Pipeline, Issue #323


Artists Alley is a minefield for comics journalists and reviewers in particular. I like to think that I've perfected the art of hiding myself in public now, to keep from having strangers call out my name to wave me over and show me their work. Nine times out of time, it's not my thing. I'm being polite here, but "not my thing" is the best I can do without too many people taking offense and thinking I'm talking about them.

It's a trick you learn out of necessity. It's not that I don't want to find anything new there -- I really do -- but that don't want to have it forced down my throat, and I hate telling people that I don't like their stuff.

To that end, some simple suggestions for people in artists alleys of the future:

  • Have your name posted somewhere on your table. It doesn't have to be on a banner behind you or a large easel next to you, although those certainly help. Just have some sort of name card that stands on your table that can be read from more than three feet away.

  • Display at least one of your comics standing up so I can see it better. I'm tall enough that I can see them lying flat on the table from fairly far away, but that's the unfair advantage I have.

  • Don't scream at me to come over. Don't use a megaphone to get attention. Don't be obnoxiously loud to the point where the other artists near you take up a collection to hire some local union thug to take you out at the knees...

  • Don't mix up your freebies and your For Sale items. I saw this one a lot. Make it clear with sign placements that one book is free and the other one is $3. It will also save you the time of chasing down the guy who didn't realize it and walked off with a $20 copy of your Museum Edition MY LIFE SUCKS #1.

  • If you're trying to get your name out there and have people interested in your work, don't let the largest sign at the table be your silly con sketch price guide. Guess what? There are plenty of big name artists at the convention (and some in Artists Alley!) who are doing them for free. I know the table cost you something to sit at, but this is not the good way to recoup your investment. This appearance is a loss leader, unless you've got books to sell. Commissioned work is always fine, but a sign offering sketches for $2 is ludicrous. $10 is ridiculous. The one exception: If you're there as a caricaturist. That's what you're there for. It's not in support of a book, and it's something that not everyone else is offering.

To the Exhibitors:

Standing up behind your table looks more professional than sitting down. I know that it can be tough to do that all day, but try your best. Obviously, if you're an artist doing sketches, nobody will begrudge your use of the table to get things done properly. It also helps us tall people who hate having conversations with the tops of people's heads.

Many of the same words of wisdom from the Artists Alley people apply here: Mark your freebies differently from your items for sale. Make the prices clear. Make sure I know who you are. Signage is always good.

If you're selling something at the table, take notice of me when I walk up to your table and peruse things. At least one exhibitor lost my business in Chicago because he never made eye contact with me or pretended to acknowledge my existence, even after I stared at him for thirty seconds. If I have to say, "Hey you" to pay you $20 for your book, I'm not going to bother. There's plenty of other stuff out there. This isn't to say you should jump down my throat when I look at something, or start the hard sell.

And don't belittle me for not buying something. We all have different tastes and budgets. You win some, you lose some.


I have rotten airplane luck when it comes to Chicago. The first year I went, I flew into Midway instead of O'Hare and found out I was booked into the wrong hotel. The second time my flight home was delayed for hours by a torrential rainstorm that came down not unlike a monsoon from the Great Lakes. This year, I had a near repeat of that last experience.

I was done with the con fairly early on Sunday. Two days was enough, and the last couple of hours I spent there on Sunday morning weren't all that productive, but I did finish off my Must Do list. That included getting Greg Rucka to sign his latest novel, buying a bust for the friend who so graciously gave me rides to/from the airport (Thanks, Phil!), and getting a sketch from Lee Bermejo, who looked slightly relieved when I didn't ask him to draw Superman.

But when Jonah Weiland and Rob Worley -- my con compadres -- took off for their flights, I was done. I got back to the hotel by 1:30, got my luggage, and waited for the 2 p.m. shuttle to the airport for my 5 p.m. flight. It's only a five or ten minute ride to the airport, so I was confident that would be enough.

The shuttle bus ended up making a stop at another Hyatt hotel along the way to O'Hare, but I still had plenty of time.

The line through security at the airport was the longest I'd ever seen, though, just short of last year's scene in San Diego on a Monday morning. I think it took about 20-30 minutes before I had my turn to walk through the metal detector, sans footwear. For a change, I passed that test.

The boarding gate, of course, was at the far end of the terminal, but that was OK. I took a seat and waited patiently. I had two hours to kill, and one book with me. (Again, that would be Rucka's latest novel. I'm going to squeeze in a review next week.)

About a half hour later, the announcement came over the p.a. system that due to poor weather in Newark, our flight would be delayed by about two hours. Grumblings and cell phones became the order of the moment, as everyone checked in at home to inform their rides, loved ones, and dinner dates of their changes in plans. The secondary rumbling came from people whose friends back in New Jersey had claimed that there was no bad weather to be had. The storm was well isolated to Newark. Great. I'm just cursed.

Twenty minutes later, the plane pulled up to our boarding gate. More grumbling, followed by another announcement that went something like this, "Our plane is here, but due to the delayed flights and the weather issues in Newark, we won't be boarding yet. Standby." Someone revised the schedule yet again by 4:30. Now our flight would be boarding by 5:30, a half hour after the originally scheduled departure time. Not bad. We'd only be an hour late, not two.

The plane finished boarding and was closed up by 5:45 or 6:00ish, and the pilot came on to apologize on behalf of Mother Nature and give us our approximate flight time of an hour and a half. We were scheduled for a two hour flight, but I guess they were planning on opening up the engines a little more to make up for lost time.

Oh, but there's a catch: We had to wait our place in line to taxi to the runway. We wouldn't be leaving for another half hour. Sit tight.

After one false start -- and a screeching set of brakes to prove it -- we took off between 6:15 and 6:30. Once we were in the air, the pilot announced that the flight time was approximately two hours. Not only did we sit on the tarmac for a half hour, but we also lost our extra flight speed. Lovely.

The good news is that we took off and landed safely and I eventually made it home on Sunday night, even after my ride arrived for me at the wrong terminal.

I hate airports, but they're worth it for these conventions. By next year, I hope I have enough One Pass miles from Continental to upgrade to a First Class seat to San Diego for free.

Back to comics:


[Nevermen #2]THE NEVERMEN: STREETS OF BLOOD is a relatively new trade paperback from Dark Horse Comics that follows up the original THE NEVERMAN series by the same creative team of writer Phil Amara and artist Guy Davis. I had a bit of a speed bump on this one, as I haven't read the original series yet. This book spends considerable time in its first chapter telling us what the characters from the first mini-series have been doing since that story concluded. While I was a little lost by this, the sheer creativity and colorful art of the series was enough to tide me over until the plot kicked in.

The Nevermen are a group of crime-fighters in a time period vaguely resembling the 1930s or 1940s. It features a colorful cast of creatures that look like they came out of Central Casting for a Dick Tracy serial. There's the ape with the head of a bald man, a mechanical eagle-type creature, an extremely long-limbed albino, and a few others. The lead character is a newspaper reporter by day in his pinstriped suit, and a crime fighter at night in his long jacket and fedora. You can start to see all the tropes of pulp fiction and Saturday afternoon serials here, can't you? It's not slavish to that feel, but it definitely trades on it.

The thrill of the comic comes from throwing yourself into this slightly insane world and taking it all in. The plot involves a multi-generational evil machination, but never gets tied up in itself. This is a fun book that's meant to entertain and not set the literary world on its ear. Phil Amara has a good ear for dialogue, making all his characters feel like they belong in a world last seen in the no-longer-silent world of movies. It's a step towards sanity for a man known for the hyperactive SKY APE graphic novels. It's not a step, however, that causes the writer to drop his strengths. It's a nice blend.

Guy Davis is an artist I can't say enough good things about. He's never done anything that's disappointed me. The more of his artwork I see, the more I fall in love with it. He has a style that stays clean and open enough for the colorist to shine without over-rendering, but also shows enough detail and scratchiness in its inks to define the feel of each page. Inking himself is his best move, and it pays off here in the way it keeps the energy of the art on the page. Davis designs characters that fit in the world, and are unique and technologically relevant to the age they're set in. It's not quite steam punk, but some of the designs might remind you of it.

THE NEVERMAN: STREETS OF BLOOD is a romp through another world, complete with its own cast of merry miscreants and creative concoctions. Davis' art is a joy to behold. Phil Amara's story is a wonderful throwback with added inventiveness. For only $10, this book is an easy risk to take.


Dark Horse was kind enough to pass along a batch of black and white preview pages for HELLBOY: WEIRD TALES #5, due out in October. They comprise complete stories from Scott Morse and Haden Blackman/J.H. Williams III/Todd Klein.

The Morse story is a little obtuse, and I'm not sure if I'm losing something because the story is black and white, or if it's just passing me by. It's a nicely drawn eight pages, but I'll withhold final opinion on it until I can read it in color. I think it's safe to say, though, that if you like Morse's work, you'll like this one. His art is still one-of-a-kind.

The Blackman story is much more clear, and even more beautifully drawn to my eyes. Williams is an amazing artist, who's shown off a broad array of styles in PROMETHEA. For this story, he uses a slightly more photorealistic style. The story has Hellboy trapped in the back of a VW Bug on a stakeout with an attractive FBI agent whose feelings for him are not too well hidden. Blackman's story fits a lot into 8 pages, and I can't wait to see what Williams' coloring adds to the story.

The one thing I noticed very strongly in both of the stories here is how aloof Hellboy can be. He wants the world to leave him alone so he can tend to the troubles he can see, but then is detached from the danger when it shows up. He's a little cocky, and a little cynical. It's a fascinating mix for the character.

Other contributions in the book come from John Cassaday, Ron Marz, and Jim Starlin.

Pipeline returns next Tuesday with more reviews, more commentary, and whatever else pops to mind in the next seven days.

Various and Sundry continues with thoughts on THE AMAZING RACE, BIG BROTHER 4, SLAM BALL, the most bizarre Ping Pong video you've ever seen, the Olsen Twins growing up, the Blackout of '03, and more. Also, absolutely no political protests.

You can e-mail me your comments on this column, or post them for all the world to see and respond to over on the Pipeline Message Board.

Somewhere around 500 columns are archived here at CBR and you can get to them from the Pipeline Archive page. They're sorted chronologically. The first 100 columns or so are still available at the Original Pipeline page.

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