Tag: Marc Alan Fishman

So Long And Thanks For the Fish, Man #017: An Oral History Of My Career In Comedy

So Long And Thanks For the Fish, Man #017: An Oral History Of My Career In Comedy

10 years ago – give or take a year – I toyed with the idea of doing a little stand-up comedy. I knew from the notion itself, it would never be more than a hobby interest, but I figured it would be a good way to determine if I was (as many a friend and coworker would denote) a funny guy. Ultimately, I wound up doing a handful of shows, and called it a day. Why so suddenly serious? I didn’t want to pay for parking in the city, and it turns out I’m hella uncomfortable around drunks. LOL.

Beyond that though, I recognized that to be truly great at stand-up comedy, there is a level of commitment that I wholly accept is beyond my desire to dedicate to the craft. But let me not get ahead of myself. Cue the flashback machine!

My very first set of comedy was performed in the back of a comic book shop, as dared to do by the shop owners. We were all friends at Stand Up Comics in Lansing, IL, and every Wednesday when I’d pick up my books… the shop keep(s) and I would go back and forth about the fake worlds of which we partook. After weeks upon weeks of weekly weak knees… the idea was thrown into the wind: Why didn’t Stand Up Comics have a Stand Up Comedy Night? And with that, I was asked to join a few other shop patrons at an open mic competition.

My first set was short, sarcastic, and overly stuffed full of Jewish jokes and schmaltz. I adopted a “wise guy” persona – easy enough to do in a room full of similarly-minded nerds – and apparently did well enough to be asked to do another set. A far longer set. That set is still available on YouTube (search for it if you dare, cause lord, I ain’t promotin’ it!). I did my best to prepare a wealth of material. Cereal Box Mascots. My problem with the homeless in Chicago. My parents. My Jewishness. I covered it all. And for the most part? I felt like a million bucks afterwards. Enough so that I sought out actual open-mic nights soon thereafter to see if I actually had any chops.  Continue reading “So Long And Thanks For the Fish, Man #017: An Oral History Of My Career In Comedy”

So Long and Thanks for the Fish, Man #016: To Binge or Not To Binge

So Long and Thanks for the Fish, Man #016: To Binge or Not To Binge

As of late, I’ve been lucky to consume a metric ton of digital media. For those in-the-know, I tend to operate on two screens; one primarily for the drawing work I’m doing for the evening, and the second monitor to play something to keep my ears happy. I tend to toss on Netflix, YouTube, or Hulu, and let a show run while I draw. It’s good for when I need to take a mental break — no, seriously, drawing causes me to intensely focus so I need to take it easy every few minutes — and it’s good to catch up on all the shows in the zeitgeist.

Recently this has meant consuming the second season of Iron Fist, the third of Daredevil, and as of a few days ago… giving Runaways a try over on Hulu. And it got me thinking specifically about the shows I consume week-to-week versus multiple-episodes-a-night— The Flash, The Gifted, and Legion being the most well-known.

Binge-Culture is a thing now, isn’t it? Shows being made specifically to be absorbed en masse as quickly as possible. It allows for motifs (be they visual, auditory, or a combination) to form, fire, and be appreciated far easier than for shows where you return, at most, once a week. But just because binging exists doesn’t mean it’s a valuable tool for every show. Case in point: The Flash (or really any CW show).  Continue reading “So Long and Thanks for the Fish, Man #016: To Binge or Not To Binge”

So Long and Thanks for the Fish, Man #015:  The first W in WWE stands for… What?

So Long and Thanks for the Fish, Man #015: The first W in WWE stands for… What?

This past weekend marked the first, historic, monumental, astounding, amazing, never-happened-before* pay-per-view of all female­ talent in the world of professional wrestling sports entertainment. WWE Evolution was a rather enjoyable event that shined a positive light on one of the strongest brands in American television producing content today. The evening was chock full of messaging that spoke directly to little girls straight through to women to tell them that anything they want can be achieved. And in between these self-aggrandizing promos, there were some damn fine wrestling matches to enjoy.

But somewhere after the fourth or fifth of these interstitial talking heads, wherein the performer would choke up (rightfully so mind you) over the very notion that the ladies of the WWE would be given this time to shine… I began to sour. Again to be clear: not because the event wasn’t deserving of praise — but because WWE Evolution was not erected to right a wrong… it was a consolation prize for the WWE selling its soul.

For those who don’t religiously follow the ins and outs of the World Wrestling Entertainment company, allow me to spoil the surprise. WWE Evolution was created first and foremost as a PR move to appease the noisy internet smart-marks (think gatekeepers, only slightly less awful) who would rightfully (for once!) denote that the women of the WWE would not be allowed to perform with the company at the next pay-per-view event. One week after Evolution comes WWE Crown Jewel. Coming to you live this Friday from the King Saud University Stadium, in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. And in case you didn’t know? Women are not allowed to wrestle or perform in that particular country.

I won’t dive into the recent history here, if only to sum it up succinctly:

Vince McMahon accepted a ten year multi-million dollar contract with the Saudis to bring to them his oiled-up carnival several times a year. And not only would he deliver a standard show from his cavalcade of Cro-Magnon cohorts, no! Vincent Kennedy McMahon would succumb to any whim that the Crown Prince so desires.  Dust off the Undertaker? Sure! Unretire Shawn Michaels? Here’s a dump truck of money! Give the Rock the championship back? Well, it’s been reported by several outlets it’s been under consideration. And as a fan? It makes me sick.  Continue reading “So Long and Thanks for the Fish, Man #015: The first W in WWE stands for… What?”

So Long and Thanks for the Fish, Man #014: Shameless Self-Promotion, Part 2!

So Long and Thanks for the Fish, Man #014: Shameless Self-Promotion, Part 2!

Back in August, I lamented about the giant gamble of crowd-funding your way into comics. But as of late — with a deluge of projects bombarding my social media feeds these days — I’ve felt the urge to revisit the topic and dive a bit deeper into the nooks and crannies of shameless self-promotion. Get your pat of butter and jam ready, kiddos. Let’s make breakfast.

The truth of the matter is that being an indie publisher/creator/distributor of original content means having to navigate the choppy waters of branding, marketing, and relating to your public… all in order to keep your doors open and the money flowing to keep the drawings a’comin’. Simply put: you’re not going to be able to draw without also becoming a draw to would-be patrons. Especially if you opt to crowdfund your way into building the capital necessary to produce a product. Because of the nature of the beast, that often necessitates having to promote yourself early and often to the masses.

The how, of course, is the hard part. Because of the advent of social media, it’s easy (to a point) to build up a solid network of friends, fans, and family. But once you’ve amassed your following… stoking the fire becomes a balancing act between pride in your work, and desperation to see it pay off.

Shameless Self-Promotion to me is that balancing act of shilling for your passion projects without fear of sounding desperate. And there’s no greater time to act shameless, when you’re crowdfunding. Why? Because Kickstarters are built on the principle of all or nothing. With that in mind, setting the bar high and then needing to clear it or else will mean having to ask every family member, friend, and fan to support you. A lot. Repeatedly. And in doing it, maintaining a tone that comes with the confidence that your product is high quality, while you’re literally begging them to back you for a few dollars… comes with its own set of problems.

And the million dollar question is… When do you cross the line from acceptable hustle to annoying shill?

Truth be told: I don’t believe there’s an easy answer here. Every independent promoter I know is inherently tied to their brand. As such, one fella’s hourly update of his funding numbers may incite a truly positive groundswell as his fans rally to his aid… and another’s once a week crying vlog of happiness may get the job done just as well. So, what follows here is wholly my personal opinion, and nothing more.

As a friend/fan/contributor to a project, I don’t want more than a single touch a day from a given campaign (and to be clear: if a campaign is broadcast to multiple pages I’m receiving? No biggie!). The fact is, any more than that — save wholly for significant milestones or other worthy interruptions — triggers my “I’m caring less and less about your success” feelings. Having been on the other side of the equation, the data supports my leanings. No spikes in backer-dollars-in came due to incessant needling by way of over-posting.

More often than not, backers come in very few flavors. Those who know you and know they will back you — where their decision really relies on “how much can I afford to help you this time” really is the deciding factor. Those who stumble upon you by way of someone specifically sharing the project with them, or searching for something in the space your product is sitting. They are sold perhaps by your video, write up, rewards, or most likely some combination of all of the above. And the only elusive group we’re talking about here… those who know you but have no need to support you.

My last Kickstarter saw about 150 people back the project. I have 1,100 friends on Facebook. Unshaven Comics is liked by about 3,000. So, you can tell a considerable chuck of either subset represents that untapped potential customer group.

And I certainly tried every guerrilla marketing technique in the book to sell to them (such as it was, in the long-long-ago). Posting morning, noon, and night (being sure to self-deprecate about my frequency of shilling whilst still being positive and excited about the project). Making up daily contests. Begging people to share the project even if they couldn’t afford to assist. Posting to groups. Posting literally in any corner of the internet where people might stumble upon us. Asking all backers to “just increase your bid by X and we’ll make it!”

And in the end, we succeeded, but in the wake of the campaign, I personally felt hollowed by the experience. While the goal was met, and my little studio’s graphic novel dreams would now come true… It was hard to step back and feel if the support was earned or pitied. On some days, I feel bulletproof, and proudly declare that a win is a win. But more often, I’m left questioning if the naked neediness of shameless self-promotion hasn’t cheapened my brand. And at the end of the day… isn’t the value of your brand the most important of all? In the wide breadth of those I know in the indie market, it’s hard for me to separate the shill from the salesman at times. We’re all hustling — and next week, I’ll explore our specific brand of shameless salesmanship at Unshaven Comics — but again: there’s a line between over-confidence and wild desperation. To know where it is, is to live in that lucrative sweet spot.

I don’t have the answers as to where it is, of course. But when I figure it out, I’ll be the first one to sell it to you.

So Long and Thanks for the Fish, Man #014:  Con-Job!

So Long and Thanks for the Fish, Man #014: Con-Job!

Unshaven Comics — the studio that houses myself and my brothers-from-other-mothers — participated in our final conventions for 2018. While other comic cons are going to be running through the end of the year… for us, the year is over. And what an interesting experience we as a company had in our final pair of shows. It seemed we forgot how calendars operate, and wound up double-booking ourselves. The newly minted Ace Universe show in Chicago welcomed us (and our money) the very same weekend we’d committed (as always) to the Kokomo Comic Con, in Kokomo, Indiana. Luckily for us, there are 3 Unshaven Lads, and Kokomo was only a one-day shindig — allowing us to divide and conquer. With that being said… there is a lot to unpack regarding the size, scope, and relative success my motley crew saw across the pair of shows.

Ace Universe is a hot new contender in the pop culture convention space. As brought to the geek kingdom by way of the Shamus empire — formerly of Wizard World fame. Ace’s calling card is top tier talent specifically in the autograph / photo-op space. Specific to the Ace Universe Chicago show we tabled at? Chris Evans, Tom Hiddleston, Elizabeth Olsen, Karen Gillan, Zazie Beetz, Matt Smith, and a litany of WWE Stars all took center stage. The show itself was held at Chicago’s Navy Pier — which by most fans we spoke to, was not the easiest or accommodating commute to take. The convention hall was a single large open room, with the autograph/photo-op area dead center, artists and vendors around its periphery, with a “main stage” set in the tail-end of the space.

As an artist tabling at the show, we found almost immediately that our success would be wholly achieved through the grind; as most of the attendees came strictly to collect their photos and signatures. These “celebrity experiences” were costly endeavors — with VIP packages starting in the mid $200 range. Keeping that in mind? It became apparent that we lowly vendors and artists were there strictly to act as window dressing and distractions for the already wallet-light fans milling about. Friday itself was the most-rough day of the weekend, with the after-work crowds all dawdling in with little desire to buy. Saturday and Sunday saw larger and more amicable fans pursuing the aisles (all 4 of them) with only slightly more desire to hear about new and wonderful independent publications (such as “The Samurnauts” or “Toolbox”). Given a relatively tame tabling fee, Unshaven Comics left Navy Pier on Sunday night a little above break-even; once the $30 per-car per-day parking snapped the top off our coffers.

In contrast, the Kokomo Comic Con was a single day, single community affair in the wonderfully proud 13th largest city in Indiana. Here in its 9th year, Kokomo Con is a show Unshaven makes the trek out for regardless of specific sales goals. As denoted this year even more than the last, with little new to showcase at our table, most of my interactions throughout the day really were with well-wishers who already owned all that I came to promote. Anchored by stalwart Indiana-based comic bookers like guest-of-honor Stuart Sayger, always amicable Gavin Smith, and a handful of other fantastic independent artists and vendors… the show seats itself in the wide-eyed, big-smiled hearts of those who know what comic conventions of yesteryear looked like. With costume contests, light-hearted announcements over the PA, and a little over 1000 fans from around the city and beyond milling about, it was as far removed from Ace as one might get.  Continue reading “So Long and Thanks for the Fish, Man #014: Con-Job!”

So Long and Thanks for the Fish, Man #013: Sell Out!

So Long and Thanks for the Fish, Man #013: Sell Out!

It’s been rattling around my brain for too long; this endless debate that begs a simple question: What makes one a sellout?

The term itself is often overused. It’s shorthand for labeling creators as lesser for any number of reasons — typically revolving around the notion that a creator acquiesces to changes in their work as demanded by a corporate entity to ultimately shave the edges from their output so-as to allow the end product be more appealing to a broader audience.  We also label those artists who choose to license their original work for use in commercials and other sundry productions with the same term… but in the specific case of my thoughts this week, we’re focusing on the former, not the latter.

When I’d heard the term bandied about through my youth, I immediately jump to a pair of performers in the music space; Jason Newsted of Metallica (at the time), and the entirety of 3rd wave ska band, Reel Big Fish. When asked if Metallica sold out, Newsted slyly smiled as he stared down the lens of the camera. “Of course we sell out — (he waits a solid and bitterly pregnant pause) — every seat in every arena we play!” And of course, Aaron Barret and his motley crew of California skankers received their first taste of widespread radio play with their hit Sell Out, wherein they joke about how “the record company’s gonna give me lots of money and everything’s gonna be alright.”

Upon hearing declarations like this, I’d felt an immediate kinship with those that ironically scoffed at the notion. That reaching a wider audience to seek better fiscal gains by way of a reduction of harder-to-understand nuances wasn’t inherently sinful. It was merely means to an end. And as an adolescent, my heroes all seemed to live and thrive living right in that sweet spot. Their work somehow seemed above completely shameless schlock, where the slick shine of heavily edited production and marketing did its job to make Enter Sandman or The Mask palatable to both me (suburban metal-tyke / comic-book-smart fan) and someone ten to twenty years my senior. And why would that be so bad, damnit?  Continue reading “So Long and Thanks for the Fish, Man #013: Sell Out!”

So Long and Thanks for the Fish, Man #013: Venture Brothers vs. Rick and Morty

So Long and Thanks for the Fish, Man #013: Venture Brothers vs. Rick and Morty

Because when you want to create a great debate and piss off a multitude of hyper-focused fanbases? You go for the jugular, kiddos!

As I’ve been enjoying the latest season of “The Venture Brothers”, I denoted a few pals in my feeds proclaiming the superiority of the Venture clan to what I assume is its closest animated kin, “Rick and Morty”. And where I’d anticipated a litany of back-and-forth from our social circles coming to the defense of Mr. (Doctor…?) Sanchez, I was met only by Venture-centric lads and lasses singing continuous praise only for their cartoon of choice.

How disappointing.

Now, let me cut myself off before I get too knee-deep in rage-quit commenters below; I actually love both shows. And were someone to put some form of mega weapon to my forehead and force me to choose one over the other? I’d let them liquify my innards rather than be forced to make a choice. Or, more likely, I’d blurt out “The Good Place is better than both of those shows!” before the gentle zzzzzap! would turn me into fish-paste.

The fact is, the shows are only comparable on the surface alone; because I view them at their cores to be wholly separate entities when it comes to their end-game. Simply put? Rick and Morty is nihilism made blue-haired and drunk. The Venture Brothers is eternal optimism packaged in perfectly pitched pastiche.  Continue reading “So Long and Thanks for the Fish, Man #013: Venture Brothers vs. Rick and Morty”

So Long and Thanks for the Fish, Man #012: 24 Hour Comic Book Day… the Pre-Production

So Long and Thanks for the Fish, Man #012: 24 Hour Comic Book Day… the Pre-Production

On Saturday, October 6th, some brave (or insomniac) comic book creators across the nation will take part in a little fun activity called “24-Hour Comics Day”. Started in part as a challenge, and furthered by the indie industry to include charitable drives and other sundry sub-events… 24-Hour Comics Day sets forth the task to complete a 24 page comic in 24 hours, soup to nuts. This year? I’m going to take part in the challenge — albeit with some modifications to suit my personal needs.

First off? My goal isn’t to complete a 24 page book. I don’t publish books that short (the economics of that can be saved for a later article, mmm k?). Secondly? I know I’m not that fast an artist or writer. At all. So, instead my goal is thus:

To draw and be immersed in my latest comic book for 24 hours straight with a desire to complete as much of it as I possibly can.

I’ll be sitting in at my local comic book shoppe, The Zone, of Homewood, IL. I’ll do my darndest to capture my work — whether I stream the whole 24 hour experiment, or just make a big-ole-honkin’ article here on Pop Culture Squad and update it on the hour. And per this article, well, I’ll be pre-gaming just a wee bit to set myself up for success.

For those more familiar with my creative process? Feel free to stop here. Give me a like on social media, and be on your way. For the rest of you wanting a bit of insider baseball and see how the comic sausage is actually made? Strap in.  Continue reading “So Long and Thanks for the Fish, Man #012: 24 Hour Comic Book Day… the Pre-Production”

So Long and Thanks for the Fish, Man #011: The Comic I’ve Had the Longest

So Long and Thanks for the Fish, Man #011: The Comic I’ve Had the Longest

Seems we’re getting sentimental this week, kiddos. As I read our illustrious HBIC’s column this week, I couldn’t help but join in the fun. No, seriously. She’s holding me at gunpoint. Help! Ahem. I mean… that is to say… What comic have I had in my collection the longest? Much as I’d love to tell you it was the aforementioned X-Men Adventures book that ignited my original passion for pulp. Or perhaps the sentimental favorite pair of Malibu books that I still maintain are more than mere homage. But no. Most of my original set of comics were lost to a flood long ago. But not my graphic novels.

The comic — nay, the graphic novel— that has remained in my possession the longest is Art Spiegelman’s Maus.

And it’s time for a true confession. Well, a pair of them, if I must. First? I didn’t buy my copy. I stole it. That is to say, I borrowed it from the Hebrew School library, and refrained from ever returning it. No late fees or fines ever were sent home. So, there it stayed in my desk drawer for the better part of two and a half decades. And my second confession? It’s been so long since I’ve read it, I honestly remember nothing about the book.

Despite my larceny and lame memory, there are a multitude of reasons it remains one of my most cherished tomes.  Continue reading “So Long and Thanks for the Fish, Man #011: The Comic I’ve Had the Longest”

So Long and Thanks for the Fish, Man #010: Indie Comic Book Publishing 101 Part 10

So Long and Thanks for the Fish, Man #010: Indie Comic Book Publishing 101 Part 10

The first comic book I ever bought was in fourth grade. It was an X-Men Adventures comic cribbed from the animated series, which itself cribbed heavily from a combination of Len Wein and Chris Claremont stories, published almost 2 decades prior. I bought it because I loved the “X-Men” animated adventures on Fox Kids, and figured the comic would further flesh out what I’d seen in the episode. It didn’t. But I still loved it none-the-less. After that purchase, I dove head-first into all manners of X-books. But I didn’t know the Brood from Bushmaster and called it quits nearly as quickly as I’d began my new hobby. It would take more than a few years after that to really be interested in comic books again.

My newly-minted best friend, Matt Wright, bicycled to my house in the freezing Chicago winter to deliver a hastily wrapped box with my birthday present tucked inside. A pair of #1 issues of my new found love of Malibu Comics’ Ultraforce and The Strangers — loved, again, because of my viewing of the soon-then-to-be-canceled animated series.

And from the moment I cracked open those books — sitting somewhere between homage and pastiche — I was adamant that I wanted to be in comics too.

With that in mind, after 9 weeks of helpful hints, tricks, tips, and too-green-to-be-called-sage advice? My last lesson is the only one that I can give you with trepidation:

Why do I make comic books? Because I have to.

Personal history aside, the fact of the matter is at my very core, I’m a communicator. Be it in print, in pictures, in song, or in actions… I strive constantly to be a vehicle of entertainment. Over the course of my life — however short or long you personally perceive 36 years on said planet to be — I have been a columnist, an artist, a singer, a stand-up comedian, a marketer, and a generally OK human being. The through-line to literally all of those mediums? That I’ve been entertaining in each; some funny, some heartfelt, some serious, and all existing likely somewhere in-between.

Of all those medium, the one I am proudest of? One guess.

No, it wasn’t stand-up.  Continue reading “So Long and Thanks for the Fish, Man #010: Indie Comic Book Publishing 101 Part 10”