I did an interview a few months back (on the day my son was born actually) with Brian John Mitchell for his Indie Comic Creators Interviews over at Silber Media. Just click on the link below.
Archive for category: Thoughts
Just noticed this post over at Warren Ellis’s digital stomping ground:
Wow. If this is DC’s strategy (that hypothetical lost fan base is older, has credit cards and disposable income, and an internet connection that can bring the DC Comics section of a notional comics store right to their desks. That, in fact, digital comics services will do the work of those eight thousand stores that don’t exist anymore) I have a hunch it will totally flop.
Why? Because comic books should be targeting young readers. Ages seven to sixteen. If you make that demographic care about the medium and care about your funny books, then they could become life long readers. Everyone who left comics in the 90′s are gone. Some might come back, but I wouldn’t count on it. The next generation is where it’s at!
I DO like the fact that DC is stirring things up, but it DOES bother me that much of the “reboot” element of it seems to be more about the Shuster lawsuit regarding the Superman copyright.
All that said, I’d rather read some good independent comics, where the creator’s actually care about the stories they’re crafting.
Originally MYRANT thought this comment entry was spammy, so I posted it here on the Ultraist Journal Blog. Since then Steve Bissette took the initiative to copy and paste it in manually. Thanks Steve! This goes into deep detail on my comic convention experiences. It is a response to A Chat With Dave Sim, Part 6.
Regarding Comic Conventions:
Fan Expo is the fourth largest comic convention in North America and it’s right in our backyard. Our only expense is the table and parking. As a result we are able to do slightly better than “break even”. Our comics are able to hold their own in this environment. We get lots of interest from people who are at the show for other things (like the SciFi or Horror). This has become an annual outing for us and we are now at a point where people come looking for us. Check out our con reports here: http://www.ultraist.net/journal/index.php?s=”fan+expo”. In fact, in 2009 Electric Playground did a SPY GUY feature that was broadcast on national television. That interview can be seen here: http://www.ultraist.net/epInterview.html
Word On The Street is interesting in that we are some of the only comic book publishers at this event. We get people from all walks of life showing interest. It’s a more even demographic than any other show. Because there are few comic books, we get a lot of interest from children. That is a good sign (if you ask me) that comic books are as interesting as ever for the upcoming generation. Considering that table costs are quite steep for a one day show, and we are selling three dollar comics, it amazes me that every year we are able to do slightly better than “break even”. Con reports here: http://www.ultraist.net/journal/index.php?s=”word+on+the+street”
Just about any other convention we’ve done, once you tack on travel and accommodation costs, becomes a loss leader.
It is the residual effects of attending these conventions that make them worth while.
APE at the time we went was our least successful show. People there were more interested in art objects than comic books. This is a common trait I’ve found in the ultra-indie comic cons. People do not seem to be interested in traditional comics, unlike the big ComicCons and FanExpos. Blair and I went home from that show with the wind blown out of our sales. But because of that convention, we were noticed by some people in Hollywood, and were asked to be a part of the convention sequence of the 2008 feature film SUPERHERO MOVIE directed by Craig Mazin and produced by David Zucker and Robert K. Weiss. Here are some screen grabs: http://www.ultraist.net/journal/2009/04/24/spy-guy-vs-dragonfly/
We recently returned to San Francisco to attend WonderCon 2010, and were amazed to find how many people had been looking for us ever since. Our table was tucked away in a far back corner, so when we were discovered with excitement, it was one of those things that makes it all worth while. Here is a videoblog of our Wonder Con adventure: http://www.ultraist.net/journal/2010/06/24/spy-guy-the-possum-vs-wondercon-2010/
SPX was one of my favorite shows to attend. It fell somewhere between the mainstream shows and the ultra-indie shows. There wasn’t Hollywood competition, and yet people were still interested in traditional looking comic books. It was a “break-even” or “slightly-less-than-break-even” show, but the BOX of comic trades I came home with FAR MORE than outweighed any loss. Good stuff! Of course we did that show on the cheap (sleeping in the van). Paying for a hotel room would have crushed us. Definitely a show I would like to do again, however circumstances have prevented us from doing so recently. Full report here: http://www.ultraist.net/journal/2007/10/19/spx-2007-field-report/
MoCCA had to be the biggest financial loss of any show I’ve attended. There was lots working against it. Blair didn’t attend the show, so I took all the financial loss myself (even though I was selling his comics and using his sales to help offset the cost). I brought the whole family with me which added to the expense. And MoCCA seemed to be one of those ultra-indie shows where people aren’t interested in traditional looking comics. That said; this is what good came out of it: I finally got to meet Charlito (and Mr Phil who I first met at SPX) of Indie Spinner Rack, and got to speak with him for one of the ISR shows: http://www.ultraist.net/journal/2010/06/17/indie-spinner-rack/ and I also got to meet Brian LeTendre from the Secret Identity Podcast and appear on his show: http://www.ultraist.net/journal/2010/09/09/secret-identity-podcast-264/ I also got to meet Gahl Buslov of Midtown Comics who made the BIGGEST single purchase of SPY GUY comics in the history of Ultraist Studios. It was nice to say “thank you” in person. Here is my videoblog con report: http://www.ultraist.net/journal/2010/04/17/spy-guy-vs-mocca-2010/ (good trades from this show as well).
And San Diego Comic Con. What an experience that was. This nearly ties with MoCCA for biggest financial loss, but man was it fun! It was so big, and we met so many people, and went to so many post-con parties, that I have to say it was worth the expense. An interesting story; I was approached by someone who was apparently involved with the Bourne Identity movies, who was looking for new SPY material to be made into feature films. He asked if I ever though of having SPY GUY turned into a movie, and I told him that if it were ever to happen, I’d see it as an animated movie, at which point he lost interest, though he gave me his card, and I gave him a comic. But the though of having “Bruce Willis as SPY GUY” was a funny enough thought to keep me laughing (even as I type this). We have a video blog waiting to be edited but in the meantime here is a quick blog post: http://www.ultraist.net/journal/index.php?s=”San+Diego+Comic+Con+2010″
An exception to the “loss leader” show was SPACE. Here the table cost was low, and even the foot traffic of attendees was low. Yet if you compared our sales to the number of attendees it had to be the highest sales per person ratio of any show we’ve been to. I don’t think we covered transportation cost (gas from Toronto to Columbus) but when all is said and done, it’s a show I would not hesitate to do again. It was a “meeting of the tribe”. Highlights were meeting up with the Cerebus Yahoo!s, doing the annual gathering at Schmidt’s Sausage Haus (for our first time). Also came home with a decent amount of trades. SPUD & HARRY even got nominated as a SPACE PRIZE finalist! http://www.backporchcomics.com/space_prize_finaliists_general.htm
A videoblog documentary of SPACE 2010 can be viewed here:
What is worth mentioning is that a lot of these things don’t necessarily translate into immediate sales, but there is a very real “snowball effect” that is clearly happening in slow motion where each event builds on the other, causing a cascading chain reaction.
It’s tough doing the comic circuit selling three dollar comics.
Part of the trick to making money at these things is to come up with something that sells in the $50 and up range.
Big name artists can sell sketches, but we like to give those away to people who support us for free.
That’s just how we roll.
Coming up in the next few years, we’ll be experimenting with attending other shows we’ve yet to attend. To have our comics infiltrate new cities and get them into the hands of new readers. I’m very curious to hear other artists experiences with shows they’ve attended and hearing their recommendations.
I mentioned earlier of a fax message from Dave Sim to fellow comic legend Steve Bissette via the Comicon.com Message Board. Well it appears the conversation there was derailed by internet trolls, however the discussion now has a new moderated home at Steve Bissette’s MYRANT. This first post contains Dave’s first fax sent just before The Kitchen Family dinner. Click on over to MYRANT for the full discussion. This is going to be a good one!
Excerpt from Steve Bissette:
“I see my Center for Cartoon Studies students every year graduate (some with one-year certificates, some with two year, some with MFAs) into a marketplace that, in the manner we used to define that marketplace, has labored mightily since the mid-1990s to shut them out. That is: Diamond Comics has no room for their work; the so-called “mainstream” American comic book industry has shut them out (I no longer consider it truly mainstream, since the former Direct Market has steadily eroded since the 1990s implosion, and the bookstore chains that now dominate rack far more manga, children’s graphic novels, and a potpourri of “graphic novels” that is comprised of far more diversity of product than we imagined possible in the 1980s); and their sole regular venue for selling their creations has become the regional and national “independent comics” conventions.”
We’ve all seen the trailer:
Well, now it’s here.
My review of Amazing Spider-Man #648. BIG TIME.
First off: Allow me to say that of all the costumed superheroes, Spider-Man has always been my favourite. Though it’s been tough to stay interested over the last two decades. Seriously.
I’ve checked in from time to time, only to be left shaking my head.
Let me say right off the bat that Humberto Ramos has been drawing my favourite Spidey for the last decade. So it was a no-brainer to pick this up for the art alone. And Dan Slott seems to have a handle on the character like no one else has in years. So going into this comic, my hopes were way up.
The first 16 pages of Spider-Man leading The Avengers against Doc Ock and his Mecha-Ock invasion was near perfection.
My only gripe here was the Wolverine line “Taking orders from Parker. Never gonna hear the end a this.”
Not sure where this started (I blame Bendis) but I absolutely hate it when we see masked heroes calling each-other by their secret identity names. Perhaps this was Slott’s way of correcting the bad writing of others, but it was the one line of dialog that popped me out of the story (well, that and the fart joke). Everything else was genius. Right down to the Black Cat cameo which impressed me how smoothly Slott and Ramos pulled it off.
The remaining 23 pages were hit and miss for me as far as story goes.
J. Jonah Jameson as Mayor is weird, but what the heck, it’s no weirder than Toronto’s Mayor Lastman.
Watching Peter Parker looking for a place to stay was the most bizarre and un-interesting thing in the whole book for me. Yeah, I understand Slott is trying to show where Peter stands with all the supporting characters. But it was kinda painful.
Peter Parker has another girl friend? Ugh.
Didn’t Joe Quesada just finish absolving Spidey’s marriage with the help of his divorce attorney Mephisto?
Geeze Marvel, when are you going to learn. You made the same mistake first issue of Brand New Day, turning Peter Parker into some kind of swinger on the very first page. Give the story some breathing room. Let the man be single. That’s why you’ve botched decades of continuity, isn’t it?
Sigh. You know what… enough struggling with contrived continuity.
All I want is a good story.
But things continue to get weirder.
Aunt May is married to a Jameson?
Who wrote THAT into continuity? (answer).
Seriously. The reason I’m buying a Spider-Man comic is NOT to be reading some Golden Girls soap opera.
I don’t want to read a story about Aunt May’s sexual exploits. No one does. Please. Stop.
Flash Thompson doesn’t have any legs?
WTF. Why? What does (or did) that add to the story?
AND the page that had me consider dropping the book again.
Page 25. Just had to rub the Peter and Mary Jane debacle in everyone’s faces.
Best thing that could have been done is just leave that character out of the book until the dust settles and everything gets back into the groove.
I thought the whole point of the past few years of cluster-#@*! was to absolve the Spidey marriage.
Why bother to force this back into the forefront of this new direction?
Seriously. I don’t understand. At this point I had to go back to the first 16 pages to remind myself how amazingly awesome the first chunk of this book was to move on…
Horizon Labs. Ah. This is refreshing. Something NEW that feels like it’s building the story rather than struggling through dead weight of the past. This was fun. And I see that Ramos literally based this building on the Pixar lobby. Which is weird for me, being a CG animator myself. But yeah, I can buy into this. Watching Peter Parker “laying down the science” was my second favourite part of this book, and got me firmly planted back into this story.
And seeing Spider-Man homeless and reading his science book in a web-hammock in late night New York has got to be one of the best iconic moments I’ve seen for the character. Well done!
But wait. There’s still two more pages.
Kingpin and… Hobgoblin.
Beautifully rendered by Ramos.
As a matter of fact, it was Ramos’s rendition of the Green Goblin that made me a fan of his work way back in Peter Parker: Spider-Man 47.
Okay. It was touch-and-go for a while there.
But you’ve got me hooked for another issue.
We’ll see where it goes.
Of course, I’ve just seen this image from over at The Beat…
… so I’m proceeding with caution and am ready to drop the book at a moments notice.
ADDENDUM: Been thinking about the whole Spidey romance thing, and realized that for the writers (Slott in this case) to make things work, they’re going to have to come up with someone better (that the audience loves more) than Gwen Stacy, Felicia Hardy and Mary Jane Watson-Parker.
And the thing is, it SHOULD be a side issue, because Spider-Man is a superhero comic and should be about scrapping with supervillians above all else.
Another thought: I have no problem with changing up the formula, so long as it works. My favorite comic book these days (Erik Larsen’s Savage Dragon) is a book that happens in real time, and goes through DRASTIC changes (heck, the title hero is now the books villian and his now-grown-up-kids have to deal with him), but what makes it work is it comes from the heart of the guy who’s making it. The problem with Spider-Man, Bat Man et al, is that the “big changes” always feel like editorial edicts and are neither here-nor-there. Marvel had a HUGE opportunity that was squandered with the unmasking, also when Spider-Man had a chance to become the bad boy of the Marvel Universe when he joined The Avengers (given his media relations). Given that there was going to be a OMD, BND, OMIT reset there was a chance to go no-holds-barred wild in the book. But no. It was (in my opinion) this weird mushy “we’re changing things!… but not THAT much” kind of wishy washy “all new direction”.
I just want to read a fun superhero romp.
Been enjoying Astonishing Spider-Man | Wolverine.
THAT’s been fun.
Hope the rest of BIG TIME follows suit.
ADDENDUM 2: Looks like that Death of Spider-Man is an Ultimate Universe thing.
ADDENDUM 3: Amazing Spider-Man #649 looks like it’ll be great judging by the preview.
Here’s my list, starting from the top left.
- Dave Sim – Cerebus. My biggest influence. Obviously. When I first read Cerebus 166 back in January of 1993 I realized that this was how a black and white independent comic should be made. I admired that it was creator owned, and self-published and didn’t pull any punches. I liked that there was an editorial page, a letters column and extra stuff in the back. And I was amazed at the results of cross-overs that happened with other artists who owned their creations (such as this one with Sergio Aragonés – Groo)
- The Empire Strikes Back. Star Wars was a huge influence. But Empire Strikes Back trumped it. I think it was the AT-AT Walker sequence on Hoth that made me decide to do effects animation. Pretty cool that I had a chance to work for the man who animated them when I was at Tippett Studio working on Hellboy.
- Chuck Jones – Looney Tunes. These cartoons are most likely the reason why I’m still drawing cartoony characters in the comics I make today. Probably explains the violence as well. This is harebrained comedy at it’s finest.
- Conspiracy Theories. It was Jello Biafra that first opened the door to this stuff, and it’s been down the rabbit hole ever since. These are my favorite stories.
- Silver Age comic books. It was a box of silver age comics that got me hooked on the standard comic book format. Batman 244 by Neal Adams was my favorite of the bunch.
- Katsuhiro Otomo – Akira. I had already decided to become an animator when I watched the animated Akira movie. But it changed the way I looked at animation. From there I read the manga series, and it changed the way I looked at comics.
- Steve Ditko – Spider-Man. Everything I liked about comics in the 1980′s was a result of what Steve Ditko did in the 1960′s.
- Bill Watterson – Calvin & Hobbes. It was newspaper comic strips that got me reading comics, but it was Calvin & Hobbes that made me see their true potential. I always dreamed that Bill Watterson would do more full comic book format stories, like the painted ones he did in The Lazy Sunday Book…
- Who Framed Roger Rabbit. This was the movie that made me get into animation. It also has a lot of the same ambience that I try to create in my comics.
- Blade Runner. Cyberpunk done right.
- Transformers. Seriously, how could you grow up in the 80′s and not be influenced by giant transforming robots.
What are the things that influence you?
Go grab the template from fox-orian at deviantart.com and fill one out yourself.
Be sure to share a link in the comments if you do.
While sitting here hammering out the dialog on Page 14 I thought I’d take a quick picture to post up to the blog journal. Then suddenly I was overwhelmed with a sense of deja-vu and sure enough, after a quick search, discovered I did in fact do one of these “Writing with Post-it Notes” things before. Last October in fact. My God, has it been that long. Interesting that the page shown on the drawing board last year is a page that was photographed nearly complete on the drawing board just a couple of days ago, along with the thumbnail drawing for Page 9 which was shown on the drawing board as well.
When writing these dialog heavy pages, I find it’s easy to become non-commital because there is so much that has to go on in the page and it’s easy to write so many words that there is no space left for the characters to be drawn. This makes it easy for one to freeze up and become non-productive. When this happens I am able to pull out the Post-it pad and just start letting the ideas flow, letting the characters improvise dialog on the page, and letting the writer jot down any important bits of information that absolutely needs to be communicated for story progression. Then the Post-it notes can be cut up and re-arranged, and next thing you know the words are on the page and arranged into something that works. Now it’s time to pencil them out directly on the S-172 Bainbridge and ink them!
Starting October 4th 2010 SPY GUY #2 became a full-time job. This is the first time in my life I’ve been able to dedicate the entirety of my “work-time” to a comic. Even when I took two weeks off to complete SPUD & HARRY I was still doing videogame contract work on the side. Two weeks and two days in I can say it’s been an interesting experience. Suddenly there is time to think about the work. Pages that have been sitting idle for over a year are suddenly coming to fruition. That said: There isn’t nearly enough time to do all that needs to be done. On my white board, I wrote all the things I hoped could be accomplished. In my delusions of grandeur I had thought since the comic would replace the “Clark Kent Day Job” that suddenly side projects would replace the time spent making comics. I thought blog entries would come quicker, and the SPY GUY: Minis webcomic would suddenly go live. But you know what? It takes A LOT of time to make a comic. Not quite as much time as it takes to make animation. But more time than enough.
As of this writing, I’m averaging at two days to complete one page, which happens to be the same amount of time it took to complete the SPACE Anthology pages. As I move forward with this comic, it’s becoming apparent where the time is being spent, so it is the hope of this artist that as time moves on the process will become streamlined for maximum speed and productivity. Part of the trick is being able to make snap decisions. Having a solid script helps. Having solid thumbnails helps. Having reference material on hand helps immensely! The rest of it is being able to execute on demand. That trick is a little more tricky. My hunch is that skill will develop as more pages are completed. I’m noticing that having drawn convention sketches has helped a lot. It’s a great format of experimentation in figuring out what works and what doesn’t.
Today’s agenda is putting the final inking touches on the first half of SPY GUY #2 and scanning the pages, turning them into print ready files. This is what the drawing board looks like as of this moment. Note some of the items in the picture: The corkboard full of ideas and reference. The photo of my children. The rulers for drawing perspective and speedlines. The tape for tracing paper transfers. A tracing paper transfer for Page 9. Post it notes full of dialog (for placement on the page). Star Wars Manga book 2 for speedline reference. And Pages 4-10 of SPY GUY #2!
Time to get back to work.