This being my third convention post I feel like I have become more of a seasoned con goer, an experienced explorer if you will. I must say my motivations have changed slightly now I have more friends and am less star struck. The Horizon Labs people have been so fantastic to con hop with, that I was just so pleased to spend time with them. Especially @fractures who shares my sensibilities and cynicism, and who I have learnt a great deal from. This time last year I came late and wandered into a forum I had no experience of. On this occasion I has already commissioned two pieces of artwork and knew who would have the longest queues, but I also had the additional incentive of trying interview creators. This follows into my ultimate aims that are to talk to people. For the amount of contemplation that belies my blog, there are many creators out there that can not only refute or agree my perceptions but also bring additional insights to them. This will only serve to increase my enjoyment and improve my comic critiquing. I had my weekend early pass and was ready to join my first procession, that of legendary British artist Alan Davis.
Mr Davis, I do not feel right calling him Alan, was the typically gentile and quiet Englishman. Frak was already in the queue so I just jumped in ever so rudely, but I quickly realised there was not much conversation ahead of me. Mr Davis was quietly sketching away for everyone that requested it and timidly signing comics presented to him. He was very sweet and thankful for compliments thrown his way, but his craft was his prime directive. I was somewhat torn with what to ask for, because he had drawn so many of my old Uncanny X-Men books and his Wolverine was present then as it is now. Many of you will know my current dislike of Logan and his over usage but I could not let this opportunity pass. In true sadist fashion I requested a piece that fitted my nostalgia but also current distaste and relevance: a battered and bruised hero. It may have been a bit strange but I watched Mr Davis draw an incredible picture, with such attention to detail and passion. This is what he gave me and I left his table feeling very pleased.
Ethan Van Sciver
I came immediately to my next line of people waiting to speak to the legendary artist Ethan Van Sciver. When I made my return to reading comics I became heavily invested in the Flash and Green Lantern, which explains why I am so harsh on Geoff Johns now. Ethan has the ability to draw a classical superhero with full pomp and was the go to guy of that time period. His work on the Sinestro Corps War was seminal to that era of Green Lantern and he took a pencil to Flash:Rebirth. I told him that the cover was my favourite of that time and he told me that it was his best cover ever. He thoroughly enjoyed working with Johns and found him immensely talented and easy to draw for. I asked about his creative process in trying to distinguish Barry from Hal, outside of the shade of red colouring. He described how Wally was of the modern age where he would be more interested in fitness and training, giving him a streamlined, square jaw appearance. However Barry was from the fifties and there was less emphasis on training meaning he would be softer and fuller in figure and face. Ethan was quite appreciative of the positive comments and was quite insightful in his answers. Plus he has a very cool signature.
And then I had my X-Factor books signed by Peter David.
The best thing about Kieron is that he is always talking. He has a polite and engaging manner so that not only will he talk about his work but he will also ask you your opinion. I briefly asked him about how nervous he was regarding the release of Origin II, to which he replied he was “shitting it” but Kubert made that tenseness a little more manageable. I stated how much I adored the opening issue and he clearly knew this meant that I had not enjoyed the follow on books. He recommended I read issue four because the book takes an interesting twist and I admired his conviction to his work. I also told him how superb his historical fiction has been and how it is a niche subject he seems to excel at. We talked about how he finds history fascinating and looks for the story beneath it all. He is currently researching an idea regarding the Crusades as subject matter for up coming comic. I was also privileged to see two pages of his new book with Jamie McKelvie, The Wicked and the Devine. I have to say it looks fantastic, especially the colouring. There is always satisfaction guaranteed when leaving Gillen’s table.
Now John is a guy I have always wanted to meet because of my adoration of Chew. Sometimes you try to picture the person that could write a book and attribute certain character traits, and wonder how much of themselves is part of it. Chew is endearingly funny and, I can tell you now, Layman is exactly that. He was so amusing and realistic about the comic industry that I found it quite refreshing. I even asked for an interview and he allowed me some of his time, I look forward to posting it. He had with him the Smorgasbord edition of Chew with a colour variant that was designed for the San Diego Con. Apparently when attending the bigger cons in the United States they have to pay to be exhibitors and so they bring their books to sell with variations in tow. We also had a long chat about where is good to go in the US for comic conventions because they seem to be more than just comics. My interview with him was heavily dominated by Chew and Detective Comics but also how he interacts with fans and the pitfalls of social media. I cannot wait to post it.
I had already met and posted an interview with Stephen Mooney from the Leeds Con, and at that time I had requested a commission and it was time to pick it up. The hardcover of Half Past Danger has recently been released and both Stephen and IDW were promoting it in London. I have recommended this book to so many people and I was glad to be escorting new readers to his table. Stephen is a lovely chap and welcoming to all at his table. We had a conversation about the success of his book and how he was slowly developing some new projects, including Half Past Danger 2! It continues directly on from the first volume and it sounds very exciting. I had received a preview of my commission but it did not prepare me for the greatness of the actual piece:
I bid Stephen farewell and wished him all the best.
Apparently Dave Gibbons was at a table but I never found it, so I waited for the signing queue. I am never sure how to manage such lines because I rarely get there first and I can normally walk up to their desk at the send of the session. Dave Gibbons was different because his line of fans did not shorten at all. I had to be careful to join before they capped it but I managed it in the end. I still waited twenty minutes to see him but it gave me time to think of a question. What do you ask someone who wrote Watchmen? He must have been asked the same questions over and over, and given the controversies around it, I wanted to avoid any inflammatory requests. In the end I asked him what his favourite part of the book was. Dave was, once again, a typically polite English gentleman. He thought about it for a second and told me issue four. Where Dr Manhattan builds his base on the moon because Dave had no idea how it would look in the end, and he had a free reign on the design. He was really pleased at how it came out and enjoys looking back at it. With the queues being so long I was ushered away, disappointed not to spend more time talking but I did have my Hardcover Watchmen signed like this:
Simon was hanging out with Kieron Gillen at the Avatar table and signing away issues of Crossed, Legacy and Six Gun Gorilla. I had regretted not having the opportunity at discussing Legion more at Thought Bubble but I was not going to be disappointed again. I was lucky enough to be given time for an interview at the end of the day. Legacy had ended with great aplomb whilst culminating not only story but also character transitions. We had a discussion on how to work a title where the status quo must be maintained. This naturally led to the advantages and disadvantages of commercial and creator owned work. I would love to divulge further information but it will have to wait for my interview post. However it is clear that he is a deep thinker and puts a great amount of effort into his characters. His “high concept” work is almost too complex for the mainstream books but his success is apparent through the sales of Legacy and his new title X-Force. Simon is enjoying his recent plaudits and was very engaging and pleasant to those coming to his table. I look forward to reading more of his work and also found out I can buy Six Gun Gorilla directly from the Boom website!
As I described above I am trying to arrange commission prior to cons in order to avoid disappointment in missing or receiving rushed sketches. I have always adored Paquette’s Swamp Thing and found his drawings of Alec and Abby beautiful. I located his deviantart webpage and noted he was taking requests. This litre gem is what I received:
We proceeded to discuss how he had managed the long flight from Canada and was enjoying the sights of London. It has been revealed that Yanick and Morrison are to be released an original graphic novel later this year called Wonder Woman Year One. He was very excited about this project because he has strong feelings towards the use of her character. Grant Morrison has already stated he has some interesting ideas for her and I am genuinely intrigued by what angle they will take. In my personal pursuit of understanding the depiction of women in comics, I have read a reasonable amount of Wonder Woman. I have enjoyed Azzarello’s run but not at how Diana is portrayed. Yanick revealed his frustration at how Wonder Woman was dating Superman, and is still portrayed as the lady that needed protecting. This is a difficult situation to resolve given Clark will always play that role no matter who he is with. It worked for Lois but it is incredibly difficult to write Diana romantically involved with a normal man. It may be credible writing but it is difficult to know how well it would be received. Yanick knows her character well, even from her inception and was looking forward to producing a more modern Diana. I really enjoyed talking feminism with Paquette and cannot wait to see Wonder Woman Year One.
The Dan Slott queues are always massive and the second day early entry pass came to good use. As I joined a queue watching people have every single one of their issues of Amazing Spider-Man signed, I listened to Dan entertain the crowd. He is very much accustomed to the throng of people waiting for his time and has taken to talking loudly with entertaining anecdotes and stories. As I described last year, his passion emanates through this interacts with fans as he is so pleasant and decent to everyone. We had a brief chat about how many people were on board with Spidey-Ock but it was the naysayers that spoke loudest. I also relayed to him that I only read the book because he was so friendly to me last year. It is impressive at how far that takes you and can result in sales of your book. As a proud member of Horizon Labs we were lucky to have another group photos with Mr Slott. Rob has requested this via Twitter and Dan had already agreed, so he did not mind us interrupting his lunch for a photo. He minded even less when we asked for a repeat as we were photo bombed by a complete stranger! Anyway here is the result and it is testament to the legend of Dan Slott:
There is a reason why I left Mr Chaykin to the very end of this post. I walked by his desk a number of times and it was crowded, not by a long queue but actually encased by a semi-circle of fans. I wondered how I was to penetrate this barrier but I bided my time and waited for him to arrive the second day. As I waited to see him I noticed that it was Chaykin himself who encouraged people to come closer. He was frank in his motivation to make money and that if people were waiting to see him; he felt it was his role to entertain. This was not just because he wanted people to buy his work but his compulsion for attention as a natural entertainer. Chaykin has an indelible charm that draws you to him, whether he is being facetious and insulting or self-deprecating about his weight, he is great to be around. Many people were asking for sketches so I was watching him for quite a while, but I perused through his portfolio whilst listening. I noticed his “adult” work was more expensive than his regular pages. Given that a small picture of a lady in lingerie was the same price as three male character from Satellite Sam, I was inquisitive to why. In, what I had learnt was, typically Chaykin fashion, he replied, “Because pussy sells, surely you know that? Well I guess it is a good thing that you don’t!” I guess I did know that but I could not believe the discrepancy between the two. This did not stop me because I still wanted an original lingerie Polaroid featured in Satellite Sam. You may ask why but I discussed in my review of the comic that his ability to draw erotica was second to none, especially considering the cheesecake that exists out there. I relayed this to him and he thanked me and stated that he has always enjoyed drawing women in lingerie. I had yet to get to the front of his desk when he had to go to a signing queue for an hour. He was quite apologetic and sad he would definitely have time for everyone that was there. I did not mind too much because I asked to escort him to his signing table.
I asked during our walk where the story for Satellite Sam came from. He mentioned that the era in question has always been his favourite in terms of designs and costumes. In fact he was asked to draw a Mad Men comic, which was never commissioned. If you are a fan of the show like I am, you can imagine how incredible it could have been, especially if I tell you that he had drawn the Polaroid carousel scene from season one. Drawing costumes from the early to mid 1900s is one of his favourite artistic pursuits. In fact he can draw a comic from scratch and create his own outfits. His passion for this is clearly much more than the superhero work he has previously created. The seedy and dark nature of Satellite Sam is drawn from the children’s television show from the sixties, The Howdy Doody Show. Clearly I had never heard of this but he revealed that the actors behind the puppets were known for their sexual jokes and unbound morals, especially one of the female cast members. This angle was drawn into the sci-fi television story and is the most poignant aspect of the book. As I returned to his table a couple of hours later I had to pick an original piece and his is what I chose:
Howard Chaykin is a very captivating individual and builds this enchanting atmosphere around him. It is clearly purposeful but it comes very natural to him and serves a purpose in selling his work. Either way it matters not because he makes you feel important by conversing to you. I met him on three separate occasions and we naturally continued our conversations and he was very pleased at my purchase. When I parted he said that it was very interesting talking to me and that he had enjoyed our time together. This personableness is what makes Chaykin popular to those around him. Whether you think it is an act or not, makes no difference because you have fun with him. I found him quite intriguing before I met him, and that level of interest has only increased further. Howard does not care what people think in the industry or in general but is true to what he loves and enjoys. This comes through the conversations he recites from his time in the industry. I would implore you to meet him, even if you do not like or own any of his work.
This year’s con was similar to last years, but I was more clueless at that time. There were some really pleasant people and a couple of indifferent creators (who shall clearly remain anonymous) but overall I had an excellent time. Meeting Rob, Trey, Kyle, Mark (and family), George and Frak was fun as always but I also got to spend time with Fee and @curexcomplex (you would not recognise her real name) in a more relaxed atmosphere than a capped Aja queue. Seeing Seffi and Tobias was awesome as we got to compare sketches and hauls. I finally got to meet Joe and @facetiousbeard who were not as facetious or as opinionated as they are on Twitter! Once again the reality of the comicverse through cons and Twitter inspire me because of the great people I have met. It is a strange sensation because all I want is more of it. I want to meet more creators and fans of one of the things I love most in the world. In fact Frak and I have decided to visit the US to do just that. After speaking to Layman we intend on visiting our international friends and enter the world of insane Comicons of the United States. Until next time, keep reading those comics, especially the ones I recommend and I bid thee adieu from another fantastic Con!