WonderCon is always a great time for those of us here in the San Francisco Bay Area. Who can't help but to love having many of their favorite creators converging in their hometown all at once?
This year's WonderCon was no exception.
In addition to seeing some previews of books I'm excited to see hit my store's shelves from great publishers like Slave Labor Graphics, IDW, and DC, I was also able to pick up some comics from some new talents in the Bay Area. In particular, I'm excited about a mini comic collection of short stories by a group of Bay Area creators called "Chum." I expect to see great things from this talented group.
Certainly, the highlight of WonderCon for me this year was having the honor of interviewing one of comics' most successful independent spirits, Batton Lash. In this spotlight on Batton, in honor of the 10-year anniversary of his book, "Supernatural Law," Batton recounted many tales of the early days of Supernatural Law and his comics career. Though it was no surprise that his former educators, Will Eisner and Harvey Kurtzman, were not in attendance, it was a surprise that a few influential people in Batton's career did form a peanut gallery, invading the panel with sole intention of heckling their long-time friend. Howard Chaykin in particular was a master at heckling. Between cell phone conversations with his agent, Howard Chaykin recounted practically dragging Batton kicking and screaming from his bus boy station to Chaykin's studio, where he had one of his first pro gigs. Another comics luminary offering jibes from the peanut gallery was Bongo comics head honcho and art director of the "Futurama" TV show, Bill Morrison. Morrison and Lash recounted Lash's start on the "Radioactive Man" series and how Morrison often has to ask him to tone down his perpetually amped up writing for the readers without Lash's encyclopedic knowledge of comics history. The crowd had too many questions, the peanut gallery had too many jibes, and Batton and I had too many stories to be contained in a measly hour and nothing short of the Moscone Center staff lingering and attempting to take away the water and the microphones could get us to wrap up the party.
But the party only needed a change of times and locations, as the following evening it was time to celebrate in high style with the Isotope's annual WonderCon after-party, Wonder-Kon-Tiki.
Isotope Special Projects Director (and the best damn bartender in the business) Kirsten Baldock welcomes one and all to Wonder-Kon-Tiki.
This year Wonder-Kon-Tiki was also a celebration of the 10-year anniversary of "Supernatural Law" (not to mention Batton Lash and Jackie Estrada). Batton and Jackie can be seen here posing in front of a display of Batton's original art from the (mostly) silent, Harvey award-winning "Supernatural Law" issue #35, "Words Don't Do It Justice."
At 11:59 PM, we held our glasses high in a champagne toast in honor of Batton and Jackie and "Supernatural Law's"10-year anniversary. Batton gave a short, yet rousing speech that inspired all partygoers.
Here's to you, Batton and Jackie!
And what goes better with champagne than chocolate? Batton and Jackie had custom "Supernatural Law" candy bars for all in attendance, which they touted as "one bar you can't pass!"
Comic professionals from all corners of the industry came out to show their support for "Supernatural Law" making this year's Wonder-Kon-Tiki a truly star-studded event! While the Isotope camera couldn't capture them all, with the help of the quick cameras of Adam Beechen, Larry Young, Jackie Estrada, we were able to capture several of these Wonder-Kon-Tiki attending comic industry personalities on film.
Kyle "Plastic Man" Baker with Exhibit A Press's own Jackie Estrada.
Batton Lash and John "Doll & Creature" Heebink.
Former "Catwoman" artist Brad Rader poses with the ever dapper Batton.
Entertainment Lawyer to the stars, Ken Levin.
AIT/Planet Lar Publisher Mimi Rosenheim.
Mark "Savage Dragon" Englert and Joe Keatinge chill out on the Isotope sofa.
Jackie poses with a cheerful Brian "Demo" Wood.
"Hench" author Adam Beechen and his big beer.
Everybody else is getting in these pictures with Batton and Jackie, and I'm not going to be left out!
Here's a couple blurry "action shots" to simulate what the evening was like for some. And speaking of shots…
Back when I bartended, my co-workers and I had this game we liked to play with other bars we patronized called "phone shots." It's simple really, you call the other bar, request a phone shot with the staff, and then everybody has a drink. Sometimes you'd call them, and sometimes they'd call you. And hopefully not too many bars called for phone shots in one night!
Now perhaps doing these phone shots was just a way for the staff to get drunk and pass the time, but it certainly was a fun way to do it, and I always liked how it brought these "rival" businesses together and created a camaraderie amongst bartenders. In the bar business it's good for customers to see the staff drinking (be it on the job or off depending upon your clientele and where you're bartending), and the same goes for reading comics and making comics in the comic industry. Customers like seeing it and it's damn good for business.
Anyway, enough of the business talk, we were talking about drinking, weren't we? I'm always doing what I can to include people who can't attend our events, and I figured doing some phone shots was an excellent way to let folks in on a bit of the Wonder-Kon-Tiki fun. I put Isotope regular Ken Kniesel in front of the laptop and he invited all his amigos from MillarWorld to call us up and do a shot with us, and then Brian Wood stepped up and told the people on his forum the same. The First Annual Wonder-Kon-Tiki Phone Shot Challenge (as Mister Kniesel so eloquently put it… even though he had a tough time spelling it!) was born and soon we had the phone ringing, a bottle of Sauza Tequila empty, and my fine Espolon Silver Tequila disappearing rapidly.
Although I'm sure there are smarter and less intoxicating ideas to include people in the event, it was still a blast getting calls and having a drink with folks from all over the country, and it was a nice trip down memory lane to my pre-comic pimpin' years. Thanks go out to everyone who took part in the First Annual Wonder-Kon-Tiki Phone Shot Challenge. That was good, dumb fun!
"Life is all good when you're Brian Wood!"
Of course, no Isotope event would be complete without latest additions to the Comic Rockstars Toilet Seat Museum, which proudly hangs on the walls of the shop. The museum was founded during just such an event by a slightly tipsy, sharpie-equipped Brian Wood. In a fit of inebriated creativity, Brian got turned an ordinary toilet seat into a work of art. Today the tradition stands, with an impressive collection of toilet seats from such comic creating favorites as Becky Cloonan, Judd Winnick, Warren Ellis, Darik Robertson, Jane Irwin, Ed Brubaker, Joe Casey, Peter Gross, Rob Osborne, Erik Larsen, Junko Mizuno, Rob G and many more.
Artist Brad Rader got the ball rolling with a delectable "Catwoman" toilet seat, which was promptly hoisted high and displayed with pride. Brad's lightning quick when it comes to sketches, so there wasn't much time to snap off a photo while he worked his magic, but thankfully we were able to do just that.
Not to leave all the pressure on Mister Rader, Isotope favorite Kyle Baker grinned and nodded in agreement when he was offered a toilet seat of his own to draw on. After a few minutes of intense thought as he tried to decide what Kyle Baker creation would fit the Isotope vibe best, Mister Baker quickly jumped into the fray, crafting a toilet seat of his own.
As expected, the results both of these artists achieved with nothing more than a sharpie pen and a plastic toilet seat cover were fantastic. And despite the difficulties inherent in sketching with permanent marker on the slippery plastic surface of something that does it's very best to deflect any kind of stain whatsoever, and despite the fact that all this was done in a crowded shop full of watchful and wild party goers… these gentlemen still were able to create true works of art. And that my friends, is why in my eyes that creators like Brad Rader and Kyle Baker are the true comic rockstars of this industry.
I had hoped to get a toilet seat from the mysterious artist known only as J-Bone, as well. He's the incredible artist behind the bristol board for such series as "Jingle Belle" and "Mister Gum" as well as the awesome pitch hitting inker for "X-Statix," but somehow Mister Bone slipped out while I wasn't paying attention and never got to add his comic rockstardom to our museum… well, there's always next year!
As the night winds down, I make sure to give our superstar guest cash register maestro, Mimi Rosenheim, my thanks and a hug. We didn't actually need to have Mimi running the register, as my crack team of funnybook hustlers were on the job and ready to take care of our guests and make sure any and all comic needs were provided for. But Mimi just loves to run the register, and seriously, who could deny her?
Thanks to all who attended Wonder-Kon-Tiki 2004 for a terrific night, and with special thanks on out to Exhibit A Press, Jackie Estrada and Batton Lash. Happy ten year anniversary, here's hoping the next ten years bring you as much happiness and success!
(By the way, that's "Less Than Hero" artist Tony Talbert in the background of this last picture. Tony's book is featured in the latest May Previews on page 337. That $3.60 is a Diamond pricing mis-print by the way, "Less Than Hero" has a cover price of $3 American, and it's worth every single penny. Don't miss out, place your order now.)
Everybody and their mother seems to have something to say about this story. And so do I, although it might not be something that you've heard before.
I think that, at the Isotope, the sales of Micah's books have been primarily based on the merit of the books themselves (because make no mistake, these are good books), rather than Micah's alleged background. I also think that it is my duty as a retailer to protect my customers from feeling like they have been ripped off.
So here's what I'm going to do…If you are a person who has bought Micah Wright books from the Isotope and if for any reason you feel you were sold these books under false pretenses, you can bring those comics back to the Isotope and trade them in.
And while we're speaking about Wildstorm comics, I've got to give a thumbs-up to their most recent press release where they reveal the company's new cover branding. As regular readers of this column will know, I wrote at length about the need for Wildstorm to start taking some simple promotional concepts seriously, and a new trade dress was certainly one of them.
The new trade dress and branding is a strong step in the right direction, and I'm glad to see the company making some quick changes. And if they keep listening to what the retailers who carry their books have to say, I can't wait to see what they have planned next!
Come talk about industry issues, ask questions, preach the gospel of the great comic books or discuss this very article on the Comic Pimp Forum. I'll be around.