TCAF & DWA 2016

Steven Twigg at TCAF

Steven Twigg at TCAF

So I went to TCAF a week ago. I did my usual audio recording of panels and took some pictures of creators. Normally I try and get pics of all of the creators there, but I was unable to this time due to recovering from a cold and dealing with back pain.

This year’s TCAF was a little different in that the ground floor wasn’t so crammed with creators and publishers. One of the back rooms was being renovated so they weren’t able to use it. Other areas where they would normally have tables on both sides of the isle only had tables on the 1 side. This made walking around and browsing much more pleasurable. I also noticed a lot of new faces this year as well. I think having a bunch of different creators with new (thus more popular books) is good for the overall vibe of the convention. Seeing so many new/good things to buy I think gets people spending money and enjoying the event more. I imagine it leads a more positive conversations among creators after the event if they all sold a lot of books.

They were able to more effectively use the 2nd and 3rd floors in terms of putting creators up there. I doubt they got as much foot traffic as the usual places creators were but when I was there people were there browsing and shopping so I hope they did okay. They also put most of their big mainstream creators in a new spot (the Masonic Temple) which was about a block away from the Library. I never got to visit there but I’m told it was really nice. My understanding is the place was mainly used for signings and wasn’t a place where creators sat all day selling their stuff.

One panel I attended for myself was about dealing with back pain. It was aimed at creators who are at their drawing tables (or computers) all day. I did not record it because 1. I came in late after the panel started and 2. It was a very visual panel with lots of slides showing drawing of bodies and things you can do prevent and manage back pain. Personally it was a very useful panel and I’ll be seeking out Kriota Willberg for more information.

One of the oddest things I saw while in Toronto was a homeless person sitting on the sidewalk selling back issue sets of comics. I only got to do a bit of shopping myself and I did the majority of it in the last 10 minutes of the show. I bought Mary Wept at the Feet of Jesus by Chester Brown and Bernie by Ted Rall. I’m about half way through the Bernie book now and I’m enjoying it. The book is like comic version of a Bernie Sanders speech, but with historical and economic information to back up the points he makes. So far it’s covered income inequality and the move of the US Democratic Party to the Center/Right in the 1970s and how it doesn’t represent progressive Liberal voters.

I did something else I very rarely do at panels and that is ask questions. I did this at the Chester Brown panel that quickly went from being about the book to being about sex workers and how/why the Catholic church has worked to criminalize their profession. I don’t disagree with anything that was said but I think room started getting tense as not everybody was comfortable with the criticism of the Catholic church. I tried to steer the panel back to talking about the book. That said, Chester might want to consider making a book about the history of prostitution and how/why it’s illegal. I think much of what was said at the panel would make for some interesting reading.

The Doug Wright Awards were a bit different this year. For starters Brad Mackay wasn’t there due to a family emergency. Dustin Harbin stepped in to host the awards. Usually they get some celebrity involvement in the awards but there was none of that this year, which was fine as it wasn’t needed. The awards ran a bit quicker than usual which was good as they got off to a late start.

I feel I should note that I’m not that happy with my camera. Last year I bought a Panasonic Lumix DMC-ZS40 that had multiple review sites saying it was the best point and shoot camera out there. Those sites are wrong. The biggest problem with the camera is the Auto Intelligent Scene picker setting. The camera examines the shot you want to take and then picks the scene mode best for that shot. Sounds great doesn’t it? Problem is, nearly half of all the scene modes say it should be used with the camera on a tripod. So when you’re taking pictures by hand you get blurry or bad pictures and you normally have no way of knowing what you’re going to get.

I took the majority of the pictures at the show at either Portrait or “Food” setting, but still wasn’t happy with the results. Some of it is because the camera takes the shot right when the flash is shooting, which leads to wicked shadows behind the people and flash light washed out faces.  I plan on buying a new camera before San Diego Comic Con and I think I’m going to sell this one on Ebay. My previous camera took much better pictures but I stopped using it because of increasing delays between pressing the shutter button and getting the shot and also inconsistent flash settings. Also, it took 4 AA batteries, which increased the cameras weight and my backpack weight due to me having spares.

King Con 2016

KingCon2016

I went to King Con and a related event from March 11 to 13th. King Con is a local comic/gaming convention. Originally King Con was just a gaming convention, I never attended it but my understanding is it was on hiatus for a while before our local public library took it over last year. Now it’s half gaming convention and half TCAF like convention, but on a very small scale.

On the 11th, I went to the Screening Room (local mainly indy movie theatre) for a showing of Seth’s Dominion, which is a documentary about the cartoonist Seth. They gave out tickets for a door price of the latest Palookaville book. Seth gave a small introduction explaining that they were going to start with two short animated cartoons done using Seth’s work. One was called the Great Machine, the other Kao-Kuk. Seth wanted it known that these stories were not typical of his work.

The documentary was a mix of Seth talking about his life, his work – both personal and commercial, it showed a number of his friends talking about him, Seth’s parents were discussed too. I was surprised to learn about some of the things Seth does for himself, this includes developing puppets and doing a show with them and his building a large model city. In between all this are animated short Seth stories.

After the show there was a question and answer with Seth himself. I counted 35 people in the theatre. Among the things Seth revealed is his puppet work is going to become it’s own movie. Seth talked about his relationship with Joe Matt and Chester Brown and said they’ve grown apart because they don’t see each other very often. He said when they all lived in Toronto they were constantly talking comics and sharing their work with each other for feedback, but now that they’ve grown more experienced in their cartooning they don’t need that feedback anymore.

Seth talked about the importance of establishing rules in comics and working within them, then breaking those rules. Seth said he really liked the animation of his work in the documentary and he had nothing to do with it. Seth gave all the credit to the person behind the documentary director and animator Luc Chamberland. He liked it so much he’s now thinking about doing some work in Animation.

Seth revealed that the next Clyde Fans is almost done. He needs to revisit what he’s done and he believes he’ll be making some changes to it. Seth also talked about his relationship with computers. He said he went from hating them to tolerating and using them, but he still keeps his computer on the 3rd floor of his house while he works in the basement so it’s not a distraction.

Seth’s Dominion can be rented or purchased here at the National Film Board of Canada’s website. A DVD will be coming out soon is my understanding.

On Saturday and Sunday I went to the King Con convention itself. There were 2 panels featuring comic creators on Saturday and I’ve audio recorded them. One was on Dan Parent and the other on Seth. I also took some pictures, which are a mix of cosplayers and creators.

On Sunday I came back to chit chat with some of the creators, which was nice. I also came across a pirate musical group called Capt’n Tor & The Naer Do Well Cads. They were going around and singing songs, drawing people to tables that weren’t getting much traffic on the first floor. Here are 2 of their songs. Personally I like the 2nd one better, but both are fun to watch.

 

I only got a couple of books for myself at the convention, one was Lucifer’s Sword by Phil Cross and Ronn Sutton and Epochs #1 by Cody Yeo, Greg Moser and Christian Wolf.

 

R.I.P. Paul Ryan (1949 – 2016)

Paul Ryan, 2004 Paradise Comics Toronto Comic Con

Paul Ryan, 2004 Paradise Comics Toronto Comic Con

Artist Paul Ryan has passed away at the age of 66. You hear about comic creators dying and while they are all sad, this one hit me harder than most. I met Paul at least once or twice at conventions and was always happy to see and talk with him.

Paul drew the 2nd comic I ever bought, which was D.P. 7 #2. I would eventually go on to collect the entire series. It is one of my favourite comics of my youth. Paul drew all 32 issues of the comic but Lee Weeks drew the D.P. 7 Annual. The entire New Universe line of books were panned back in the day, but many noted that D.P. 7 was easily the best of the bunch and is fondly remembered by fans like myself.

Paul and D.P. 7 writer Mark Gruenwald worked together on the first 6 issues of Quasar. While I didn’t collect it I did buy the odd issue, particularly the issue that had Quasar go to the New Universe and visit the D.P. 7 cast of characters. I’ve never had any desire to buy original art but I had a serious look at Paul’s D.P. 7 pages. If I saw something I really liked for a decent price I likely would have bought it. Sadly most of the good pages I would have been interested in had been bought already.

Amazing Spider-Man Annual 21

Amazing Spider-Man Annual 21

Paul’s most famous 80’s comic was The Amazing Spider-Man Annual #21, which featured the marriage of Peter Parker and Mary Jane Watson. I also enjoyed Paul’s run on Fantastic Four with Tom DeFalco in the 90s. I know those comics get a bad rap but they were fun, fast paced, popcorn reading. At the time comic industry sales were crashing and if I remember Dan Ravi’s Comic Wars correctly the editors were put under immense pressure to increase sales every quarter in spite of this. DeFalco (who was then the Editor in Chief) and Ryan did their best to do entertaining stories while keeping the upstairs people happy. Their run was filled with with gimmick covers, shocking revelations (Alicia is really a Skrull named Lyja the Lazerfist!), costume changes and more. Paul would go on to draw many more comics for Marvel, DC and other publishers.

Paul had been drawing the Phantom newspaper strip since 2005 and I always happy that he found solid, steady work as he fell out of flavour in comic books. Sadly, many artists do not and are heavily reliant on the convention circuit and fan commissions to support themselves. Many more just don’t get any more work in comics and have to go into some other field. Paul’s consistency and clarity in telling a story were among the qualities that lead to him having a long and successful career in comics.

Comic History Secrets Revealed!

I’ve been going to comic book conventions since 2003 and have been audio recording panels and awards since 2005. Along the way creators have spoken about some behind the scenes happenings that don’t always become public knowledge.

DC Bloodlines Logo

Marvel Superstar!

 

On the Comics Can Be Good column at CBR, Brian Cronin writes about the 1993 DC Bloodlines Annuals. In these annuals a new superhero character was created, which was a selling point to get fans to buy these books. The vast majority of these characters were not very popular and went into comic book limbo almost immediately after their appearance. The same thing happened with the 1993 Marvel Annuals that had new characters in them too.

 

 

 

 

 

Creator Mike Grell wrote the Green Arrow Annual #6 and came up with a character called The Hook. Grell was at the 2008 Toronto Hobbystar ComiCON and was on a panel along with Bob Layton and David Michelinie. It was called The Men of Iron / Sketch Off Panel where Layton and Grell did sketches and all 3 talked about their careers, focusing mainly on their time on Iron Man. The panel was moderated by Blake Bell.

The conversation drifted towards working with editors and around the 37:30 mark, David Michelinie spoke about declining to work on the Marvel annual (he was writing Amazing Spider-Man at the time). Mike Grell spoke about working on the Green Arrow Annual #6.

Michelinie: I remember one year in the annuals. (…) One year they had everybody create a new character which Marvel would then own. So I declined to do the annual that year. You always have a choice. You can always say no.

 

Grell: DC had that policy. There was a line of books that they did. They mandated that everybody had to create a new character and by the way, it was work for hire and DC owned the character. Being a professional prostitute [laughter from the panel] I did, but I accidentally created a good one. I had already sent in the outline for the story as soon as it went in I went “OH CRAP! THAT’S A GOOD CHARACTER!” [Laughter] I got on the phone with the editor and I unsold it. [Lots of Laughter] The character that I created, I convinced them it wasn’t very good. The character I created, the one that showed up in print was this war veteran who had a prosthetic hand or a prosthesis and when he would active his power, his hook would become this giant hook/claw thing that could cut through anything. By the time I’m done the editor was going “Yeah that’s great! That’s great!” *Whew!* that was close.

GreenArrowAnn-06-47

The Hook from Green Arrow Annual #6 – created by Mike Grell and Mike Collins.  © DC Comics

 

Marvel and DC likely did this because of Image Comics. They began publishing in 1992 and very quickly became the #3 publisher in the industry. Image was creating lots of new characters that had fans excited. Marvel and DC likely wanted to counter with their own “exciting” new characters but didn’t want to pay creators for them. So they got what they got. I should say that not all characters to come from this were a bust. Garth Ennis and John McCrea created Hitman, who had a well loved solo series.

I can’t speak for all creators, but I think with a lot of creators would really hate to have created a character and have it earn all sorts of money and none (or very little) of it going to them. It bothers them a lot and it can bother them for the rest of their lives. Much like if somebody broke into your house and stole your prized possession and then flaunted it in front of you at every chance they got for the rest of your life and you can’t do anything about it. The pain is such they’d rather not have created the character at all.

Plus there is always the possibility that they might use the character in a situation where it’s much more agreeable to them. It could be with another publisher or even the same publisher with different editorial policy down the line. Some creators work in other mediums like prose books, cartoons, video games, etc.. and those other fields may provide better deals. There is simply no reason for creators to provide good characters to non paying publishers if they think they’re going to regret the decision.

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