|San Diego Comic-Con 2010
July 21-25 & Aug. 2-3, 2010
Comic-Con 2010: Preview Night
It looks like the Comic-Con folks have severely limited the number of non-professionals who are allowed in on Preview Night; or else the economy sucks even harder than I thought. Either way, it was a slow sales night but a great way to catch up with friends and do some networking. I breezed by Thom Zahler’s booth to buy my signed copy of “Love and Capes: Going to the Chapel,” which collects issues 7-12 of his remarkably entertaining “heroically super situation comedy.” Then I was off to see Dan Parent, the Archie writer/artist who created Kevin Keller, Riverdale’s resident gay teen. We talked for a good long time about all things Archie. His son Adam there too. I’m going to try to get a photo with him today to post on my Facebook page. I couldn’t find Archie president Mike Pellerito. I was looking forward to chatting with him about my proposal to write Kevin Keller stories (for starters). I soon learned that he became ill soon after landing in San Diego; looks like food poisoning, or maybe even e coli. He was holed up in his hotel room trying to recover.
Comic-Con 2010: Day One
On Thursday, things still felt a little slow to me compared to last year. I definitely didn’t sell as many books, and neither, it seems, did my booth-mates. Like last year, I am a booth partner with Prism Comics (booth 2148), so I have my own dedicated space, while Prism manages the inventory and processes the sales; it’s a good deal for everyone involved. I’ll be in the “yellow zone” of the booth every day from 9:30am to 2:00pm, so please drop by and say hi if you’re in the neighborhood.
Archie President Mike Pellerito is nowhere to be found. I learned from Nina Kester, a member of Archie’s new guard who’s in charge of New Media, that Mike is so sick that he may just fly back to New York. Nina knows my work and read my interview with First Comics News. She asked if I wanted to speak with Victor Gorelick. I thought that wouldn’t lead anywhere, but she went off and asked him anyway. He waved her off without even glancing in my direction, and she came back to tell me that Victor had characterized my pursuit as a “Pellerito exclusive.” Snap!
Later that day, I attended the Howard Cruse panel. Howard, for the uninitiated, is the undisputed godfather of gay comics, as the founding editor of Gay Comix, the creator of “Wendel” and the author of “Stuck Rubber Baby,” one of the first true graphic novels and certainly the first to deal head-on with gay issues. Earlier that day, we had tried to get into the “White Collar” panel, which was in one of the ballrooms. The line snaked around the block and despite waiting for almost an hour, we never gained admission. Meanwhile, Howard’s panel was held in a small meeting room and was less than half full. It saddens me that, even at Comic-Con, people would rather flock to see stars from a cable TV show than a comics pioneer like Howard Cruse.
Comic-Con 2010: Day Two
On Friday, I learned that Mike Pellerito has a perforated appendix. He’s under a doctor’s care and will probably return to New York without setting foot in the convention center. I feel bad for him, and sad that we were not able to meet.
The first of three Archie Comics panels carried on today without him. Today’s panel featured the business folks. There’s a panel tomorrow focusing on Stan Lee’s new partnership with Archie, and on Sunday there’s a creators’ panel. Today’s panel was moderated by business manager Rik Offenburger and featured co-CEO Jon Goldwater, writer Michael Uslan, Victor Gorelick, Dan Parent, and representatives from partner companies like IDW and Archie Digital. Jon kicked it off by making a series of announcements about current and upcoming projects. The new “Life with Archie” magazine will be distributed in toy stores and pretty much wherever magazines are sold. The classic reprints collections from IDW will celebrate the early (1946-48) Bob Montana comic strips; the art of Dan DeCarlo; the art of Stan Goldberg, classic “Pureheart the Powerful” stories, and classic “Mad House” stories. In the near future, all supermarket digests will be Double Digests. “Little Archie” characters will cross over with DC’s “Tiny Titans” characters. Archie, in partnership with the William Morris Agency, is close to making announcements about future TV and film projects. The Archie Comics postage stamp was unveiled by the U.S. Post Office on July 16. Big plans to celebrate Archie’s 70th anniversary in comics by revitalizing many Archie properties, including Josie, Sabrina, and Li’l Jinx, who will now be older (about 14) and known simply as Jinx.
Jon also gave a shout-out to Kevin Keller. While he failed to mention that Kevin is gay, Dan Parent had no trouble saying the word, and explaining how and why Kevin is settling in Riverdale. Dan also discussed other cutting-edge projects he’s been involved with, such as the “Jersey Shore” parody and the Archie-Valerie interracial romance.
Technical difficulties prevented them from showing any artwork from the many new projects they discussed. But this did not dull the enthusiasm of the crowd, which was easily five times the size of the audiences in years past. And for me, that was the best news that came out of today’s panel.
Comic-Con 2010: Day Three
Saturday is always the busiest day, and this year was no exception. In contrast to previous days, when I had to take pains to explain what “Jayson” is about (or who Ralf König is), today fans rushed to the booth ready to meet the creator and buy signed copies. It’s a wonderful feeling! I was also visited by several of my co-workers from the Evil Aerospace Giant, which is the first time this has happened.
Mike Pellerito Watch: Mike has appendicitis. He was rushed to the hospital and operated on. So he remains in San Diego but there’s no way we he will turn up on Sunday at the Archie creators’ panel.
I conducted a radio interview with Linda Birch for IMRU Radio, the world’s longest running LGBT radio magazine. Actually, several of us did, so I’m not sure how it will be edited and how much of it will air. In Los Angeles, it will air on KPFK-FM, and they’ve got a 200-station network around the country. If I find out more, I’ll let you know. After the show airs, I believe it will be available as a podcast, so I’ll post the link when I get it. Linda was out front on the Kevin Keller story, conducting the first in-depth interview with creator Dan Parent.
Year 23 of the prestigious “Gays in Comics” panel was held at sunset. Joining the panel this year was Dan Parent, creator of Kevin Keller. Host Andy Mangels pointed out that for all the creators from the major publishers (Marvel, DC) who’ve appeared on the panel over the years, Archie was the first publisher to announce their involvement with “Gays in Comics” on the front page of their website. They even provided a poster-sized cover of “Veronica” #202, the issue that introduces Kevin, to adorn the panel. Dan made a point of saying that the introduction of Kevin is not a gimmick, but a commitment.
I hope I get to play a part in fulfilling that commitment. I spoke again with Nina Kester, Archie’s young director of New Media, to make sure I was on the right track by pitching Mike Pellerito, and I wasn’t just wasting my time. She assured me I was going about my pursuit in the right way, and Mike was definitely the one to work with -- once he recovers. I also spoke with Rick Koslowski, an Archie inker I’ve known for several years, and he promised to put in a good word for me. Stay tuned!
Comic-Con 2010: Day Four
Sunday, the final day of this year’s Con, is traditionally Children’s Day, and this year was no exception. The Archie creators’ panel was scheduled for 2PM, giving me the morning to drum up some last-minute sales at the Prism Comics booth and do a quick debrief with inaugural Gays in Comics panelist Dan Parent. Over the past five days, every time I rushed back and forth between the Prism booth and Dan’s table, I rushed right past legendary cartoonist Scott Shaw!, who has received four Emmy Awards (for “Jim Henson’s Muppet Babies”), two Eisner Awards (for “Simpsons” comics), and The San Diego Comic-Con’s Inkpot Award (for Outstanding Achievements in Comic Books and Animation), among many other honors. As Senior Art Director for the Los Angeles office of Ogilvy & Mather, Scott designed all the animated commercials for Post Cereals, including the Pebbles cereals featuring his favorite cartoon characters, The Flintstones.
Today I finally paused long enough to introduce myself to Scott Shaw! (the exclamation point is part of his name) and to thank him accepting my Friend request on Facebook. Well, dear readers, it turns out that Scott is a huge “Jayson” fan! He started reading my series way back in the “Gay Comix” days and found it to be superior to most TV sitcoms, or words to that effect. In fact, he immediately invited me to join a monthly cartoonists’ club in Burbank attended by him and a bunch of other L.A.-based cartoonists, including Jim MacQuarrie, who also happened to be standing right there. After 25 years on the periphery of the comics business, this year I’m finally starting to feel like I could actually be part of it.
The Archie creators’ panel in the afternoon was a bit subdued. Mike Pellerito’s infectious energy was sorely missing, and there weren’t nearly enough kids in attendance. Maybe it had something to do with the absence of the kid-friendly “K” symbol from the Comic-Con Guide’s description. Was it an oversight -- or was it Kevin Keller?! Inquiring minds want to know!
After the Archie panel, I had a brief chat with Charles “Zan” Christensen, founding president of Prism Comics, about his plans to launch an LGBT-friendly publishing company called Northwest Press. I’ve always thought that if all of us LGBT self-publishers pooled our talents, we could eliminate duplicated effort in marketing and distribution, and benefit from economies of scale. Prism Comics, which brought us all together in the first place, is prevented by its non-profit status from becoming a publisher. So this is the next logical step, and Zan is leading the charge. More on that front as it develops.
After my chat with Zan, I packed up my displays, said my goodbyes, and left my four-color fantasies behind for another year.
Comic-Con 2010: A Post Mortem
I had two missions heading into this year’s Comic-Con: Sell my books and sell myself to Archie Comics.
Like last year, I had a dedicated space at the Prism Comics booth. Traffic and sales were lower than last year, but acceptable given the state of the economy and the fact that I didn’t debut any new books. Last year I had made my money back on the booth rental (and then some) by Saturday, and I was exhausted, so I blew Sunday off. This year I had not made my money back by Saturday, and I was exhausted, but I showed up on Sunday anyway so I could squeeze every last drop out of the Con. Also, the Archie Comics creators’ panel was on Sunday afternoon, which brings me to my second mission.
Ever since Archie Comics announced the introduction of openly gay teen Kevin Keller, I’ve been pitching myself to them as an authentic voice with a proven track record of writing gay characters in the teen humor genre. I pitched Archie President Mike Pellerito by mail, email, and Facebook. I landed a three-part interview with influential Archie blogger Mark Haney, which ran in First Comics News in the days leading up to the Con. I even persuaded Archie writer/artist Dan Parent, who created Kevin Keller, to appear on the “LGBT Comics, Creators, and Characters” panel that I am hosting at the New York Comic-Con in October. My mission was to close a deal at the Con to write stories for Kevin Keller, and eventually all the Archie characters. How did I fare? Toon in tomorrow!
Comic-Con 2010: A Post Mortem (part 2)
On Preview Night, right after I set up my own space, I raced to the Archie Comics booth -- the first one they’ve had at Comic-Con in 12 years! Mike Pellerito wasn’t at the booth, and I didn’t know any of the people who were. So I sought out Dan Parent, who had his own table in the Exhibitors’ area, to find out what he knew. He told me that Mike wasn’t feeling well, that it might be food poisoning, and that he wasn’t going to make it to Preview Night. So I ended up chatting with Dan for a good long time about Kevin and all things Archie. He’s a great guy with a great love for Archie, so we had a lot to talk about.
The next day I learned that Mike was still sick, it might be E. coli, and he might just go home. I learned this from Nina Kester, one of Archie’s newer hires. She’s officially responsible for New Media, but also helps out with publicity and with -- lucky me -- submissions. She told me I was taking the right approach and that Mike was the right guy.
By the third day, Mike had appendicitis and traded his hotel bed for a hospital bed. Bummer for him and bummer for me. But at least I didn’t have to spend the rest of the Con chasing him around or, worse yet, reeling from a rejection. In fact, I found it liberating to spend my free time networking with other comics professionals like Howard Cruse (“Stuck Rubber Baby”), Rich Koslowski (Archie inker, “The Three Geeks”), and Maggie Thompson (editor, “Comics Buyer’s Guide”).
The biggest thrill was meeting the legendary Scott Shaw! on the final day of the Con and discovering that he’s a fan of “Jayson.” We both live in Los Angeles, and before I knew it, Scott invited me to be his guest at next month’s Comic Art Professional Society meeting in Burbank. For someone trying to move into the mainstream of comics, this was the perfect ending to Comic-Con 2010.