East Coast Comicon 2015

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It’s been a month, but I am finally getting around to chronicling my day at East Coast Comicon. In my defense, I’ve had a lot going on behind the scenes with getting my own comic ready for release on June 2nd. The first five pages are up now on Circus Book. Regardless of good excuses, I will be posting here more frequently in the next couple of months.

April 11, 2015

I ended up getting to the convention center a bit later than anticipated, but all in all it turned out to be a great day. I met up my friend Mel at the door – his father Rudy Nebres was a featured guest at the convention. He showed me around and introduced me to several people. The convention floor was much bigger than I was expecting.

I had a great conversation with David Gallagher, writer of The Only Living Boy along with Artist Steve Ellis. He recommended I check out Tapastic and NoiseTrade Books when I release Dream Crasher. I picked up Issues 2 and 3 of Only Living Boy – I had actually had Issue 1 from NYCC a few years back. It’s a really well-written series with some excellent artwork and a fully realized world. I highly recommend it, and look forward to the release of Issue 4.

I also stopped by the Wayward Raven booth, where I met Writers Mark Frankel and Alexander Sapountzis. Really nice guys with quite an impressive enterprise going. I picked up the first two Issues of their ongoing series, Horsemen. I also met Ramon Gil and picked up the first issue of his Scifies series, for which Rudy Nebres did the cover. Haven’t had a chance to read it yet, but like his concept for doing multiple serial shorts.

Finally, after backing Papa and Neneti of the Forgotten Spirits on Kickstarter over the years, I finally met Vera Greentea. She has been one of the most responsive and well-organized crowdfunding campaigners I have had the privilege of backing. I picked up the first issue of Recipes for the Dead. She’s worked with a variety of artists across these different projects, and has brought some beautiful dark fantasy to life.

I also picked up Iron Horse, and had a nice conversation with writer Gavin Spector of Soldier of Fortune Comics. I got some great insights into comiXology Submit from writer Eric Grissom. I bought the first two issues of his series, DeadHorse. I met a fellow Commander Keen fan at the Rare Earth Comics table, and picked up the first two issues of Shadow Tracers.

Toward the very end of my day, I discovered an isle I had somehow missed before. Spent my last few dollars grabbing The Magnificent Mariposa created by Alex Lowe as well as America’s Kingdom from Gnosis Comics.

It was a great day overall. Mel’s parents were really wonderful and let me keep my backpack at their table for the duration of the day. I left with it filled to the brink, with more comics than I have had time to read in the last month. I somehow managed to stay under budget. My hope is to return next year as a vendor, with printed copies of Dream Crasher in tow.

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Fanboy Nerd Rage and the Star Wars Expanded Universe

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Two months ago, we saw the release of the first Episode VII trailer. Two weeks ago we saw the launch of Marvel’s Star Wars #1. Before Disney bought Lucasfilm, I don’t think I was alone in my belief that the fabled VII, VIII, and IX trilogy would never be made. Given how disappointing the prequel trilogy ended up being, I was OK with the final trilogy never happening. But now the Star Wars franchise has been given new life. The anticipation for Episode VII is already breaking all sorts of records.  I’m beginning to get on-board with the hype.

I have been reading Star Wars books since middle school. Back when I wore mom jeans and listened to the Spice Girls, I was also steadily making my way through the Star Wars Expanded Universe. For me, the movies were only the beginning. In the books, the characters were much better realized and stakes were always higher. They will never be hailed as high literary classics, but they were special to me. I was especially a fan of the New Jedi Order and Legacy of the Force books.

I am writing about all of this because the Expanded Universe has just experienced it’s first ever reboot. Reboots are nothing new in the Entertainment Industry. Both DC and Marvel have done more times than I could count, but it has never truly been done with Star Wars. I recently read an article about DC’s upcoming Convergence event. It’s an incredibly ambitious idea that I find a bit difficult to wrap my head around. Marvel is also doing a new reboot of sorts with their Secret Wars event. I get it – reboots are necessary. It rids the canon of clutter and redundancies. It gives new writers a chance to write something new without being bogged down by what came before them. It gives new readers an entrance point.

As soon as Episode VII was announced, I knew a reboot was inevitable. What remained to be seen was how extensive it would be. As it turns out, the reboot is to be all encompassing. All existing Star Wars books will now be published under the Star Wars Legends banner. I went to the New Dawn panel at New York Comic Con back in October, where they talked about the future of Star Wars publishing. It was informative, and it actually reinvigorated my own fandom. I actually think that they are going about it in the best way possible. My Fanboy Nerd Rage only kicks in when I consider the following: Jar Jar Binks is still an official part of the Star Wars canon, but Mara Jade and the Solo twins no longer are.

There are some who are still holding out hope that these (and a few of the other Post-RotJ EU characters) might make their way into the next trilogy, but I’m not holding my breath. The rumors of a Kira Solo character have been making the rounds, presumably Han and Leia’s daughter. The fact that they’d change the names of Han and Leia’s kids feels a little bit like salt in the wound. Here’s what I wish would have happened: The reboot would wipe the slate clean of everything but the movies and a few select works. Timothy Zahn’s Thawn Trilogy, for instance. Would that one trilogy of books, set 25 years before Episode VII, truly be a hindrance on the creativity of  new Star Wars writers? Why not keep Drew Karpyshyn’s well-reviewed Darth Bane Trilogy? I can’t see how a single well-regarded work set one thousand years before Episode I would be a drag on the canon.  </end rant>

One of my favorite things about the Star Wars books and comics is that they all fit into the same shared universe. Where characters like Batman have been revamped and reintroduced so many times that it borders on ridiculous, Star Wars kept a single timeline throughout it’s mediums. Don’t get me wrong, there are plenty of inconsistencies within it, but there is nothing on the scale of a multiverse. I realize that Expanded Universe readers are not the target demographic of the new movies, or even the new Expanded Universe. I also know that pleasing the hardcore fans, with purist diatribes, is near impossible. The look of Episode VII seems promising. I will continue reading the entire new Marvel Star Wars line. I just wish the old slate hadn’t been wiped in it’s entirety.

I have met many aspiring comic creators in the last few years that grew up reading the superhero comics, with goals of writing for the DC and Marvel universes. One of my goals as a writer is to one day publish something under the Star Wars banner. I have gone so far as to hold off on getting the Madalorian Crest tattoo that I want until that happens.  My hopes of one day adapting the New Jedi Order into an animated series maybe crushed, but my resolve to contribute to the story of a galaxy far, far away have not abated.

Dream Crasher: A Five Year Journey

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The roots of Dream Crasher can be traced all the way back to my sophomore year of college, when I first drafted an idea for a short film. It’s first working title was Post Human. It never made it beyond pre-production. I picked it up again in my senior year, when I wrote up a prose treatment for a Creative Writing class. I liked how it came out, but I was too distracted by my involvement with slam poetry at the time, and it slipped to the back burner.

The project wouldn’t truly come to life until Sean Gallagher convinced me to join him for NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) in 2009. Under the cringe-worthy but thankfully short-lived working title of Anno Diablo, I began the first draft of what is now Dream Crasher. I merged my original short story with a broader concept I had been kicking around, and dove in with no idea where I was really going. I made it to 14,542 words – well short of the 50,000 word goal. Yet for the first time in years I was excited about a creative undertaking. Over the next few months I began to flesh out the world and it’s characters. Through this process, I realized that my story needed to be expressed visually.

A few months later, I was hanging out and catching up with my friend Reed Olsen. Over the course of our conversation Reed mentioned that he had been wanting to make a comic book. It just so happened that I did, too. I pitched the story to Reed, and he came back with a few character sketches. Before long I was writing scripts, and Reed was experimenting with styles. I completed the first chapter. Reed settled on black and white water color.

Thanks to tagging on Tumblr, we can view some of the progress of Dream Crasher as it evolved over the last five years from NaNoWriMo to it’s current form. It has lived under many names. I was calling it Vanishing Point when Reed and I started working on it. It changed to Year Zero and then Stealing Fire before we eventually landed on Dream Crasher just one month ago.

We had our share of setbacks along the way. I stopped writing for almost a year after Blair died. When I started back up, my original plans for the third chapter had tripled in length and needed to be split in two. Reed also made the difficult decision to redo the first chapter – as it paled when compared to the completed second and third. Even though it slowed our progress down, Dream Crasher is ultimately going to be better because of it.

This month marks five years since I took the first real steps towards getting this story out of my head and onto the page. Today we have 130 pages fully painted and ready to be scanned, enhanced, and lettered. Within the next few months, the first chapter will see it’s Internet debut. “The Creature’s Keeper” still shares many similarities to that plot I dreamed up for my doomed short film, but the world and it’s characters have grown far beyond anything I was capable of at that time.

While I won’t be partaking in NaNoWriMo this year, I have it to thank for kickstarting the process and allowing me to take the first deep dive into this world I had created. It has grown and changed shape along with me these last five years. Reed and I have a long ways yet to go, but today I’m more excited than intimidated by what lies ahead.

New York Comic Con 2014 – Saturday

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Saturday – October 11

After a solid night’s sleep, Jaime and I started our day in Artist Ally. I picked up volume one of Runners by Sean Wang. I’m in the middle of reading it now, and it’s really quite good.  I also stopped by Dirk Manning’s booth in isle H8 (easy to remember from Friday’s presentation). Had a really nice little conversation about the creator community and the industry. Picked up Write or Wrong and the first volume of Tales of Mr. Rhee, the latter of which I just finished and thoroughly enjoyed. Manning has a great talent for building worlds through small moments, one short story at a time.

I had a nice conversation about Bushwick with another Brooklyn-based writer, David Parkin. Picked up the first issue of The Devil is Due in Dreary, which they are hoping to adapt into a feature length film. Jaime grabbed my attention and introduced me to Kristen Gudsnuk, an NYC-based creator of Hench Girl. Picked up the first issue and had a great conversation about fonts. I didn’t realize how easy it was to create one based on your own handwriting. On a side note, Hench Girl was very enjoyable and I will be getting the rest of the issues the next time I get a chance to.

The geekiest panel  I went to this year was one close to my heart: A New Dawn – The Future of Star Wars publishing. There’s a part of me that’s prone to nerd rage in regards to Episode VII eradicating the Expanded Universe. This is what amounts to the first “reboot” of the Star Wars Universe, and the future is very much unknown. So far as I know, Jar Jar Binks and the painful dialogue of the prequel trilogy unfortunately survived this massive reboot effort. I’m actually very interested in checking out A New Dawn (when it comes out on paperback), and I like the measured approach that they are taking to building out this new Star Wars Universe beyond the beloved original trilogy. They are keeping very close to the Rebellion and not going too far out just yet. As it has been said – the Expanded Universe hasn’t gone away and will continue to be published under the Star Wars Legends banner. Maybe someday I will still yet see that animated adaptation of the New Jedi Order I’ve always dreamed about.

When I headed back to Artist Ally after the panel, I picked up the first issue of the new God Hates Astronauts by Ryan Brown. I also met up with Izzy Man (dressed at the Black Mask) and was introduced to Michael Sarrao and John Broglia, the writer and artist for Unmasked. Spent the last of my cash for the con picking up the first volume of that. From there, Jaime and I decided to call it a night and make our way back to Brooklyn. It had been a long three days. The introvert in me was ready to kick back, start reading from the pile of new comics I had picked up, and not talk to anyone for a few days.

New York Comic Con 2014 – Friday

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Friday – October 10

Jaime and I left bright and early on Friday so that I could get there in time for the panel Breaking Into Comics the Marvel Way. I wasn’t sure what to expect, but I was pleasantly surprised. From all of the stories and bits of advice I keep hearing, I think it mostly boils down to two things:

  1. Finish your work and put it where people can see it.
  2. Network effectively and and get to know your community.

Sam Humphries, who garnered attention for his self-published Our Love is Real, was the second panelist at NYCC this year that I heard say “I was in the audience for this panel two years ago.” Sam now writes The Legendary Starlord for Marvel. I also enjoyed the anecdotes and stories from Kelly Sue DeConnick, who presently writes Captain Marvel as well as Pretty Deadly for Image. Also on the panel was Jeanine Schaefer (Marvel Talent Scout), Russell Dauterman (Artist of Thor), Gerry Duggan (Writer of Nova), and Charles Soule (Writer of Death of Wolverine). There was one other artist I wanted to include here, but I didn’t write down her name and it’s not on the official Comic Con listing.

I met up with Jaime after the panel and we made our way to the showroom floor. He ended up buying a few pieces of artwork from the talented and super friendly Nigel Sade. If I were not on a tight budget, I would have picked up a piece from him as well. I also found this awesome Dr. McCoy T-shirt, but they only had smalls and XXLs. This just means I will probably buy it online eventually. Finally I made my way to the Indie Creator Section  (The one that’s not Artist Ally)

I met and spoke briefly with Adam Burn, who is the artist for Telikos Protocol with writer Peter Cooper. I picked up the first issue (which I highly recommend), which is one of 9 planned 50-page issues in the series. It’s a refreshing and original Science Fiction story that’s well-written and beautifully realized. Both Adam and Peter traveled from the UK in order to be at NYCC.

Next I spoke with Bethany and Ruben Romero, whom I had seen on the comiXology Submit Panel the night before. They, along with Roger Cabrera, write The Agency. They were incredibly genuine and friendly, and their comic book is one of the best indie works I’ve seen in a long time. I picked up print copies of Issues 1 & 2, and will be getting Issue #3 on comiXology as soon as my wallet recovers from Comic Con.

I also met some nice New York City area creators. Picked up the first volume of Argent Starr by Altemus and Lyn T. Byrd (which I will start reading as soon as I finish writing this post). Also met J. G. Ballard, the creator and writer of Venus Rises, which is a web series turned comic book. I will be reading the first two issues of that over the weekend. Lastly I met Zachary Mortensen, who wrote The Gatecrashers with artist SUTU. I’ll be posting about all of these as I read them on Tumblr and Goodreads.

Next I made my way to the Creator Connection. The main presentation given at the beginning by Dirk Manning (writer or Nightmare World and Mr. Rhee) was one of the highlights of this year’s NYCC for me. It was very entertaining and insightful. I will be diving into his book Write or Wrong as soon as I’m done with all of the other comics I picked up. The main purpose of this panel was to network with artists and writers, so the second half consisted of some chaotic match making in way too small of a room. I was able to meet handful of other up and coming creators who are also just getting their feet wet in the world of comics. Among them were Lawrence ShungLuke D. BlackwoodRik Sansone, Efrain Arana III, David Baker, and Amy Lyn Jackson. I put all those names in here hoping most – if not all – might be household names in the near future. Time and hard work will tell.

Following that I met back up with Jaime, and we did a little bit more wandering the floor before deciding to head back to Brooklyn. We basically dropped off our things, played a quick game of fetch with Coeus, then trekked out to Jersey City for a wonderful dinner with friends. By the time we got back to Brooklyn for the second time, we were both pretty beat. Thankfully there were no early panels I wanted to try and make for Saturday.

New York Comic Con 2014 – Thursday

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Back in June, Jaime and I both sat in the NYCC ticket queue for a good hour before he finally got in and grabbed us both passes for Friday and Saturday. When my spot in the queue finally broke I snagged one for myself for Thursday. This would be my first year going to Comic Con with a known title (Dream Crasher) for the comic series Reed Olsen and I have been working on for the last four years. I had some last minute post cards printed up just a week before, and they arrived right on time.

I’m going to use my first post on this new blog to write a detailed account of my weekend. For the sake of not having one gigantic post I will do a separate one for each of the three days I went. I met and spoke with a lot of talented creators about their comic book lines, and how they went about self-publishing. I also attended a number of great panels, and walked away with some good pro tips on getting my work out there. So without further adieu, here it is.

Thursday – October 9

I didn’t do a whole lot of walking the floor on Thursday, though I did stop by the Image Comics booth to pick up a copy of Undertow and get it signed by Steve Orlando. I’ve been following his work since I read up Nobodies Volume 2, and backed his Kick Starter for Virgil earlier this year. It was nice to meet him, talk comics, and finally get a copy of Undertow. I took the rest of my afternoon to pick up a few gifts for some friends, and resisted buying this beautifully tacky Star Trek glass set.

My first panel was for the #WeNeedDiverseBooks Campaign. There were several complaints about the diversity panel being placed in the smallest room. I am not sure if anyone ended up being turned away, but every single seat was filled. We got a nice history of diversity in comic books, as well as the history of flat-out racist stereotypes that early comics perpetrated. I was hoping to hear a bit more on efforts being made to expand the campaign, but time ended up being cut short. As a white man I know that I am exceptionally well represented in comic books, but as a gay man I know what it’s like to be invisible or represented by offensive stereotypes. A lot of this stuff is changing, but it’s a painfully slow process. What I believe it largely boils down to is: if you want diverse representations in comics, you need more diverse writers and artists. If you want more diverse writers and artists, we need more diverse publishers, editors, and executives.

The second panel I went to was for comiXology Submit. I attended this one last year, and was happy to see this years panel include some first time creators as well as seasoned veterans of the industry. Ruben & Bethany Romero, co-creators of the new series The Agency, spoke about their experience of first working with a publisher before deciding to go out on their own. Joshua Hale Fialkov, writer of The Bunker, returned again from last years panel. He has repeated on both occasions that I have seen him that hiring a letterer is one of the best things new comic creators can do before submitting their finished product. I still need to talk it over with Reed, but it is something I am considering. Also there from comiXology was co-founder John D. Roberts and panel moderator Chip Mosher. I even worked up the nerve to ask one of the last questions before we were kicked out of the room, because I was curious to know of any details with webcomics and their relationship with the digital platform. It’s definitely something I plan on doing further research on, as I plan on releasing at least the first couple of chapters for Dream Crasher webcomic style. Overall though, comiXology Submit seems to be an excellent tool for indie creators to take advantage of.

The third and final panel I went to on Thursday was ‘How to Succeed in Self-Publishing.’ The first panelist to speak was Molly Ostertag, the artist for the webcomic series Strong Female Protagonist. Her success story was in the Kickstarter campaign recently completed to do a print edition of the webcomic, where they ended up raising over $60k when their initial goal was only $8k. She attributed their success to slowly building a fan base over many years before ever asking for money like that. They reached their initial goal within 24 hours. Following her with the exact opposite approach was Morgan Rosenblum, creator of Treadwater. He told his story of failing at his first Kickstarter and having to go back to the drawing board. He has since completed a successful one and Treadwater has now evolved from a comic book to RPG style video game. Morgan was also the first of few different panelists I saw over the weekend to say “two years ago, I was in the audience for this.” As someone who is aiming to make it as a writer of science fiction and comic books, these types of stories are encouraging. Also on the panel was Adam McGovern of Dr. Id and Nightworld fame, and Anthony Del Col of Kill Shakespeare fame talked about how their direct targeting of retailers helped them tremendously. The panel was rounded out with Earthman Jack writer Matthew Kaddish, who talked a lot about Amazon search optimization for eBooks with keywords and some of the new book creation tools that Amazon is rolling out.

After rounding out my evening with three back-to-back panels, I was pretty beat and went home to Brooklyn for a good nights sleep. I will will write all about Friday and Saturday in my next two posts.