Friday, July 22, 2005

San Diego Wrap Up

I've been home almost 24 hrs, slept, napped again, shopped and blogged. While doing so I've thought back on the biggest nerdfest on the earth. I will say though, dispite my bitching, it is a very happy event. Everybody seemed happy, the con goers especially. We artists bitch about everything, it's part of being a creative person and not wanting to settle for anything besides perfection, but to fans I think this five-day event is like Nerd-Disneyland.

I guess my feeling is the show has really gotten too big. From the hotel fuck-ups to the hassel and expense of shipping out your books, booth costs and the dinner situation. It's like trying to invade Normandy on $20 a day. A bigger show means more opportunity for somebody to spend their money on somebody else besides me. This is sort of a canabalization in a way. People only have so much $$. More vendors, means people have to be pickier.

I suppose everyone's experience with something this big is different. Like a UFO sighting or Big Foot, everyone describes the amount of lights and shape, movement, slightly different. One person has a beautiful experience, the other gets the cattle prod, or drug into the woods, gets mugged and has their soul sucked out. Sometimes I felt it was a little of all of the above. But I can only really speak as a pro, not a fan. I don't go looking for old comics or autographs. I don't go to celebrate my inner fanboy, I have never really done that, even when younger, I like the artists and the art, but attending panels on the Teen Titans "is just too gay' for me. Now a panel where Nick Cardy is gonna draw something...ok, I'm there. I was never ever comfortable with that aspect of fandom. I am a geek for art, for craft, so my attachment to any comic, or character is based on the quality of the artist attached to it. I'm not into gaming or fantasy stuff either, I have a PS2, but hardly play.

I go only to promote myself and meet friends and clients. I like to make $$ as well. I go for business first, fun, second, and most of the time I am so tired after a day of running my "virtual store front" I am a zombie after dinner. I'll be sitting across from Bill Rienhold or Rick Remender and really want to 'connect", you know talk shop...but my mind is zzzzzzzzzz

Ed Baretto and Ricardo Villagran

San Diego though is such a beautiful city, the times when Bret, Patricia and I walked around sight-seeing was great. I have never been to a nicer place, a more comfortable enviroment, it competes with Sedona, AZ easily, and the people all seem very nice. I guess the great weather is an anti-toxin for daily strife. And you can see it there, even in the beauty, homeless sleeping in the park, parts of the city struggling to be revamped a bit. There is a lot of $$ there, new construction growing up fast.

I came to the conclusion this year I can't even begin to see everyone let alone see the whole show. It's impossible. So I didn't try, I didn't go to Bud Plant, or Stuart Ng, or to Tony Railoa this year, I hardly bought a thing, a few gifts for friends and that was it. I didn't chase down all the sketchbooks. I did make down to the end of the show, "artists Alley" once. I hear reports people did good, other people did bad. It seems to me being at the end of the line, out of the mix of the big school of pooling fans has to hurt.

Comics, comics? We need no stinking comics!

I also see the show being more about everything else besides comics, or super hero comics. This isn't new, only more pronounced this year--many calling it Show West 2. I saw it at Mega Con, and even more so in SD, girls, girls reading manga, buying manga, dressing up in manga, girls on their own, not being drug behind their geeky boyfriend, no these were girls on their own, celebrating their own version of nerd pop culture. Tokyo Pop's booth mostly had girls or young women inside it when I passed, there was a young woman stuffing the free give away shelf. Girls Gone Manga, it was everywhere! But at DC's booth.... babymen. I took many pics of beautiful girls this year, it was a girl wathcer paradise.

But it is clear..

Our industry is being left behind, only the Babymen to sustain it. Animae and manga are growing steadily into the mainstream while the "Walled City of Babymania" AKA the local comic shop is becoming more and more just a "he-man, woman haters club", except for the fantasy women they want to jagg to. When hollywood falls in love with manga--makes movies based on manga, not Spidey, there will be a huge wail and much gnashing of teeth. And its coming...oh, it's gonna happen.

While manga seemes everywhere, Superjock comics breaks out into the mainstream only in the movies, TV cartoons and a few shows like Smallville, but that is a shallow hit, it isn't making the public seek out more mainstream comics. In fact I think we should almost stop calling mainstream comics mainstream. Manga is the new mainstream if you are to judge mainstream success by the old world definition, the one we in the old mainstream cling to. The false fantasy of 10 year old boys buying Batman and Superman or Jack Kirby comics like I did. The 10 year old today watches Cartoon Network and plays video games, if he read comics it's likely manga based, or newspaper strips. This reinforces what I learned teaching my class recently.

As I walked the floor I was struck by the amazing amount of people /artists there spending good money to hawk their wares, but I often passed by booths on the way to and from the men's room and saw many booths without anyone browsing, even on Saturday, when the hall was so friggin packed, it was like a mass of wiggling geek flesh. I always wonder, "Will they be back next year?" Everybody is selling, hoping for the Hollywood hook-up. Some people had sad faces, some had the "Don't go!" look of a man in solitary confinement.

The Men's Room

And what's up with the men's room being like the monkey house at the zoo!? Nobody ever talks about this, but it is a horrible situation at these shows, and SD is the worst. I don't know what the ladies room is like, but these must be the most crooked manstraws in the universe! It's like these guys have never had practice before! After a few hours the men's room has more urine on the floor than in the sewer pipes..goddam, aim that thing boy! Is it their small underdeveloped tyranosaurus arms, unable to reach down far enough, or over the belly or the Boba fett Mask greased up with sweat? You have to do the splits like Van Damm on the wall to not soak your shoes in nerd spore! Yukk!

I saved some $$ this year by shipping my books to Blev's house, flying to Pheonix and we drove over from Arizona. We were cool, as we got in early to set up for Preview Night, finding a place to park underneath the con and moved our stuff up in a few trips using the elevator. A huge improvement over last years 1 mile hike with our books. Though last year we got to see that weird Cat Guy as he parked his car near ours...yeesh! I was able to get reservations for dinner most every night for our gang to eat, calling no later than 4:30 to reserve the spot. Lou and Micky's and the new Taiwanese place being the favorites.

As always I have a great time meeting people who are fans of DRAW! and my work. I know I sound like a crab sometimes. Some of the folks are just so nice, so effusive it's rather overwhelming at times. How do you react to people telling you your comic book work changed their life? There was this guy Nikolas from Greece who told this story of how he was so effected by Bret's new Mutants he'd go into the only bookstore in town, miles from where he lived to buy it, he was so effected by the Bret and I imagined this 10-year-old kid running through crazy traffic to buy a comic at a Kiosk in the middle of road.

Pat Ollife and Howard Shum

I also enjoy seeing my peeps, some of which I see only once a year. After a busy day I wish we could end up in a quieter setting so we can really talk, but every resturant is so booked and noisey. I feel at time I have super ADD in San Diego. My mind split from multi-tasking selling, greeting, drawing...and I really hate doing sketches sometimes, as I often feel they are so-so, as I never feel I can fully concentrate. But with the plane ticket+the hotel+shipping+$40 a day and up for eating+ my table...It adds up fast to be a super expensive show to do. So sketching helps pay the bills. I tried in vain to Blogg from the con, but I was so tired I'd fall asleep trying to edit pics or write something coherent. Then the blogg was hacked or messed up, so now I've been backing up all my posts in case this happens again. Lesson learned.

The lesson here is show up early or face long lines for everything.

So I guess my feeling overall is possitive despite the hassel. Draw! 11 sould out in almost one day at the was flying off my rack and Tomorrows table as well. Having the island booth with eight artists was a bit carmped but it worked well for us as we had steady traffic the whole time, plus we always had an amigo there to spell us for a pee or coffee break. Everyone bitches about the con food, and the lines. Well unless they have double, tripple the amount of outlets and staff there is no way around it, you will have huge lines. I think the best thing is to get a cooler and go to Ralphs on 5th and Market, stock up on food,snacks and drinks and you are done. A thermos with coffee and goodbye 45 minute stand in que at Starfucks. I moved a fair amount of new 2005 sketch books, and traded a few with other artisrts as well. There were many artists I wanted to seek out, but again I just didn't have the chance, plus now I figure anything you wanted you can get on-line. There were many cool toys, weird robots and such, and while I like that stuff I am hesitaent to buy much as I already have too much junk. But some of it is so cool! The Japanese seem to be able to make so many diffierent types of cool things.

I did bump into Dave Cooper and talked with him for about 25 minutes. Seems he's pretty much out of comics and painting full time. His work is good for him. He certainly seemed happier and less stressed than in the past. I had a few offers and nibble at storyboard work on show, even possibly the rumored hellboy cartoon.

Every year I find a new cool artist, or make a connection with an old cartoonist, this year it was Frank Espinosa who does this fuckn' cool Robbins meets Crane meets Clerk style on a book called Rocketo and Paul Gringle, who did a strip called Out Our way and lot of cartooning back in the day. He's a classy old gent who attended SVA and was classmates with Wood, Williamson and that whole school. I also hung out and met all the Ghostbot Crew and the guys who do Happy Tree friends, I even got a free boxed CD set.

And then like a big mixer spinning around the top flys off and the show spills out and is done. The huge pressure to get there, wagons ho and all... is over...Pikachu sags from the ceiling, carpet flies up...that friggin' bitch from hell announcer starts yammering! F you bitch, I paid a good price for this spot and I'm stay'n till I'm done!

The Holiday Inn can go fuck a duck! I'll never deal with them again. That made the con harder to do as well as I was sharing the room with the Blevins' and we had to be up earlier and leave earlier to get back to our hotel 20 miles away. I plan on going back next year, though for the first time I am now entertaining the thought of not going, skipping a year, changing things up somehow.... maybe I'll feel different in a few months, it's already less than a year till the next one!


Scott Neely said...

HAHAHAHAHA! Great write up Mike! Very informative! I laughed out loud at most parts and agreed with you on all. I do enjoy getting books and meeting guys that I grew up admiring at those shows. Some are really nice. Except Neal Adams. His daughter Zeea is cool though.I talked to Rich Faber a few times since the show and he said he had fun but no great expectations as to making money. It was more for exposure. All these shows you kind of feel like a hooker on South Street in Philly. You have to have the right dress and make-up on to get people to come and notice you and to ultimately buy from you. You do feel like a prostitute. There's SO much going on that you can't do it all and if you only bring $200 bucks to spend that will go fast! As for hopeful job offers you may get out there, some fall through a lot of the times, but you're more than talented enough to cold call and most likely get something sitting at home, so these shows are mostly to hang with friends and talk shop. That's what I like to do too. There's usually someone out there who's doing something new and creative that's different from the main stream. As for Manga, it has taken over! Even in the local book stores here, I wrote to friends at DC a long letter of an experience that I had at a Barnes and Noble, I'll have to forward it to you cause I saved it since it was so long. It's preaching to the choir and Paul Levitz (and Quesada) who doesn't give a shit about the trade digest market and the effect that manga has. DC is still on afterglow mode since Batman Begins came out. matter of fact, I pitched something to DC to make things more interactive, but I'll tell you later about it. Anyway, I was waiting till the end of your blog to see if you would say if you would go again or take a year off. It may be nice to take off and maybe do some other kind of show. Who knows you may find something else that will intrest you creatively next year and you'll say fuck comics for good. Never know. Anything can happen in an art career!

Onward and upward!
Scott Neely

Mike M said...

$200 in SD makes you homeless :-)

I suppose in the bfuture the show will continue to grow, less with comics but more with pop culture. they will keep comics as the overall theme as it's what their non-profit charter as a corp is based on, but comics is clearly second or third rail now.

I have to say I applaude the manga publishers, dispite the fact I don't read much manga...mostly due to the facty I don't know where to start at times. I used to read books like Blade of the Immortal, but stopped years ago.

DC and marvel have their characters to currently save them through liscensing, but who can say what will happen 10 years out or less. They are amongst the worst businessmen ever. The public is fickle, advertisers train them to be, and to always be on the hunt for new stuff, manga and animae may also fall victim too, as the wave may only be a trend. I think we have to see what happens in 3-5 years as more and more publishers stock book stores with manga.

Scott Neely said...

I definitely think Hollywood has taken over the SD show more and more every year now. It's seems to be THE place now to unveil the latest piece of shit. HAHA! Even Bryan Singer flew back in from Australia to preview some Superman stuff (probably to belay fears that it will suck....which it will).

Pop culture has also taken over and they cater to guys like you and me with nostaglia at these shows. Nostaglia items have always been big though, and people will pay out the ass to reclaim a piece of their past. But comics, for some reason, can't grab a foothold and then do the incredible...grab another. DC likes their little niche and being under the WB radar. They have like two people working in their advertising department in NY and they have no budget! Once they pay the huge ad rates in Previews, they have nothing left. Just the good folks who do write ups and free press for them to get the word out (like the do in Entertainment Weekly). How do you run a business like that? You have the spend money to make money. Marvel makes all theirs off licensing too, but if it continues will it sustain? If you look at guys like Jeff Smith, who took ten years to make a good product with Bone, he's probably one of the few who is now finally reaping the benefits of his idea. He took 10 years of making sure the cake was good. The rest is icing really (the Bone video game, and Scholastic's color paperback reprints). If the cake is no good, then people will take a bite and leave. Fluff only lasts for so long.

Manga I'm sure will be the next thing that will invade the mind set and a lot more art will be drawn in the some Anime style. If you see Disney or Pixar moving that way the end is nigh! Then it will oversaturate the market and people will get tired of it like they do most stuff. It all comes full circle.


T McG said...

enjoyed your wacky adventures Mike. Your photo-exclusive of the washroom was very insightful.

wish i could go to the con, but San Diego is about as far away from me as any place in the continental U.S.

Mike M said...

t mcg, Hey just save your pennies in a jar, or buy some apple stock.

I think if you go just as a fan, it will be fun and less expensive, it will still be a hassel at points, but there are ways to save $$ like getting one room and sharing it with several people, i don't mind sharing with a few friends, but I am not sleeping on the floor. You'll definitely need your nerd-list and confortable shoes.

bustedacres said...

By the way, Mike, that drawing of the majorette you did is really amazing. I love the use of color in particular.

I LOVE that drawing.

bustedacres said...

Also--such a shame that Dave Cooper isn't still doing comics work--he's one of my favorite guys out there. But good for him that he's selling some paintings. Dunno if you'd be interested in something like this, but an article in DRAW! about guys who left comics and specifically why they moved on to other work would be very interesting to me.

Is it the money in animation that draws someone, or is it that the daily grind of working in comics is too much, or is it wanting to work in a field with more "mainstream" respect? Etc. etc. I'm very curious about this and how some folks slog away for years in comics while others choose to get out.

Boy--a Hellboy cartoon would be the bee's knees. Maybe Dave Cooper could work on the occasional Hellboy Jr short!

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