2004 has been a great year so far. And it's only going to get better.
It's February 1st, 2004.
At my business the year revolves around February when the Alternative Press Expo comes into town. This San Francisco convention on a weekend in February is a showcase for independent and mini-comics. The fresh and enthusiastic atmosphere of this is always infectious and is a perfect match for the cutting-edge and innovative city of San Francisco.
As you can imagine, February is the busiest and the most fun month of the whole year. Friends come in from out of town, there are always new creators to get to know at the convention, and APE Aftermath remains our biggest event annually. Not even the Isotope's legendary Warren Ellis Scotch Tasting drew in a bigger crowd than APE Aftermath. Imagine inviting three hundred of your closest friends over to your house for a raucous party.
The Alternative Press Expo, since it is such a mini-comic friendly event, provides the perfect framework for the Isotope Award for Excellence in Mini-comics, which we present at our APE Aftermath event each year. Truly, this is the pride and joy of the Isotope.
And so I am already busy stocking the bar, reading the mini-comics and making arrangements for the awards ceremony. The Isotope Award for Excellence in Mini-Comics is, of course, the highlight of the APE Aftermath event for me. I should be done reading the submissions by Monday, but then the other judges and myself have a tough decision ahead of us. This year we've received some really great submissions and I think our deliberations to determine the winner will be long and arduous! The sexy stone and steel trophy has been ordered and is in production, and depending on how intense our battles to determine our winner end up being, by the end of the week we should know whose name will grace the name plate.
Like I said, February is a really exciting time of year for me.
January wasn't half-bad either.
It broke my heart to give you guys my column a couple days late, but this past week, the final week of Brian Wood Month, we topped it all off and sent the month out in style with three straight days of partying!
As I talked about last week, during January we celebrate the comic industry's only month-long party, Brian Wood Month. Throughout the month of January 2004, we took the San Francisco Tiki Tour, went hoarse cheering on the fine folks at Incredibly Strange Wrestling, enjoyed Booze and Bowling, shot the hearts out of paper men at the Jackson Arms Shooting Range, and celebrated the release of the third issue of Brian Wood and Becky Cloonan's monthly series, "Demo." And as promised, here is the update on our grand finale of events.
On Wednesday, after unofficially celebrating the official release date of "Demo" #3, we made our way to the Bottom of the Hill to see one of Brian Wood's favorite bands, Ted Leo and the Pharmacists. Due to Ted Leo's cult following (primarily consisting of young women), the show sold out even before the doors opened and many Brian Wood fans were forced to listen through the doors, hoping some one would leave and make room for them or to go home and rest up for the next two events. In truth, many Brian Wood Month devotees were so exhausted at this point that they were not disappointed to get the respite. However, those of us who made it in to see Ted Leo were treated to an awesome show complete with great punk rock, Ted Leo's amazing vertical leaps while playing his guitar, and even an attempt by inebriated Detroit girls to start an East coast- West coast rivalry.
Thursday was Brian Wood's birthday and the celebration started as soon as the Isotope's doors opened at 11 am. Fans called Brian with birthday greetings, brought in birthday presents, and one fan even baked Brian a duo of Demo-themed homemade birthday cakes. The revelry went strong at the Isotope until around eleven when Brian Wood's fans called loudly for karaoke. The party then migrated to a local bar where the karaoke classics were done up in style. World-famous Funwrecker, Dennis Culver, demonstrated to all the ancient arts of the karaoke master.
Those Brian Wood fans who were able to drag their tired bodies out of bed by 3 pm the next day, finished off Brian Wood Month by touring San Francisco's Speakeasy Brewery. Speakeasy is a micobrewery with a relaxed attitude and some serious beer. Steve Bruce, part owner and founder of Speakeasy Brewery, began the tour by filling up our glasses, much to the delight of those still hoarse from the karaoke of the previous evening. We were then educated on the brewing process and allowed to sample a special limited batch that was aging in one of the large stainless steel tanks. We all agreed that it was such a special brew that I immediately asked that they reserve one of the 26 barrels for the APE Aftermath event. Because even when I'm standing with a great group of friends, drinking freshly brewed beer straight from its stainless steel womb, I'm still working, baby!
But its not just cool stuff going at my store and in my city that makes 2004 so exciting. This year is looking to be a great year for the comic industry as a whole.
2003, on the other hand, was a tough year for many people in the comic industry. Some publishers, creators, and retailers all found themselves in financial binds that they needed help to get out of. Consequently, 2003 became unofficially the year of the handout. I, for one, am very proud of the comic fans and professionals who rallied around their friends, peers, and fellow comics folks and contributed to these worthy causes.
But, you know, just asking for handouts isn't going to work forever. Eventually, the comic industry will grow tired of getting asked for their money, and not because the causes will be any less worthy.
In 2004, companies and individuals looking to raise money are going to be more innovative. Instead of asking for a handout, they are going to find new ways to give something back to the people who make donations.
This evolution has started already. Frederik Hautain the main man behind the fine comics news and commentary site, Broken Frontier (featuring terrific columnists like Steve Higgins, Matt Maxwell, Eli Flores, and Graeme McMillan), emailed me and asked me if there was something I could do to help them raise funds for their new Web site server. Following the example of the fund-raising masters at The Comic Book Legal Defense Fund, Broken Frontier didn't want to just ask for money, but wanted to offer something in return. I was impressed by their willingness to try something different and with their efforts in finding a new way of fund-raising.
So here's what we're going to do. We are going to reward your generous nature and good taste with something I know you can't resist, the greatest reward of them all… comics!
You like great comics, right? So do I. So do the folks at Broken Frontier. That's why we are going to make sure that you get some for taking time out of your day to help out a worthy cause. The first 10 people who donate $25 (or more if you desire) to the Broken Frontier Server Upgrade Fund, and email Broken Frontier head honcho, Frederik Hautain, saying that you heard about their fund-raising efforts from the Comic Pimp (be sure to include your mailing address), will receive a fat stack of comics straight from the Isotope.
The phrase "great comics" can mean a lot of different things to a lot of different people and I can understand that, so I'm going to tell you exactly what you're going to get for helping out our amigos at Broken Frontier…
How does an autographed copy of AIT/PlanetLar's "Couriers 02: Dirt Bike Manifesto" sound? With the excitement of Brian Wood Month still lingering, what better thank you gift to receive? "Couriers" is one of our favorite and most popular books at the Isotope because it is jam-packed with action and appeals to almost everyone. I have very high hopes for the sequel and expect it to be just as cool as last year's terrific original graphic novel.
I'm also going to send you your very own copy of the "Sleeper" trade paperback by Ed Brubaker and Sean Phillips. Ed tells me that some fans are having a hard time finding it in stores and since I love this book, I want more people to have an opportunity to read it. Sadly, we sold out of all the copies of this critically acclaimed book that Ed Brubaker signed at the Isotope's recent Ed Brubaker Armwrestlathon during the course of that event, so the copy I send you will not be signed. However, I'm sure the fact that Sleeper is such a terrific read will more than make up for it!
It wouldn't be an Isotope promotion if we didn't give some love to our own home-grown heroes, Andrew Boyd and Ryan Yount, so we are also going to be including the first three issues of "Scurvy Dogs." Scurvy Dogs is one of the breakout comics of 2003. It received the prestigious "best first issue of 2003" award from the Fourth Rail . And recently, Varietysaid that "Johnny Depp's turn as Jack Sparrow turns out to be only the second-most funny fictional pirate tale of 2003, thanks to the hilarious antics of 'Scurvy Dogs.'" Not half bad, huh? Ryan and Andrew will be personalizing these copies for your plank-walking enjoyment.
Darwyn Cooke and Dave Stewart's "The New Frontier" is a great comic with beautiful art that has been overlooked by a few fans because of its rather hefty cover price. I really enjoy this book and want to give you the opportunity to check it out practically for free. I'm sure you'll enjoy The New Frontier just as much as I do.
All of this adds up to $46.70 worth of kick ass comic entertainment, which I'm going to hook you up with for a small donation to a worthy cause. Do a good deed, get great comics, who could resist?
See? Didn't I tell you that 2004 was going to be a great year?
Feel free to pontificate on industry issues, preach the gospel of great comic books or discuss this article on the Comic Pimp Forum