Wednesday, February 27, 2008

WONDERCON: A Creator's Perspective

What did I miss at fill-in-the-blank-con? That’s what everyone seems to ask when I get back from attending a comic book convention. If you are looking for pr from the big companies’ panels, sites like Newsarama and Comic book resources do it far better than I can. If you are looking for gossip, there’s Lying in the Gutters. But I thought it would be more interesting to discuss what it’s like to attend a convention from a creator’s perspective. Don’t worry; I’ll try to throw in a little news and gossip as well.

When I attend a con, my goals are usually this: sell as many copies of my books as I can, and network with as many editors and creators as possible. All this while trying to resist (often futilely) the urge to spend the proceeds of the weekend on comics, action figures etc. and avoid getting sick from being in a poorly ventilated convention center handling germ infested dollar bills.

I rarely have time to attend any of the panels. In fact, I usually find out any news when I get back to wherever I’m crashing that night and check the internet. I did pop in this weekend to the DC Nation panel to see if Dan DiDio would announce my top-secret dream project for DC. He didn’t, but he told me that should be announced sometime this week. All I can say is what he told me, which is that it stars one of his favorite DCU villains. In other words, I better not screw it up.

I also popped in on the BOOM! Studio presentation, deftly run by VP of Marketing/Left on Mission writer Chip Mosher. Again, to see if my name was mentioned. I was asked my BOOM! EIC Mark Waid to do a short story for BOOM!’s Cthulhu Tales anthology, and said yes despite the fact he stole artist Paul Azaceta from me to do Potter’s Field. I’m also in talks with them to do a bigger project…but again, sworn to secrecy.

While I was generally good at avoiding spending money, I did buy two pieces of original art from Ale Garza, who drew the issue of Supergirl #19 that I co-wrote with Joe Kelly. I’m proud of those pages because, whether or not it’s still canon, they are the first appearance of “The Phantoms”, which I helped create. They are the original inhabitants of The Phantom Zone. I’m surprised in more than a half century no one ever thought of who lived in the Zone before.

There were of course some cool meetings and sightings:

  • Someone dressed as Darth Nihilis (if you listen to Howard Stern you should get that reference).
  • My buddies Jim Mahfood and Dave Crosland, with whom I’m going to be doing a really cool HAZED signing event at Meltdown Comics in LA later this month (more on that soon).
  • Early Sandman artist Mike Dringenberg. I got to learn that “Death” was based in part on a schizophrenic Goth dominatrix from Salt Lake City (where they are in sorely needed). Speaking of Neil Gaiman characters based on real people, I should mention I’m doing an adaptation of a song by Tori Amos (the inspiration for “Delirium”) in this summer’s Comic Book Tattoo book.

But most of the WonderCon involved me sitting at my Artist’s Alley table. I think I had the best placement in terms of surrounding talent out of any con, between American Flagg’s Howard Chaykin and Astro City’s Kurt Busiek and Brent Anderson.

Still…sitting at and artist’s alley table can be hard work if you’re not a writer. You can’t sketch, and worse, there’s that deflating feeling every time someone comes up and says, wow, that’s a beautiful looking book, and you have to tell them that, in fact, you didn’t draw it. Assuming that as a writer, you only write what’s in the word balloons, they usually walk away disappointed.

Luckily, I had HAZED artist Robbi Rodriguez as my wingman. Besides making inappropriate jokes about how I was able to get him as cheap labor because he’s Mexican (not true, although I did pick him up randomly at Home Depot), Robbi was nice enough to do free sketches for anyone who bought HAZED, which rumor has it he will do at Wizard World LA and New York Comic-Con if you stop by my table at either.

And HAZED (along with GROUNDED and FEARLESS) is really what WonderCon, or any con, is about. Considering the book wasn’t out yet (it’s out this Wednesday the 27th, along with the fourth and final issue of FEARLESS), it got a great reception – we pretty much sold out. Lots of compliments on the cover that Kristyn Ferretti designed. Ditto for Robbi’s work…no disrespect to Maintenance but I think this is the best work he’s done (Nick Filardi’s grey tones didn’t hurt) As far as the words inside, the best praise I got was from Mia MacHatton and Lee Atchison of Sequential Tart. Speaking of which, Lee did a great interview with me here.

Actually…saying cons are about the work is only half true. It’s about the fans. I’ve been doing this professionally for about three years now, and the magic of someone saying they like a book I’ve worked on, let alone want to buy a copy, let alone want it SIGNED hasn’t worn off on me. My favorite story from this end involves a professor at the University of Oregon (go Ducks!) who is using Grounded as a textbook for a class he’s teaching. I’m hoping to have more about that here when I get in touch with him.

All in all, an extremely successful convention. Got to interact with without exception incredibly nice fans of Fearless and Grounded, and enjoy a great reception for the mini-debut of Hazed. And managed to (mostly) stay action figure and convention bug free.


Chris Hansbrough said...

oy mate. glad you enjoyed the news about being a textbook writer. and it was a damned good time meeting you and Robbie as well. Has Ben gotten back to you yet? I sat down with him this weekend to record his segment for our podcast and the wanker was actually nervous about shooting you and e-mail or phone call. He definitely will though as I'll keep buggin' 'im about it till he does. anyway. as it was.....I gotta scan them sketches from Robbie as they were damn near brilliant......ah ya in seatle. oh....Hazed was freakin' fantastic.

Mark Sable said...

Hey's Mark, didn't notice your comment until now. Glad you enjoyed Hazed, and nice meeting you. If your friend is shy about contacting me, I can drop him an e-mail instead. E-mail me at