Monday, May 19, 2008

Motor City Con

Just spend the weekend at this year's MOTOR CITY CONVENTION and have to say overall, I was pretty pleased with it. The con is celebrating nearly 20 years but it doesn't seem to have the audience it once had but when you're talking about comics, the differences from during that time have changed in just about every facet.

The con is still reliant on media guests and of course, this leaves much less in the budget for comic guests. It was still a decent list of comic creators though. Attending this year were: Dick Ayers, Chris Claremont, Guy Davis, Chris Jones, Matt Feazell, Al Feldstein, George Jeanty, Vince Locke, Bill Loebs, Mike Okamato, David Petersen, Arthur Suydam, Bernie Wrightson, Chris Yambar, and dozens of other creators. Dave Sim and Herb Trimpe were scheduled but

The celebrity list (these are the ones that I'm at least somewhat aware of anyway): Walter Koenig, Mickey Dolenz (from the Monkees...), Eric Estrada, Lou Ferrigno, Margot Kidder, Joe Pantoliano, Tom Savini, Billy Dee Williams, and many others with good representation from the various Star Trek and Who Wants to be a Superhero shows. There was also a VERY large contingent and display for the 501st Legion which I'm not entirely sure what they were but they hosted a party and genuinely seemed to have a good time. Not for me personally but I thought overall a great addition to the con.

I realize that the media guests bring in the people but it does take away from the "comic book" feel of a con. It may be the only way they can pull in enough numbers perhaps.

I've always wanted the Motor City Con to do well for a couple of reasons. One is that is in my "backyard"...I'm about a 12-20 minute drive from it. But another reason is that even though I never had anything to do with the Motor City Con, I like to think that I got the ball rolling when I was doing conventions. I started up King Kon and did that for three years. I did the first one at Eastern Michigan University which is very close to the University of Michigan so it got a good crowd. I moved it to Dearborn and after I stopped doing the cons because of family obligations (we started to have kids...something had to go), Motor City followed up at the Dearborn site before moving a few years ago to the much larger Novi site.

King Kong was the first attempt to have a major con in the Detroit area which was one of the prime areas in the early days of comic fandom (most notable were the Triple Fan Fairs). During the three years I had the con, we had some pretty good guests....Harvey Kurtzman, Dave Sim, John Ostrander, Richard and Wendy Pini, Larry Marder, Tom Mandrake, Jan Duursema, Dan Mishkin, Gary Kohn, Bob McLeod, Al Milgrom, and dozens more that I'm drawing a blank on.

When Caliber was going full steam, Motor City was "our" con and we would have
10-20 booths and bring in a lot of our talent such as Guy Davis, Vince Locke, Brian Bendis, Mark Ricketts, David Mack, Susie (Flaxen) Owens, etc. We did it a couple of times at Chicago but Detroit was a mainstay.

So, I like to see the con do well and I remain optimistic especially after talking with the new guest liaison, Jeffrey Serling, and he seemed determined to put more "comics" in the comic con in upcoming shows. I think that he's going to be more aggressive in that area and I'll likely pester him with some suggestions.

Personally, I have no complaints as they gave us a fantastic spot and so Transfuzion had an end cap. At the booth, joining me, were Ralph Griffith and Stu Kerr, who had the new printing of the OZ graphic novel to show off plus some upcoming stuff. Also there was Mark Bloodworth who had two Transfuzion books in Jack the Ripper and the Raven Chronicles tie-in, The Ripper Legacy. Plus he's done quite a bit of work on Deadworld over the years. Mark was the penciler on the very first comic story I ever did (preceded the Baker Street series by about a week).

However, some of the artists who had purchased space and formerly got booth arrangements were moved to the Artist Alley spot. Everyone agrees that having an Artist Alley area is good but some felt it wasn't explained to them before hand.

Some of the dealers reported less than enthusiastic sales and I don't know if it was because there were a couple of dealers blowing stuff out right off the bat or just the economic times in Michigan which is likely the worst in the nation. But the crowds were pretty good, especially on Saturday as it was a fight just to navigate through the dealers' area.

And that ties into another problem. One set of bathrooms. I didn't mind it so much as I'd just take a different path each time and ended up seeing the whole con that way but some people said that the lines got long sometimes. Not sure what the organizers can do about that as it's a facility problem.

So, not really any major problems but some glitches (such as a boring program guide and quite a few mis-spellings on people's names).

I thought the crowd was pretty strong, particularly on Saturday. The dealers' areas was very crowded and lots of people browsed the Transfuzion booth. I can't blame the con if they don't buy anything...there job is to get people there but they can't make them purchase.

But sales were pretty brisk and consistent. Nothing particularly sold well but I think I sold at least one copy of everything I had there. I had most of my books from Image, Desperado, Penguin, Actionopolis, etc. plus nine books from Transfuzion and some odds and ends of Deadworld stuff (mini-statures, CD-rom, etc) and took orders on the King Zombie mask and showed production pictures of the King Zombie action figure.

I got a chance to show two collections coming out soon, RAVEN CHRONICLES and HELSING. Raven got a pretty good response and when doing the notes for it, I remembered how much I enjoyed writing it. Raven Chronicles was my personal shared universe that I wove into other series. In addition to the Raven stories, I used the characters in other series such as Saint Germaine, Red Diaries, and Helsing and a cameo in Seeker. The characters were the main characters in Ripper Legacy and Jim Pruett used them in his Black Mist series (as Black Mist is actually one of the Raven members). I've talked in the past about doing the Raven team as a young adult novel series but I'm certainly open to doing more comics with them. Now, just have to find the time.

Got caught up with some professional friends who I rarely see. Of course, had a chance to talk to Ralph, Stu, and Mark at the booth. Nate Pride who was such an integral part of Caliber was there and he's coming with me to Chicago now. Obviously had a chance to spend with Guy Davis and Vince Locke, two frequent collaborators of mine. Guy and I hope to announce a new publisher for the Baker Street collection soon and we discussed some "Hollywood" happenings. But as usual, until something actually occurs, it's just talk. Vince and I talked about a Deadworld project that should excite the fans and I hope to reveal more about that soon. I had a chance to talk with Chris Jones. He told me that his long run on Batman Strikes is over as DC is canceling the series soon. We did have a chance to go over some details of the Boston Bombers collection he's putting together for release from Transfuzion very soon. Also got a chance to talk with George Jeanty who has done some work for Marvel (I think) and is now doing Buffy the Vampire Slayer. He's another talented artist that got his start at Caliber (he did a book for me called Paridigm).

The convention unfortunately doesn't have too much of an active "after hours" vibe. The con is located next to a very busy area with a large shopping mall, numerous smaller malls, and a ton of restaurants to everyone disperses. The convention hotel has a nice bar and many of the guests end up there. I have to say that Motor City has a good track record of many of the celebrities mingling with the comics folks in the bar. Eric Estrada, for example, made many fans happy as he was relaxing in the bar and open to talking with people.

I played pool (and poorly as usual) with Mike and Diana Okamato...two friends from the early days of Caliber. Even though I've never worked with them professionally, they are convention friends who I've enjoyed over the years.

As I mentioned, the 501st Legion had an official party but I wasn't about to venture into a room of Star Wars fans although from what I saw, everyone that attended had a good time and I was glad to see the event.

For a few years, Caliber used to host a party at the convention and we would take over the entire lobby. A lot of people wondered how we could afford it but I think, with one possible exception, hosting the parties never cost me a penny. So, here's a tip if you want to host a convention or trade show party. Talk to the hotel and guarantee them a certain amount of liquor sales. I think we guaranteed $1,000 or something like that. They put in cash bars and you host the party to get people to come. Of course, make sure you put our some appetizers such as pretzels, peanuts, and cheese with crackers. Yes, all salty food (people would be amazed at how much salt is in processed cheese)...and I think we fell a few dollars short only one time. It was a win-win situation for everyone.

Overall, I was very pleased with the con. I had a good time as much as I could--as after doing so many conventions and trade shows, I usually approach them with dread rather than anticipation.

I'm hoping that things shift towards a more comics oriented con with some new blood in terms of guests and dealers and it would be nice to get some publishers to attend.

This has gone on way too long so I'll wrap it up now...

Sunday, May 4, 2008

Summer Happenings

Finally, the signs of summer are here. If you live in the midwest, you know what a long winter it has been. I dunno...maybe it's just because I'm getting older but the winters seem a lot longer and the summers shorter. I used to love the cold weather and detested the heat but I've done a 180 in recent years. I'm beginning to understand why so many people migrate to Florida from Michigan. One appealing aspect of summer is that I'm off of my teaching. Don't get me wrong, I love teaching and I see that as my "real" occupation but I do take the summers off. I get offers to teach and if that was my sole source of income, perhaps I would be more inclined to teach spring and summer courses but usually my summer is so busy that I just can't. This summer, I have a major book project that I have to get done and I have to put together a number of different compilations for Transfuzion plus I have another book project and I'm writing a few comic series. So, even though I'm not teaching, it's going to be incredibly busy. Plus I have a couple of trips lined for business in Europe and our annual family vacation which this year is heading out west to Las Vegas (in-laws), Grand Canyon, and then taking the kids to Los Angeles. No specific reason for LA, but the kids have always wanted to see California. Not sure what we're going to do there yet, but I'm sure we'll think of something. And of course, summer means conventions. I was planning on tackling a few conventions and hoped to finally make it to Heroes Con but that damn schedule. So, it looks like I'll only be doing a couple of cons. I will be at the Motor City Comic Convention on May 16-18. I'm hoping that this convention can re-establish itself as a comic convention of note as it is primarily a media con but there seems to be a new attitude and so I'll give it a go again. Besides, it's only a few minutes from my house. The attendance is sizable as they get over 10,000 people but the comic part of it is not what it used to be. But with guests such as Bernie Wrightson, Chris Claremont, Arthur Suydam and locals such as Vince Locke, Guy Davis, David Peterson, Mark Bloodworth, and about 30 other writers-artists-creators, it should have a good presence. I'll be there not only representing myself but Transfuzion as well. Then it's off to Wizard World Chicago where I'll hook up with cohort Rafael Nieves and his cronies to set up a Transfuzion display in the Artists Alley. We'll be joined by a number of creators of the "Mob Rules" assemblage. Chicago Con is June 26-29. The good folks at have given Tranfuzion a message board and I have to admit that I haven't taken advantage of it that much. It was launched before we had any titles officially released and once they started coming out, I was mired in so many other things, that I have neglected to keep up with it. But that is something I'll start paying more attention to in the next couple of weeks and try and make that the source for providing news and updates. Here's the link to the Transfuzion Message Board. This will be in addition to the revamping of the Transfuzion website. Nothing drastic there as far as bells and whistles go but I figure that it needs to be a bit more streamlined to make it easier to update. So, there will be a new look coming soon. I will also be tweaking the Caliber Comics website. You may wonder why since Caliber hasn't published anything in over 6 years... Well, it's mainly because I get 3-5 submissions a week for Caliber Comics. I especially love the submissions that say they're a big supported and continue to buy all the new releases. It's hard to take those people seriously. I also get a ton of writers who inquire about how to break into the industry and if I could spend some time explaining the process on getting established. I don't mean to sound harsh but why the hell would I do that? I'm short on time as it is and to take time to help someone else out? They need to do some research on their own as often all I do is make a quick search, get some links, and forward it to them. As the saying goes, it's not rocket science to find the to actually break in, well, that is more difficult. For some reason, the Transfuzion MySpace page was obliterated. From what I've heard, this happens occasionally. I plan to get that going again now that some of the titles have shipped and are available. I've held off doing too much in any kind of promotion for Transfuzion since we haven't had titles released but with six coming out in the last 4-5 weeks and another 4-5 shipping in the next month, now would be a good time. I had recently put together the Raven Chronicles trade paperback which collected the seven issues that I wrote. Raven Chronicles was a series that I created at Caliber and I ended up using the characters in other series such as Saint Germaine, Helsing, Red Diaries, etc. and I even "lent" out the characters for use in stories I didn't write such as Ripper Legacy and Black Mist. I forgot how much I liked playing with these characters and I plan on doing something with the Raven crew in the future. And the last thing is that this summer, I plan to put up a few more blogs. I know, that's what everyone says but just like everyone else, I mean it. But you know how it is with intentions and performance....not always the same thing.

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