Category: Featured

With Further Ado #307: See You in San Diego

With Further Ado #307: See You in San Diego

It’s a busy week for fans and professionals as they all (we all?) get ready for the world’s biggest Nerd Prom: San Diego Comic-Con. It’s a fascinating combination of creativity, passions and entrepreneurial dreams. There’s hustle and hucksterism. It’s also about friends and reunions and smiles and encouragement.

I hope to see you there. I’ll be spending a lot of time at the Atomic Toybox booth (#2549), Don McGregor’s booth, and at a series of panels. Drop in and say “Hi”! Here’s my sched:

“How to Get News Coverage”
Thursday, 7/25/24
10:30AM – 11:30AM, Room: 10

Small press publishers: What makes the difference between an item that will get news coverage, previews, and interviews and what doesn’t? Many publishers have no idea what to submit to the press, how to submit it, and why they are being overlooked for coverage. Comics journalist Rik Offenberger (First Comics News, G-Man Comics) moderates this panel of comic journalists who will tell you what they are looking for in your submission: Alexander Raymond (Monstar public relations), Ed Catto (Agendae, Pop Culture Squad, Captain Action), Francis Sky (First Comics News, Massacre Twins), Heidi MacDonald (The Beat), JC Vaughn (Gemstone Publishing), Josh Waldrop (Ultima Digital Media), Michael Kingston (Headlocked Comics, BOOM! Studios), and Rob Salkowitz (ICv2, Forbes).

AHOY Comics Gets Toxic!
Friday, 7/26/24
5:00PM – 6:00PM, Room: 28DE

AHOY Comics has made a name for itself on the comics scene with its acclaimed creators, witty satires, and commitment to bold and risk-taking storytelling. Author and legendary director Lloyd Kaufman (Troma), comics creators Matt Bors (Toxic Avenger, Justice Warriors), Mark Russell (Second Coming), Tyrone Finch (Deadweights), Melissa F. Olson (Project Cryptid), Juan Castro (The Wrong Earth), and AHOY Ops guy Stuart Moore (Captain Ginger) discuss the future of the publisher that asks its readers to expect more. Get the scoop on exciting upcoming projects like award-winning writer Garth Ennis and Jacen Burrows’ sword-and-sorcery satire Babs; Pulitzer finalist Matt Bors and Fred Harper’s take on Troma’s Toxic Avenger; Tom Peyer, Jamal Igle and Castro’s epic multiversal satire The Wrong Earth; Russell, Bryce Ingman, and Peter Krause’s gut-bustingly funny superhero parody My Bad; the star-studded, cryptid-packed anthology series Project: Cryptid, and more. Continue reading “With Further Ado #307: See You in San Diego”

So Long and Thanks for the Fish, Man #090: Vegas Vacation (Part 3)

So Long and Thanks for the Fish, Man #090: Vegas Vacation (Part 3)

Let’s just get this over with:

If you’re just now getting here… you might want to read part one, and part deux

This is the final installment of our Vegas saga. For now.

As it stands… we have not signed a single licensing deal for The Samurnauts, yet. So, if you were actually thinking we were being that coy? Nah. Keep in mind that it’s absolutely beyond rare that a little side hustle no-name business waltzes on to an expo floor for the very first time, and instantly becomes the belle of the ball. We weren’t counting on that, and it didn’t happen. No harm, no foul.

What I can say though… Unshaven Comics has a few things we are actively pursuing and have had positive movement in the last few weeks. Forgive me if I don’t say more. One, because I’m probably a little stupid and superstitious — and I genuinely believe even an ounce of unearned excitement will make the universe pull the rug out from under us. And two, we genuinely don’t know what will happen, good or bad. 

So, let’s head backwards in time to where we actually left things off.

The Licensing Expo was now over. Unshaven Sales-o-matic Kyle Gnepper returned to the Cheesiest State™ to be husband and father. Unshaven Matt and myself hopped into the ole’ minivan and took off to Traverse City, Michigan, for the Cherry Capital Comic Con. So, any follow-up to be done was going to wait until the Monday after the show. That was also a smart move as we figure most folks attending stayed in Vegas through Friday at least, to get in some more entertainment. No need to have our email awaiting them several dozen down in their inbox, right?

Once officially home-home — wife smooched, kids hugged-and-high-fived, and suitcase unpacked — I powered on my PC to fulfill my duties as the Unshaven Business Beard. I pulled out the heavy pile of business cards taken in from Las Vegas, and opened up my Google Sheet of notes. Here I reorganized every contact into piles: unlikely to work with us, likely want our money, mild interest, and heavy interest (#StartHereDummy). Once organized, I created a copy/pastable scripted email. In short, I reintroduced myself and Unshaven Comics. I left specific room to leave some detailed notes so this wasn’t some wholly robotic schpiel. And most importantly, I included a call to action. I should note: I am a marketer by day. So, doing this kind of stuff is very much how I personally pay the bills. In total, I sent out 53 emails, and hoped I’d get a dozen back.  Continue reading “So Long and Thanks for the Fish, Man #090: Vegas Vacation (Part 3)”

Brainiac On Banjo: Tomorrow’s Bullshit Today!

Brainiac On Banjo: Tomorrow’s Bullshit Today!

“In the year 3535, ain’t gonna need to tell the truth, tell no lies. Everything you think, do, and say is in the pill you took today.” From In the Year 2525, written by Rick Evans.

There’s an old saying about closing the barn doors after the horses get out. This is not as much a metaphor as it is an axiom. It is what we do.

Our “24-hour news cycle” opened the door to a new form of pop journalism, which, if you think about it, always has been a lynchpin to our popular culture. When network teevee news started — well before satellites, portable live cameras, and Zoom — it ran 15 minutes a night during dinner time, and before the invention of “TV trays.” We ate our meals in the kitchen or the dining room with our brood and we had “family conversations.” Nobody had to look up from their dumbass smartphones, as they did not exist. In fact, network news started only a bit after Dick Tracy got the first two-way wrist radio.

That started to change when the network news expanded to an hour and added a bunch of prime time weekly “investigative journalism” programs. Shortly thereafter, the network owners abandoned their policy of viewing the news as a public service and started to monetize those divisions by pandering to humanity’s most basic instincts. What we used to refer to as the “news hole” (a print reporting thing) grew into a bottomless pit. So-called 24-hour “news” channels on cable teevee greatly enlarged that pit, which introduced the concept of quantum physics to the world of reporting.

Filling all that additional time and competing with other outfits to fill that time created a plethora of engineers of bullshit and speculation replaced facts. It’s as though all the news directors were replaced by Loki. Continue reading “Brainiac On Banjo: Tomorrow’s Bullshit Today!”

With Further Ado #306: Getting Ready for SDCC (part 1) – Don McGregor preparations

With Further Ado #306: Getting Ready for SDCC (part 1) – Don McGregor preparations

Ok, I guess the cat is out of the bag! San Diego Comic-Con has invited Don McGregor to be a guest of honor this July. And for his spotlight panel, I’ve been asked to be the moderator. As if anyone can “moderate” Don McGregor. He’s a man of many passions -always ready with larger-than-life stories, and contagious laughter, his strong friendships, and his focus for doing the very best he can.

And like everyone else, I’ve always found his best is always pretty damn good!

Clearly, the convention has saved the best for last this year. Don’t miss Don’s spotlight panel: It’s Sunday at 1:00 pm in Room 4.

And to help you get ready for this panel, let me steer you to this podcast. I had so much fun interviewing Don a few years ago, and John Siuntres ran it as a Word Balloon Podcast episode! You still can give it a listen right here.

Comic fans know of Don’s many accomplishments: the Black Panther stories, his Killraven adventures, Sabre – one of the first indie series to bravely navigate the direct market, Nathanial Dusk, Alexander Risk, Zorro (in comics and newspaper strips)…the list goes on and on. Just last month, in fact, I stumbled across an issue of Doctor Strange that Don wrote that was new to me!

The Mark of Z …uh, make that : D !

Beyond that convention appearance, I’ve the privilege of interviewing Don several times for several different articles. Every time, he’s fascinating and fresh with new stories and clever insights.

This Zorro article was originally published in TwoMorrow’s Back Issue #138, on sale about three years ago. It’s full of so many of things that make Don a longtime fan favorite. So, allow me to reprint a part of that article here for your reading pleasure. Continue reading “With Further Ado #306: Getting Ready for SDCC (part 1) – Don McGregor preparations”

So Long and Thanks for the Fish, Man #089: Vegas Vacation (Part 2)

So Long and Thanks for the Fish, Man #089: Vegas Vacation (Part 2)

Welcome back to Sin City, kiddos! (and if you missed last week… best give it a read so this makes sense)

Our flight into Vegas was smooth. Our check-in for our rental SUV was not only smooth… we got a free upgrade! We took the keys to our Kia Carnival, and set off for adventure — by way of rolling the dice on Unshaven Comics. 

Our first stop was at the home of family friends — who graciously offered to accept a few shipments of bric-a-brac for our booth. With said crap loaded into our spacious vehicle, we made our second official stop: In-N-Out Burger. As was demanded of us by half a dozen well-wishers, we stopped for the quintessential west coast fast food. Go ahead and cry foul now though. Matt, Kyle, and I all got standard burgers, fries, and pop. No animal style. No protein style. No 3x3s. The joke is on all y’all though: we all loved it anyways. Simple, fresh, and decently priced. Call it a win, and let’s keep driving.

With the Licensing Expo taking place the next day, our plan called for us to set up the booth. As per our usual… we parked incorrectly the first time. Our dumbass selves parked at the main Mandalay Bay parking lot ($25) and meandered throughout the restaurants before finding the convention center. We snagged our passes, and briefly walked the showfloor to locate our diminutive space. After clarifying that the convention center itself boasted its own parking lot, but would not let us sneak from one lot to the other without paying… we made the executive decision to hoof our cart of crap through the common areas of the resort anyways. Hey! $25 is $25!

Landed. Got car. Got booth stuff. Ate. Setup booth. All that was left now was to get to our room and consider the evening’s plan. I could waste an entire chapter of this saga discussing how we wound up not having the room we paid for, but will save us all the anxiety of reliving it. We were supposed to stay at the Mandalay-Bay-adjacent Luxor, but due to things happening, we wound up staying at The Orleans.  Continue reading “So Long and Thanks for the Fish, Man #089: Vegas Vacation (Part 2)”

Brainiac On Banjo: Remember Nostalgia?

Brainiac On Banjo: Remember Nostalgia?

“Summer has come and passed. The innocent can never last. Wake me up when September ends.” From Wake Me Up When September Ends, written by Billie Joe Armstrong, Tre Cool and Mike Dirnt.

I remember nostalgia before it became an excuse to “fix” things. Whereas this applies to most aspects of modern-day life, it is a particularly dangerous weapon in the hands of comics people.

First, some background. Originally, the term “nostalgia” referred to a disease. According to The Atlantic magazine in 2013:

“These were some of the treatments proposed for nostalgia during the 17th to 19th centuries, when it was considered a psychopathological disorder – rather than a blanket term for fondness for anything that existed more than thirty minutes ago … Swiss physician Johannes Hofer coined the term in his 1688 medical dissertation, from the Greek nostos, or homecoming, and algos, or pain. The disease was similar to paranoia, except the sufferer was manic with longing, not perceived persecution, and similar to melancholy, except specific to an object or place.”

I first heard about the nostalgia disease a very long time ago. At that time, this diagnosis made complete sense to me. Sadly, it still does.

This brings me to the subject of Mystery In Space #75. This truly historic (by the standards of the medium back then) single issue went on sale March 6, 1962, which means I was 11 years old at the time. In other words, I was the exact age DC Comics was targeting. They figured out I was about two years away from the habit-destroying affects of puberty. If you want to quibble about “historic,” DC did a facsimile edition reprint in 2020; of course, the original cost 12 cents and the reprint $3.99, which is almost four times the rate of inflation. I think it’s safe to say the intended audience was significantly older than in 1962, the field fraught with victims of nostalgia. Continue reading “Brainiac On Banjo: Remember Nostalgia?”

With Further Ado #305: Summer Fun

With Further Ado #305: Summer Fun

There’s something about reading comics in the summer. Maybe it’s the sunshine? Maybe it’s carefree feeling – that makes it seem as if we all have endless days to lay around reading.

Here’s another beauty I rescued from the William G. Martin, Sr. collection. This is what summer is all about. It’s Walt Disney’s Donald Duck’s Beach Party #4, a Dell Giant from 1957. In this wonderful comic, Donald Duck and his three nephews go on a two week (!) vacation at a rental property. After a few convoluted adventures, they stumble across a bunch of comics. Continue reading “With Further Ado #305: Summer Fun”

So Long and Thanks for the Fish, Man #088: Vegas Vacation (Part 1)

So Long and Thanks for the Fish, Man #088: Vegas Vacation (Part 1)

When I last left everyone, I’d made mention of exploring Unshaven Comics’ recent respite to Sin City. So I guess I owe no one a Coke. Whew. That’s right, two articles in two weeks. Maybe I’m on to something? We’ll see.

Before I dive deep into our trip, let me take you back — all the way back — to the secret origins of Unshaven Comics. When we debuted at Wizard World Chicago in 2008, the shared goal of the table was simple: Find an all-important Comic Book Editor™ who would be so enamored with our creative non-fiction book “The March: Crossing Bridges in America” that they’d whisk us off to Comic Book Land™ with three full time jobs waiting for us to just make comics for the rest of our lives.

No, I’m not even kidding. We were in our mid-twenties and absolutely that delusional and devoid of any actual industry knowledge. 

The upside to this goal? It made Mike Gold laugh so hard he hasn’t stopped being our friend since his late wife — the amazing Linda Gold — dragged him over to our table to hear about “The March”. Silver linings and all that jazz.

After we three Unshaven Lads learned how the comic book sausage was actually made, our goals shifted appropriately. If the industry wasn’t going to hand us all jobs, then we’d play the long game instead. We recognized that the journey was likely only ever to be our reward, and as such, we declared to no one the new goal: exist. And maybe, if we were ever lucky? Our flagship title The Samurnauts might one day become more than a comic series.  Continue reading “So Long and Thanks for the Fish, Man #088: Vegas Vacation (Part 1)”

As Is: Heroes

As Is: Heroes

“So, come on ye childhood heroes! Won’t you rise up from the pages of your comic books, your super crooks, and show us all the way! Make your will and testament. Won’t you join your local government? We’ll have Superman for president. Let Robin save the day.” From Thick As A Brick, written by Ian Anderson.

The Old Folks At My Home

It’s amazing which people I’d vote for over Donald Trump. I suspect at least seven billion out of our global population of 8.2 billion would make that list, including a couple former Nazis who draw the line at fascist fundamentalism. This is not about Trump. This is about saving our nation — and not just from Trump. He’s not even the tip of the MAGA iceberg. In fact, after November they will no longer really need him.

If my goal was simply to defeat Trump, I’d back Taylor Swift. And it’s not about Joe Biden‘s accomplishments, which are truly breathtaking particularly given the fact that if Joe sneezed not a single MAGA would say gesundheit. It’s been four years of pushing the boulder up the mountain against a right-wing House of Representatives, a nearly evenly split Senate, and a Supreme Court filled with religious fascists too insane for The John Birch Society. Against all that, Joe has been doing great.

Judge Holden

This is not about age, and it most certainly is not about a bad head cold. That’s not what we saw last Thursday. Mick Jagger is only a year younger than Joe, and Keith Richards is the man who invented aging. While Joe was debating Judge Holden, Mick and Keith were kicking ass on stage at Chicago’s Soldier Field. But the job of running the United States of America should be a bit more focused.

(Yeah, I know. It’s only rock and roll…) Continue reading “As Is: Heroes”

With Further Ado #304: Same as it Ever Was : Toxic Fandom

With Further Ado #304: Same as it Ever Was : Toxic Fandom

There were a few online conversations recently that discussed the nature of Star Wars fans. On one side of the argument, Star Wars fans are categorized as crabby and inflexible, disliking all of the official recent adventures. On the other hand, there’s a school of thought that corporate owners “just don’t get it”, and that they are ruining the property with their clumsy attempts with new material.

And sometimes it gets really nasty.

Toxic Fandom is – unfortunately – a real thing. Conversations, forecasts, and analyses can quickly become judgmental, angry and ugly. Maaaan..I miss the old days when everyone was friendly and nice.

But wait! That might not have been quite the case. Maybe there never were any “good old days” when fans were happy, kind, and complacent. Here’s why I think that.

This past weekend, a comic shop near Buffalo, NY had an amazing sale of a longtime fan’s treasures. He had recently passed, but quite obviously had amassed, and hopefully enjoyed, an astounding collection. I rescued quite a few Avengers items from this “unveiling” sales event.

No, no, not those Avengers. These were books and fanzines all about the 1960s TV Avengers, from the UK. This weekly show was extraordinarily popular, and is still fondly remembered by folks like me. It mixed the prim and proper genteelness of British culture with the violence and sexiness of spy thrillers. Continue reading “With Further Ado #304: Same as it Ever Was : Toxic Fandom”