August 11, 2014

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Boston Comic Con - Some Highlights

 
I attended the Boston Comic Con (about which I wrote a preview last week) on Friday, August 8 and Saturday, August 9. The event was well attended and there was a nice diversity of people in attendance (and some great cosplay on display). The layout of the convention space was similar to previous years, and though the aisles are wide it got pretty crowded later on in the afternoon (particularly in the retailer area). It's grown very quickly these past few years, but it felt like a pretty well-organized convention.

A high point for me was attending the Image Comics panel. The guests were Ming Doyle (MaraQuantum and Woody), Mike Norton (Revival, Battle Pug), Tim Seeley (Revival, Hack/Slash) and Nick Pitarra (Manhattan Projects, The Red Wing), who took questions from a moderator and (at the end) from the audience.  A few highlights from that panel:
    The Image Comics Panel
  • The first question was "why Image?" and Seeley mentioned that it's nice to own your own stuff, and Image was really the leader in creator-owned top-selling comics (though other publishers are doing this now).  Seeley mentioned that he was the right age for Image to take hold of him (he was 13 in 1992) and he liked the "punk rock" attitude of the publisher. He also mentioned that one of the reasons he thinks Image is doing so well is that, in addition to providing a wide variety of books for different audiences, creators are getting better at getting books out on time (which had been a problem in the past, and sometimes still is). 
  • Doyle spoke a little about Mara, which has been Doyle's most prominent work so far and her first chance to do more superhero-type work. She said that if she gets the chance to do another book at Image she'll go the other way as far as art style and subject. 
  • Seeley and Norton were asked about where Revival came from, and they spoke about how they work in a studio and have lunch every day and together they decided they wanted to do a "farm noir" and undead story. Norton described their process as Seeley comes up with the idea (based on their discussions), writes the story, and Norton says good/not good.
  • Asked about Manhattan Projects, Pitarra said that a lot of the work they do is scripted Marvel-Style, which affords Pitarra a lot f flexibility to add the quirky and weird elements. Among his favorite characters to draw have been the various Presidents (such as Truman leading an orgy-ritual).  Pitarra mentioned about how Hickman will write intellectual dialogue that he doesn't know how to illustrate because he's "not that smart," but he does the best he can. Pitarra then mentioned how he broke into comics by entering every possible art contest, and caught the eye of Hickman. Pitarra joked that he wasn't sure why Hickman wanted him because his art is very "mashed potato-ey" and Hickman "does all the pie charts."
  • When asked if there are any particular "Big 2" or other characters they'd like to take on, Doyle joked that she'd do a great "50 Shades of Gray"-Gambit story, Pitarra spoke about his love for The Tick, and Norton and Seeley talked about their idea for X-Bros, described as being a story about the "Van Wilder" of non-mutants who's found his way into the Xavier school.
  • All of the creators talked about how it is hard to get issues out on a timely manner, and how you really are on your own, both from an editorial perspective (though Image will offer some assistance with proofreading) and from a marketing perspective. Doyle commented that this has given her a whole new respect for the editorial process. As far as marketing, since it's their project, the real incentive is on the creator to get out there and market (which the panelists agreed was their least favorite part of the job), though Image does a little of that. They spoke a little bit about the basic economics of Image books, where Image takes a flat fee on each issue and creators get the rest, and it's on them to divide up amongst the creative team.
A well-attended convention
 Some other highlights:
  • Talking with Nick Pitarra about the Manhattan Projects, and what Pitarra thinks that writer Jonathan Hickman brings to the artistic process. Pitarra described the way in which Hickman's art and design background helped improve the layout in The Red Wing (their earlier collaboration), and the way he thinks Hickman's emphasis on design elements has influenced comics more generally. Nick and I had a chance to speak for a few minutes after the Image Comics panel, and we talked about how he and Jonathan Hickman brought in Ryan Browne as the regular fill-in artist on Manhattan Projects because Pitarra liked the absurdity of Browne's work, and thought that Browne's artistic style and sensibility as to subject matter were a good fit and had the weird quirks that are needed for for that book.  Pitarra told me a little about the upcoming project he's writing, the current working title of which is The Great American Mustache (co-written with Tommy Patterson, art from Sam Lotfi), which he said would be a fun, silly one-shot where wrestling personas fight modern internet villains such as "selfie monster". It'll be a humorous, satirical take on modern internet culture.
  • Meeting creator Andrew Maclean (Head Lopper), and getting a chance to see pages from his upcoming project. This will be a post-apocalyptic science fiction story set in a ruined city, which Andrew says was inspired by the manga story Tekkonkinkreet (a manga--eventually turned into a movie--which centers on a story about two young orphans that attempt to deal with Yakuza taking over their crumbling, abandoned city). The pages looked strong and effectively conveyed the environment of an abandoned, overgrown city. It sounds like the city holds some weird, interesting surprises.
  • Getting to talk with Drew Zucker (Skybreaker) about comics art generally, the experience of New York Comic Con, and the importance of the right artist for the right project. I spoke further with Zucker and Joey Esposito (Footprints, Pawn Shop) about their upcoming project End of Olympus, which imagines that the World's Greatest Hero is killed, and his Best Pal is the one that takes the famous picture of it, and fast forwards ten years later where the Best Pal is living off of that glory, and his best friend dying is the best thing that's ever happened to the World's Greatest Hero's Best Pal. While it involves superheroes, it's intended to be more of a commentary on our modern celebrity age.
These signs were displayed throughout the convention
  • Seeing Braden Lamb and Shelli Paroline (Adventure Time) and discussing with them the collaborative art process on the comic.  Paroline is also one of the organizers of the Massachusetts Independent Comics Expo (or "MICE"), a terrific local event in Cambridge Massachusetts (about which we'll be talking with Paroline sometime next month).
  • Talking to Andrew Carl and Chris Stevens about comics, the greatness of Mike Allred, and their collection of futuristic fairy tales Once Upon a Time Machine. Carl and Stevens are also the team behind the successful Little Nemo: Dream Another Dream Kickstarter.  
  • Meeting Mike Denison, the artist behind the #BeaADay project where he has been drawing a different picture of Bea Arthur (and the rest of the Golden Girls) incorporated into various pop culture such as movies, music, comics each day over the course of most of a year (Friday was day 336 and that day's drawing was based on Adventure time).   
  • Meeting Tyler James, the author of Epic and The Red Ten, and the head of ComixTribe, a publisher, and online community and resource, who've recently had a success with their release And Then Emily Was Gone, a creepy supernatural mystery. 
  • Getting to talk with Christina Blanch, creator of the SuperMOOC (which last year had a course on gender through comic books and this year has a course on social issues through comic books) and co-author of The Damnation of Charlie Wormwood.
  • Meeting creators such as Anthony Del Col (Kill Shakespeare, which we discussed recently), Erica Schultz (M3, and the upcoming Revenge graphic novel from Marvel, based on the TV show), Scott Springer (Angry Faerie) and Zak Kinsella (MidSpace), and catching up with Jennie Wood (Flutter, who we interviewed this past week).
  • Meeting upcoming Batgirl artist Babs Tarr, who showed me some great-looking art (very much unlike the typical house DC style) that will be featured in the upcoming book.
It's a great convention and it only continues to grow. I look forward to attending next year!