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Monday, July 9, 2012

Working with Creators

When you’ve worked with as many comic creators as I have over the years, you find that the often used collective term of comic creator doesn’t really mean much.  Somehow, it seems to many fans that all comic creators share the same sensibility, desires, and goals.  Obviously, that is not the case.  With Caliber and now Transfuzion and even as a creator myself, I have worked with over 250 creators. Some were long term relationships, others were just a pinup or cover. Their attitudes and ethics vary just as you would expect any group to.  Fans often place creators into this box of homogeneity but each have their own agenda although most that I know truly are passionate about what they do and share a camaraderie regarding creator owned comics and what that entails.

For many of the creators, Caliber was their first entry into the publishing world.  We broke in a lot of people and many continue to work in comics today.  It was always much more difficult with the new people because from the outside, they didn’t really understand how things worked.  Of course, this is so different from today with our incredible information feed.  Only people who are old enough to remember when people were talking about bulletin boards and ARPANET can appreciate the unbelievable change that has been embedded into our lives.  The newbies were usually eager but some found that the demands of constant production were just too much.  So, while there are quite a few Caliber alumni circulating around, there are also quite a few that determined that was not for them.  

Comics is a tough, tough business.  There’s a lot of facades in the industry…and people have to realize that just because you had a book out, it doesn’t necessarily mean much.  Of course, everyone has their own idea of what a success is and for some people, the sheer accomplishment of getting a book out is enough.  But for many, once they realize that a career in comics that can provide financially is very rare, disillusionment can set in.  Even seasoned pros have difficulties as I know a number of writers and artists who have worked for the Big Two and are established names have to rely on welfare and/or food stamps to get by.  You’d be surprised.

But the fleeting names that come in and then out of comics are usually just forgotten and most embark on a different career path.   A few keep in touch with me just to see how things are going with the company and also to keep track of the few creators they might have known.  I am in touch with a lot of Caliber creators but usually the ones that entrench themselves into Marvel or DC are the ones that I lose touch with.  I don’t keep track of what’s going on with either of those companies so I don’t know what they may be doing.

Overall, the relationships were good.  There’s a few that didn’t work out so well for different reasons but it’s only a handful where there is any kind of animosity.  All in all, a pretty good track record.  I’m not going to pretend that everything was great as it wasn’t, especially at the end when the market hit a tailspin and a lot of our vendors collapsed without paying.   But as I said, for the vast majority of creators, I think Caliber (and Transfuzion) has been not only a positive affiliation but a rewarding one.  The few that had a problem was usually based around their lack of knowledge of how the industry work (for example, that we don’t sell to Diamond at cover price) or for a couple, it served them to have a few strategic misrepresentations and I’ll leave it at that.  Perhaps in a future blog, I’ll discuss some of those as there were some entertaining situations.

Next week I’ll be heading off to San Diego Con which is what I still call it.  I haven’t been there for quite awhile and this was after attending for over a decade straight.  I’ve been there as a retailer, publisher, and creator and now sort of going as a spectator.  I have some signings to do but for the most part, I’m not an active participant in the con itself.  In regards to creators, there are a couple there who I’ve worked with on some significant projects but I have never met so that will be something to look forward to.

I debated about going.  Doing some signings and meeting some people that I’ve worked with before wasn’t enough to take the time to go.  However, things continued to align as I have a number of meetings scheduled with publishers and creators about certain projects and some licensing considerations.  Because of the close association with Hollywood that the con has now, by going to San Diego, it saves me a trip out to Los Angeles with some producers that I’m talking with.  It’s a real mixed bag of meetings and get-togethers and cover writing, projects to be published, merchandise, intellectual properties, and digital considerations.  In addition to the company roles of Caliber (which still holds the intellectual aspects of Caliber Comics) and Transfuzion, I’m involved in two new companies (one publishing and one with games) and so there will be some discussion about those at the con.  

I am also involved with Detroit Fanfare with Dennis Barger Jr. and Tony Miello, and part of our attendance at the con deals with the late Shel Dorf and the beginnings of the San Diego Comic Con.  Shel originally started in Detroit area with Detroit Triple Fan Fair and the current Detroit Fanfare pays homage to that including hosting the official Shel Dorf Industry Awards.  Some of Shel’s family attended the first two years and we expect to talk with some of the founders at the show about Shel and the launch of the concept of the comic convention.

But what really solidified the trip for me was personal.  My second oldest daughter lives in San Diego and my oldest daughter lives in Los Angeles and will be driving down for the weekend.   That was the clincher and of course, the con was just enough of a nudge to make the trip.  Except for when my daughter got her grad degree from San Diego State and the whole family reunited for that, it seems that my wife and I can never coordinate our trips out to California and we take turns visiting the kids.

I hear a lot of horror stories of how crowded the convention is nowadays and how much it has shifted from comics to “Hollywood”.  I have to say that none of the film and TV aspects really interest me that much and if those are the areas that are going to be crowded, then I should be okay.  I don’t collect anything and I seldom buy anything at cons, so I don’t have that aspect either. I plan to mainly do the meet and greet but there are a couple of panels I might attend.  These are primarily dealing with creators I know or any kind of consortium on publishing creator owned comics and related matters.

One thing I was looking forward to was Trickster.  Last year seemed to get so much more attention that I started wondering this year if it was still going on.  I checked into and saw it was and touched base with Scott Morse (Caliber published his Phenomerama) and I donated some of my books as well as some from Transfuzion.  Too bad I didn’t know about it earlier as I could’ve donated more and got others involved to donate.  I like the concept and will get a chance to see how it plays out.

So, my plan is signings, meetings, and just saying hi.  I’ll spend some time with my girls, of course, and just generally check things out.  It’s sort of nice not having to be “working” the con as usually when you do, you don’t see much of it.


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