisher should be doing and I believe that Will’s idea for the Spirit of Comics Retailer award, is a process to help determine whom or which store is evolving the industry through their creativity and individual qualities of their stores. Joe Ferrara, owner of Atlantis Fantasy World, was in charge of the proceedings yet remained neutral on our deliberations. He did a great job of providing us all the information needed and he also let us know of his conversations with Will Eisner and what the Spirit of Comics meant to him. Okay, I’ll stop trying to sound smarter than I am… I just care about this stuff a great deal.
Bottom line is we went with the co-winners of Legend Comics and Coffee and All Star Comics. Both stores had wonderful surrogates (pictured left) in attendance to accept the awards for them and the rest of the night turned into one of my favorite Eisner Awards ever.
Afterwards, we emptied into the reception area and caught up with more good friends. My friend Marion was playing music like she does each year. My former Wildstorm compatriots, IDW, won the most awards of the night and if you’ve seen their products, you understand why. I got to meet Comic Book Girl 19 and I may have even heard Robot (Cool!). I ran into Chase Magnett (pictured above) who accepted the award for Legend Comics and Coffee. We talked about how I kept a straight face while talking about the awards the prior night. I caught up with a lot of my Portland friends (Hi C.K., Diana and Bob) and then we checked out early. Not my normal Modus Operandi, but I still had two more days to go… oh yeah, and I had to walk all that way to get the car. Rats!
I’ve been attending the San Diego Comic Con since 1996. Most people lament about it not being the same anymore, but not me. Nostalgia is fine but change is better, in my opinion. Nostalgia can be found at other smaller conventions, but Comic Con is an evolving pop culture behemoth and instead of complaining about it, I believe people should take an active role in shaping it if they have such a problem with it. That all being said… Comic Con was crazy this year.
Thursday started out with crazy parking and lines for most people. How’s that for nostalgia. I rode down with my Vampyrates co-creator, Kevin Ring, and he has a great parking tactic that I will not be sharing with you. Way to go Kevin. The first friend I ran into was my ‘ol animation days pal and cover artist for Zombie Love, Daren Bader. Zombie Love, if you didn’t know was a book I wrote and drew and published with my great friend David Jolosky. Daren’s gone on to do a ton of Magic the Gathering cards and he’s an incredible art director for some of the
best Video Games in the world. He shares a booth every year with the frickin’ insanely talented David Palumbo. Just beautiful art. Aaron Rix was also at the booth and we talked about collaborating on some work. Good start to a con.
Walking around, I saw some more of my favorite artists like William Stout (whose dinosaur artwork adorns our Natural History Museum), Tara McPherson (I see her artwork in the form of a stickers on my car each day) and Bill Sienkiewicz (New Mutants, Elektra:Assassin, Stray Toasters). I told myself I wasn’t going to buy anything, but I had to pick up some sketch books from Sienkiewicz. So nice.
Kevin and I continued on and we checked out the Comixology booth and we pulled up Vampyrates to take a look at it. Pretty cool. We met a number of a cool people that work for Comixology and they pointed out a really cool comic titled Silver, by Stephan Franck. He was just two isles down, so I cruised over and picked up a copy. Stephan was an animator on Iron Giant, so that speaks volumes to me. I can’t wait to read it.
We attended some panels, saw some crazy costumes, more lines, more friends and then we met up with C.K. and headed out for some food at Rare Form. I can’t begin to tell you how nice it is to have so many new places to eat and relax in some air conditioning, just outside the convention madness. A nice Saison or two doesn’t hurt, either. Respite unlocked.
Later that night we headed to the Comic Book Legal Defense Fund Party where everyone was hanging out. I had witnessed my first “Bar Con” back in the eighties and realized that there’s a whole other event going on after the Con. Comic creators in their natural habitat, a hotel lobby bar. I remember riding up an escalator thinking, “Hey, that’s Jaime and Gilbert Hernandez down there enjoying drinks and talking with fans and other creators”. That was a defining moment for me, realizing there was a whole different aspect to comic book culture and community going on.
Talking about Comic Con always feels awkward, because it ends up feeling like name dropping, but it really is cool to see old friends and meet some really cool new ones. Towards the end of the night I ran into someone, whom upon talking to further, I realized that he had been asked to accept for his local store, if they were to win the Eisner for the Spirit of Comics Retailer Award. The very same award I had judged upon and knew the winners of, just two days prior. Not completely trusting my poker face and not revealing I was a judge, I asked, “Oh, what store is that?” Chase, the patron/writer and gentleman I had just met replied, “Legend Comics and Coffee of Omaha Nebraska.” Keep a straight face, I thought to myself. “They win! They are co-winners.” I kept trying to wipe perceived clues from my telling eyes. But all in all, I must have kept my cool, and we continued to talk and had a fun time.
Later, running into Mike Wellman, owner of The Comic Bug (another Eisner nominated store), I kept pushing to the back of my mind how much we all wanted his store to win. Such a great store with great community outreach and an excellent vibe. One more deserved establishment amidst a collection of 37 other incredible stores all representing our industry so so well. I hope to head up to Manhattan beach soon to check out his store as soon as possible. A fine first day. No, a perfect first day. Last year, I was a guest of Comic Con International and I remember thinking to myself, “Well, it’s probably all downhill after this.” One year later and I started to realize how wrong I had been. This year was shaping up to be even better. Weird.
My friend David Lizerbram came to me and asked if I would want to be involved with holding a charity event that combined San Diego’s burgeoning Craft Beer community and the Comic Book art world. Uh.. yeah. David and fellow craft beer enthusiast Vince Vasquez had been in contact with the wonderful people at Stone Brewery (one of my favorite breweries, I might add) and they had agreed to let us use some space at their new tasting room downtown, near Petco Park. And as if that weren’t enough, David brought on the incredible Sarah Gaydos from IDW to add a myriad of talents, connections and resources (that may sound hyperbolic, but Sarah is pretty cool). Like a super team of Craft Beer and Comic Book enthusiasts, we were ready to tackle a grand experiment.
We decided on a goal of raising funds for a local campaign that’s helping out kids who intended to attend San Diego’s summer Media Arts Centers/Digital Gym film classes. The campaign helps teach kids about technology and film making. How cool is that?
On top of that, if perhaps you are unaware, San Diego is fast becoming the Craft Beer capital of the world. I know there are other cities that feel the same way, but I can tell you with three quality breweries opening up in my neighborhood recently, I throw my vote in for San Diego. Which makes combining Comic Con, which we are also so well know for, and Craft Beer is just a natural.
The event was held preview night of Comic Con International and we had a lot of artists show up to donate their time and energy to do quick sketches for a suggested small donation. On top of that, we also held a silent auction of books, prints and artwork donated by Stone and various other artists. I donated hard cover copies of Promethea, DMZ and Fluorescent Black.
Lots of friends, local and from all over the world, showed up to support our fledgling endeavor and just as many random passerbys popped in to check out the event and Stone’s great beers. I drew some Batmans, a Batgirl, a Grayson and a few caricatures to name a few. Rex Mundi artist and pal, Eric J drew some Vampyrates, Batman and various other requests. I hadn’t seen Eric awhile, so it was great catching up and sitting across from each other sketching and jamming on pieces. Eric and I worked on Rex Mundi with Arvid Nelson years ago.
The entire event was a blast and really was a great start to my Comic Con week. Afterwards we moved next door for an after party, to an incredible place called Rare Form. They’ve really outdone themselves there and the food and drinks are super. So much so, I returned the next day. The kind of experience I come to expect from some of the fine folks that brought us lucky San Diegans, El Dorado.
Well that’s it for Preview night. Up next should be my Con and Eisner wrap up, so check back in. Oh, and there’s still plenty of time to help more kids attend the summer film classes, so please think about donating if you want to help out a great cause.
Well, the secret is out. I was lucky enough to be a judge for the 2014 Will Eisner Spirit of Comics Retailer Award. I can’t begin to tell you how much it meant to me, prior to the actual judging, but it really meant even more whilst we were judging and after we came to our final decision. I started self publishing my own comic book Zombie Love in 1992 and I quickly learned how important the comic book retailer is to our industry as a whole. They are our face across the globe between creators/publishers and the readers at large. Their neatly stacked books, legible signage, knowledgable staff and overall attitude speak volumes for what our comic books potentially mean to new and seasoned readers.
Showing up Monday night before the Con is an early start to the convention week, to say the least. There’s a buzz about San Diego at con time and relaxing bayside served as the perfect start to the 2014 Comic Con International. Tuesday morning, I met up outside the convention center with Joe Ferrara (my new favorite person) last years winning retailer Patrick Brower (Challengers Comics + Conversation), head of Diamond’s Free Comic Book Day promotions Jason Blanchard, Hollywood reporter/senior editor Marc Bernardin, Boom Studios head honcho Ross Richie, and my good pal Alex Sinclair (Fun fact: Alex hired me as his third colorist for the original Image/Wildstorm coloring department) to take a look at 37 stores that we needed to whittle down to 12 and then the final winner. I care a lot about the comic industry and having to defend and question all the pros and cons of such amazing stores was daunting. I really got worked up about it. Joe gave a real good talk about his conversation with Will about what the Spirit of Retailers meant to him and what really does move the industry forward. All my fellow judges cared jus as much as I did and we all brought our individual likes and concerns. 9+ hours later, we came to a decision.
I don’t know if you can read the expression on my face, but I’d say it’s part mental exhaustion, part hard fought accomplishment and part love of my art form. Please excuse me, certain things get me emotional.
Wednesday morning, the twelve finalists were announced and the internet started buzzing with interest and antic…..
I’m writing this Friday afternoon. This years winner will be announced tonight in about four hours at the Eisner Awards being held at the Hilton Bayfront hotel. I’ve lost my fair share of Eisner awards and I know how that feels. What more could I do? What didn’t they like? I should have done better. Those thoughts all melt away and you learn to understand in your own way what the phrase “honor just to be nominated” really means. There’s going to be a happy winner, but I just hope those that didn’t win know how much we care about the incredible and important jobs they are all doing. It shows in the quality of their stores. Their chosen livelihood.
It’s easy for some to make fun of comics or comic store owners, but if you really know the good ones, you realize what a worn out joke that is and how it doesn’t really apply. Comics are touching the entire world and I think we’re just scratching the surface. Storytelling means a great deal to people who indulge in dreaming and these comic stores help make that possible. I hope we did good job for our industry and perhaps for what Will would have wanted.
My friend, Billy Martinez of Neko Press Comics, asked if I would like to join him and our mutual friend Batton Lash, of Exhibit A Press, to meet up and talk at our local Barnes and Nobles. Billy had been asked, by a fine gentleman from Barnes and Noble by the name of Jonathan Holt, if he would like to set up a talk about the ins and outs of the comic book industry. The event took place just prior to Comic Con International, which served as a really good primer before the convention melee. Billy touched on the history of Neko Press, Heavy Metal, Sirius Press and all of the live art he’s been doing. Batton talked about a lot of comic self publishing history and where the industry is moving. I talked about my recent foray into digital publishing with Comixology (check it out if you haven’t already), and my transition to doing most all of my comic art on the computer. That conversation transitioned well into talking about my new Comic Book Coloring in Adobe Photoshop tutorial from Photoshop Cafe. There were a lot of great questions from the audience and the general interest in comic books as pop culture and as an artform was quite refreshing.
Kevin Ring and I have been working extremely hard and into the wee hours of the morning to bring you the relaunch of our Vampyrates story. Originally a stand alone print issue published by Bloodfire Studios, the new series rewrites that early tale and heads off on a whole new course. As of today, we can officially point you in the direction of our cracking new book on Amazon. The title is presently Kindle or Kindle viewing device ready. So if you get a chance, head on over there and buy 3 or 4.
While this isn’t a complete overhaul of the story, major things are changing and updating. For example, our protagonist was originally named after my friend and inspiration, Kevin Ring. Well, when I realized I wanted to do a full fledged series, I immediately thought of asking Kevin to help me work on it. He dove right in.. no.. it was more like a cannonball. His excited enthusiasm for the story rivals my own. One of the first things we did was change Kevin’s name in the book to reflect where we are headed. Kevin explains the name change fairly well in the book itself, so I’ll let you read more about that there. A lot of the previous artwork has been updated, redone and sweetened for the digital release.
There’s new pages, new panels and a spiffy new cover. If you liked the original J.H. Williams III cover for the print version, that’s in there as well with out the logo or cornerstone on it to cover anything up. Speaking of the logo, we’ve updated that as well to reflect Kevin coming aboard, so now both our names are up there, shinny and new. Draw your own innuendos. Let’s see, what else? Oh… we’re working on a t-shirt. I wanted to design a specific Vampyrate flag for our motley demon crew, that just yelled iconic. I tried a bunch of different designs, but we settled on the one pictured below. I liked this one the most and it kept getting picked when I would show the different designs to people.
So keep checking back here or at the Vampyrates Facebook or Google+ pages for more details. If you’re more of a Twitter sailor, we got that covered as well. There’s not much up there just yet, but Kevin and I are going to use this Twitter account as well as the Facebook page as much as possible. If you like following the production of a comic book, than I think our documenting of the process makes this the place for you. Check these out as I post pencils, sketches and convention appearances. And lastly, I wanted to let you know about my Comic book coloring in Adobe Photoshop DVD/Download that came out this week. I personally take you through how I render a complete Vampyrates page from start to finish in Photoshop. The wonderful fellows over at Photoshop Cafe did a really nice job of me look like a pro.
They did such a nice job, that I want to save more of that for my next post… so, head on over to Amazon and pick yourself up one of the new books. Maybe one of these days, I’ll figure out how to put a buy button on the right hand side of the page.. rrrrrr you kidding me? I don’t have time for that.. I have to finish issue two.
Wow.. what a crazy week.
Thanks for dropping by,
Pencils and keyboards are really buzzing as we approach the launch of some new Vampyrates comics. We’ll keep you updated right here and over at our Facebook page on when and where you’ll be able to get your hands on the new books and some really cool shirts. So keep checking back over the next month for a treasure trove of new art and stories.
Jeromy and Kevin