My 2014 Convention Schedule

Glasgow Comic Con has come and gone for another year, but I still have a few convention dates on the calendar.  Here’s an overview of what conventions you’ll be able to find me at over the remainder of 2014, and what I’ll likely have available there.

MCM SCOTLAND EXPO, 6th-7th September

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We’re just a couple of weeks away from the second annual MCM Scotland Expo in Glasgow’s SECC.  Last year’s inaugural event had a few question marks hanging over it.  With Glasgow Comic Con already firmly establishing itself as my hometown’s native con, was there a niche for another con on the calendar?  And with the comics quotient reduced to a Comics Village within a more general geek culture event, did exhibitors risk being ghettoized and overlooked?  And with relatively little publicity for the event beforehand, would people even show up for it?  The answers ended up being yes, no and HELL YES!  The show ended up being massive, with queues round the block and people waiting hours to get in.  The event was so huge that this year it has been expanded to a two-day event to cope with the demand.  It’s a suitably different event from Glasgow Comic Con, based in a large warehouse rather than the more intimate vibe Glasgow Comic Con creates by peppering multiple small dealer’s rooms across the CCA and nearby venues.  And the demographic MCM attracts seems to be a lot younger and more diverse, a lot of teenagers – teenage girls in particular – more into anime and manga than traditional comics.  But last year, this new audience seemed very keen to explore the Comics Village and try new things, so let’s hope that carries over to this year!

For this show, I’ll be sharing a table with Iain McGarry.  Iain is an exciting upcoming writer I’ve been a fan of for some time.  He’s been making a name for himself by having his shorts published in various anthologies, but at MCM he’ll be debuting Night and Day, the first collection of his work.  Trust me when I say this is going to be one of the hottest comics of the show, and one you’ll definitely want to get your hands on.

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As for me, I’ll be selling copies of the full-colour Diamond edition of And Then Emily Was Gone #1, along with black-and-white advance preview editions of issues #2 and #3.  I’ll also have a supply of the highly popular And Then Emily Was Gone prints from Glasgow Comic Con.  I’ll also be selling through my remaining stock of The Standard: be warned, stock for some issues is VERY limited!  I’ll have Glasgow exclusive editions of the final two issues, so anyone who missed out at Glasgow Comic Con will have the chance to find out how the story ends ahead of the worldwide release at the end of September.

 

NEW YORK COMIC CON, 9th-12th October

TheStandard6CoverThe biggest show on my calendar, my annual trip to New York is something I eagerly look forward to each year.  This will be my fourth time attending the big show at the Javitts Center, and I can’t wait to meet up with my American comics friends once again.  But this year is extra special, because not only will I be joined at the ComixTribe table by returning NYCC veterans Tyler James (Epic, The Red Ten), Joe Mulvey (Scam), Cesar Feliciano (The Red Ten) and Alex Cormack (Future Proof, I Play the Bad Guy), but Iain Laurie, artist and co-creator of And Then Emily Was Gone, will also be coming along for the trip and making an appearance at the show!

And what a jampacked table of goodness you’ll find at the ComixTribe booth.  You’ll find all the available issues of Scam, The Red Ten, Epic, as well as the gorgeous hardcover collected editions of Scam: The Ultimate Collection, The Red Ten, Vol. 1, The Oxymoron and C is for Cthhulu.  As for my stuff, for the first time at NYCC I’ll have the entire run of The Standard, all 6 chapters collected into 5 comics (including the double-length final issue set for release in September).  Having the whole series available at New York Comic Con is a major milestone I’ve been wanting to reach for years, I’m so happy to have finally made it happen.

ATEWG4CoverBAs for And Then Emily Was Gone, by the time New York Comic Con rolls around the first three issues will have been released worldwide.  We’ll have all those in stock at the convention, but by that point, we also expect all the artwork on the series to be complete, so we could possibly have an advance preview edition of issues #4 and #5 available for those in attendance: watch this space for more news on that front.  With Iain Laurie in attendance, there’s also a good chance you’ll be able to get a sketch from one of the breakout comic artists of 2014!

And that’s everything.  Oh, wait, one more thing…

OxymoronTeaserAt New York Comic Con last year, ComixTribe announced Oxymoron: The Loveliest Nightmare, a 4-issue miniseries with a story from me and Oxymoron creator Tyler James, and art from the incomparable Alex Cormack.  The series won’t be launching until 2015, but the script and art for the first issue is complete, and word on the grapevine is that, with Alex, Tyler and myself all in attendance, attendees who stop by our table might just get a first look a little bit sooner.  Again… watch this space!

With such a wealth of content, ComixTribe seems poised to stand as the king of the Small Press section on the NYCC floor!

THOUGHT BUBBLE, 15th-16th November

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Thought Bubble is always a cracking way to wrap up the con year.  Really cool venue, and a great, relaxed atmosphere, it gets bigger every year but has still captured that elusive intimate small con vibe.  But this year is poised to be the biggest yet, with some huge names from the world of comics descending on Royal Armouries in Leeds for a weekend of comics festivities.

I’ll be in attendance, with my table at the Thought Bubble Teepee at the center of the convention campus.  I’ll be sharing a table with Nathaniel Walpole, a very talented cartoonist whose distinctive, experimental work is sure to see him get a reputation in the years to come.  I’ll have all the stock I sold at New York, some of it making its first appearance on UK soil at the show.  Also, Will Robson, co-artist on issues #5 and #6 of The Standard, will be in attendance, and will likely be on-hand to do a bit of signing and sketching.

And that’s how my convention calendar is looking.  I hope you’ll be in attendance for at least one of these shows.  If you are, please come find me and say hello!

 

Is 2014 Comics’ Summer of Horror?

EmilyInterviewTeaserOver the past couple of months, it feels like I have been immersed in horror. Over the course of this month in particular, it’s starting to seem like my every spare moment has been dedicated to talking up my horror comic series, And Then Emily Was Gone. If you’ve somehow managed to avoid my social media PR onslaught, here’s the series synopsis:

Greg Hellinger is a man who sees monsters. Driven to the brink of madness by monstrous apparitions, he is tasked with finding a missing girl called Emily. Hellinger’s search takes him to a remote community in the Scottish Orkney Islands, where strange and terrifying things are happening…

Equal parts Twin Peaks, True Detective and The Wicker Man, with an atmospheric rural Scottish setting, And Then Emily Was Gone is a comic I’m really proud to have written, and artist Iain Laurie, colorist Megan Wilson and letterer Colin Bell have all done stellar work. The five-issue miniseries will be released monthly by ComixTribe, with the first issue hitting comic shops in July. That means this is the month it’s in the Diamond Previews catalogue available for order, and that’s left me thinking a lot about the marketability for this weird little book. From the early stages, there was concern that there might not be an audience in the comic market for this kind of morbid, gruesome story, that this might sit as something of an oddity among the more bombastic, action-orientated fare available in Previews. But recently, it’s started to occur to me that something dark is afoot in the comics world. Horror comics are on the rise, and now And Then Emily Was Gone is feeling less like a strange curio and more like a small part of a big movement.

EMILY 0108Just look at the new releases on the shelf of your local comic shop this week. Wednesday 7th May marked the launch of two new horror titles: Nailbiter and The Woods. Nailbiter is an Image Comics series from writer Joshua Williamson and artist Mike Henderson, about a small town in the American heartland that has been the birthplace of 16 prolific serial killers, and the disquieting secrets that town may hold. It was first announced at Image Expo in January, and did not seem like the most high-profile unveiling of that weekend. But over the past couple of months, I’ve watched buzz steadily built, first as people were floored by the blood-drenched preview art coming from Mike Henderson, then as the word-of-mouth started slipping out from those who’d read advance copies and were blown away. There was something palpable in the air that Nailbiter was going to be very special indeed, possibly the latest Image #1 to make a big splash. It says a lot that in the week that both Marvel and DC’s big crossover events of the year debuted – Original Sin and Future’s End respectively – the coverage and “book of the week” accolades going to Nailbiter threatened to upstage both of them. And having read the first issue myself, I can assure you it’s worthy of the hype. Mike Henderson’s moody artwork is a revelation, and while Joshua Williamson already turned heads last year with his impressive work on Ghosted, but Nailbiter sees him up his writing game once more. A single issue efficiently presents us with a well-realised world with intriguing/disturbing characters, and a steady accumulation of dread literally visualised on the page with a recurring THUMP-THUMP, THUMP-THUMP, THUMP-THUMP heartbeat growing ever more prevalent.

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But as impressive as Nailbiter was, in my humble opinion The Woods just about matched it step-for-step. From Boom! Studios – the latest addition to their slate of quality original content as they become ever more serious in emerging as a match for Image’s dominance of the creator-owned market – from writer James Tynion IV and artist Michael Dialynas, The Woods tells the story of a high school filled with pupils and staff which is suddenly and without explanation teleported to an alien world, at which point the people in the dramatically relocated building very quickly find themselves having to fight for their lives against monstrous alien beasts out to hunt them. The plot very quickly becomes gripping, and drew me in as a reader both in terms of the immediate tension presented in the high-stakes nature of the characters’ plight, and in a more overarching sense of thinking of the larger mystery behind how and why the school was brought to this world. But what really made The Woods stand out was the characters. Amongst the 513 people caught in this extra-terrestrial event, a small core ensemble of characters quickly emerge as figures to care about and get emotionally invested, already been drawn as real, likeable kids whose safety we are going to fear for. It’s very much cut from the same cloth as Manga horror classic Drifting Classroom, pushing the same buttons of intense claustrophobia, child endangerment and what sides of human nature will emerge out in the wilderness, but with enough of an American twist to give it its own identity.

TheWoods1So, two horror comics debut in the same week, both are quality books with buzz and critical acclaim behind them. What is it indicative of, if anything? It’s not like the comic medium is any stranger to horror. There’s in fact a rich history of horror comics. The biggest creator-owned comic in the industry today is The Walking Dead, ostensibly a horror comic, though I’d argue it’s evolved into more of a sweeping post-apocalyptic epic. And in recent years we’ve had our share of modern classics in the genre: Locke & Key, Severed, Echoes. But what stands out as different this year is the density with which these horror titles are hitting, and the splash they’re making. Nailbiter and The Woods both seem poised to go from strength to strength, but there are more debuts on the horizon. Spread, written by Justin Jordan and drawn by Kyle Strahm, is built around the delicious high-concept of “The Thing meets Lone Wolf and Cub,” and boasts some truly blood-curdling imagery. It caused a sensation at last year’s New York Comic Con, and now Image Comics have picked it up and have it slated for a July release. It got a major spotlight in this month’s Previews, and is already starting to build something of a social media steamroller behind it as that advance buzz brews. Watch this become one of the sleeper hits of the summer.

Spread1As the summer continues to roll on into August and beyond, some of the biggest names in comics will be getting in on the action. Writer Scott Snyder and artist Jock – the creative team behind one of the most celebrated Batman stories of the past decade, The Black Mirror – are reteaming for Image Comics to bring us Wytches. Now, Snyder is no stranger to the horror genre. One could argue he cut his teeth in the genre, with both his breakthrough Vertigo hit American Vampire (which since its Second Cycle relaunch has really seemed to bring the horror to the fore) and the aforementioned Severed. Even his mainstream DC work on the likes of Batman and Swamp Thing has had a fair share of horror elements injected into it, and The Wake was rich in horror trappings before morphing into an equally compelling but tonally distinct entity in its second half. So it makes a statement when Snyder talks about Wytches being the darkest and scariest he’s ever gone. This is something that’s quite fascinating for me, as horror is still something of a frontier in comics, and creators are still experimenting with how best to use the medium to scare the reader. Snyder has already been amongst the most successful, with Severed in particular making for harrowing reading, so when some of the best in the field are pushing at the forefront and striving to go further than they ever have, it suggests it’s an exciting time to be a fan of horror comics.

Wytches1Pushing the boundaries of what’s possible in a horror comic is also on the agenda for Nameless, another Image Comics offering. This also sees the reunion of the creative team of an acclaimed Batman run, this time Batman Inc, as artist Chris Burnham pairs up once more with writer and comics legend Grant Morrison. Details of this series have been sparse, and we don’t even have a concrete release date yet, but Burnham has talked about this being “the ultimate horror comic,” while Morrison has suggested that his ambition is to capture the zeitgeist and use Nameless to project a definitive statement about what frightens us on a primal level in modern society – “doing hopefully for now what H.P. Lovecraft did for the wartime generation,” as Morrison puts it – and considering that when Morrison set out to make the definitive statement on the superhero he gave us All Star Superman, we should all be very afraid at what he has in store for us with Nameless.

Nameless1But even with these big name talents with debuts lined up, there is one horror comic that I’m looking forward to more than any other. Ever since I first heard about it last year, there has been a graphic novel pencilled in as one of my premiere comic events of the year. The graphic novel I’m talking about is Through the Woods, by writer/artist Emily Carroll. When last I heard, it was set for a July release, but the marketing has been quite low-profile. But those who know about it are very excited about it indeed, as Emily Carroll is arguably the current master of the horror comic. His Face All Red is one of the single greatest horror stories to emerge from any medium in recent years. Like all the best horror, it stays with you long after you’ve finished reading, makes you think, makes you ask questions then leaves you troubled in the late hours by the implied answers. Her work has been a big inspiration to me in terms of opening my eyes to what kind of horror was possible in comic form. And up until now, her output has all been in the form of free webcomics. Through the Woods marks Emily Carroll’s first foray into the realm of print, with His Face All Red being collected with some new stories. Any horror fan should be marking this down as an essential purchase. In the grand picture of “the summer of horror” and the rise of horror in comics, Through the Woods could end up being the most important book of all.

ThroughTheWoods1There’s a quote from actor/writer Mark Gatiss I particularly like, spoken at the beginning of the BBC documentary series, A History of Horror:

The cinema is where we come to share a collective dream, and horror films are the most dreamlike of all, perhaps because they engage with our nightmares.

Just as horror films at their best have a unique power with the way they utilise the tools of that medium in the most visceral and potent of ways, I think that the comic medium has the same potential for engaging the senses. It’s a visual medium, and a well-crafted image can be seared on a reader’s psyche, yet despite the notable works in the field I feel like much of that potential remains untapped. Recently, I feel like horror cinema has lost much of its edge, and there haven’t been that many genuinely great horror films over the past several years. So, I talked about the frontier before, and I believe that more and more comics could become the proving ground where we go to scare ourselves in the most inventive and rewarding manner. For years I’ve felt like the horror market for comics could be huge, and this year it feels like we could be taking major steps in that direction. I don’t claim to be anywhere on the level of all these exciting works making their way to comic shops in the coming weeks and months, but if all the “summer of horror” does indeed prove to be a significant movement in the comics industry, I’m proud that And Then Emily Was Gone can be part of it.

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And Then Emily Was Gone #1 is released in July.  Pre-order your copy now, Previews order code MAY141251.  For more info, follow the Facebook page or check out the official blog.

Through the Woods is released in July.  Pre-order your copy now, Previews order code APR141272

Spread #1 is released in July.  Pre-order your copy now, Previews order code MAY140579

Wytches is released in August.  Nameless does not yet have a release date. 

Nailbiter #1 and The Woods #1 are available to buy now from all quality comic shops.

Glasgow Comic Con 2013: A Creator-Owned Comics Preview

So, there’s a comics convention coming up in July that I’ve been looking forward to all year.  “Oh, San Diego?” I hear you ask.  Nope!  I’m talking about Glasgow Comic Con!  Sure, the climate ain’t as sunny as SDCC, but for the past two years my hometown con has put on a hell of a show.  In 2011 and 2012, the event was held in the Mackintosh Church Arts & Heritage Centre, a lovely venue full of character which I personally enjoyed, as it was so unlike your typical convention hall.  However, the downside was that it was way outside the City Centre, so getting there was a bit of a chore.  But for the third annual Glasgow Comic Con, running from Saturday July 13th to Sunday July 14th, the organisers have switched to the Centre for Contemporary Arts, better known as the CCA: a cracking, upmarket venue with a brilliant location right in the heart of the City Centre.  Things are primed for this year’s convention to be the best yet!

As an independent creator, there’s one thing in particular that makes me really like Glasgow Comic Con.  Yes, the show has had its share of high-profile guests – with the likes of Grant Morrison, Frank Quitely, Jim Starlin and Mark Millar all making appearances over the past couple of years – who are game for panels and signings.  Yes, there are bargains on back issues and graphic novels to be found in the exhibitor area.  But last year, something that has stood out to me is that, perhaps more than any other con I’ve attended, the “star attraction” seems to be local creator-owned comics.  Last year, there were many reports of quick sellouts of sizeable amounts of stock from numerous indie creators, with a recurring problem (and a good one to have!) being pros selling out of all their stock by the end of the first day or the start of the second day and have nothing left to offer even as fans kept on coming up to their table looking for stuff to buy.  I personally had my most profitable convention ever at last year’s show, and I’ve exhibited at Thought Bubble and New York Comic Con.  I had some of the easiest pitching experiences in my life: I have a little blurb rehearsed in my head that I cycle out on punters on the convention floor, but often at Glasgow Comic Con I’d only make it as far as “Hi, can I interest you in my comic, The Standard?” before they’d cut me off with a “YES PLEASE!” and put money in my hands.  There were folk who just started at one end of the show floor and went through every small press table, buying something from everyone.  There’s something about the Glasgow comic fanbase that has a strong interest in supporting local talent, it seems.  It’s reflected in the prominent, popular “local” sections in our comic stores.

Given the highly positive experience of last year, there has definitely been a buzz around the thriving Scottish comics community over the past several months, a feeling of just about everyone working away on something in hopes of getting it ready in time for the con.  I for one love it that the debut of the latest comic from this local creator or that is feeling like an event and an attraction that will be drawing people to the convention.  Of course, I’ll be there as a pro and an exhibitor, but as a reader, the thought on getting my hands on the latest work from Neil Slorance or Craig Collins is a major draw.

Bearing all this in mind, we return, in a roundabout way, to the purpose of this feature.  I want you all to be as excited about the wealth of Scottish comics being showcased at Glasgow Comic Con as I am, so I want to do a rundown of the diverse range of creator-owned comics debuting at the show.  I firmly believe there’ll be something for every comics fan available.  Let’s get started!

THE STANDARD

TheStandard04_18pSelfishly, I am opting to begin by promoting myself!  I shall take that as a perk of being the guy to write this thing!  For me, The Standard was the comic that started it all.  My first experience attending a convention in any sort of professional capacity was Glasgow Comic Con 2011, where The Standard #1 was nominated at the Scottish Independent Comic Book Awards (or SICBAs) affiliated with the convention.  Fast forward to 2012 and I had a table at the show, and The Standard went from being an award-nominated comic to an award-winning title, with me earning the Best Writer trophy for issue #3.  As mentioned above, I had a hugely successful con, with my graphic novel collection of the first 3 issues of the series proving to be a big seller.  And now, a year later, after much demand, The Standard #4 will finally be ready to make its debut at the con!

TheStandard04_05pWe’re just putting the finishing touches on it now, and I have to say, I’m so proud of the work everyone has done on this.  From a scripting perspective, I’d say it’s a leap forward from the previous three issues.  Jonathan Rector’s artwork is perhaps the best it’s ever been.  Mike Gagnon is settling very nicely into his role as permanent colourist – the first person to last more than one issue in the role!  And Kel Nuttall continues to deliver consistently ace letters.  I’d definitely say The Standard #4 is the best of the series thus far…. and Glasgow audiences will get to read it before anyone else in the world!  We’re currently pencilled in for a worldwide Diamond release in October, but attendees at the convention will be able to pick up their advance copy in July, a whole 3 months earlier!  Not only that, but this will be a Glasgow-exclusive edition, with a new cover by Scottish artist Iain Laurie drawn specially for the show.  It’s still in development, but here’s a sneaky peek:

IainLaurie4CoverBut that’s not the only comic I’ll be debuting at the con…

BAD SUN

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Chris Connelly has some form at Glasgow Comic Con.  He was one of the aforementioned small press success stories last year, with his debut comic Reality War selling out in record time and marking the young artist out as an emerging creator of note.  It was at Glasgow Comic Con 2012 that the two of us really got to chatting about the possibility of working on a comic together.  And from those discussions came Bad Sun.

For those of you unfamiliar with my previous conversations about the comic, Bad Sun is a sci-fi comic set in a future where an alien race known as the Tchairabuns have migrated to Earth, and have now been living amongst us for some 30 years.  While most stories may adopt a setting of New York or Los Angeles, or maybe London, to show how the world would react to such an event, Bad Sun is set right here in Glasgow, Scotland.  It’s not a locale used often in sci-fi tales, but I think the local angle will be highly appealing to the comic fans attending the convention.  The story centres around Lennidasz Cowan, a Tchairabun adopted in infancy by human parents who forged a trailblazing career in the police force, and who now finds himself appointed the leader of a new taskforce dealing with human/Tchairabun relations in Glasgow.  In this role, he has to deal with both the machinations of a Tchairabun extremist terrorist group and the anti-alien prejudices felt by some of the city’s human population and even his own team.

The first issue of this new 6-part miniseries will be on sale at Glasgow Comic Con, and contains both a 24-page main story, drawn by Chris Connelly, and a 5-page backup tale drawn by Jason Mathis of School of the Damned fame.  We’re packing in the content here!  Both Chris and I will be at the table selling the book, so come along to meet the co-creators and pick up the first chapter of what could be my most ambitious comics narrative yet!  Chris Connelly will also be selling original art and prints, and doing commissions most likely, so you won’t want to miss that!

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That leaves one more book of mine to promote…

AND THEN EMILY WAS GONE

coverIain Laurie has good form at Glasgow Comic Con.  Back in 2011, he was award-nominated for his stellar work on Roachwell, where I first became a fan of his.   In 2012, he didn’t have a table or an official presence at the show, but I did buy off him my copy of Iain Laurie’s Horror Mountain, which ended up being the best thing I got at Glasgow Comic Con 2012.  Now, at GCC 2012, I’m pleased to report that Iain Laurie will be tabling with me and Chris Connelly, doing commissions (an original Iain Laurie sketch is near the top of my con wishlist) and helping me sell copies of the first issue of And Then Emily Was Gone, the 5-issue miniseries we have co-created.

Page3And Then Emily Was Gone begins with Greg Hellinger, a man who sees monsters.  Formerly a police detective with the Missing Persons Bureau, renowned for his ability to find people thought lost forever, the visions Hellinger is afflicted with have left him a broken man.  But then a 17-year-old girl called Fiona shows up at his door.  Her best friend, Emily, has gone missing, and Fiona has reason to believe only a man of Hellinger’s unique skill set can help her.  So begins a journey to Merksay in the Orkney Islands, a strange place where horrible things are happening…

The benchmark Iain and I often talked about while developing this comic was Twin Peaks.  We wanted to capture that weird, slightly off-key vibe, permeated with a cloud of dread hanging over everything.  I think this simultaneously manages to be both Iain Laurie’s most mainstream work and my most bizarre and out-there.  It’s an unusual comic, to be sure, but one I’m highly proud of.  I’ve said it until I’m blue in the face, but it bears repeating that I am unbelievably excited to be working with Iain Laurie, particularly on such a subtantial project, and I quite simply cannot wait to share it with you.

Page7And thus ends the self-promotion!  This is by no means all about bigging myself up, as I’m just one of several local creators showcasing work at Glasgow Comic Con.  For starters, And Then Emily Was Gone isn’t the only debut featuring artwork from the venerable Iain Laurie.

METRODOME

Metrodome1Iain Laurie reunites with Craig Collins, who paired with Laurie for Roachwell in 2011 before making a splash with his Haunted Bowels at last year’s con, for a new anthology of strange tales.  In the convention’s three-year history, Craig Collins singular creative voice has already made him something of a fixture.  The unique visual stylings of Iain Laurie have proven to be a worthy match for Craig in the past, so I’m keen to see where that collaboration takes them with Metrodome.  The actual plot remains elusive, beyond the vague teaser of “The Fight for Survival, The Battle for Ultimate Victory!”  But considering the talent involved, this is already a guaranteed con purchase for me.

Metrodome2Guaranteed to have a major presence at the con is Black Hearted Press, Glasgow-based comics publisher and also the organisers of the convention.  They have a veritable slate of quality projects primed to unleash on  con attendees this July, both established brands and exciting new titles.  Let’s take a look at what they have in store…

THE SCHOOL OF THE DAMNED

SchooloftheDamned5Arguably the flagship title of Black Hearted Press, The School of the Damned has already proven successful enough to sustain its own spinoff title, The Children of the Damned.  Played like a love letter to the classic Universal horror movies, the series focuses on a school of monstrous misfits derived from the iconic horror archetypes of that cinematic golden age, set against the backdrop of WW2-era Nazi Germany.  I’ve spoken fondly of the series myself in earlier reviews, with its mix of clever plotting by John Farman and lush artwork first from James Devlin in issue #1 and then Jason Mathis in issues #2-#4.

With The School of the Damned #5, launching at the con, we welcome a new art team to the fold in the form of Thomas Crielly and John Howard.  I’ve had a glimpse at some of the stuff these guys are doing, and it is lovely stuff, living up to the high benchmark set for the visuals on this series by their predecessors.  This issue, the penultimate chapter in the series’ first arc, promises a major character death and a beast of a cliffhanger, and also boasts the jawdropping cover by the mighty Alex Ronald seen above.  I presume the rest of the series thus far will also be available, and I heartily recommend that horror fans check this quality series out and catch up on the story so far.

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‘Great concept; good characters; intriguing storyline; art and writing up to the task – terrific!’ – Ian Rankin

LAPTOP GUY

On the opposite side of the spectrum from the Gothic stylings of The School of the Damned, and a testament to the diversity of their lineup, comes Laptop Guy.  Originally a comic by cartoonist Sha Nazir about the adventures of the eponymous laptop-headed protagonist, this series relaunch sees Nazir return on art duties while joined by writer Jack Lothian.  The series has been reinvented as a metatextual, very loosely “biographical” comic about a fictionalised version of Sha Nazir and his struggles to make the previous incarnation of Laptop Guy, here characterised as an utter turd of a comic: “Failure has a new name,” reads the tagline, “And that name…. is Laptop Guy.”.  I’d call that harsh, as I found the original Laptop Guy to be a charming book, and I know people who speak of it fondly, but it does make for a funny conceit to build the narrative around.  This is billed as a “sitcomic”, a term I’ve had in my head for ages and am so pissed that Sha got to capitalise on it before I could, and having got a sneaky peek at the issue, I can confirm it does bring the funny, and shades of the movie Adaptation.  At the very least, Laptop Guy #1 is more successful than its fictionalised counterpart!  The first instalment of this relaunch will be available at the con, so check it out for yourself.

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‘A guy with a laptop for a head… Weird and funny. – Bill Bailey

MAXIMUM ALAN

MaxAl_1_reprint_layoutAnother offering from Black Hearted Press, this one is truly bizarre.  It’s a violent, surreal tale, starring legendary comics writer Alan Moore.  And Alan Moore.  And Alan Moore.  And Alan Moore.  And Alan Moore….

You get the idea.  Issue #1, which I picked up at the convention last year, began with the real Alan Moore going about his misanthropic daily life, only to be confronted by an army of murderous parallel dimension Alan Moores out to eliminate him.  And things got weirder from there.  This year, writer Ross Leonard and artist Brian Rankin are back with a second helping, as issue #2 debuts in time for the con.  I have heard whisperings of cameos from other famed comic creators, too!  The solicit describes Maximum Alan as “a comic trip unlike any other”, and no one can argue the uniqueness of this oddity, that’s for sure!  I thought this was a good laugh, and I’m sure the second chapter will be more of the same.  Look out for it at the show!

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ROYAL DESCENT

The final Black Hearted Press book to be featured at Glasgow Comic Con, and perhaps the one I’m most looking forward to.  The high concept behind the series just sounds brilliant.  With the fall of the British Government and society in ruins, a new and powerful political party takes the reigns in this dystopian vision of a future Britain. The Austerity party’s first act is the public execution of the British Royal family… by their own hand.  From there we launch into what seems to be “The King’s Speech meets Battle Royale,” which promises to make for a brutal, controversial, eerily relevant comic experience.  John Farman has some big ideas for this one, and all the artwork I’ve seen from John Howard suggests he’s a real talent of note worth keeping an eye on, so I wouldn’t be surprised if this ends up being a breakout hit of the convention

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Black Hearted Press are a veritable juggernaught of Glasgow comics, and as you see will have a wealth of material on offer at the con.  But there is a wide selection of other creators also showcasing their comics at the show.

GLoW 2

Glow2The Glasgow League of Writers is a great network of creators based in and around the city, who meet fortnightly for a kind of writer’s circle for comic to read and provide feedback for each other’s scripts.  It’s an invaluable creative resource, one I’m proud to have been a founding member of.  At last year’s Glasgow Comic Con, our debut anthology, creatively titled GLoW 1, was another of the con’s sell-out successes.  That first volume was on a superhero theme.  This second volume, with the similarly creative title of GLoW 2, has switched genres to horror.  With a wider stable of writers and artists contributing, and a higher quality of storytelling all round, I’d say those who picked up the first anthology at last year’s show and enjoyed it definitely won’t be disappointed by this follow-up.

I’ve got two stories in GLoW 2: “Floorboards”, drawn by my old friend James Fairlie, and “Open House”, drawn by my Bad Sun collaborator Chris Connelly.  And there’s also work from a whole range of new and established Glasgow talent.  Be sure to head over to the GLoW table and check it out!

Open_House_Page_4Speaking of GLoW members…

NO MORE HEROES

NoMoreHeroes4A little anecdote I never tire of telling is that, at the very first GLoW meeting back in 2011, the very first script on the agenda was Gordon McLean’s No More Heroes #1.  Back then, it was clear Gordon was writing something special, and since then we’ve seen that first draft script grow into a 4-issue miniseries, we saw the original roughs and sketches of artist Caio Oliviera, and then we saw it all blossom into a complete comic.  And at last year’s SICBA awards, No More Heroes walked away with the coveted award for Best Comic.  Since then, the remaining issues have been released, and now the conquering hero returns to Glasgow Comic Con with the complete series in tow.

The story only got better with each passing issue, so Gordon and his comic must surely be considered front-runners to make lightning strike twice for awards glory.  It really is a fantastic series, a dark twist on the superhero genre that sees a hapless Everyman dragged into a murky world of violence and villainy after his dismissive response to what he believes is a prank call results in the suicide of a famed superhero.  Whether it’s catching up on the whole series or scooping up any issues you missed, this is a highly recommended purchase for your Glasgow Comic Con visit!

NoMoreHeroes3aTHE MIND PALACE

MindPalaceLuke Halsall is another founding member of the Glasgow League of Writers.  Perhaps best known for his journalistic work for Geek Syndicate and his prose work that has found quite the following on the Kindle market, his comic work has mostly been limited to shorts in anthologies.  The Mind Palace marks Luke’s first foray into a substantial solo comics project, an anthology piece filled with various shorts, all written by Luke and drawn by a wide range of artist, covering a variety of genres but unified with an uneasy weirdness of tone.  Luke is notorious for his iron-clad pitching abilities on the convention floor, so whether you plan to or not, expect to leave Glasgow Comic Con having bought a copy of The Mind Palace, along with an odd sock and a bridge.

MindPalace1I’ve also heard reports that Luke Halsall will be debuting another top secret comics project at Glasgow Comic Con, drawn by Villainous artist Graeme Kennedy (who will also be selling Villainous alongside writer Gary Chudleigh).  Keep your eyes open!

VAMPIRE VIXENS OF THE WEHRMACHT

VampireVixens1Two years ago, artistic wunderkind Alex Ronald made everyone’s eyeballs explode with his stunning artwork in Vampire Vixens of the Wehrmacht, a story being serialised in the Wasted anthology.  He ran away like a bandit with the Best Artist SICBA that year, and has spent the time since even further honing and refining his craft to the point where not just your eyeballs, but your whole cranium is at eruptive risk from exposure to his perverse visual delights… as Vampire Vixens of the Wehrmacht is back, this time not just as an anthology short, but as a full, self-contained oneshot!

Vampire Vixens of the Wehrmacht features the wartime adventures of a gorgeous Nazi Vampire defector and a pompous British Army chaplain as together they take on Hitler’s occult horde.  It’s boobs, blood, guns and gore with political correctness thrown out the window.  That’s the setup, and that’s really all you need, isn’t it?  Ridiculous, high-octane exploitation, with Nazis, vampire, Nazi vampires, and more cheesecake than you can poke a stake at.  And it’s all held together by Alex Ronald’s stunning painted artwork, chanelling the likes of Alex Ross and Jon J Muth.  Alex will be tabling at Glasgow Comic Con, where he’ll be offering Vampire Vixens of the Wehrmacht with two variant covers, in a volume boasting an introduction from none other than Mark Millar.  This is sure to be a hot item at the show.  I know I’ll be buying it!

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TEAM GIRL COMIC

One of Glasgow’s most popular indie comic exports, Team Girl Comic has found fans all across the UK.  I for one saw them make a killing at the Thought Bubble convention in Leeds last year.  The central conceit of Team Girl, as the title might suggest, is that it’s a comics anthology created entirely by female cartoonists.  Their open submissions policy has seen a diverse range of content in past issues, with a few schoolkids even contributing from time to time, but quality stalwarts such as Gillian Hatcher and MJ Wallace remain a recurring presence in the series.  Their latest issue – Team Girl #8 – will be available at the con, as will earlier issues, I’m sure.  These books seem to go down really well with the all-ages audience, I’ve noticed, though that shouldn’t be taken to mean kids only: there’s enough charm and smarts on display for readers of all ages to enjoy. 

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However, I’m pleased to report that Team Girl Comic won’t be the only offering from the talented Gill Hatcher…

BUNNY BEHIND THE MOON

BunnyBehindTheMoonPart comic, part children’s storybook, Gill’s latest project looks quite simply delightful.  Wonder is a little schoolbunny with unusually long ears. One day these ears start to receive strange messages – someone appealing for help. Could it really be a bunny astronaut lost in space? Wonder must use her intelligence and bravery to rescue the bunny behind the moon.  Packed full of adorably-drawn bunnies, this book is set to overload your “Aaaaaaw!” sensors, and should prove a great showcase for the skills of Gill Hatcher as she moves from the collaborative Team Girl network into a project where the spotlight is all on her.  I remember reading an early draft of the script for the book way back when at a GLoW meeting, and thoroughly enjoying it, so I’m highly anticipating seeing the finished product.  I expect it to do very well at the con.

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BIG IN JAPAN

BiginJapanAnother talented new creator who’ll be presenting at Glasgow Comic Con is Morag Kewell.  I knew Morag as one of the Hope Street Studios crowd, though I thought of her as more of an artist of models and crafts like hand-made jewellery as opposed to comic illustrations.  But it turns out Morag has multiple strings to her bow, as at the Dundee Expo earlier this year, this comic book travelogue of her trip to Japan proved to be a big hit.  I had thought of Neil Slorance as the undisputed champion of the comic travelogue, but it seems like this sub-genre is a growing niche on the Scottish comics scene.  It’s a nice demonstration of how comics are a medium, not a genre, and any kind of story – including non-fiction stories – can be told in the format.

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FAT-MAN AND RIBBON

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I gave the #0 preview issue of this fun superhero parody a positive review back when I read it, but said that it was really just a teaser, and that the proper issue #1 would be the real test of the book’s quality.  And now, Fat-Man and Ribbon #1 is set to launch at Glasgow Comic Con.  When Matthew Charles Marlowe, C.E.O. of the world renowned clothing empire Fat Men, Inc., is suddenly confronted by the dastardly machinations of sinister and powerful forces of anarchy he has but choice: become the hero his city kinda sorta needs! Set in the fictional, future capital city of Scotland, Metro Scotia, Fat-Man and Ribbon is a semi-autobiographical tale of justice, adventure, intrigue and hetero life partnerships.  Written by Martin Ferguson, and with wonderfully crazed artwork by Andrew Docherty, I am expecting to be entertained!

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COSPLAY KILLERS

CosplayKillers1Written and drawn by Craig Longworth, Cosplay Killers has been cropping up in comic shops all over Glasgow, and now Craig will be bringing the first issue to the city’s native comic convention.  The book’s about a ragtag group of misfits enacting violent retribution on a “hit list” of what they feel to be the worst of society.  It’s Craig’s debut comic, from what I understand.  I remember the excitement and terror of trying to put my first comic out there with The Standard #1 a couple of years back, so kudos to Craig for diving in with Cosplay Killers.  It looks like suitably bonkers small press fun!

CosplayKillers2But I’ve saved perhaps the best for last…

THE AMATEUR ASTRONOMER’S JOURNAL

AmateurAstronomersJournalI’ve been interested in Neil Slorance’s work since his collaboration with writer Colin Bell on Jonbot VS Martha.  It has a quirky, cartoony cuteness to it that contains a surprising amount of expressiveness once you get into it.  But where Neil truly came into his own was with his aforementioned travelogues, Nine Lines of Metro and Seven Days in Berlin.  Making the jump from artist to cartoonist, Neil added another string to his bow, showing his art could be more than just cute and funny, it could be poignant and even heartbreaking, and pack surprising emotional wallop.  I was so impressed by Neil’s 2012 output that I’m now automatically invested in anything with his name attached, meaning this announcement of a move from non-fiction back to fiction for Neil is highly intriguing to me indeed.

Incorporating some of Neil’s real-life passion for science and astronomy, the plot of The Amateur Astronomer’s Journal is likely evident in the title.  But Mr. Slorance promises a bit of “sap” (his word) too, so I’m preparing for a tale that’s bittersweet and moving and brings all the feels.  This will probably be my first purchase at the show, and it’s a debut I’m anticipating more than most Marvel/DC stuff on the horizon.  Check it out for yourself to see what all the fuss is about.  And while you’re at Neil Slorance’s table, be sure to pick up his earlier books, and maybe get a sketch from him while you’re at it.  He really is a nice, talented fellow.

AmateurAstronomersJournal1So many great creator-owned comics for you guys to buy.  And that’s not including the other awesome comics from Glasgow creators I know to be in development, but which sadly won’t be ready in time for the show.  Stephen Sutherland and Gary Kelly’s pulse-pounding thriller Neverending, Garry McLaughlin’s mind-boggling sci-fi epic Gonzo Cosmic, and the top secret new collaboration from Colin Bell and Neil Slorance… each one of these not being available for me to get my hands on at Glasgow Comic Con is devastating in itself, but all three of them being absent is quite simply heartbreaking.  I’ll keep my eye out for all three in the hopefully not-too-distant future!

Hopefully this highly lengthy piece has demonstrated just how much talent there is in the Glasgow comics scene.  There is a rich selection of creator-owned comics set to be featured at this year’s Glasgow Comic Con, a lineup so strong I’d willingly match it up against the small press corner of any con in the world this year.  If you’re a comic fan in Glasgow, you have no excuse: get yourself to Glasgow Comic Con, CCA, July 13th-14th.  If you’re a fan of quality independent comics from further afield, on the other side of the UK, hell, the world… you should make the pilgrimage to Glasgow for this show.  Come join us, you can sleep on my couch!

Tickets are available to buy from the CCA or Plan B Books, or online at the official website.  Get yours now!  This show is gonna be the baws, and as both an exhibitor and a fan, I can’t wait.

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2013 Preview: Anthologies

This is a collection of short stories I wrote and were published last year, actually, but they become more widely available this year, so I still thought it would be worthwhile to include them.

GLoW 1 – the first anthology of the Glasgow League of Writers, revolving around a superhero theme – was one of the breakout hits of Glasgow Comic Con 2012, selling out within hours.  Our follow-up anthology – imaginatively titled GLoW 2, and built on a horror theme – had a small debut at Thought Bubble 2012.  But if that was our trial run, the big event where we’re really looking forward to launching it is at Glasgow Comic Con 2013.  Hopefully, those who enjoyed the first anthology will be back for this one.  There’s a bigger roster of talent involved, and I think it reflects our growth as a collective.

As for me?  I have two stories in it.  The first one is Floorboards, a mean little 1-pager drawn up by my good friend James Fairlie.  The second one is a 5-page sting-in-the-tail short titled Open House, drawn by Chris Connelly.  We so enjoyed working together on this little nasty that we embarked on a larger collaboration.  More on that tomorrow.  In the meantime, here’s a wee peek at a page from Open House:

Open_House_Page_4But it’s not only on this side of the Atlantic that I’ve been participating in anthologies.  Over in the US, The Oxymoron from ComixTribe proved to be a massive Kickstarter success story last summer.  Our goal was to raise around $8000 to produce the book.  We ended getting $26,000, and we saw the anthology – a collection of short stories revolving around the monstrous villain of The Red Ten, The Oxymoron – become a better and better package, becoming hardcover, oversized, with a UV-coating on the cover, and a whole range of variant covers added, plus an art gallery added into the back.  The final package is absolutely stunning, and I’m so proud to have my name on a book that looks so professionally crafted.  But there’s more to this book than nice aesthetics: each story in this graphic novel is fantastic, showcasing a range of art styles, and stories that range from blackly comic to soul-shreddingly dark and horrifying.  Currently, The Oxymoron is available to buy in comic shops here in Glasgow: Forbidden Planet and A1 Comics got some editions in for supporting the Kickstarter.  But the book will also be getting a worldwide Diamond release in the summer…. so watch out for it in Previews, and recommend that your retailer pick it up!

ComixTribe did so well with this anthology, that they have other, similar projects in the pipeline, ones I’m also involved in, but can’t really talk about at this stage.  In the meantime, take a look at this page from “Selfless Man”, the story I wrote for The Oxymoron, drawn by Tyler James.

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REVIEW: Scam #1

Now, reviewing Scam #1 by the highly talented writer/artist Joe Mulvey could be seen as something of a conflict of interests.  After all, this is the first Diamond-distributed release from ComixTribe, publisher of my comic The Standard and populated by people I consider to be friends.  It would be easy and indeed expected of me to just say, “THIS COMIC’S GREAT, GO BUY IT NOW!”  Only it’s not so easy to pitch a comic you don’t believe in.  I’ve said it before, but when I was at New York Comic Con last year trying to shill all the products at the ComixTribe table in addition to my own, my job was made much easier by the fact that the quality all-round was so high I could be honest in my enthusiasm for what we had to offer.  And so I’m not just going to tell you that this comic’s great, I’ll tell you how it’s great.  I’ll not just tell you to go buy it now, I’ll tell you why you should go and buy it now.

The first thing about Scam #1 that will hit you is the incredible artwork.  Aided by the bold, bright colour pallette of Andrew Crossley and Jules Rivera, Mulvey’s slick, clear visuals are a delight to look at.  He shows early on, and then throughout the issue, that he can deftly handle an elaborate action sequence, pacing everything out just right and giving us a clear idea of what’s going on.  I also really like Mulvey’s character designs.  Yes, there are a couple of small instances of characters looking similar, but in general, I think his expressive faces are fantastic, and I love his distinctive style of big, chunky bodies.  The whole book just looks gorgeous from cover to cover, with artwork that is of competitive quality to the average Marvel/DC/Image book on the shelves.

The art might make a resounding first impression, but Mulvey’s writing is strong too.  With 40 pages of content in this opening issue, you get a lot of bang for your buck, and Mulvey really gets time to gradually introduce this world, immersing us in the plots and double-deals of this gang of crooks.  But it’s also a very quick read, given the relentless pace this first chapter maintains.  Expect no info dumps here.  There are hints that each of these criminals have unique powers, and glimpses of those powers in action, but no outright “This is this person’s power and here’s how they got it” moment.  Similarly, we are introduced to several different factions lined up against our heroes, each with their own shady agendas, with no concrete idea of who is affiliated with who.  As readers, we’re not being spoonfed, instead being thrown in amidst the action and being left to catch up and connect the dots ourselves.  It’s an approach to storytelling I admire.

The plot of Scam revolves around a group of thieves who are betrayed by one of their own and left for dead.  Two years later, the group reunite to plot an elaborate revenge on the traitor, who has now gone “legit” and runs a large casino in Las Vegas.  It is with this villain of the piece that Joe really gets to cut loose, crafting a character that is truly vile, who one issue in I already can’t wait to see get a grand comeuppance.  Of course, there are complications, with our ragtag band of conmen left dealing with various pursuers as well as their primary target, and with numerous strands left tantalisingly (cliff)hanging to be picked up next issue.

I could tell you to pick up Scam #1 because by doing so, you’ll be supporting the ComixTribe family, and helping our creator-owned network grow.  I could tell you to pick up Scam #1 because Joe Mulvey is one of the most passionate-about-comics people I know, and that passion just burns off the pages of this book.  And yes, both of those are true.  But really, you should pick up Scam #1 because it’s a bloody great comic.  Looking gorgeous and just dripping cool, Scam is a comic that out-Supercrookses Supercrooks, and stands as one of the best new releases of the month by any measure.  Seek this book out.  And if your shop didn’t order it in, see that they amend that grievous error.  A highly enjoyable debut from a hugely impressive comics talent in Joe Mulvey.

Scam #1 is on sale in many quality comic shops worldwide. If it’s not in your store, ask your retailer about stocking it!

Kapow Con 2012 Report

This past weekend, various fans, exhibitors and professionals of the comics world descended upon the Business Design Centre in London, England for the second annual Kapow Con.  And I was among them, selling copies of the first three issues of The Standard.  I was sharing a table with the Glasgow League of Writers, with Gordon McLean as my core tablemate, selling the first two issues of No More Heroes.  But also assisting at the table were GLoW cohorts Colin Bell (pimping free samples of his webcomic Jonbot VS Martha), Sam Read, John McCusker and Luke Halsall.  Things started off a little slow, but once they picked up, Kapow turned out to be a very successful weekend for GLoW and for The Standard.

As we struggled to make sense of the London tube system, we ended up being a bit late to the venue on the Saturday.  We ended up arriving at the Business Design Centre just as the fans were getting in.  Perhaps being in a rush to set up threw us off our game a bit, but it seemed like at first we were struggling to grab anyone’s attention on the floor.  Thankfully, we started drawing people to our table, and both The Standard and No More Heroes began to sell rather well.

The one panel I attended on Saturday was the Image Superstars panel.  Eric Stephenson was moderating this discussion, which included Charlie Adlard, Sean Phillips, David Hine, Shaky Kane and the surprise addition of Doug Braithwaite, who will be drawing upcoming sci-fi noir series Storm Dogs for Hine.  The various projects discussed at this panel reminded me just how much quality output Image is getting out there right now. Exciting times for creator-owned work indeed.  I got to ask a question about why, while in the past it seemed like creators made their naes on great Image titles before moving on up to Marvel and DC, now we’re seeing big name Marvel and DC creators coming over to Image, and that prompted some interesting debate and discussion amongst the panel.  Afterwards, I was also able to pounce on Image publisher Eric Stephenson and get some copies of The Standard in his hands!  Eric Stephenson actually really impressed me at Kapow.  As such a senior publisher, I’m sure it would have been easy for him to take a hands-off approach, but he was there at the Image booth selling away like every other exhibitor.  It goes to show the passion he still has for the industry and the product he’s selling.

The other main thing that took me away from my table on Saturday was a couple of signings.  I’m kicking myself at missing the Paul Cornell signing (especially when I hear that Mr. Cornell sat down to have a chat with my Comic Anonymous friends earlier in the day while I was away getting coffee!), but I did get to go see Jock, getting both my hardcover graphic novel of Batman: The Black Mirror and a couple of Scalped issues signed.  Jock was nice, and seemed pleased that someone had some Scalped stuff for him.  Of course, I’m a Scalped super-fan.

Later on in the day, I ended up in a much bigger queue for Scott Snyder.  We were told that Scott would only be signing 1 item per person, as the queues were massive and he wanted to get through everyone before his time was up, which is fair enough.  So, after a moment of Sophie’s Choice style turmoil, I settled to have Batman: The Black Mirror signed instead of Batman #5, my favourite single issue Snyder has written.  As was the case at NYCC, Snyder was a very nice guy to meet, though I got a real kick to discover that he actually knew who I was, and reads my reviews!  I gave Scott copies of The Standard, and went away feeling pretty chuffed, if I do say so myself.

As the day neared its close, some of our number decided to head off early.  But I’m glad I decided to stay on to the bitter end, as in that last stint we made a whole bunch of sales.  Among the people I was happiest to meet on Saturday was Magnus Aspli, writer of The Vessel of Terror.
I was a big fan of this book, and gushed about it in my review last year.  So it was nice to put a face to the name at last.  Anyway, after wringing every last sale out of the day that I could, finally we were chased out of the hall, and Kapow was done for the night.

For dinner, we went to a fantastic Thai restaurant called Thai Square London.  This was the first time I’ve had Thai food, but it won’t be the last.  Disco duck with coconut rice: delicious.  We went to the Hilton Bar afterwards, but honestly we were so tired after our long journey and early rise (5am for me!) that we ended up calling it a night early.

On Sunday, we managed to get to the venue earlier, giving us time to get ourselves set up before the punters arrived.  As the day of selling began proper, I was really pleased that we had a few people who had bought The Standard #1 the day before coming back to get issues #2 and #3, because they loved the first issue so much.  It’s great to have readers come back and let you know they enjoyed the book, it really emphasizes that you’re not just throwing your work out into a void, that people are appreciating it.

My one panel for Sunday was DC’s New 52 panel.  I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: people give Dan Didio a hard time, but his passion for what he does is undeniable.  He showed that again here, in an enthusiastic, often candid panel talking about what lies ahead for DC’s publishing line.  Also on the panel were Scott Snyder, Ian Churchill and Bob Wayne.  It’s funny, the news that DC will be re-introducing an established male character as gay in the coming months has been making headlines as a big announcement in the news-phere, but as someone who actually attended the panel, I can say the “announcement” came somewhat off-hand, as a reply to a tricky question from the audience.  “Much like our President, Dan Didio’s opinion has evolved,” drolly quipped Bob Wayne – probably the line of the panel.

Afterwards, I went back for a second Scott Snyder signing, this time to get Batman #5 signed.  Snyder kindly obliged, and also teased a bit about what’s coming up in Batman.  I can’t share any details, but it’s going to be very exciting!

As we neared the home-stretch for Kapow, I managed to sell out of The Standard #1 .  On one hand, this was great – I’d had a successful sell-out of the first issue!  But on the other hand, it meant that for the last 20 minutes or so of exhibiting I had a hard time getting people to buy just issues #2 and #3.  I did manage to sway a couple of folk, though.

And finally, it was all over.  Another con done, and it was time to pack up and go home.  Already, I’m back in Glasgow and it feels like London never happened.  But all in all, it was a very successful con.  I got to meet some awesome people, make some promising contacts, and most importantly, get The Standard into the hands of a whole new bunch of readers.  See you again next year, Kapow!

My Week in New York: Sunday

I got to sleep a little later this day, staying in bed until the luxurious time of 7am before getting up and ready.  I headed off to the Javits Center with a tinge of sadness, as I knew this would be the last day of what had been an immensely fun New York Comic Con.  I didn’t have any panels lined up, so I knew I’d be able to make the most of my last day with lots of selling at the ComixTribe booth.

My only extended foray away from the table came when I attended the Jeff Lemire signing in the afternoon.  I had arrived at Javits with a much lighter satchel bag on Sunday, having been able to leave the Joshua Hale Fialkov hardcover graphic novels and the massive pile of Scott Snyder comics at the hotel, and now all that was left was a few Jeff Lemire comics – Sweet Tooth #1, Animal Man #1 and #2, Frankenstein: Agent of S.H.A.D.E. #1 and #2.  I’ve been a fan of Lemire’s since Sweet Tooth, and reading modern masterpiece Essex County took my appreciation of his talent to a whole new level.  Combine that with the fact that, with Animal Man, he’s also writing one of the very best titles of DC’s New 52, and Lemire was the one guy left on my checklist of creators I really wanted to meet at NYCC.

With the massive queues I endured at the Snyder signings on the previous day, I dilligently showed up at the Top Shelf booth early, and asked where the queue for Jeff Lemire started.  The bemused guy at the booth told me, “It can start with you.”  Once Jeff arrived, I started gabbling at him about how I would have brought Essex County to get signed but couldn’t fit it in my suitcase, and how I’d convinced someone sitting behind me at the DC Dark panel to go and buy Animal Man #1 by showing them the copy I had in my bag.  I don’t think he understood a word of my incomprehensible Glaswegian brogue, but he did smile and nod politely.  I gave Jeff copies of The Standard #1 and #2, thus completing the trifecta of my favorite creators that I wanted to give my comic to.  Having also given copies to Grant Morrison and Paul Cornell at earlier signings, this means that my top five favorite comic writers all theoretically have a copy of a comic I wrote in their possession, which in itself is a very rewarding feeling.

I’ll also take a brief aside to mention that the people at 215 Ink all rock.  I didn’t get a chance to talk to them at length at any point over the course of NYCC, and I think they had an even harder time making out my accent than most, but they’re a talented bunch of creators, and I eagerly scooped up a couple of their titles on my travels.

Batman and Wonder Woman read The Standard!

Back at the booth, and I’m pleased to report that I was able to carry my momentum from the previous day over to Sunday.  They say Sunday is often a very quiet day, slow for sales, but together we managed to make Sunday top even our performance on Saturday, and against the odds make it our most successful day for sales.  There was one small thing that made a surprisingly huge difference.  Each day, we had been inching our table a little further out, trying to lessen the effect of being overwhelmed by the massive China booths pressed against us.  Well, on Sunday, at the time of the con floor opening to the public, the China exhibitors hadn’t even shown up, and all the tarps were still up on their booths, suggesting they wouldn’t be showing up on this last day.  Tyler and I took advantage of this by bringing round an extra table from behind the booth, and sitting it out in front of our current table, creating a “corner” where we could display Tyler’s prints of Batman and Spider-Man at Yankee stadium.  This had an amazing effect: loads of people that might have otherwise walked right on by were stopped in their tracks by this eye-catching print, now displayed prominently in full view of the show floor rather than hidden behind us.  We sold loads of that print, and that in turn got people more interested in the rest of our output.

It was also fun to get a bunch of cosplayers interested in checking out our comics, and even have a few buying them.  It’s a bit surreal when you’re standing next to Spider-Man, telling him about your comic, or you have Batman taking off his gloves so he can take money out of his utility belt to buy a ComixTribe package deal.  But I think cosplayers are awesome.  Screw that jerk from Men’s Fitness who made fun of them.  It just creates a great party atmosphere when, for a few short days, you have people dressing up as fictional characters and walking around the streets of New York (or San Diego, or wherever), and having fun.  I especially loved the couples who cosplayed together, particularly as complimentary characters: e.g. The Doctor and Amy, Green Arrow and Black Canary, The Joker and Harley Quinn.  That right there is true love.  I think that should be my litmus test for whether any future girlfriend is a keeper.  But of course, the great downside of attempting to establish myself as a professional at cons is that there will be less of an opening to dress up in a silly spandex outfit at such events.  Perhaps I should commission a Frying Scotsman costume for next year.  Cosplayers, we salute you!

So does Spider-Man!

This last day flew by, and before we knew it, the announcements were blaring that Comic-Con was now closed for 2011.  But that wasn’t going to stop me!  I think I was still selling comics for a good 20 minutes after the show closed, catching people passing on their way out, or general stragglers.  I had to live up to my “Sellin’ Scotsman” alias!  The Standard really picked up steam on this last day, flying off our table at such a rate that, by the end of the day, I only had one copy of The Standard #1 first print edition left, and only small amounts of The Standard #2 and my NYCC exclusives.  It was really exciting seeing my comic start to break out and get people interested enough to buy it, particularly on Sunday.  Overall, I’d say The Standard was a big success at New York Comic Con, as was ComixTribe as a whole.

Just before we got ready to leave, Rich Johnston walked past our table.  I made sure to call him over and thank him for publicising some of our titles and sending increased traffic our way over the course of the con.  I’d given him The Standard on Wednesday, but we made sure to give him copies of all our other ComixTribe titles before he headed off.

With the con finished, we embarked on the tedious process of tidying up.  Everything was packed away, and painstakingly hauled out from the show floor and back out to the car park, for Joe to load into his car.  Once we were done with that, and I had said my goodbye to the Javits Center and New York Comic Con (until next year, hopefully!), Joe, Tyler and I made our way to the Pig & Whistle, where I had the best dinner I’d eaten in several days!  It really felt like a victory meal, with the great con we’d all had.  As a parting gift, I gave Tyler and Joe a copy each of The Saga of the Swamp Thing: Book One, upon learning to my horror that neither had ever read any of Moore’s Swamp Thing.  In return, I was fortunate enough to grab copies of ComixTribe’s entire line – Scam, Runners, Epic, The Red Ten and Tears of the Dragon.  After a great dinner, I said goodbye to Tyler and Joe – already creators I had a lot of respect for, but who over the course of the week I had become good friends with too – and headed back to my hotel.

And Lady Deadpool too!

New York Comic Con was a total blast, and I’d had one of the best weeks of my life.  I was a bit sad knowing that tomorrow would be my last day in New York City, but I was also determined to make the most of it and end my trip on a high note.

NEXT: All good things must come to an end…

My Week in New York: Saturday

I got up even earlier on Saturday, setting my alarm for the scary time of 6am, and was down at the Javits Center by around 8:30am.  I think that’s as much a testament to how slow I am in the mornings as it is to my earliness.  Even at this time, however, the queue outside the building dwarved even the big line from the day before.  I could tell that Saturday at New York Comic Con was going to be crazy.

Joe arrived early with a fresh shipment of stock, which was appreciated, as we were starting to run down.  Indeed, by Friday night we’d sold all the stock of Red Ten and Scam we had, which I suppose is a good problem to have!  With the increased Saturday traffic, we managed to get a lot more people at our table and looking at our stuff, but we were still having some trouble really hooking people and closing the deal.  Joe and I couldn’t help but throw Glengarry Glenn Ross references at each other: “Coffee is for closers!”  “A.I.D.A.!”  It was also really interesting observing how master pitcher Tyler would alter and adjust his pitch for each book depending on who he was talking to.  To read about his technique, and more notes from New York Comic Con, be sure to check out Tyler’s awesome ComixTribe column here.

One great moment of the day came from meeting Stephen Blaha, who I’ve known for years as Superferret on Superhero Hype.  He bought copies of The Standard #1 and #2, and we chatted for a bit about forum and RPG stuff.  One of the great things about travelling to comic cons in America in recent years has been being able to meet these people I’ve known for ages through message boards, but finally being able to put a face and a voice to the username.

I took a minute to do a bit of shopping.  Well, I say “took a minute”, but with how insanely packed the show floor was on Saturday, a brief journey to nearby stalls that would have only taken a few minutes before all of a sudden required a commitment of quite a bit of time.  From the Midtown Comics booth, I picked up a few gifts for friends back home, the first volume of the Starman Omnibus for myself, and a copy of Voodoo Heart, a collection of short stories by Scott Snyder.  This was the prose novel that first brought Snyder to the attention of the comics world, and though it’s not readily available in the UK, I was keen to pick it up and check it out.  Plus, I could add it to my hefty pile of signing material for Scott Snyder, as I already had samples from just about every other project he’s worked on.

Scott Snyder has quickly become one of my favorite comic writers, and he was one of the people I was most excited to meet.  I had been periodically checking his Artist’s Alley table over the first couple of days of the con, but he never seemed to be there.  And on Saturday, he’d left a note at his table saying he wouldn’t have time to be there much, and the best place to find him would be at his designated signings.  The first one was at the DC Comics booth.  Foolishly, I headed over to that one – clutching my pile of Snyder books –  a mere few minutes before the signing was scheduled to start.  The line was already massive.  And, in a bit of a dick move, the guy about 3 people in front of me let me and a few others wait and talk amongst ourselves for several minutes before turning around, shouting “SURPRISE!” and flashing his I AM THE LAST PERSON IN THIS QUEUE sign, saying no one would be seen after him.  So, that was a near miss.

I only had one panel to attend today, which was the DC Dark/Edge panel.  I’m not reading many of the Edge comics, but for me, the Dark titles have been the highlight of the DC relaunch, and so I was really excited to find out more about what was coming up from them.  I was lucky enough to get a seat in the front row for this one, which was an added bonus.  Before the panel started, I spotted Joshua Hale Fialkov milling around, so I ran over to say hello.  He kindly agreed to sign my copies of Tumor and Echoes, as well as I, Vampire #1.  When you read how screwed up the protagonists in his books are, you may be surprised to learn that Mr. Fialkov is a warm, personable guy, and we chatted a little bit about the British NHS and the history of the I, Vampire franchise.  I must say, getting the Fialkov books signed would be a big weight off my shoulders.  No, I mean literally: I would no longer need to carry around two hardcover graphic novels in my satchel bag each day.

I spotted someone else before the panel started: Scott Snyder!  Perhaps a bit rudely, I shouted, “Oy, Scott!” to get his attention.  You can take the Glaswegian out of Glasgow, but you can’t take the Glasgow out of the Glaswegian, it would seem.  I asked him if he had any plans to be at his Artist’s Alley table that day, as I’d just missed him at his DC signing.  He said he’d be at a signing at Midtown Comics later in the day, but if I just had a few things he could sign them now.  I told him I had a big pile, so it would probably be better waiting for the Midtown Comics signing.  He complimented my (Swamp Thing!) shirt and asked me my name, and I was left very happy at having met Scott Snyder, who came across as just as friendly as he does online and in interviews.

A blurry photo of an Animal Man #3 page by Travel Foreman that you've probably already seen in hi-res.

The panel itself was great fun, as we got treated to glimpses of art – cover and interior – for a whole range of quality titles.  Scott Snyder gave us a teaser of a villain who shows up in the next issue of Swamp Thing who sounds really great, and an ideal foe for Swamp Thing.  Apparently it’s a guy with control over decay, who can find any small piece of decay in someone – even a bit of rot in a tooth – and make it grow and spread throughout that person’s whole body.  Plus, he’s allergic to chlorofill, so has to wear an oxygen mask at all times.  Sounded really cool.  Some problems with dodgy mics up on the stage caused some delays, though, so by the time we’d gotten through everyone and their books there wasn’t much time for questions..  But still, a really fun panel.

Learning my lesson from the last attempt, I headed straight from the panel to join the queue for Scott Snyder’s Midtown Comics signing, a good 20 minutes early.  The queue was still sizable, and with the way it stretched out across the con floor, we were causing a bit of a fire hazard, and we constantly had people having to break through the line to get past us.  But I did get talking to people in the line, so the time went by quickly enough.  However, my heart sank when I neared the front of the line, and the moderator informed us we could only get 3 items maximum signed.  I looked down with sadness at my pile of 10 books, and with great difficulty, chose 3 titles – American Vampire #1, Batman #1, Swamp Thing #1 – for Scott to sign.

When I got to the table, Scott not only recognised me, but remembered my name.  That amazed me, as I was hopeless at remembering the names of even the handful of repeat visitors at the ComixTribe table, so given how many fans Scott must have met, that was quite a skill.  Living up to his reputation as the nicest guy in comics, Scott recalled that I’d had a big pile of comics I wanted signed, and said I could leave the rest of my stuff with  him, and he’d sign it all at the end.  This was a really nice gesture that was very much appreciated.  I gave him copies of The Standard #1 and #2 as well, thanked him again, and made my exit with my three signed comics, happy at meeting one of my fave writers twice.

Returning to the ComixTribe booth for a little while, I was pleased to meet Cesar Feliciano, the artist of The Red Ten, who had stopped by our table to help out for the day.  He also drew up a great artist edition cover of The Standard #1, which I was very pleased with!

Heading back to the Midtown Comics booth, a little after the end of the signing, I figured Scott would have left my comics behind the table for me to collect.  But to my surprise, he was actually waiting on the floor for me to come back to give them to me himself!  Again, the guy’s a total class act.  He rummaged through his backpack, and produced my pile of books – Voodoo Heart, Severed #1, Severed #3, Swamp Thing #2, Detective Comics #871, Detective Comics #875, Detective Comics #879 and another copy of Batman #1 – all signed.  In a funny moment, he almost accidentally gave me a copy of Batman #2 a week before its release, and had to take it back upon realising his mistake.  To be honest, I kinda regret not really saying anything to him but “Thanks” a few times when I could have been asking all kinds of questions about what lies in store in the future for some of my favorite books – I’d had a question all prepared about his future plans for The Joker that totally slipped from my brain – but I was just too chuffed for anything to come to mind.  Scott told me he’d read my comics, we said goodbye, and I left VERY happy, having met one of my fave writers thrice!

Perhaps I was energised by my shamanic encounter with Super-Snyder, but whatever the cause, when I returned to the ComixTribe booth, all of a sudden I found that I’d at last got into a proper selling rhythm.  Things started to take a real upswing where, after a quiet stretch, I picked a random person passing by through the crowd, pointed at them, and shouted, “YOU!”  I asked them to come over to the table, and we ended up selling them a ComixTribe package.  But the real turning point was a seemingly small detail, where I found that moving from sitting behind my table to standing in front of it made a huge difference.  Perhaps it was a body language thing, where I was now more closely connected to the passing trade, but for whatever reason, all of a sudden I was much more successful in grabbing people’s attention and bringing them over to the table.  And we started getting a much higher ratio of people actually buying something once we’d attracted them to the table.

Tyler, Joe, me (in a pose oddly like a Vegas showgirl) and Cesar.

Something that I discovered was a real boon to my salesmanship was my Scottish accent.  Tpically, I hate my voice, and I have come to accept that in America a lot of people just won’t understand a word I’m saying.  But it seemed to really work a charm in getting people interested in our comics.  I joked that it was because people couldn’t hear me when I said, “Hey, want to check out some cool comics?”  As a result, they’d come closer and get me to repeat myself, by which point I’d reeled them in and had them in position to get a closer look at my comics.  Whatever the cause, people seemed more interested because I was Scottish, and I started playing up that Scottishness more in my pitching, starting to make a bigger deal of showing people the pages of The Standard #1 featuring The Frying Scotsman – which always seemed to get a laugh.  Even more shockingly, my accent seemed to get me some kind of sex appeal!  Apparently my grating Glaswegian brogue sounds exotic to New Yorker ears, and it seemed like the number of women we sold books to surged on the Saturday.  I was getting the flirty body language and everything – is this what it feels like to be a “playa”?  At one point, I gave the whole ComixTribe pitch to one young lady, and when I was done, I asked her if she was interested in any comics, but she say, “No, I just wanted to hear you talk for a bit.”  Oh my!

In a way it was a bit infuriating, business really getting going once the con was more than half over.  But better late than never!  After being absent for much of the first couple of days, and underwhelming in my selling to the point of practically being a cooler while I was around, I was relieved that I’d found an approach to selling that worked for me, and helped me to start pulling my weight at the table more.  I even earned the nickname “The Sellin’ Scotsman” from Tyler, which was nice.  I was really pleased to start seeing copies of The Standard shifting en masse, and I managed to sell people on the other titles on the ComixTribe lineup as well.

Towards the end of the con day, I took a walk down to Artist’s Alley, and met Greg Capullo.  I’ve been a big fan of his work on Batman, but my main incentive for introducing myself was my knowledge that Capullo is the hero of Jonathan Rector, my friend and artist of The Standard.  I got Greg to sign two copies of Batman #1 – one for myself and one for Jon – and gave him copies of The Standard, explaining how much the artist was a fan of his work.  So perhaps Greg Capullo is now a fan of your work too, Jon!

I’m pleased to report we were selling comics right up to closing time, and a little beyond.  Saturday was a huge success for ComixTribe, and the best day of NYCC thus far.  My one disappointment of the day was not getting into the after-hours Black Dynamite panel.  Infuriatingly, there was a Dragonball Z panel in the same room immediately after it, so I arrived to a massive queue, populated mostly by young anime fans who quite clearly had no interest in Black Dynamite.  I was in line with a couple of other Black Dynamite fans, and once it became clear that we weren’t going to get into the panel, things started getting nasty.  These other guys started getting into a confrontation with one of the NYCC volunteers, who didn’t help the situation much by replying with, “Well, if you wanted into this panel you should have been queueing from Avengers this afternoon.”  In my repressed British way, I wasn’t up for getting into a fight when it was quite clear that no amount of shouting would get me a seat in this panel, so I told the increasingly flustered NYCC rep that I appreciated it wasn’t his fault, and dejectedly left the Javits Center.

After grabbing a quick Subway for dinner (so much for making the most of New York’s cuisine) I met up with Joe, and we headed out to the Indy Comics After-Party, an invite-only event at Blaggards Pub we had managed to score invitations to.  However, we didn’t see anyone there that we knew or recognised, and with a live band playing, the music was even louder than at Tempest a couple of nights earlier, so loud neither of us could hear a word the other was saying.  After a while, Joe and I gave up and headed out, relocating to the quieter, nicer Twins Bar and talking about politics and other subjects for a bit.  Oooh, I’m such a party animal!

Of course, Spider-Man loves NY.

Overall, Saturday was an amazing day.  I got to meet some great comics people, ComixTribe and The Standard really started to gain momentum, and the whole day was just good fun.  I was already starting to feel sad that the con – and my time in New York – would soon be over.

NEXT: An ode to cosplayers.

My Week in New York: Friday

My day didn’t start off well.  Three days in a row of New York pizza had wrecked havok on my stomach – which already had never exited amber alert from my departure from Glasgow – and the less said about the terrifying monstrosities that escaped from my bowels that morning, the better.  I opted for a lighter breakfast in hopes of stilling my queasy belly, and minimising the risk of any violent sprays coming out from the other end, and thankfully once I was out of the hotel and heading for the con my tummy seemed to settle.  I was worried that tides of projectile vomit might hurt our comics sales.

Thursday was a nice way to ease into New York Comic Con, a chance for us to get set up and dip our toes in the selling waters.  But with Friday festivities began in earnest, as we launched into the first full day of NYCC.  The doors opened to the public at 10am, but I got there before 9, wanting to be early to make sure everything was in order.  Already, a line had formed at the venue.  It was a great feeling, being able to just walk past the queue, waving my magic exhibitor badge, and head into the show floor.  And it’s also really cool just being able to walk through a serene, quiet, empty show floor at a con, knowing it’ll soon be bustling with people.

I arrived at the booth, and started getting everything set up for the day.  Tyler arrived not too long afterwards, and I got a chance to do some early shopping before the con started proper: another bonus for exhibitors!  I looked all over in vain for Scalped #1, but it was nowhere to be found.  I think I checked literally every booth selling comic back issues on the entire con floor, and only a few of them had any issues of Scalped, never mind the first one.  However, I did pick up a first print copy of The Saga of the Swamp Thing #29, the infamous “Love and Death” issue that murdered the Comics Code.  Having picked up the “Anatomy Lesson” issue in a back issue bargain bin at the Glasgow Comic Con, I now had my OTHER favorite issue of Moore’s seminal run – and my vote for the scariest single comic ever made – to add to my collection.

Speaking of Swamp Thing, I also got the chance to make what was surely my most frivolous purchase of my time in New York.  One of my big regrets of being unable to attend the San Diego Comic Con this year was that I missed out on getting the SDCC exclusive DC Universe Classics Swamp Thing action figure.  So imagine my joy when I spotted it in New York!  I was on my way back from not buying the ridiculously overpriced water from the snack stall (they had marked it up a price a dollar from the day before, and the next day they would add on yet another dollar to the price – incredible) when I spotted the big box sitting at one of the stalls.  It was even more ridiculously overpriced than the water, but I had to have it.  This guy is absolutely massive, with some really cool detail on the sculpt.  I now have him proudly displayed in my bedroom.

Swamp Thing!

And then it was 10am, and time to get to work.  Joe was held up waiting for a shipment of stock, so at first it was just Tyler and I holding the fort.  Again, business was slow but steady, with us still having a hard time hooking as many people as we’d like.  One thing that did sell well was our ComixTribe package deal: all 6 of our comic books – The Standard #1, The Standard #2, Epic #1, The Red Ten #1, Runners #1 and Scam #1 – plus an 11X17 print and one of Tyler’s art sketchards, all for $25.  That really enticed a lot of people, as it was a good deal that was giving people a lot of stuff for their money.  The package deals were what really made us the bulk of our money over the first couple of days.

I briefly slipped away from the booth to head over to Artist’s Alley and meet Rahsan Ekedal, whose artwork on Echoes greatly impressed me as I read it while waiting at the departure gate at Glasgow Airport.  He was a friendly guy, and signed my copy of the book.  I then headed over to Archaia’s booth, where I hoped to meet editor-in-chief Stephen Christy.  I got to say hello to him and introduce myself, and talk to him a bit about Archaia’s submission policy.  They have recently made the move away completely from single issues, now focusing solely on the original graphic novel market.  I love Archaia, the presentation of their graphic novels is always of the highest quality, and they’re a company I’d love to work with in the future.  So I gave Stephen copies of The Standard and told them I’d be stopping by at their panel later in the day.

I feel pretty guilty, as I spent the bulk of this particular day away from the booth, attending various panels.  The first one I went to was the screening of the Locke & Key TV pilot, which we now know was not picked up by Fox – one more reason to hate Fox.  I was pleased that there was a big queue for this event, and I only barely got in.  The episode was great, really true to the spirit of the comic, which makes it all the more devastating that we probably won’t see any more of it.  I will say, however, that the pilot alone covered the entirety of Welcome to Lovecraft, the first volume of the series.  So I don’t know if there would be enough content within the Locke & Key mythology to sustain 22-24 episodes across multiple seasons.  Perhaps a miniseries would be a better bet?

I stopped back briefly at the booth in between panels, to find that Joe had arrived, and he’d kindly brought lunch!  I was also happy to meet Raphael Moran, writer of Dream Reavers, who stopped by at our booth to introduce himself.  When I next set off, it was for a double-header of panels.  First up was Archaia’s panel on how to make a great indy graphic novel.  This had all kind of useful pointers about developing ideas and the submission process.  Plus, I got to ask a question about Archaia’s approach to design in publication.  I had to leave a bit early in order to make the next panel, but what I saw of Archaia’s panel made it worthwhile attending.

Next up was the Vertigo Visions panel.  Jeff Lemire, Scott Snyder and Jason Aaron all on a panel together, how could I not be interested in this one?  And they were accompanied by such a wealth of talent that the bulk of the panel was taken up simply by Karen introducing each panelist and letting them talk a little about what they were working on.  Poor Karen arrived late, getting the starting time for the panel wrong, and was all flustered in her attempts to moderate the panel.  The highlight of the hour for me was the announcement that Paul Cornell – another favorite of mine who sadly couldn’t attend New York Comic Con this year – would be writing a new Vertigo title called Saucer Country.  I was pleased when the mention of his name was greeted with well-deserved applause.  What this means is that, in the brief window of time between Saucer Country beginning and Scalped ending, four of my top five current comic writers will all be writing titles at Vertigo (the fifth one is Grant Morrison, as I’m sure you can guess), meaning it’s a very exciting time for the DC imprint, at least in my book.

After the Vertigo panel, I got to say hello to Mark Doyle.  Here’s a guy involved in editing American Vampire, Sweet Tooth AND Scalped, meaning he surely has one of the most awesome jobs in comics.  I regularly tweet him about my progress in trying to assemble every Scalped single issue, so I got to tell him in person that I was now only missing the first issue.

I returned to the booth to find that sales had been chugging along nicely in my absence, and I hung around for a while, until I once more left my compatriots in the lurch for the Creator Connections panel.  This is presented as a kind of speed dating for creators, where writers are paired up with artists.  I enjoyed this a great deal, as I got to talk to a lot of talented artists, and got a whole bunch of business cards and potential contacts I may get in touch with for future collaborations.

By the time that panel was done, New York Comic Con was done for the day.  As I said, I felt pretty bad about not being at the ComixTribe booth much on Friday, and told Tyler and Joe that I planned to be there for much of Saturday and most of Sunday.  It’s just the way things worked out that Friday had a high concentration of panels.  And I still had one more to attend!

I made a brief stop at a jam-packed McDonalds near the Javits Center for dinner (I kid you not, I was sat between a girl dressed as a Green Lantern and a guy dressed as a White Lantern) , before heading back to the con for a night-time panel on horror in comics.  I had a hard time finding the room at first, but once I did I was able to just slip in without needing to queue, which was nice.  The panel was actually really interesting.  Horror is a genre I’ve long loved, and have recently begun to appreciate more in the comics medium.  I’d love to attempt a story in the genre, and attending this panel gave me a lot of inspiration and ideas.

This panel took me to near 10pm.  By this point, the ComixTribe gang were over on the other side of the city, so rather than trying to play catch-up, I just walked around New York at night a little, then headed back for an early night.  I’d enjoyed the panels, but I felt this day was a lot of sitting and listening to people talk.  I wanted to make the most of the last couple of days.  Though I did get to see a dog dressed as Superman on Friday.

That's right... A DOG... DRESSED AS SUPERMAN!

NEXT: I meet Scott Snyder… thrice!

My Week in New York: Thursday

It had been fun seeing New York City, but with the arrival of Thursday it was time to get down to business: New York Comic Con was upon us.  After another 6:30am rise and a hearty breakfast to set me up for the day, I headed down on the brief walk to the Javits Convention Center.  I had scoped the place out on my first day in NYC, and it had seemed pretty barren, an empty vessel waiting for a sense of purpose.  But what a difference a few days make.  Now, the Javits Center was getting ready for New York Comic Con!

The Javits Center

Once I arrived, I discovered that Tyler James and Joe Mulvey – my booth partners, who would be bringing the tables, chairs and our supply of comics – had been held up in that notorious New York traffic.  And since we needed Tyler, who’d booked the booth, to get our exhibitor passes, I had to just sit around in the foyer for a while.  But eventually, the rest of the gang arrived, and while Joe seeked out a parking place outside, I got to meet the mighty Tyler James, glorious leader of ComixTribe, for the first time.  I always get a kick meeting people I’ve talked to online in person, and so far I’ve been fortunate in that I’ve not had an experience of someone I thought was alright over MSN or Skype turning out to be a weirdo in person (probably because I’M the one who’s the weirdo in person), and Tyler was no exception, turning out to be as smart and cool in the real world as the virtual one.

There was a brief scare where it seemed like our passes had been lost, or accidentally given to someone else, but thankfully it was resolved before too long, and we were kitted out with the Willy Wonka’s Golden Ticket that is a Comic-Con exhibitor pass.  Meeting up with Joe and his friend outside, we went through the arduous task of dragging our heavy bundles of stock and equipment from the car park to our booth on the show floor.  An interesting aside: over the course of the week, I only noticed that the escalator from the foyer up to the show floor had stopped working on two occasions.  The first was on this day, meaning we had to haul all our stuff up it like it was a regular flight of stairs.  The second was on Sunday, when we had to haul all our stuff back down it again.  Typical.

Another problem emerged once we located our corner booth just near Artist’s Alley.  Namely, that it wasn’t a corner booth.  We were located quite inconveniently next to what I can only call a massive China exhibit.  If that sounds vague, it’s because that’s the impression they gave.  It was this collection of 8 connected booths that ran in a big line next to where our booth was, all with the words CHINA written on top of them, but each with its own hazey subtitle, like “Skyworks Technologies” or “Guangzhou Daley Media Co” or something similarly uninformative.  And these booths were typically partitioned off, and often empty.  And I don’t just mean no con-goers stopped by – though people rarely did – I mean that even the exhibitors themselves were barely there.  It must have been an expensive bit of real estate, but obviously these guys must have had a lot of money to throw around to book all that space then not really use it.  And the problem with these massive booths was that they jutted right out onto the floor, far beyond the reach of our table, meaning anyone walking past them was automatically cast at a distance away from our table, breaking that essential passing trade connection.  On the plus side, I pointed out, we were at a good place to catch people headed to the nearby bathroom.

The ComixTribe gang set up the booth while I... take pictures.

I have to say, it was really exciting setting up the ComixTribe booth.  Sure, I got a little thrill laying out my comics at my table for the Glasgow Comic Fair, but this was on a whole other level.  Organising not just The Standard, but the rest of ComixTribe’s diverse lineup, reminded me of the stellar company I keep being a part of ComixTribe.  The absolute best thing about The Standard being published through ComixTribe is that I get to be a part of such a fantastic roster of talent, and an incredible lineup of titles.  I had already read and loved Runners, Tears of the Dragon and Epic, but once the booth was set up, I was able to sit down and read Joe Mulvey’s Scam, and The Red Ten by Tyler James and Cesar Feliciano.  Both are just great comics, which I highly recommend checking out if you possibly can.  Here’s the thing that helped me a lot while pitching all the ComixTribe titles over the weekend: I didn’t have to be dishonest in my shilling.  My enthusiasm and passion for each of these comics and their quality was absolutely genuine.

With the booth ready, we all headed out to a local deli for lunch.  And, like the sophisticated artistic souls we are, we spent the entire meal sharing puke, shit and fart stories.  Classy, my kinda people.  Afterwards, we headed back to the convention center, and I took the time to have a look around the show floor.  The layout was actually quite a lot like San Diego, only with less TV and movie booths, and more of a central focus on comics.  I also noted that Marvel had situated itself far away from the rest of the comics booth, instead settling down right in the middle of the video game section.  This struck me as a bit isolationist, and because it was so far off my beaten track, I actually never visited the Marvel booth save for passing by it on my way into the show floor in the mornings.  I’d say the trifecta of the DC Comics booth, the Image booth and the Midtown Comics booth felt more like the central hub of the show floor, with the well-furnished Archaia booth situated well in amongst them.

After a while, the doors opened to the public (at least, those with 4-day VIP passes), and the first day of selling began.  In all honesty, business was a little slow on this first day.  We did have a steady flow of eyes on our table, but we had our quiet periods.  My problem was that I couldn’t get my salesmanship down.  My pitch for The Standard was overlong and clunky, and I could practically see eyes glazing over as I launched into it.  I just didn’t seem to have a good knack for it, and was grateful that the affable Joe and the super-efficient selling machine that was Tyler were there to take my slack.

Shifting from my exhibitor hat to my fan hat, I took a wander around Artist’s Alley.  The first familiar face I got to meet was Mikel Janin, the talented rising star artist of Justice League Dark.  He very kindly agreed to sign my copy of Justice League Dark #1, and we parted on what I thought was a good note.  But then I realised, to my horror, that I had given Mikel my sharpie pen, and forgotten to take it back.  Now, those who know me from work will know that I am paranoid about ensuring nobody takes it from me, and I will stand and watch people use the pens they borrow fro me to make sure they give them back when they’re done.  So I launched into this awkward moment where I had to go back to this gifted artist I admire, and politely ask him to give me my pen back.  Thankfully, my subsequent friendly Twitter chat with Mikel would suggest this faux pas was not too disastrous.

The next folks on my list were Cullen Bunn and Brian Hurtt, the esteemed writer/artist team on cracking Western series The Sixth Gun.  Long-time followers of this blog will know I’ve devoted a lot of time to promoting this comic, reviewing the first graphic novel collection and several other subsequent issues and bestowing superlative but well-deserved praise.  I tried my best to convey this praise to the team in person, telling them that The Sixth Gun had so much content packed into each issue that every individual comic was a rewarding read in itself, and that this most definitely wasn’t a comic for trade-waiters.  I then gave them a trade to sign.

But perhaps most exciting of all for me on this day was the chance to meet Jason Aaron.  Regular readers may know that I have gushed about The Sixth Gun, but they’ll also know that I’ve lavished numerous dissertation-length odes of devotion to the seminal Verigo crime series Scalped, a title I’ve not been in shy in saying I’d rank as definitely the best comic on shelves today, and well on its way into entering the canon of the all-time greats.  Considering all this, getting to meet Scalped writer Jason Aaron was one of the things I was most excited about going into the New York Comic Con.  And I’m pleased to say he didn’t disappoint.  This is something that has struck me about all the folks in comics I’ve been fortunate enough to meet over the past couple of years: they’re all nice guys.  It must be really deflating to meet one of your heroes, and they’re a jerk.  But the comics creators I’ve had the chance to talk to have all been friendly, and keen to chat with their fans, and Jason Aaron was no exception.

At first, Jason bamboozled me a bit: when I produced Scalped #25 and told him that, after much painful deliberation, I had decided this was my favorite single issue of the series, he asked me the dreaded question, “Why is this one your favorite?”  I garbled at him in incomprehensible Glaswegian for a while as I struggled to come up with a good answer (I failed), and then I introduced myself as the writer of the Studying Scalped columns he had kindly linked to on his blog.  It was great that Jason knew who I was enough to thank me for the columns I’d written.  I also told him I was the guy who’d asked him to bring along Scalped #3, #15 and #16 to the con, and he responded by producing them from his backpack.  Getting these elusive comics given to me by the writer himself!  I was ready to pay double the cover price or more, but Jason amazingly said I could just take them for free!  What a classy guy.  With these issues in my collection, I was now the proud owner of every Scalped single issue save for issue #1.  I tried to fire a couple of quickfire Scalped questions at Jason before leaving.  Will there be any Scalped deluxe hardcovers in future?  Probably not.  Will there be any Scalped retrospective panels at San Diego 2012 or next year’s NYCC?  Again, probably not, but Jason did mention I could take part in some kind of series of closing interviews at the end of the series, which would be amazing.  I gave Jason copies of The Standard #1 and #2, then gushed some more about how Scalped was one of the greatest comics of all time, before finally making my exit.

In terms of stuff I bought, I was able to grab almost all the issues of Zot! my friend Jamie Fairlie was missing from his collection, and I picked up two T-shirts from DC’s Graphitti Designs booth: a Swamp Thing T-shirt, and something I’ve wanted for a long time: a grey Batman with a black Batman logo.  That’s right, none of that “black T-shirt with the black bat logo inside a yellow circle” movie bullshit for me, I’m a comics purist, baby!  And a nerd.

Back at the ComixTribe booth, Steve – the friendly fan from Jim Hanley’s – stopped by to say hello.  He had read and enjoyed The Standard #1 after buying it at the signing, so was here to get his hands on The Standard #2.  I have to say, this happened a few times over the course of the con, and it was the biggest compliment.  When someone buys and reads the first issue one day, and takes the time to come back the next day, tell you they loved it, and buy issue #2?  That’s quite possibly the most rewarding thing about writing these comics.  It’s a great feeling.  Steve also ended up buying the rest of ComixTribe’s lineup too, which was great.  Perhaps our first convert of NYCC.  Thanks, Steve!

Tyler and I at the ComixTribe booth.

Once the NYCC preview night wrapped up, I stopped back at my hotel to make a quick change and drop off my heavy satchel bag (this bag, filled with books I wanted signed, was the bane of much of my travels during the con), before heading down to Tempest Bar for ComixTribe’s Drink & Draw event.  Food was provided in the form of giant pizzas brought in from a nearby pizzeria.  Yes, that’s right, pizza again.  And these ones were MASSIVE, dwarving even the oversized slices from Pronto Pizza.  Quite possibly the biggest pizza I’ve seen in my life.

Drink & Draw started off quiet, but once it got going we ended up with a good crowd of comic creators at the event.  Now, I say “quiet”, but what I actually mean is that deafeningly loud music was banging away at all times, and it seemed like the louder I tried to speak, the louder the music got.  See, I just don’t get this.  I see a bar as a place meant for socialising, so while ambient music is fine, what’s the point of cranking up the volume so loud you can barely communicate?  And remember, I was trying to make myself understood to a bunch of New Yorkers with a thick Scottish accent as it was, so I was already fighting an uphill battle.

I did get to have a few good conversations, though.  In particular, I got to have some lengthy chats with Rich Douek, regular ComixTribe commenter, and writer of an intriguing title called Gutter Magic that I was able to get my hands on at NYCC.  And I also got one of Tyler’s friends to draw up an image for one of the artist edition covers of The Standard, which was greatly appreciated.

After hanging out for a few hours, I took my leave, feeling a little sick from the watered-down Coke and oversized pizza.  But it was a good kind of sick.  The New York Comic Con was off to a great start.  And it was only going to get better.

NEXT: I go to far too many panels.