Ultraist Studios Blog Journal thoughts, musings and other rambling…

January 3, 2011

A Chat With Dave Sim, Part 6 – A Response

Filed under: Conventions,Thoughts — M Kitchen @ 11:11 am

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:

There are two conventions that are “profitable” for Ultraist Studios and Possum Press:  FAN EXPO and WORD ON THE STREET (which is a book fair, not a comic convention).

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.

September 1, 2009

SPY GUY #1 (all of them)!

Filed under: Announcements,Photos,Spy Guy — M Kitchen @ 7:23 pm

This morning I (finally) got the second “over-night” FedEx package from Lebonfon.  Too bad they didn’t ACTUALLY get here “over-night” on Saturday in time for the Fan Expo, yet I digress.

But the even bigger surprise is that not more than an hour later a transport truck arrives with the Mother Load!

Yessir!  ALL the comics are now here in the Ultraist Studios Suburban Stronghold, safe and sound in the secure underground storage facility.  Soon it is time to begin mailing them to the world.

And after that… SPY GUY #2.

October 19, 2007

SPX 2007: Field Report

Filed under: Conventions,Sketches — M Kitchen @ 11:10 am

SPX 2007

4:50 am Friday morning, Blair and I hopped in The Possum-Wagon and commenced on our journey to Bethesda MD USA for the Small Press Expo. It was a nice drive. Travelling through Maryland on the I-70 I was captivated by the beautiful rolling hills and miniature mountains, with scattered farms and colonial houses. I wanted to move there. Immediately. It sure beats the concrete sprawl of the GTA. I should have taken a picture. Next year, I’ll take a picture.

1:00 pm we arrived at the convention center ahead of schedule. How we managed to arrive on time, when we’ve been consistently running late on our local cons, I have no idea.

photo by Blair Kitchen courtesy of Possum Press

That left us plenty of time to eat some lunch, set up the booth, and get ready for the doors to open at 2:00.

Not that it mattered much. Friday was a very slow day. And yet, it held a few surprises. Like the interview we did for VOA Indonesia. And meeting up with people I had only ever encountered online. So that was nice.

photo by Blair Kitchen courtesy of Possum Press

Over the past few weeks I’ve been trying to adjust my own internal anxieties by letting go of worries, and trying to embrace an optimistic and positive outlook on things. And this con turned out to be a good testing ground to prove some theories. In fact, each time I recalibrated my internal dialogue to keep with a more positive outlook, it seemed like good things would happen.

Learned a few lessons… like this one: Ecclesiastes 11:10.

And this one: Matthew 11:29-30

And this one: Matthew 6:25-35

After the show on Friday, the Marriott set up a bar downstairs. And I could really go for a glass of wine. Of course a glass of wine would cost me the profit of two comic sales. Well, they finally broke me down and I approached the bar.

Was asked “do you have a ticket?”

“No… where do I get a ticket?”

“I don’t know. It’s $6.50 without a ticket”

So… if I get a ticket, that’s like selling two comics…

“I’ll be right back… I’m going to find a ticket”.

This sent me on an expedition through the convention center looking for the SPX organizers who would surely be the keepers of the drink tickets. Sure enough, they were in the bar upstairs, and surprisingly, Karon Flage saw me and waved me over. Of course, she had mistaken me for someone else (bald heads look alike) but she was more than willing to hook me up with some drink tickets. Yes. This was the sign that told me this weekend would turn out just fine.

Lesson learned: Matthew 7:7

Oh yeah. There was also cake.
It made me laugh.

In an attempt to cut costs, we had abandoned the idea of spending $100 a night for a plush room in the Marriott, and instead camped out in the Possum-Wagon. Aside from being impaled by strange seat hooks and attachors, and having reoccurring nightmares of being harassed by parking lot security, I had an incredible sleep.

Saturday, I awoke to a brand new day. A sponge bath in the bathroom sink freshened me up, and I managed to score a free coffee from the restaurant upstairs, and some French toast, strawberries, and another coffee from a buffet downstairs. This all seemed to endorse the above lesson.

Here Blair has finally awoken from his slumber in the Possum-Wagon.

The show that day started off moderately slow, and remained that way until eleven o’clock when things went crazy and picked up. Here are a few sketches that were done over the weekend. Check out Possum Press for more.

It was a great crowd. Not as artsy and esoteric as the APE and TCAF crowds, and not as pop-culture mainstream as the FAN EXPO crowds. Which seems to be a good fit for our target audience for both SPY GUY and THE POSSUM.

One added bonus was that while I was wandering, I noticed a bunch of other artists I had been introduced to on Dave Sim’s Blog and Mail (that I’ve been meaning to check out). So when I did my round of trades, these were the first artists I hit.

Specifically Scott Berwanger (Anubis), Pat Lewis (Abominable), and Steve Peters (Chemistry).

I never did manage to get a trade with Jim Coon (Beaver). Maybe next year.

In all I scored a box full of comics, (that I’ve been reading all week on the GO Train). That always makes a break-even or profit losing show seem all the more worth while.

Some other notable events were meeting with the Diamond reps, getting some comics to Heidi MacDonald (could there be a review in our future?) and meeting Dan Merritt from Green Brain Comics, who told me one of his agents picked up our books at the Toronto FAN EXPO this summer. Cool.

We had great neighbours at this year’s show. To our right was John Bintz who draws “A Moment of Clarity” and to our left was Kevin McShane, who does the superhero / hollywood parody “Toupydoops”.

The end of Saturday finished of with the Ignatz Awards, and some more wine and drink tickets.

This ended our SPX Saturday.

We had another wonderful night sleep.

Sunday morning I woke at the crack of dawn, where I sponge bathed in the sink, and made my way to the hotel lobby where I bought a coffee, found a comfortable seat, and cracked open my stash of trades.

What a great morning.

10:00 – 1:00 we attended the panels that were offered, which was a good way to spend the last few hours of the con.

All things considered, SPX was a success.

August 22, 2007

TCAF: Update

Filed under: Announcements,Conventions,Photos,Sketches — M Kitchen @ 8:26 pm

The Toronto Comic Arts Festival has come and gone. Another interesting show which had a vibe similar to A.P.E. That is, people seemed to be less interested in the standard sized glossy covered saddle stitched (stapled) pamphlet comics, and more interested in mini-zines, art objects, and graphic novel books. That said, the reaction to the Possum Press | Ultraist Studios joint catalog was actually very good.

The venue for TCAF was the Old Victoria College building and the Burwash Quad on the University of Toronto Campus, which was a nice classy place to hold a con. Gaging the size of the crowd was deceptive due to the multiple rooms and levels, and being in a corner table in a side room, it always seemed as though the place was relatively empty despite a steady flow of people.

It is such a different vibe from the super-hero cons like the Fan Expo (coming up this weekend). I found it strange wandering around the floor as it felt as though I was walking through the corridors of broken dreams. The majority of the vendors are self-publishers, and all of the vendors are dumping their hearts and souls into their work. Each one selling a piece of themselves for a minimal price, desperately looking for takers. Unless of course you are one of the headliners selling art prints for 50 bucks a pop. Now I don’t feel like uploading all of the sketches that were done over the course of the weekend, though here is a sampler (click the image to see the enlarged sketch):

Here is a Mexican couple who were taken by the villianous cast of the Possum #2 (who gave us a literal review of the Spanish portions of the script). Given they are fans of Mexican wrestling, what better sketch to do than Harry pummelling the Seven Deadly Dwarfs! I even had them write the caption.

More fans of The Possum who picked up a Value Pack! Heed Spy Guy’s words or warning about Possum fans… he speaks the truth!

SPY GUY: Minis has always been popular with the ladies. Or, at the very least, the cover has been. I’ve always been curious what they think after reading it…

It’s always a pleasure when asking “what sort of sketch would you like” when the response comes back “draw me”. The “team up” and “versus” sketches usually end up being my favorites.

Trisha wins the prize for “most fun accessories to draw”. Now looking at that sketch, I just wish I remembered to draw in the ground shadows…

Somewhere outside of the old Vic building, a rather depressed looking Seth and Chester Brown were overheard saying: “I wish we were as famous and lovable as the fabulous Kitchen Brothers”…



For more TCAF field reports and sketches, click on over to the Possum Press blog:
day 1day 2

Stay tuned for FAN EXPO 2007.

June 18, 2007

Letter From Ewart Cameron

Filed under: Mail — M Kitchen @ 8:35 am

Taking a cue from the Blog and Mail, I’ve decided to occasionally post letters as blog journal fodder. Partially this is due to SPY GUY #1 (of the unlimited series) not having a letters column slated, and partially because the online letters forum hasn’t yet been constructed, and partially because of the lack of free time to do anything else. I figure if I’m going to be typing anyway, might as well get some mileage out of it. So below, a letter from Ewart Cameron.


I’d love to say I’m a big fan, but truth is, I’ve only seen you briefly at last year’s Fan Expo. I certainly admire your work and art… very reminicent of Bone, but has it’s own charm to it. The action you get across with the “cartoony” style is awesome!

Anyway, I hope you’re at this year’s Expo… I plan to pick up a few comics if you are… maybe order a few before then. I’ve been checking out your site and was a little disapointed that you didn’t have any onine previews… even a mini-story. But that’s cool… I still have the little pamphlets from last year.

So, I do have a question, if you don’t mind me asking. I have an on-line comic, myself and have been working on a story for a print-based comic. But the actual printing and publishing is where I hit a wall. What do you do for printing? Do you go to a professional printer? How expensive does that run? How do you off-set costs before you start selling? So maybe that was more than one question… sorry.

Also, I was wondering if you’d like to set up a cross-link. My link on your blog and vice-versa on my site. I don’t know if you have a Comicspace account, but shoot me a note if you do and I’ll freindicate you.

Thanks for the time… hope to see you (and Spy Guy) this August.

Ewart Cameron

Response Tomorrow (?)

Also: I’ve got the next webcomic waiting to be scanned, so that’s coming up soon, as well as some convention pics which still need to be photoshop-resized. You’d think that for someone who sits vegetative in front of a computer all day, finding time to scan and photoshop wouldn’t be a problem. If only the day job systems guys would hook me up… The reference I’ve ordered online is starting to trickle in. May make some posts on that as well, despite the possible spoilers. Transformers the movie is coming out soon, which also requires a good rant. All this and more, only at the Ultraist Studios Blog Journal!

April 15, 2007


Filed under: Announcements — M Kitchen @ 10:17 pm



Of the letters received since the 2006 Toronto Fan Expo, yours was the one drawn as the winner of the SPUD & HARRY PREVIEW EDITION contest. Meaning that I’ll ship you your FREE SPUD & HARRY #1 comic as soon as you let me know where I can mail it. Thanks again for your letter from last summer, and I hope you enjoy the newest comic from the SPY GUY Universe.


Mike Kitchen.
Ultraist Studios.

August 12, 2006

Comic Book Expo 2006

Filed under: Uncategorized — M Kitchen @ 4:42 am

The 12th Annual Fan Expo is happening September 1-3/06 at the Metro Toronto Convention Center South Building, located at 222 Bremner Boulevard, Toronto Ontario.

Special Celebrity Guests include:

William Shatner – Captain Kirk of Star Trek
Leonard Nimoy – Mr. Spock of Star Trek
Jim Lee – All Star Batman & Robin
Mike Mignola – creator of Hellboy

Some other Not-so-special Non-celebrity Guests include:

Mike Kitchen – animator on Hellboy, creator of Spy Guy
Blair Kitchen – animator on Curious George, creator of The Possum

Look for us in the Artist Alley!

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