NEW YORK COMIC-CON 2007
Let's cut right to the chase here with the most important story to come out of the New York Comic-Con that nobody has dared tackle yet: It was the single most sickening convention held since the American Legion held a party in Philadelphia thirty years ago and everyone breathed too deeply.
We've had two veteran creators fall ill with heart attacks since the con, and far too many of us mere mortal fans ill with nasty head colds. I'm one of them, so perhaps it makes me more aware of the passing references to personal sickness on behalf of so many people who were there last weekend. But, hey, it's NYC. It wouldn't be NYC unless it made you sick, right?
Yet I still had such a great time for the two days I was there that I'll brave the city again next year in the more hospitable April climate, toting a barrel of Purell around my neck and a small supply of dust masks to ward off the elements. I guess it's impossible not to stick twenty thousand people together into a controlled atmosphere like the Jacob Javits Center without expecting something to go around. I dare to dream, though.
It was a different kind of convention for me. I didn't attend a single panel. Heck, I couldn't even tell you where they were being held in the building. The Javitz Center is such an oddly arranged place that it would be impossible to describe. The one highlight, though, was the bar between levels of the main show floor and the Artists Alley. Can you imagine the San Diego Con with creators drinking on the con floor during the day? (Openly-drinking, that is.) It would be a far different place by Saturday, let alone Sunday, when most of them are nursing their usual hangovers. But the bar area was relatively open, with a nice overview into the con floor itself, out over the street, or back into Artists Alley. It was a nice place to relax for a moment with a Diet Coke and sort through the detritus of promotional postcards and posters that littered the bar.
Artists Alley was cramped. It was far too cramped. It was bad. Impenetrable, at times. It needed a good three extra feet of aisle space down each of the three alleys, which it wasn't going to get. Anytime a popular guest attracted a line, it caused a major clog in the traffic flow. Funny enough, just beyond the alley was a large wide open gaming area, with plenty of open tables. I imagine they were hosting tournaments there, but most of the time all I saw were people resting their feet by sitting at the tables and enjoying a drink.
Between those two areas was the Podcasters Pavillion. I know I'm not going to be too popular here with this, but I'm going to say it anyway: that would have been space better used for Artists' Alley. This isn't jealousy talking. I wouldn't want to be trapped behind a table all weekend at any con for any reason. This is just floor layout and traffic flow management thinking here. The Podcasters are never going to attract a crowd the way Michael Avon Oeming did, or several of the other popular creators who would attract an overflow crowd. The Podcasting area was triple wide and with very few people standing around. It was a welcome breath of fresh air, but space that might have been better used to accommodate the cramped creators. It's a smart idea, perhaps, to put the podcasters in a quieter area, so that their shows sound good when they record them, but then you have to weigh the benefits of the free publicity and marketing versus proper convention management. That's a decision for NYCC to make next year. With the greater space they'll have, I'm sure the Podcasters Pavilion will return. I just hope it makes a little more sense in the overall design and layout.
Downstairs from all the madness was the general madness of the show floor. The two major entrances led you to either the DC or Marvel booths. Between those two stood a phalanx of video game companies offering you a chance to play with a Wii or a PlayStation (2, I think, and not 3s) or an XBox, and a wide variety of games. The Dance Dance Revolution game was popular, as was Guitar Hero and the karaoke type games. The con floor was a remarkably safe place for karaoke. It was far too loud for anyone else to hear you, so warble away!
Image shared a booth with Top Cow, and then you had row after row of comic companies, book publishers, and general exhibitors. The retailers were packed together in the back corner, keeping rows upon rows of happy fanboys searching through long boxes and digging for deals.
Up against the far wall was also a mix of small publishers, from Kyle Baker to Jimmy Gownley's AMELIA RULES! To Top Shelf and more.
It was a very good mix of companies, publishers, and artists. I was discovering new people up until the very last hour that I spent on the con floor, and most tables seemed busy to me. I think it had to be a successful show for all concerned, but I know how deceiving appearances can sometimes be.
When the show expands into an even larger space next year, we'll see if this momentum and buzz can be sustained. Considering how quickly the show sold out this year, I doubt that will be a problem.
Personally speaking, I added nothing to my sketchbook at the convention. I'm not sure I'm going to tote it around to future conventions, either. I realized that, for the most part, all of the people that are doing free sketches who I'd love to do a page in my book, have already done a page in my book. At a certain point, you start talking to the same people year after year. I don't mind that. But I'm also not the type to start asking for multiple free sketches from the same people. That begins to feel like asking for too much to me.
I didn't buy any original art this year, either, though I did page through a section of Kevin Maguire art, and carefully held my drool back while again ogling his DEFENDERS and FORMERLY KNOWN AS THE JUSTICE LEAGUE pages. Nothing else even came close to capturing my interest this year.
This is starting to sound like the diary of a man growing bored of conventions, doesn't it? It's not, though. I have more fun at them now than ever before. I'm more comfortable in the environment and even though odd encounters still happen, I've lived through enough awkward con moments to know how to avoid most of them. (Lesson one: Never assume the other person will remember you from the last time you met, whether it was last year, the last con, or the last night at the bar when said new friend was taking his third fan-purchased round of shots at the local bar.) Conventions have morphed into more than weekend buying and signing sprees. They are social outlets now, with some interesting new books to look at and occasional new creators to meet. Conventions are a great time to catch up with old friends to see what they're doing.
I also ordered - at long last - a fresh set of DrawerBoxes, the miraculous comic book long boxes that pull out like drawers and are highly stackable. There was a bit of a show special going on that weekend, so I ordered three five-packs on the Sunday of the show. They arrived at my door five days later! Now that's a speedy delivery. For those who are worried that putting them together might take forever, don't. I folded up ten DrawerBoxes in about 40 minutes. Yes, that's longer than standard boxes, but these have three parts to them. The directions have improved since I set my first batch up a couple of years ago, as well, so my recommendation for them only grows stronger.
Now, to see much of the fun of NYCC for yourself, I have to point you over to our friends at iFanboy. Their latest video is a forty minute marathon tour across the con floor featuring interviews with Jeff Smith, Ken Knudtsen, Paul Dini, Jae Lee and many more. The video also happens to feature my debut in video podcasting. We filmed a couple bits for it on Sunday afternoon at the con, including one standing in front of the WIZARD booth.
But the real stupid hilarity takes place in the background over Ron's right shoulder as he and Conor do the show close. Watch carefully for my Hitchcockian appearance there.
Complete tangent: Did you know that C.C. Banana is a regular CBR reader and Pipeline fan? The world is a very small place, indeed.
Finally, some pictures:
The Batcamera is digital now, too, of course. What you can't see here is that this Batman is taking a picture of another guy in a Batman costume. It's another example of a comic convention eating its own tail.
Even Lord Vader likes to rest on a rail and bask in the sun light every now and again.
Yes, this is a Glum statue, near other statues of She-Dragon. Don't know any more details on it, though. Sorry.
John Layman wanted it known that the cat's name is Reggie.
Just behind the Podcasting section was a juice stand of some sort. And even Leela got thirsty enough to give one a try.
I stood behind this guy on an elevator ride down at the end of the day Sunday, and all I could think to myself was, "Wow, I could never rock pants like those."
Superman stands still; the world blurs around him.
BEST BUCK I SPENT
I've seen my share of scans in blogs of bad retro comics. I've giggled at every one of them. I never thought I'd have the chance to find one for myself that's nearly as bad, but hasn't been spotted and highlighted and tossed around the blogosphere. Luckily, I chanced across one at the convention last weekend.
Sitting on a dollar table was a copy of WHAT IF #31 from 1991. It's "What If Spider-Man Had Kept His Cosmic Powers," branching off a storyline that happened just at the end of Todd McFarlane's run on AMAZING SPIDER-MAN. (How else to explain Spider-Man punching Hulk into space?)
Glenn Herdling is credited as the writer of the book, and you can see him caricatured on the first page of the comic along with his fiancee/girlfriend/wife. The art is by Scott Alan McDaniel, who would go on to do much better work in his career, notably on NIGHTWING with Chuck Dixon and currently on GREEN ARROW with Judd Winnick. This issue was inked by "Colonel Sanders III and Sam DeLaRosa." I couldn't begin to guess which of those names was responsible for which of the bad panels in this comic I'm about to highlight.
The low point is page five, which is what sold me on the book. Peter Parker, in full Captain Universe garb, drops in on his wife. That would be normal enough, except Mary Jane is in the midst of a workout of pornographic proportions. Check out the second panel. Try to explain to a friend how her chest works, anatomically, in this image. Both breasts are pointing straight up, lifting her half shirt above her torso with an accuracy only a couple of overinflated balloons could offer. Even better, Peter's sudden appearance has caused her eyes to begin rolling up into her head, her toes to point, and her back to arch wildly.
Peter Parker has got it going on.
And it shows in the third panel, where he unmasks to show her that his eyes have already rolled up into the back of his head.
In the next panel, he's ripping her top off ever so casually before cosmically changing her into a Spider-Woman spandex outfit in time for the sweet connubial bliss of Parker loving.
"Oh, Peter," is the final caption in the all black last box.
Three pages later, Peter is seen picking up a hooker in Times Square. Oh, wait, no. That's Mary Jane again, leaning against a street lamp, with legs that are longer than anything Jim Lee might have dreamt of at the time.
But check out those Parker sunglasses. They're huge! They put anything any Hollywood Starlet might wear today to shame.
The rest of the issue is standard near-Image copycat art stylings with a story that you wouldn't much care about if you bothered to read it. But those pages are golden and make you wonder how much Benadryl the editorial team had to down to willfully pass those pages/sleep their way through quality assurance.
Imagine for a moment that Superman was a womanizer. And when he died, Lois found out that Superman had children with all these different women all around the country. Furthermore, they each have one of his powers. When Lois' city is in trouble, she takes it upon herself to bring all of her late husband's bastard children together to form a superteam to annihilate the threat.
That's the general idea behind DYNAMO FIVE, Jay Faerber's new series from Image Comics. It's a neat twist on a classic superhero situation, told with the sort of character that only the guy who gives you NOBLE CAUSES every month could pull of. But I haven't told you everything that's in this first issue. I've left out one or two important plot points that turn this from a sleepwalk superhero tale into something with bigger bite. Faerber knows how to do classic superheroics, sure, but he's even better at morphing them into something new to grab your attention. And the things he pulls near the end of the first issue grabbed my attention and have me wanting to read much more.
The art is from Mahmud A. Asrar, whose style is clean and fluid. You can see bits of Kevin Nowlan and Alan Davis in his style if you look for it. While he's not a name you've ever seen before, he is one to keep an eye out for. This isn't just some random guy Faerber found on DeviantArt to fill 22 pages. This is a strong artistic talent, capable of drawing a superhero comic at any comic book company today. I can't say enough good things about how this book looks thanks to his pencils.
DYNAMO 5 might not get the kind of press and attention that "Civil War" or "Infinite Anything" might garner, but it's one that you shouldn't let slip past your radar if you're a fan of more classic superhero romps. Give it a flip through when you see it on the stands this week. It's a strong first issue with enough hooks to grab your interest and drag you into Faerber's new world.
FIVE YEARS AGO (GIVE OR TAKE A WEEK)
I completely forgot to do this segment last week, and I really wanted to. So, today, let's look back five years and one week into Pipeline history.
The last week of February, 2002 was my celebration of the tenth anniversary of Image Comics with a daily run of Pipeline - five columns in five days devoted to the publisher. Originally, I scheduled it to coincide with the release of the IMAGE 10th ANNIVERSARY HARDCOVER. It would have been out on the Wednesday of that week and I could have reviewed it for the end of the week, right?
Right. Except the hardcover got delayed by a number of years. "The best laid plans" and all that. . .
It was a fun week for me, though, as I got to look back at some of the forgotten and overlooked lore of Image, run a couple of interviews from behind the Image scenes, and run some scans of "vintage" early Image ads, fan art, and more.
Monday's column featured an interview with Eric Stephenson, then newly-installed Director of Marketing for Image. He had just taken over for Anthony Bozzi, and we talked about his writing career, his on-line career, his plans and role at Image.
Today, Stephenson is Executive Director at Image.
Tuesday's column devoted its space to a look at Chris Claremont's contributions and near-misses with Image.
The March 27, 1992 edition of [THE COMICS BUYER'S GUIDE] reported on a meeting Jim Valentino had with retailers at the Capital City Distributors warehouse in California. . . .Valentino laid out an early version of the publication plan for Image Comics in its first year.
. . .the month of November 1992 shows a surprising project that never fully materialized. It was the first issue of a book called THE HUNTSMAN, a proposed mini-series written by Claremont and drawn by Whilce Portacio. Valentino didn't know much about the series at the time, either, as the article mentions that he could only say, "nothing is known" about the series at the time of the retailers meeting.
The character would later show up in other Top Cow and WildStorm titles, but never in his own series. Portacio went on to do WETWORKS, instead.
Wednesday's column looked at a variety of topics, including the problems many early Image titles had with their numbering systems, the early contributions of Kurt Busiek and Alan Moore, and other trivia.
One of the more underrated efforts from those days of "Highbrow Entertainment" (Larsen's brief pseudonym for his comic book collective) was VANGUARD. Slumping sales and the editorial nightmare of rotating creative teams killed the series after only six issues. Here's a lineup of artists from those first six issues: Tomm Coker, Joe Madureira, Jason Pearson, Rick Leonardi, Angel Medina, and Andy Smith. Artists who were scheduled to do issues after that include Kelley Jones, Frank Fosco (who went on to do Larsen's TEENAGE MUTANT NINJA TURTLES series), Kirk Jarvinen, Jeff Johnson, and Mike Wieringo. The latter three had art printed in the letters column of the final issue. Wieringo and Coker would later appear in separate issues of another series with rotating creative teams: GEN13 BOOTLEG. Original art from Joe Mad's issue still surfaces on eBay occasionally. They're amongst the most affordable of his work, and look pretty good, to boot.
Thursday's column featured more of the same hodgepodge of material, including J. Scott Campbell's earliest printed Savage Dragon fan art, Gen13's original GEN-X ad, the lost STUPID 3-D comic, Todd McFarlane's BOOF humor comic, and the glory of Extreme Studios:
. . . doesn't get the credit it deserves for being a worthy talent-farming operation. Take a look at some of the names who came up through Extreme to gain regular work in comics to this day: Eric Stephenson, Richard and Tonya Horie, Todd Nauck, Lary Stucker, Jeff Matsuda, Pat Lee, Kurt Hathaway, Dan Fraga, Marlo Alquiza, and Norm Rapmund. I'm sure there were probably more I'm not thinking of at this moment.
Finally, Friday's column featured an interview I did with Todd Dezago and Mike Wieringo about TELLOS for a magazine which never saw the light of day in 2000. It's funny to see an interview about a short-lived series before it had ended, now that we're about to get the hardcover reproduction of it in just a couple of months.
No, there are no plans to celebrate the 15th anniversary this year. I'm too tired to think about it.
I might just have another advance review for you last week. I have a couple of candidates here. We'll see if either of them hit the next ship date.My blog, Various and Sundry looks like a lot of Reality TV show reviews with sporadic tech/geeky things thrown in. I'm working on beefing up the tech stuff and toning down the reality stuff, though.
More than 700 columns are archived here at CBR and you can get to them from the Pipeline Archive page. They're sorted chronologically.