Monday, June 30, 2008


Figured I'd give a look at my experience at Wizard World Chicago 2008 (can't we just call it Chicago Con?) and the important thing is that it is MY experience. That means I won't have anything about any panels and the announcements that came out of that because I didn't attend any. For the pictures I have, it's primarily creators and no costumes. First off, I was set up next to Transfuzion Publishinig, a venture started by me and Rafael Nieves.

We were part of the MOB RULES contingent which was organized by Raf as a very loose coalition of creators that would share space together. Not really a stronger alliance than that but obviously, in some ways because of the loose association, it leads to a stronger one for later. The Mob Rule had spots 4600-4616 which I believe was 9 tables in a row. There was me, Transfuzion, Nate Pride, Rafael Nieves, General Jack Cosmo Productions which was Aaron Shaps, Michael Beazley, Jim McKern, and Adam Lahners, Doug Klabuba, Juan Arevalo, Tony Maldonado, Juan Gomez, Len Kody, Rex Mundi's Eric J., Dan Doughtery, Lamorris Richmond, Stu Kerr, Ralph Griffith, and Tom Roberts. Hope I didn't leave anyone out.

I heard from some people that the show seemed slower than last year but I thought the crowds were pretty good and fairly consistent. We had a good spot so that probablyy helped. I sold a lot of books, both Transfuzion and mine, and I did see a trend for people picking up graphic novels based on the subject matter which appealed to some peripheral fans. Worlds of H.P. Lovecraft moved well as did Jack the Ripper. Zululand got a lot of interest. As usual, Renfield and Saint Germaine sold well. Deadworld is pretty much a given, of course, but it seems with each con, I move more and more of the CD collection of the first 46 issues (some 1,500 pages). I sold out on Friday but luckily, Eagle One Media was also at the show and he had brought extra stock so I got a chance to get more. But I'm just about out again and I didn't have a chance to get to their booth during the show again.

For most of the friends and creators I came across, I'll just use the pictures that were mainly shot by Nate Pride. Nate handled quite a bit of the production for Caliber and most of the books that were printed were put together by him and he also designed much of the look and logos of the books. If you go way back to the beginning of Caliber, that was me...the good stuff came when Nate took it over. Nate drove with me to the con and it seemed like old times...going back to the Caliber days. A lot of people don't realize what a good artist Nate is as he was so involved in production, he never got too many chances to show off his work, but his portfolio at the con got lots of attention and too man commission sketches he's going to have to mail some. Nate and I hung out with Rafael, Juan Arevalo, Tony Maldonado and Juan Gomez most of the time and picked up a few extras along the way. Had a great time. We were usually some of the first ones at the Hyatt bar which was the "happening" place and then we'd leave to grab dinner before going back. Later, around 11-12, is when the bar became packed. Good mix of creators and fans all intermingling together. If you go to Giordano's Pizza and get the stuffed pizza, just be aware that you will not eat more than two pieces so order accordingly. One pizza will feed four people. I forgot that and will probably do it again if I go next year.

Talked at length with Steve Leaf of Diamond Comics and I think he's a Vice President of something. If not, he should be. We talked about the old ways of the industry and the new way of it. I prefer the old and he has to prefer whatever gives him a paycheck. Good guy and just shows that you have to separate a company from the people there. Although I don't have a problem with Diamond, I know a lot of people who detest what they do...but if you remember that business is about the bottom line, I can't see how people can get so upset. Stealing a line from The Godfather, business is business, it's not personal (in most cases).

Had a brief conversation with Bob Layton and it centered on Future Comics which was his foray into publishing and going direct to stores and consumers. It didn't work out but we both agreed that it would be a vast different set of parameters in today's connected world.

Met up with Matt Anderson who does the charming White Picket Fences and got to meet some of the other creators involved with Ape Entertainment. To my surprise, Paul Daly, who did a few projects for Caliber early on, was also doing a project with Ape. We played booth tag for most of Saturday before finally hooking up together. It was good to see him and see that he's back into comics.

I also got a chance to hook up a bit with Tim Vigil who is working on some of the Frazetta book. People who weren't around in the early 90's may not remember just how big Vigil was back then. I give him some credit in helping Caliber Comics launch as his cover story on Caliber Presents #1 was our big roll out.

Chuck Moore who puts together the Comic Related website where the Transfuzion blog is hosted stopped by as he was arranging podcasts. We're going to do a longer version upcoming which will also cover the Caliber years in addition to what's new at Transfuzion and Desperado. You really should check out the site if you haven't because it's not just message boards but also blogs, news, reviews, podcasts...a great informative site at

Had far too many brief conversations and not enough long ones so it was obviously a fairly busy con. Here's some pictures.

The Transfuzion Booth at Wizard World Chicago 2008. We went with low level signage as we were told that large displays in Artist Alley were not allowed, but quite a few people had them. I think its the trend of the future that more and more people are moving to Artist Alley because the costs of "Small Press" booths are just too much, especially at some shows where placement is horrific. I have to admit that for most of the actual booths this year, the placement was much better than last year.

I had the King Zombie prototype mask on display and that got a lot of attention and lots of people asked about the King Zombie (from Deadworld) action figure coming from Shocker Toys. The mask proved to be a great "picture spot" for kids especially.

Rafael Nieves and me. We're responsible for Transfuzion but the policy is that if you want to compliment the company, you contact me. If you want to bitch about something, it's Rafael. He may not be up to speed on that policy yet but he'll get there. I never take a good picture but usually Raf fact, some woman came up to him just to get a picture of his hair.

Phil Hester is one of the nicest and most talented guys in the business. I still think his Fringe series he did with Paul Tobin for Caliber in the beginning days was one of the best things Caliber ever published. But Phil would rather work for large publishers and make lots of money. Actually Phil is one of the few "mainstream" creators that keeps a hand in the independent comics arena.

Got a chance to talk a few times with Mike Perkins. Mike did a number of things for Caliber in his early days and of course, most people know him now for Captain American and Union Jack. It was just announced that Mike will be dong the art chores for Stephen King's THE STAND. Good for him as he deserves all the success he gets. I didn't get a chance to hang with Mike too much as his schedule was unbelievably busy.

Stu Kerr of Ralph 'n Stu but Ralph Griffith was probably entrenched in the dealer's area. They're releasing the complete OZ collections via Transfuzion and relaunching Arrow Comics.

Eric J. co-creator of Rex Mundi. He ended up in Mob's Rule and we welcomed him with open arms but we forgot to tell him that he had to buy the first 16 rounds at the bar. Maybe he did hear that 'cause we could never find him at night.

Three guys that made the con so enjoyable for me. All very talented and a great bunch to hang with. Juan Gomez,
Tony Maldonado, and Juan Arevalo. Damn, I hope I got them in the right order. (Just kiddin' guys). Look for their names soon on some exciting projects....

The crew from General Jack Cosmos who really know how to put together a display. Shown here are Adam Lahners and Michael Beazley.

Len Kody, had his comic, CHICAGO: 1968, the story of the Democratic National Convention on hand for people to check out.

Dan Dougherty is an artist that really deserves more attention. Nice guy who is hooking up with Raf on one of the projects that will help launch Transfuzion's excursion into all new material.

Tom Roberts was one of the Mob Rules guys but this was the first that I met him. Lots of great pulp books but the highlight of his stuff s the gorgeous book on ALEX RAYMOND.

Jim Calafiore got his start at Caliber and now has a good home at DC which keeps him busy. He's doing a new cover for the CAMELOT ETERNAL collection that Transfuzion will be putting out in the next few months. He said that he already started working on it. Camelot Eternal was a series he did for Caliber.

Scott Story who puts out his Johnny Saturn through his publishing company, Story Studios. He wasn't part of Mob Rules but since I see him at all the conventions I do, I figure he's worth a pix.

Overall, I thought it was a good con. I had a few boxes less leaving than I had coming in so that's always good. I never have high expectations for Wizard World as it is a superheroish convention for the most part but because of the people there, I always have a good time and it usually ends up being a trip worth taking just for other business matters.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Looking Back

Looking at the date, it dawned on me that in a few months, it will be 20 years since I started Caliber Comics. That’s a lot of years and even though Caliber occupied my life for a good 11-12 years, when I think back of it ending around 2001 or so, it seems so very…very…very long ago. Almost a distant memory.

Since that time…and that time referring to the “end” of Caliber…things certainly have changed. My four daughters have aged, a couple of them growing to adulthood. I started teaching and now consider that my occupation rather than being writer or publisher---except for the summers, that is. I don’t teach in the summer and devote myself writing.

When I started in the comics business, first as a retailer then a convention organizer before entering the publishing field, I was one of the young guys. Well, not really. I wasn’t that young but certainly younger than I am currently. Now, I see that there are a lot of young people…and some not so young. The comics market, especially because of the boom in the graphic novel field, is bringing in all kinds of people and all various ages. There is no young guard coming in and pushing the old guard out the door because of new ideas. In fact, it seems that the young no longer have a monopoly on new waves of technology that they used to have. To some extent, sure, as you don’t see too many senior citizens texting or trying to determine whether Comcast, AT&T, and whatever local provider there is will supply you with better HD programming. But that other group, slightly above middle aged but not close enough to senior status (and fighting it tooth and nail) are embracing the technology as much as the young people.

That seems to be happening in comics as well. It’s quite a mixed bag of creators when you attend a convention. It used to be the older people were the seasoned vets on the downside of their career or perhaps just relishing in the years of success they had. Nowadays, they’re just as apt as the teenager next to them in pushing their new self-published title. About the only difference it seems is at the bars at night. That seems to be the domain of the young still (and obviously, there are some notable exceptions).

With Transfuzion starting up, I am continually amazed at how much simpler things are now. The technology just makes things so much easier and much more efficient. At Caliber, we were pretty advanced as far as technology went. I remember we had to explain what a zip drive was to a printer. We launched a web site earlier than most and had one of the few shopping carts. It was a tedious process to input an item for the cart and there was an incredible reluctance on consumers to use their credit cards. That was well before payment management companies such as PayPal came along.

We got our first computer right after Caliber started. I had hired Kevin VanHook for editorial help and he actually used a computer. Kevin only stayed about a year before he left to find a successful career in Hollywood in writing and directing films. But when he left, we bought his computer. It was an Atari. The memory was so meager that we could only print out half a page of text so all of our text pages had to have the two halves taped together.

When you wanted a black page, you had to either have something black already or get out those huge markers that would usually end up giving you quite a buzz for the evening and a terrible headache the next day.

One memory that I remember quite well was when I was putting together a 32 page booklet as a promotional item. It was a brochure of our titles, and I’m guessing it was to be a handout at conventions. Caliber had a lot of “dark” titles so most of the design featured black pages with white text. At that time, Guy Davis was working for me in production. It was right before he landed the Sandman Mystery Theatre job that would cement his career.

We had to use a lot of black pages but we had a ready source. One of the first titles Caliber produced was The Crow. Initially, The Crow didn’t sell that well and even when it started to move and we had to go back to print, each printing was only a couple thousand copies. It wasn’t until the announcement of the movie that The Crow really took off. But anyway, The Crow had almost a solid back cover with just a small amount of text on the back (maybe it was the inside back cover, can’t quite remember). So, to get the black pages, we would rip off the back cover of The Crow issues and just paste over it. Yeah, I know what the issues eventually became worth in the price guides, but at that time, who knew? I think Guy and I did the entire 32 page book in one day. I’d write and type up the text, print it (again, only half a page at a time) --- we’d go over the design of each page, and then he’d use a photocopy to get images from the comics and shrink or blow up the images as needed and paste them up with spray mount. The outside of the office door was a mucky mess of overspray from the spray mount and the vapors were so strong that the spraying had to be done outside.

I’d like to say those were the good old times but when I’m using Photoshop and just bringing in digital images…I just can’t.

Production isn’t the only thing that has changed. The incredible avenues now open because of the internet is unbelievable. Yes, I know Diamond is still the gorilla for the direct market but there are so many other areas that are much more accessible now. Libraries, independent and chain bookstores, direct mail, and other avenues are open simply because you can access them.

Of course, the main thing dampening all this accessibility and ease of production is increased competition. Whereas the “old days” curtailed the potential for a lot of people to enter the market, now almost anyone with a computer can get in on the action. And when you bring in the whole idea of webcomics, well, that just changes everything.

When I was a retailer, I carried virtually every single comic that came out and I had a pretty good idea of what every publisher and creator was up to. That was my job and my stores were extremely successful because we catered to that independent market. I look at things nowadays and I don’t know how retailers can keep up things. They have the usual print suspects but what happens when a webcomic decides to put out a physical copy. How do retailers know if it will sell? If it’s real popular, doesn’t that mean everyone has already gotten the material off the web? The saving grace for the retailer again comes down to distribution. The ability to get re-orders in today’s market is so far superior to what it used to be. Retailer can order light (and usually do) because they know that if the book takes off, they can usually get more copies.

I guess what triggered all this is getting prepared to head to Chicago Con (oops…Wizard World Chicago). It used to be an annual thing when I had Caliber and even prior because of my own conventions and stores but I had missed about 6-7 years straight. Now, I’ll be attending the third straight one. It certainly isn’t what it used to be and I’ll determine this year if I’ll return for next year. Fortunately, there’s enough old friends at the con that make it at least enjoyable.

But man, I sure see a lot of old people there.

Note: This blog is now being carried on the blog page of along with a number of other blogs all in one place so if you get a chance, check it out. Also, there is a message board for Transfuzion and Desperado, so if you have any questions about anything I’m working on for those two companies, drop a note.

Here's the cover to HELSING, another recent release that I'll have with me at Chicago.

Sunday, June 1, 2008

Projects Update

Since I get emails asking, I figured I'd might as well use this opportunity to play catch-up on some of the various projects that I'm working on.

I've mentioned before that I'm working on a novel and it requires an enormous amount of research and I've done most of that as well as making notes on my general outline. I don't get too specific in my pre-writing but I do try and figure out the general structure of things. I took a break from that before I start devoting 4-6 hours daily on writing that for most of the summer.

So, for the break, I put together some more books for Transfuzion including SEEKER and ZULU NATION. Both will be at Chicago Con and neither will be available via Diamond. Seeker was offered but Diamond said the orders were too low and I didn't bother soliciting Zulunation as I can't see comic shops supporting something like that. But the plan initially was to make many of the books available online or direct anyway, so no big deal.

The SINERGY compilation is lagging a bit behind as I have to redo some of the scans and I had some new pages from different artists being added. Still looks to be late summer for that one.

In the "break" from the novel writing, I actually did quite a bit of comic scripting. I have an original graphic novel coming out from Desperado with art from Wayne Reid and it's about a smuggler in the pre-revolution colonies who terrorizes the British as the SCARECROW. Using a Scarecrow as a foil is not wholly original as it has been done before with Dr. Syn, Scarecrow of Romney Marsh, Nathaniel Hawthorn's Feathertop and Percy MacKaye's Scarecrow but it's one of those projects that keeps festering in me so I finally decided to do it. It's coming out later in 2008 and will be entitled "A MURDER OF SCARECROWS".

I also have a four issue limited series I wrote called "THE RAIN PEOPLE" which is utilizing some characters from RAVEN CHRONICLES although this is meant to stand entirely on its own. I don't have an artist yet so I'm hoping that perhaps I can find one at Chicago Con.

But most of my work has been on DEADWORLD. I wrote two full length stories that will be part of an anthology and these were drawn by Bill Bryan and Wayne Reid respectively. They were to be part of DEADWORLD: BRING OUT YOUR DEAD but that project has been put off because some of the contributors bailed at the last minute and some of the stories turned in for this all new anthology were, uh, let's just say not as good as the sample art had led me to believe they would be. It happens. But the good news is that the anthology will continue andI have some more stories coming but now it will be coming out from Desperado and be entitled "DEADWORLD CHRONICLES"...and we're looking at an October or November release.

Speaking of Deadworld, things are going quite hectic there. The action figure from Shocker Toys is geared to be in the second wave of releases from them, the Halloween mask is coming along nicely, the Frozen Over mini-series from Desperado is wrapping up, and there's going to be another mini-series coming out, starting in October.

The new mini-series is called SLAUGHTERHOUSE and I'll come back to writing it. We haven't decided yet how to work it out in terms of whether it will be a mini-series or part of the numbering of the Deadworld series...or both, but either way, it is a story that is meant to stand on its own and new fans can come right into it without knowing what has happened before.

I wanted an artist who could give a very powerful look to it and when Sami Makkonen signed up, I was very pleased. He has a stylized form but I think it will work out great. You will be hearing a lot about Sami soon with his work on the Split Lip and The Chemistry Set anthologies plus the graphic novel he's doing with Elizabeth Genco called BLUE, also from Desperado Publishing. It looks very cool.

Sami is a Finnish artist so it adds to the different nationalities I've worked with on my stories. I've had British, French, Malaysian, Indonesian, and Serbian so far. I have to bug Sami for some information on Finland as that is the nationality in my family that I associate with most. My great grandparents came from Finland and I believe they ended up meeting on the boat and got married. As a kid, the Finland side was the predominate side and my dad had learned to speak Finnish before he learned English. My kids hear about the Finlander side of the family but with all the nationalities they have mixed in their blood, it's just another perspective. My wife is Japanese, Polish, German, and English while I also have French and Irish to go along with the Finnish (plus a little Mongolian thrown in) so they're quite the melting pot. None of our lineages go back beyond four generations here so I guess we're part of what is considered the American fabric of immigration.

So, in the last couple weeks, I completed 8 comic scripts and the original graphic novel, so I've been busy. My next break will come at Chicago Con where I'll be bringing all of my graphic novels. I was quite shocked when I started thinking of how many books I'll have there. Of course, I will have all of the Transfuzion books but in looking at the number of books that I'll have there "representing" my work, it's going to number around 20. I didn't realize that I had done that many trades in the last couple of years.

On some other news, I may not have mentioned it before (or perhaps I did...not sure), me and Guy Davis are waiting to hear back regarding a new edition of BAKER STREET. The previous one, put out by Byron Preiss and distributed by Simon and Shuster, is out of print so it will be nice to get it back in print.

When Chicago Con (guess officially it should be called Wizard World Chicago, but I still call it Chicago Con) gets closer, I'll know the exact table number that I'll be at. Transfuzion will be set up in Artist's Alley along with the Mob Rules group which includes Rafael Nieves and his cohorts. I'll also be bringing Nate Pride with me. Nate, in addition to being a great artist, was responsible for so many of Caliber's designs even on a lot of creator owned books.

Just wanted to give an update. More before Chicago. Again, the plan is to try and keep things more updated on Transfusion's and Desperado's message boards, both of which can be found on

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