Scott Morse Talks The Return Of Tr!ckster at CCI

Last year, Tr!ckster was a welcome addition to the Comic-Con International landscape for comic book supporters and creators alike. Free to attend and set-up across directly across from San Diego's convention center, Tr!ckster was a combination pop-up shop (selling creator-owned wares), art gallery and bar, making it an ideal spot to unwind and talk to creators.

Created by Pixar artists and comic creators Scott Morse and Ted Mathot, with the help of Anita Coulter, Tr!ckster was embraced by comic book creative community, with creators like Mike Mignola, Jimmy Palmiotti and Steve Niles pitching in to help the inaugural event succeed. With Comic-Con just around the corner, so too is Tr!ckster. And it's got some new things up its sleeves for its second appearance.

The second incarnation of Tr!ckster (dubbed Tr!ck2ter) will be held in a bigger venue, offering up food along with drinks this year. Bryan Lee O'Malley, Jill Thompson and Fabio Moon are some of the people headlining informal artist workshops, while three symposiums -- featuring James Robinson, Ed Brubaker and Matt Wagner, and more -- will be held for anybody wanting to learn about creating their own stories.

Scott Morse spoke with CBR News about the importance of creator-owned comics, and keeping Tr!ckster itself "creator-owned."

CBR News: Tr!ckster isn't an official part of Comic-Con, but it's part of the Comic-Con landscape. How do you see Tr!ckster's relationship with the convention?

Scott Morse: I love Comic-Con International. They're an incredible group of people who have crafted one of the most beloved seasons of the year, a veritable pop-culture holiday festival. The convention hall is the place to find yourself surrounded by a blitz of merchandise, announcements, events, stars, fans, costumes, you-name-it. 

With Tr!ckster, we've made a conscious effort to celebrate ourselves as individuals and really focus on what makes us tick as storytellers and artists. We want an environment that makes it easier to focus on those things, an environment that's more intimate, where we can gather and not feel the pressure of having to hawk our work. We want to make our work available, but make ourselves available at the same time. We can't afford to compete with too much sensory overload.

With the way we structure Tr!ckster, we've got a full staff that keeps our work available while the creative folks that make the work can make themselves available to talk, to relax, to mingle, to think and to have a coherent conversation. [Do-It-Yourself]-enthusiasts and creators don't often have the infrastructure or finances to separate the business-side from the art-side of things at a convention. We wanted to create an environment that allows for more focus.

"Creator-owned" is an idea at the core of Tr!ckster, and these days it seems to be an issue that crops on a weekly -- or even daily -- basis in comics. Why do you think the creator-owned movement is gaining so much traction?

At the heart of "creator-owned" is the idea of freedom. If you create your own work, you're free to do whatever you want. You can tell whatever story you want, in whatever way you want. You don't have to use an editor or collaborator if you don't want to. You can market your work however you want, with whatever you're savvy enough to conjure at your disposal. Of course, you're then left with the responsibility of everything that goes into your project. If you screw up, there's no one to share the blame, no one to pass it off on. You're the star -- or the loser. It's empowering and daunting at the same time. 

Tr!ckster exists to help that along and present ideas on how you can improve your work as well as find an audience. It's important to us that if you're planning to DIY, we hope that you're ready to DIY. Make sure you're the best artist you can be, the best storyteller you can be. Don't jump into the water before you can swim. Tr!ckster is a supplement to your swimming lessons. Do it yourself, but know what that means, and do it as best you can if you want to find an audience.

It's obviously proven popular with con attendees, but how important is it to have something like Tr!ckster during Comic-Con for creators and fans alike?

I don't think it's important that Tr!ckster exist solely during Comic-Con. I think it's important that Tr!ckster exists, period. Anita Coulter is building a brick-and-mortar Tr!ckster store set to open this fall in Berkeley, where creator-owned work will be available year-round on site and via mail order. She'll host events and workshops and life drawing and lectures and gallery shows. We're hoping to have other events at other locations, pop-up-style, to continue the spirit of having fun all-day long in an environment where storytellers can hone their craft and sell their work at the same time. 

Of course, it was an overall success, but what was your biggest takeaway from last year's Tr!ckster?

Honestly, the first incarnation of Tr!ckster proved to be so incredibly gratifying on so many levels. For me, personally, to see so many of my peers and their fans mingling in one place with no stress was the biggest take-away. Breaking down that strange barrier of the "booth" really seemed to be well received.

What have been some of the hurdles you guys have encountered organizing it this year?

There's an incredible amount of work that goes into something like Tr!ckster. The financial impact is always at the forefront, being an event initially run out-of-pocket. This year, finding space in San Diego was an issue -- space that works for what we need, that doesn't impact proximity for people attending peripheral activities, that's close to hotels, etc. We really wanted to have a good option for dining and, of course, the social bar scene. Our new location [Wine Steals/Proper] really covers those bases well with a full restaurant and three bars. 

Aside from that, the major issue we've faced is time. With Ted Mathot and I working full time at Pixar, plus trying to manage our own personal projects and family life, we've leaned much more on our incredible partner Anita and our additional show-runner Steven Edwards. They're becoming the real backbone of the Tr!ckster infrastructure. 

How important is the current Indiegogo campaign, and how did you settle on an end-goal of $35,000? 

Again, this is an out-of-pocket labor of love for Ted, Anita and me. Last year, Tr!ckster incurred some unforeseen costs due to growing pains and just the sheer aspect that it was our first event. While successful for artists and fans alike, with pros making money from the store without actually having to work, we did end up spending more than we bargained for. We're attempting to take some of the sting out of that with the Indiegogo campaign. They've been an incredible resource and support. We're hoping that we can cover our operating costs by including the fan base in the process, actually sticking to the ethics of Tr!ckster by making it a creative endeavor that includes the crowd as part of the spirit of the community. With everyone contributing, everyone's really part-owner and producer of this thing.

And finally, what are you most looking forward to for this year's edition of Tr!ckster?

I'm looking forward to seeing all of my friends have a fantastic time all week long in an environment where people are celebrating and not groaning.

Comic fans attending Comic-Con International can spend some time at Tr!ckster at the Wine Steals / Proper Gastro Pup located at 795 J Street.

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