The throng of people pulsating along the convention floor Saturday showed signs of equalling if not surpassing last year’s three-day attendance of 10,000.
Friday’s attendance “was up 25 percent,” comicon organizer Renee George said.
The guys at Assassin Comics are offering to eliminate some of that overcrowding. Debuting Kid Ego at the show, writer/editor Ken Heidrich and artist Chris Rogue promoted the opportunity for fans to kill themselves off in their storyline. A letter and a photo will not only get fans into the book, but also written up in the obit column at the end of the book and on their web site.
Mixing music and sci fi, Kid Ego is a “cyber punk, gritty urban type book about bar bands in the near future,” Heidrich explained.
While Kid Ego was offering fighting of the physical sort, another small press publisher was offering combat involving ideas.
“Our comics fight Communism!” the dialogue bubble of the larger-than-life figure of Captain Whamo shouted from the Luchador Enterprises booth.
Al Dorantes, the writer and publisher for all of the Luchador line of comics, unveiled the last issue of his most recent Captain Whamo story arc. This is the story of a “mythical hero that fought in the Golden Age of comics, but then disappeared.” Young Billy was able to wish him back.
Dorantes explains that he often tries to bring a lesson into his work. In this one, little Billy is the one the kids often pick on, so he daydreams. Thanks to an old man who encourages Billy to use his imagination and his ability to daydream, the hero returns. While Billy suffers much pain, the old man reminds him of the golden rule: “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.”
The ash-can comic costs 78 cents. Why 78? That’s his old football number, says the 6-foot-plus creator.
Dorantes was also displaying his most recent issue of Pulp Stories Quarterly. This retro book is patterned after the pulp stories of the 30s, said Dorantes. “Pulp stories begot comics where a page of text is followed by a page of illustration, and they were produced on cheap paper,” he explained. Among some famous pulp work are: Doc Savage, Shadow, Tarzan.
“We decided we could put out a quality title,” said Dorantes. This issue offers three short stories.
Here’s a quick look at a few of the many creators at the comicon.
Spoofing Is Fun
Dave the Potatoe had its debut at Pittsburgh. Writer Chris Lundy described it as a spoof, and then leaped on a chair and up onto the shoulders of artist Greg Gale.
“Anything I can think of that can be spoofed in comic books, I put in Dave the Potatoe,” Lundy said. “And there’s a lot to be spoofed in comics.” Such as writers being on top of artists?
He gave an example: his introductory narrative spoofs James Joyce’s Finegan’s Wake.
Lundy got interested in comics through Gale, who always had a supply ready for him to read.
How long has he been interested in writing?
Quipped Gale: “Ever since he was old enough to stick a pencil in his brother’s eye.”
History the Comic Way
Comic books based on an historical event or time period have attracted readers since practically their beginnings. And today’s market offers some engaging pieces which take us to another time — another way of life.
Richard Brindisi’s Vandale is a three issue mini-series, using Nazi Germany as a backdrop. Brindisi, the creator and writer, describes his character as “a German officer in 1938 who witnesses what the Nazis are doing and decides to fight the Nazis from the inside. It is a story of a human being that basically wants to do what a man of conscience should do.”
Asked why he chose this theme, Brindisi explained that he, like many comic book lovers, hate injustice. It’s part of the tradition of superheroes. Isn’t that what comic books are all about?
The series is also available in color on CD. His web site is at www.innervisioncomics.com.
Brindisi is a busy man. He owns a comic book store, oversees a summer comicon at New York City’s Madison Square Garden, and publishes other comics.
Among them is Dark Echoes whose creator and writer is Damon Hurd. This adult comic centers around writer Douglas Duke, “the fiction equivalent of Stephen King,” said Hurd. The comics are an anthology series which cross genres — from science fiction to horror, fantasy and adventure. Each comic, said Hurd, has Duke working on another mystery, adventure, or horror. Duke provides the background for the story; he is not the driving force, said Hurd.
The first issue is about a Fallen Angel. It will be followed by vampire-horror, Bound.
True Stories of High Finance
Some comic book creators have decided that their comics should be based on true stories. One in particular has taken the financial world executive and provided an inside look at today’s wheelers and dealers.
Josh Neufeld, the artist for Titans of Finance, provides comic book caricatures of some of these powerful executives. “These are true tales of money and business,” explains Neufeld.
He partnered with writer, R. Walker, a journalist who worked for the New York Times magazine, Fortune and Money. He covered the financial press and was struck by the eccentric characters one hears about in the world of finance, said Neufeld.
Walker collected eight executive stories and documented their rise and fall in Titans of Finance. All stories use real names and are based on press accounts.
Among the executives is a now famous CEO of Marvel who took the comic giant to the road of almost bankrupcy.
Neufeld emphasized that financial powerbrokers “should not be admired just because they are successful. This is a way to show their human foibles and weaknesses.”
Published by Alternative Comics, it will be available next month through Diamond Catalogs.
The autobiographical genre is also one which has intrigued and challenged creators. Dean Haspiel, writer and artist of Opposable Thumbs, offers a semi-autobiographical story of life in New York City — “a hazardous life as verbatim as can be.”
His stories tell of apartment hunting, roommate situations, sharing walls in a big city and drug experimentation. They take the reader from childhood to the age of 30.
This “intensely personal” piece offers “macabre humor and heartfelt introspection,” said Haspiel, who readily admits that his journalistic approach was one in which he “totally took a risk.”
Friend and partner in several projects, Josh Neufeld, added that the book was psychologically captivating, keeping events as charged as they were when they happened. Dean tries to bring the reader into the moment.
Opposing Thumbs is available now in the Diamond Catalog.
Another author who has brought in autobiographical experiences is Rich Watson. His most recent work, Elbow Room, is an anthology of three stories, one superhero, one science fiction and one autobiographical. “I like working in different genres,” said Watson whose past works have included Rat, a powerful story of young love.
His autobiographical effort in Elbow Room “was a big risk, but it was something I really wanted to do,” he said.
His works often place characters in tough decision-making moments. “I try to focus on what makes the character unique and distinctive, and I try to place them at some sort of crossroads. I’m concerned with the consequences of people’s actions.”
Manga and More
Manga lovers also found creators who satiated their hunger for the Japanese-style tales. Among them was Ironhorse Comics which is publishing a manga-style title, Didymous: The Night and Day World.
“Issue #3 came out today,” said artist Ariel Leyva.
“It’ll be a 12-issue maxi-fantasy series,” added Ironhorse President Dave Belmore.
The 3-year-old Ironhorse spent the first year in the development phase, with Didymous making its debut last year.
Ironhorse is looking for contributions of any form of writing or art for a new venture, D.I.Y. (Do it Yourself), which will be published quarterly in the form of a comic book.
“The intention is to showcase the freshest talent in a series of vignettes and to accompany that with news, columns, editorials and critiques of how to get into or self publish in the comic book industry,” Belmore said.
Topics for the first issue cover the mechanics of self publishing including areas of digital pre-press, and an interview with a well known comic book professional who has self-published successfully, Belmore said.
Submissions are open to anyone. Deadline is June 15 with a September premier. Belmore hopes to sell the quarterly through Diamond. He will also make it available on the website, www.ironhorsecomics.com, and through his own network of comic book outlets.
Focusing on the Environment
Students from Bucknell University in Lewisburg, Pa., were charmingly peddling their latest, double-size issue of Fire and Ice, devoted to environmental issues. Proceeds from the publication, which costs $7, go to charity, noted layout artist Julie Luu, who was there with writer/layout artist Becky Champagne and artist Rachel Zieger.
Writer and Nightwolf Graphics publisher Richard White plans to rework his first series, Troubleshooters Incorporated, to make it less “a combination of superheroes and the supernatural” and more a story of paranormal investigators. But his current project is Chronicles of the Sea Dragon, a “swash buckling tale.”
“We’re having a great deal of fun with it,” he said. “We’re planning a 48-page one-shot for January,” and “hopefully release the main series after that.”
Whistle Blowing and More
Russ McIntosh of Labyrinth Entertainment and Steve Noppenberger of Angry Dog Press will be collaborating on Nappenberger’s Whistle Blower, which has two issues out. McIntosh will help with the editing chores starting with issue # 3. Even though the name and details are changed, the story is based on a real whistler blower who wanted to expose and correct fraud and corruption. It will be a six-part story arc.
McIntosh loves to write stories, but can’t draw, so he linked with artist Dave Bovey to self-publish Icaria Dreams (“a compilation of some of my work”) and Ruins (a 5-page preview of what he hopes will become the flagship in a fleet of 11 titles he is planning).
Research Key to Believable Settings
Jamal Ingle, penciler for Marvel, researches his backdrop locations for his comic book projects very thoroughly. “I believe everything in comics comes from a base in reality,” said the prolific young penciller who has worked on such Marvel projects as Avengers Universe, Iron Fist and Wolverine, The New Warriors.
Based on the writers’ setting for their story, Ingle said, he researches an area thoroughly, finding photos from as many angles as possible and researching locations in the library. He says he spends hours on research alone in order to insure authenticity.
In Iron Fist and Wolverine, he reviewed aereal photos of a section of Tokyo taken from eight different angles. The result is a graphic which pinpoints several landmarks at their exact location in Tokyo.
In Race Against Time, a Dark Horse production, Ingle reviewed numerous structural photos of the Eiffel Tower before drawing his characters entangled in that landmark.
Ingle has been invited to speak at Long Island University’s creative writing and art classes and at a number of public schools. “I had teachers who encouraged me, so I want to give a little back,” said Ingle, adding, “I believe in comics as literature and expanding the media.”