Thursday, August 14, 2008

Art by Others

Here's a cowboy that my son drew today...

I really like it. Sort of reminds me of one of those ink drawings by, more detailed...

Kinda like this:

That's right, Picasso drew comics, too.

Below is a portrait of me, at my Artist's Alley table at Comic-Con...
This masterpiece is by my old pal, Kristine Phoenix-Artinian. I appreciate the effort, but she's at least thirty years older than my son, so I can't help feeling she could have done better. Then again, Picasso was eighty when he drew the bullfighting sketch above, so perhaps age is irrelevant.

Regardless, my kid is clearly a prodigy! :)

Tuesday, August 05, 2008

Some Random Things You Should See

If you haven't seen this already, here's another viewpoint on the San Diego Comic-Con, courtesy of Triumph, the Insult Comic Dog:

Then, there's this, for Robot Enthusiasts:

Pentagon's Unmanned Spokesdrone Completes First Press Conference Mission

Lastly, please read this probing Interview With Santa Claus.

Have a great day!

Steve's Comic-Con Contemplation: Part Four

First some links, in case you missed the first few parts of this masterpiece of reporting…
To read Part Three of my Comic-Con report, click here.
To go back to Part Two of my Comic-Con report, click here.
And, to see where I began with this, try starting at Part One, by clicking here.

Previously, I’ve written some observations about how the San Diego Comic-Con has changed over the years, and I wrote about some parties I didn’t get into this year! So, what, pray tell, did I do at this year’s Comic-Con?

Well, Friday night, after we were ejected from the Saloon at the Hard Rock Hotel, Don and I head over to a small party happening at a Persian Restaurant on 4th Street -- an annual get-together hosted by Los Angeles artist, Aman Chaudhary. A very cool way to start off the evening, for those of us not invited to the William Morris Party! Here’s a pic of Don and I, that I just swiped from Aman’s blog…

Afterwards, we met up with Monica & Dean Kubina, and made our way to the Hyatt bar.

The Hyatt bar. Where everyone always ends up. I swear, we arrived pretty early, all things considered, and the place was packed. Soon it was almost unbearably packed. This, in spite of the online controversy and threat of boycott that raged in the weeks leading up to the Con.

To be honest, I am SO over the Hyatt bar. I have been for a while. There were a few years (back when the meeting pace was at the “Top” of the Hyatt) that I honestly felt like I was in a strange time-warp. Listening to the same conversations over and over again. Wasn’t Jeph Loeb sitting in the exact same place last year, holding court? It was getting surreal. But what are you going to do? The Hyatt is literally where everyone ends up, so if you want to do some valuable schmoozing & hooking up with old friends, you have no choice but to end up there also.

That said, on Friday I had a great time catching up with people like Mike Marts form DC, and a bunch of others. I only wish that Andy Kubert had come down from his room after Mike sent him an obnoxious text message at my encouragement. One of my fondest convention experiences was a drunken, pool-playing romp with Andy and his brother during Wizard World Chicago in 2003. Actually, I’m lucky they didn’t beat me up! I was out of control!

Saturday night also ended at the Hyatt, but started with some drinks at the Hard Rock. This time we didn’t get kicked out, though they almost didn’t let Kyle Baker in due to their dress-code! (he was wearing shorts) Thankfully, Alex Zamm convinced the guy at the door that Kyle was the World’s Greatest Cartoonist (who just won an award!), so they let him in. I had a great time with Alex, Kyle, Don and his lady-friend Shawna, Mike Wellman, Luis Reyes and the Kubinas. The bar made a pretty good mojito, too.

In the end, that’s what I like best about Comic-Con. It’s a chance to hang out with pals, see old friends and business contacts, and meet new ones. I guess that's why I keep going back!

I will end now, with some random pics from this year's Comic-Con, and from Comic-Cons past. I wish I had more!

Comic-Con '08: Richard Starkings, Carl Potts & Me

Comic-Con '03: Don is assaulted by our booth!

Comic-Con '02: Don, Rob Tokar & I selling Comiculture!

Comic-Con '02: posing with Marc Siry

Monday, August 04, 2008

Steve's Comic-Con Contemplation: Part Three

To read Part Two of my Comic-Con report, click here.
To go back to Part One, click here.

Like most comics professionals, I have mixed feelings about the San Diego Comic-Con. I feel inexorably drawn to it each summer, as though to not go would be a huge blunder. As if I might miss out on that golden schmoozing opportunity that will propel my career to the next level.

On one hand, it seems like every year is exactly the same, and I wonder what the point is. On the other hand, the Con (and the city of San Diego, itself) just keeps growing and becoming more stimulating.

It is simultaneously irritating and exciting how comics have become more of an accepted part of the mainstream entertainment media. Irritating because it really feels like Hollywood and the toy companies have taken over Comic-Con completely (where are the comics?!?), exciting for the possibilities all that implies. Somebody is spending money on this stuff.

This year, Don and I stayed at the brand-new Hard Rock Hotel, right across from the convention center.

It’s a very cool hotel, with a hip, modern d├ęcor, and they give you your choice of music to be played in your room upon arrival. They also have some nice restaurants & clubs to hang out in. This is my segue into a mini-rant:

Part of the “Hollywoodization” of Comic-Con is that now San Diego is flooded with “industry” types and even some movie stars. That means that there are cooler, more exclusive parties going on. As it happened, on Friday night there were a couple such parties happening at the Hard Rock. The William Morris Agency took over the bar by the pool, and someone else took over the “Sweetwater Saloon” downstairs after 6PM. That meant that we were kicked out before that and were then, unable to use any of the facilities. Now, I think this is kind of outrageous, seeing as Don and I were paying guests of the hotel. I feel bad for any guests who happened to be there who were not affiliated with Comic-Con at all. They must have been pissed.

I probably wouldn’t have minded—if only I’d been invited to the William Morris party! End of rant.

The first year I attended Comic-Con was in 1987. Boy, have things changed. Back then, there was no giant convention center, the con was held at the little ol’ Civic Center. There were almost none of the high-rise buildings over the skyline. Downtown was full of pawnshops, bail bonds offices & tattoo parlors. The Gas Lamp District was a slum.

Today there is a lot more to do: better nightlife, better restaurants. And the streets are safer. But, there were things about the old Comic-Con that I miss. Especially the expense account dinners! Back in the 80s and early 90s, the Marvel & DC editors were pretty liberal with their expense accounts. Probably why Marvel had to file for bankruptcy! Yes, those were the days! It was easy for me to find a good, free meal! It happens rarely now. There were fewer parties back then also, so it was easier to find out where you were “supposed” to be each night!

We also used to go en-masse to the beaches at Coronado or La Jolla, or go Jet-Skiing with Jim Lee. That was fun. Or a bunch of us would take the trolley down to Tijuana for cheap beer. I don’t really feel like doing that anymore, but it was a cool diversion when I was an under-aged 19 or 20!

Yes, that's me.

Marcus McLaurin, Me (with the hair), Tom Morgan

Klaus Janson (washboard abs, anyone?)

Sara (Tuchinsky) Kocher

Sorry, no pictures of TJ. Today, it’s all more difficult, more expensive and more confusing. That is, unless you are Jim Lee. Then, you probably still get your meals comped and know where all the cool parties are.

You see? advantages & disadvantages.

In recent years, I’ve attended smaller conventions to promote my comics, and I’m reminded how the Comic-Con once was (only without the expense account dinners!). In some ways, these little conventions feel like a huge step backwards. But, it must be said that the fans in the smaller conventions are more enthusiastic about the comics. And when the convention is held in a city farther away from New York & LA, the fans are more appreciative that you’ve made the effort to show up. In San Diego there’s too much other stuff to draw people’s attention. If people are lining up for the Heroes panel for hours, or to get free Star Trek posters, then they aren’t browsing the comics. There is something to be said for the smaller conventions.

Of course, at the smaller cons, you won’t get to see this…

Katee Sackhoff

…Then again, neither did I! I didn’t even attempt to get in to the Battlestar Galactica panel. Luckily, you can see the whole thing online here. It’s pretty cool. I just wish Kevin Smith would realize that it’s unnecessary to drop an “f-bomb” every other sentence. Hey Kev, do the words “family entertainment” mean anything to you at all, or are you just 12 years old?

By the way, that reminds me, if you’ve been attending Comic-Con for a while, have you noticed that there are fewer porn stars exhibiting lately? That’s a relief. I always thought that if those porn-industry people want to exhibit at Comic-Con, they should set up a whole “Red Light District,” that only adults would be allowed to enter. Ghettoizing the so-called “adult” exhibitors needn’t be a negative thing. They could really play it up with red lights, stripper-poles, dry ice & stuff. They could include all the guys who sell leather bondage crap & “mature” art. You know, make it something really special! Most importantly, keep it segregated from the kids and let Comic-Con be family-friendly, as it ought to be. If only I was King of the Universe...

I’m all over the place, so this is a good time to stop and say: To be Concluded!

For Part Four of my Comic-Con report, click here

Sunday, August 03, 2008

Steve's Comic-Con Contemplation: Part Two

To read part one of my Comic-Con report, click here.

So, Artist’s Alley was pretty cool. One of the people who came by looking for me was Anne T. Murphy, the widow of my old boss, Archie Goodwin. I don’t remember the last time I saw Anne. Probably before Archie died in 1998. She and her son flew out to accept the Bill Finger Award for Excellence in Comic Book Writing. It was nice to catch up with her.

Archie Goodwin

I first met Archie Goodwin while I was a high school intern at Marvel Comics in 1985, and worked for him at Epic Comics after I graduated, from autumn 1986 until early 1989. I was just a kid then and, as might be expected, I was somewhat awed by him. I never told him this but, even though we were not “close,” Archie was kind of a paternal figure for me. The fact that he shared a birthday with my own father (though 4 years younger) helped, as well as the fact that I want to high school with Archie’s daughter, Jennifer. My years working at Epic were the working equivalent of my college education, the diverse projects, setting the groundwork for my career in comics & publishing.

When I decided to leave staff at Marvel/Epic, I used Archie’s departure as a good excuse for the timing. In Early 1989, the higher-ups at Marvel decided to massively restructure the Epic department, which they had, until then, pretty much left alone. In short, they decided to stop focusing on the “Creator Owned” titles that Epic was formed to develop, and use Epic as more of a “specialty” imprint, creating more “mature” versions of Marvel’s characters, like Havok/Wolverine and Typhoid. It was a depressing time for us. Archie decided it was time to leave, and I felt it would be a good time to pursue my freelance career. I left only a couple of weeks before Archie’s last day.

After that, Archie moved over to DC Comics, and I didn’t see as much of him. When I did get up to the offices, I always dropped by for a visit and usually showed Archie my latest work. I actively sought his approval, and he was always very encouraging.

I moved to Los Angeles in 1993, and saw Archie a lot less. I was not very good at keeping in touch with many of my New York friends, and this is something I regret. Not long after I moved, Archie was diagnosed with cancer. After several years of fighting, he died in 1998. I can’t believe it’s been ten years. I saw Archie only a few times in the years before he died, and it was very difficult for me. I think my response was to ignore and avoid. Only after it was too late did I even understand this, to my shame.

In retrospect, I look back and treasure my relationship with Archie Goodwin. He taught me more that I ever realized at the time. Some of his gifts to me include my love & fascination with European comics, a true understanding of the benefits & pitfalls of “creator ownership,” and an open mind toward the endless possibilities inherent in the art of comic book art & storytelling. I owe him a lot.

My thanks to Anne Murphy, for her visit, and for dredging up in me these thoughts & feelings. I’ve enjoyed remembering & writing about them. I hope we will keep in touch.

To be continued...(on with the con!)

For Part Three of my Comic-Con report, click here.

Friday, August 01, 2008

Steve's Comic-Con Contemplation, Part One

Way past time for my Comic-Con report! Sorry for the delay, but part of my Comic-Con experience was to return home with a cold and some anxiety about catching up on my work. Today, I’m feeling better about both of those things, so now I can let loose with my two cents…

Put simply, the San Diego Comic-Con is out of control. It’s a monster. A behemoth that nobody can fully comprehend. I was there from Thursday to Sunday morning, but I feel like I saw almost nothing. It was all a blur! In the days since, I have been talking to people and skimming websites & blogs to catch up on everything I didn’t see or hear about. I’ve barely skimmed the surface.

Thank god for Heidi MacDonald and her work. Today’s post on The Beat is an example of some of the best reporting on the “Con.” Except that now I feel bad that I didn’t get invited to Bob Chapman’s party. Guess I should have gotten off my butt and said hello to Bob at his booth. Gotta work on that. The Pulse also has some nice overviews of the panels I missed. The Battlestar Galactica panel, hosted by Kevin Smith, sounds like it was great fun. I caught a little of it on YouTube yesterday:

Katee Sackhoff. Yes, indeed.

Speaking of YouTube, by pal Don posted some amusing “podcasts” of his own. They always make me chuckle. Here’s one that shows off the inside of the Owl Ship from the Watchmen movie:

Seeing the full-sized Owl Ship was one of the highlights of the convention for me. It really brought out the “fanboy” in me, I must confess. Don’t tell anyone. That movie is going to rule.

Anyway, I’m not a reporter and this is just my blog, so I’m just going to mention a few things about my San Diego experience. Forgive me if I ramble…

First, I must say that getting there was a HORROR! Like thousands of other commuters on Thursday morning, I got stuck in an unbelievable traffic jam on the 5 Freeway. Evidently, at around 5:00 AM, a big rig ran into an SUV and burst into flames just north of Oceanside, by Camp Pendleton. The fire spread to the nearby brush, and about 4 acres were consumed in flames. Luckily, nobody was killed. I would have guessed otherwise when my car finally passed the wreckage and I saw the burnt-out husks of the vehicles involved.

I had left my house between 6 and 6:30, and was making amazing time until I hit the backed-up traffic. What would usually be a 2-hour trip stretched out to just over 6 hours! When I got to San Diego it was about 12:30 and, of course, there was nowhere to park. I found a spot about 10 blocks from the convention center and had to make a couple of trips back & forth by foot, hauling boxes of books & stuff, since I had a spot in Artist’s Alley.

After setting up and having some food, I finally got to relax and settle in to my spot by about 3:00 PM. In past years, I’ve had my own booth at Comic-Con, I’ve planted myself at different publishers’ booths (like Marvel or Tokyopop) and I’ve shared or bummed space at a friend’s booth (Like Active Images), but I’ve never done the whole “Artist’s Alley” thing until this year. It’s different. I liked it!

I find that it really helps for me to have a “base of operations” when I attend Comic-Con. When I don’t have a specific place to be or a real focus, I find myself wandering around rather aimlessly, overwhelmed by the crowds and all the visual stimulation. Artist’s Alley was a cool place to make my “base.” For one thing, it was smaller, and I was just representing myself. When I was self-publishing and had a booth (for Comiculture) I was there to represent an idea, or a product. As a small-press publisher, it was easy to get lost among the other publishers. One tends to lose one’s individuality. Many convention-goers seemed not recognize us as “creators,” but saw us simply as salesmen hawking our books. This is probably because many of the larger publisher’s booths are manned by interns and editorial staff. In Artist’s Alley, I was a person! Just a guy, selling his comics & doing sketches.

Having half of an 8-foot table in Artist’s Alley may seem like a step down from having a whole booth, but it certainly has advantages. Cost is a big one. The price of a booth is so great that, unless you have a lot of popular products to sell, it’s very difficult to make money. In Artist’s Alley, I had none of the stress associated with that. Without having to try and recover the cost of the booth, I was content to earn beer money.

As a freelance artist looking for work, Artist’s Alley was a good place for potential clients to find me. I met some interesting people & traded cards.

Also, this year I was listed in the directory as an artist by name, instead of by my company’s name, the name of a book, or website. That meant that friends, or fans of my work, knew I’d be there and how to find me. I was pleased to have people seek me out to autograph X-Men comics or to ask me whatever happened to Weasel Guy.

It’s nice to feel wanted!

To be Continued…

For part two of my Comic-Con report, click here.