Sunday, March 14, 2010

Thoughts from the 2010 Emerald City Comicon

Attended my first comics convention this weekend 3/13/10 - 3/14/10. I had a hunch Saturday would be an ordeal, but I was determined. First bad sign: I showed after 1 PM and the brochures and floor maps were all gone. I wandered into the exhibit hall on the 4th floor and was overwhelmed by the humanity, a good number in costume. No recession in this convention. Most of the afternoon involved standing in line for a chance to have my taken picture taken with the media guests. A chance for an autograph with Stan Lee went bust: I missed my window to have stood in line to get a pass to stand in the autograph line. I wandered around the booths, took a wrong turn and was in the gaming maze. I found my way out, wandered by the Star Wars photo booth, and booths and booths of comics. One booth was for sale for $100K. Later I milled around in a mob to pick up my pictures, but the printer had broken, so the best chance was for Sunday. By then the line for Nimoy had slowed to a bare trickle, and I simply walked up, shelled out the bucks, and had a picture signed.

Sunday was more interesting. I only went to pick up photos, but after looking at the schedule decided to check out two of the panel discussions. Here's what I learned: the comics industry is being buffeted by the same Internet storm shaking down the music and media business models. One of the panel members even admitted that he hadn't handled a DVD in his house for a long time and is satisfied with streaming his movies through a PS3. He posed the question that tactile media may be dead. The discussion that followed was on the topic of breaking into comics and featured Marvel editors, writers, and artist: Colleen Coover, Jeff Parker, and Christina Strain. Moderating was the Talent Scout CB Cebulski. It seems that breaking into comics was akin to breaking out of jail in so much as the path is closed up afterwards. The moderator was quick to point out that it has never been easier to break into comics: Marvel alone hires three writers a week. On the other hand it had never been harder to get paid. The Internet is the medium where the audience expects free as the normal price.

Best advice for writers was do not submit scripts, because nobody reads them. Instead find an artist, and hire (Jeff -or marry the artist) and produce a short 10 page story. Forget the spec! No one will read it. Yes, writers should expect to lay out cash: this is what entrepreneurs do. Web sites are good place for the aspiring comic writer or artist: cheap and provides visibility.

Common theme from the panelists on how they broke into the business: "I worked my ass off!" For nothing, at that. Day jobs: coffee shops can be hard on the hands, but no ice cream jobs. Networking is essential: this what the conventions are for and where publishers, artists and writers connect. What are the characteristics of the comics professional: likeable, talented, and fast - 2 out of 3 is enough. Being morose and negative is a sure bounce.

Blogs, Facebook, and Twitter ("I met my best friends on Twitter.") glue the comic community together. After talking with an editor at a convention send a short e-mail, with no attachments. Fine line between persistent and pestering. (By the way, pencilers are in the best position to get a job.)"Computers can help you draw."Writers shouldn't dictate to the artist.

Marvel and DC are not proving grounds and can be loathe to hire new talent. Can a new person make a deadline or even finish the story? Left unstated was that Marvel and DC are in the best position for a comics publisher to survive and prosper in the Internet era. Marvel is owned by Disney, and DC by Time Warner.

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