2013 Preview: The Standard

Hello everyone!  It seems that, amidst all the reviews I’ve been writing, I haven’t been using this blog much to talk about my own writing projects lately.  Of course, I keep this blog’s sister site, thestandardcomic.com, fairly regularly updated with that project’s latest developments, but I thought it might be good to spend a week on an overview of my various comics projects, and where I’m at with them.  So, check into the blog daily this week, and I’ll be sharing news, and some exclusive debuts of artwork.

The first project I have to discuss is, of course, The Standard.  I’ve been working on this comic for several years now, but 2013 is the year where everything comes to fruition.  The Standard #1 made its worldwide debut, distributed through Diamond and published by ComixTribe, last week, February 13th.  I’d say it has been a success.  I’m hearing frequent accounts, both here in the UK and abroad in the US, of store sell-outs, in some cases day one sell-outs.  It seems retailers significantly underordered the book, and it has performed above expectations, with consumer demand outstripping store supply.  It’s not ideal, but I’d say it’s a good problem to have!

But the launch of issue #1 is just the beginning.  Next up is the worldwide relaunch of The Standard #2 in April, with the book already complete and off to the printers in preparation for this.  The plan is to operate on a bi-monthly schedule, and have the whole 6-issue miniseries released by the end of 2013.  That is a crazy thought to me.  Something that’s been part of my life since 2008, and 2013 is the year it finally comes to an end.  Well, in 2014 we’ll hopefully be seeing a graphic novel collected edition of the series with plenty of juicy backmatter, so I’ll be spending some time compiling that, but as far as the comic itself goes, if all proceeds as planned 2013 will be my last year working on it.  Kinda scary, but exhilerating too!

But it’s not just the worldwide release schedule I have to think about.  The first 3 issues were already released locally here in Glasgow, Scotland, and I always wish to continue paying attention to the comic’s roots as a cult Glasgow indie hit.  And so work continues on The Standard #4, which should hopefully be finished in the next month or so.  I’m hoping to make a small preview run available locally in Glasgow, my thank you to the readers who supported me first.  At the very least the comic is going to have a big presence at Glasgow Comic Con in July.

In the meantime, I’m going to share, for the first time, a few preview pages for the long-awaited fourth issue of The Standard, magnificently drawn by Jonathan Rector and vividly coloured by Mike Gagnon.  You’ll see the aftermath of issue #3’s dramatic conclusion, as well as a glimpse at another fiendish foe from The Standard’s past, TV Man.  Enjoy, bold reader!

standard_ish4_pg001color standard_ish4_pg002color standard_ish4_pg005color standard_ish4_pg007color

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!

REVIEW: The Hero Code #1

It feels good to finally be reviewing The Hero Code.  I was watching artist Jonathan Rector’s Ustream show back when he was actually drawing some of the early pages featured in this first issue, and it seems like ages ago that I first saw writer Jamie Gambell mention it as an upcoming project somewhere.  Later, I donated to the Kickstarter project to help get this series made.  And finally, a few days ago, a nice big bundle pack full of comics, prints, cards, posters, a badge, a T-shirt and other assorted goodies arrived in the mail, and as I sat down to read the first issue, it felt like the culmination of a long journey.  But was The Hero Code #1 worth the wait?

In his afterword at the back of the comic, Jamie Gambell talks about how The Hero Code is designed to hark back to a simpler time for the superhero genre, when the good guys were good, the bad guys were bad, and the stories were fun and accessible to children.  It’s an admirable goal.  Deconstructionist superhero stories are so old hat that they’re the new norm, and that’s coming from someone who’s writing a deconstructionist superhero story.  So, it’s nice to see Gambell present what comes across as a totally earnest love letter to classic superheroes of old, with nary a sly wink in sight.  Making an impressive about turn from the grim, horror-orientated fare of Omnitarium, Gambell succeeds in making the story kid-friendly, too – dialling back on any bad language or violence – but at the same time not pandering to kids or patronising them, instead trusting them to keep up with a plot detailed enough to interest adult readers as well.

In terms of the plot, the main body of this issue revolves around introducing our central trio of heroes, each seemingly serving as a pastiche of one of DC’s iconic trinity.  As such, we get Optiman in place of Superman, Myth seemingly sharing traits with Wonder Woman, and The Black Wraith, a shadowy figure thriving on the fear of the criminal underworld in a manner much like Batman.  Right now, each is in their own city, reacting to the dawn of this age of the superhero in their own way, and there are mere hints of the threat that might bring them together, with glimpses of potential antagonists including a vengeful gangster, a mad scientist, and a shadowy figure watching all of the heroes from afar.  It’s mainly set-up, and Gambell is taking his time to carefully lay out all the pieces of his puzzle before putting them together.  One criticism could be that perhaps he’s taking his time too much, as by the end of the first issue I had yet to come across the hook that is going to keep me coming back for more.  I understand the intention that here the twist is there is no twist, but still, I’m trying to think about how I would pitch this series to someone if I was selling it at a con, and just had a sentence or two to catch their attention.  But still, if, like me, you like a classic superhero romp, and are always interested to see new superhero universes be built from the ground up, you’re likely to find much to like in this opening issue.

Of course, the major winning factor that sets this book apart from much of the numerous other creator-owned superhero titles out there is that The Hero Code boasts the powerhouse art stylings of Jonathan Rector.  Now, I may be a bit biased, given that I work with Mr. Rector on my own comic, The Standard, but nevertheless, I’ll say that his work continues to amaze.  His pages don’t look like something you’d find in an indie book.  I could pick at random any Marvel or DC book out of the pile of new comics I bought this week, and odds are that, when placed side by side with this, The Hero Code would look just as good, if not better.  His layouts are exciting, his action dynamic, and the character’s finely nuanced in their “acting” through facial expression and body language.  Rector’s art is always a joy to behold, and it keeps on getting better.  I imagine he won’t be on the independent scene for much longer, so if you want to be cool and say you were following a superstar artist of years to come back before there were huge, The Hero Code #1 could be your ground-floor entry.

Though I must say that Rector is here assisted by some gorgeous colors from Heather Breckel.  The colors are bold, bright, and jump off the page, the perfect compliment to Rector’s bombastic style and Gambell’s intended tone.  One particular standout sequence for me is the scene in  Dr. Pontarius’ lab.  Here, everything is bathed in an eerie, glowing green that creates a real 50s B-movie vibe for our mad scientist, and strikes just the right atmosphere to help make this the most visually memorable moment in the first issue.

I had a lot of fun with The Hero Code #1.  From my perspective, it’s a good feeling to have been following the progress of a comic for so long, and find that it turned out good at the end of it all.  But really, the whole creative team have done such a stellar job with this debut issue that, if I’d never heard of it and picked the comic up on a whim, I think I’d still be impressed enough to want to read more.  Now, the journey towards issue #2 begins!

The Hero Code #1 is available in print through the official store, or digitally via Graphicly.

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.

My First Experience Tabling as a Pro

The Queen Margaret Union at Glasgow University

Next month, I’ll be attending the New York Comic Con.  While it would be exciting  enough going as a fan – and to be honest, a big part of me is still thinking of it like a fan, wondering what creators will be there and what books I can buy – it’s all the more amazing in that I’ll be attending as a pro.  It still feels a bit surreal, to be honest, and I can’t quite get my head around it.  Rather than that mega-event being my first experience tabling as a pro, I thought it might be useful to attend a couple of local events first.  So, this coming weekend I have a table at the Glasgow Comic & Toy Fair, representing GLoW and selling copies of my comic, The Standard.  And, more short notice, I got invited to attend a special Freshers’ Week comic event at Glasgow University last Friday.  I thought I’d write up a little blog covering my experiences on the day.

I hadn’t really thought much about it leading up to the event.  A couple of days before it, I e-mailed Gary Chudleigh – co-founder of Obscure Reference Comics, writer of cool comic series Villainous, who I would be sharing a table with – about things I might need.  He gave me some helpful tips about inventory, some of which I’d already considered, others I hadn’t: Sharpies for signing books, a point of sale clearly denoting the prices while also showing some art from the book, plastic pockets for putting comics in once sold, and lots of change.  I also found out Gary would be late to the show, and I’d be on my own for the first half.

Setting up at the venue.

Get-in for the event was at 11am.  Being my usual tardy self, I arrived around 11:30.  We were in the main function hall of the Queen Margaret Union: I can recall from my student days this was a pretty desirable chunk of real estate, and its the same venue next week’s Glasgow Comic & Toy Fair will be held at.  There were no exhibitors here today, though, just fellow indy comic creators.  The cool thing about getting involved in the Glasgow small press scene over this year is that I actually knew most of the pros enough to at least say a quick hello as I entered.

I was a bit intimidated by how massive my table seemed, especially with no Gary to fill out the other half.  I only had a couple of comics – The Standard #1 and The Standard #2 – and as generously as I spread them around, my offerings still seemed pretty thin in comparison to the rich back catalogues ofered by the Khaki Shorts or Team Girl Comic crews.  But as I organised everything, I did still feel a little swelling of pride and excitement at being able to present something I’d written for sale.

My table - lookie, it's my stuff!

The doors opened for customers at 12pm.  Unfortunately, there weren’t really many.  As it turns out, the university had not marketed the event at all in thei Freshers’ promotional material, so we didn’t actually have any audience of people interested in comics.  In fact, save for people who knew the pros tabling and had come along to visit/support them, the only folks who showed up were students who stumbled in by accident while looking for free booze or club coupons.  It’s quite disheartening when the first person that comes to your table says, “I don’t recognise any of these comics.  Do you have any Spider-Man?”  With how quiet the show was, I actually spent a lot of time catching up on my comics reading.

I still managed to make a few sales over the course of the day, though, so all things considered, I’d say I did pretty well.  I got some good practice working on my pitch – the guys at the table next to me must have been sick of hearing it by the end of the day – and I got to refine it a little based on what people seemed to react to: the idea of a superhero as a “sleazy reality TV star” seemed to get everyone’s ears pricked up.  Another good idea came from Gary, about having a copy of the comic set aside for people to thumb through.  This worked very well for me, as if my pitching left people cold, then a glimpse of Jonathan Rector’s stunning artwork was often enough to reel them in.

Things picked up once Gary showed up.  He also managed to make a few sales of Villainous.  And I also have to thank Luke Halsall, who came along and sat at our table for a bit, and in that time did a bit of aggressive salesmanship that helped us both out a good deal.

Me (left) and Gary Chudleigh (right) shilling our wares.

In terms of things I’d like to take onboard for my next con, one thing I was totally unprepared for was the interest in making comics.  I had about 4 or 5 different people asking me about writing comics, and if there were any communities in Glasgow that they could be a part of.  Of course there is, I’m a member of one: the Glasgow League of Writers.  And I… have no info on them.  I don’t even have paper on me to write info down.  Cue much, “Erm… do you have a piece of paper on you?  I can….uh….write down this Twitter handle, and….uh…. yeah.”  Next time, I’m gonna try and have some leaflets/preview booklets ready to hand out to people, with samples of work from GLoW as well as contact details.

At 4pm, it was all over, and we packed up and headed home.  Overall, it was a quiet show, but I expect the upcoming Glasgow Comic & Toy Fair to be much more busy.  And I still had a good experience tabling.  Maybe a quiet show was what I needed to ease me into the groove.  Most importantly, I managed to get some experience tabling as a pro at a comic event for the first time.  I’m glad it won’t be the last.

The Standard #2: On Sale Now!

The Standard #2 is now on sale!

Once, Gilbert Graham was The Standard, the world’s first and greatest superhero. Now an old man and long retired from crime-fighting, he lives a quiet life as a high school chemistry teacher. But when Alex Thomas – his former sidekick and successor to the Standard mantle – is murdered, Gilbert is haunted by old memories… and faced with a serious decision.

The Standard is a 6-issue comic book miniseries, each chapter 28 pages long.  This second issue is written by me, John Lees, is pencilled and inked by Jonathan Rector, colored by Gulliver Vianei and Mike Gagnon, lettered by Kel Nuttall, and edited by Steven Forbes.  The comic is debuting digitally, published by ComixTribe, and is now available from these platforms, priced at $1.99:

Wowio

DriveThruComics

MyDigitalComics

In the coming days, The Standard #2 will also be available digitally from Graphicly.  Be sure to check thestandardcomic.com for the latest updates.

If you would rather have a print edition of The Standard #2 you can hold in your hands, we’ve got you covered.  Within the next few weeks, you’ll be able to order a copy from IndyPlanet, priced at $3.99.

And remember, readers in the Glasgow area should also be able to pick up the second issue for £3 at local comic shops from mid August.  You’ll be able to buy the comic in Forbidden Planet, A1 Comics and Plan B Books.  The first issue has sold well from these shops, and the local support has been much appreciated.  I hope that carries forward with the second issue.

Don’t forget, The Standard #1 is also still available from Indyplanet, Graphicly, Wowio, DriveThruComics and MyDigitalComics.  The series debut was nominated in two categories at the Scottish Independent Comic Book Awards: Best Comic/Graphic Novel and Best Writer.  Here’s what the critics have been saying about it:

A solid debut for Lees and Rector onto the comic book scene as well as for a new superhero story that may offer something a bit different than what Marvel or DC are doing right now… If you are someone who wants to support “indie” comics but isn’t into the supernatural or angst ridden gothic things, this is the title for you.

– Alex Widen, Brooklyn Comic Books Examiner

The art is fantastic bringing crisp, clean, and beautiful work on every panel. Just like the art, the writing is excellent and panel by panel I found myself feeling as if I was familiar with the characters and developing a bond with them.

– Stephen Jondrew, Project Fanboy

The Standard leaps the hurdle that many independent comics cannot. Some indie comics suffer from low-quality art and writing, and clichés both visually and in the narrative. The Standard carries itself quite well, providing an intriguing story and characters that are both engaging and easy on the eyes. I have to say that as far as creator-owned, independently-published superhero comics go, you’d be hard pressed to find something better.

– Dan Cole, Broken Frontier

In the age of reality television and absolute sensationalism, The Standard is deeply relevant.

– James Miller, Comics Bulletin

Comix Tribe is really publishing a slew or interesting titles these days and The Standard easily lives up to what I am quickly coming to expect from their titles.

– Tom Feazell, Omnicomic

This book reeks of professionalism, looking and acting like a Marvel or DC Comic. The Standard creative team have no fear in showing the world that they are just as smart and clever as the big boys.

– Luke Halsall, Geek Syndicate

If you’ve not read The Standard #1 yet, it’s not too late to catch up.  If you have read it, I hope you’ll also pick up The Standard #2, and let me know what you think!

The Standard Nominated For Awards!

On June 18th this year, the Glasgow Comic Con will be hosting the Scottish Independent Comic Book Awards.  Nominees were announced last night, and amongst them The Standard has been nominated for two SICBA awards:

Best Comic/Graphic Novel:  The Standard

Best Writer:  John Lees

Nominees were selected by a panel of respected figures from the comic world, and now voting opens to the public.  From Monday 13th June to Friday 17th June, a reading room will be set up at the Mackintosh Church, Arts and Heritage Centre, where you can read all the nominated books and cast your votes.  Winners will be announced at the SICBA Awards party on Saturday 18th June, being held at the Machintosh Church, Arts and Heritage Centre from 8pm.

It is truly an honor to be nominated for an award, and I’m really happy for everyone involved in The Standard with the exposure this recognition could bring.  Thanks to all of you for helping us get this far!

Remember, The Standard #1 is now available in print to buy on IndyPlanet for $3.99:

Buy The Standard #1 from IndyPlanet.

Plus, you can still buy the comic digitally for $1.99 from these platforms:

Graphic.ly

Wowio

DriveThruComics

MyDigitalComics