Category: Conventions

With Further Ado #296: Those Moments That Only Happen at Conventions

With Further Ado #296: Those Moments That Only Happen at Conventions

We just folded up the tents and struck the sets for ITHACON 47, the nation’s second longest running comic convention. It was a rousing success We have so many folks to thank. And I’m eager to write all about it too.

But I was struck by one conversation I had on the showroom floor, and it made me connect the dots on one big idea.

Just about every ITHACON exhibitor/dealer with whom I spoke gleefully explained their sales were strong and/or better than last year. That’s really important for a small show like ITHACON. We want to keep it comfortable for everyone, but we need to attract the right attendees. Folks who will be engaged in panels, cosplay, activities and who are eager to see what the dealers have brought.

However, one high-end comics dealer (who’s an ITHACON regular now) said that his sales were soft. But he blamed that on trends and not the show per se. He told me that his CGC graded comics have been selling better via online auctions that at comic conventions. That’s a fair point, and next year I would like to find a clever way to entice the type of customer he’s looking for to come to our show.

But it got me thinking about the amazing types of things that can only happen at conventions. And I have a great example for you. Continue reading “With Further Ado #296: Those Moments That Only Happen at Conventions”

With Further Ado #295: ITHACON Preview

With Further Ado #295: ITHACON Preview

We’re getting to launch ITHACON again. It’s the nation’s second longest running comic convention, and I’ve had to the privilege to be involved with this one for the last few years. This year, we have some amazing guests and some very clever panels!

And of course, there’s more information here and if you haven’t bought your tickets yet, what are you waiting for? They are available here!

Re-Awakenings: Disney’s Gargoyles 30th Anniversary Panel:
11:30 Saturday

Thirty years ago, a new type of hero hit the airwaves as part of the Disney Afternoon: stone statues called Gargoyles who came to life at night to fight crime! Blending history, mythology, sci-fi, and romance, Disney’s Gargoyles ran for 78 episodes, boasted a Marvel Comics tie-in, a video game, and toys. Now, at Dynamite, the Gargoyles live again! Meet Joseph Rybandt, Editorial Director at Dynamite Entertainment, the publisher of Gargoyles record-setting revival, and other panelists for a discussion of the show’s history, its current success in comic book form at Dynamite, and its future in the recently announced live-action Disney+ reboot! Moderated by Jonathan Chalmers

Editing Comics 101: with Shelly Bond
2:30 Saturday

What does a comic book editor actually do? Find out with ITHACON 47’s Guest of Honor, Shelly Bond. She’s had an impressive comic career, and it started with she was a student at Ithaca College. We’re excited to roll out the red carpet for Shelly -and her husband, artist Philip Bond. In this panel, Shelly will deconstruct the process of making comics. Don’t miss it!

Continue reading “With Further Ado #295: ITHACON Preview”

With Further Ado #272: Boston Book Festival and A Mistake Incomplete

With Further Ado #272: Boston Book Festival and A Mistake Incomplete

One of my favorite libraries will always be the Boston Public Library. It’s an impressive building that celebrates both quiet, contemplative reading as well as a loud, enthusiastic passion for books and stories. During my visit to Boston last month, I was thrilled to attend the Boston Book Festival, a pop-up convention right out front of the Library.

Approaching the library and Copley Plaza, we saw a few long lines and soon found out they were filled with fans eager to meet Rick Riordan, author of the Percy Jackson YA series. And in front of the library, there were pop-up tents and food trucks, all promoting great books to read and treats to eat.

Sasquatch was there promoting Cambridge Publishers, and he made me feel a bit comic-con-y. As you could imagine, there are a lot of publishers, and this year there was a focus on publishing for younger readers. Local standouts like WGBH, MIT, and Emerson College were also promoting their efforts.

One of the most creative exhibitors was Pop-up Poems. You’d chat with a poet a bit and come back 10 minutes later to pick a complete poem they’d just written and typed on a vintage typewriter. There was no fee…but I sure hope everyone generously tipped the poets. I loved this idea and I think every comic convention should steal this idea! Continue reading “With Further Ado #272: Boston Book Festival and A Mistake Incomplete”

So Long and Thanks for the Fish, Man #086: A Year of Unshaven Cons

So Long and Thanks for the Fish, Man #086: A Year of Unshaven Cons

On the weekend of October 28-30th, 2023, Unshaven Comics rounded out its year in convention exhibition at the Winnipeg Comic Con. For those of you following the ebbs and flows of my little studio, I wanted to take time out here in my little corner of the internet to dish on all things Unshaven in 2023. From our wins, losses, pure data, to our anecdotal musings about those wins-losses-and-data. Sound good? Well, I don’t care, I’m writing this as much for me as I am for you. So… strap in, Sally.

Before we dive deeper into the year for us overall, let’s talk about why Winnipeg. At the tail end of the pandemic, with a house of trade paperbacks and serious cabin fever… Unshaven Comics crossed the border in 2021 to go to the Fan Expo Canada comic convention in Toronto. It was one of the best shows we’d ever done — even with a limited sale of fan tickets. So much fun was had, we returned the following year (sadly only with Kyle and myself going, with Unshaven Matt Wright stuck at work). With a “full force” fanbase? It remained an amazing show for my little company. Knowing that we’d not have anything new in store for the following year, I asked a rhetorical question: was it Toronto that loved us… or was it Canada being just that awesome. We opened up Google Maps and found the only other drivable city for us in Tim Horton’s home country to attempt to answer that question.

Winnipeg, Manitoba. Continue reading “So Long and Thanks for the Fish, Man #086: A Year of Unshaven Cons”

A Few Words About Keith

A Few Words About Keith

Last night, as I write this, daughter Adriane came downstairs while I was watching a typically clever and compelling docuweird from James May. I knew from the expression on her face I was about distance myself from Mr. May’s well-honed sense of humor.

Adriane carefully informed me that my old friend Keith Giffen had died. Such an event has grown all too typical and they all hurt, but, damn, this one came right out of the blue. My editor Mr. Harrison and I were just talking about Keith on our weekly video Squadcast and I remember cutting myself short under the belief that Keith would get his due from us later. Yeah, well…

I’m going to ignore my journalism teachers and not give you the mandatory obituary routine. If you are not familiar with Giffen’s work, there’s a couple tons of it on the trade paperback racks at your favorite bookstores. I will point out that Keith co-created a many great characters and concepts, including Rocket Raccoon, Lobo, Ambush Bug, and the latest version of the Blue Beetle, Jamie Reyes, presently of motion picture fame. His Wiki page is quite good and most likely getting even better right now.

But all the bios and reflections cannot do justice to his work and his approach to storytelling. The word “unique” is an absolute term: either something is unique or its not and one thing can not be more unique than another. Keith Giffen’s work was unrelentingly unique. Keith Giffen was unique.

In all the decades I’d known him, I had never had a less-than-remarkable time. His wit, his charm and his creative courage were his and his alone. When first you encounter one of his stories your response likely would hit the high end of the vaunted Richter What-The-Fuck scale. By the time you were done with that first story, chances are you’d start looking for his other stuff.

Or it might just piss you off. Art is like that, and so was Keith. He told his story, his way, and did so brilliantly.

The first memory that escaped the attic of my brainpan was a conversation we had in 2016 at a massive party that preceded the world premiere of the first Suicide Squad movie. Dan DiDio and DC Comics threw one hell of an affair and everybody who was anybody in comics and was in the New York area at the time was there — and plenty of people flew in as well. I told Keith how much I was enjoying the work he and Dan had been doing recently and, while I was fumbling for a clever way to say “my appreciation seems to be the kiss of death” Keith kept interrupting me.

“Have you read my Scooby Apocalypse?” he asked repeatedly, cutting off my praise of his other recent work. “Well, no, I haven’t,” I admitted. “I think it will surprise you.”

It certainly did. Evidently, it also surprised the folks at Hanna-Barbera, which was and remains part of Warner Bros., as does DC Comics. Evidently, they had a hard time recognizing DC’s often brilliant reimagining of their characters — and when it comes to bringing home the animated bacon, nothing does that more consistently than Scooby-Doo. And Keith found an alien heart deep inside the property, and he ran with it. Proudly. And deservedly so.

I should add it’s become my favorite of Keith’s work. Well, his living work, at least.

Several days ago as Keith was dying from a stroke, he composed a farewell note for posting after his death. If you are about to check out of this reality, you’re going to have a hard time doing a better job than he did. His farewell was pure and complete Keith Giffen. He posthumously posted “I told them I was sick… Anything not to go to New York Comic Con, Thankx. Bwah ha ha ha ha.”

That New York Comic Con is happening right now, this very weekend, and Keith is wonderfully all over it.

That, my friends, is how to go out in class and style.

His work, of course, lives on. Along with his friendship.

With Further Ado #269: Tripwire Turns 30 and Is Going to NYCC

With Further Ado #269: Tripwire Turns 30 and Is Going to NYCC

As a comics fan, I loved reading the comics and I also loved reading about comics and the whole industry. The Comics Reader and The Buyers Guide for Comic Fandom were two of my favorite publications. I also loved Comics Interview, Amazing Heroes and Comics Feature. In the 90s, I was great friends with the Wizard Magazine folks. That particular rocket ride was more like a movement, or a revolt, than just a magazine.

And today – I’m very involved with TwoMorrows publications like Back Issue Magazine and RetroFan Magazine.

So is it any wonder that I’m a big fan of Joel Meadows and Tripwire Magazine.

Tripwire was founded back in 1992 and it is the preeminent UK comics and genre publication (with a home on the web and in print) quarterly magazine. But now as comics journalism has changed over the past thirty years, how do you cover the worlds of comics and genre while playing to the strengths of the format that you cover them in- online and print? Is there still even a place for covering this sector in print?

I’m excited to be moderating the Tripwire Panel at New York Comic Con. It’s called Tripwire and Over 30 years of Comics Journalism and is scheduled for Thursday in room 406.1 in the Javits Center, at 10:45 am on Oct 12, 2023.

The Panelists include publisher Joel Meadows, Andy Coleman, Dan Berry and Forbes Magazine’s Rob Salkowitz. More details are available at www.newyorkcomiccon.com.

And Bob Harrison had a fantastic interview with Joel Meadows herehere too!

See you at New York Comic Con!

With Further Ado #265: A New Favorite – Ana Penyas

With Further Ado #265: A New Favorite – Ana Penyas

It’s a busy time of year for comic conventions. It looks like last weekend’s Baltimore Comic-Con was a roaring success; especially if your focus is on comics and comics creators. I’ve missed the last few years of this wonderful show, but I saw a lot of smiling faces on social media.

SPX, the Small Press Expo was held the same weekend in Rockville, Maryland at the Bethesda North Marriott. This show celebrates small press creators and entrepreneurs, and it looks to be a positive counterbalance to the “madness” of bigger, more traditional comic conventions.

At a show like this, I’d typically line up to meet a guy like Bill Griffith, the creator of Zippy the Pinhead. But I have a new favorite SPX guest this year: Ana Penyas.

Ana Penyas is from Spain. At Polytechnic University of Valencia she studied fine arts, Ana made headlines in 2018 when she received Spain’s National Comic Award. Her debut graphic novel was called Estamos Todas Bien,and her newest one is Todo Bajo El Sol. Her most recent project is contributing to the Fantagraphics anthology Illustrating Spain. Continue reading “With Further Ado #265: A New Favorite – Ana Penyas”

Brainiac On Banjo: No… Doctor No

Brainiac On Banjo: No… Doctor No

Have no fear, look who’s here…James Bond…They’ve got us on the run…With guns…And knives…We’re fighting for our lives…Have no fear, Bond is here…He’s gonna to save the world at Casino Royale! – “Casino Royale” (1967) written by Burt Bacharach.

I’ve long had a curious relationship with Doctor No, and it started with a comic book whose publication was truly weird.

It started in early 1963 — January 31st, if you’re setting your WABAC machine. That was a Thursday, new comics day at my friendly neighborhood drug store, and DC Comics’ Showcase was one of my favorites. Not that it mattered: my 12 year-old paws would claw through each and every comic on the rack. At the time the Doctor No adaptation interrupted their Tommy Tomorrow try-out series which offered some great Lee Elias art and some rather thin writing from Arnold Drake. I wasn’t disappointed about the interruption, but I still have a fondness for that Elias work.

I had not heard of Doctor No, nor James Bond, nor Ian Fleming. I was curious as to why the story looked like it should have appeared in Classics Illustrated. DC’s comics had a house style — more of a house attitude — and this did not fit in. But I enjoyed the book and was disappointed Bond did not return in the following issue. Showcase was a try-out book that usually introduced new series in three-issue increments. Continue reading “Brainiac On Banjo: No… Doctor No”

Brainiac On Banjo: The Real Clown Prince of Crime!

Brainiac On Banjo: The Real Clown Prince of Crime!

Why do you want him? Why do you want him? Why do you want him? Why do you want him? — “Why Do You Want Him?,” written by Billie Joe Armstrong, John Kiffmeyer, and Mike Dirnt.

No doubt you’ve heard about this “internet” thing. It’s a place where we all go to show everybody else just how clever we are. For example, I’m doing that right now.

My guess is you have seen the Trump “Batman Villain” memes that have popped up all over the internet within minutes of the former Bastard-In-Chief getting fingerprinted and mug-shotted in a toilet of a Georgia jail a couple days ago. I understand the shock of this killed Harley Quinn, and that really sucks. But it’s understandable.

Legendary writer Mindy Newell and I got into a conversation about all this, and I took the position that The Joker is a better person than Trump and, for that matter, The Joker wears less makeup. Somehow that discussion boiled down to the best Trump meme would have him look like Davros, the classic Doctor Who villain who created the Daleks — and, to make a long story short, became one. I think he went to the Stanislavsky School of Villainy.

Be that as it may, the true winner of this debate is the rock group Green Day. They created, according to their Instagram post,

“the ultimate Nimrod shirt is available for 72 hours only. Limited edition shirt proceeds will be donated to T̶h̶e̶ ̶G̶i̶u̶l̶i̶a̶n̶i̶ ̶L̶e̶g̶a̶l̶ ̶D̶e̶f̶e̶n̶s̶e̶ ̶F̶u̶n̶d̶ @greatergoodmusiccharity, which brings food to those affected by the Maui wildfires.”

That meets my definition of humanity’s greatest ability, the know-how to be given shit and to turn it into a shit soufflé. Continue reading “Brainiac On Banjo: The Real Clown Prince of Crime!”

Further Ado #260: Spinning Out of SDCC – Part 3

Further Ado #260: Spinning Out of SDCC – Part 3

Comic Conventions can be a lot of fun, but they take a lot of energy, time and money to do “right”. Here’s a glimpse at just a few more of the publishers who leveraged their onsite efforts to the fullest at San Diego Comic-Con last month.

DSTLRY

This cool start-up is more than just ComiXology 2.0. In fact, it might be the opposite. It’s been reported on everywhere from NY Times to The SDDC blog. Over on Reed’s Popverse, Chris Arrant summarized the start-up in this fashion:

Almost a year after leaving Amazon’s digital comics platform ComiXology, two of the company’s former leaders have announced what’s next — both for them and, if their ambitions are successful, comics as a whole. Get ready for DSTLRY, a new kind of publishing company.

ComiXology co-founder/former CEO David Steinberger and his former head of content Chip Mosher are aiming to rethink how business is done, and how to give creators what they deserve, with the company, partnering with major comics creators, major publishers, tech strategists, and even a movie producer to launch a company for creator-owned comics that aims to be a new kind of comics publisher.

Their SDCC booth was big and bold – and surprisingly uncluttered. It was located opposite where I usually find Mark Wheatley (he took a year off), right in the center of things.

They offered convention exclusives of their Devil’s Cut One-Shot. This reminds me of the old days when the TV networks would preview the seasons new shows with short clips of each one. Continue reading “Further Ado #260: Spinning Out of SDCC – Part 3”