New York Comic Con Report PART TWO (Of Two)

A column article by: Park Cooper

Anyway, I then went by Dark Horse and got permission for an interview with editor/Solomon Kane writer Scott Allie. Add that to the interview I have permission to do with a Dark Horse Manga editor, and I'm networking to beat th' band... now I just actually have to find time to start actually doing the interviews.

I was interested to note two other companies which are not collapsing in the economic meltdown (or whatever it was that killed Speakeasy and all those other companies that collapsed before the banks actually crashed): Penny Farthing and Cellar Door. They had booths at the con, too (Penny Farthing with its usual giant freakin’ square block worth of space). Everyone go look at what those guys are doing and figure out how they’re doing it, please, in case there is some sort of survival secret happening there.

I also gave my business cards to famous folks like James Sime (he was standing in front of the Vertigo table and I somehow recognized him from the back), Steve Niles (standing next to Scott Allie), and old pal David Bogart (standing next to where I kept hoping David Gabriel would start standing). David Bogart knew who I was, of course, but he’d lost touch with us in recent years so it was time to update his information.

I also set up an interview with Phil Foglio of Girl Genius. Oh, and he (and his wife) did some art for Magic: The Gathering, and he did work for Dragon Magazine back in the day, and he’s done oh so many things (Me: “Oh, Buck Godot, I have that at home.” Him: “Good.”), but I think the world pretty much now knows them from Girl Genius. Oh and XXXenophile. But that’s a print comic, and as we all know, it’s all about digital comics now.

Wait... are webcomics digital comics? Or do they have to be downloadable in some way other than a web browser? We’d better figure this out fast before someone in Accounting asks... wait, here comes Thompson from Marketing; look busy.

[Note: I just went and asked Dave Baxter. He said yes, all webcomics are now Digital Comics. So now it’s official.]

I also talked to some people at Tokyopop and we worked out that V.B.Rose is supposed to next come out in April, which, since volume 5 reportedly came out in January (I haven’t checked lately—Barb’s adaptation starts with volume 6), suggests that maybe the one after that might come out in July.

Next (well, Saturday—it all started becoming a blur), I talked to Ted McKeever, who did my beloved series Metropol, about how he was hired to start a comics version of John Carter of Mars, and then about the very bad thing that meant that that couldn’t happen, and about how he got hired to do work on another famous and much more modern series, and about the very bad thing that happened that meant that that couldn’t happen. We agreed that I will interview him soon, which will be good, because then I can ask him on a case-by-case basis about exactly how much regarding these very bad things I am allowed to talk about publically without getting him in trouble.

Me: “So were you already a big John Carter of Mars fan?”

Ted: “Yes. I also wrote a fan letter when I was 10 to the Gil Kane version of Marvel’s John Carter of Mars series, and it appeared in issue 5 or 6, one of only two such letters I ever wrote...”

So that’s pretty much it. You get the idea. I showed Half Dead to people, they said “oh look an actual published mainstream work, I guess it’s okay to talk to you,” and I networked like crazy. So crazy that I can’t tell you much more, because I witnessed many secrets and was inculcated into many mysteries, much more awesome and horrible than How Ted McKeever Was Thwarted From Doing Certain Cool Comics. So awesome and horrible that there is little more to say. I left the con Saturday afternoon truly feeling that I had seen and done all that that particular con had to offer for this particular year, and I went for a long walk in Central Park instead, which I had last visited when I was like maybe 8 and so did not have hardly any recollection of it. Ate the honey-roasted peanuts, ate the big pretzel. Emailed Barb a picture of the Dakota from my phone, and lots of pictures from the park. Rested up, flew Jet Blue home the next day.

But what did we learn?

1. New Methods. Digital/Electronic is going to be everything, and I don’t just mean electronic comic books. Various companies seem to be speeding up about the ways in which they do business.

2. New Blood. Remember 6 months ago when DC hired a lot of new assistant editors (and presumably a few new editors)? The key word for that new blood is “new”. They do things more like the business world does things, not like the old ways in which Comics used to do things, or even the ways in which Publishing does things... You may not understand now how this shift in approach to the very concept of Business Practices works, but you will, because it’s not just a DC thing— that’s just the easiest example to give to prove why it might be happening. The theme of New Blood is going to start popping up a LOT— except, of course, for new creators. It’s still true that no one needs THEM for anything, just as has been true for the last 5 years or more.

Although of course if webcomics are now digital comics... and since digital comics mean digital distribution... maybe New Blood can start being a working principle again for creators, after all...

3. New Solutions. Basically— and 1 and 2 are a part of this— last year, the theme was 2008: The Year Of Humility In The Face Of Manga Sales. But not a lot changed immediately as a result of that, partly because things just don’t change immediately in comics, and partially because, well, what was to change? We’d already tried doing comics stories with more of a manga art style, and that didn’t have super new results... we started trying even harder to write stories in a way that could compete with manga... but how do you do that without, you know, actually making manga? (Except for CMX, which actually imports its own manga, but certainly Comics wasn’t about to choose to MAKE manga...) They had to give up on Minx... So what to do but try to keep moving onward as always? Manga became like a hated office co-worker— there’s nothing you can do to get them fired, so you just have to do your best to ignore that they exist, and get on with things.

But when the economy crashed, suddenly things changed. This new threat threatened the whole Sequential Storytelling office, and what’s more, (A) America’s banks crashing wasn’t the fault of Comics, so no one had to take responsibility for it, and (B) it wasn’t a treat that signified that the readers love another medium better than Comics— everyone suddenly has less money for any kind of entertainment! Here, then, is the perfect crisis— an acceptable realization— one with no self-blame nor self-loathing nor even jealousy needed: The Economy Crashed. It’s like if a huge volcano erupted in Nebraska: it’s no one’s fault, and we don’t need to feel bad about ourselves, so we can move right on to deciding what to do about it— which means trying some New Solutions.

And I do see that. I see companies ready to try new things now. I see them willing to work with others in a variety of ways, although, again, I think I’d better not name any names regarding whom I’m thinking of.

Oddly, the state of Comics is a lot like the state of America itself. We all hate that we’ve gotten to this point (well those of us who still care/pay attention), and we all agree that something has to be done about it, and a majority of us are now willing to grit our teeth and try anything, and that probably means trying to do something with the infrastructure, it perhaps means trying diplomacy and working together, it certainly means embracing investment in technology and in using the web as a useful tool for communication and distribution instead of blowing it off as some sort of system of tubes that is only used by gamers and amateurs and... wait... geeks. O hai, that’s right— WE’RE (supposed to be) geeks. Maybe this is up our alley after all.

So I dub this 2009: The Year Of The Crisis That Allowed Comics To Move Forward. Things are going to be different from here on out, because the way Sequential Storytelling WAS doing business just got the memo from fate, as did every other aspect of American business, that That Isn’t Gonna Work Anymore.

Boy, am I on board for Doing Things Differently. See you in the long-promised Near Future...

Oh by the way, Nora 3 is about to come out from Viz, adapted by Barbara and myself. So please look forward to it. How’s that for Near Future?



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