Like many an aspiring creator with delusions of grandeur, attending a convention provides a convenient excuse to further one’s insane pursuit at breaking into a secret society where everyone gains admittance through a door responding only to their fingerprint.

The fantasy in which destiny is realized that every hopeful creates for themselves is dangerous if left unchecked. Even more dangerous if the harsh statistics are carelessly ignored and you begin to believe that it’ll somehow prove easier than all who’ve come before. That hours after signing your name to that magic pitch and planting it in the hands of the people with the jobs, the phone’ll ring minutes later with an invitation. It’ll never happen that way. It will be hard, lengthy, and disappointing, and the ones that emerge are those with the patience to admit that anything worth doing won’t happen overnight. Breaking into the industry is about more than a portfolio or a sharp pitch…it’s about refusing to give up.

And I decided a long time ago that I couldn’t be stopped.

This is the story of another collection of steps aimed in the right direction. This is Wizard World Chicago, and this is what really happened.

Friday-

I started with the pleasant revelation that members of the press community (oddly enough I was one of them) pay absolutely no admission. Accidentally saving forty dollars before the show even opened sparked a good mood that was difficult to shake as I strutted onto the con floor a half-hour before the doors opened to the public. Who was even aware of the power of a tiny index card reading ‘Silver Bullet Comics’?

While wandering on the show floor, glancing at items that could benefit from my extra forty dollars, I pass by someone I recognize from somewhere. His tag says Skott Young and I saw his name on the last two issues of Marvel’s Iceman mini-series under the word ‘artist’. Why am I recognizing the guy off the Iceman series? Why is he recognizing me? Neither one of us knows but I promise to visit him in Artist Alley later on.

The floor officially opened and I got an opportunity to take one of those ‘steps’ I alluded to earlier. Marvel Editor A is present at the signing style set-up the House is running this year and that seemed as good a time as any to thank him for looking over a handful of samples with my name on them over the last year. He provides me a bit of knowledge that makes it obvious that he’s actually read more of my stuff than he found the time to comment on, and is impressed by what he’s seen of my dialoguing skills. However, he says I have a habit of thinking “out-of-the-box,” which sometimes floods my chances for work in his office. I can accept that because it’s a nice compliment, but it’s a concern I’ll take a conscious look at when returning to the story notebook. He tells me to keep reminding him to look at my latest pitch, which is a script I wrote and revised to the point of total disgust in the preceding week of inactivity before the convention due to my lack of employment. The plot was finished months ago, but I decided to take a pass at the script because the story was only eleven pages in length and it made a decent sample, and it’s necessary to write something full script on a regular basis to keep the pores open. Editor A has it, it fits in his un-announced anthology, and I only have to convince him that it’ll benefit him to read it. It may end up here in some form, but more on that later.

Found Skott Young in Artist Alley, but still couldn’t remember where I knew him from, and also spent some time at Sanford Greene’s table. Sanford’s one of those guys you know the industry will be hearing more from in the years to come. His work is fluid and dynamic and he understands how to marry complex backgrounds to stylish figure work. Visit him at http://www.sanfordgreene.com/ for visual confirmation.

Went to a couple panels including Barbara Kesel’s Breaking Into Comics, and thought to myself during nearly the entire thing, “Why in the hell does she sound so pissed off?” More on that later too. Chatted up a couple more Marvel editors and learned that I should’ve taken better advantage of hitting the floor early, because once the floor fills with anxious fans, the attention I can command from an editor decreases greatly. Which makes obvious sense but I have to learn everything the hard way apparently. While heading home, I figured out some different approaches for Round 2.

Saturday-

Hit the ground running by spending about twenty minutes chatting with Dark Horse Editor A before the doors even opened. A very cool individual that invited me to send samples when he gets back to the office and offers a business card to prove he’s being genuine. Spoke with Val Staples, who’s writing the new He-Man book from Image and planted the seeds for a future interview that should be appearing soon. Arvid Nelson and Eric Johnson have a very interesting project called Rex Mundi coming soon, also from Image, with a hopeful forthcoming interview by yours truly.

Now…onto the next ‘step’.

The panel was called Professional Connections and was engineered to combine the forces of wannabe writers and artists. Copies of the short script prepared for Marvel Editor A’s anthology contributed additional weight to my bag so I kindly unloaded a couple on artists who I had the opportunity to sit down with and talk shop. Met some talented guys who I’ll be keeping in close contact with. And one that may actually be interested in contributing pretty pictures to the script Marvel Editor A hasn’t read yet. Worse case scenario, we’ll find someone to ink and letter it and it’ll become a future column.

Joe Quesada’s What Marvel Wants panel followed as the EIC took the stage to answer a number of the audience’s pressing questions. He denied he was being fired and explained that he’s not responsible for world hunger and other immediate concerns that fanboys believe he has explicit control over. It was less of a pep talk than his panel last year, but very informative nonetheless. I wanted to stick around for Mark Waid’s panel, but after a couple hours in the Wizard School room I needed to stretch my legs a bit. So I took the opportunity to visit the Oni booth.

Oni Press is a remarkable publisher whose entire catalog is peppered by innovative and experimental projects. From Barry Ween to Whiteout to Queen and Country, the connecting thread in these books that have nothing to do with one another is an overarching and suffocating level of quality and attention to detail. And go read Skinwalker; it looks poised to win some of those coveted industry awards next year. Got the hook-up on some trades and talked site business with Oni Editor A, who offered to look at a pitch I’m writing notes for. Nothing to do with superheroes and coincidentally one of the best storytelling notions I’ve had bubbling in my consciousness for a while.

A pair of buddies suggested attending the CrossGen panel with Mark Alessi, and it was here that I learned one possible reason for Barbara Kesel being so pissed yesterday. Her boss is a certifiable madman, and it must be rubbing off. Alessi is a bold thinker who holds very concrete ideas on where he believes the industry needs to go, while possessing the money and brass balls to make it happen. He chewed gum in his microphone, took shots at Diamond, Marvel (two targets lovingly referred to as The Quemas), mature readers comics, and tickled the audience regarding impending movie deals. Alessi also claims that CrossGen will be the number one comic publisher in two years time. You could cut the silence in the room, mouths hanging open as people realized he was completely serious. Mark’s a dangerous thinker and a complete hard-ass, which should make the next two years very interesting.

By the time this ended, I’d decided to about call it a day and gear up for a series of final shots.

Sunday-

The Marvel Heroes/X-Men panel is the main highlight of the day as the House’s hype machine rolls out with Bill Rosemann and a projector in tow. I cringed at the cover Black Panther #50 with its shot of some gun-toting misfit and promises of a bold change in direction. I’m trusting Priest, but I’m somewhat skeptical about the whole thing. Anything that keeps the blood pumping to the title is good I suppose. But I’m having doubts and wish that Marvel had just moved the complex political thriller to MAX, proving that the imprint is truly the home of mature readers comics and not just a license that allows for big tits and big violence. Which is fine. But…nevermind…they didn’t ask me. Priest knows what he’s doing I’m sure.

Stopped by the Hurricane Entertainment booth and considered picking up the Violent Messiahs trade, despite the hefty price tag. While staring on pondering the decision, the EIC of the company made me a deal I couldn’t refuse. The book sits on my shelf waiting to be read. And an interview might be forthcoming. Spent some time walking around the show floor with Marvel Editor D going over potential story ideas. He liked parts of one of them so that’s something else that’ll be worked on over this weekend.

Overall, a nice little departure from the reality of job-hunting and decreasing bank accounts, with the possibility that I made a few good contacts along the way. Only time will tell if any of the ‘steps’ taken were in fact the right ones.

Come back next week…big things happening…

Peace,
Brandon Thomas

Oh…visited my retailer on Wednesday and he told me Skott Young used to buy comics there. So that’s where I recognized him from. Go figure.

Note: Ambidextrous is relaunching just in time for its one year anniversary on SBC. Any ideas you have about things that would make the column better and more action-packed can be placed on the message board or sent directly to my e-mail address. Positive and negative comments expected and appreciated. And then return next week for The End…

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