A Tale of Two Cons, Part One: Comic-Con International, San Diego

Some of you may have realized that I haven’t written a new blog post in about two months. Believe me, it’s not that I’d forgotten or because I’ve given up the writer’s Way for the suit-and-tiestyle of startup life (there are no suits or ties where I work). I’ve become quite the jet-setter since joining the ranks of Indiegogo, so much of my time is spent at 30,000 feet or prepping for film festivals and other big events worldwide.

But enough excuses for not writing. This month, I’m giving  you “A Tale of Two Cons –– Comic-Con International and VidCon,” one out today, and its companion piece due out on August 21st. Two posts for the two months I missed about the two cons I’d attended. So let’s get on with it, shall we?

Last month, I attended the one and only San Diego Comic-Con for the first time ever, and what a marvelous experience it was. From DIY Iron Men meandering about the gray carpets to alien creatures stalking the children and posing for photo opps, Comic-Con is the premiere spot for all things comic book, movie, TV, and gaming, a veritable Geekopolis where it’s not only alright, but recommended that you unleash your innermost child and geek out. As a frequent attendee of New York’s Con, I have to say SDCC weighs in at a slightly higher class than NYCC ever could; while the latter fills up the Jacob Javitz Convention Center, the former spills out of the San Diego Convention Center and takes over the entire Gaslamp Quarter.

SDCC-2012-logo8 As an aspiring comic book/graphic novel author, the lessons I learned at SDCC about the comics industry, entertainment business, and beyond are also heavier. Last year, I had a hefty number of takeaways. [LINK to Broken Frontier article] This year, my conversations included S.M. Vidaurri (Archaia’s Iron, or The War After), Marcus To (Archaia’s upcoming Cyborg 009 –– apparently I’m a huge fan of Archaia Entertainment), J.T. Krull (Aspen Comics), and Jeff Smith (Bone and RASL) with brief eavesdroppings on conversations with legends like Len Wein and Jimmy Palmiotti, and some elbow rubs with Ed Catto, I was also representing Indiegogo at SDCC, so I got to speak with lots of folks who are interested in the “crowdspace,” like Jon Bogdanove, who had launched a Kickstarter campaign for his upcoming graphic novel Strongman. If only I’d gotten to him earlier! However, if this Strongman: Volume One campaign doesn’t reach its goal, I hope to help Jon craft a “Stronger-man” campaign for Indiegogo.

I also had a great conversation with Steve Stern and Dan Cote, co-creators of the Zen: Intergalactic Ninja franchise from the late 1980s, who also have a pretty sweet side business in which they turn movie scripts into comic books. I’m thinking of working with these guys on my vampire/sci-fi/dramic (yeah, I just made that last word up) screenplay A Beautiful Unlife.

I remembered this from the old Nintendo 8-bit video game. Had no idea it was a comic, too.
I remembered this from the old Nintendo 8-bit video game. Had no idea it was a comic, too.

And there was also a high-octane panel I co-moderated with The Crowdfund Mafia’s CEO Michael Fultz featuring the campaign owners of some of Indiegogo’s top funded campaigns like Toby Turner, Sean Keegan, and Corey Vidal. Add on top of that lots of time hanging out with Lloyd Kaufman and the crazy-cool folks at Troma Entertainment and meeting tons of animated film folks thanks to Facebook friend-turned-real-life-friend Alexia Anastasio, I couldn’t have asked for a better first experience at SDCC.

But what good is a blog post without lessons? In a nutshell, here’s what I brought back from San Diego Comic-Con aside from a ton of new reading material:

There’s lots of talent out there, from illustrators to filmmakers. And in a world where everyone judges everything, that talent can sometimes go unacknowledged. Don’t get me wrong, I also realized there’s lots of stuff out there that probably shouldn’t have left the imagination. But the fact is it did, and it has audience because we live in a niche-driven world. Look at steampunk, which is picking up steam (couldn’t help it, sorry) more and more every year. In fact, I picked up the first two issues of Steam Wars, a ‘punked out version of Star Wars from the Antarctic Press booth.

I got my copies of Steam Wars signed by creator Fred Perry.
I got my copies of Steam Wars signed by creator Fred Perry.

Almost everyone’s interested in crowdfunding, and although Kickstarter itself was not at SDCC, I did feel its tremors in the Force in the form of campaign cards and even a display of sculptures that’s currently raising funds for production. Even though the kompetition was MIA, the concept of crowdfunding was very much alive and athrive; everyone I spoke to wanted to know about Indiegogo. In fact, my friend Alexia, who’s a huge advocate of my work and my book Crowdfunding for Filmmakers, spent a good chunk of SDCC introducing me to all the talented animators she knew, like Bill Plympton, the subject of her very own documentary Adventures in Plmptoons!, which was partially crowdfunded on Indiegogo. And at a party she invited me to, those introductions lead to deeper discussions, and a consensus was met –– crowdfunding is the future, and it’s now.

Artist’s Alley’s a tough gig, and I don’t know how artists do it. Marcus To was telling me this was his first Comic-Con that he wasn’t chained to a table in the Alley, and because of it he was a lot less stressed; he didn’t have to worry about not being at the booth, since if you’re not at the booth, you’re not making money selling your art. One thing I did notice is that if you want to get noticed, you have to be proactive and engaging, and not expect your work or your names speak for themselves. Most of the artists in the alley were more like graffiti on the walls –– they didn’t assert themselves or try and bring people to their tables. Many of them even looked bored, like they didn’t want to be there. It’s a hard gig, sure, but as with anything, you’ve got to make an effort if you want to steal the show.

Taking over the digital comics space one publisher at a time.
Taking over the digital comics space one publisher at a time.

ComiXology paves the future of comics, and comic creators need to embrace it. I’m really writing this to convince myself of it. I’m not into digital comics; in fact, I bought at least five graphic novel trades that I have on my tablet as reviewer copies that I haven’t gotten to because, well, they’re not in physical form. But ever since reading –– no, experiencing –– Batman ’66 #1 and seeing the potential that digital comics can have, I’m a proponent of this for my own graphic work, though I’ll still remain a reader of hardcopy comics. One of the shoulders I brushed against, but exchanged no words with at Graphitti Designs’ Dead Dog Party, was that of one of ComiXology’s co-founders, who was standing across from Paul Guinan, no doubt deep in conversation about robots. I’ll remedy that this October at NYCC for sure.

There’s something about Troma that folks don’t understand, and it’s this: They do it right! Say what you will about the films themselves, but love ‘em or leave ‘em, Lloyd and the Troma Team get them made and distributed on much more than an indie scale, and they’ve been doing it for almost forty years. I was even fortunate enough to get Lloyd on the panel, and aside from a few “Llewd” comments about how folks tend to break into the industry (something about having strong lips and good knees, I believe), Lloyd brought up the most important thing about doing anything –– put your mind to it and do it.

That's the legendary Lloyd Kaufman, myself, and Megan Silver hanging out at the Troma booth.
That’s the legendary Lloyd Kaufman, myself, and Megan Silver hanging out at the Troma booth.

Every experience should enrich our lives, and all the time I spent at the 2013 San Diego Comic-Con have added more Ka-Blam! to my power-packed drive to move forward with my own Siren’s Calling in the smartest way possible to ensure I get my next story out to audiences. And the same way SDCC piqued further my interest in comics culture, VidCon –– the premiere YouTube festival –– gave me a deeper appreciation for the world of online video. But more on that next week!

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