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By: Heidi MacDonald
Blog: PW -The Beat
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, Geeks OUT
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Back in November, queer nerd organization Geeks OUT launched a kickstarter campaign to fund the creation of a convention by queer nerds, for queer nerds. A month later they’d far exceeded their $15k goal, raising nearly $20,000 to make their con a reality. I spoke with Joey Stern about what led him start Geeks OUT, how that led to Flame Con, and what queer geeks and their allied communities can expect from New York City’s first ever LGBTQ comic convention on June 13.
Edie Nugent: Tell me a little about your role at Geeks OUT and how you got involved with the organization.
Joey Stern: We founded Geeks OUT in 2010 after New York Comic Con. There was only queer panel that year and it was so packed that you had to stand in the back just to be there.
We wanted to make an organization that connected these fans, and gave them a more than once a year event to gather and see each other. We also wanted to make NYCC a gayer place, so we held events and parties as we fund raised to get enough money for a table.
It was really intense, but a year later, we debuted at NYCC with monthly queer comic/geek events and a table where people could come and find a group for themselves.
Nugent: So how did you decide to make the leap from that to putting on an entire convention?
Stern: We and the board of Geeks OUT felt like it was a natural progression and an opportunity to introduce an existing queer audience to amazing queer and ally artists and creators.
There’s so much out there now, it’s really hard to find a lot of the stuff that’s made for you, and Flame Con offers a connection for people and creators to meet and find new passions.
It also creates connections and empowers queer fandom, which is an important part of what we do.
Nugent: Why do you think comic book fandom appeals to the queer experience?
Stern: There really is no art like Comic Books. It’s not only informative, but it offers a lot more context for the writers’ words than traditional books do (or paintings offer on their own). They also have an indie experience, and like queer culture, were for a long time considered the realm of weirdos and freaks.
Comics in general are often about exploring new worlds and future tomorrows. And I think that idea is really appealing to anyone who has experiences of being on the outer edge of polite society.
For me, the X-men’s construct of creating new family, and finding friendship with people like you was really informative.
Nugent: You really leveraged queer fandom to launch Flame Con, raising almost $20k for the event. Were you surprised by how much support you received?
Stern: Yeah! Oh man, it was terrifying, we were worried the whole thing was going to fail, but people really came out to support us and this effort. It just shows how vibrant and important this community is.
Nugent: Do you think recent media attention on sexual harassment at cons, especially of cosplayers, helped identify a real need for a more progressive type of con experience?
Stern: Sure! But I think a lot of that work has been done by cosplayers coming to the media. It’s been really amazing to see people having that conversation and pushing for safer spaces (and to see cons, like NYCC respond positively to those changes).
Nugent: What are some programming highlights from Flame Con that you’re excited about?
Stern: We’re excited to be putting on all sorts of programming – hopefully something for everyone! A panel about writing for LGBT teens hosted by award-winning author David Levithan, a Q&A with Steve Orlando, writer of DC’s upcoming Midnighter series (DC’s first ongoing title to feature a gay man as a lead character,) a great panel on queer horror with Mark Patton, star of the infamously queer Nightmare on Elm Street 2: Freddy’s Revenge and Cecil Baldwin, voice of the hit podcast Welcome to Night Vale, a panel about looking at Sherlock Holmes from a queer perspective, a discussion with some up-and-coming industry pros about costume design, and lots more. We’re really packing something interesting into every minute of this con! There’s also a performance from Sarah Donner!
Nugent: What makes Flame Con different from other cons that aren’t queer-centric?
Stern: It’s tailored to its audience. All Gender bathrooms, queer artists and creators taking center stage, and panels that are not Gay 101, but a bit more focused.
Nugent: How so?
Stern: Bigger cons have panels focused on Gay Artists, we have panels focused on writing Gay Sherlock Fan Fiction.
Flame Con is a one-day event on June 13 in Brooklyn. Here’s a complete list of guests appearing at the con. For more information check out their website and their Facebook page.
By: Heidi MacDonald
Blog: PW -The Beat
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, Doctor Who
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Doctor Who is here to stay…at least for the next five years. Whovians around the world have reason to celebrate today, as the BBC reported executive producer Steven Moffat’s comments to Doctor Who Magazine that the rebooted series would do a “minimum of 15 years” in total. Ben Stephenson, BBC’s outgoing head of drama commissioning was even more optimistic, saying: “As long as the people looking after it are passionate about it… there’s absolutely no reason why it can’t do another 50 years.” This announcement comes on the heels of the new series’ 10 year anniversary, celebrated by fans across the world. The show’s popularity has led even mainstream outlets like MTV News to cover the anniversary, ranking the modern episodes in order of quality.
When the modern version of the series went on the air in 2005, Doctor Who was largely unknown to mainstream America. The adventures of the time-traveling, two-hearted alien known only as “The Doctor” were confined to PBS rebroadcasts of the original or “Classic” series, which was produced by the BBC from 1963-1989. Low production values and the show’s undeniable Britishness were barriers to crossover success in the States, though a cult following developed among science fiction fans who grew up watching the series.
That all changed in 2010 when BBC America licensed the show for broadcast in the United States. Instead of waiting months for rebroadcasts of episodes, they now waited weeks. Perhaps there is no better bellwether of the shows immense Stateside popularity than the town of Denton, TX. Local comic book store retailer Tim Stoltzfus of More Fun Comics lobbied to nab an exclusive cover and won. Titan Comics released 29 variant covers for Doctor Who: The Ninth Doctor Issue 1 and among them was a cover featuring the TARDIS parked outside the Denton County Courthouse.
Local Denton artist Jake Ekiss drew the exclusive cover.
The recognition drew the attention of Denton Mayor Chris Watts, who drew up a proclamation declaring April 4, 2015 “Dr. Who Day” in Denton. Local Whovians attended a reading of the proclamation in front of the courthouse where local a local cosplay group erected a TARDIS prop. Brothers Travis and Tom Huston attended the ceremony, dressed as the Eleventh and Tenth Doctors, respectively. Tom, 12, liked seeing “so many Whovians,” while Travis, 9, said: “there aren’t many great shows on like it, our whole family watches it together.” Both brothers agreed it was “really awesome that our courthouse is on the cover.”
Geronimo and Allons-y! The Huston brothers dressed as their favorite Doctors: Travis, age 9, as Eleven and Tom, age 12, as Ten. Photo by Cristy Flowers Huston.
Likely the Houston brothers are among the fans excited for the upcoming three Doctor issue to be released on May 2nd, Free Comic Book Day. Check out the cover and preview pages below:
By: Heidi MacDonald
Blog: PW -The Beat
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, Con Wars!
, Image Expo
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Yesterday The Mary Sue published an article noting that for-profit comic-cons might be violating federal labor law by not paying minimum wage to workers improperly classified as volunteers. However, a recent case involving Major League Baseball shows how commercial comic-cons could beat the tag.
The use of free labor by for-profit companies has become a hot issue in recent years. Internships have become a particularly touchy topic – class action lawsuits by former interns have prompted some companies to end their unpaid internship programs, although there are at least a couple high-profile cases on appeal in which companies are challenging the Department of Labor’s standards for determining whether an intern is actually an employee.
Given how costly it can be for a company to fall afoul of federal law on this issue, it is indeed prudent for the companies that run comic conventions to assess whether it is legal for them to use unpaid volunteers. This is especially conventions run by for-profit companies, since charitable nonprofits enjoy a special exemption from minimum wage and overtime requirements in regard to volunteers. The Mary Sue has once again performed a service to the community in calling attention to this important issue.
With that in mind, in making this analysis it’s important to be aware of both the law’s requirements, the specific practices of each company, and the exemptions that are available outside the one given to charities.
First, since conventions produced by ReedPop — NYCC, ECCC, C2E2 — were mentioned in the post, it’s worth noting, as several “volunteers” have stated in the original comments thread and a related Reddit thread, that ReedPop pays volunteers minimum wage as official crew. Calling people volunteers in this context is a great way to foster a sense of community and community — one of things for which Lance Fensterman and company are to be commended is the way that they have fostered this communal sensibility while maximizing return on investment.
But not every for-profit comic-con that brings on volunteers gives these workers compensation – in fact, depending on the convention, you might actually be required to pay a fee for the privilege of helping the company out! Although this may seem on its face like a violation of federal law, there’s a legal loophole that has enabled countless commercial businesses to use volunteers in the standard sense of term.
Over the years the federal Fair Labor Standards Act has accumulated dozens of exemptions for a wide range of ventures, from homemakers making wreaths to C-level executives. For a company that operates a program taking place within a limited period of time during the year, there is one exemption in particular that catches the corporate attorney’s eye: minimum wage and overtime requirements do not apply to “any employee employed by an establishment which is an amusement or recreational establishment…” that operates no more than seven months a year or meets a financial test as to revenue generated at different times of the year. (29 USC 213(a)(3))
There are several cases that show how a commercial comic-con can take advantage of this provision, but the ruling perhaps most on-point was issued just a year ago in the Southern District of New York – coincidentally, the same federal district in which the New York Comic-Con takes place. Chen v. Major League Baseball Properties was brought by a former volunteer for the 2013 All-Star Week FanFest at the Javits Center (!), and the volunteer made arguments similar to those made in the intern lawsuits: volunteers at the event met the criteria for employee status, and thus Major League Baseball should have paid them at least minimum wage.
Major League Baseball — and the court — disagreed. As the court observed, although Major League Baseball operates all year long, Department of Labor regulations distinguish an entire enterprise from an “establishment,” which specifically refers to “a distinct place of business.” The exemption was put in place to accommodate seasonal ventures employing people for discrete periods of time in activities that might offer “non-monetary rewards.” The court concluded Major League Baseball’s FanFest was analogous to the amusement and recreational activities in view when legislators originally enacted the exemption, and the plaintiff’s federal as well as state law claims were summarily dismissed.
The plaintiff has appealed the district court’s ruling – in fact, it was argued in the Second Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals today, March 30 – but as noted above, there are a number of cases in other circuits that have reached similar conclusions. What’s more, even if the appeal succeeds, the main case being cited in opposition focuses on aspects of one baseball team’s operations that are distinguishable from a comic-con. For instance, while the team in question utilized its stadium for events throughout much of the year, comic-cons typically take place in rented facilities for discrete periods of time.
The analysis gets somewhat trickier for an entity operating multiple conventions. For instance, let’s assume that Wizard World doesn’t pay its volunteers — there’s nothing about compensation in the volunteer information packet, at least; Wizard World volunteers don’t even get munchies or parking reimbursements. The fact that Wizard World operates year-round could be grounds for arguing that the seasonal establishment exemption doesn’t apply, but there are also clever counter-arguments and organizational strategies that could persuade a court to disagree. Others have tried and succeeded with even more daunting facts – which, on a related front, is why the NCAA doesn’t have to pay taxes on ads sold for March Madness.
The seasonal exemption has long been a lifeline for companies offering an opportunity to volunteer for ventures that operate on a limited-term basis, such as amusement parks, outdoor swimming pools, Oprah’s Life You Want Tour, and New York Fashion Week. If you are an unpaid commercial comic-con volunteer who believes a lawsuit for back wages would be a clear home run, expect Major League Baseball Properties and cases like it to be deployed to strike you out.
By: Heidi MacDonald
Blog: PW -The Beat
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When people talk about saving John Constantine, usually it’s a hopeless task, as the scouser magician’s soul has long been consigned to hell for his many sins on earth. But another campaign to save Constantine is under way—and this time it’s fans attempting to keep his TV show going past a 13 episode commitment despite middling ratings.
Arrested Development has plans for a fifth season on Netflix, Twin Peaks will see you on Showtime twenty-five years from the 1991 series finale, and Yahoo Screen will bring Community closer to its promise of #sixseasonsandamovie, airing new episodes this spring. It’s a golden age of fan campaigns with the ability to resurrect dead and mostly-dead shows with measurably vocal fan bases. It’s a golden age fans of NBC’s Constantine are counting on, as the last of the series’ 13 episode initial run airs this Friday, February 13 at 10pm. The network has halted any further production on the show, prompting fans to organize on Twitter and Facebook under the hashtag #saveconstantine in support of its renewal — whether on NBC or another network entirely.
Fan campaigns to save television shows are nothing new, with the late sixties fan campaign to save the Star Trek original series largely credited as the first of its kind. Still, there does seem to be a trend in the growing power of fan campaigns to have an impact on programming, even those who represent much smaller audience shares than the high-profile efforts of yesteryear, prompting fledgling networks to pick up where network and even cable channels have left off.
So what does all this mean for fans of Constantine, starring Matt Ryan as trench-coated demon hunter John Constantine? Do they feel a campaign to save the show, based on the long-running DC/Vertigo series Hellblazer, has a better chance of being saved now than it would have 10 years ago? “They definitely are more successful — especially with social networking being the way it is,” said Breanna Conklin, who has been active in the campaign to #saveconstatine since NBC confirmed in late November they would stop production on the series. “I am in a few nerd groups on facebook. You’re able to spread the word to like minded folks and your friends within a few seconds. Social media gives awareness that wasn’t available to us ten years ago.”
The #saveconstantine effort began to gain momentum when a slick-looking website, saveconstantine.com, went up in December. In addition to links to the petition and fan communities, saveconstantine.com offers a detailed description of the importance of the recently introduced Twitter TV ratings model from newly-formed group, Nielsen Social. An off-shoot of the more traditional Nielsen ratings, Nielsen Social “identifies, captures and analyzes conversation on Twitter in real time for every program aired across over 250 of the most popular U.S. television networks, including Spanish language networks, as well as over 1,500 brands” according to the company website.
The challenge for Constantine fans is to ensure that their awareness of the need to campaign for the continued life of the series is leveraged in a way that speaks both to NBC and their advertisers. It’s not enough to simply prove there’s interest in Constantine from the hallowed 18-49 age demographic; advertisers need to ensure that ad placements can actually have an impact on that demographic. As television consumption proliferates on an increasingly diverse group of content platforms, strong same-day viewing ratings don’t necessarily show advertisers that their ads will be seen instead of fast-forwarded on a DVR viewing post-broadcast.
It’s a challenge the organizers of the #saveconstantine effort hope to meet by being better educated on the increasingly complex world of network tv ad buys. “It’s a big group effort,” said Allison Gennaro, one of the campaigns many organizers. A fan of the Hellblazer comics, Gennaro became involved in the campaign upon hearing “NBC had capped the airing to just 13 [episodes],” which she took to mean the show was “in trouble” but also that the “ratings might not be meeting the NBC demo of choice.” Hoping to convince NBC not to cancel the series, the #saveconstantine organizers publicized a petition for the show to get a second season across social media platforms in late November. The petition cites a “38% bump in the ratings and an 87% viewer retention rating (after Grimm) with the introduction of The Spectre” as evidence of the viability of the series which currently boasts over 20,000 signatures.
The description on saveconstantine.com explains the impact live tweeting Constantine episodes can have on the Twitter TV ratings. The site believes the live tweets “denote that a show has a consistent and loyal audience,” and may show advertisers they “are being rewarded for their investment in the network…so if you want to save Constantine, please watch, tell your friends, and tweet.” Gennaro cultivated a group of Constantine fans through a mailing list to help push the #saveconstantine hashtag and live tweet campaign. “We even threw Friday night twitter parties before the show to trend and gain attention,” she said.
Fan campaigns of the past relied on letter writing, placing ads in trade magazines like Variety, even buying billboards to plead for their respective shows. While Constantine fans have also employed letter writing and email to NBC executives in this campaign, their informed approach in targeting advertisers and leveraging their consumer power is in step with more recently successful ‘save our show’ campaigns. In 2009, Wendy Farrington began a campaign to save another NBC series with supernatural overtones: Chuck. Her game-changing approach acknowledged the fact that the show enjoyed better ratings on off-network viewing platforms and galvanized fans of the series to support a major advertiser of the show, Subway.
According to a 2014 article by Christina Savage for Transformative Works and Cultures, which examined fan-run ‘save our show’ campaigns, on the day of Chuck’s season finale hundreds of fans went to their local Subway and bought a $5 foot-long sandwich featured on the series via product placement. They then left behind comment cards explaining their purchase was in support of Chuck. Savage explained that by “focusing on Chuck as a business transaction, fans used their knowledge of the industry” to support their effort. Shortly thereafter, NBC ordered 13 more episodes of the series. Savage wrote: “co-chairman of NBC Ben Silverman said that this campaign was one of the most creative he had seen, and as a result, Subway would increase its presence within the show.”
John Constantine may not eat at Subway, but fans of the demon exorcist are invoking similar brand marketing powers with their #saveconstantine efforts. Only this time, the fans themselves are the product. By targeting Nielsen’s Twitter TV ratings specifically, Constantine fans “become valuable social ambassadors for programmers and advertisers alike as they amplify content and messaging through their social spheres,” Nielsen Social wrote in a an article posted in September. But will it be enough to push NBC to order another season of Constantine? Could it make the show attractive enough to warrant a rumored move to sister-network Syfy, which has released several high-profile interviews with network executives seeking to return the channel to it’s Sci-fi/fantasy genre roots? NBC president Jennifer Salke told IGN in January that “we wish the show [Constantine] had done better live. It has a big viewership after [it airs] in all kinds of ways and it has a younger audience, but the live number is challenging.”
We spoke with Dr. Balaka Basu, a professor specializing in pop culture and fan studies at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte about the viability of the type of campaign #saveconstantine is waging. “Campaigns helped to save Chuck and Roswell, and gave Firefly fans closure in the less-than-successful Serenity,” she said. “ I think the key was demonstrating an understanding of how television economy works. With Chuck, for instance, fans literally gave their monetary support to the chain sandwich shop Subway…this demonstrates a comprehension of the relationship between advertisers and television producers.”
Fans like Miguel Gonzalez Cabañas, who lives in Madrid, show the global reach of the #saveconstantine fan efforts. He calls Constantine “the best series with a paranormal plot” on television. He, along with Allison, Breanna and the thousands of other fans who make up the campaign to #saveconstantine will be redoubling their efforts tonight: tweeting their support for the show before, during and after the season finale. But beyond the comic book fanbase, beyond charismatic lead Matt Ryan or the show’s arcane mythology: what is it about Constantine, or any other fan-campaigned series, that produces this kind of fan advocacy? “Whether it’s a show like Constantine, where many fans came into the show already in love with the character,” says Dr. Basu, “or shows like Buffy and Angel, where they were allowed to fall in love over the duration of the show, it’s really when the characters feel like real people that you don’t want your relationship with them to end, ever. And that’s been true since the days of Star Trek.”
By: Heidi MacDonald
Blog: PW -The Beat
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, 10 year anniversary
, Boom! KaBOOM
, Paul Levitz
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By Davey Nieves
In 2015, BOOM! Studios celebrates 10 years of publishing comics, and to commemorate this milestone, the publisher has assembled what it considers to be its top 10 moments of the past decade—all highlights that contributed significantly to the company’s founding, rise, and continued growth. Straight from the mouth of BOOM! it reads as a chronological time line of the publishers history.
December 2004: Comics writer Keith Giffen, in Los Angeles for a comic book convention, has a beer on a Saturday night with Ross Richie and pushes Richie to start his own comic book publishing company.
June 2005: The first BOOM! Studios book, Zombie Tales #1, ships (6/29/2005), showcasing work from Mark Waid (Daredevil), Keith Giffen (Future’s End), and Dave Johnson (100 Bullets). BOOM!’s focus on original content over the next decade spawns bestsellers like Irredeemable, The Woods, and Lumberjanes as it launches the careers of next-generation talent like Rafael Albuquerque (The Savage Brothers, American Vampire), Emma Rios (Hexed, Pretty Deadly), Aaron Kuder (Key of Z, Green Lantern: New Guardians), Jordie Bellaire (Malignant Man, Captain Marvel), and Russell Dauterman (Supurbia, Thor), among many others.
December 2006: BOOM! Studios publishes its first licensed comic book, Warhammer: Damnation Crusade #1. BOOM! goes on to work with some of the biggest brands in the world, including 20th Century Fox, Disney, Cartoon Network, MGM, Peanuts Worldwide, Paws, and The Jim Henson Company.
July 2007: Mark Waid is named Editor-in-Chief and goes on to become the company’s Chief Creative Officer, contributing numerous original titles to the company’s lineup before returning to freelance writing in December 2010.
March 2009: The first KaBOOM! (previously BOOM! Kids) comics, Incredibles: Family Matters #1 and The Muppet Show Comic Book #1, ship (3/25/2009). BOOM! Studios is the first Disney licensee to be granted the ability to generate new canon material for any Pixar property.
January 2010: Voted on by comic shop retailers, BOOM! Studios wins its first “Best Publisher Under 4%” Diamond Gem Award for 2009. It is awarded this honor four more times since, earning the award five out of the last six years. The publisher wins its first Harvey Award for Roger Langridge’s work on The Muppet Show Comic Book (8/28/10) that same year and its first Eisner Award for Shannon Wheeler’s I Thought You Would Be Funnier a year later (7/22/11).
June 2013: BOOM! Studios announces its acquisition of Archaia (6/24/13) (publisher of titles like Mouse Guard, Jim Henson’s Tale of Sand, and The Killer), adding the company as a wholly-owned imprint alongside its other imprints, KaBOOM! and BOOM! Box, and expands the range of diverse content Archaia publishes.
August 2013: “2 Guns” opens in theaters (8/2/13) starring Denzel Washington and Mark Wahlberg. The film is based on the BOOM! Studios five-issue series created by Steven Grant and illustrated by Mateus Santoluoco.
October 2013: BOOM! enters into a first-look deal with 20th Century Fox for feature films (10/2/2013) and then signs a first-look deal with Fox for television the following year (8/20/2014).
February 2014: Former DC Comics President & Publisher Paul Levitz joins BOOM! as a consultant and a member of the Board of Directors. Levitz categorized his role as the voice of experience that says, “Well, we tried to attack that problem this way [at DC Comics]; it didn’t work that way. Maybe times have changed, but let’s think about what the issues were and try to find a way around what the dilemmas were.”
As for the future, Boom! Studios has an entire year full of announcements lined up and are already off to a great start with their new book Burning Fields. It looks like the next ten years could be even bigger for the little publisher that could.
As long as we’re harkening back to the internet of 10 years ago, as we are in this AMAZING THRILLING BEAT 10TH ANNIVERSARY SPECIAL, one of the great hallowed traditions of the internet came under fire yesterday, with TCJ.com co-editor Tim Hodler wonderedif TCJ.com should turn off comments and encourage a “letter’s page” instead. Oddly, this inspired a flurry of comments. The “letters page” idea goes back to Blood & Thunder the letters page on the old print Comics Journal where industry titans would throw rocks at each other. Seriously these are a goldmine of Bronze Age defensiveness and invective. Would the same spirit be upheld in a world with instantaneous communication in every medium known to humankind? Not sure.
The tcj.com comment crewe is also a throwback to the original TCJ.com message board, a brutal, often trollish place. No quarter was asked, none was given on the TCJ boards. You had to live by your wits, and the same old arguments would break out on a weekly basis. Despite all this, it still qualified as social media for its day and fostered an indie comics community that survived and migrated, Elfquest-fashion, to a greener more temperate clime.
The jury still seems to be out, but while the TCJ comments maintain occasional flashes of brilliance and information—less since the death of Kim Thompson—they are also home to a nest of internet trolls, some of them ported over from the old system.
This whole argument seemed to kick off some STRONG feelings on the webz! I see a whole bunch of folks were mixing it up on Twitter but to be honest, I was watching the Belgium-USA game and missed whatever started it. I do know the vastly male make-up of the comment crewe was dissed by some, some upheld the smattering of good info, others thought killing it all would be a mercy killing. And some people suggest moderation — I’m pretty sure the current boards are moderated, but it only takes a few rampaging wackadoos to throw everything off kilter. People used the phrase “pap pap” and that’s always funny.
There was also this suggestion first voiced by
Don’t ditch comments. Moderate, limit and up/down-vote them.
Sub-reddit then! And Hodler replied:
We actually had upvoting in comments when we first relaunched the site, and it was wildly unpopular with readers. I wonder if things would be different now.
I’m a big Tim Hodler fan but doing things that are unpopular with your readers is often what’s best for them. Trolls hate moderation, controls and scrutiny by the authorities. And of course, up or down voting doesn’t assure that extreme positions won’t be supported. Yet TCJ’s audience is small enough that you don’t get general “look at me I’m being an asshole!” type posts.
I’m partial to comments, as you can see from this site, but only MODERATED comments. I check the comments here four or five times as day and have banned several people for being asshats. I’ve toyed with putting in the Facebook comment system but it hardly seems necessary right now. My vote for TCJ? Better modding. But if there isn’t time for that, try letters to the editor. It worked for Ben Franklin.
UPDATED: And Dan Nadel has announced the new policy and it’s EXACTLY WHAT I SUGGESTED!
Well, we certainly got a lot of comments about our comments. Here’s what we’re going to do until Monday, which will satisfy no one but ourselves: We will now moderate all comments and filter out anything we don’t find in some way productive or entertaining. We will be stringent about this, and thus will delete many of the types of things (Lee/Kirby nonsense, obvious bad-faith arguments, blatant trolling) argued against on the thread. Take into account that we are both devoted Howard Stern listeners (for you non-Americans, Howard Stern is a figure of wisdom and devotion who functions for many of us as a kind of benevolent spirit guide), so our standards are pretty enlightened. After Monday we’ll either decide to continue this policy or shut down the comments all together. How’s that for an anti-climax?
We know Comic-Con is a crowded, tumultuous place, with a noise level akin to being sucked through a jet engine and a similar toll on the body. But perhaps there are a few peaceful eddies and tranquil pools where you may find a moment to relax…and learn something. We’re not saying the following panels are bad—in fact among them are the best—but for various reasons they may be less frantic or stress inducing. BUT see the end of the list for the surprise twist that will bring a tear to your eye!
1:00pm – 2:00pm
A Mercs Life For Me: What It Takes to Be a Mandalorian Room 29A
James Sebree (San Diego chapter leader), Sal Attinello (Manda’galaar), Todd Mullin (Haran’galaar Clan), and Quinn Pendleton (member approval rep.) discuss the ins and outs of the Mandalorian Mercs Costuming Club. Topics include introduction to costume construction, overview of member requirements, and getting your costume approved. Also, Loren Toy (Manda’galaar) on 3D printing for costuming, and Kristina Schlosser (Haran’galaar clan) and Erica Heinrich (Manda’galaar) on building a custom female Mandalorian.
What is a Mandaloran you could be asking yourself? And are they taking our jobs? Confession: I had to Google this. And I was right! See end of the column to see if you were too! One of many panels that still appeals to a limited specialist audience.
1:45pm – 3:15pm
Comic-Con How-To: Gray Scale Copic Markers Room 2
Adam Hughes will use the warm and cool gray Copic markers to render the tones on a drawing. Fellow artist Allison Sohn will narrate the process while Adam draws. Hughes has been working in comics for over 25 years. Some of his work from the past year includes a story in Batman Black and White as well as the covers to the Vertigo series Fairest and the Dark Horse series Rebel Heist.
Coptic markers you say? ZZZZZZZzzzzzzzz…oh wait it’s Adam Hughes? Never mind.
3:00pm – 4:00pm
ComicBase User Group Meeting Room 29A
Attention all comic collectors! ComicBase, the world’s premiere software program for managing comic collections, will be holding their annual user group meeting with creator Pete Bickford. This once-a-year presentation will discuss the latest features and news about ComicBase and Atomic Avenue.
I’m temped to go to this just to find out what people who use advanced software to manage their vast comics collections talk about when they talk about advanced software to manage their vast comics collections.
4:30pm – 5:30pm
Entertainment Weekly: The Visionaries Hall H
A discussion between a couple of blockbuster directors on the art of filmmaking and a wide-ranging discussion about the future of film.
Can never live up to the hype.
4:30pm – 5:30pm
Thunderbirds at 50 Room 8
As Gerry and Sylvia Anderson’s iconic Thunderbirds series turns 50 next year, Jamie Anderson (Anderson Entertainment) executive producers of the new Thunderbirds Are Go series Richard Taylor (Jane and the Dragon, The Wot Wots, LOTR), and Giles Ridge (Harry Potter: Behind the Magic, The Illustrated Mum) talk about heritage programs, and the importance of remaining true to the ethos that made the show so successful first time around. Join the Thunderbirds team for this Q&A, moderated by head writer of the new series Rob Hoegee (Slugterra, Generator Rex, Teen Titans).
Many years ago I wondered if Thunderbirds fandom was doomed to die out, as there was no new product and the materials seemed to be caught in a quaint but downward nostalgic spiral. Well, this is where the lone survivors will gather to discuss continuing on in a hostile environment.
6:00pm – 7:00pm
Batman ’66 Hall H
Holy Bat Panels! Get all the details on the most anticipated home entertainment release in fanboy history when Warner Bros. Home Entertainment reunites pop icons Adam West, Burt Ward, and Julie Newmar on the Hall H stage for a Bat-tastic look at Batman: The Complete TV Series. The actors behind Batman, Robin. and Catwoman, along with moderator Ralph Garman, will give you an inside sneak peek at all the exclusive content within this blockbuster home entertainment release, as well as exhibiting dazzling HD remastered footage from the landmark series. Batman: The Complete TV Series will be released in November 2014.
AGAIN? Seriously haven’t there been about 12 zillion panels with the Batman cast at every rickety dinky con since time began? Old.
11:00am – 12:00pm
The Official Aspen Comics 2014 Panel Room 9
Frank Mastromauro (co-owner), Peter Steigerwald (co-owner), Vince Hernandez (VP, editor-in-chief), Mark Roslan (VP, director of design and production), David Wohl (Executive Assistant: Iris), J. T. Krul (Jirni), Siya Oum (Lola XOXO), Scott Lobdell (Superman), Paolo Pantalena (Jirni),Giuseppe Cafaro (Fathom: Kiani),Jordan Gunderson (EA: Assassins), Lori Hanson (EA Assassins), and Beth Sotelo (Fathom) will reveal upcoming Aspen titles as well as projects on the horizon. They will also hold a Q&A session with fans. All fans in attendance will receive a gift courtesy of the publisher.
See Thunderbirds. Gotta give ‘em credit for sticking around in a hostile environment though. I don’t remember the last time I heard someone say they read an Aspen comic.
1:30pm – 2:30pm
Game Your Brain to Superhero Status Room 24ABC
National Geographic Channel’s Eric LeClerc (illusionist, Brain Games), David Rees (Going Deep with David Rees), Tony Gonzalez (The NFL Today analyst, You Can’t Lick Your Elbow), and Dr. Armand Dorian (ER physician, You Can’t Lick Your Elbow) join together for a series of interactive experiments that will mess with your mind and show you that what may seem superhuman is actually within your reach.
What does this even mean?
3:30pm – 4:30pm
Women Below the Line Room 26AB
Sheyne Fleischer (assistant editor, The Bachelor, Hells Kitchen), Tess Folwer (writer/illustrator Game of Thrones Exclusive Animation, Rat Queens), Alicia Minette (prop fabrication: Sushi Girl, Man at Arms), and Aubriana Zurilgen (creature creation: Steve Wang’s Creature Workshop, MasterFX), will explore the nontraditional roles of women in the comic and entertainment industries. Female editors, illustrators, prop fabricators, and creature creators will relate their success stories and how to follow your dreams in the industry, while exploring gender roles in the creative professions. Moderated by Glenn Freund (League of S.T.E.A.M.).
Great going, ladies! Now someone get you off this marginalizing panel and on the stage with the big boys. A woman on every panel, not one panel for every woman.
5:00pm – 6:00pm
Hermes Press: A Celebration of The Phantom, the First Masked Hero Room 9
Be the first to see the premiere, concept, and design of Peter David and Sal Velluto’s New Phantom comic book series together with a multimedia presentation about the history of the The Ghost Who Walks. Sal Velluto (The Phantom, Flash, Justice League Task Force, Black Panther), the artist for the new series, will discuss the direction and philosophy of the book and show off artwork from issue #1. Daniel Herman (publisher, Hermes Press), Graham Nolan (Batman, The Phantom, Rex Morgan, M.D.), and Thomas Andrae ( Batman and Me, Creators of the Superheroes, Walt Kelly: the Life and Art of the Creator of the Art of Pogo) will discuss the history of the character, the classic strip and comic books, and the all-new version (which brings back the classic Phantom) of this iconic character.
5:15pm – 6:15pm
Celebration of 24-Hour Comic Day Room 18
This year marks the 10th anniversary of 24-Hour Comic Day. Come by and help celebrate! Participants will reminisce about past years while also discussing how to make October 4, 2014 the best 24-Hour Comic Day ever. (This panel is open to all Comic-Con attendees.)
How can you cram this into one hour?
6:35pm – 8:05pm
The Musk of Tusk: An Evening with Kevin Smith Hall H
After all the interesting and exciting movie panels are over, Hall H belongs to a middle-aged man who once worked with BatFleck! Ask ComiKev questions and get ready to say #WalrusYes as Kev premieres the trailer to his first film in three years: the twisted, transformative tale of Tusk! Wrap up a busy Friday with the Clown Prince of Comic-Con!
It’s nice to see that Kevin Smith has embraced his place as the It the Living Colossus of 90s nostalgia.
7:00pm – 8:00pm
Simpsons Collectors Group Room 29A
Simpsons collectors of the world, unite! Take a break from the busy Comic-Con floor and get a chance to meet some of your fellow collectors of Simpsons merchandise from all over the country. Meet the other Simpsons collectors you see on the message board and put faces to names. This gathering, hosted by the staff of the SimpsonsCollectors.com website, is a great chance to network with other collectors and share your experiences in the hobby with others.
Isn’t this what a convention used to be about? Just people with odd hobbies finding kindred souls?
8:30pm – 9:30pm
Klingon Lifestyles Room 6A
Klingons, weapons and ohhhh, yes there will be live action bat’leth sword battles. Come join the fun and mayhem for the 21st annual Klingon stage play. Watch the Stranglehold Klingons travel to distant worlds to bring glory back to the empire! Enter the Trek costume contest-prizes awarded for best dressed, largest red shirt group, and more. All alien races welcomed. If you love stage plays and love SWAG even more, come and support the only live-action Star Trek fan-based play to boldly go where no play has gone before!
Talking about the 90s…this event is in its 21st year, and is one of two or three “throwback” panels from when Under the Sails was new! Visit it to marvel at the sight of this living dinosaur!
1:00pm – 2:00pm
Little Lulu and John Stanley Fan Group Room 29A
One of the most memorable kids’ comics ever created (yet with remarkable “all-ages” appeal), Little Lulu has generated a worldwide fan following. Learn more about this classic comics character and the renewed interest in the other delightful works of the great John Stanley, and join in for a scripted reading of a Golden Age Little Lulu story. All are welcome!
Another throwback, this one possibly going back to the 80s! Do you realize what is must feel like for a group that has been meeting at the con for over 20 years? In the meantime, God bless Mike Richardson for publishing that completely Little Lulu line a few years back, and Tom Devlin at D&Q for Stanley and Thirteen and the other great Stanley/Tripp books.
8:00pm – 9:00pm
Science in the Stories of H. P. Lovecraft Room 4
Iconic weird tale author H. P. Lovecraft (1890-1937), in his introduction to the story The Call of Cthulhu wrote: “We live on a placid island of ignorance in the midst of black seas of infinity, and it was not meant that we should voyage far. The sciences, each straining in its own direction, have hitherto harmed us little; but some day the piecing together of dissociated knowledge will open up such terrifying vistas of reality, and of our frightful position therein, that we s Hall either go mad from the revelation or flee from the deadly light into the peace and safety of a new dark age.” Was he right? A panel of scientists and Lovecraft experts will discuss the science behind Lovecraft’s stories and what modern research has revealed about humanity’s place in the cosmos. With Cody Goodfellow (Deepest, Darkest Eden: New Tales Of Hyperborea), Shane Haggard (Chemistry instructor, San Diego City College), Leslie S. Klinger (The New Annotated H. P. Lovecraft), Andrew Leman (The H. P. Lovecraft Historical Society), and Lisa Will, Ph.D. (astronomy and physics professor, San Diego City College). Moderated by Aaron Vanek (The H. P. Lovecraft Film Festival and CthulhuCon-Los Angeles).
Although this sounds niche-y, when I looks at the RSVP list online it had more people than most comics panels.
12:00pm – 1:00pm
Dr. Zhivago’s Innovation in Education: Basic Cartoon and Animation Using Vector Graphic Tools for Kids Room 30CDE
Dr. Marie Zhivago (professional cartoonist and published children’s book author) and Dr. Eric Banatao (principal of Eastlake Elementary School, Chula Vista, CA) discuss how students learn basic cartoon and animation using an industry standard vector-based app and software on iPads and computers. Kids learn early how to use current technological tools to help stimulate and develop young artist’s creative imagination. Join Dr. Zhivago and Dr. Banatao for this Q&A session.
UNless you like….quantum graphics. I think you would need to be a child to have the comprehension for this panel on a Sunday morning at con.
12:00pm – 2:00pm
Ball-Jointed Dolls Collectors Group Room 29A
Doll owners and enthusiasts discuss the world of ball-jointed resin dolls from companies such as Elfdoll, Volks, Fairyland, Iplehouse, and many others. This year artist Bo Bergemann of Bergmann Dolls will talk about sculpting and manufacturing BJDs. You’ll also have the opportunity to learn the basics about BJDs and pick up tips on customizing, maintaining, and photographing these beautiful dolls. Share the beauty of your own unique doll, or just see the many dolls on display. From tiny to towering, it’s a great opportunity to experience the different types of dolls in the world of BJDs. Make new friends, both real and resin!
Just tell people you are going to Comic-Con to learn about the world of BJDs. They didn’t know it was that kind of place. This panel has also been going on for more than a decade. Someone needs to make a documentary just about this, the John Stanley group and the Klingon lifestyles, for a look at the original gangsters of fandom.
12:30pm – 1:30pm
Comic-Con How-To: Building Your Fandom Armada Room 2
Let’s discuss relationships and fandom. Bring your OTPs, gather your Armada, and cross over into an expert presentation by two DeviantArt masters, with Kay Purcell (damphyr) and Aun-Juli Riddle (aunjuli), as they help you navigate more ships than have ever crossed the worlds of fandom.
What in the heck is this? No one expects the Spanish Armada. Buehler? Anyone?
4:00pm – 5:00pm
Disney Pin Trading: Past, Present, and Future Room 29A
Back for a second year at Comic-Con is Pin Pics, an exclusive insight into the world of Disney Pin Trading. Lead panelist Barry Koper (Disneyana expert) will take you back to the beginning of the Disney pin-trading hobby.Anthony and Samantha Medina (Pin Pics presidents) will take you through modern trends in trading and discuss the future direction of Disney pins as collectibles. Jennifer Colyn (Pin Pics event director) moderates, followed by Q&A. All pin traders, Disney enthusiasts, and collectors welcome.
Despite being in the VERY LAST slot for programming at the con, this panel still had several hundred RSVPs.
And now a serious note: although I started this column as a bit of a laugh (and to spotlight the many archaeological layers of the Con) the RSVP system on the website allows you to see how many people intend to attend each session. And even things like Disney pin collecting got more than many many deserving comics panels. I won’t go into details or hold anyone up to embarrassment. I was disheartened to discover this, although not that surprised. But even though comics are once again the low man on the totem pole of the party they started, I do think the above list gives a little idea of the variety of fantoms that Comic-Con embraces. It’s a big tent, yes, and right now some people are sleeping in that tent waiting for a panel in Hall H.
What about it? Do you go to comic-con for the ball jointed doll panel or John Stanley? We’d love to hear from you.
by Chandler Banks
[Ed. note: Chandler Banks is a 17-year-old cosplayer/journalist who went to Comic-Con for the first time this year, and agreed to share her experiences with us. Although folks in the comics business have our own dread and anxiety about The Big Show, it's important to remember that for many people, it's a magical experience. I'm sure you'll be as fought up in Chandler's enthusiasm as I was.]
Before SDCC this year, I was a long-time nerd that had never been to a convention. And man, did I pick a hell of a con to start with. As a 17-year-old girl bound to a dinky little knee scooter for the weekend thanks to a recent ankle surgery (if you’re reading this and you were there, yeah, that was me), I knew I had a weekend ahead of me that was as exciting as it was daunting. I had a general idea of what SDCC is about, but in the end it was bigger and better than I had imagined in just about every way.
WHAT BLEW MY MIND
• The size. I live in New York; I’m no stranger to grand scales. But the image of SDCC that I had built up in my head was nothing compared to the view in the exhibit hall alone. Art, comics, collectibles, apparel, further than the eye can see. It’s its own world that’s so easy to lose yourself in for the weekend.
• The cosplays. I, like most people, got to the exhibit hall early in the morning before it opened so as to get my badge as early as possible. I’ve seen hundreds and hundreds of pictures of to-die-for cosplays online, but seeing all of them in the flesh (or paper mâché) is entirely different. Honestly, I wish I would’ve alotted myself more time for open-mouthed gaping on the sidewalk.
• The great outdoors, but with free wi-fi. When packing for the con, I asked my convention veteran friends for advice. They told me two things: Leave room in your luggage, because you’re going to buy a ton of merch’, and if you’re sleeping out on the Hall H line, pack as if you’re going to spend the night in the woods because it’s like camping just nerdier.
• Speaking of friends, I got to meet my GISHWHES (Greatest International Scavenger Hunt The World Has Ever Seen) team for the first time. They’re even cooler than I thought they’d be, and they’re really my closest friends that are into comics and “fandom” the way I am. I had my friends and was surrounded by a whole slew of people with the same interests as me for the first time. Talk about liberating!
• This is the first time i’ve seen any big celebrities in the flesh. I gave Mary J. Blige’s dad a ride home from Dunkin Donuts once (he turned out to be pretty cool), but that’s about it. This weekend I got to see these people that I’ve respected and admired for so long up close and personal. Once it actually hit me, it was surreal.
• Contrary to what the internet made me dread, no thirty-something-year-old guy in a My Little Pony shirt and a matching fedora pointed to my Captain America shirt and declared me a fake geek girl. At least not to my face.m
• San Diego! I had only been as far south as Santa Monica in the past, and boy San Diego was a very pleasant surprise. The Gaslamp Quarter where the Convention Center is located is gorgeous, and there are plenty of off-site SDCC activities around in case you somehow tire of the exhibit hall and the panel rooms.
• Speaking of off-site, I’m going to take a second to gush about The Nerd Machine. Run by Chuck’s Zach Levi, for the past few years they’ve been offering the Nerd HQ experience for free. This year and the last it was held at the beautiful Petco Park (about a five minute walk from the Convention Center). The popular events there include Conversations for a Cause panels and Smiles for Smiles photo ops, both fairly priced and the proceeds of which go to Operation Smile. I went to the Supernatural panel this year, and it may have been the highlight of my already amazing weekend. It’s much more intimate than the Hall H/Ballroom 20 panels I attended since the room seats around 300 compared to Hall H’s ~6,100. The actors are more relaxed like this, tickets are sold ahead of time so there’s guaranteed seating. No camping out! Just get there in time for the panel if you have a ticket, and if you couldn’t get one they usually let around 50 people in for standing room. If any celebrities you’re interested in ever have a Nerd HQ Conversation, you won’t regret going. Or maybe just use the beautiful Petco Park as you and your friends’ home base and hang around the gaming gallery. They also have some pretty killer merch’.
• You never know who you’re going to see. Stephen Colbert surprised everyone as the moderator for the Hobbit panel. I accidentally got on line for a George RR Martin signing. Aisha Tyler surprised us as the moderator for the SPN Nerd HQ Conversation (I sat two feet from her. /screams). You can meet and chat up with comic industry legends (I got a Thor drawing signed to me by Neal Adams). There was a guy hanging around the Hall H panel that I suspected was Osric Chau from Supernatural (because that’s exactly the kind of thing he would do, so naturally, I took a selfie with him. Spoiler alert: it was actually Osric Chau.
• The whole atmosphere surrounding the event. Now here’s where I get really sappy: As great as it was to see all the work that artists and fandom merch retailers etc. brought, my favorite thing about SDCC was the overall atmosphere of the convention. It’s not about bringing a wad of cash to California to buy all the merch you could get online just sans shipping, it’s not even about looking at all the cosplays (although don’t get me wrong- those seriously kicked ass). Because everywhere you go, you’re reminded that the industry could not and would not exist without the love the fans bring to the table. At every Hall H panel I saw, an actor or producer would set time aside to personally thank the fans for keeping them going, and express that they only hope that they deliver material worthy of them. Everyone’s there to immerse themselves in an environment built on and for an appreciation of art in some form(s). I met a couple that was going on their 8th year in a row attending together. They weren’t particularly die-hard fans of anything, they just liked what the convention is all about. It’s different things to different people at different points in their life. It’s seeing a community that otherwise lives in your laptop laid out before you. I must have turned to the crowd and declared “these are my people!” to my friends three times before they told me the joke was getting old (that didn’t stop me from doing it twice more, mind you).
BE PREPARED FOR
• Waiting in line. This is where it’s extremely handy to come with friends. If you’re in one of the bigger “fandoms” and know , it will probably have its panel in Hall H
• Poor health and hygiene. Everyone has a different experience, but as a first time con-goer I got absolutely caught up in doing as much as I possibly could before the convention ended. I got in late Friday night, slept in my hotel room. Them by 7:00 am Saturday I was getting my passes and going to the exhibit hall and queueing up for a panel in Ballroom 20 and then finagling my way into Hall H and freaking out over the Marvel panel’s SDCC exclusive footage and running out of Hall H to battle to get back in line for Hall H (hello darkness, my old friend) for Sunday’s Supernatural panel and trying to sleep while reveling in my own sweaty filth and getting a surprise cup of coffee from Misha Collins (he was wearing a wolf t shirt and a cupcake apron and he handed me a cup and suddenly I was someone who drinks coffee) and then going back to the exhibit hall (I could’ve spent all weekend in there and not seen anything) before having to run across the street for a Nerd HQ panel and going back to the exhibit hall to soak up as much as I can before it closes until next year, and THEN maybe stopping to realize that you haven’t eaten or slept* or maybe even breathed in 48 hours.
• To clarify: I wouldn’t change any of that for the world. Just be prepared for it is all.
• *DISCLAIMER: there are plenty restaurants and sleeping accommodations in San Diego, and I’m a girl that loves her food and sleep. But my friends and I were simply too busy to even remember that hunger and sleep-deprivation were things.
• Line drama. For the smaller halls, this isn’t real an issue, but I’ll give you a rundown of how Hall H works. SDCC’s getting bigger each year, so the infamous Hall H lines get more hectic each year. The line for Saturday’s panels included big hits like Marvel and The Hobbit, so the line started at 11:30 a.m. on Friday. People start forming “unofficial” lines off-site as early as they could so they can be at the front, and those lines get dispersed until such a time that security declares it time to select an unofficial line to be the official unofficial line that will be the line moved to the tents on-site where the official lines stay for the night. One security guard will tell you you’re on the right line, then another security guard will come along an hour later and tell you you’ve been on the wrong line this whole time. Sorry, bud. It’s just as confusing and chaotic as it sounds. Worth it? Totally.
• Spending money. I spent all of mine. I would have spent more if I had more. I needed to buy all the things.
• A lot of walking. Especially since I was handicapped for the weekend, it takes its toll. Wear comfy shoes, unless comfy shoes don’t go with your cosplay. Then you work that cosplay.
WHAT I’M TAKING AWAY FROM THIS
I want to go back next year. Seriously, if you have the chance, go. I was anxious about going on one leg, but I’m so glad I didn’t let that stop me. What a wild ride.
I’m addicted to Russian dashboard camera videos. The best ones have loud Russian disco playing, but they are pretty much all good, revealing a sullen post-modern, post GTA world of grey skies (occasionally streaked by shocking meteors), endless snow, brutalist architecture and of course, bad driving. Why Russians love dashcams so much isn’t quite clear but it has something to do with police brutality.
Anyway, the above video is staged, I’m 99.99% certain, as a car stops after being cut off and a mascot brawl ensues. Even if it is phony, it is still funny as heck.
Oh and if you want to see more Russian dashcam videos, here’s an example of a monthly compendium. In internet speak, what happens at 2:57 will blow your mind!
There’s a new show on the Nerdist Channel called ‘Just Cosplay’ and I was given a sneak look at the first episode, live now. It features Stella Chuu at Emerald City as she goes around cosplaying as Kabuki from David Mack’s series of the same name. The series will follow popular cosplayers and show how they make their costumes.
I have a short tolerance for video but I watched this all the way to the end. Chuu is industrious and looks amazing. Her choice of the 90s indie icon Kabuki—and her quest to find anyone who recognizes the character—is a real sic transit gloria mundi thing, but when was the last time an issue of Kabuki came out anyway? Anyway, I also enjoyed the glue gun and sewing machine scenes in this show.
Nerdist is launching another cosplay show, Origin Story, which premieres on October 24 and is described as “mad-libs on meth” and stars Andrew Bowser. OK then.
On Friday, the long running—22 years!—Brian Bendis message board shut down with the above message, and al of its archives went with it.
The Bendis Board was especially busy in the golden age of the message board (1998-2004) and hosted forums for many comics pros, including Gail Simone, David Mack, Kelly Sue DeConnick. I guess some of that will be available on the Way Back Machine, but with the CBR boards being scrubbed, the Bendis Board going away, and rumors of several other foundational message boards being shut down, a lot of comics history is vanished in a way that print just doesn’t offer. As I’m always reminding people, THE INTERNET IS NOT FOREVER.
Former forum member Albert Ching has a good look back including the reminder that it was an incubator for a whole generation of comics pros who posted and became friendly there, including Nick Spencer, Charles Soule, Joe Eisma, Joshua Hale Fialkov and Kody Chamberlain. A refugee message board has been set up here, according to comments.
I was active on the boards for a little while before time ran out, but there were some good people there…and some jerks, as always, but mostly good times.
Anyway, the Powers TV, er, filmed entertainment show, is in the works with Sharlto Copley as Christian Walker and Susan Heyward as Deena Pilgrim. I know Copley won;t be using that super South African accent he had in Elysium, but I can dream on. “My WAFF.”
By: Heidi MacDonald
Blog: PW -The Beat
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Signs aren’t the only thing greeting attendees at the entrance to New York Comicon. Amidst the registration booths and all too quickly emptied bins for lanyards ReedPOP has its own boutique, featuring the geek-chic fashion of Ashley Eckstein’s Her Universe line.
Her Universe has become a significant presence at both the San Diego and New York conventions, which in turn reflects as place as a market leader in pop-culture inspired fashion. I had the pleasure of speaking at length with Ashley back at SDCC after her successful geek couture fashion show, and as an attorney I have to say that she is a role model for anyone who wants to incorporate copyrighted and trademarked material in their line. In a world where “it’s better to ask forgiveness than permission” has led any number of creators astray, she has from the outset been conscientious (and ambitious!) in licensing characters for Her Universe clothes.
But that’s not the only way in which Her Universe reflects the better angels of geek community’s nature. Besides integrating the participatory spirit of comics-related media discussed in my last post, Ashley has also been a prominent advocate of geek fashion’s capacity to empower those who wear it, both through her clothes and her anti-bullying activism. Create, speak, show others who you are with fear – where the less imaginative may just see licensed properties, her community sees freedom woven into her designs.
Which brings us to the future of geek couture and its role in the community’s future. Walk around San Diego and New York Comic-Cons and you’ll see expressive fashion everywhere, from handcrafted TARDIS earrings and comic-related t-shirts carried in the ubiquitous TARDIS bag to sophisticated cosplay and brands such as Her Universe itself. As the Her Universe show embodied back at San Diego, the key to the future is to go beyond prints and other reproductions of licensed material to transformative geek-inspired design – in fact, for a useful indication of where things are going, watch the development of the co-branded Marvel line announced last July.
As I discuss in my Fashion Ethics, Sustainability and Development class for the Fashion Law Institute, when we wear clothes we wear ourselves – our values, our aspirations, our communities.* It should, then, come as no surprise that when we look at geek couture, we see the future.
*Check out Professor Susan Scafidi’s “Fashion as Information Technology” for more on this.
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by Edie Nugent
From L to R: Diana Pho, LeSean Thomas, Alice Meichi Li, Daniel Jose Older, I.W. Gregorio and Tracey J. John
The main stage spectacles of NYCC saw panels filled with celebrity actors and moderators alike, whipping thousands of screaming audience members into a frenzy. No less intense or enthusiastic, however, were the panels scheduled towards the end of the night in the smaller conference rooms at the Javits Center. Once such panel —Geeks of Color Go Pro —filled its room to capacity with a diverse audience of fans and comic book industry hopefuls cheering just as passionately as fans in the rooms twice its size.
“Don’t be afraid to challenge the status quo,” declared Tracy J. John, writer for such marquee video game franchises as Oregon Trail and My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic. This comment, which came later in the proceedings, proved to be a kind of mission statement for the panel as a whole. Moderated by Tor Books editor Diana Pho, the panel participants represented a diversity of gender, race, and sexual orientation.
Pho opened by asking the panel to tell their “origin stories,” referring to how they arrived at their current careers within an industry that has long suffered from a dearth of diversity. Tracey J. John kicked things off, saying: “a long long time ago in a galaxy far, far away…I went to NYU and got a bachelor’s degree in Communication Studies.” She went on to say that she garnered an internship at MTV News, which led to a job working for MTV.com. “We wrote about these things called ‘music videos,’” she joked. This job placed her in the perfect spot to capitalize on her World of Warcraft addiction when MTV looked to launch a video game focused section of its website. She recalled thinking, “whoa, I can get paid to write about video games?” She later turned to freelance work for Wired, NY Post, and Playstation Magazine. Desirous of a more stable paycheck, she turned to a job at Gameloft and worked in game development. Recently she decided to shake things up again, and has returned to freelance work.
I.W. Gregorio, who claims she’s still getting used to being addressed by the pen name her day job requires, opened by speaking the question on the minds of many an audience member: “How did a urologist end up being a YA author?” She went on to explain she felt the better question to be “why would an aspiring author become a doctor?” She spoke of her racially isolated childhood where she knew immediately she wanted to be a writer, but felt family pressure “like a lot of kids of color” to enter either law or medicine to be deemed a ‘success’ culturally. Her talents in math and science led her to choose the path of medicine, “enough people had told me that I wanted to be a doctor that I ended up being one.” She did attempt, in her words, to “try to have my cake and eat it too” also studying English while in college. She went on to pursue medicine and take a 10 year break from writing before her passion was reignited during her residency. She is, however, grateful to be a doctor because it “enables my writing career…and gives me a lot of stories.” She described how her new book None of the Above was inspired by an intersex teenager she treated during her residency.
Daniel Jose Older, author of the upcoming Half-Resurrection Blues, the first book in what is to be an ongoing urban fantasy series for Penguin Book’s Roc imprint, began by saying that Gregorio’s story “actually really connects to mine. In 2009 I was a paramedic and community organizer doing work on gender violence and intersections of racism. I was trying how to figure out how to have a voice and what that meant as a writer.” He explained that he loved Star Wars and Harry Potter, but that he and the kids of color he was working work didn’t see themselves in those stories, “and there was a disconnect.” This inspired him to “sit down and write Shadowshaper which got picked up by the folks at Scholastic that put out Harry Potter, so it was this really big dream come true.” He went on to explain that the process of publishing that first work took over 6 years and that “publishing will make you learn patience” which drew a big laugh from the crowd. He continued to work on stories during that time, and work on adult fiction, which led him to Half-Resurrection Blues, due out in 2015. He explained that his background as a paramedic directed inspired the new book, saying: “a lot of this comes from being on the front lines…dealing with life and death.”
Author Alice Meichi Li knew she wanted to be an artist since the age of five. “I grew up in a Chinese restaurant in a really rough part of Detroit,” she said. She explained how this kept her indoors for her own safety, drawing on the back of the placemats of her parents’ restaurant. She also felt pushed towards a career in more economically dependable fields like law, medicine, or IT technologies. “When faced with the prospect of applying for college, all I could think about was arts school. I was in Army Junior ROTC and my Staff Sargent saw some of my art and he said: what are you doing here? You should be taking art class, you should be pursuing this.” She eagerly took his advice, worrying her family regarding her future. As she graduated High School at the top of her class, they told her she should be making “six-figures somewhere”—not becoming a starving artist. She conceded that’s “pretty much what happened” to the amusement of the audience, “I did have to end up balancing a day job,” with her art career, working at the well-known comic book store Forbidden Planet. “But I was doing Artist’s Alleys and that’s how I made a lot of my connections. If you’re trying to be an artist in comics that’s pretty much your best bet.”
“Everybody’s got all these cool stories,” remarked Black Dynamite producer and director LeSean Thomas. “I was born and raised in the South Bronx, John Adams projects at 152nd Street,” some in the crowd applauded at this mention—then laughed as Thomas joked that he was in the part of the Bronx that exists “past Yankee Stadium” where most New Yorkers’ familiarity with the Bronx begins and ends. “I grew up watching Saturday morning cartoons, reading comics books, “ he recalled, saying that he felt comic books was a more realistic career path for him, as the tools used to produce comics were more affordable than that of cartoon animation: “they don’t sell light-boxes at the bodegas,” he quipped.
Thomas ended up in a High School arts program called Talent Unlimited. Following High School he took a job at a sporting goods store to make ends meet. While working there, he was spotted sketching by his store manager whose wife worked at a children’s accessories company. The company quickly employed him to work on designs for accessories featuring licensed characters. Through his work there, he met Joe Rodgers who mentored the young artist and eventually Thomas “became a flash artist/storyboard artist on this web-cartoon called WorldGirl, and it got picked up by Showtime, I think it was the first cartoon to get picked up by a major network.” His success there led to his meeting Carl Jones, who moved to Los Angeles and teamed with The Boondocks creator Aaron MacGruder on the now famous Cartoon Network series based on MacGruder’s comic strip of the same name. “He needed people who could understand Hip-Hop culture, Anime, and social political racial satire, and it was very hard to find that kind of talent in Hollywood,” he paused as the crowd laughed before putting it bluntly: “let alone somebody who could draw a black person.” This led him to move to Los Angeles to work on the show, which he feared would soon be canceled due to its controversial and sometimes “wildly inappropriate” content.
The series proved a critical and ratings success for Cartoon Network, and Thomas felt liberated by the mostly black racial makeup of The Boondocks’ creative team. “I grew up in a society where the White male was the dominant character…to be able to work on a show where my boss was Black, the characters we were creating were Black and we were saying the things we wanted to say without caring what other people thought, Black or White, was really liberating and was one of the best experiences for me.” He went on to comment that his experience working on The Boondocks “catapulted his career,” gave him the chance to move overseas, and opened many career opportunities for him-not the least of which was his teaming up producer Carl Jones to produce the Adult Swim series Black Dynamite. He noted how rare it was to have three shows in a row to his credit that found him working under Black people, on shows starting Black characters: The Boondocks, Legend of Korra, and Black Dynamite.
“I guess I should pitch in about myself, and I thought: oh, I’m the moderator—just sit here and look pretty,” joked Diana Pho, before continuing: “I grew up in New England, in a very White town. I was always the only Asian girl in my class and my family is from Vietnam: no one knew where Vietnam was, because actually in my High School they never talked about the Vietnam War.” This statement elicited shocked sounds from the assembled crowd, but also some knowing murmurs that appeared to understand all too well the sort of erasure her statement described. Pho explained that she found escape from her outsider status through books, especially science fiction and fantasy novels. While studying English at college, she knew felt her options for employment were limited to work as a teacher, continuing her studies of Russian-her minor field-in order to obtain her Master’s Degree in it, or something else. “I chose something else,” she said, “and that was publishing.”
She explained she felt publishing to be a small field, insular in nature-and a field where it “has to do with the connections you make, that’s what I learned” and mentioned that her first job involved editing test books for college admissions for a summer. “What it did provide me was internship experience in marketing,” Pho remarked, explaining that this led to her getting a job with Hachette Press. She worked there in sales and marketing for several years before a colleague recommended her for a position at the Science Fiction Book Club making catalogues. She ended up following this with a Master’s in Performance Studies-doing her thesis in Steampunk performance-and graduated to assume her current role at Tor Books.
The panel then opened up for questions from the audience where Pho asked that the questions be “tweet-sized” to try and get to everyone’s question , but the line for the microphone grew long enough that the panel was forced to wrap up with audience members still on line. When asked: “what was one thing that you wish you knew when you started out that you know now?” Gregorio explained that as a representative of the We Need Diverse Books campaign (weneeddiversebooks.tumblr.com) “I’d be remiss if I didn’t say that there are obviously challenges for diverse authors, the first book I wrote had and Asian-American multicultural protagonist-and three different editors said: oh, it’s too similar to another book with an Asian-American character.” She explained that she knew other authors of color who had run into enough of the same problem that they feared they might have to only write about White characters going forward. “The We Need Diverse Books campaign is most effective because it’s been showing the gatekeepers that they are wrong. Fifty percent of children in schools today are children of color, but only ten percent of books have minority protagonists.” She also called upon the audience to open up their wallets and support works by authors of color and/or featuring main characters of color.
John added on to Gregorio’s comments by telling the audience to not be afraid of the status quo, and gave an example of her work in gaming journalism. “Things that I did…aside from asking the questions I needed to do my job, I’d throw in some poignant questions, I’ve asked Shigeru Miyamoto: why does Princess Peach need saving again? Didn’t she get some self-defense classes by then? Or the developer of a family game why there wasn’t an option to be a Black person, they just had different tans? Ask those kinds of questions. It can be intimidating: Oh I have this opportunity to interview a game developer, I don’t want to screw it up. I’d say ask the normal questions and then save those for the end.”
“When you’re starting out as a writer there’s a lot of advice given out to you, like: you have to build your platform, you have to network! And there’s this very common, very White Western narrative of breaking out as an author. Where you’re that singular rocket ship that flies away to become famous overnight…what it requires us to do, especially as writers and creators of color, is to really reimagine what success means to us anytime we’re entering into any kind of project or career.” He went on to emphasize the need to build community, outside of a “putting points on your resume” style of thinking. “What will sustain you is unity. That’s what will have your back when things are hard, and things will be hard.” He noted that more than fans, writers need people who will tell them the truth-people who will give them the “hard critique.” He also said he wanted to shout-out to: fanbros.com, nerdgasmnoire.net as well as blackgirlnerds.com, saying of the organizations: “these groups are collectives of people of color, proudly nerds, proudly of color, talking about racism, talking about Sleepy Hollow. We need to talk about these things because that’s community” to many loud cheers.
Li wished to add “a piece of advice I hear a lot: you are the average of the five people you interact with most in life. So if you have a bunch of people who are ambitious, who are trying to do what you’re trying to do you’re going to kind of automatically get lifted up with them. So you want at least three of them to be in a place where you aspire to be. I add that you should look for someone who is: 1) an older mentor, to get advice from, 2) an equal, that you can be a comrade-at-arms with and share you career path with and 3) someone you can mentor, because you can learn a lot from teaching.”
“The thing that I wish I’d known before getting into animation, that I do now is that all the animation jobs are in California,” said Thomas, to the laughter of the crowd. Thomas clearly meant the comment seriously, adding: “I wouldn’t have stayed in New York as long if I’d have known there were no real animation jobs in New York the way there are in California…I probably would’ve made my pilgrimage a lot sooner.”
Another attendee asked how the artists dealt with accusations of racism. “I just got called racist the other day, so that was fun,” recounted Older, saying that because the bad guys in a recent story were White he had the accusation leveled at him. “There’s no easy answer, but you have to go with your gut and trust your instincts because when the shit flies, you have to be able to stand up for your work. I know what I did in that story—and I have much worse stories about White people than that,” he said, laughing.
Gregorio added: “publishing is a team sport, you’re going to have editors and marketing people-they’ll catch anything really bad. And also you have to realize we’re all going to get criticism. Haters are gonna’ hate, it’s alright!”
A reporter asked if the panel felt any responsibility towards social justice storylines. Thomas replied, “You know on Black Dynamite me and Carl Jones, the executive producer, always used to joke that we were like social workers in animation, not to belittle social work, but we liked to joke that because we were one of the few [shows] that touched on those issues. The most important thing for us is that it has to be funny, that’s the golden rule. The second rule is that it has to be genuine. If it’s honest, if it comes from a good place there’s always humor in it….and the third is to make people uncomfortable, not in a negative way but to make them think outside what they normally expect.”
The final question came from a Bleeding Cool reporter who asked, “Why are we still having this conversation? I feel like we’re constantly having the same conversation: do you see an end to it, do you think? Where we’re not going to need to have ‘Geeks of Color’ in the corner at 8:00pm?”
“So you’re saying Geeks of Color needs to be at noon, is what you’re saying? I agree I think it should be much earlier.” Thomas joked.
Pho added: “we’re going to keep having this conversation until we hit critical mass,” she explained that critical mass was not when people stopped asking questions, but rather that “we need a critical mass of answers from all over the place, not just from us but from you guys—not just from you guys but from everyone at this convention, and not just this convention—about how pop culture functions, how media functions…we all have to hit that critical mass point and that’s when the conversation stops.”
“I feel your point a lot,” Older added, indicating the reporter, “we do need this and part of the reason is the industry is still very racist, still very White, and so we need to have these conversations…the job and the struggle and the challenge for us is to push the conversation forward so it’s not so circular. So that’s why we need diverse books, which is such an important way to get everyone together. We need to talk about power analysis.” Older also stressed that he felt there were necessary conversations that weren’t had before this generation of creators and it was important to recognize: “we’re here because the folks before us fought their fight, so we’re fighting our fight for the next generation of artist of color, writers of color…and that involves getting together and having ‘geeks of color’ panels which makes people uncomfortable, which is good, as it should.”
That is certainly not a headline I ever thought I would write. Thousands of people attending MidWest Furfest, a large gathering of Furry enthusiasts, were forced to evacuate the Hyatt Regency O’Hare hotel when chlorine gas was found on the 9th floor of the hotel. 19 people were hospitalized, complaining of dizziness, while investigators found chlorine powder in a 9th floor stairwell. Authorities believe it was a deliberate attempt to cause harm.
Convention organizers issued an official statement:
The incident happened around 12:40 a.m. at the Hyatt, at 9300 West Bryn Mawr Avenue in Rosemont, according to a statement from the Rosemont Public Safety Department. First responders were called to investigate a noxious odor that was spreading across the ninth floor of the hotel, where a high level of chlorine gas was discovered in the air, the statement said.
Nineteen people were transported to nearby hospitals after complaining of nausea, dizziness and other medical problems, according to the statement. All people inside the building were temporarily evacuated and sheltered at nearby facilities, including the Donald E. Stephens Convention Center.
At around 12:45 AM on Sunday, December 7, the Hyatt Regency O’Hare received a complaint of a chemical odor on the ninth floor. Following a 9-1-1 call, first responders determined that a container with a chlorine-containing chemical was broken there. At 1:10 AM the entire hotel was evacuated, first across Bryn Mawr Ave. in front of the Hyatt as per Rosemont Fire Department’s standard procedures, then when it became apparent that the wait would take longer the Stephens Convention Center was opened to provide warmth and shelter to our guests. A full HazMat response was called in at that time.
In the course of investigating the scene, the Rosemont Police Department determined that this was a criminal act and began investigating it as such. This delayed allowing our guests back into the hotel. Midwest FurFest is deeply thankful for the cooperation and patience shown during this time, and please know that everyone was working to get you back into the hotel as quickly as possible. At 4:21 AM the all-clear was given and we worked with the Hyatt staff to return all of our guests to the hotel in the quickest and safest manner possible.
Rosemont Public Safety has reported that nineteen people who complained of nausea and dizziness were transported to local hospitals. Because they were transported after the hotel (including Hyatt staff) was evacuated, we do not have any identification of these individuals. We have been informed by the Hyatt Regency O’Hare that some of those individuals have been released as of this morning.
As we wake up today we want to continue to provide the best possible convention that we can, despite the trying circumstances. The convention will be running on a full normal programming schedule today. We ask you to continue to be patient, and remember that the volunteers who make Midwest FurFest happen intend to give 110% to make sure that the fun, friendship, and good times of Midwest FurFest 2014 overshadow last night’s unfortunate incident.
To dispel rumors: Because this was an unforeseen possibly criminal act, Midwest FurFest will not be offering refunds, nor will the Hyatt Regency O’Hare be comping any rooms. Any further questions should be referred to email@example.com.
As numerous news videos and photos (and the tweet below) show, the occasion of a convention full of 4000 furries
, many of them in full costume being forced to flood out into the street is one that….it captures the imagination. While we are allowed to silently marvel at the scene, it shouldn’t be forgotten that chlorine gas can be very harmful—it’s one of the chemical weapons that is banned in warfare, for instance—and can cause many respiratory problems and skin irritations. So this was a real attempt to harm, if it was deliberate. The idea of people having a good time at a convention being assaulted with the kind of thing you thought only dictators and terrorists used is pretty alarming to everyone. I’ve long been dreading some kind of “incident” at a con—this one seems to have been less harmful than possibly intended. But it is bizarre and disturbing.
That said, it seems the show went on and good times were had. And just to add the final soupçon of irony, the furries who were evacuated to the Donald S. Stephens center found a dog grooming show going on. When Furry meets furry…
By: Heidi MacDonald
Blog: PW -The Beat
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By Bruce Lidl
Lost somewhat in the initial burst of news from last week’s ImageExpo was the announcement of a new Image Humble Bundle offering, beginning that morning and lasting until January 21. The “Humble Image Comics Bundle 2: Image Firsts” is a massive collection of digital comics that can be purchased for whatever price the consumer chooses. Included in the basic bundle are the beginning issues of a number of recent series, including Alex + Ada, Deadly Class, C.O.W.L., Elephantmen 2260 Book One, Minimum Wage, God Hates Astronauts, Genius, and Satellite Sam. Paying at least $15 also gets you the slightly higher profile titles The Manhattan Projects, The Wicked + The Divine, The Fuse, Velvet, Sex Criminals, Wytches, The Walking Dead Vol. 22: A New Beginning (#127-132), The Fade Out #1, Nailbiter, Stray Bullets, Southern Bastards, and Shutter. And finally, a stretch price of $18 brings The Walking Dead Compendium One (#1-48), East of West: The World, and Saga Book One (#1-18). For anybody at all interested in Image brand comics, the price truly cannot be beat, especially as the retail price of the comics would be over $300 according to Humble Bundle. Also, purchasers are strongly encouraged to mark a portion of their price paid towards charity, in this case the comics creator focused Hero Initiative. As of this evening, the Image bundle has generated almost $318,000, with over five days left to go.
The current offering is the third Humble Bundle to include Image titles. The first time Humble Bundle included any digital comics was the Image bundle in April 2014 that generated almost $400,000 revenue in two weeks, with titles including Saga, Walking Dead, Fatale, Invincible and Chew. Image imprint Skybound also did a special Comic-Con Humble Bundle in July 2014 as well, which was almost entirely Kirkman based titles such as The Walking Dead, Invincible, Thief of Thieves, and Super Dinosaur. That bundle alone generated $232,000.
Other comic publishers that have released Humble Bundles since April include Dark Horse, Oni, Dynamite, BOOM!, IDW, Top Shelf and Valiant. According to Kelley Allen, Director of Books for Humble Bundle, comics publishers are eager to work with them, and she has a number of ebook and comics bundles planned in 2015 alongside Humble Bundle’s traditional gaming focused offerings. The average revenue number for the comics based bundles so far has been $288,000 for the 14 day period. According to Allen, non-gaming bundles allow Humble to “break out from their core gaming audience” but from the comics perspective, they can also create “enormous crossover” by getting great comics in front of the very large Humble Bundle community. With a very clearly defined, and devoted, young male demographic, Humble Bundle chooses comics with both a logical appeal, like Transformers, Star Wars and The Walking Dead, but Allen also curates high quality titles that may stretch demographic borders. She “pushed very hard” to include titles like Sex Criminals in the latest Image bundle, trusting the Humble Bundle audience to appreciate an outstanding title, even without prior awareness.
While the Humble Bundles may help expand the reach of digital comics, they are also helping to encourage comics publishers to feel comfortable with forgoing DRM protections for their products. Humble Bundles, regardless of content, gaming or ebooks, do not use Digital Rights Management anti-copying technologies, both for philosophical reasons and from a practical standpoint. As Allen pointed out, why use DRM when the consumer could theoretically decide to purchase the content for one cent in any case? Even Dark Horse, which has been very reluctant to forgo DRM generally, was convinced to try not using it for their big Star Wars themed Humble Bundle in October and was rewarded with sales over $375,000 for the two week offering.
Fundamentally, the Humble Bundle “pay what you want” approach reflects exactly the insights independent game developers have learned over the years in regards to digital sales. Since their products are almost universally available to be pirated, often in formats that are actually *more* user friendly than the official versions, game creators have learned to embrace the concept of giving customers compelling reasons to purchase, in the recognition that they do not have to anymore. Distribution options like Steam and Humble Bundle provide explicit value beyond what a pirated version can give, whether through ease of use, personal connection to the creators, community recognition, charitable giving, etc. The Humble Bundle experiment really leverages the unique potential of digital distribution, as the pay what you want model could not really scale in a system that necessitated fulfillment and postage charges. With this almost “donation” type model there is no extra expense for the seller after the first sale, everything after that is essentially “profit.” And the possibility that the new readers exposed to the material may become fans, and go on to make further purchases, even print purchases in local comic books stores, only heightens the value of the Humble Bundle offering. We are likely to see a number of interesting comics based bundles in 2015 and we will learn if this kind of non-traditional sales can become a significant portion of publishers’ revenue, in much the same way digital has already established itself recently.
By: Heidi MacDonald
Blog: PW -The Beat
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As I suggested in my early con impressions, WonderCon had a reasonable amount of space and handled the numbers of attendees pretty well. It was no surprise that Saturday brought bigger numbers than Friday, and the crowding was more obvious, but still never reached that feeling of pushing and shoving that can easily erupt at crowded cons. The floor occasionally got backed up, particularly around the constantly slammed DC Comics booth, where big names like Scott Snyder appeared frequently for signings and the DC booth’s location, at the very front of the con entrance, contributed to some difficulty getting onto the floor. I noticed that the retail side of things was fairly busy, too, with some crowding and difficulty navigating, suggesting that plenty of fans were there to buy back issues and memorabilia, as well. The artists alley at WonderCon was a little on the scanty side in terms of size and numbers of tables, but those artists who were present were very engaging and passionate about their work. They seemed to have regular followers who were coming in to buy their artwork and there was a strong representation of the fine art side of fantasy prints and original work, as well as handmade arts and crafts.
Open areas like the food court and outside atrium were a welcome oasis, but it also continued to be easy to exit the con into the outdoor plaza areas for a rest and there was no difficulty with re-entry. Though the floor only allowed a couple of doors for access, the many exterior doors were open for comings and goings, with several food trucks outside, far enough from the entrance not to cause back ups. One other surprise was that Sunday seemed just as busy as Saturday, as I heard retailers commenting. They were turning over sales at just as high a rate that day. This feeling may be due to the fact that there were slightly fewer panels on Sunday, making the floor more of a feature, or simply that people waited to do their shopping on the floor on Sunday. When I stumbled into the Arena, a venue I hadn’t seen before, I was impressed with the numbers it could hold, and also that it was completely full for a Joss Whedon Shakespeare film adaptation event. This suggested to me that the con was handling numbers well, since I generally had no idea that so many people were even at the con on top of the numbers moving in the open spaces of the con. It was Easter Sunday the last day of the con, and it closed a little early, at 5PM, perhaps for this reason, but fans still had a sense that they would have been happy for the con to go on a little longer, a good sign regarding WonderCon’s appeal.
One final follow up: I suggested initially in my coverage that people might find WonderCon in Anaheim appealing due to Disneyland access, and that this would appeal to people will kids particularly. Though this turned out to be true, I also underestimated the appeal of Disneyland to singles and younger congoers. I went to Disneyland the following Monday and found that quite a number of WonderCon attendees were there too, from a younger demographic than I expected. You could tell from their conversations and generally less pastel clothing what guests were in town for the con, and I’d say about 1 in 10 were from the con in the massive crowds Disney drew on that post-Easter day.
Final thoughts: it was a well run and appealing con, offering plenty of choice in terms of panels, keeping up with what’s going on in comics and pop culture right now. Marvel were a little under represented, though Dan Slott was participating in panels, and several pros who were there for DC panels were formal Marvel people. Marvel didn’t have a booth on the floor, driving up the demand for DC variants and signings, which they happily accommodated. I was also impressed by the energetic presence of the mid-sized presses like Dark Horse, Archaia, Image, IDW, and ComiXology, for taking the opportunity to flourish and interact with fans when given a little more space to do so. The mid-sized presses really shone in their engagement with fans on the floor, their foresight in bringing new and upcoming books to purchase and get a sneak-peak at, and also through their involvement on panels. This gave the general impression that mid-sized presses are on the rise and taking on the role, collectively, as contenders for the Big Two. Good for them!
Whether WonderCon is in Anaheim again or back in San Francisco in the future, the planning and structure of the con should continue to hold up to make it a comfortable as well as enjoyable, exciting event for fans. This won’t be one of the cons where you have to sacrifice personal amenities just to see your favorite artists speak or get the variant your collection is calling for. They have a sense of putting the customer first at WonderCon and let’s hope that continues; it sets a good model for the growing con industry, and there are some bigger cons who could learn a thing or two from this.
Without further ado, some highlights of the con in photos from my trusty partner in crime Michele Brittany who proved her moxie as a pop culture photographer at WonderCon 2013 in spades. Thanks Michele!
Photo Credits: All photos in this article were taken by semi-professional photographer and pop culture scholar Michele Brittany. She’s an avid photographer of pop culture events. You can learn more about her photography and pop culture scholarship here.
Hannah Means-Shannon writes and blogs about comics for TRIP CITY and Sequart.org and is currently working on books about Neil Gaiman and Alan Moore for Sequart. She is @hannahmenzies on Twitter and hannahmenziesblog on WordPress.
Okay this is an ad for Ikea, but it is also a fantasy for most of us. Like, a Sex in the City/Axe ad level fantasy.
Imagine being a cosplayer in your small room, and all the parts of your Axis Powers Hetalia, Slam Dunk and other costumes are just strewn about, willy nilly, making your tiny living quarters a squalid mess. LIke you do. And then Ikea comes along and magically, wonderfully, enchantingly CLEANS EVERYTHING UP and puts all your wigs, satin gowns and plastic swords in a Besta or a Kassett. Lots and lots of Kassetts. And when you come back by MAGIC you have a clean organized home! And even your girl/boyfriend approves.
Admit it, you’ve had this fantasy MORE than the one about a $50,000 shopping spree at Nordstrom’s, haven’t you?
Frank is a Singapore cosplayer who has competed in the World Cosplay Summit for his country. And he has lived the fantasy.
However, it is only a fantasy, as one of the you tube commenters put it. “And truth be told…that room will be tidy until next con.”
So so true.
Well it’s seems the Salt Lake City con hits its goal with 100,00 attendees, according to a press release. That would make it the third biggest show in the US. Show Runner Dan Farr is very bullish on the show:
“I still feel really strongly that we haven’t even tapped but a small percentage of the potential market of attendees that would have a good time here,” he said. “People can see ads or they can see messages on Facebook or they can see billboards or whatever it may be, but until they really experience it, you have a hard time really knowing what an event is like. Once you have more people experience it, they’re going to tell more of their friends … what they missed out on.”
Salt City’s first con was held last fall, and this was a second show on the schedule. The next one in September will add even more space and expand to the rest of the downtown area. The event had a big focus on nerdlebirties—Star Trek, Nathan Fillion, Karl Urban—and it seems to have delivered a great experience for fans.
Last year’s show has a lot of crowding and fire marshall problems, but those were solved this time out:
Greg Gage, who manned the booth for his Sugar House store, Black Cat Comics, loved seeing how happy everyone was. He remembers how, during the first Salt Lake Comic Con, some people had to wait three hours to get into the building, and were met with discouragingly dense crowds once they did.
But this year, the organizers doubled the floor space and, as far as Gage saw, managed the lines much better this time compared to last.
“People could move in and out, there were no traffic jams of cattle like in September,” Gage said. “They came in and were a little more ready to have fun.”
Last year’s event drew either 50,000 or 80,000—both numbers were reported
—so this is a big leap> and yes, I heard from a few folks who thought the 100K number was a bit inflated. I reached out to Farr to find out how they counted attendees, and will report any response. Some shows count one ticket as one person, some one ticket on one day as a person, so it varies.
But…what ya gonna do? There isn’t a Better Business Bureau to monitor comic-cons. Inflated attendance has been part of the game for a long time, and with cons becoming big business, numbers are going to get more spectacular…and with that should come greater scrutiny. Looking at the above video and photos of the show it certainly looks crowded and fun, but not necessarily 100,000 strong. I don’t mean to throw shade on what was obviously a good time for everybody, but I’ve talked to many many show runners and been to many many cons. I’ve been talking to the SD folks and the ReedPOP people for years, and the show growth they’ve gradually reported seemed to jibe with what people experienced on the ground.
However many people attended the show, it’s clear that Salt Lake City is a great market for a comic-con.
Well is seems that those Facebook demographic analysis that our own Brett Schenker has been delving into, can be used for just about anything. Estately has used FB demos to come up with The Nerdiest States In America – to do it they analyzed the percentage of users in 12 foundational categories:
Star Trek: The Next Generation
Dungeons & Dragons
LARPing (Live Action Role-Playing)
Lord of the Rings
Magic: The Gathering
As you can see from the above chart, Utah is overwhelmingly the nerdiest state—perhaps explaining the massive turnout for the Salt Lake City Comic Con
—ranking #1 or #2 in eight different categories.
There are some interesting trends at a glance — for instance Vermont ranks #25 overall but #2 in Horry Potter and #5 in Lord of the Rings. Alaska and Wyoming, the most remote states, are #1 and #2 in Magic the Gathering, conjuring a Hopper-like painting of silent lonely tundras punctuated only by the slap of cards on a table.
If you’re wondering about comics, the top five states are
The least nerdy area? Washington DC followed by Mississippi.
[Photo: cosplayers Renna Mira, Shelby Shoaf, Susan Stoffer Sorensen and Eric Sorensen at Salt Lake Comic Con]
Via Robot 6
It’s Monday morning and if you are feeling cranky I guarantee that browsing the We Are Comics tumblr will make you feel better. As reported by Steve Morris over the weekend, this is a Tumblr run by Rachel Edidin, Arturo Garcia, Elle Collins, and Sigrid Ellis, with social media help by Jen Vaughn, where people simply tell their stories about reading comics. All kinds of people, all ages, colors, genders…because comics ARE for everybody. I loved scrolling through and reading readers origin stories…they are so varied and enthusiastic and feel of love for imagination and creativity. It’s inspiring!
The above photo is from the entry by Christina “Steenz” Stewart, who is assistant Manager at Star Clipper, a comics shop in St Louis. She’s not a special case; she’s TYPICAL of the kinds of people who have come to the medium. And I think most people in the business get that now.
So, it turned out okay after all! Go out and be awesome.
[Steve Morris contributed to this report.]
Yesterday CBR owner Jonah Weiland took strong action against the nest of trolls that had set up housekeeping in the CBR forums: he wiped the slate clean. Existing forums will be up for two weeks while people retrieve material they want to preserve. After that it’s a whole new ballgame, one with new rules.
Effective immediately, in place of the forums will live the new CBR Community, a discussion area that will still facilitate conversation and debate, however passionate — but will show zero tolerance for intimidation or abuse of all members of the community, regardless of gender, race, religion, sexual orientation and gender identification. CBR and all areas of its website and operations will be a safe space for all people, of all levels of involvement. We’re starting from scratch, providing everyone with the opportunity to build a new community, together. Rules will be explicit, and once again — we will not tolerate anyone who doesn’t want to abide by them.
I believe there is value in building and fostering a community that is inclusive, diverse, accepting and compassionate. It is important, and it’s worth trying to build a better place for every fan, regardless of background or identity. I’m putting the money and resources behind this to make certain that those who have acted with hatred in their hearts are unable to spread their hate in our community again. I can’t stop them from spewing their trash elsewhere, but I can ensure they’re not welcome at CBR.
The move came as a result of the extremely negative response to Janelle Asselin’s Teen Titan’s cover critique, which led to extremely dismissive and insulting response and eventually to rape threats.
Predictably, in the remaining forum, there are long threads devoted to people complaining about “political correctness” and “censorship.” It’s a little disheartening how many posters would rather have an unpoliced community of insulting trolls, but I’m not surprised.
Internet message boards have been a mixed blessing ever since the first packet was sent to DARPA. On the one hand, it allows every one an equal say. On the other hand, it allows everyone an equal say. In the “message board” era, it quickly became clear that all boards needed moderation of some kind. I cut my internet teeth on CompuServe where a gang of vigilant moderators enforced various rules, and you would see most of the pioneers of the comics internet —from Neil Gaiman to Rich Johnston—peacefully discussing Xena Warrior Princess all together in one grazing herd.
However as commercial boards — on Comicon.com, TCJ.com and CBR evolved form the late 90s on, they became less lawful places, boards abuse and Goatse became the “winning” argument in any discussion. There was some great discussion but the nutters tended to drive people away. And you had to relaly have a strong stomach to stand up to it. The number of women who posted was pathetically few, helping foster the idea that women weren’t interested in geek topics.
Some will remember the Warren Ellis forums on Delphi, later The Engine. The latter was a place where the policy of incredibly strong moderation made it both a where women felt comfortable posting AND posting pictures of themselves topless. Paradise, in other words. Ellis had a strong personality and the discussion was brisk and informative especially WITH the mods, of Filthy Assistants as they were known. Of course there were people who got banned and sulked and railed against “political correctness”. In 2002. So the same arguments are made over and over and over again.
Here at the Beat we also have a zero tolerance policy for abusive comments. And if you become a particularly annoying circular arguer, you will also get removed. I’ve had to revoke the accounts of well known people when they wouldn’t play by my rules. My time for moderating comments is limited, but I take the job seriously. And I’m proud of the community we have here at the Beat. It may not be perfect but it is generally civil discussion.
A lot of people believe in taking away discussion boards, but I think it’s part of the culture of the internet. I just want that culture to be better. Strong moderation makes strong message boards, and there is no way around that.
So who will be next to clean up their forums? IGN? Bleeding Cool? MIllarworld? The only reason not to is a fear of losing traffic I think, but even there the tradeoff in intelligence is a win win. This is a big internet and trolls have Reddit and 4chan to be disgusting if they so choose. The lowest common denominator will always have a bigger influence than it should on anything that is crowd sourced, but it’s time for the gatekeepers to take a stand.
So I ask again: who else is going to prove they are strong enough to take a stand?
I stole this link from Tom Spurgeon, and I’m just as fascinated by it as he is: it’s a photo of the 1969 Comic Art Convention Luncheon Photo, July 5, 1969 at the Statler Hilton Hotel as annotated and archived by old time fanzine artist John Fantucchio. (Hit the link for a big version — wow negatives are cool!) Here in one place you see Comics 1969 — from legendary Marvel production manager Big John Verpoorten in the back to (gasp) teen Gary Groth in the front row. Fantucchio has been trying to identify everyone in the photo and he’s made a pretty good stab at it.
As always when I look at these old timey wimey photos, the first thing I always notice is that EVERYONE WAS SO SKINNY. Big John is tall for sure, but he’s just a normal sized guy now. The young Bill G. Wilson in the front would probably have been considered a bit chubby at the time and he’s petite for these days. The reason I bring this up (besides more proof of how over fed we are now) is that the stereotype of the “fat fan” didn’t come along until later. It’s true that when I started going to conventions in the 80s there were quite a few people around who would be considered large and in charge—and there were some prominent comics folks who were considerably overweight—but at the protoplasmic stage this wasn’t true.
Also, Gary Groth is still skinny, 45 years later. Someone needs to investigate that.
Everyone has milestone events which they remember (or wish to forget). Some are small memories, like a first kiss, while others can be momentous anniversaries marked each year.
May 25th is one such day for me.This Star Wars Day/International Towel Day marks thirty years of my actively reading, collecting, studying, proselytizing comics. May 25, 1984, I walked into a grocery store, and was instantly seduced by a black-suited Spider-Man.It’s the day I became a nerd/geek. Sure, there were things before which I geeked about, like most kids. But comics…that set me on a crazy journey around the world, meeting some amazing people, sharing my passion with everyone who would listen!
But comics aren’t my only geek passion!
I’m a polymath, soaking up all sorts of crazy stuff!
Here are some of my crazy interestest, and some crazy links you might not have realized existed! (Or blotted out in your youth to save on psychiatry bills!)
Geez… so much is out there already… what can I find…?
Comics retailing! The architects! How to get there!
The Lego Millennium Falcon graphic novel!
(Take THAT, Ikea!)
Adam Reed Tucker, the genius behind the Lego Architecture series!
Why MAD doesn’t release these digitally…?
And here’s the unaired 1974 pilot…
If you want to really delve into the history of videogames, read:
Supercade: A Visual History of the Videogame Age 1971-1984 By Van Burnham
Here’s a site for laserdisc arcade games, including one of early anime!
Go study and read everything by Ellen Raskin. Had she not died at 56, she might have been the first author to win a Newbery and a Caldecott Medal. She wrote, drew, and designed books, and all are worth a few hours escape.
Remember Saturday morning cartoons? Remember when the networks would air a special the Friday night before, to introduce the new series? Yeah, they were usually pretty cheesy… here are three samples…
Superman meeting Bugs Bunny and Yogi Bear, at a party thrown by Avery Schreiber and Jack Burns?
ALF playing detective?
Boss Hogg trying to swindle Scott Baio out of his discoteque?
Ah… to return to those innocent naive days when I hadn’t yet developed a critical eye. (Yes, I thought the Star Wars Holiday Special was spectacular when it first aired. Now, I think I can last five minutes before revealing the location of the rebel base, Gilligan’s full name, and the lyrics to “Louie Louie”.)
If you’re really into pain, check out “Shirt Tails”, “Get Along Gang”, and/or “Care Bears”.
Weekend nights, USA would show “Night Flight”, an interesting mix of music videos, short films, and cult classics. MTV might have been cool, but Night Flight was hep. Here’s a memorial site.
And a playlist from YouTube:
The comedy record to seek out: “Retail Comedy @ Wholesale Prices“! Here’s a sample: “Mr. Wizard and Timmy”. The entire album is comedy gold!
I’ve got a predilection for TV themes, especially the full versions which cut out stanzas so there would be more time for story and commercials.
I’ve made a series of posts over on Google Plus, with the tag #forgottentvlyrics. Star Trek, Andy Griffith, Bewitched, I Dream of Jeannie…
Here’s one of my favorites, first heard during the end credits to the Buck Rogers movie! If it was remixed, it would make a great graduation song!
That’s all for this year! Hope you had a great time! Thanks for stopping by!
This Saturday the previously business only trade show Book Expo America will turn into the very first BookCon, an event that is open to the public (8000 advance tickets have been sold) and very much modelled on the successful New York Comic-Con. Both shows are run by Reed Exhibitions, the world’s biggest business-to-business (B2B) event planner, but BookCon is being run by ReedPop, the consumer show arm of Reed. Although Lance Fensterman, a frequently quoted personage on this site, runs ReedPop, BookCon’s manager is Brien McDonald, who has been working on BEA proper for five years. I was offered a spot to interview McDonald, and given my fascination with convention culture, I couldn’t turn down the chance.
In some ways, the coming of BookCom was inevitable. I’ve been attending BEA for years, and it’s a perfectly nice trade show, but when compared with the energy and excitement of a Comic-Con, it’s a wet noodle—which is weird because prose authors are way more popular and famous than comics creators! Yet both organizers and publishers have struggled with the idea of how to bring the passion of book readers to an event like a Comic-Con. Publishers have been wary of going face to face with the public, and the logistics of the event weren’t clear.
But a solution has been found. While tomorrow and Friday will be the traditional BEA with trade only programming and author signings, exhibitors who want to remain for BookCon will all be set up in a specific area that will convert to a consumer show, where for the price of only $30 you can look at books and meet and hear authors like John Green, Jodi Picoult, David Mitchell, Holly Black, Carl Hiasson, Stan Lee, and so on. Some of the celebrity authors from BEA will be hanging around like Amy Poehler, Jason Segal and Jason Bateman. And the film version of Green’s beloved novel The Fault in Our Stars will be given the equivalent of a Hall H presentation with a panel featuring the producers and Green. (And probably a star or two unless I miss my guess.)
Given that many of these authors successfully appear at actual comic-cons, it’s really only the quiet—and hugely popular—lakes of mainstream fiction and non fiction “fandom” that are being accessed here. While the whole idea seems sounds—book fairs around the country like the huge Miami Book Fair or the bustling Brooklyn Book Fair are hugely popular for instance—BookCon stumbled right out of the gate with the announcement of its first panel, “Blockbuster Reads: Meet the Kids Authors That Dazzle”– which happened to feature four white men, Daniel Handler, Jeff Kinney, James Patterson, and Rick Riordan. In a world where, unlike comics, female authors and readers are dominant, this seemed pretty odd. (Rachel Renee Russell, the African American author of the Dork Diaries series has since been added to the panel.) As if this wasn’t enough, the second list of guests was all white—unless you count Grumpy Cat, who is Siamese. The social media outrage was so intense this time that a whole hashtag was coined, #WeNeedDiverseBooks. And in response a panel on diversity was added.
If BookCon is a lot like Comic-Con in this regard, it may eventually be more like it in the pleasurable engagement of readers with their literary idols. As I am always saying, meeting the author of your favorite book is an experience that you will remember for the rest of your life. It’s done all the time as those book fairs I mentioned, signings and other book events show. Translating that experience from the orders and meetings focused world of BEA to a whole new experience may take a while. But, the transition is, I feel pretty sure, just the start of an even wider application of the Comic-Con Experience to other things.
THE BEAT: I was really curious about BookCon and how it evolved. People have been talking about this kind of thing for a long time, but how did Power Readers Day go to BookCon under ReedPop? I know Reed runs BEA but how did BookCon go over to ReedPop?
MCDONALD: We have this long standing amazing b-to-b show, which is Book Expo America, with so much great content there and so many great authors available to us. Since we’re in New York City, the perfect place for a book and pop culture event, it just made sense to take the leverage and the equity we had in the publishing world through Book Expo, and then infuse that with the ReedPop way of doing things with fans first. We had a lot of great things kind of right in our hands, and we were able to collaborate and bring in the ReedPop philosophy to books and book related content.
THE BEAT: I know for years, everybody has been looking at BEA and then they look at New York Comic Con. And they’re like, “hmmmmmm?” [laughs]
MCDONALD: This is my fifth BEA and my previous job and still a lot of what I do is working with our key clients in the publishing world, and I wish I had a dime for every time I went to a meeting and were asked, can we get some of that Comic Con energy? Not that there’s anything wrong with the b-to-b side of Book Expo, that has a distinct purpose and it’s excellent and it’s great and it’s achieving certain objectives, but people like the zeal of a fan based event.
THE BEAT: Right. The zeal, that’s a great way of putting it actually. What kind of transition did you make for the show?
MCDONALD: The Power Reader Day, that brand is over. It went pretty well the last year, but to plug fans and consumers into a b-to-b event doesn’t work all that well. And that’s no one’s fault, it’s just not the way that it should be. So we decided that Saturday would be BookCon and we’re going to put a concerted effort towards creating a fan experience. So we went out to every client and said if you want to activate with consumers here’s how to do it. If you don’t, that’s totally cool, if you want BEA to remain a trade only show for you, you’re more than welcome to do that. Many Book Expo exhibitors feel that BookCon is not applicable to them—distributors, e-book producers, and so on. It doesn’t make sense to pour consumers into those booths because there’s nothing there for either side.
In addition to the core exhibitors that will be there, we also have I think 45 new exhibitors coming in solely for Saturday in BookCon. So it’s cool from that perspective. But as far as the publishers that have decided to activate with consumers it’s who you think they are, Random House, Simon and Schuster, Abrams, MacMillan, and Chronicle, Diamond Distributors, Andrews McMeel, so it’s really cool. Publishers have been really receptive and they’ve raised their hands to do some cool things.
THE BEAT: Well I’m fascinated by this story because I have been covering Comic Cons for many, many years, and the rise of Comic Con culture that we’ve seen in the past decade, spiraling out of control really for the past 5 years. I’m fascinated to see the change, because let’s face it, books are a lot more popular than comics. But a lot of people just like to quietly read a book about economics, and they’re probably not going to stand in line to meet the guy who wrote the book…but maybe they would if it was Thomas Piketty!
MCDONALD: Yes I think you’re definitely going to see that. There’s a film tie in to John Green’s work, but look at John Green on the Today Show when he was in Miami last week. Hollywood talent is attached, but John Green is at the center of that story. And that’s kind of what BookCon is trying capture, things like True Detective where people are so passionate about that but it was based on an older book that no one would have known about unless there was a TV show. Reading is very much a private enterprise, but it’s something that people are really passionate about and they build a community around it. I think one reason that cons are blowing up is [as a way to meet in person, as opposed to social media.]
THE BEAT: Well it is very experiential. The programming with Amy Poehler and Martin Short, obviously there’s some celebrity elements to it, but you also have a lot of just very famous book authors, much loved book authors. How did you approach the programming? What did you look at in Comic Con and say we’ve got to do that for BookCon?
MCDONALD: When we started our conversation we had a whole lot of equity in the publishing world due to our work on BEA and to Comic Con. So we went out and just explained the concept to publishers. We pursued some people hard like we made hard asks, particularly authors, but then other publishers said hey this author has a super passionate audience, we’ve done a lot of cool live events with him or her, here’s what we could do. So we kind of went for content that has a great following, but we also looked at the cross over in pop culture too. We wanted stories that cross over into all different elements. And obviously we were able to make some big hits with a lot of actual celebrities, Tina Fey, Jason Bateman, Amy Poehler, Martin Short, those type of folks, and then also some celebrity type authors and then, I don’t want to say cult authors, but then you have someone who’s like a super literary guy like David Mitchell who has an amazing following. And then there’s Brandon Stanton, the photojournalist from Humans In New York. That’s someone to me who is very cool, telling a great story, and brings something different to BookCon.
THE BEAT: I notice you have speed dating which is a very popular event from Reed’s Comic Con events also. Funnily enough, it says registration for females looking for males is closed. At Comic-Cons it’s sometimes the other way around. [General laughter] Anyway, you’re also bringing these kind of fun, social events, I guess you could say.
MCDONALD: Social’s the perfect term. We want it to be immersive, we want people to go there from, the show’s open from 9, there’s activities going on from 9 to 6 and we want people to be busy all day and having a great time, doing different things, so something like speed dating is a perfect interactive activity. But then maybe you want to sit down and take in a panel or you want of embrace your comics side and go and see Stan Lee, but then your literary side and go see David Mitchell. So we try to offer people a pretty active lively day that has kind of different points. And the speed dating thing was definitely taken right from the Comic Con model.
THE BEAT: You also have some actual Comic-Con type events like Stan Lee and the Great Graphic Novel Panel. Is this an attempt to appeal to NYCC type attendees?
MCDONALD: Oh for sure. We definitely welcome them in and then hope they find some of our content enthralling.
THE BEAT: BookCon unfortunately got its most notoriety for the whole diversity issue. And there was sort of a, mis-messaging, or what would you call it?
MCDONALD: Diversity in books and in the publishing industry and in everything in life I mean is critical. And we wanted our authors to be as diverse as possible and we work with publishers to help ensure that’s happening. Now, there was what would we call it, I guess kind of a backlash about who we announced, and if I could turn back the clock I would change the announcement strategy a little bit. In the first [group of] authors that we announced, there wasn’t a lot of diversity. But as we kept saying, we’re not done yet. So by the time we get to the event on May 31st I think we’ll have a really good representation of authors from all sorts of backgrounds. And I feel confident that we’ve now achieved that, but when we came out of the gates, that wasn’t shown in the initial announcement. If I could change that we certainly would have, but there’s pressure to announce an event and build buzz and that kind of thing. So we went out with some of the bigger names that were not completely reflective of what our event will be when it goes off on May 31st. Since then we’ve been able to work with our partners and bring in some awesome content.
THE BEAT: Is there anything about BookCon that you’re especially looking forward to or you’re really excited about?
MCDONALD: The whole thing! When you’re planning these events you just want to get there. I’ve been in it from the B-to-b side like working BEA, but I’m actually really excited to be in with passionate book fans, which I consider myself one of, But I’m just really interested to see who turns out at the show and how they interact and what they love.
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A line of kids to see nonagenarian Stan Lee.
So BookCon was, like the very first New York Comic-Con, a raging success that caught everyone by surprise. It may be surprising that so many thought the idea of putting some of the world’s most loved authors in front of an audience would be a questionable venture, but whatever the doubts, it worked. Ticket sales were “limited” to 10,000 and I think they all showed up at once at 9 am on Saturday morning.
I got to the Javits Center about 11 am, and people were already complaining about the lines and disorganization — apparently the entrance queue filled the entire downstairs hall, and the fire marshal shut things down at one point. I managed to get into the Stan Lee panel by flashing my Publishers Weekly badge, but when I left around noon, the entire area to get into the Hall E panels was cut off and no one could get into the staging area any more.
If it was a scene reminiscent of the first NYCC where state trooper has to shut things down and Dan Didio, Frank Miller and Kevin Smith all got locked out of their booths, it was reminiscent in another way: the people who attended were there because they has a passionate connection with the material and the people who created it.
The halls were jammed and bustling with excitement. Some of the comics publishers who were there complained that they hadn’t been fully briefed about what was going to happen and didn’t have enough material to sell. Another said they sold out by 11:30 am. For con-hard veterans this was a walk in the park.
The most amazing moment came when I went to the “Special Events Hall” at the Javits—the equivalent of Hall H—to see the Blockbuster Reads panel with James Patterson, Daniel “Lemony Snicket” Handler, Rachel Renee Russell and Rick Riordan interviewed by Jeff Kinney. The room was packed, and there was an electricity in the air as the event approached, completely similar to the feeling in Hall H. When the authors came out they were greeted by screams and every time a book was mentioned there was more cheering. The attendees were sitting reading books, reading Kindles, writing reports.
I loved it. I didn’t find this a great experience because it was shifting the veneer of celebrity to authors, but because there was clearly such a strong engagement with readers who loved the books these people had created. I didn’t stick around for John Green, but apparently that was even more fervent.
And a word about that audience: according to one exhibitor I talked to it was 10-to-1 girls and women. “This is YA con,” author Scott Westerberg told me. And that’s exactly what it was, showing that the audience for stories told in book form is is still there as of 2014, despite all the gloomy predictions.
The show was not without other problems, as enumerated in a Vulture story by Boris Kachka
It was a good thing because, as McDonald says, “it was hairy today with ten. Believe me, we have a lot of work to do for next year.” Fans took their cues from shows like Comic Con, lining up so early for panels that organizers quickly lost control. By 10:45 a.m., the lower level was cordoned off. From the escalators above, the group waiting to see Stan Lee looked like a refugee camp. McDonald regrets front-loading most of the big stars and putting them in too-small conference rooms. “You want to fire the cannon right away,” he says, “but maybe next year there’ll be a little more staggering.”
Things eased up later in the day, but in front of the main events hall — host to Amy Poehler and Martin Short, followed by a slate of blockbuster children’s authors and the biggest draw, The Fault in Our Stars author John Green — the line turned into a roped-off swarm. Screaming teenage girls knocked over a barricade. Parents crowd-surfed out while the children remained. “It’s got to improve,” says McDonald. “But who wants to keep doing the same thing and not get better at it?”
As with the first NYCC, I think the ReedPOP folks picked up on industry misgivings about the enterprise, and perhaps underestimated the excitement. As a couple of people told me, the event was a success in spite of itself.
But, to be fair, nothing quite like it had ever been done before. There are book fairs which tend to focus on literary books, and comics, SF, Horror and Romance events which focus on certain genres. BookCon was aimed squarely at the most popular and populist area of the book world.
PW has the inside story on the machinations between the publishing world and BookCon, which will go to four days next year:
Prior to the show, publishers were concerned about the about the “gear shift of “publishers looking forward to the fall while the aspect for consumers is now,” as Liz Psaltis, director of marketing for Gallery Books and Pocket Books put it. But Psaltis, echoing the sentiments of others, was elated to be experiencing a real opportunity to “hand sell books and talk directly to readers.” Ellie Berger, president of the Scholastic trade division, was happy with the initial BookCon, but said Scholastic will make changes for the 2015 event. “Next year we’ll be more strategic, based on the experience today. There are more kids, librarians, and educators today than the last two days, a very different crowd that we’re glad to see,” Berger said. With so many young women in attendance, Harlequin had a busy BookCon. “It’s fantastic. This is a great way for our fans to meet our authors, and we brought 12 authors today, from romance to teen novels. It’s very different today, with more of a buzz about the books that’s so contagious. I’ve never seen anything like this before. It’s inspiring to see how passionate the young readers are.” said Harlequin’s Michelle Renaud. Little, Brown gave away 500 copies of Michael Kortya’s The Prophet, to fans. “It’s been great to engage with readers directly. We really feel like booksellers, handselling,” said Miriam Parker, online marketing director for Little, Brown.
Most traditional publishers would rather walk barefoot over leprous vipers than face their customers. Once again, to be fair, their view may be colored by the fact that at BEAs most of the “power readers” tended to be older and extremely….eccentric. The younger, crowd that actually attended BookCon was a far cry from Power Reader day, and rather than being a dreaded chore, filled you with hope for the future of reading.
But given the long argument about opening BEA to the public, I think it’s fair to say that publishers will have to be dragged kicking and screaming into this world. But it will happen. I made a little video of the two sides of the show on Saturday:
Which side are you on?
Some more photos:
I’m sure Torsten will have full coverage of this, but the LONE Starbucks at the Javits has now been converted from a kiosk to a built in, and the former kiosk area is now a carpeted seating area. Still looooong lines though.
Print Ninja was just one of MANY companies that were there to offer author services and try to service te growing self-publishing and crowdfunding areas.
This is the poster that Scholastic offered for Sisters, which has a 200,000 print run.
ALERT CHRIS SIMS!!!!
Lerner Books was promoting Three-Story Books: Birdcatdog by Lee Nordling and MEritxell Bosch, an innovative kids book that tells three interactive stories. It’s one of a growing number of books that are playing with the form in very sophisticated form.
Carol Burrell of Abrams and librarian Karen Green beneath the eyes of Wimpy Kid.
Blockbuster Reads with Jeff Kinney, Rick Riordan, Rachel Renee Russell, Robert Patterson and Daniel Handler.
Illustrator Bob Staake signing!
This was the scene in Hall E outside the panel rooms. Soon after the Fire Marshal didn’t allow any more people into the area. This is a similar situation to what happens at NYCC nearly every year, and it needs to be carefully addressed.
This was the real dark side of BookCon, incredibly long lines for he ladies room. This one was about forty people. I even tried using my go-to-secret piddle bathroom, and there were 50 people who also know about my secret goto piddle bathroom. At one point they literally turned a men’s room into a ladies room to accommodate the line.
Once you finally did get into the bathroom this darkly genius promo greeted you on every stall. I got two post apocalyptic words for you: night soil.
One last gri,