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
canceled.

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...



14 comments:

TK-899 said...

501st Legion? Just visit www.501st.com...it's the world's largest Star Wars costuming organization with a focus on charity and villain costumes.

Anonymous said...

Gary,

Is there anyplace I can download deadworld screen savers and wallpaper?

Gary Francis

Deka said...

since it looks like it`s not possible to post questions on that desperado comicrelated boards i have to ask here:

any chance there`ll be a continuation of DW V3, Gary?
it started great and i was really looking forward to slaughterhouse storyline but after moving from Image(two years?) there was no new issue and no DW news(except two issues of frozen over spin-off).
it would be a shame if you/publishers decided to pull a plug on this one.

thanks in advance for your answer.

Gary Reed said...

Thanks for the clarification on the 501st Legion. You guys looked like you enjoyed yourselves...and great that you do charity work.

Gary Reed said...

At Caliber, we used to have screen savers and wallpaper on different series but it didn't seem to generate much interest. Of course, it's a different world now so maybe I'll re-evaluate something like that.

Gary Reed said...

Deka,
Not sure why you can't post on the desperado boards...it shouldn't be a problem.

After finishing the first six issue storyline we had to get a new artist as Dalibor was hired away by a couple of different companies. Once we decided on Fredrico, we had already put in motion the two series...the Frozen Over mini-series which was a stand alone and the Slaughterhouse series which is a direct continuation of the first six issues.

However, found out that Frederico couldn't do both so Frozen Over, already started, was given the first run. Taking longer than I would like but it's close to being wrapped up now.

As for Slaughterhouse, it is on schedule for October release this year. The artist is Sami Makkonen who should have is graphic novel, BLUE, out shortly. I love his art style and think it fits this storyline well.

Slaughterhouse takes place six months after the Image series and will bring everything up to date on the cast of characters.

Deka said...

thanks for the info, gary.
glad to hear DW is continuing.
in a comic book world where zombie books are overhyped and boring(TWD) or just plain awful(avatar`s night of the living dead series) it`s good to know there`s something to look forward to.
i googled Sami`s artwork and must say i`m not that much impressed.
it`s got that ashley wood feeling and even if i love the style not too sure how it`s gonna work on DW.
i would buy it even if it`s drawn by a 4year old, dont get me wrong, but not sure how will the rest of the comicbook reading public react expecialy after Talaja`s clean linework/storytelling.
dalibor was great addition to DW and it`s a shame he couldn`t continue.
i got as a gift first page from #07(probably the only artwork he did for that issue before bowing out) and boy, does that look beautiful.
all aside - wishing you best of luck with relaunch and eagerly awaiting continuation of my fave zombie book out there.
october couldn`t come fast enough.
...a preview page or two from #07 could really ease the pain and help time move faster, though:))

Gary Reed said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Gary Reed said...

Deka,
(Is that your name or just an abbr. for something?)...
I can appreciate your concern on the artwork. But I was looking for something more "powerful" on this storyarc and I think Sami fits the bill perfectly.
I try to take into account artists' strengths and so have adjusted things for that.
I will post some pages on the comic related site (and let me know if you have trouble with that site) as I'm going to start using that more often for updates. But I want to make sure its some pages that don't give too much away.

Deka said...

Deka is short for Dekara - for some weird reason gmail decided to cut last two letters from my nickname so on a blogosphere i`m stuck with this one(i could probably easily change that but i`m too lazy to bother).
anyhow, after third try ComiCRelated boards accepted my registration so i`ll look forward to your future posts and Sami`s artwork previews there.
best of luck and cheers from Serbia.

Gary Reed said...

Serbia...ah, no wonder the love for Dalibor :)

We'll do a better job of keeping things up to date there.

Joe Willy said...

Gary, I'm really enjoying these posts about the conventions and now days versus the old days. I'm in West Michigan and I used to go to a comic shop in Battle Shop that carried pretty much everything you sold so I have quite a few of the old books. I especially like the stuff from Tome Press since that was before the Internet and you could out much about some of that stuff- artists like Gustave Dore, etc.

Gary Reed said...

Willy,
Thanks! Some of the Tome Press stuff is being collected by Transfuzion such as the El Cid story and Zulunation and will look at some others in the future.
The Dore and other art books, probably not. The changes that have occurred with printing and the Internet make that material far more available than it previously was so there really isn't any need.

Gary

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