I’m quite happy to note that folks that live around the above picturesque area, the Lakes District in England, north of Manchester, are holding a comic book festival. It’s called The Lakes International Comic Arts Festival, and they’ve got a robust website at http://www.comicartfestival.com/. The show is just around the corner, scheduled for October 18-20.
The show is being put together, near as I can tell, by Sean Phillips, Brian and Mary Talbot, and some wonderful people who live in the Lakes District. The idea behind the show? It’s a little like TCAF in terms of scale (and name), and a little like Angouleme in terms of their desire to bring the whole town to life with the medium of comics (in this case, the town’s name is Kendal). I find this thrilling. One of my most fervent desires in administering TCAF since its second year has been to more thoroughly involve Toronto in the Festival and the medium of comics, and just in their planning alone these fine folks seem to be doing in their first year what we haven’t quite managed in 10. Granted, Kendal is beautiful and lovely with a population of 28,000, and the Greater Toronto Area is perhaps 100 times that big, but that’s still a hell of a lot of moxy and I’m impressed.
I’m happy to be travelling to Kendal to take in their first show and, where possible, offer any advice or assistance gleaned from running TCAF for the past little while. Mostly though, I’m excited by a strong slate of programming and I’m looking forward to getting reacquainted with guests including the Talbots, Ed Brubaker, and Darryl Cunnighamn, and meeting some of their other fantastic guests including Charlie Adlard, Sean Phillips, Gary Pleece, Kurt Busiek, and more besides. Hell, I don’t think I got to meet their guest Glyn Dillon (The Nao of Brown) when he was at MY show this year!
Now, it’s probably too late for most of you to plan and book a trip to England in two weeks, but if you happen to be in the country I sincerely hope you’ll consider making the trip to see some of the many very cool events taking place, and meeting some of the exhibitors. That website address, again, is http://www.comicartfestival.com/.
If you do see me, feel free to say hello. I won’t be anywhere in particular at the event, just wandering about, but looking in the pub probably isn’t a bad idea. 😉
Hey folks! I’m headed off to “Comic-Con International: San Diego” this week, in what looks to be my busiest trip ever. I just thought I’d post real quick to let folks know where I’m going to be if they want to check out what are sure to be some great panels. 🙂
UDON: Booth #5037: I’m going to be headquartered at The UDON Booth this year Weds thru Sat, all the way on the east side near Hall H, booth #5037. We’re debuting artbooks based on the video games Marvel vs. Capcom, Disgaea, and Shining Force Feather, and they’re all totally gorgeous-looking. Plus non-stop creator signings, a huge catalogue of material, and much more. Should be lots of fun!
Drawn & Quarterly (Beguiling): Booth #1629: On Sunday I’m headed over to the other side of the convention centre to sell some jaw-droppingly great original art! The fine folks at D&Q are once again providing us with a little corner to sell originals, and we’re going to make the most of it with a ton of great stuff. We’ve got all new pieces by Farel Dalrymple, Jason, Shintaro Kago, Pascal Girard, and maybe even a few surprises too…! Brings back memories, being in the D&Q booth. 🙂
I’m actually doing a lot of panels this year! Hosting 2, on 3. I think it’s actually gonna be a bunch of fun, but I gotta make sure to buckle down and get all my work done because there are some VERY heavy hitters on these things! Here’s the quick run-down, and the full panel descriptions are under the cut:
Friday: 4:30-5:30: UDON 2012: Some major new announcements on this, I’m actually a bit nervous. 🙂 (Moderator) Room 26AB
Friday: 7:30-8:30: Making a Living in Manga: I’ll be sharing the results of some of the interviews I conducted with manga creators and editors in Japan! (Participant) Room 8
Saturday: 12:30-1:30: D&Q: Canada and Comics: Discussing the current renaissance of Canadian comics. Kate Beaton, Jeff Lemire! (Moderator) Room 5AB
Saturday: 6:00-7:00: Best and Worst Manga of 2012: Reprising my role from last year. I’ve read SO MUCH manga in the past 2 weeks. (Participant) Room 23ABC
Sunday: 3:00-4:00: PW Comics World: Serious Pictures: Comics and Journalism in a New Era: Mostly I’m here as a retailer/pundit, talking about the place of comics reportage in the industry. Should be very cool. (Participant) Room 32AB
I heard there might be a very cool announcement at the Gays in Comics 25th Anniversary Panel Saturday night, so I want to try to hit that one for sure. Otherwise, I’m hoping to get out and see a few panels, snap a few photos, and generally just enjoy myself. I hope if you’re going, you get to do the same! See you there!
I’m going to be making the trip out to San Diego for Comic-Con again this year, in service to my various masters, and so as always I’m glad to see Tom Spurgeon’s outstanding “Comic-Con By The Numbers” guide to the show. Better still, he seems to have significantly overhauled it this year, and it’s a pretty darned fun read, in addition to being incredibly useful.
It’s worth noting that attending San Diego Comic Con does not necessitate reading a 170+ point guide to attending San Diego Comic Con, but if everyone who attended the show actually did read it we’d all have a much better time. Go check it out.
If you’re a follower of the Comics Internet, you might remember a really intriguing conference that’s occurred over the past few years, about comics and medicine and how they go together. I first became aware of it thanks to the work and words of Darryl Cunningham and his graphic novel Psychiatric Tails, and I’m delighted to learn that following stints in London and Chicago, the conference will make its way to Toronto July 22nd to 24th. Special guests include Joyce Brabner (Our Cancer Year) and Joyce Farmer (Special Exits).
You can click the “continue reading” link at the bottom to see the whole PR.
Comics & Medicine: Navigating the Margins 22-24 July 2012 Toronto, Canada Faculty of Medicine, University of Toronto Biomedical Communications Program, University of Toronto Office of the Vice-Principal, Research, University of Toronto Mississauga
The third international interdisciplinary conference* on comics and medicine will continue to explore the intersection of sequential visual arts and medicine. This year we will highlight perspectives that are often under-represented in graphic narratives, such as depictions of the Outsider or Other in the context of issues such as barriers to healthcare, the stigma of mental illness and disability, and the silent burden of caretaking.
The conference will feature keynote presentations by comics creators Joyce Brabner and Joyce Farmer. Brabner, a comics artist and social activist, collaborated with her late husband Harvey Pekar on the graphic novel Our Cancer Year (1994), which won a Harvey Award for best graphic novel. Farmer is a veteran of the underground comics scene who nursed her elderly parents through dementia and decline as shown in her graphic memoir Special Exits (2010), which won the National Cartoonists Society award for graphic novels.
We invite proposals for scholarly papers (20 minutes) or panel discussions (60 minutes) focusing on medicine and comics in any form (e.g., graphic novels, comic strips, graphic pathographies, manga, and/or web comics). In particular, we seek presentations on the following—and related—topics:
East Bay Alternative Press Book Fair
December 10, 2011, 10am-4pm
@ Berkeley City College
Hello Bay Area!
As a d.i.y. kick in the ass to the holiday shopping season and a way to discover those lovely treasures to wile away the long winter nights, zinester Tomas Moniz of Rad Dad Zine, artist Brooke Appler, and others are organizing a one day event to celebrate the amazing quality and diversity of independent writing, publishing and all around crafting of the Bay Area.
The event will take place on Saturday, December 10th in downtown Berkeley at Berkeley City College (one block from Downtown Berkeley BART) from 10 am – 4 pm. With over 60 different tablers sharing their wares, this year’s Book Fair will be cram-packed with opportunities to talk with, mingle, and support local and independent artists such as Manic D Press, 1984 Printing, PM Press, and The Littlest Elle, and so many more. We also will have a Variety Show featuring work and art the evening before the book fair at Rock Paper Scissors Collective on December 9th. Some tables still available!
Air Canada, who I booked my flight to NYC with, was scheduled to have their flight attendants walk off the job 6 hours before my flight. Today we hear the strike may or may not be blocked by the Federal government, or they might be legislated back to work, or something.
Oh, and, the airport I fly out of? The security people are currently on a work-to-rule campaign which is slowing things down so much that Air Canada “is advising customers travelling from/to Toronto Pearson that some flights might be delayed or cancelled today.”
What I’m saying is, fuck Air Canada, fuck the stress of flying, and while I am sad to be missing my first NYCC, I’m not going to stand in what may or may not be an infinite line for a flight that may or may not be cancelled, and may or may not be staffed and therefore may or may not be cancelled again. Fuck all y’all and the horses you rode in on.
“Save the date! We are excited to announce the debut of the Chicago Alternative Comics Expo (or “CAKE” for short) in the summer of 2012! Taking place June 16th and 17th at Columbia College’s Ludington Building, CAKE is focused on celebrating independent and alternative comics of all stripes. The festival plans to feature over 100 exhibitors along with a two-day program of signings, panels, workshops and lectures. With Chicago’s long legacy as a stronghold for underground and alternative comics, the Windy City is an ideal locale to showcase some of the most wild, weird and wonderful contemporary comics talent.” – From the Chicago Alternative Comics Expo Press Release, http://www.cakechicago.com/
It looks like a new outlet for indy and art comics have thrown their hat into the ring! Everyone welcome the good folks from CAKE and mark June 16th and 17th on your calendars.
“The Small Press Expo (SPX), the preeminent showcase for the exhibition of independent comics, graphic novels and alternative political cartoons, is pleased to announce nominees for the fifteenth annual presentation of the Ignatz Awards, a celebration of outstanding achievement in comics and cartooning.” – From SPX’s email announcing the Ignatz nominees.
You can see the full list over at http://www.spxpo.com/ignatz-awards. I’m trying to stay out of commenting on awards, but it looks like most of the folks on my Twitter are quite pleased with this list.
“VanCAF has been about a year in the making up to this point–we just chose to keep it on the down-low until we had some definite guests, in order to get people more excited once the announcement was actually made. We knew that the now-defunct Anime Evolution was in its dying throes so we were eager to think up an event that could replace it, since the artist’s alley was always full of great local cartoonists. So we took the opportunity to fill the gap with a show that was more about comics.” – VanCAF organizer Shannon Campbell, chatting with Sequential.
You can read the whole interview at http://sequential.spiltink.org/?p=9268. I know quite a few people have pinged me about the name of this upcoming fest. I’ve expressed my concerns to the organizers, and I’m helping them out with opinions and advice where I can. I personally think it’s exciting that there are new events cropping up and, if they want to pattern themselves after TCAF and our vision of a comics event, well that’s pretty cool. I think I can say without hubris that they have a lot to live up to with the name they’ve chosen, but I’m confident they’ll succeed with flying colours. And if not they can change the name for year two ;).
A thing I think is important is that we have a vital, healthy series of expos/festivals/conventions to promote and support comics creators, particularly people doing art or alt comics, particularly people doing good work. It’s why I run TCAF.
I put a question to Twitter today, with the aims of improving those shows, thereby improving things for everyone. The question was:
“So, let’s say you are a comic (book/web/novel) creator, and you do small shows (Stump/Spx/Mocca/TCAF/local cons). Let’s say. Let’s say that tomorrow, the point of those shows went from whatever they currently are, to “let’s make comics creators a lot of money.” So instead of fundraising, enriching the artform, etc., it was just “exhibitors at our show need to make $$$”. What changes would need to happen? If you are a creator, what behaviours by shows do you feel are costing you money? Answer freely, it won’t affect exhibiting at my show.”
So far I’ve gotten I think a few hundred responses. They’re all interesting, and I’ve been careful not to disagree with any of it because I think the question, and the discussion, and having it in public, is important. Very important. I’m pretty happy.
So one of my more sensitive friends had a little mini-blow-up on Twitter the Friday or Saturday of Comic-con—he wasn’t at the show but like the vast majority of the people interested in it, he was following-along online via reportage from Comic Book Resources, Newsarama, Comic Alliance, etc., In dramatic fashion he announced (paraphrasing) that he could no longer follow CBR’s coverage of Comic-Con on Twitter, because they insisted on abbreviating the show by CCI, meaning Comic Con International (the show’s official name), rather than the classic and beloved SDCC, San Diego Comic Con.
I can empathize, to a degree—a press release I wrote using the official CCI got changed by my boss because, frankly, no one uses CCI and no one outside of nerds knows what it is. But I thought it was important to play the game, try and play the game anyway. And CBR, which parks a MUTHAFUCKIN BOAT in the harbour behind the convention centre, and which had more than 40 registered reporters at the show, and is prrrrrretty tight with the Comic Con organization, they’re playing CCI’s game and so they call it CCI. If the fans don’t like it, they can go and get their own boat.
San Diego 2011 was all about playing the game, about recognizing that Comic Con isn’t gonna be what any of us wants or needs or cares about, it’s instead going to try to be a little bit of what everyone who comes there cares about. All the starfuckers just there to see someone who was on TV one time, all of the PR flacks looking for the next big thing or trying to sell us the next big thing, the toy makers, the funny t-shirt hawkers, the deep discounters, the booth-babes, and even the comics folks–this is the year we all just sucked it up and realized that we were all gonna be in this together, and it’s gonna be in the same old San Diego convention centre in the same old gaslamp, and we’re all just gonna get used to it. So we did. We’re all playing the game now.
Note: Placement of all pictures unrelated.
My SDCC in a nutshell:
Lots of good friends
13 energy drinks
10 different kinds of cheese
3 different hotels
I headed to San Diego a day early to decompress from what has been the busiest spring of my entire life. From 2 months before TCAF until the day I left, I was on a rollercoaster of obligations, assignments, and my many day jobs. I thought to myself when booking the flights—I’ll go in a day early, help set up the UDON booth, and just chill. Maybe go for a swim.
What happened was I desperately needed that extra day in Toronto to get shit ready, and I didn’t have it, and so I was a total wreck by the time I got on the plane Tuesday morning. I rolled into San Diego, checked in with Erik Ko of UDON, went back to my hotel room for a nap, and woke up the next morning at 11am. This was followed by a week of hard work, and coming back to another convention I forgot I’d committed to, followed immediately by a vacation to New York, and 2 dozen things due on the same day.
That’s why this con report is 3 weeks late.
We confirmed a TCAF Guest on honour at the show. Announcement in early September.
So I wear a lot of hats, metaphorically, at a show like San Diego. I am there representing myself as a journalist/reporter/blogger with Comics212.net, I also represent The Beguiling and our original art sales (run out of a corner of Drawn & Quarterly’s booth on the con floor). I’m also the dude in charge of TCAF, and so I end up taking a few meetings, following up with cartoonists, and planning out the next year’s show while working at this year’s San Diego. This year I added another hat, in that I booth-managed the UDON Entertainment Booth. UDON is a Toronto-area publisher entering their 11th year, best known for their various STREET FIGHTER comics but also translating a wide range of manga and Japanese art books, and publishing original comics and art collections. They’ve been very good friends of mine for years, and I was happy to be able to help them out. They also have almost nothing to do with any of the other tasks I set myself, so hey, no conflict of interest!
Booth managing UDON meant that, out of 5 days of exhibition, I was at their booth working with artists and selling books to fans 4 of those days, meaning I spent 4 days less on the con floor doing my own thing than I have for the past few years. I love having the ability to duck behind a booth and work for a while; just getting out of the aisles and the convention centre crowds is absolutely amazing. But it’s also, heh, it’s also like working a con. I know, that seems obvious, but San Diego (and NYCC) had become a sort of a ‘macro’ working show, where I’d get things going for the year to come. The micro level, actually selling, while I do that a few times a year (most notably Anime North for The Beguiling, and Penny Arcade Expo for UDON), I hadn’t really psyched myself up for that.
It’s hard work to be on your feet hustling all day. Just a reminder.
It was a good show in that respect, I am reminded that I am good at selling things to people, but it was a little tougher than Anime North or PAX because of the sheer number of people that:
a) Do not come to the show with any money in their pockets, they just come for the “experience”, and
b) Are aggressively not interested in what we have to offer.
UDON produce beautiful, exceptionally high-quality books. Meticulously translated, often printed from the same files and at the same printers as the Japanese editions of their work, and with an equal amount of care and attention paid to their original creations. We were debuting 3 new works at the show; an original graphic novel, a limited-edition collection of comics material, and a fan-sourced art collection for a major international IP. I would say that for roughly ¾ of the folks coming by the booth, getting them to even look at the work we were selling was like pulling teeth.
Comic Con is a collection of niche fandoms united by a common spectacle, and particularly where we were situated amongst the video game demo booths (every one of which giving away some tchochke or another), selling a comic or an art book was a foreign—near alien—concept. Some people don’t want art books, some people don’t even want books. Some people were perfectly content to purchase a $25 art print but turned their noses up at paying $10 for a book that had that piece of art in it alongside 200 more pages of art and story.
It’s been said for years that the insane hoops that the public has to jump through for tickets, and the mega-stars that attract folks to Comic Con that have nothing to do with comics or sales or whatever, that hurts the bottom line for book sales at all pubs, and its only the sheer volume of attendees that keep the show profitable or break-even for pubs. Hearing that, and experiencing that, are two very different things.
I would say that I experienced that this year, and the vast majority of publishers I talked to were in the same boat.
In the end, I want to say that the sales were solid and UDON feels like it was a good show. But coming out of doing shows where 100% of the audience was potentially interested in 100% of what I was selling, it was a hell of a different experience.
I flew to Japan last year, twice. I flew to Seattle, and to New York, and to San Diego. And if you can manage all of that on the same airline, they bump you up to “Elite Status”. You can go into the short line at the airport when you’re checking in, and you don’t pay for checked bags. You’re eligible for free upgrades to business class where there is free-flowing booze, metal utensils, and a choice of braised sirloin or pan-seared mahi mahi. For breakfast.
I’m writing this on the plane on my way back from San Diego, where I ended up business class both ways, and check-in took a grand total of 7 minutes, combined.
After this spectacular bit of hubris, I spilled a gin and tonic narrowly missing my computer, then I ended up in coach on my connecting flight, sat on the tarmac for a little over 2 hours, and ended up landing in Toronto in a lightning storm. Today’s lesson: Never Enjoy Anything.
Let’s talk about the phrase “…of the show.” When I started going to SDCC, there was a “Book of the show!” every year. One year it was Kramers Ergot, one year it was Blankets. One particularly memorable year it was Bone One Volume Edition. Books of the show, the buzz book, the the comic that everyone was talking about, that people had to get. There hasn’t been a book of the show for a few years now. There have been some great books, for sure, but nothing that has captured the buzz or imagination or… anything… like when I was first going to San Diego.
One of the pieces of press I got Monday morning after San Diego was from a publisher who started off, informally before their PR, with “I’m not sure if you heard, but we won Comic-Con.” In general, I find it hard to disagree with the sentiment of that statement–that publisher had an amazing year. They had good books debuting, they had tons of announcements, they had media buzz (both imminent and future), they had at least one contender for “Book of the show…” They had an awesome year. And yet (and yet) at ICv2 on Monday, all of the news was pretty predictably about Marvel or DC’s show offerings (mostly encapsulating things everyone knew before going into the show), or media, or whatever. That pub did get some coverage, for sure, but from their point of view they kicked ass–from the general media perspective, they contributed to an exceptionally busy show.
Now obviously I’m aware that it is the PR person for a company’s job to talk up the accomplishments of that company, but realistically, I have a pretty good bullshit detector and even 5 years ago with all they’d accomplished they would have been the talk of the internets for weeks afterwards. It didn’t happen, which is too bad. Maybe there are other PR problems there, maybe their announcements weren’t touted loudly enough, or to the right people, or who knows? But if a publisher can have a massive, 100% successful show on every front and still just be a footnote, that speaks volumes about the sort of show that San Diego Comic Con has become.
That they can still be happy with that on a Monday morning following the big event shows that they know what the game we’re all playing is.
I sat on the con bus headed back to my hotel. It is amazing that the con runs shuttle buses all weekend–super classy of them. I got on, and the seats were largely full, except for a family of 4 who had spread out into 4 rows of seats so that all of them could get a window seat. I sat amongst them, and over the course of the trip to the hotel watched with fascination and horror as they scanned faces in the crowd, desperate to see a famous person.
“Over there!” one shouted (shouted). “It’s Amy*! Amy from season 2!” and they all stood up and peered into the crowd of hundreds to see if they could see someone who was on season 2. Of what program, I have no idea. They leaned and stretched to watch, right over me in fact.
“Man, that was awesome! I can’t believe we saw her!”
I have never felt less like I belonged at Comic Con in my entire life.
*I cannot remember which name she said. It was a woman’s name that started with ‘A’.
The following folks and friends contributed enormously to my having a lovely time at San Diego this year, and I would like to thank them.
Peter & Krystle. Erik, Stacy, Matt, Ash, Koi, and the whole UDON crew. Deb, Eva, David, and Carlos. Alvin and Leyla and Gina. Jeff, Terry, Lillian, Jeff & Holly, and everyone I am forgetting.
Comic Con International: San Diego 2011 was the smoothest-run, easiest-to exhibit at and traverse, and busiest year of the show in 4 or 5 years. I feel like all involved truly figured out the show this year. My sincere thanks to all of the staff that made it happen, and I am looking forward to 2012.
“Again, it makes me think of TCAF and the effect that the show actually has on the community of Toronto. It’s educational, it promotes literacy and it’s free! It’s not about the money. It’s about creating a new audience and laying a foundation for the future.”
– Frank Santoro, The Comics Journal
Go read, it’s an interesting think-piece about where all of this comic-conning is actually taking the industry, and I’d think so even if it wasn’t incredibly complimentary of what we do at TCAF.
“Probably the single issue I’ve most enjoyed in the last little while though? I was fortunate enough to get an advance look at Casanova: Avarita #1 debuting this September from ICON. I’m a dyed-in-the-wool Cass fan from before the first issue came out, so it won’t be any surprise to hear that I liked the new issue… but man, it’s great. ”
– Me, at Robot 6 / Comic Book Resources
I was the guest on this week’s “What Are You Reading” Column at Robot 6, and in addition to some much deserved love for Adachi’s CROSS GAME I talk about some recent floppies I read and enjoyed.