Thursday, September 8, 2016

Baltimore Comic Con - Sept 2nd - 4th, 2016

As an indie comics creator there’s not a lot of spare time to do anything. If I have a free moment, my first impulse is to start sketching or writing my next plot. Vacation isn’t a word in my pocket dictionary. So that’s one reason (among many) that I look forward to Baltimore Comic Con. It’s my favorite show because it’s purely comics based. No wrestlers or celebrities here. Although they had a couple, it was not the focus.

So this was my sixth time attending and/or vending in Artist Alley with my comics, THE MOSES MILITIA and GOLDENGIRL. Yes, it’s exhausting to stand for eight hours but when you’re pushing lemonade (which you sincerely believe is the best on the block) then it’s exhilarating!

What made this Con especially exhausting, it was the first that I didn’t have a helper/assistant to allow me time to saunter around the place. That said I did find the opportunity to say hi to a few friends (Brian Smith, Amy Chu, etc.) and meet a few that I’ve only known virtually on social media (Dirk Manning, Justin Jordan, etc.).

There’s also the fun of meeting other indie creators who share in the joy of making comics. Some of the books I picked up were Space Corps, My Gal the Zombie, Primal Instinct, Zachariah Thorn, and Tales of Mr Rhee volume 1 by Dirk Manning. After I’m done writing this blog entry, I’ll be reading these over a well-deserved espresso!

Friday night dinner was especially memorable because I wandered into Ten Ten Ramen, a Japanese restaurant. I immediately felt comfortable for three reasons: the animated “Howl’s Moving Castle” was playing on the TV screens, Massive Attack’s “Teardop” (aka the theme from the TV show House) was playing over the speakers, and a Godzilla figure stared at me while I ate. I was at home!

Saturday evening usually means drinks at the Hyatt hotel bar after the Harvey Awards. Creators, retailers, and fans can mingle and chat over booze. Had a lot of fun meeting people from Source Point Press and Devil’s Due. Super nice gals and guys!

Over the course of the weekend, I always take pics of cosplayers. You can find the folder here at my Facebook page ( Friday seemed to have a plethora of Deadpools everywhere but overall the Con was swarming with Harleys of every category: Suicide Squad, video game, original Bruce Timm, etc. There were so many bumping into each other that my fellow vendors and I were discussing a Thunderdome event where all the Harleys would enter, battle to the death, and “only one would leave!” But they were so cute, soft and squishy, that they probably couldn’t do it. Then we speculated that they could use the huge hammer props as weapons. Ah, but they were also thin – made of paper and Styrofoam. Then we came up with the idea of using the handles to plunge into the eye sockets of their targets. Things got darker after that so we dropped the conversation.

My books sold well, as they did at EternalCon on Long Island a few months earlier. It was there that I completely sold out of MOSES MILITIA and had to go back to print. Luckily I picked up a fresh run just two days before traveling to Baltimore. Was in full panic mode before then. And lo and behold, MOSES has fans! I had multiple people who had the prior issues asking for the next. They’re coming, faithful readers! The incredible Bill Wylie is hard at work drawing the next story arc which will be available soon.

There were constant compliments on the art of the series. Passersby would stop in their tracks as they glanced at the prints we made of the covers of the book. I could’ve made a montage of all the wonderful comments on Bill’s work.

And yes, I made prints of all the covers including GOLDENGIRL with art by Jamal Igle and colored by Chris Sotomayer. Those stunning images were like screaming billboards that drew everyone in and sold books on their own without pitches from me. Should’ve made them a long time ago. 

My minor quibbles. The one issue that I, and several others had, was the lack of a wireless signal at the con. Hope that gets rectified in the future. Also on Saturday some moron decided to pull the fire alarm causing everyone to evacuate the Con in the last hour. Other than that BCC was a blast!

Sunday brought me an unexpected thrill when I met Howard Chaykin, a longtime hero of mine (American Flagg, Cody Starbuck, Dominic Fortune, etc.). It was early enough that his table wasn’t swamped. We got to chat for a bit about comics, a mutual friend of ours that he went to school with; and we talked a little about MOSES MILITIA which he liked the concept of and the art. Gave him a postcard of the cover. 

Leaving Baltimore was a headache. I had purchased discounted garage parking online where I had a printout of a barcode to scan for entry and exit. Well the parking garage scanner wasn’t working. Your humble narrator had to sit at the exit on a steep downwards angle for 45 minutes while I telephoned customer service who tried to get someone to drive to the garage to let me out. Now I’m not the type to get angry at someone who has nothing to do with the problem so I passed time calming the phone clerk down. When I got home I did receive a credit from the company bringing my total cost of parking to $10 for the entire weekend. Yay me!

After three days of munching on crackers and granola bars, I decided to treat myself to a dinner of comfort food which meant finding a buffet. Well, there weren’t any along the way but what New Jersey lacks in a pleasant fragrance they make up for it with quality diners. Not this time. I found a place in the middle of nowhere next to one of those cliché chemical or power plants that you see along the Turnpike. The ambulance pulling away from the parking lot should’ve been a warning sign but it was late and I was starving. There was a bunch of weirdness that belonged in a Netflix horror show but I ignored them – like being the only male in the place at a diner with a mostly full parking lot and all the women customers seemingly there for Sunday evening’s all-you-can-eat chicken pot pie dinners. Now I’m wondering about the gender of the person carted away in the ambulance. Hmm….

No, I didn’t get the pot pie. I had truly awful chicken scampi on overcooked spaghetti. Great coffee though.

Thus passed my latest adventure at Baltimore Comic Con. Morty the rat is happy to see me & glad to finally get some Chinese noodle treats!

- James

Thursday, June 16, 2016

ETERNALCON - June 10th - 12th 2016 in Garden City, Long Island NY

Since the demise of ICON at Stony Brook University, I haven’t booked tables at any local cons. Last year I attended Eternal Con located at the Cradle of Aviation Museum in Garden City, Long Island NY and was impressed with the location. There are exhibits of all forms of air travel including outer space which appeals to the little kid in me. So I decided to book a table for 2016 without any expectations. Usually when I sign up for cons I use them as an opportunity for exposure. EternalCon surprised me.

Right out of the gate my World War 2 series THE MOSES MILITIA (art by the amazing BILL WYLIE) started selling. Usually it was the pitch descriptions on post-it notes that I placed on the covers that caught their eye. “Jewish heroes kicking Nazi ass!” did more to sell the book than anything I said.

I think I’ll stick that tagline onto the trade collection in the future! MOSES MILITIA did so well that by Saturday afternoon the book had completely sold out. At the time I couldn’t enjoy the success because I was panicking that I wouldn’t have anything for Sunday. Luckily I managed to find more copies in a closet at home. Those sold out as well the next day.

My other book GOLDENGIRL about a female hero forced into an early retirement at the age of thirty also did well.
There are a lot of topical themes I tried to cover in that story but it’s hard to list them on a post-it note! But as I described them to people, my sales pitch succeeded, especially with women who are my target audience for GG.

Comic fans in general were the highlight of the convention. There was a positive energy that filled the hall with enthusiasm for the funny books we were pitching, for art sketches, or just to discuss comics. Can’t think of one negative incident with the attendees. The only complaint I had was the lack of air conditioning. Being on the second floor under a wide expanse of  windows and bathed in sunshine didn’t help. Felt like I should’ve basted in butter while I was baking. Ugh!

The cosplayers were out in full force with every level of craftmanship from suits made of paper, to store bought, to professional quality but all with a love for the activity.

Everyone posed joyfully for pictures. Had a odd moment where I ran into a cosplayer from Instagram who I thought was from Italy due to her pseudonym but was actually local. Italian profile names are a thing apparently! 

That joy extended to my fellow vendors. Ran into a bunch of old friends (including Ken Knudtsen, Chris Sotomayor, Todd Matthy, Dominic Sparano, etc) and made a bunch of new ones, artist Jamal Jones and writer James Schumacher (get his horror book! Sunday I brought in a crate of munchkins for all of us because donuts bring the world together. I'm convinced we could solve border conflicts if we air-dropped donuts on armies instead of bombs!

Didn’t really get a chance to walk around and meet any celebrities although it would’ve been a thrill to meet Brent (Data) Spiner. The lovely Chase (Deep Space Nine) Masterson did pass by. She signed my friend (& artist) Andrew Rodriguez' t-shirt and left an adorable note on his shoulder. Guess that’s not going in the wash!

So EternalCon was a lot of fun. There was talk that it may move to a larger venue but the museum location does provide a unique perspective where there are other interests all around for the attendees. Most likely I will sign up for a table again next year.

Now to call my printer for more MOSES MILITIA books!


BALTIMORE COMIC CON - September 25th - 27th 2015

Sorry! This late entry is on attending Baltimore Comic Con last September 2015. As the fourth time I’ve booked a table at the Convention Center, BCC is always a joy to attend because it's purely focused on comics rather than general pop culture. And this year I was very excited because I was debuting my newest book, GOLDENGIRL #1! 

GOLDENGIRL was an idea that formed when I was part of the New York City creator collective known as Pronto Comics. As a group, we pooled our resources to put out quality material and one of the books was an anthology called KICKED. The idea (brilliantly conceived by writer Joe Toledo) was about an intervention for a superhero sidekick by former partners of the same hero, Captain Awesome. Each chapter was a bleak anecdote of how the square-jawed hero screwed over his juniors.

My contribution was called Loser Boy, a “hero” who was passed over to join Captain Awesome for the talented (and much cuter) GoldenGirl. She just had a cameo in that tale but she grew on me. So I crafted a story that grew into a 48 page tale of greed, ageism, and sexism.

Part of my motivation was to see if I could write a female hero under certain parameters.
1) to ensure she didn’t require any help or needed rescuing by males.
2) to explore themes unique to a female hero – her looks, age, whether she would be taken seriously by a male corporate society.
3) to apply the Bechdel test.

For anyone not familiar with the Bechdel test, it’s a set of guidelines (associated with cartoonist Alison Bechdel) usually applied to films to determine if any attempt was made to make the female characters three dimensional and not a stereotype.

Those guidelines are:
1) Does the story have at least two women in it.
2) Do they talk to each other
3) And is the subject about something other than a man.

Using all that, I crafted “The Death of GoldenGirl” about how a corporate sponsored hero suddenly became yesterday’s news due to her turning thirty. In a youth oriented society and a lack of roles for older actresses, why wouldn’t that apply to superheroes? So in the plot a promotional representative comes up with a scheme to get GoldenGirl back into the spotlight with tragic consequences.

This story had a few false starts with at least three artists unable to finish the project due to other commitments. So I put a call out to artists on various sites that connect talent. I received at least 100 submissions but settled on the talented Julian Taveras who I thought lived in The Bronx. For that reason I thought he was local enough that we could meet in person to discuss the project. After he signed on, I discovered he was living in Ohio! We wouldn’t meet in person for a year but I’ll get to that later.

Around the time the pages started coming in from Julian, DC (and Supergirl) artist Jamal Igle was running a kickstarter project for his independent book, MOLLY DANGER. One of the incentives was a cover drawn by him which I signed up for whole-heartedly. The finished cover far exceeded my expectations. And with color from the amazing Chris Sotomayor, you can see the result.

While I worked many sleepless nights to color the interior 48 pages, I quickly realized that I wouldn’t have the time to letter it so I turned to the incredible Dave Sharpe. He saved the project by getting it finished on time and adding a professional sheen to the balloons and captions. Never underestimate good lettering, people. That saying should be in fortune cookies.

So books in tow, I got to my hotel in Baltimore. In the middle of the night there was a knock at the door. It was Julian Taveras who had taken a bus from Ohio to Baltimore to do sketches at the table and sign books. There was many a celebratory toast made that weekend, a drink for the book, a drink for comics, follow by drinks for no reason!

Highlights from the convention:  I picked up the original art for the cover from Jamal Igle. I’ve known Jamal for a few years now having met in the hotel bar at a previous BCC and trading silly DJ stories. Again, amazing cover! 

Picking up some original art from the incredible Jose Luis Garcia-Lopez - a drawing of Mr Freeze from the Batman TV series (the Otto Preminger version). Still have to frame that piece.

Meeting Neal Adams and telling him how my 1st comic was Detective #410 by him and Dennis O’Neill. He graciously posed for a pic holding up the cover of GOLDENGIRL. 

Meeting colorist Laura Martin who I had spoken to during the online coloring courses I had taken under Chris Sotomayor (sign up at Comics Experience’s website!). She had taken a few moments to give me valuable feedback (pro & con) of my coloring on GoldenGirl. Can’t thank her enough.

GOLDENGIRL sold well as well as my World War 2 series THE MOSES MILITIA making for another enjoyable Baltimore con. Seeing those two books on the table gave me pause and think, “Hmm…I’m not just saying I want to make comics. I’m doing it!” That’s another free fortune cookie saying from me to you!