And so ends another convention season…

Sure, we’ve got the smaller venues in the fall to look toward, but no disrespect intended, most would agree they’re of little overall consequence. The comic industry, like everything else, is all about the summer and the huge events focused on it. That unique combination of sights, sounds, and high temperatures, forming the proper vibe, case you forget when all the big things happen. Over the course of two massive cons, you get to experience nearly every facet of the industry, big and small, positive and negative, and while I don’t think any of us should feel diminished that it’s all over, there is something about the whole thing. Info on upcoming projects, exclusive signings, all attention centered on what’s coming next. Here comes tomorrow…

The professional side of me always leaves excited as Hell, because cons are always good for casting a brighter, more hopeful light over everything. Could just be me, but the choice always looks so obvious out there, in a packed auditorium of anxious fans, or on the show floor, hundreds of folks all heading toward their respective interests. It feels right. Feels comfortable. As Warren Ellis described perfectly a few years back, we all “come in alone,” and next to what few reasonable message boards they are, the conventions really hammer home the communal aspect of the industry, and say what you will about Wizard, and some of their highly suspect business practices, their shows tend to be about the actual comics.

San Diego is just so intentionally overpowering, that comics can’t help but be swept off the floor by Hollywood and their promotional budgets. After doing that show, Chicago is just so incredibly easy. Everybody’s laid back, mostly because the shows are scheduled too close together, and inspire a very strong sense of déjà vu. People that make the Chi their only stop on the circuit are running around at a slightly more frantic clip than the rest of us, who are cruising the floor on autopilot, hoping it’ll make it easier to get more work done, and see all the people we’re supposed to see.

My head is starting to wrap its way around the fact that my entry badge reads Professional now, and finally, I’m abandoning the mannerisms of that completely inexperienced kid that used to stand in front of editors, and nervously ask of the best way to “break in.” I have a reference point now, however small, that makes these conversations infinitely less artificial, and I had a really good meeting with one of the senior Marvel editors, that left me with a very good vibe. Was someone who I’ve been in semi-regular contact for the last couple years, and he seemed very sincere about trying to find a good project for us to work on together. Naturally, ideas are streaming through my head before we even finish talking, so I’ll be firing off quite a few pitches before month’s end, hitting the notebook right after I wrap up this column. Just a matter of going through the notes, polishing ideas that aren’t quite there, and generating a couple new things to propose.

Also caught up with Mike Marts, who edited the Shatterstar mini (now available in trade, by the way) and chatted a little bit about follow-up assignments. I’ve probably told the Mike Marts story a few too many times, so I’ll spare you specifics, but he’s been incredibly receptive to reading my stuff for the last several years, so I owe him a couple pitches too. At this stage, I’m waiting impatiently for that next opportunity to progress, and ultimately raise the stakes. Have scripted quite a few comics, adapted another small handful, so right now, the focus is on contributing more high quality original work into the mix. That’s the next logical step in seeing more growth in my abilities, and it’s really all that matters to me at this point. Add a few creator-owned projects, and there’s a lot of the potential to be had, which brings me to my other big meeting of the weekend.

Lee Ferguson and I have been connected on some kind of creative level for about two years now, starting with the lost Epic project, which became the backbone for the thing that eventually evolved into The God Complex. Since then, we’ve been trying to set other books into motion, but things never seem to align, until I sent him one of my recent pitches, several weeks back. Now, this was something I quickly typed up, very bare bones, more of a mission statement than an actual pitch, so I could leave it in a folder on my desktop and return to it, when it made a little more sense. I wanted to write a science fiction book, and needed to develop something that was the polar opposite of God Complex, from a tonal and structural level, and this is what emerged. But really, it was nothing, kind of a germ, but I sent it to Lee and he went really crazy about it, and his enthusiasm helped make it the next big pitch, and hopefully, the book we were always meant to do. He forced me to give it the attention it deserved, and we quickly hit that zone where the ideas were flying back and forth, and it made me feel guilty for initially resigning it to a 500 word document on my hard drive, and just leaving it.

But every week after things got more serious. Cover ideas, character designs, teaser images, figured out over e-mails and instant messages, that Lee probably doesn’t even realize I’ve saved. Supplements for the trade, you know. This is the fun part though, when it’s all coming together, and the only mandate is to make this work, give the people something they’ve never seen before. Or at the very least, something they’ve never seen in a particular configuration. Good sense is keeping me from dropping all the knowledge right here, but tackling the script is already teaching me a few lessons about story structure and overall process. Instead of “noting” the thing to death, the actual scripting is a lot more freeform. I know how the story starts, and how it ends, but then I let the characters dictate things in the middle. Being a natural control freak, this feels a bit dangerous, because I will usually break a story down page by page before I get too far into it. It’s different with this, because it feeds into the overall concept and language of the title. If I diagramed each and every action out, something would get horribly lost, and the result would probably just suck.

Meeting Lee was definitely one of the Wizard World highlights, as we got the chance to sit down and plan the eventual takeover in person. The initial contact was funny, as we were both looking for tickets to the Cup o’ Joe panel on Friday morning, crossing paths first at the Wizard booth, and then at some table where the Wizard people wrongly directed us, actually standing and talking to each other for a couple minutes, before realizing who the other even was. After getting that all settled, it wasn’t too long before we ended up in that overpriced cafeteria on the con floor, going back and forth about the book, and where we both see it going. I promised myself that I wouldn’t give him any further story details past what was in the first six pages of script he had, but I lost control and just started dictating the entire first story to him. Not that it was a bad thing, but I did want to hold onto some of the twists, and just let him read the finished product, because it would give me a better indication if they’re as borderline clever, as I think they are. Got really pumped up though, and gave him nearly a full accounting, but it only made him want to draw it even more…which I thought he would change his mind about once he found out about the 42 panel spread. He did say he wanted to be challenged…

These are the kinds of serious interactions that were missing from my San Diego trip. The chances of me just bumping into Lee in Cali, were probably somewhere very close to zero, and though it’s difficult to compare the two, Chicago moved at a more manageable pace, nearly crossing the line into dull territory. Hit every panel I was interested in, talked with everyone I was supposed to, and my editors had more than two seconds to give me, without dozens of people pulling their attention into different directions. Said I would judge my feelings about this latest “season,” following Wiz World, cause it would give me a better barometer, given the chance to set things into motion in SD, then keep them going in Chicago. Hard to predict, since I’m not at a level where I’m booking assignments right there on the show floor, but I have more than enough on my plate to keep me fairly active in the coming weeks, as I’m blinded by optimism, on the road to column 200.

What in the world I’ve been talking about all this time is anyone’s guess, but before signing off for a couple weeks, I wanted to drop off this teaser image that Lee Ferguson worked up for the con. He’ll have it re-colored by next week probably, and the lettering might shift a bit, but it still gives you an idea of the vibe we’re aiming for, and what I just spent a couple paragraphs gushing about. Here begins The Adventures of Miranda Mercury, people. Tomorrow comes now…

Back soon,

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