Archive for the ‘Diary of a Struggling Comics Artist’ Category

160. NEW YORK COMIC-CON 2007, Five

Friday, May 6th, 2011

diary entry: February 23-25, 2007, part five

DAVID MAZZUCHELLI

While talking with Brian Bolland, Brian mentioned I should ask David Mazzuchelli about doing a pin-up for me. What??! I hadn’t even realized David was going to be at this con. WOW! David Mazzuchelli. What excitement.

He had a huge mob of people there to see him. They all had books to sign, so I found a way to squeeze around to the side of them all and talk with him a little.

He’d brought a bunch of sketches of Batman and Daredevil and Catwoman. Head shots and more expensive full body shots. I overheard someone try to buy two, and David told him he was only selling one to each person, to give as many of his fans the opportunity to enjoy his work.

I showed him my comic and asked if he ever has time to do commissions. He started to give an answer, but then just said, “Well, no.” But he said he’d like to take the book and look it over when he had some time. I checked in with him periodically. He of course never had time to look it over during the convention. I asked him if he had any contact info he could give me, to check in with him, and he said no. I understand.

ALEX MALEEV and ESAD RIBIC

Before the show, I’d spent time at the website to see who would be there. I kept hoping to find Alex Maleev, because I’s seen him before at San Diego Comic-Con, and I knew he’d be doing convention sketches, and I wanted to see if he might do a sketch for me. But Alex was never at his art representative’s booth whenever I made the trek downstairs. I finally asked his rep if I could leave a book for him to show Alex, and if he could ask Alex about a commission of a giant monster for me. He said he’d probably forget, and besides, he didn’t think Alex would do it. So that was not very encouraging.

Finally, at the end of the first day, I saw Alex, but it looked like he was packing up. I asked him, “Alex, are you leaving?” He said, “Yes, but don’t worry. I’ll be back tomorrow.” So that was that for the day.

The next day, I popped downstairs again, and Alex was there, and Esad Ribic was sitting with him. Alex was busy, so I said hello to Esad. He recognized me and lit up and said, “Hey, what’s up, buddy!” and put his hand out for a high-five. I visited with him for a little while. He said ever since he finished his painted Loki series, he’s been working on a painted Silver Surfer series, and it’s due to be out this summer – right in time for the movie, I presume.

He was very friendly. I told him I’d come down to ask about getting a pin-up from Alex. He said, “Go ahead.” I got Alex’s attention and made my pitch, and Alex didn’t seem particularly interested. But then an amazing thing happened. Esad shouted out, “You will do a pin-up for this guy! I did a pin-up, and you’ll do a pin-up for him too, because he’s a cool guy!” And from then on, Alex took me seriously, and wound up doing a pin-up at that very con. Esad teased me, “But you are taking us to lunch at San Diego!” If my punishment for getting pin-ups is taking these cool guys to San Diego, I will take my punishment like a man.

My friend Doug had been a real sport watching the table while I ran up and down the stairs, up and down all the aisles, trying to make all these connections. I tried to spend a fair time at the table as well, so that he could see New York a little. He was able to step out and hit a bunch of museums.

THE TRIP HOME

We left the convention and tried to get a cab out front for about half an hour. Out front were a ton of these black sedans with their drivers harassing us and bargaining prices to take us to the airport, and actually getting in arguments with each other about which of them was taking us. We walked up the street about three blocks, then back, and cabs would drive by without stopping, if we spotted them at all. Finally, we walked up perpendicular to the road about three blocks, hauling all our suitcases all the while.

A cab saw us and flipped around and got caught at a light, and there was suddenly a cop behind him, and he wound up continuing onward. Finally a cab stopped for us and took us to the airport.

We arrived and waited at our gate about a half hour, then suddenly realized our gate didn’t have our flight listed. Suddenly frantic, we ran to the front of the line and asked where our flight was. They said we had to walk all the way down to a different desk. We bolted, and learned we needn’t have bothered, because it turned out a snowstorm had begun blizzarding outside, while we were in. The flight was delayed.

Finally we got seated on the plane, but then had to wait a little longer for the plane to be de-iced. We tried to get some sleep, and were home by three in the morning, and ready to work the next day. What a trip!

159. NEW YORK COMIC-CON 2007, Four

Friday, April 29th, 2011

diary entry: February 23-25, 2007, part four

THE GENERAL VIBE OF THIS CON

At this convention, sitting at my table, I was approached by an unusually high volume of people who said they were reviewers or podcasters or interviewers. Most of these people asked if I had anything I cared to give them. It got tiresome after a while, just giving stuff away to everyone, and not selling anything. Someone else later told me that this was indeed a very heavy trade show. Yet another someone else told me that it’s interesting too, because the San Diego show is so near Hollywood, you get all the movie folks, but all the book publishers are in New York, so it’s a pretty literary crowd at this one.

A fan of my work stopped by my table, and he told me he’d read a few of my comics, and he was excited to see I had some other goods, and made a nice purchase. Another person stopped by to tell me he’d bought the Doris Danger treasury, and he and his kid were enjoying using it as a coloring book.

It’s so infrequently I go to cons and someone shows up who’s familiar with my work and enjoyed it enough to say hello and tell me so. So of course, that was really nice. This was maybe the third and fourth time? Fourth and fifth?

I wasn’t sure what to make of this con. I didn’t sell very much. Part of it, I’m sure, was because when I wasn’t able to spend time at the table, my friend basically just watched the table, and didn’t try to make any particular pitches or sales.

But even if he had, I don’t know that it would have made much difference. At one point, the con was so crowded, the aisles were stuffed with people. And I just sat back and watched, and was kind of confused to see how fast these masses of people were walking along. And then I realized that none of them were looking around. No one was looking up at the names of the artists they were walking by. No one was trying to look at any signs. No one was looking at what was on everyone’s tables. They were literally looking straight ahead, and driving forward purposefully, at high speeds. It was as if all of us in our booths weren’t there at all, it felt like. I couldn’t understand it.

Just the same, I made, I hope, some nice reviewer/interviewer/podcaster connections. And as usual, it was great talking with artists and getting photos with them.

TONY HARRIS said he might have time somewhere or other to do a pin-up of a monster for me. He said sometimes he just feels like a break from his usual work, but he never knows when these moments might pop up, so to check in with him now and then. A pin-up from Tony Harris . . . That would be cool.

BILL SIENKIEWICZ

Bill is someone I’ve been trying to hunt down for a number of cons. But it seems he either doesn’t end up making it to cons he’s listed to appear at, or else I see him, and then go back to my booth to get books to give him, and return to find him gone. He was listed at this con, but was nowhere to be found Friday or Saturday. Saturday someone told me Bill was seen at the Marvel party Friday night, so he’s around SOMEWHERE.

Finally I saw him sitting at his booth on Sunday, but he had a huge line of people with stacks of books to get signed, IN ADDITION to people interviewing him behind his table. On top of that, he never had any drawing materials out at his table, and the reason I was hoping to get to him was to get another sketch. So this con, I let things lie, once again.

158. NEW YORK COMIC-CON 2007, Three

Friday, April 22nd, 2011

diary entry: February 23-25, 2007, part three

STERANKO

I poked down to say hello to Jim Steranko. He saw me and said, “Oh, you made it!” I told him we decided last minute that I’d come without the rest of the family. He said how pleased he is I wasn’t wearing my usual ugly tie. I decided not to wear them this trip, because it would just be too much to pack, in addition to all my books that I would have to carry myself this trip.

He said he’d been having a streak of bad luck lately, and I joked, “And then you saw me coming, and it got worse.” He got a kick out of that.

Later in the weekend, I showed him my giant monster book and asked if he might be willing to give me a quote I could use to promote the next issue. He flipped through it and told me, “Gee, I don’t know, Chris. If I give you a quote, then all my friends will say, You gave him a quote, why don’t you give me a quote? I might have to pass.” I told him, what if I quote you, “I was having a streak of bad luck, and then I saw Chris coming, and it got worse.” He laughed and said he just might do that.

Before I left, someone brought up a Nick Fury comic for him to sign, and he said, “Nope. I won’t sign that.” And there was an uncomfortable pause, and then Jim kind of explained, “You don’t treat people like that. You know the story.” The person nodded understandably. I don’t know the story, but it makes me curious to find out.

Then someone opened a Batman Black and White book for him to sign. He said there was an interesting story about this piece. Jim drew his pin-up and sent it to Mark Chiarello, the editor. Mark said it looked great, but Jim felt like it was missing something. He sat on it for a while, and then played with it and added some op-art white silhouettes of bats into the composition. He re-sent the image, and told Mark, now it’s good. Use this version.

Mark told him he didn’t agree, and that he liked the other one better. Jim said no. That’s not the piece. Mark said he liked the other one better, and that’s the one he was going to use. Jim told him, I’ll tell you what. Go ahead and use the old one, and then never call me again, because I will never do any work for you, ever. Mark, of course, said if that’s how it’s going to be, he’ll use the new one. And Jim told him Mark will call him in a couple months and tell him he realizes Jim was right. And Jim added that Mark did call him in a month and tell him Jim was right.

TED McKEEVER

I saw where Ted McKeever was sitting, and I’ve always been intrigued by his art. Often, when I read his stories, they’re so dark and disturbing, I don’t enjoy experiencing them, although I continue to be intrigued and curious. His style of art is fascinating to me.

I finally saw him at his table, but generally he was visiting and had people crowded around him, and I had other people to try looking for, so I continued to wander past him. Also, I felt a little afraid of him in a way. He’s an angular, muscular guy with a shaved head, and frankly, I was a little intimidated by or afraid of meeting him. I didn’t know what someone with art like that would be like.

Finally I saw him with just one person, and it looked like he was drawing a sketch. I poked over and saw he was doing Spider-Man. He’d relatively recently done a Spider-Man story for the “Tangled Web” comic, and he’d done a Batman and a Superman revamp. I asked him how he liked doing mainstream superheroes. He smiled and looked up at me and said he really enjoys it. IF they let him to do what he wants to with them. That got us talking about how lately he’s been having trouble finding work, UNTIL the Marvel Zombies comics came out that sold so well, and now all of a sudden, DC is calling him, trying to do horror comics of their own that they think his style would work nicely for.

He mentioned how strange he thinks it is that companies haven’t been taking chances with any of their comics lately. He pointed out that if you look at all the comics that were revolutionary, they tended to be the dying characters that were about to be canceled. Claremont’s X-Men. Miller’s Daredevil. Grant Morrison’s Doom Patrol. Alan Moore’s Swamp Thing. You could even go back to Lee-Ditko’s Spider-Man, in that it was the last issue of a dying book, or Fantastic Four, which Stan Lee describes as a book he decided he would just do whatever he wanted with, because he was ready to move on to a new profession, so he reasoned the worse that could happen is he could just get fired and move on.

I showed Ted what I’m doing and he seemed really excited about drawing something for me. I asked if he’d have time to do something at the con, and he said he thought so, but to check back with him. He showed me his list of commissions, and it looked moderately long. He told me he’d actually rather do my pin-up, but he had committed to these others. I really enjoyed visiting with him. I felt like we hit it off nicely.

I left him feeling hopeful, but as the con wore on, I began to realize he still had a very big list of sketches still to do ahead of me, and it began to sound increasingly likely he might not be doing any pin-ups for me here. He eventually even said he’d like to do something nice and take his time with it, since my books had so many great, big-name artists involved. I asked if he was at very many other conventions, and he said he barely goes to any. We left with me getting the contact info for his representative, and plans for me to contact him.

157. NEW YORK COMIC-CON 2007, Two

Thursday, April 7th, 2011

diary entry: February 23-25, 2007, part two

NEAL ADAMS

I went and spoke with Neal Adams, who was proudly announcing he’d be working on a Batman book with Frank Miller. Wow, what a combination.
While I waited in line, I heard him talking about how he was supposed to have done a Mad Magazine story some time ago, but it never happened. He said it had sounded like it was all lined up, and then he couldn’t get the go-ahead, and finally he surmised that it must have been Gaines who put the kibosh on it. He decided it must have been because Gaines always insisted he keep the original art of all the stories, and at that time Neal had been a real fighter against publishers keeping the art. The argument he used was, “Did you pay me sales tax?” Neal said, that’s how an item is purchased from someone. You have to pay sales tax. If you didn’t pay the tax, you don’t own the item, and that’s how original art should be treated by publishers.

I introduced myself as the guy who’d spoken with him about the Skeptic Society at the San Diego Con. Previously, when we’d met, it had been a nice subject of conversation, but this time it seemed perhaps they’d had another exchange that wasn’t pleasant for him, and he wasn’t as warm about the subject.

I told him he’d said we could take a picture at that previous con, and we’d never had the opportunity, and he invited me behind the table for a photo.

UPSTAIRS DOWNSTAIRS

The con was set up with the main floor downstairs, and the artist alley upstairs. When my friend and I had gotten to the con, we walked in downstairs and looked everywhere for that artist alley, and finally had to ask someone. After they told us, we still thought it was tough to find. It didn’t seem particularly well-labeled, and it was easy to walk past. I wondered if anyone would find their way up there.

What the area had going for it was that Brian Bolland, David Mack, Tony Harris, Michael Avon Oeming, Rob Liefeld, Walt Simonson, Amanda Conner and Jimmy Palmiotti, Bill Sienkiewicz – a literal hall of fame – were upstairs in this area. That ended up being more than enough to get everyone up to the second floor.

Downstairs were the comic shops, and publishers like DC, Darkhorse, Oni, Top Shelf. It was a fair amount of work getting downstairs if I wanted to see anyone.

I popped over to the Oni booth, because Stephen Colbert was listed as a guest at the con. He had a comic coming out through Oni of his Tek Jansen Adventures. I got there I think around noon, and I asked if there was any chance I might be able to meet Mr. Colbert. They said, Nope. They had 75 tickets that they gave out, and those tickets disappeared immediately. They said they were supposed to give the tickets out to the public, but someone handed them all out to all the industry folks this morning. They said even some comics celebrities had poked around asking about tickets, but they weren’t even able to do favors for any of them.

Stephen, I guess, got driven in, bustled to a private back room with his guards, met these seventy-five people and signed Tek Jansen posters, and then took off. Quick and easy. Shucks.

Supposedly Stephen King was at the con somewhere too, but I never heard anything about that.

Stan Lee was there too. I had emailed his representative to see if there was any chance I might be able to get something signed, but I never heard back. I assume he’s VERY busy.

Before the con, I saw at the website that Heavy Metal Magazine would have a booth at the con. I had emailed Simon Bisley to see if he would be coming out to New York. Of course, I never heard back from Simon. I checked at the booth once, but it looked like a very small booth, and not like one that artists would be sitting at.

156. NEW YORK COMIC-CON 2007, One

Friday, March 11th, 2011

diary entry: February 23-25, 2007

We had gotten airline tickets from Sacramento to New York for only $99 each way, but it came with a price. My friend Doug and I decided to miss as little work as possible for this last minute trip. That meant flying out at midnight on the evening of Thursday, sleeping maybe five hours if we were LUCKY, while sitting up in an airplane seat (with an upset baby for most of those five hours, incidentally), arriving at 7am New York time, which is four in the morning OUR time, getting our bags, climbing into a cab, arriving at the convention unshaved, unshowered, in need of a tooth-brushing, with all our belongings in suitcases, at 9am, which gives us an hour to wash our armpits in the convention sink, find something to eat, and get the table set up.

That done, and basically feeling high from lack of sleep, we began a stupidly long, grueling convention day, because this con was open to industry professionals only from ten to five, and THEN open to the public from five to nine! WHAT a fucking day.

I had gotten half a table, which was supposed to be eight feet. It turned out, someone must have ordered something wrong, because everyone had ten foot tables instead. This was nice to have that extra two feet of table space (especially since I’m used to having an eight foot table), but on the other hand, the booths were ten feet wide, so if we wanted to get out from behind the tables, that meant crawling under the table. This made people look, when they were milling about waiting in line nearby us.

I was surprised to see I was located in the booth next to Amanda Conner and Jimmy Palmiotti. I had met them briefly through Adam Hughes and his girlfriend Allison at last year’s Orlando Mega-Con. I was looking forward to reintroducing myself.

I told Doug I would pay for the hotel and transportation, if he was willing to watch my booth now and then while I conducted my usual business affairs. It was quiet during the “industry” hours of the first day, so I used that time to poke around. It seemed that pretty much no one was around to see during this time. I said hello to Arnold Drake, Ramona Fradon, and Irwin Hasen.  Sitting where Carmine Infantino was listed to be, and next to Arnold Drake, I saw Luis Dominguez. While I visited with him, two people came up and said “How pleased I am to meet you, Carmine.” And Luis didn’t know what was going on, and it was up to me to explain to these folks that this wasn’t Carmine Infantino sitting in Carmine’s booth.

BRIAN BOLLAND

And then I happened to bump into Brian Bolland, who was just walking around, and I asked if I could walk with him.

I told him I knew how busy he was, asked if he might be willing to draw me a convention sketch this weekend, that I could publish in my comic. At first he was resistant, because he says he doesn’t draw anything by hand anymore. All his work is straight off the computer now. He doesn’t create original work anymore.

He said it really doesn’t look much better now, when he does it that way. But we discussed it, and he grew open to the idea of actually drawing me something by hand. I told him what I had in mind, and asked him to think about how much he’d like as payment. I told him I would go check in over at his table later.

I asked if he was a fan of Bruno Premiani, because when I recently read the DC Comics Archives of Doom Patrol, I could swear I saw its influence on Brian’s linework. He agreed that he was.

I asked if he had read Dan Dare as well. He said he hadn’t, although he knew and seemed very familiar with the artist, and admitted he found himself using some of the coloring techniques.

He said he grew up primarily on DC Comics and not his homeland’s books like Dan Dare, and that a couple of the earliest comics he bought were giant monster comics, coincidentally.

I told him once again what a fan I was of his Judge Dredd comics. I mentioned how he had referenced The Creeper, Rondo Hatton, in a story arc. He didn’t say much about it, except that he occasionally would reference actors. When I asked who else, he reminded me that he had used the Marx Brothers in Judge Dredd as well.

When I stopped by later, he admitted he would prefer not to do a pin-up at the con, so that he could spend some time on it. We agreed on a price, and I paid him and wrote up a contract for him to sign. As I was leaving his table, I realized I hadn’t asked about keeping the artwork, and he confirmed that he would prefer to do the work on computer in his usual current fashion, and he would send me a file when it was completed.

As this sunk in, I realized how much I really would prefer to own a piece of artwork by Brian Bolland. I fretted over this through to the end of the con, and finally approached him again. I told him how I’m just self-publishing, and lose money every issue, and it would be nice to come out of it with a physical product for my troubles. Brian was understanding, and after making him a new offer, he said he’d been drawing convention sketches all weekend, and he felt he still had his touch enough that he would be willing to do do a piece by hand for me. I was overjoyed. Brian Bolland!

155. Working with my Diamond Rep to Promote Doris Danger

Wednesday, February 23rd, 2011

Diary entry: WEEK OF February 19, 2007

Well I had some pretty lousy experiences with my previous Diamond rep, but about three months after he’d been assigned, I got an email from a new Diamond rep, telling me she was going to be my new rep. Her name was Kristin Matthews.

I immediately wrote to her, same as I had done with the rep I will call “Mr. Lousy.” I wrote that I was looking forward to working with her, and gave a synopsis of some of my accomplishments. I told her if she’s willing, I’d like to send her some of my books, so that she could be familiarized with my work.

Unlike Mr. Lousy, who never bothered to write back, my new rep wrote back immediately to thank me for the kind introduction, and told me she was already familiar with my work. That made me feel so good about my new rep. Immediately off to a good start.

I knew I would be releasing a second Doris Trade soon – I wanted it to be released in time for San Diego 2007 – so I began keeping in touch with my rep to let her know of my plans to try and promote the book as we got closer to its release.

The promoting began when my rep sent me an invite to participate in the New York Comic-Con’s Diamond-supported retailer buffet, where Diamond would distribute “a desirable product” to the projected 200 retailers who would attend. She invited me to participate, at the cost of $400, as well as the cost of my product which I would be giving away for free and the cost of shipping my product to Diamond. I spoke with Elizabeth, and we decided it was as good an advertising venture as any, because that’s two hundred stores who would have my “desirable product” in their hands, and would hopefully order a copy or two.

I thought about the “product” I wanted to include. My first thought was dumping copies of the now two year old Tabloia, and including flyers with the books, referring to the comics as “samplers,” because they contained samples of Doris Danger, which would be coming out soon, Dr. DeBunko, which was a hit with the Skeptic Society, and Dick Hammer, which was now officially a web comic, in addition to “The Lump,” which I have copies of in trade format.

Instead, I opted to send a hundred of my 16-page $2.50 comic, “Doris Danger in Outer Space” and a hundred of my 16-page $2.50 comic, “Doris Danger Greatest All-Out Army Battles.” The “promotion” was to bag the books with prominently-placed flyers promoting the original (already out) Doris Danger treasury AND the upcoming one, “Doris Danger Seeks. . . Where Urban Creatures Creep and Stomp.” I decided these would be a more “desirable product” because they had only come out a couple months beforehand. So this meant creating and printing up some flyers, and bagging them with the comics, and sending them by mail. It took about two days out of my schedule, to get things all together. I included in the package an additional forty packs, which I asked be forwarded to my rep, to pass out to the marketing staff at Diamond.

I used the time to check in some more with my rep, regarding my upcoming Doris Danger treasury. I emailed her that I wanted to send a poster out to the top 600 indie friendly comics shops. The posters would be advertisements for the comic, which I planned to list all the artists contributing to the new book (Shag cover, pin-ups by Mike Allred, Sam Kieth, Dave Gibbons, Al Feldstein, Michael Lark, JH Williams III, Russ Heath, John Severin, Esad Ribic). And if it was permitted, in the month that the new Doris Danger book was listed in the Previews ordering catalog, I wanted to relist the first Doris Danger treasury and promote it again as well, and how it had pin-ups by Mike Mignola, Ryan Sook, Bill Sienkiewicz, Gene Colan, Los Bros Hernandez, Tony Millionaire). For the poster, I was beginning to visualize having a bunch of quotes along the edges.

In addition to all this, I decided I also wanted to try some other kind of promotion, to really try and push the book, but I wasn’t yet sure what. I just feel like, if I’m going to give a book a big push, this is the book. So many big names are onboard, and I probably won’t have a chance like this again.

My first thought for a promotion was a free print of a giant monster if you buy so many copies. And then I thought, Hey, I could try and dump the t-shirts I haven’t been able to sell since I printed them in early 2004. I could pass on my garbage as a “desirable promotion product”, and offer one free t-shirt for every five books sold, or something like that. I emailed my rep all this info, and asked for her thoughts. Last of all, I wanted to see if she might allow me to resubmit the first Doris Danger trade, and then make the promotion available if stores bought either or both of the books.

She wrote back that t-shirt promotions are tricky, because they would have to be shrink-wrapped, and also we’d have to do some tricky work for offering sizes or only one size.

I thought about all her information and gave her a call. I asked, what if I offered, buy five or ten books, and get Tabloia #1-5, the first five appearances of Doris Danger? We decided I should do “buy eight,” and sign the comics. I would also have to bag them as a package. That sounds good. Even though I think it is a good promotion, and I think buyers who enjoy the Doris Danger books would enjoy having an opportunity to buy Doris Danger’s first appearances signed, I also have to admit that this is also a chance for me to dump some back-stock that I haven’t yet moved.

So that is the plan. My rep told me she will at the very least list the book as a “pick of the month,” and will submit my book for consideration for a free full-page color ad. She told me she was impressed with the Shag cover and Mike Allred pin-up. I’m so pleased with my rep, and how she’s been working with me to try and help make the book successful.

154. CHEAP NEW YORK AIRLINE TICKETS

Wednesday, December 15th, 2010

diary entry, February 10, 2007

We had of course heard the one-year-old-but-already-legendary tales of the first annual “New York Comic-Con,” and how it was sold out in minutes, and how even people with tickets were not getting allowed in, due to fire code problems, maximum public allowances, SWAT teams called in with bullet-proof visors, shields and billy clubs, and riotous mob-scenes of angry comics fans desperate to get into the con.

So this convention had been on my mind this year, just in a “wouldn’t that be fun to try and get out to that con” sort of way. But I didn’t think very seriously about it . . . UNTIL I realized Jetblue was having a special on flights from Sacramento to New York for only $150 each way! WOW! I saw the special, and said to Elizabeth, “I know we’ve already got a pretty heavy comic-convention schedule booked this year, but A HUNDRED FIFTY DOLLARS! What do you think? I looked at the convention website and didn’t see anywhere to print a form for a table request. They had an email, so I wrote them that we’d like to come, and we bought our airline tickets.

I wanted to take advantage of those tickets, so I bought tickets, even though I didn’t get a response from the con. Two weeks later, I still hadn’t heard anything, so I emailed again, and then I emailed a different email I found at the website. I wrote that I was still waiting to hear back, after two weeks, and would appreciate a response.

That day I got a response saying briefly that the convention’s artist alley tables were sold out. Ugh. I wrote back explaining that I was from California and had unwittingly already bought airline tickets, and is there any chance I could get on a waiting list? Or are there any exhibitor tables available? Or is there anything I can do? They wrote back that there is nothing I could do, because the waiting lists are also filled. They said they could offer me a special promotion however. When I inquired about it, I learned that their promotion was for me to spend $3000 to place an ad in their program schedule. I said I couldn’t afford it, but may consider running a half page ad, if it might help them consider me for any tables that opened up. They apologized again, and tersely and humorlessly replied that no tables were available.

At that point, I called a phone number I had found at the website. I was able to talk with someone, and explain my situation, and subtly mention I had a baby son. We had a nice talk, and this person was sympathetic and kind, but once again said that they just didn’t have any tables. They said they picked a location that was double the size of the first year, and they should have tripled it, because there were two hundred people that weren’t able to get tables.

I told him we would be flying out no matter what, so I’ll be sure and introduce myself, and maybe, if nothing else, he can think of me for the next year. He gave me his address, and I sent him some books. On the envelope, I wrote, “Hope you’ll consider me if any tables happen to open up. Did I mention how handsome you’re looking?”

I emailed him a couple weeks later to see if he’d received the books. He sent a nice reply. After a few more exchanges, he actually gave me complimentary pro badges into the con. I really felt they wanted to help us.

We got our hotel set up. I continued to check in with him occasionally, every couple weeks.

I wrote to a bunch of my fellow comics professionals, some of them lowly self-publishers like myself, others big names in the industry. I let them know about my situation trying to get a table. Jim Steranko wrote me back that he wasn’t able to get a table either, but he told them he was Mike Grell, and then he got the red carpet treatment. Heidi MacDonald wrote me that getting a table at NYCC is more difficult than getting a hotel at San Diego.

Whenever someone wrote me witty replies like these, I would write to the con and share with them, and usually get a laugh in reply.

So this goes on and on, and now we’ve gotten to the point where the con is a few weeks away. And it just felt like nothing was working out. It was going to be an expensive trip, even with the cheap airline tickets, and our little boy was only six months old, and was still quite a handful. Elizabeth was exhausted because she was up two or eight times a night with the little monster, and then back to work full time during the days. Our relationship was beginning to feel pretty stressful, even though we had discussed in advance and decided it would be all right to do all these conventions basically back-to back (New York Feb 23, San Fran Mar 2, L.A. Mar 16, Seattle Mar 31, San Fran again April 22).

We had decided it was okay, because we figured, when the little guy gets to be two years old, we’ll need to buy him an airline ticket, so maybe we should hit conventions now, before that happens and our expenses get bigger. But now that we’d committed, and the dates were approaching, and now that we saw how tightly frequent they would be coming up, we wondered what in the fuck we were thinking. Especially Elizabeth, who just wanted to get an extra hour of sleep, and not be flying all over the goddamn U.S. for comic conventions of all things for Christ’s sake.

I finally told her, Look. Let’s not put ourselves through this. Let’s just cancel the trip. Nothing is going our way. Nothing is working out. Let’s just not go, and eat the cancellation fees of the hotel and airfare. Let’s just tell the con, We’re sorry, we really appreciate everything you’ve tried to do, but we’re just not going to be able to make it out after all, and thanks so much for everything, and we look forward to coming next year.

When we made the decision, it was such a relief. I called and cancelled our airline tickets, which cost thirty bucks each (sixty bucks), but it was like, Fine, fuck it.

I called the hotel, which I thought was going to be twenty-five dollars to cancel. But they had no record of our reservation. I thought, Is this some freak stroke of luck, that our reservation got screwed, and it will save us twenty-five bucks? Then I emailed the convention.

The next day, I tried calling about the hotel reservation again. I had booked the room through an agency, so rather than call the hotel, which the website suggested, I tried the agency. They told me 1. that I DID have a reservation, but that it hadn’t been entered into the hotel’s computers yet (so I would have to cancel my reservation anyways), and 2. that I missed the deadline for a mere $25 cancellation fee, and would instead have to pay $150. Shoot. So I’d have to call the hotel in a few days, once they had my reservation in their computer system.

And this is when the weird workings of fate began fitting together in mysterious configurations.

The next day, I got an email from the convention, asking that I call them. When I called, they said, if I hadn’t cancelled my reservations yet, four feet of convention table became available that they could offer me. I told them I’d talk with my wife and let them know by tomorrow, and they asked if I could let them know today.

I called Elizabeth and told her the news. I told her I was leaning toward thanking them, but telling them it was too late at this point. I decided to check the prices to re-buy airline tickets, but I couldn’t imagine it would be worth it, because first of all we’d never get as good a deal, and second of all it would have to be sixty dollars better than the good deal we’d originally gotten.

And there at Jetblue’s website was an ad for tickets to New York for $99 each way! That meant, by thinking I was screwing myself out of sixty bucks for canceling the trip, I instead saved myself $140! Amazing!

Elizabeth and I decided she and Oscar would stay home for this trip. I frantically looked for a friend who was willing to go with me with only two weeks of notice, and confirmed to the con, that same day, that we would be there after all.

And since I had been unable to cancel my hotel reservation, I was coincidentally all set on that end. Just a week after deciding to cancel the trip, through all that hard work and crazy coincidence, it somehow all came together, and I was miraculously heading to the second annual New York Comic-Con!

153. QUOTES, LARRY LIEBER, and JAMES BOND

Monday, November 15th, 2010

diary entry, February 1, 2007

For the Lump trade, which came out in the summer of 2006, I had thought it would look pretty impressive, and help my self-respect, if I took all the most complimentary lines from all my reviews and listed them on the back of the book.

Even though it didn’t appear to do anything for my sales, I liked the idea, and wanted to do something similar for my upcoming Doris Danger treasury.  I had this vain idea that maybe, now that I’ve gotten to know a number of respectable artists in the field, and a number of them have written kind words to me in emails about my books, maybe I could quote them on the back of my book.  Frank Miller did it with his Ronin comic, and I had thought it was pretty cool.  Could I be cool, not to that extent but in that way?

Today I got bold and emailed all the comics guys I know to see if any of them might let me quote them.  Most of these emails were requests to publish things they’d already said in emails to me, but I wanted to be sure to get their permission for actually publishing all that stuff.  I did email a few artists I don’t have quotes from, to see if they might say something I could quote.  I’m feeling pretty confident I should get some great artists saying some cool things about my work, which is fun.  It will make me feel like I’m still moderately the shit, even when the book doesn’t sell and I lose thousands of dollars on every issue.

* * *

While in this manic emailing mode, I called Larry Lieber on the phone, to see if we might be able to see him for the upcoming New York Convention.  We spoke for about ten minutes.  He said he wasn’t going to the Big Apple Con this year, even though they tried to convince him to come as a guest.  I explained, “Larry, we aren’t coming to the Big Apple Con either.  We’re coming to the New York Comic-Con.”  Larry said, “I WILL be doing a signing at another convention,” and he gave me the date and location, and of course it was the New York Comic-Con.  I told him his brother (Stan Lee) would be there, and he honestly didn’t know.  He said Stan never tells him, and he’ll have to try to see him at the con, since it’s been four years.  The last time he saw him was at the San Diego Con 2003.  I asked if they got along, and he said they do.  He said he talks to him all the time on the phone, since Larry does the Spider-Man newspaper strip.  Larry has to send him strips every week, and they go over them every week together, over the phone.

Larry said he always tries to get ahead of the schedule for that newspaper strip, but he can never do it.  He said the only time he’s ever gotten ahead is when he went to the San Diego Con in 2003, and he had to then, because he was at the con for a week.

I get a real kick out of Larry.  He’s a lot of fun to visit with.

MY JAMES BOND-MANIA

I’ve been really excited for the last two months.  I’ve been a member of this audiobook club, where I can get two books a month for twenty bucks.  I’ve been doing it for almost three years now, and I keep thinking I’ve run out of books and I’m ready to quit, and then they’ll post something new.  I originally signed up to get some Raymond Chandler and Dashiell Hammett books, but I ran through those pretty quickly.  Then a couple James Cain novels popped up.  One of the things I always wanted on audio books was James Bond.  Four months ago, I clicked onto the audiobooks website to literally cancel my membership, and there on the title page, it advertised “Brand New!  All thirteen James Bond audiobooks,” presumably to cash in on the good timing of the new Casino Royale film .  So I picked up four months worth (eight books), and listened to those eight novels in a month and a half or something.  And now I’m dying for February 12 to come, because that’s when I can get two more.

I got total Bond-mania when they released all the films on DVD back in maybe 2000, and that’s what got me reading the books.  I read the first seven, but now, with a kid, and only so many hours in the day, it’s so much easier to just “read a book” by listening while I’m drawing or taking the dog for a walk or whatever.  I can’t get enough of these James Bonds.  I’m completely obsessed.

There was a licensed James Bond role playing game that came out in 1984, and the licensing ran until 1986.  It came out when I was in junior high, right after Octopussy and during A View To A Kill.  What I thought was so cool about this game is that the adventures were based on movies, but they would always change the key plot points.  So in the film, if there was a bomb at the Eiffel Tower, it would be in the subway for the game.  So now, I’ve got such Bond-mania, I’ve been scouring ebay for these stupid games.  I’ll tell myself I need to do some drawing, and next thing I know, an entire week has gone by, and I’ve been dicking around online looking for James Bond games and haven’t accomplished anything meaningful.

I really want to do my own version of a James Bond spy-thriller story, but I’ve got a lot of developing to do before I get there.  I guess we all just want to do our own James Bond story though, don’t we?  Isn’t that all Nick Fury: Agent of S.H.I.E.L.D. is?  How do you keep it from looking like a bad version of Austin Powers?

Ah, the life of a comic-book geek, getting geekier by the day…

EDITOR’S NOTE: Wow, fans! Isn’t it interesting to note that – a couple years before he had realized the conceptthis diary entry anticipated the “James Bond rip-off -style” project Chris has currently been developing and pitching to comics publishers, entitled “BRUSH WITH ANGER, STARRING AGENT IAN ANGER!”  -Rob Oder, Editor-in-Chief!

152. ANNUAL SIT-DOWN WITH NUMBERS 2006

Friday, October 8th, 2010

EDITOR’S EXCUSES: FANS! Thus begins a series of diary entries which we want to stress are harmless, completely made-up fictions! We’ve employed such literary techniques as farce, parody, humor, exaggeration, and good clean fun, for mere purposes of fantastical entertainment!

See, we’ve created a “fictitious government organization”, to play the role of a “bad guy,” to give our diary entries a sense of drama and tension and excitement! How could a “real” government agency possibly be so despicable as the one you will see revealed before you??! Let’s call this fictitious agency the DSRS (“dip shit something-or-other service”) that is LOOSELY based on a government agency that is in actuality a bunch of loveable, fantastic, intelligent, hard-working and fair people whose work is essential to America! Enjoy! -Rob Oder! Editor-in-Chief!

EDITOR’S INTRODUCTION!

Wow, fans, it’s interesting to look back at this entry, as it presaged (our own artistic hack) Chris Wisnia’s most desperate, most insulting and humiliating, most horrible events of his life: the intense “inspection of how Chris spent money as a comics creator” by the DSRS, which Chris battled for almost two years! He learned more as the battle raged, but here, so innocent, so naive, he sounds almost hopeful and encouraging! Take heed! Don’t fall victim to his naive encouragement! If you ever find yourself pitted against this vicious, maniacally evil organization, GET A LAWYER! -Rob!

Diary entry: February 1, 2007

I was worried, as usual, about taxes this year. It’s always stressful knowing it will take so much time aside to work on adding up all my receipts for dvd and comic book purchases, and I always dread it.

I’ve got a program to help me. I enter in dates and store names and costs, and then I have to choose if each expense falls into “office supplies” or “travel” or “meals” or “rent” or “professional fees” or “printing,” or whatever else it falls into.

I made less money this year as a comics artist, because half of my income was thanks to an enormous “Ojo” royalty check, and another quarter was thanks to my initial “Ojo” page-rate payments. So Sam Kieth’s “Ojo,” which he was kind enough to allow me draw for, provided three-quarters of my “comics artist income.”

So all things considered, when you look at it that way, I feel like I actually did okay.

The problem is, my payments to all my idols for pin-ups ended up wiping out two-thirds of that income, and then my printing fees for the three comics and two trade paperbacks I published cost about double what I actually made.

So I guess I’m no damn businessman…

To me, it makes sense to spend these kinds of monies on something I can put into my projects and which will enrich and provide opportunities for greater sales. I need books to sell books, and if the books have big-name artists in them, they should be more likely to sell. But naturally these kind of crazy-assed stupid numbers worry me, come “inspection of how Chris spent money as a comics creator” time. This will be my third year taking a SERIOUS loss with my “business,” and I read that the DSRS only allows you to have two out of five years worth of losses. That means, by the book, you aren’t ALLOWED a third year of losses. So I guess that could mean I’m pretty seriously screwed.

HOWEVER, I learned that the main thing the DSRS is concerned about is that it is a legitimate business, and not just a clown who wants to buy a bunch of comics, and is calling this hobby his “business.” So earlier in the year, I sat down and read the DSRS’s and made a list of all the reasons I feel I am a legitimate business. Here it is, potential comics creators, in case you have any run-ins with the DSRS, and think any of these excuses can help you too:

[EDITOR’S NOTE: Don’t use this list, or this reasoning, as a guideline, fans! GET A LAWYER! It was literally the ONLY thing that stopped the DSRS from bullying, harassing, lying, and intimidating our artistic hack, Chris, even though they were in the wrong and Chris was in the right! As you will see in the following entries, our artistic hack, Chris, went through a year and a half of HELL with the DSRS, using the methods he chose to employ, and a lot of it was a complete waste of time, if he had only known to get a lawyer from the start! Although the DSRS guidelines list many of the items below as determinations regarding “professional vs. hobby,” Chris’s “inspector regarding how Chris spent money as a comics creator” wasn’t interested in any facts or documentation! He was only interested in telling Chris that Chris owed money that was in fact not owed at all! … UNTIL Chris hired a very expensive lawyer! And now, here’s Chris’s useless list, which he naively and uselessly compiled while making this diary entry! -Rob!]

A. Professional Training: I have a degree in art from UC Davis.

B. Time. I spend every available hour of my mornings (I work afternoons and evenings) writing, drawing, or scanning and preparing on computer my comics. Each page takes an average of one full day (6-8 hours) to letter, pencil, and ink. Books contain 32 pages.

Each time a book comes out, I package and send copies to reviewers and editors. This takes at least a day to get addresses together, prepare envelopes, write personal notes to each editor/reviewer, and get to the mail.

C. I have tried a number of techniques for selling books and formats of books, and am still trying to learn what processes work best.

1.    I tried advertising, which only minimally affected my sales numbers, but not enough to pay for the advertising.

2.    I tried books signings, which only made money from friends.

3.    I sell comics online, which generates business on occasion, based on reviews or mentions I get from various sources. I am learning which sources are most powerful in helping me generate additional sales.

4.    I regularly send out emails to fans, reviewers, and stores, to keep them aware of what work I am releasing or working on.

5.    I belong to and post regularly at a number of online comics-communities.

6.    Comic book conventions have been the best way to spread word of my product. People are there to buy comics, and usually say they haven’t heard of my book but enjoy it. In addition, stores and store owners, reviewers, publishing companies, editors, and other professionals who may become publishers or editors themselves one day, always attend, and I continue to make contacts every con we go to.

D. My activity is conducted in a businesslike manner. I keep active book records, and have hired or included the works of top professionals in the field on the pages of my publications.

E. I was able to get work-for-hire from one of the industry’s big celebrities, Sam Kieth.

F. I am working a minimum of hours at my “day job” (roughly half-time), so that I can make enough to get by until my comics career picks up. This gives me much needed time to devote to producing comics.

G. Even if I am losing money now, I am thinking in the long-term, building an inventory of my products, so that as my name catches on in the field, I will be ready to sell back-issues of my work to new fans.

What do you think, DSRS? Do I have a case for being a professional, and it just happens I’ve had bad sales luck for three years, and wouldn’t be surprised if the sales trends continue? If you have any doubts, feel free to give me a call, and we can set up a meeting to discuss it (That’s called an “inspection of how Chris spent money as a comics creator”).

[EDITOR’S NOTE: The DSRS thought little of this list! Admittedly, a lot of it was legally irrelevant and overexpostulatory, but even the relevant facts, such as Chris’s education, time commitments, convention commitments, and sales of product were ignored by Chris’s “inspector of how Chris spent money as a comics creator” … UNTIL CHRIS GOT A LAWYER! -Rob!]

Figuring out all the calculations for my annual forms, and getting everything entered went pretty smoothly and quickly this year (aside from me not understanding my program as usual, and adding up my profits by hand – since the program says I made a negative number for my gross profits), and I was able to pound out all the number crunching in under two weeks! For some reason I always think it’s going to be months and months (and I think it used to take me that long). It’s nice to be done and know I can jump into more Dick Hammer drawing.

Once I have all the numbers added up, my dad helps me with the forms. This year, the form-doing only took about three hours. It seems like it’s getting easier and easier, as we do basically the same entries each time. There have been times it felt like it took all day.

This year, as usual, the comics business did so poorly, that return is going to help make a nice down-payment on a house!

[EDITOR’S NOTE: You see what we mean, fans? What a kidder Chris is about a house down-payment! He makes it sound as if he’s not really legitimately working his ass off trying to succeed as a comics creator, and just goofing around ringing up a bill, so that he can dishonestly or unfairly snatch up free money that he doesn’t really deserve! But in fact, as the DSRS later had to admit, it was not only all money owed him, due to overpayments made by Chris throughout the year! Even more amazing, he would be owed remarkably MORE! But he would have to go through hell and the cost of a lawyer to see the money he was owed, and the year-and-a-half of HELL he suffered for it made him question whether he should just stop making art and give up his dreams! Thanks, DSRS, for doing everything you could to ruin your honest, hard-working American citizens’ aspirations and hopes, and encouraging them to be nobodies who despise themselves, their work, and their lives! And Chris had no conception of ANY of this yet, as evidenced by this innocent and light-hearted diary entry! CATCH FUTURE DIARY ENTRIES of Chris vs. the despicable DSRS … coming soon! – Rob!]

151. POSTING DICK HAMMER: THE DAILIES as a web comic online

Friday, September 24th, 2010

diary entry: March 19th, 2007
to cover December 17, 2006 through March 19, 2007

I had begun drawing the pages for DICK HAMMER: THE DAILIES, on November 30 2006, and was able to get eleven pages completed by January 17, 2007 (one page being the “cover image”). One entry was a “double page spread” which I entered as a two-date entry when I posted them online (listed as pages 4-5). I then broke one of the nine pages into two, making it two entries (pages one and two). And finally, I decided one panel should be zoomed into, to make a separate, second entry (panels 12-13). So those eleven pages became fourteen days worth of entries.

I had no web experience, so I told my web helper that I wanted him to set up for me a page where I could just post each new image myself, as I finished them. I didn’t want to have a “click here for next page.” I liked the idea of just scrolling down, down, down, as the story continues.

That said, I still wanted the images lain out so that you could basically look at (and hopefully enjoy, sit back and appreciate) one entry at a time, and then scroll down to the next one when you were done taking in the previous one. The idea with this project was to give each day’s entry a feel that it is its own self-contained little story, with a beginning and end. But that it adds to and builds up the overall story.

It took my web helper a few months to establish that set-up for me, so by the time I had begun posting the images, I was theoretically a couple months ahead of schedule. I planned to post one image every week. I liked that I had made this lead time for myself, because it’s always safer to give yourself a cushion. The other thing though, is that I planned to bite into my cushion a little, and post a number of images all at once, to help get the story started in advance. The first images are just cityscapes, so I thought I should post a lot of these at once, rather than make readers wait an entire week before showing them the next cityscape with absolutely no advancement of story. I “back-posted” the dates, to give readers the feeling some poor suckers might have had to have checked in every week to see basically nothing. It was a gag.

I wrote a long text intro (as I am prone to do with any of my projects), and then posted the first six entries, and voila! The web comic had begun!

I formally announced the release of my web comic by sending out a mailer to the mailing list I’ve slowly been collecting at conventions. This list also includes a lot of stores, and anyone who has been kind enough to take time to review my work. Then I went to a couple message boards to announce the web comic, and I also posted a bulletin at myspace. Lastly, I sent a personal email to Scott McCloud, who I consider the guru of web comics.

After that, all that was left was to check my emails every few hours to see if anyone had written me to say how much they enjoy it. I’m still waiting on that last part, and beginning to check a little less frequently (now three months into posts).

The pacing of the comic is pretty slow, so I’m thinking after the story has actually run for a little while (What I mean here is not that a bunch of posts are up, but that posts are up that actually convey a bit of the story), I’ll need to send some new hype out.

I was afraid some people might look at it, and then go, “Maybe I’ll check back in a month. And one of my friends confided that this is how he felt about it. Hopefully, it will gain interest as the story actually proceeds.

I just finished posting the introduction sequence, and added a new text sequence featuring the No-Good, Dirty, Stinking Back-Stabbing Rats. I had this idea from reading reprints of old 1950’s comics. As Al Feldstein told me (and I later read further confirmation from a Stan Lee introduction to a hardcover collection of Kirby’s giant monster comics), comics used to get a significant delivery discount from the post office, so long as they contained two pages of solid text. For this reason, all the old comics had these stupid-ass text-only “features,” that no one ever read. And the publishers knew no one read them, so they didn’t care who wrote them, and probably didn’t even bother to proof-read them.

So I was looking at these text features, and actually reading some of them, and thinking, I’ve got to put a text feature in some of my comics. And I sat on it for a while, and tried to come up with a feature that would be fun as a “text only.”

A few years ago, I had bought some old radio programs of “The Shadow” on Cd, and I enjoyed them enough to buy a number of other radio programs. Recently, I had hopped into my car, and the local college radio station was playing a radio show, and I listened for a minute and realized it was a Dashiell Hammett “Sam Spade” adventure, and it got me all excited, to the point I wished I didn’t have to get out of my car.

And then the next time I happened upon an old text piece in a comic, it hit me. I should do a film noir radio show as a text piece, to give a little break between chapters, in my Dick Hammer web comic. The whole point of radio shows is that you’re hearing all this stuff. You hear footprints, and a knock on a door, and a door open, and you can’t see any of it. So I thought, What if I do a a radio show, which is dependent on sound, but you can’t actually hear any of it, you have to read it instead? Portraying sound just through text. Will readers be able to “hear” the show? Find out . . . only in Dick Hammer: The Dailies!

I started thinking of Quentin Tarantino’s “Reservoir Dogs” and Michael Madsen’s torture and “ear” scene.” I wanted to try and invoke violent, disturbing imagery like that, just as an experiment. To see if I could make “listeners” (readers) squirm, without “seeing” or “hearing” anything.

The final element to the Dick Hammer web comic was deciding I wanted to title every chapter with a real pulp fiction title. I realized I didn’t care if the title had anything to do with the chapter, or even with the story. I just wanted some melodramatic titles.

I was reading James Bond novels and realizing Ian Fleming titled all his chapters, and I was thinking, I never title any chapters. I never even think to title chapters. That might be fun.

Also I had just finished reading an anthology of Cornell Woolrich short stories, and all the titles were so vibrant and corny and fun. So one day, I sat down in my living room with a pen and piece of paper, and jotting any stupid-ass phrase that came to mind, jotted down I’m guessing sixty or so ideas that I’ll be able to pick from, each time a new chapter comes up.

Even with all my advance work to keep on my “once a week” deadline, I’ve managed to get behind schedule. I didn’t even realize I was behind, but last week, as I posted the latest contribution, I realized my previous contribution was ten days earlier. That’s no good. And what’s especially no good is that I’m down to my last entry that I have finished in advance, and it needs to be posted this week. That means this week, I will have officially dried out my two month lead-time, and will have to make sure to publish one post a week. Wish me luck, fans.