Category: Columns

With Further Ado #211: Still More Actual Comics at SDCC – Jose and the Pirate Captain Toledano

With Further Ado #211: Still More Actual Comics at SDCC – Jose and the Pirate Captain Toledano

As I described last week, one wonderful San Diego Comic-Con panel in which I annually participate is called How to Get News Coverage. This panel is a way to focus on what do after you’ve created a comic; how to build a marketing buzz.

There’s a lot of great advice offered from smart folks like Tim Chizmar (Fangoria, co-chair of the Horror Writers Association, First Comics News), Glenn Hauman (Comic Mix), Michael Kingston (Headlocked Comics, BOOM! Studios), Heidi MacDonald (Comics Beat), Alexander Raymond (Monstar Public Relations), Rob Salkowitz (ICv2, Forbes), Amanda Sheriff (Gemstone Publishing), Francis Sky (First Comics News, Massacre Twins), and Josh Waldrop (Ultima Digital Media). Usually, J.C. Vaughn and Holly Golightly are on the panel too.

During this panel, I like to make an offer for creators to promote their comics in With Further Ado.

We did that last week, and let’s continue with a look at another creator: Arnon Z. Shorr. He’s not only a passionate comic creator, but he’s a film maker too. And unlike so many comic + film folks, he did it backwards. In other words, he made the film first and then made the comic. Here’s a look at Arnon Z. Shorr and his creative effort: José and the Pirate Captain Toledano:

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Arnon is a writer/director and author of character-driven adventures and thrillers, where heroes grapple with the extraordinary, and in doing so, learn important truths about themselves. He spent most of his childhood between worlds: a Hebrew speaker in America, a private school kid with no money, a suburbanite in a rented apartment. Whenever he’d set foot in one world, his other foot would betray him as different. For that reason, Arnon tells stories that embrace the peculiar, where encounters with the strange reveal who we are. Continue reading “With Further Ado #211: Still More Actual Comics at SDCC – Jose and the Pirate Captain Toledano”

With Further Ado #210: More Actual Comics at SDCC – Powers Squared

With Further Ado #210: More Actual Comics at SDCC – Powers Squared

One of the most fun panels I participate in at San Diego Comic-Con is called How to Get News Coverage?.  This brainchild of Rik Offenberger (the mastermind behind the First Comics News and G-Man Comics) has become an SDCC tradition, and for good reason. This panel is very focused on giving up-and-coming creators real-world advice about how to build buzz for their properties. Let’s face it, creating a comic is a lot of work ….and then promoting the comic is a lot more hard work too.

During the panel,  I like to make an offer for creators to promote their comics in this column. We’ll feature one this week and another next week.

Let’s start with David Hankins. He  is an engaging, passionate creator who’s found a way to make creating comics a family team effort.  Here’s a look at his Powers Squared:

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The comic book Powers Squared tells the story of identical twins Marty and Eli Powers, who discover on their first day of college that they share superpowers that they had been granted when they were young. These powers originate from an encounter with a Kitsune, a magical fox yokai, whom the boys rescued from under a fallen tree branch. As the boys learn how best to use their powers, they have to deal with the evil Dr. Atlas, who believes they have a special compound in their bloodstream that he wants to synthesize and weaponize to create an army of super soldiers. Continue reading “With Further Ado #210: More Actual Comics at SDCC – Powers Squared”

With Further Ado #209: Actual Comics at SDCC

With Further Ado #209: Actual Comics at SDCC

There’s a certain number of critical conversations, many would categorize it as “moaning”, amongst longtime fans that San Diego Comic-Con isn’t about comics anymore.  Some fans of traditional comic get overwhelmed by all the media hype and complain that SDCC has lost its way.

Of course, it’s easy to get overwhelmed, especially when industry publications, like Adweek, celebrate all the Pop-Ups surrounding the convention center.  I’m not sure I agree with their “Top Nine” Activations/Pop-Ups, but their recent listing is here.

I’m fascinated by everything at San Diego Comic-Con. I love the big ideas presented and promoted at the show, as well as the smaller, oddball collectibles, original art, and back issues.

So, my best shopping was with a back issue dealer who had “reader copies” of comics priced for a dollar.  (Reader copies simply refer to comics that aren’t in the pristine condition that many collectors seek out.) What a deal! Each comic cost only $2.50.  Let me celebrate these treasures that I rescued, and maybe you will agree that San Diego Comic-Con, while not exclusively about comics, still is a great place for comics.

Around The World Under the Sea – This is a 1964 Dell comic is based on a movie I never heard of. But maaaaaan, I wish I could’ve seen it at a drive-in!  It’s kind of Jules Verne-y. But it starred Shirley Eaton, who the whole world will always remember from Goldfinger, so it is sort of James Bond-y too.  Here’s the trailer.  The cover has all those things that teenage me and my teenage buddies needed in a movie: Scuba guys fighting, sea monsters and a girl in a bikini.  I was crestfallen when I realized the interior pages were by Jack Sparling. He’s never been my favorite. In his defense, I will say he just nails the Lloyd Bridges likenesses. Continue reading “With Further Ado #209: Actual Comics at SDCC”

With Further Ado #208: Ok, So I Was Wrong – A Visit to the Comic-Con Museum

With Further Ado #208: Ok, So I Was Wrong – A Visit to the Comic-Con Museum

Whew! This year’s San Diego Comic-Con (officially called Comic-Con International) was a fun one. Lots of smiling people happy to be there. Mostly, you had to tell they were smiling by the look in their eyes – everyone was pretty well masked up. But I can’t tell you how good it felt to be in the middle of Geek Culture, celebrating creativity and watching everyone promote everything.

SDCC always “starts” on Wednesday night. It used to be called Preview Night, but now it’s really “Just another night full of crowds on the exhibition floor”. Maybe it’s more crowded than usual, in fact, because there aren’t as many other places (panels, off-site activities) on Wednesday for places to visit.

Before Preview Night, however, we visited the San Diego Museum. I happened to be in town last month and tried to stop by then. Unfortunately, it was closed as they were gearing up for this show. And wow – did they ever gear up. This new museum is fantastic.

Continue reading “With Further Ado #208: Ok, So I Was Wrong – A Visit to the Comic-Con Museum”

With Further Ado #207: End of an Era

With Further Ado #207: End of an Era

San Diego Comic-Con, officially called Comic-Con International, is about to start up again as a live, in-person event. The past couple of years it’s sprung to life as Comic-Con@Home, and that’s been fun, but there is an eagerness amongst fans and professionals to get back to business.

Many changes are expected, and there’s been a lot of chatter about the big changes to the exhibitor line-up on convention floor. On The Beat and in Publisher’s Weekly, Heidi MacDonald’s reported on the absence of SDCC mainstays like Warner Bros/DC and Dark Horse. You can read more here.

For me, the one that “hurts the most” will be the absence of Graphitti Designs. Bob Chapman, called Chappy by many, is a guy who’s lived at the epicenter as a passionate entrepreneur and knowledgeable fan.

As a celebration of his extraordinary SDCC run, and the impressive business he’s built, I’d like to re-run this column. It was originally presented on ComicMix in 2016, right before that year’s San Diego Comic-Con.

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Ed Catto: Culture & Commerce – Bob Chapman’s Graphitti Designs

Over the past 47 years the SDCC has grown to become a pop culture behemoth. More than just a grand celebration of fan passion, it’s a driver of serious commerce. SDCC’s impact now makes waves on a national and international economic scale, far beyond the initial fan-centric puddles of the early days.

Bob “Chappy” Chapman is a fan and business owner who was part of the early days and is still actively involved today. He’s an energetic entrepreneur who’s built his business Graphitti Designs, catering to Geek Culture. Graphitti Designs has been creating fan-focused merchandise like T-shirts, statues, action figures, prints, books and more. And Bob has found a way to survive – and thrive – throughout the many iterations of SDCC over the years.

Bob is likeable, charming, infectiously enthusiastic, and effortlessly employs an extensive vocabulary. You just know he’s a big reader! He’s nostalgic, but always looking forward. As we prepare for the annual nerd prom that world calls SDCC, I was eager to learn how the convention got his business started and how it’s changed over the years.

The Secret Origin

All great superheroes have a great origin story, and Bob Chapman is no exception. Bob and his brother were rabid Silver Age comic fans and had accumulated an impressive comic collection. By the late 70s, they had become disillusioned with collecting and decided to sell their comics. They dutifully trotted their overflowing comic boxes to a myriad of dealers, but were shocked at how little money was offered.

In what would become a life changing decision, they decided that they could do better selling the comics directly to fans directly. They signed up for dealer’s table at SDCC.

(Hard to believe it was once that easy to secure exhibition space at SDCC.)

“We didn’t know what we were doing,” confessed Bob. But despite that, the brothers managed to walk away with several thousand dollars. And they made this profit by selling off only 10% of their collection. More importantly, they loved the comic convention culture, and they were in the thick of it with all their peers and favorite creators. For example, their dealer’s table was situated right next to comics legend Wally Wood.

The Creation

In the early days, there was a lot of camaraderie,” said Bob. He explained that they were all on a learning curve, and there were no official guidelines. “We all helped each other, learned from each other. It wasn’t contrived and was never articulated.”

When he started in 1982, there was no merchandise or specialty marketing. There wasn’t even a place for distributors. The direct sales market was evolving, but the marketplace was, at that time, still focused on the monthly sales cycle of periodicals. Evergreen products and licensed merchandise were rare and usually dismissed.

But in 1981, Bob developed a straightforward idea. He knew the screen-printing process, and he knew comics. He approached SDCC’s management team with an idea that was radical at the time, although it has become startlingly commonplace now: to make and sell official comic convention T-Shirts!

On the Frontier

That first shirt. Now in the Comic-Con Museum

In planning for this first T-shirt project, Bob told me how he was hopeful to work with one of his favorite artists, like Jack Kirby, or to use an iconic hero, like Batman or Spider-Man, in order to design a powerful shirt and logo. Instead, he was disappointed when the convention management team asked him to work with an up-coming-artist he hadn’t heard of and old comics character that hadn’t been published in years.

Crestfallen, he was determined to make it work.

The character was Sheena, an iconic super heroine (pre-dating Wonder Woman) and the artist was Dave Stevens. Bob soon met Dave and they hit it off. And Bob, like the rest of the world, would soon discover that Dave Stevens was a phenomenal artist. Together, they would create many gorgeous items for Bob’s fledging start-up. In fact, many of Graphitti’s “firsts” involved Dave Stevens. The first book Graphitti published was a Dave Stevens Book. The first cloisonné pin featured Dave Stevens’ Rocketeer character. The first statue Graphitti created was based on Dave Stevens’ artwork.

“He was our unofficial art director for all those years,” said Bob.

The Spirit of Entrepreneurship

The classic Dave Stevens shirt also in the Comic-Con Museum

As Bob talked about the business, he reiterated that he owes much of his success to all the kind people who wanted to see him succeed.

One particularly influential person was Will Eisner. The legendary storyteller and creator of The Spirit approached Graphitti to make Spirit T-shirts. “He allowed us to make Spirit T-shirts,” recalls Bob. “It had never been done before.” Looking back, this was especially important, as Eisner was also known as a very focused businessman.

Business Grows as Comic Cons Grow

Graphitti was, in many ways, the first specialty company to create statues and comics-focused hard cover books for the collector’s market. The entire collectible statue market can easily trace its parentage back to Bob Chapman’s efforts at Graphitti.
As a merchandising company, Graphitti blazed new trails and usually enjoyed first mover advantages.

“Now there’s a plethora of merchandise. I spawned some of that,” said Bob.

He’s practically a founding father of merchandising in the comic book industry.

“Not so sure how proud I am of that…it’s so saturated <now>,’ he muses.

Bob explains that they were “…a product of the times. On one hand… the timing was extremely fortunate. But at the same time, the timing was bad – as there was no guideline or framework. In hindsight, ignorance persevered.”

Graphitti was focused on being a champion for artists and comic artwork. “Being a facilitator to the vision is other is part of what gave us this look,” reasoned Bob.

“And now, we’re fortunate to be evolving back into creating books,” said Bob. He’s very pleased about that.

And Graphitti was purposefully small and was able to be malleable. They weren’t shackled to preconceived ideas.
In the beginning, Graphitti was the only game in the geek merchandise town. But things changed quickly. Bob had to learn how to juggle his money and still produce items.

“I had numerous opportunities to go out of business, and had to learn how to juggle air financially,” said Bob.

The Romantic Entrepreneur

Bob is a unique mix of the classic nuts-and-bolts businessman and the idealist romantic entrepreneur.

That’s evident in his love for the medium, and comics in general. But’s also evident in his staffing.

You see, Bob’s lovely wife Gina often works with him at the Graphitti Convention Booth. So much so, in fact, that she too has become a staple of the SDCC.

“I work more than I should,” lamented Bob. And to that end, he’s grateful that his wife often joins him on the convention circuit and at SDCC in particular.

“Sometimes it’s an asset to have such fresh eyes,” said Bob. “She’s not star struck and she’s a good sounding board. She makes the shows more enjoyable. It’s nice that she’s there with me.”

Standing Tall at San Diego Comic Con 2016

Bob makes it very clear about his relationship with SDCC. “I wouldn’t be here without it,” he said.

And he’s contemplative about the state of the industry. “We got what we wanted,” concludes Chappy. “The stink of comics from the fifties has dissipated.” But with the growth comes issues, and it’s a “double-edged sword.”

“I built Graphitti, but I didn’t do it properly,” Bob admitted. “I don’t want to be the poster child for doing it properly.”
As an entrepreneur, I just scratch my head and think that Graphitti’s amazing success, innovation and longevity all seem pretty proper to me!

 


Much of this article was published on ComicMix on July 11, 2016

With Further Ado #206: Conventional Fun

With Further Ado #206: Conventional Fun

You know how “The Holiday Season” starts right after Halloween and continues until a little while before the NFL playoffs? For comics, and geek culture, I feel like we’re in that time right now. We’re in the thick of convention season.

This past weekend, when driving home past Morristown, NJ, I decided not to stop at a convention there. It looked like a great con: with top guests like Louis Simonson, her husband Walter, Howard Chaykin and more. But you know what? I reasoned there were so many conventions, for me, on the horizon, and I kind of needed to get back home anyways.

Locally, this weekend in Rochester, specifically July 16th, there’s another comic convention. It’s the third Empire Comic Fest. They seem to keep getting better and better. These are fun shows run by professionals, like Ken Wheaton, who just love comics. And especially love back issues. Mike Grell is the featured guest and I’m sure he’ll be lots of fun. More info here.

Any visit to Jared Aiosa’s comic shop, Heroes Your Mom Threw Out, in Elmira NY is almost like a visit to a comic convention. Jared clearly loves comics, and boy, does he have a lot of comics for sale. Walking through this store instills one with a sense of wonder. Continue reading “With Further Ado #206: Conventional Fun”

With Further Ado #205: Summertime Highlights

With Further Ado #205: Summertime Highlights

Hey, I know you’re rushing off to the beach, or trying to get out of work a little early today. So, this week is just a highlight reel of some cool things:

I also just received the 2022 Steve Rude Sketchbook. WOW!  It was part of his most recent Kickstarter. I miss the days of seeing Steve and his wife at San Diego Comic-Con and buying a sketchbook during the annual pilgrimage. But you know what, getting anything from Steve Rude in the mail is always cause for rejoicing! He’s got all sorts of things on his website and his next Kickstarter starts on July 14th .

Shelly Bond (did you know she’s a proud Ithaca College graduate?) has a fabulous new book out called Filth and Grammar: The Comic Book Editor’s Secret Handbook.

It’s kind of a how-to-edit comics, but I think it’s a “new must” for every creator looking to break in. The Kickstarter was looking to raise $20,000 and it overdelivered with over $85,000. Pretty impressive, right?  You can still purchase this one on her site here.

I rescued a few paperbacks from my friends at Wonderland Comics in Rochester. It’s a great little comic shop that always seems to have some lost treasures out for sale.  This loot was just great:

I found four Flash Gordon paperbacks. These tell the prose version from Alex Raymond’s wonderful strip. You might think that Flash Gordon without the art is kind of pointless, but ever since I read the Avon paperback version of The Lion Men of Mongo (when I was a sixth grader), I’ve been hooked. Most of the adaptations were written by Ron Goulart and with wonderful George Wilson covers. Continue reading “With Further Ado #205: Summertime Highlights”

Continued After the Next Page #20: Representation Matters Even in the 30th Century

Continued After the Next Page #20: Representation Matters Even in the 30th Century

As Pride Month 2022 comes to a close, I want to highlight what I feel is an often overlooked relationship in comic books. In the last couple of decades, gender and sexual identity in mainstream comic books have made great strides in diversity. I always have fond memories of the first same-sex relationship involving two superheroes that I saw in DC Comics.

The “Five Years Later” run of the Legion of Super-Heroes that started with Legion of Super-Heroes Volume 4 #1 (1989) has often been the subject of derision from fans as it represented a significant break in the history of the team. I am not sure how well received the book was at the time of publication, but it took almost thirty years for it to ever be collected. However, as a long time LSH fan, I find it to be one of the most daring, unique, and compelling version of one of my favorite super hero teams.

The initial run of this volume of the Legion was plotted and penciled by Keith Giffen with scripts by Tom and Mary Bierbaum. Within the pages of this run, particularly at the beginning, the reader is exposed to a slightly older group of familiar characters coming to grips with the reality of the political world that they live in and searching for the thing that is missing in their lives. For many, that thing is the Legion and their friends.

Lightning Lass – art by Steve Lightle

In the five years since the end of the Magic Wars, the characters of Salu Digby (Shrinking Violet or just “Vi”) and Ayla Ranzz (Lightning Lass) have suffered trauma but come through it with a love for each other that will forever remain truly special in my heart. I could go through all the details of what happened to them and how their relationship was portrayed in each individual issue of this series, but that has been done, and done well, by others [see below]. I want to focus on why this relationship means so much to me.

Shrinking Violet – art by Keith Giffen

I have wanted to write this article for some time. However, I have struggled with it as I am not confident that mine is the voice that needs to be heard. For full disclosure, I am a cis, hetero, white male. I believe that love is love and celebrate diversity in every medium and support inclusive representation in pop-culture and society as a whole. It is with that perspective that I approach this article. Representation is important. Continue reading “Continued After the Next Page #20: Representation Matters Even in the 30th Century”

With Further Ado #204: Greg Hildebrandt Part 4 – Dissatisfaction as Part of the Process

With Further Ado #204: Greg Hildebrandt Part 4 – Dissatisfaction as Part of the Process

Let’s get into the fourth part of our With Further Ado conversation with Greg Hildebrandt. The real purpose of this is talk about his two amazing 2023 calendars. During our last conversation, we were in the middle of a story, as Greg and Jean had just received an enthusiastic invitation for a one-man show at a prestigious Manhattan art gallery.

Please enjoy Part 4 of my interview with Greg Hildebrandt:


Greg Hildebrandt: Twenty minutes later Lou Meisel calls. He loved it! And he said “Okay, what are you talking about?” She <Jean> said, “A show. A one man show.” And he said, “Okay we’ll talk.”

Ed Catto: That’s incredible!

GH: And I got the same model back. Plus, another model in the meantime. Plus, a bunch of the jobs that I’m working on with about three other pinups. Get the model. Shoot the pictures. And Jean is talking with Lou. Lou is saying, “I’m going to need at least twenty-four paintings. I mean, how many does he have?“ And Jean replies, “Just this one, and he’s working on three photos.”

“That’s right – it’s three years until the show,” replied the gallery owner.

“No, no, no, no, at the end of this year you’ll have all the art,” said Jean.

He says, “What are you, kidding me?” She says “No, I guarantee you’ll have it.”

So now Lou wants to see them live – the paintings- so I finished off two more. We put them in the car, go into the city. He loved them. And he said “Okay!” We decided well what date was for the show, and we went home. And that’s all I did for the next ten or twelve months: it was pin-ups.

I put everything away, because she (Jean) manages everything – current business, family. You name it: she does it! I draw. I got twenty-four paintings done.

That show was terrific and that started a whole new thing. Of course, you’ve got to react, or respond to the kind of situation, where some people are saying, “Pin-up Artist?!? He does dragons and stuff. What do you mean pin-up art?” Continue reading “With Further Ado #204: Greg Hildebrandt Part 4 – Dissatisfaction as Part of the Process”

With Further Ado #203: Shelton Drum and an Incredible Achievement

With Further Ado #203: Shelton Drum and an Incredible Achievement

We’ve got to pause our multi-part conversation with Greg Hildebrandt – I’ll be back with more next week – to celebrate an incredible achievement. Shelton Drum, the owner of Charlotte’s Heroes Aren’t Hard to Find comic shop is celebrating his astounding 40th year running a truly outstanding comic con: Heroes Convention!

This amazing show bills itself as “America’s Favorite Convention”, and you know what? I don’t think that’s hyperbole. Shelton is a comics guy’s comic guy. He knows this industry and still loves it all. He’s created an amazing show that celebrates the medium and has found a way to still stay focused on comics.

Running a show for 40 years is nothing short of incredible. Fans and pros recognize this, as does longtime convention promoter Teddy Hanes. (He’s certainly no slouch in running great comic conventions over the long haul.) Teddy calls Shelton’s efforts, “The Gold Standard for Comic Book Convention Promoters to try and get close to his achievements.”

I was in Charlotte this past weekend and briefly caught up with Shelton in his wonderful store. As the convention was just one week away, he was hip-deep in managing and preparing for the show – it’s June 24 – 26th. (Next year Heroes Con will shift back on its usual Father’s Day Weekend calendar slot). Continue reading “With Further Ado #203: Shelton Drum and an Incredible Achievement”