Tag: San Diego Comic-Con

With Further Ado #216: See You at San Diego – A Review

With Further Ado #216: See You at San Diego – A Review

This weekend a Central New York comics show promoter, Teddy Hanes restarted his long-running Syracuse Comic Con series. It had been about two years since the last one. Hosting comic artists like Joe Jusko and Luke McDonnell as professional guests made it great fun for all, but I think that the fans and dealers were even more excited to just see each other and search for treasures in long boxes. There were so many smiles and so much laughter; it was lovely to get this convention “back on its feet” and for folks to gather amongst their tribe again.

The smiles, laughter and comradery of geek culture and conventions comes through loud and clear in Mathew Klickstein’s new book: See You At San Diego: An Oral History of Comic-Con, Fandom, and the Triumph of Geek Culture. It was just published by Fantagraphics, and it’s a treasure too. This oral history is about the size of a phone book (anyone remember what those were?), and it’s packed full of stories and photos telling the birth, and perhaps adolescence, of the San Diego Comic-Con. (Now also called Comic-Con International).

Mat Klickstein spins his tale using the oral history format. This allows the folks who were there from the beginning to share their memories of it all. It’s great fun, and although the format is new to me (I did just interview author Ed Gross about his excellent Star Trek oral history here), I just love it. It’s kind of like reading, instead of watching, a documentary. Continue reading “With Further Ado #216: See You at San Diego – A Review”

With Further Ado #212: Five-and-a-Half Questions with Devin Kraft

With Further Ado #212: Five-and-a-Half Questions with Devin Kraft

As part of our ongoing “Actual Comics at San Diego Comic-Con”, I’d like to you introduce you to Devin Kraft. I met him at a wild party at the Tiki Bar, hosted by publisher Bad Idea. He is the type of guy who is bubbling up with good ideas, and his current series, Neverender from Behemoth Comics is innovative and getting noticed. Enjoy my five-and-a-half questions with Devin:


Ed Catto #1: What’s your origin story, Devin? How did you ever start writing comics?

Devin Kraft: I’ve got a pretty amazing case of ADHD, so as a kid to keep me preoccupied my parents would give me legal pads and a pen. This helped me to both communicate visually and use art as a means of keeping out of people’s hair. I tend to move a bit faster than most people, so drawing in class helped me to slow down and not disrupt class as much.

I grew up on Archie’s Sonic line, and I’d make my own version of Sonic comics from time to time. Eventually I got hooked on Pokémon and Capcom’s various Marvel fighting series, and that led me to falling in love with anime and manga, and in seeking that out at comic shops I became interested in American comics – I’m sort of a student of both visual languages.

In high school, my friend (and incredibly talented artist) Logan Pack and I started to synthesize the Chinese gun-fu films we were enjoying into a neo-noir comic called Jabberwock. I planned on writing initially but started trying to hone my art during college – primarily during classes. Through a study abroad program, I was able to live in Japan for a bit and dive deeper into the wide variety of manga. I actually submitted a few manga to publishers, but my style was a bit more molten and my subject matter probably wasn’t what they were looking for.

I continued to create and self-publish indie comics throughout college, and for a short time I worked in the film industry. After saving a bit of money from a medical job, I went freelance in 2012 and ran Kickstarter campaigns for original comics pretty much yearly since, publishing Dragon Slayer (2012-14), Silence (2015-17) and the first two issues of Neverender (2019-2020).

EC #2: Neverender is such a cool premise. Can you give us the pitch and also let us know some of the main characters? Continue reading “With Further Ado #212: Five-and-a-Half Questions with Devin Kraft”

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 #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 #158: Comic-Con Begins: Five-and-a-Half Questions with Mathew Klickstein

With Further Ado #158: Comic-Con Begins: Five-and-a-Half Questions with Mathew Klickstein

The latest comic from Mark Evanier and Sergio Aragones, Groo Meets Tarzan, is brilliant.  Tom Yeates is also along for the ride, and if you, like me, are ravenous for more of his artwork beyond the weekly Prince Valiant Sunday strip, his contributions to this one won’t disappoint you.  The first issue kicks off with a double page spread showcasing the main floor of San Diego Comic-Con and it had me laughing out loud and missing it all -both at the same time.

To be sure, San Diego Comic-Con, or Comic-Con International, has grown to become a sprawling, wonderous event. It will be fantastic when things ‘get back to normal’ for this annual celebration.  So… while we’re waiting for that, maybe now is the perfect time to learn a little about the origins of this event?

The new podcast Comic-Con Begins, is informative, illuminating and just plain fun.  I had the pleasure of catching up with Mathew Klickstein to get the lowdown on it all.

Question 1:

Ed Catto: Why do you think there is such an interest in comic cons and specifically in the history of comic cons?

Mathew Klickstein: One of the many reasons we thought a history of “the” Comic-Con would be something worth investing massive amounts of blood-sweat-n-tears into is that there really hadn’t been a history like this put together before, at least not in such an extensive, extremely deep-dive investigative/exploratory way. Certainly not involving the entire force of folks who made it all happen back in the day.

There’ve been some great books – mostly academic/scholarly or personal memoir – about cons and fandom over the years, along with a handful of well-crafted documentaries and the like. But we just hadn’t seen too much in the way of such a long-form history, which again, was a principal motivator for us to plunge into the project with such breakneck insane passion, and certainly a major factor in why we wanted to do all we could to get it done “right.”

We wanted to fill in that lacuna, the gap in our shared cultural history. We aspired throughout the process to achieve that with Comic-Con Begins.

As for interest in the conventions themselves? I’m hoping too that that interest has been, if anything, bolstered by this past year+ of the lack of their happening in-person (or, in many cases, at all).

That this last year+, I hope and believe, has reminded people why a true in-person, “I’m there with the rest of the fans all together in a finite space” singular experience of being at a con is something we truly need as fans, as geeks, as “misfits” or whatnot who connect with members of their “tribe” through certain pop culture and creative/artistic entities and that going to conventions to see old friends and enjoy these experiences together, in person, is not simply a luxury. It’s something we desperately require as a social species. (Fan or otherwise!)

Question 2:

EC: And even though it’s not the biggest comic convention, many would argue that San Diego Comic-Con is still the most important. Do you think that’s true? Why or why not? Continue reading “With Further Ado #158: Comic-Con Begins: Five-and-a-Half Questions with Mathew Klickstein”

Brainiac On Banjo: Del Close! Holy Shit!!!

Back in the day I was involved in producing a comic book called Wasteland. This effort led to the one question I have been asked most often in comics, particularly by my fellow field laborers. That question is “how the hell did you get DC Comics to publish that book?”

I was surrounded by a lot of talent who are as incredibly gifted as they are unique. This is a matter of fact: they unleashed some truly brilliant, emotionally terrorizing stuff. Artists William Messner-Loebs, Ty Templeton, Don Simpson, David Lloyd, George Freeman, Tom Artis and Tim Dzon, Lovern Kindzierski, Timothy Truman, William Wray, Michael Davis, Rick Magyar, Tom Ziuko, Joe Orlando, Tony Salmons. Writers John Ostrander and Del Close. Associate editors Robert Greenberger and Brian Augustyn. And a cast of dozens.

Working with these folks was an absolute honor and a joy.

Now, there’s a documentary about Wasteland called “For Madmen Only: The Stories of Del Close,” directed by Heather Ross and written by Heather and Adam Samuel Goldman. No kidding. It’s got an iMBD page to prove it.

The whole idea of using Wasteland as the basis for doing a documentary about Del is, if you’ll forgive me, dazzling. Hey, it wasn’t my idea; I’m just in it. Heather’s the one who pulled it off and it took her years to do so. That requires a lot of energy with an attention span to match. Del’s been subject of several biographies that are quite good – in fact, Howard Johnson’s is quite great – but revealing the marrow of that man to a 2021 audience is no easy trick. His days as a performer, a Shakespearean actor, a teacher and a director are well noted, particularly his long association with Second City, the iO (a.k.a. improvOlympics), the Upright Citizens Brigade and Saturday Night Live.

I’ve long felt my pals in sweet home Chicago should build a statue of him and place it in Lincoln Park, close to Second City. Those of us who appreciate the history of American comedy would enjoy it, of course, and I think Del would appreciate his providing a place for the pigeons.

In order to have a documentary, you probably should have interviews with some of the people involved with Del (you’ll see just how they are involved in the documentary) and among those in For Madmen Only are Bob Odenkirk, Patton Oswalt, Adam McKay, Tim Meadows, Charna Halpern, Howard Johnson, Susan Messing, Alan Meyerson, Jason Sudeikis, Dave Thomas, Michaela Watkins, George Wendt, as well as John and myself. There are flashback scenes where Josh Fadem plays John, James Urbaniak plays Del, and Matt Walsh plays me. There’s a ton of real Del Close footage, as is only fitting as his name is there in the title, and much of that feature some of the other well-known legends that Del worked with, trained, and/or got into trouble with.

Holy shit. I just broke my own world’s record for name-dropping.

To be serious for the moment – don’t worry, it’s a one-time thing – this is an honor that shakes me to my very bones. Wasteland was, and still is, the most fun I’ve had in comics with my clothes on. I think we all knew we were walking a tightrope when we did the series, but I doubt many of us realized we’d finish falling up!

Plus… please allow me one more snatch of egoboo. Having Matt Walsh play me, for crying out loud, is mind-bogglingly amazing.

At the top of this piece I said I’ve been asked about how I got DC Comics to publish Wasteland. Well, it just so happens that this very Sunday, July 25th, at the San Diego Comic Con – which is once again on You Tube this year because of the Plague – I’m on a panel where I reveal exactly that. It airs starting at 10 AM west coast time, which, for those of you who can’t work a slide rule, is 1 PM eastern time and 2:30 PM Newfoundland time. Hey, you never know. The You Tube link ishttps://bit.ly/3xTQHqj; the long link is https://youtu.be/7Xddm_N-djo.

OK.

We’re ready for our close-up, Heather!

 

Brainiac On Banjo #094: Nyah Nyah, Nyah Nyah, Nyah Nyah!

Brainiac On Banjo #094: Nyah Nyah, Nyah Nyah, Nyah Nyah!

Well, I went to the doctor / I said, “I’m feeling kind of rough” / He said, “Let me break it to you, son / “Your shit’s fucked up.” / I said, “My shit’s fucked up? / “Well, I don’t see how / He said, “The shit that used to work / It won’t work now.” – Warren Zevon, My Shit’s Fucked Up, from the album Life’ll Kill Ya, 2000

This week we offer a three short subjects for our attention-span impaired friends…

ITEM 1: Beware of Falling Objects

A couple months ago, WarnerMedia announced HBOMax, the ultimate Warner Bros streaming service. And the most expensive, as I noted. They consumed their first Pac-Man, HBOGo. Go? Go know… I also noted, a few hours after the announcement, that there no longer was a way to keep their DC Universe going. I certainly wasn’t the only person who came up with this analysis — it was obvious, sorta like saying “that yellow thing in the sky is ‘the sun’” — but I blurted it out faster than a speeding bullet.

However, there was some significant collateral damage. The death of DCU (which, as predicted, will see its original programming going over to HBOMax) begat a very severe round of staff-hatcheting at DC comics. After moving 3,000 miles to new “state-of-the-art” facilities — they didn’t mention which art — their parking lot now can welcome more pigeons. Continue reading “Brainiac On Banjo #094: Nyah Nyah, Nyah Nyah, Nyah Nyah!”

With Further Ado #105: Sharing SDCC’s Secret Traditions

With Further Ado #105: Sharing SDCC’s Secret Traditions

The San Diego Comic-Con is many things to many people.  For the business community, it’s an incredible commerce success story.  For fans and collectors, it’s both a celebration and a validation.   For entrepreneurs, it can be an enjoyable way to drive revenue quickly. For the entertainment community, it’s a fantastic marketing venue. For the entertainment community in Los Angeles and Hollywood, it’s also a great excuse to get outta town.

And for so many folks, professionals and fans alike, it’s an opportunity to spend time with 200,000+ of your closest friends.  It’s an annual journey to a real-life Disney World, mixed with a hefty dose of your best days on a college campus and the most incredible state fair ever, where the main dish on the menu is “all the stuff you love.”

This year, as the nation and the world struggles with Covid-19, the folks behind the convention shifted gears quickly to morph the show into a virtual convention. We’ll all be analyzing that for a while, but one refrain I heard time and time again was not so much how folks missed the big events, but how they missed the little things.

I reached out to a group of fascinating folks and asked them to share some of their more personal stories and traditions from their annual pilgrimage to San Diego Comic-Con and the little things they miss this year.

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Rob Salkowitz is the author of Comic-Con and the Business of Geek Culture  (I use this as a textbook for one of my college classes)  a consultant  and a sayer of things. He wistfully remembers one tradition he and his wife Eunice especially hold dear:

Our oldest and longest running SDCC tradition is the Tuesday night dinner we instituted with Batton Lash and Jackie Estrada back in 2000, maybe earlier. We were fans with no industry connections whatsoever. They befriended us, introduced us to pros, made us formally part of the Eisner Award staff and brought us into the circle of Comic-Con. After we lost Batton a couple of years ago we continued with Jackie. We really miss seeing her in person this year.

Continue reading “With Further Ado #105: Sharing SDCC’s Secret Traditions”

Comic-Con at Home Panel – Denny O’Neil Tribute

Comic-Con at Home Panel – Denny O’Neil Tribute

With this year’s Comic-Con International (#ComicConAtHome)being virtual due to the coronavirus pandemic, all the panels that were intended to be live and onsite are now available to everyone on YouTube.

With that being the case we are proud to share with you the Denny O’Neil retrospective which includes PCS’s own Mike Gold.