Issue #24


Comics need more fun, dammit.

Sometimes it's easy to forget that comics are fun. There's a seemingly endless amount of white noise dedicated to attempting to suck all the enjoyment out of the comic industry. "The direct market is dying," "The artform is ignored," "The speculators are returning," "Manga rules the world and no one seems to care," "The publishers are flooding the market," "Wolverine's back in his yellow spandex suit," are all great topics of discussion and worth putting thought into. But this industry was built on the backs of enjoyment, entertainment and good old-fashioned fun. In the world of meaningful discussion, analytic analysis and complex discourse, it's easy to forget that the reason that we care so much about the funny books is because reading comic books is fun. Emphasis on that "fun" word (my other favorite "f" word).

Emphasizing the fun is the extremely simple concept on which my comic lounge and everything I do within the comic industry is based. Sure, I want my business to be successful. Sure, I want to see the comic industry thrive, but you know what? I also want to have fun.

The entire reason I write this column, throw crazy ass events, do guerilla marketing, and get out of bed in the morning is because I have an insatiable appetite for having a damn good time. And anyone who is lucky enough to combine that which they love with that which they do for a living with that which they think is unbelievably fun is living the good life.

Regular readers of this column have heard me ranting about how excited I was about the Alternative Press Expo (APE) coming to my own stomping grounds in San Francisco.

One of the fundamental things to love about APE is the manic, creative energy. People who had never made a comic before in their life before attending last year were so inspired that they sat behind a table this year with hot, fresh comics. People who slaved alone through night after night to get their comics done in time got to hear some supportive feedback and grab themselves a little cash for their hard work at APE. And even people who have been in the industry for years are reinvigorated by the dynamic, creative energy that charges the convention year after year.

APE is all about creative people getting out there and doing shit, making comics, meeting people…and yes, having fun.

And so, in the interest of fun, I'm going to share with you some of the most fun I've had over the past couple of weeks, leading up to APE, and after it.

As comics fans, I know that you like your stories to be accompanied by pictures, and I've talked a lot already, so from here on out we're going to let my camera do most of the talking.

On Wednesday, February 18th, mere days before the official APE con kick off, Tom Beland, one of the most fun men in comics, took advantage of the Isotope's Permanent Art Installation's drafting table and brought the creative process to the people, making an issue of his "True Story Swear to God" comic while they watched. Tom took time out from the pencil, paper, and pen to talk art theory, creative process, and self-publishing with those in attendance. And also, Tom made sure to draw sketches in the front cover of his "True Story Swear to God" trade paperback and gave out pages of original artwork to enthusiastic fans.

As always, there was a flurry of activity around the city during APE this year. And, so, inevitably, hosting our own APE event meant that we missed out on some really fun panels and after parties, and even that we spent less time than we would've liked at the Con itself. But without a doubt our annual APE Aftermath event, is always one of the best times I have all year. This year, APE Aftermath kicked it up to eleven. The general consensus was that we saw between 350-400 people during the event and while the party was scheduled until 5am, the party kept rocking until 7:30am. This is a well-documented event and in the interest of sharing the fun, I'm going to share with you a massive collection of photos before moving on to other APE weekend events. But before we get there, indulge yourself in the pictures of the sexy nerds and nerdettes who came out to celebrate with us!

Of course, the most important part of APE Aftermath is the awarding of the Isotope Award for Excellence in Mini-Comics. This year the award went to a great new talent from Kansas City, Missouri, Josh Cotter for his comic "Skyscrapers of the Midwest."

"Skyscrapers of the Midwest" is a collection of heart-wrenching stories of coming of age in a small midwestern atmosphere. The blank eyes of Josh Cotter's almost cute characters creates a foreboding tone that the reader cannot shake even during a seemly innocuous story about a visit to Grandma's house. Josh Cotter is obviously tremendously talented and I expect to see amazing work from him the future. It wouldn't surprise me if he became a household name.

The award ceremony featuring myself, last year's winner Rob Osborne as well as the latest addition to the Isotope Award family Josh Cotter was one of the most fun events in recent memory. For me it was really a great moment when I got to see Rob Osborne handed over the award to a grinning Josh Cotter at the end of his short speech. Josh received a howling ovation as the theme from 2001 boomed loudly over the Isotope's sound system. The crowd was very vocal in their support of this year's winning entry, and I've got to say Mister Cotter carried that trophy like a true champion of champions.

You can get copies of this fantastic mini from the Isotope and other fine comic purveyors, as well as from Josh himself at jwcotter@micro.com.

But that's not all that's happened in the last eight days…

Few comics appeal to people from as many backgrounds and walks of life as "The Couriers." Brian Wood's writing perfectly balances crazy action sequences and a gripping story while Rob G's art kicks you in the face, punches you in the gut, and leaves you motion sick and begging for more. It's simplicity itself to put a smile on a guest's face simply by putting a copy of Couriers in their hands.

In fact, the love of "The Couriers" is so great that the anticipation for Couriers 2 had reached a fever pitch around the Isotope. And with its official release date a mere three days after the Alternative Press Expo, I knew that its impact would cause a virtual detonation of fun.

Last year, when Couriers was released, an impromptu Isotope tradition of expressing the Couriers love started. It was a little crazy and a lot fun, so you just know we had to do it all over again this year.

(To see the last year's Couriers adrenaline rush, visit the Isotope Virtual Lounge here.)

Just because my camera isn't out there capturing every crazy fun comic-related event doesn't mean that they aren't happening outside the Isotope's front door. Because I know they are.

Comics is a creative industry made up of creative people who are making art and entertainment for creative consumers. There is no question that comic fans know how to have the kind of fun that would stupefy or sterilize lesser men or women. With the legions of comic connoisseurs once again growing with each passing month, I'm looking forward to taking my enjoyment threshold to levels yet unheard of. Let's make 2004 our best year yet.

You know the routine. You can pontificate on industry issues, preach the gospel and pimp great comic books, or even discuss this article on the Comic Pimp Forum.

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