Committed: Meeting Creators at the Image Expo

Image Expo was great fun. Perfectly formed, with a smaller space and less room for waste, every aspect of it was lovingly crafted and casually, comfortably enjoyable. Meeting talented artists and writers is a boon at any convention, but at Image Expo it was absolutely the focus. In retrospect, that is almost all I really did at the Image Expo, and it reinvigorated my excitement for comic books and conventions.

Front and center, opposite the large Image Expo booth, was Andy Suriano's colorful table. While speaking to him, (and admiring his crazy, beautiful work on Plastic Man and the freaky little drawings he was doing for people, see left), someone told us that they'd just come from talking to Chris Sprouse. We became so involved with the discussing the sexiness of the way Sprouse draws Tom Strong's arms that I completely forgot to go and find the man to shake his hand.

Instead Suriano and I geeked out discussing print techniques, wondering why a spot varnish on a hardcover book adds so much but is such a headache for the printer. He showed me the elaborate printing on the new hardcover book; Doc Bizarre and we concluded that it was worth the hassle.

Meeting Matt Wagner was an unexpected pleasure, and he gave me a sneak peek at the gorgeous Simon Bisley artwork from his upcoming book for Legendary comics. I wish I could share it with you, but you'll just have to wait since it wasn't for publication yet.

Wagner explained that his work has really ramped up since his kids moved out, he said that he just couldn't work with them looking over his shoulder, having opinions and we laughed about how families are always so comfortable sharing unsolicited opinions. On the flip side, now that his children are grown up, he is actually in the process of working with them and told me that there is a project he is working on with his son, who is an artist. He wouldn't say more about it and was very mysterious about the nature of it (though he did sound like he was enjoying the process), so we'll just have to wait and see what comes from this family collaboration.

Seeing author Ed Luce was great (that's him on the left, the giant guy next to him is Ken Kneisel, modeling one of Luce's tshirts.) His comic Wuvable Oaf is always enjoyable, but I became accutely aware of his talen when I recently saw the original art for it on display at my local comic shop. I only wish I'd bought one of his prints of Henry Rollins and Glenn Danzig on the Newlywed Show (or with cats, of course!)

With my newfound appreciation for his lovingly detailed paintings, I at least had to buy myself a Wuvable Oaf tshirt (because there is something deeply incongruous about me wearing a tshirt emblazoned with a giant, hairy man, wearing only pink, kitty underpants.) We talked about making creator-owned comic books and he told me about his plans for the evening to attend Bob Mould in concert and turn it into a minicomic (he did too, on top of a whole weekend of work at the con, and the comic came out amazingly, you can look at it on the Spin Magazine website.)

I often find the most exciting part of conventions the opportunity to meet my friends in the actual flesh. Too often I only get to talk to people online and rarely spend any time with them. This con was an opportunity to say hello to Canada-located Kurtis Wiebe (who I worked with on his upcoming book Grim Leaper, pictured left) and meet New York inhabitant; Jeremy Holt (his collaborator on their podcast The Process and author of his own mysterious creator-owned comic book, coming soon.)

While Wiebe wore his own work on his gothic Green Wake tshirt, Holt did the emo thing wearing his classic Morrissey shirt (and looked oddly model-ey in it, but that could just be how the photo came out...)

Moving across the alley was local illustrator Joshua Ellingson, displaying a dizzying array of his brightly-colored prints. I managed to snap a photo of his recent purchase, bartered for one of his prints from a fellow vendor of a one-eyed cat vinyl toy (pictured in the thumbnails below.)

On Saturday he did the smart, '60's thing wearing a jacket and nifty retro shirt, but by Sunday he was back in the comic book uniform of an amusing tshirt. In the photo (left) he's posing with the doodle he'd just done of a lounge-fish. I don't think that's a thing (like lounge-lizards), but it works. He told me that he was on a bit of a roll with fish doodles lately.

Appropriately (sort of, since his interests do veer towards horror) located directly opposite the hotdog booth, was local writer Jason McNamara who kindly posed for my photo with his best creepy look. He was doing a great job selling all of his own books, from the friendly Martian Confederacy (created with collaborator Paige Braddock) to his newest book; Short Hand, which is about a diminutive, elderly detective who turns out to be a small child with a horrible disease. It's a comedy (you have to read it to see what I mean.)

Finally, I got sort of ambushed by this hysterical group of kids who are starting a comic book comedy thing, and were selling audio CD's of their routines and pretty decent sketches. It seems like a narrow niche market, but they kept me laughing hard for the 10 minutes that I was talking to them (particularly with their good and better drawings of superheroes) so that I was happy to listen to their self published comedy CD. It helped that one of their number dressed up as Lucha Tigre (at least I think that was his character's name, he's a tiger in a wrestler mask speaking Spanish and French), making him one of only 2 or 3 people in costume at the event and certainly the most boisterous. That's him on the left, with me in the red shirt, looking dubious.

There were so very many fun things and people that I met, far too many to write about them all here, so I'm ending with some thumbnails of the event at the bottom of this article. You can see the rest of the pics at full size on my flickr.

I can't believe I'm saying this, but no matter what size the convention is, I still manage to forget to do something great. This weekend at Image Expo was no exception to that rule, while I got to speak to many great people and see many wonderful things, I somehow missed out on all these things I meant to do. There are still comic books to buy, art to seek, toys to find and (most importantly) people to talk to. I can't wait for Emerald City Comic Con!

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