Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Happy Holidays from WCG Comics




Sorry for the long wait since my last post. Life happens. I plan to get back on track in 2012—especially since there is a new issue of Rob Hanes Adventures in the works! So stay tuned for announcements about issue 3.

Meanwhile, I hope everyone will accept my warmest wishes for a wonderful holiday season and new year!

Below is my annual holiday greetings—from both WCG Comics and my family. Click on the images to see them full size, along with a slideshow of past holiday greeting card images.



2011

Friday, November 4, 2011

REVIEW: DC’s New 52

As someone who works full time, has a family with children, and tries to use the remainder of my time drawing my own comics, the time I have to spend on reading comics over the last decade or so has dwindled a great deal. While I still buy some comics out of habit, most actually go unread. My comics reading habits these days are all over the place, usually determined by whether I like the art. Only a few titles—like Love and Rockets and Optic Nerve—are on my must-buy/must-read lists. Like a lot of people, I’ve gravitated more towards graphic novels and trade paperback collections of limited series, which require less of a commitment in time and energy.

Some of this waning interest, of course, has also been due to the incredible convoluted continuities of many mainstream super-hero comics. In what has been an acknowledged problem for years, many comics often are part of larger story arcs that sometimes go across several series and titles. For the most part, gone are the days when one could pick up a random mainstream comic-book and get a full-length story. (Which is why my own stories in Rob Hanes Adventures are usually self-contained!)

As anyone who follows mainstream comics know, comics have also become “event” driven, meaning that each year the publishers create an all-encompassing story arc that often involves a comic-book company’s entire stable of characters and can take as much as a year to play out. Ironically, while this has goosed sales to some extent, overall, comics have continued to see a decline in the number of people who read comics. Aside from the fact that many people like me have neither the time nor disposable income to devote to such an extended endeavor, such an approach also has little appeal to casual readers.

Partly in recognition of this, DC Comics earlier this year announced its plans to ambitiously relaunch much of its line, including perennial characters like Batman, Superman and Wonder Woman, many of them at the start of the characters’ careers. In some cases, the characters have been tweaked a bit as well, particularly the costume designs.

While there are some fans who decried the idea of change, for the most part the response was favorable, though of course it was hard to judge the success of the changes until the books appeared.

As for myself, I was moderately curious—though I had long ago accepted that I was not the target audience any longer for superhero comics, I nevertheless thought it was a good idea for DC to wipe the slate clean and start fresh. Characters like Superman and Batman, for example—pretty much the first comic-book superheroes—were created in 1939 and 1940. (To be fair, over the years, DC has undertaken a patchwork of approaches to keep the characters up to date and fresh.) Marvel had taken a similar approach in developing its separate “Ultimates” line.

So what’s the verdict? I picked up the first issues of many of the series, including Justice League, Batman, Superman, Detective Comics, Action Comics, and Aquaman. Frankly, none of those first issues made much of an impression on me and I found them a bit stilted.

With the second issues, however, now past the awkward, initial introductory sequences, I found that I enjoyed the stories much more. My favorite to date are Batman, Aquaman and Justice League. The series have not been quite as simplified as one would have liked—for example, Batman and the other characters are obviously new to the scene in Justice League, while in Batman, with the appearance of three of the characters who have donned the Robin costume in the story, it’s clear this is a somewhat more established Batman; and the Robin characters who ranged from the 1940s to the present clearly have now each been Robin for only about a year or two or so before being succeeded by a new Robin. But the bottom line is the stories are entertaining.

I wouldn’t quite say the books recapture the feeling I had when discovering the characters for the first time as an adolescent—we live in an age of media overload and the characters are a too familiar part of the pop culture landscape for that to be possible. But at the same time it’s been a long time since I’ve picked up a mainstream superhero comic-book title and looked forward to the next issue.

How long DC Comics will be actually able to sustain this interest and level of sales is another question. I’m sure that at some point I’ll lose the thread in many if not all of the series and stop reading them altogether again. But it will be interesting to see how long DC can sustain my interest as well as sales, and remain focused on keeping the stories interesting to casual readers. For now, I’ll enjoy the ride.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Up Next from WCG Comics....

Pre-production page from issue 13. Click on the
image to see it full size.
I know it’s been awhile since the release of either an update or a new issue of Rob Hanes Adventures from WCG Comics, so I’m pleased to report that the series is now getting back on track!

Issue 13 will feature a brand new tale, “Crime Takes a Holiday.” In the adventure, Rob travels to the French Riviera for a much needed vacation but discovers that crime rarely takes a rest!

Also tentatively on the docket at a later date is a special issue 0 of Rob Hanes Adventures that I hope will serve as a nice re-introduction to the character. Although it’s not a re-boot and doesn’t change any continuity or the basic settings of the story, it will be an attempt to update the back story a bit and re-introduce the character to a new generation of readers. It’s important to note that the series was initially introduced while the Cold War was still in full swing, so this is something that’s a bit overdue.

I’ll release more details about lucky issue 13 and the planned issue 0 as they become available!

Website Updated

I’ve updated the WCG Comics website a bit to add a slideshow of news items and images to make the site a bit more visually interesting—it appears to be all the rage!

Monday, September 19, 2011

REVIEWS: Caniff


Over the past decade, there has been an explosion of upscale art books and deluxe reprint collections devoted to comics and cartoonists, with great care given to the quality and presentation of the projects. These have included full compilations of work like Terry and the Pirates (IDW), the Spirit (DC Archives), Peanuts (Fantagraphics), Dick Tracy (Fantagraphics), as well as high end coffee table books like Scorchy Smith and the Art of Noel Sickles and the first volume of a projected three-part project, Genius Isolated: The Life and Art of Alex Toth, both from IDW.

Milton Caniff, the creator-writer-artist of the groundbreaking Terry and the Pirates and, later, Steve Canyon, has been one of the major beneficiaries of this effort to document the legacies of comics and their creators. Two new additions to the growing Caniff canon are the hardcover oversized coffee table art book Caniff from IDW (360 pages) by Dean Mullaney and a hardcover deluxe collection of Steve Canyon: The Complete Series Volume 1 from Hermes Press (208 pages). Given the attention Caniff has received over the years—including a 952-page biography in 2007 and numerous collections of his work by multiple publishers over the years since the 1980s—one would think that much of this work had been exhausted by now. But these two new projects present extensive work not reprinted before.

Caniff

Though the coffee table book, Caniff, covers well trodden ground, much of it features never before seen material, culled mostly from the Ohio State University Billy Ireland Cartoon Library and Museum where the artist’s papers officially reside. (Caniff was an active and prominent Ohio State alum and essentially started the Library by donating all his art and papers to the institution after his death.) Indeed, author Mullaney concedes that the book grew out of the discovery during the course of routine research that there was a treasure trove of rarely seen material by Caniff that fans deserved to see.

In addition to being an outstanding writer and storyteller, Caniff’s legacy is based on introducing—along with best friend and studio-mate Noel Sickles—a whole new approach to cartooning that relied on an impressionistic use of black and white to achieve a sense of realism never before seen in comics. It led to a whole new school of cartooning that continues to influence artists today, including myself.

As a result, since Caniff is most identified for working in this signature style during the bulk of his career from 1934 until his death in 1984, it’s a real revelation to see the artist’s versatility featured in this book.

This versatility is rooted in the fact that Caniff considered himself a newspaperman first, starting out in the artists’ bullpen of the Columbus Dispatch and, later, the Associated Press, when cartoonists also doubled as draftsmen, photo retouchers, mapmakers, commercial illustrators, etc. At a time when photographers hadn’t yet begun to replace artist on newspaper staffs, newspaper cartoonists like Caniff were journeyman craftsmen, ready to whip out logos, mastheads, crossword puzzles, story illustrations, and the like on a tight deadline.

Caniff’s work in these areas—which include portraitures of all the presidential candidates from the 1932 presidential election, watercolors, ghost drawing, spot illustrations, and even custom designs for military units and air force bombers—are all beautifully displayed and reproduced. Many promotional pieces for his strips and work produced gratis for the U.S. military and military men are also well represented and provide a fuller picture of the artist’s abilities than have been previously seen before. Another revelation of this volume is Caniff's bold color work, particularly in his Sunday strips, which really made the work pop off the page.

Steve Canyon: The Comic Book Series

This handsome hardcover book, Steve Canyon: The Complete Series Volume 1, is the first ever reprinting of some of the licensed comic-book adaptations of the series from the 1950s, originally published by Dell's Four Color Comics series. It needs to be said up front that while Caniff apparently had a hand in the production of the comic-book series, his actual direct involvement was fairly minimal.

That said, as a rule, such comic-book adaptations from the period are more often than not poor quality, but when I first picked up the book to decide whether to buy it, I was pleasantly surprised by the art—while not as sharp as Caniff’s, it was still competently done. This was partly due to Caniff’s personal participation and quality control—though the artist didn’t have the time to draw the comic-book stories himself, he hired William Overgard, who had worked as his assistant and briefly ghosted the strip when Caniff was ill, to draw it. To create some continuity, Caniff apparently inked the face of Canyon himself in the stories. (Overgard went on to work on the comic strip series, Steve Roper and Mike Nomad.)

The stories are relatively straightforward, simplistic action affairs, obviously geared to a juvenile comic-book  audience than the adult newspaper readers Caniff specifically targeted in the syndicated Steve Canyon. The dialogue has none of the panache or style that distinguished the regular strip, nor is the character development anywhere near as sophisticated.

Nevertheless, it’s fun to see this alternative take on the character. Along with the recent DVD release of the Steve Canyon television series, this collection is perhaps more of a curiosity than a serious contribution to Caniff’s legacy that underscores the extent of Caniff’s success and influence in media outside of the comics pages in his heyday.

Monday, August 22, 2011

REVIEW: Captain America: First Avenger

One of Marvel Comics’ goals in launching Marvel Studios was to gain control over the film adaptations of its properties. Up until the launch of the Sam Raimi-directed Spider-Man franchise (which was produced prior to Marvel Studios’ founding), Marvel had a very spotty record going from comics to film. Earlier adaptations of the Fantastic Four (1994) by Roger Corman (which was produced only for business reasons and never intended for release) and Captain America (1990) were barely B-level productions and never received official U.S. releases.

The Iron Man films, Thor, and now Captain America: First Avenger are the fruit of this gamble. They’re films done on Marvel’s terms that have remained faithful to the “Marvel universe” the company has built upon since the early 1960s. Rather than watering down the material to appeal to a mainstream audience, the company has instead embraced the rich history of its characters and storylines and allowed audiences to come to them.

Captain America: First Avenger is a perfect example of this approach. While the film wasn’t quite the “event” film I expected, it’s nevertheless a solidly crafted piece of popcorn entertainment that satisfies. It takes the original Captain America origin (about 8 pages originally, with many layers of continuity added over years) and amps it up with the help of state-of-the-art CGI and special effects. It’s perhaps one of the best examples of a comic-book sensibility brought to life on film.

The film’s heart, of course, is Steve Rogers—the man behind Cap’s mask—who through the wizardry of film magic and a solid performance by Chris Evans goes from 90-pound weakling underdog to a World War II super-soldier hero fighting for democracy and the American way.

As with the other Marvel films, Captain America benefits from solid performances from accomplished character actors who know how to breathe life into their roles like Tommy Lee Jones, Stanley Tucci, and Hugo Weaving (who is terrific as the movie’s bigger-than-life pulp villain, Red Skull). As the lead, Evans believably inhabits his character, portraying Rogers as a scrawny sad sack with dreams and a big heart who, after his transformation into Captain America retains his sense of innocence, his integrity, and his commitment to the little guy. Marvel also has been smart in gambling on accomplished directors with solid resumes who are in need of a hit like Joe Johnston for this film, Thor’s Kenneth Branagh, and Iron Man’s Jon Favreau.

Though Marvel is notorious for not paying top-of-the-scale salaries, audiences benefit from seeing the budget all on screen: The art direction and cinematography in Captain America—from its 1940s futuristic design to the seedy tenements of Depression era New York—is outstanding in its detail, beautifully conveying the era. The seamlessness of the special effects—particularly in superimposing Evans’ head on a smaller body early in the film—is jaw-dropping and thoroughly convincing.

And while there’s more than enough for mainstream audiences to enjoy, fanboys can relish in the in-jokes and nods to Marvel continuity, such as seeing Iron Man Tony Stark’s father playing a leading role in the film as eccentric Howard Hughes-like inventor showman Howard Stark; a nod to the original Captain America uniform; introducing Cap’s sidekick from the comics, Bucky, into the series (the character reportedly is due to return on film, as he did in the comics); and bringing into the movie some of Marvel’s World War II characters, the Howling Commandos—including red-headed derby hat-wearing Dum Dum Dugan—into the film for the fanboys. (Sadly, the Howling Commandos don’t appear with their World War II era leader, Sgt. Nick Fury, who of course has been brought into modern Marvel continuity as a modern-day spymaster, played in the films by Samuel L. Jackson).

At the end of the movie, Marvel inserts an “Easter egg” that has become standard in all its films—in this case, a preview of the Avengers, a superhero team group that culminates what was set up in the preceding Iron Man, Hulk, Thor, and Captain America films and brings these characters (and some new ones) together, in accordance with Marvel continuity.

The success of the preceding films has raised expectations for the Avengers, scheduled for release in 2012. The film will no doubt have a lot of eyes on it, particularly as studios begin thinking of bringing other team books to screen. It will be interesting to see whether “more is more” or, whether instead, more is less”—in other words, will a team series exponentially raise excitement (and box office) for Marvel or will it serve to only dilute the properties? We’ll find out, I guess, in 2012!

Monday, August 15, 2011

REVIEWS: "Romeo and Juliet: Monsters in Love"

For the past six summers, the Actors’ Gang—a theatre ensemble company based in Culver City, California—has produced a free mid-day show in August for families.

The shows are liberally adapted from Shakespeare, made to be kid-and-family friendly with an emphasis on fun and earthy comedy, and feature the Actors’ Gang trademark commedia dell'arte style of acting. While the adaptations are greatly abridged, the shows nevertheless preserve portions of the original text, meaning that the shows are often in verse and can never be accused of “talking down” to its audience. Indeed, the shows include plenty of humor and modern-day references as a wink to parents and adults.

The Actors’ Gang is famous for its guerrilla stye of theater and the ensemble set the tone early for the series by hilariously reducing “Titus Andronicus”—one of Shakespeare’s bloodiest R-rated plays—to a feud involving clowns, its bloodiest parts presented as a slow-mo whipped cream pie fight. Other recent adaptations include “King O’Leary,” a presentation of King Lear brought to California’s Gold Rush days and “The Taming of the Shrew.”

This year’s show, currently running through the end of August, is “Romeo and Juliet: Monsters in Love,” about the star-crossed love between a vampire (Romeo) and a zombie (Juliet). Their families are made up of a cornucopia of monsters and one of the highlights of the show is the cast dancing to Michael Jackson’s “Thriller” during the masquerade ball where Romeo meets Juliet. As always, the show is full of laughs, punctuated by fun musical stingers and cues.

The show is intended for families and children, but is just as entertaining for adults. As I do every year, I highly recommend it—this year’s show ranks among the best, I think, of the productions.

“Romeo and Juliet: Monsters in Love” is presented free of charge in Media Park, adjacent to the Actors’ Gang’s theatre at The Ivy Substation Saturdays and Sundays at 11am, August 6 – August 28, 2011. Running time approximately 45 minutes.

Saturday, July 30, 2011

"The Last Honest Comic"

2011 Comic-Con Report


Below is my usual full-length report of the 2011 Comic-Con. To simply look at all the photos, you can go straight to Gallery 1 and Gallery 2. Or feel free to simply scroll down through the photos included with this report and the ones included in my earlier pre-report.



PhotobucketI originally planned to title this Comic-Con report “The Walking Dead” in honor of the comic-book-property-turned-hot-television-series that was a fan favorite of the show. But in reality, as crowded as this year’s show was (in fact, it seemed even more crowded, if that's possible), to my eyes it was as smoothly run and drama-free as you could ask for. I’ve long learned to pace myself and not overextend myself at Comic-Con.

A large part of the credit goes to the hard work of the Comic-Con organizers and staff. There's always bound to be hiccups in a show of this size and complexity, but the staff and organizers have years of experience under their belt. They clearly make changes based on the previous year's experience and seem to have the ability to adjust on the fly to snafus that come up. They deserve credit for making the herculean logistical planning seem invisible and effortless.

There's also what the folks over at Comics Beat called the Year of Acceptance:

Instead of complaining about the craziness, attendees, and exhibitors accepted the long waits, surging crowds and tight security. When you have an event that prompts people to sleep outside for two days, you have something that people are desperate to attend–and desperate people do desperate things. Hence the surrender to complicated procedures and lines. The only person who didn’t get it was a drunk Welshman who paid the price.

Even those attending Comic-Con for the first time seem to understand the vibe and go with it. Given the increasing difficulty to purchase an attendee badge, at the end of the day, everyone was simply happy to be there and enjoyed a genuine good time.


The Bottom Line
PhotobucketWhen all was said and done, this Comic-Con turned out to be my most profitable show ever! My earnings were significantly boosted by sales of my original art, which are relatively high-ticket items. Though I don't put an emphasis on selling my art, I frequently receive inquiries and this year sold a record number of pieces for a single show. These included the covers of Rob Hanes Adventures #10 and Adventure Strip Digest #2 (pictured in the photo at right), as well as the original figure art from my booth banner and a Milton Caniff tribute piece that appeared in the 2007 San Diego Comic-Con souvenir program.

In terms of straight comic-book sales, my numbers were actually a bit down from 2010, though still respectable. I suspect this is partly due to the fact that less pure comics fans are able to attend the convention as it becomes more popular to a broader audience. I heard from many longtime attendees—including some readers of my work—who were unable to obtain a badge for the event.

This is borne out by many longtime dealers who reported disappointing sales and have seen sales slide in recent years. Despite the larger crowds, it felt more difficult than previous years to get people to simply stop and look at the book, let alone make a purchase. To put it in sobering perspective, the number of people attending the show nowadays exceeds the top sales figures of most of the best-selling comic-books.

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"The last honest comic-book!"
Nevertheless, I'm glad that the target audience of my book still found me. Like last year, many sales were to people new to the series, who were simply turned on by the art, stories and/or concept. Those types of sales are always gratifying, especially when a customer returned to buy the entire collection after sampling an issue or two early on during the show! One person excitedly told me that I made his day when he found me because this is the first time he had seen me since the 1990s when recalled first seeing me but forgot where my booth was located. He promptly purchased everything and was excited to see I had so many issues out. Another longtime reader (pictured left), exasperated by the continued re-boots and convoluted storylines of many mainstream comic-book series, called Rob Hanes Adventures, “The last honest comic-book!”

As always, fellow industry pros and long-time fans of the series also came by to catch up and say hi. For a change of pace from the usual pictures of people in costume—many of whom I have now photographed several times over the past several years—I made a conscious effort this year to take photos of both new and long-time fans of Rob Hanes Adventures. You'll see their pictures scattered throughout this blog and in my photo gallery.


Taking it to the Street

Although off-site events have been a feature of Comic-Con for years, the 2011 show reached a real critical mass in terms of both official and unofficial Comic-Con related events being held outside the main San Diego Comics Convention.

PhotobucketMany consisted of storefronts, lounges and, in some cases, open air parking lots being used for sponsored parties, promotions, charging stations, etc. Along similar lines, many outlying hotels served as the official headquarters for companies like E! and Entertainment Weekly. The most strange, perhaps, was a storefront in the Gaslamp promoting a Marvel Monster Truck rally event later in the month.

One of the most interesting was Trickster, a sort of creator-run shadow convention held at the San Diego Wine and Culinary Center. The space was free to the public and partly intended to create a safe harbor where comics were the focus and creators—regardless of whether they had badges for the Comic-Con or not—could hang out and mingle more directly with fans.

Of interest to me was the introduction of a food truck area across the street from the convention center. The convention center's food is notorious for being mediocre and expensive—as well as not very diverse in selection—so it was nice to have an alternative food option nearby.


Panels and Programming

I have rarely attended scheduled panels and other programs at Comic-Con anymore because I need to be at my booth to make sales. However, this year, I attended two back-to-back programs on Saturday:  “Is the Comic Book Doomed?”and “Digital Disruption: Comics & Webcomics.”

Industry professional Mark Waid coincidentally served on both panels and embraces digital comics. In the first panel, Waid and several other panelists which included retailers spoke about the viability of the traditional periodical comic-book (often now referred to as “floppies”) versus trade paperbacks and digital comics.

Caniff tribute piece sold at the show. Click here to see the print version with logos
and lettering
In short, no one seems to think the comic-book is going away anytime soon. Indeed, the panelists mentioned the frequent prediction that “comics would be dead in five years” as a popular refrain every year for the past few decades. Though everyone seems to accept that digital comics are here to stay, the fact is that no clear consensus has emerged yet on a common delivery system nor on how to profitably monetize it. The impact of digital comics and declining periodical sales, however, clearly presents a serious challenge to the industry and particularly retailers as periodical sales continue to slide. The ability to launch a successful new small press comic-book like Bone was discussed.

PhotobucketThe panelists on webcomics consisted of just Waid and PVP webcomic cartoonist Scott Kurtz, one of the few cartoonists who has found a way to make a living online. Kurtz came off as incredibly smart and insightful. He not only possesses solid business and marketing skills, he truly understand the differences between the print comics model versus webcomics, and has little patience or sympathy for the dinosaurs in the field among retailers and publishers who do not understand or embrace the digital model.

In brief, the traditional print model of comics has always depended on "scarcity"—with comics being printed in a finite quantity and subject to supply and demand. In contrast, as a digital "cloud" product, webcomics have the capacity to be viewed and shared infinitely without the bottleneck of distribution. In this model, creators have almost no choice than to give away their product for free and depend on the good will and the direct relationship with fans that webcomics affords to create income for the book by buying print collections of the series, making donations, and buying ancillary products. (Kurtz recently also entered into a transparent sponsorship agreement for an upcoming storyline.) Having said that, although what Kurtz has accomplished seems fairly straightforward and transparent, seeing the comic itself as something that should be distributed and given away for free. Yet at the same time, it’s a model that many may find difficult to emulate.

Downloaded publicity photo
Due to the wife and kids, it had been years since I attended any after-hour panels or programming. With the children now older, however, I was able to test the waters on two nights: the first was to attend the Star Wars Fan Film Awards Show on Thursday evening and the Batman: Year One animated DVD adaptation of the seminal Frank Miller/David Mazzuchelli series.

Though I rarely regret missing a panel, I do wish I had attended the Steven Spielberg Tintin presentation. Not only did Peter Jackson join him unannounced, but 10 minutes of footage from the upcoming film were shown. In addition, I learned later that Hall H, the room where the largest presentations are usually shown because it seats 6000 people and is usually impossible to get into, was only about half full! Ah, well, c’est la vie.


The Digital Revolution Continues (?)

Given the announced launch just this year of new digital comics platforms from Dark Horse Comics, DC Comics and Diamond Comics Distribution—joining the ranks of more established digital comics companies like Comixology—digital comics continues to be a potential game-changer. As I noted in last year’s report, though, no clear model has emerged yet for delivering, formatting, and monetizing digital work. I continued to be approached by startups looking for content for their sites. One of the most notable was Spanish cartoonist Pepe Moreno, who I remembered as the artist who wrote and drew Batman: Digital Justice, considered the first digital comic-book back in 1990. (Though I did know of Moreno, he had a copy of the book with him as a calling card. I had recently seen samples of his work at an exhibition of Batman comics work at the San Francisco Museum of Cartoon Art.)

While I recognize the growing importance of digital comics, my focus right now is simply producing my comics, with the digital side more tangential to this effort.


Friends, Family and Celebrities

As always, I had many old friends—and new ones—stop by the booth. As I mentioned above, I made it a point this year to take pictures of many of these friends and fans. Among those I saw was Sergio Aragones (who I seem to always bump into early in the morning during the Wednesday morning setup), Tim Burgard, R.C. Harvey, Anson Jew, Batton Lash, Bill Morrison, Mat Nastos, and Stan Sakai. Special shout outs need to go out to Randy Carter, Don Kelly, Lars, and Tom Stewart.

I was helped as usual by my brother Rod and my longtime buddy/college friend, Bob. My wife and two children also lent a hand—my kids are becoming quite adept at handing out the freebies! I was also fortunate to have as my booth neighbor Robert Wuest, who debuted his terrific new book, Monsters Among Us at the show.

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Actress Alicia Coppola
In terms of the celebrity circuit, perhaps my most significant sighting this year was actor Andy Serkis (Lord of the Rings). While I was having dinner with some friends at a fairly upscale restaurant in the Gaslamp, Serkis walked in and was seated with a small party of companions. (Apparently, Serkis appeared with Spielberg and Jackson at the Tintin panel. Serkis plays Captain Haddock in the film.)

Another sighting was actress Alicia Coppola (pictured at right). Although I’ve only seen her work sporadically in recent years, she made an impression me as the star of a short-lived television drama from 2000 called "Bull"—TNT’s first original television series—that centered around a Wall Street firm. I spotted her as she arrived at a booth—presumably to make a promotional appearance—and snapped this shot.

Also spotted was actor Blake Anderson, one of the leads in Comedy Central’s Workaholics, which I discovered just earlier this year. Anderson was running around the Small Press Area, showing real interest in people’s work. Though he did not stop at my booth, he did linger at certain booths near me.


On to 2012!

It's not clear whether Comic-Con has reached true critical mass, but it's certainly hit a sweet spot in terms of being all things to all people, bringing together under one roof comics, collectibles, television, film, gaming, and other related pursuits. As big as it has become, the show has preserved Comic-Con's tradition of starry-eyed excitement, providing a direct connection between fans and the creators that's always been a hallmark of Comic-Con and the many comic-book conventions that have followed in its footsteps.

Yes, I miss in the "good old days" when almost everyone who attended was there looking for cool new comics. But as long as Comic-Con retains its spirit of fannishness and fun, it's hard to begrudge its growth and desire to invite everyone to the party.


Full photo galleries:
Other Comic-Con coverage:



From the photo galleries:


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Comics historian and cartoonist R.C. Harvey

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Batton Lash
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Booth neighbor Rob Wuest

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Another line at Comic-Con

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Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Comic-Con Report Preview...

Fangirls showing their love for ROB HANES ADVENTURES!
Well another Comic-Con is in the books! When all was said and done, this year’s show turned out to be my most profitable ever, with the bottom line  boosted significantly by sales of my original art—the most I’ve ever made in a single show!

I saw a few celebs (the most exciting being the Lord of the Rings’ Andy Serkis, who came into the restaurant with a small party where I was having dinner); spoke with several companies looking for content for digital comics projects; and for the first time in years actually attended some late night programs (the Star Wars fan films festival and the world premiere of the animated DVD film adaptation of Frank Miller’s seminal Batman: Year One series).

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Dorothy Michaels, we're ready for your closeup!
On the downside, the increasing popularity of Comic-Con has made it more difficult than ever for people to get in.  Many longtime attendees—including some readers of my work—were unable to score a badge for the event. The proportion of real comic-book fans who attend the convention seems to have dwindled in recent years, which translates into less people interested in buying comics. This was reflected by the lower sales many comic-book dealers reported. Though my sales of original art boosted the bottom line, sales of my own comics were a bit down from last year as well. So even as attendance has soared, longtime comic-book dealers who have exhibited at Comic-Con for years (some for decades) have seen their sales slowly decline.

But this is all behind-the-scenes drama: everyone who attended was genuinely happy to be there and the personal interaction that fans can have with their favorite comic-book creators—not to mention the actors, writers and producers of their favorite games, television show, and movies—is what makes the San Diego Comic-Con experience unique.

I’m still in the process of organizing my photo gallery and putting together a more in-depth report for this year’s show. For now though, here’s a taste of some of the pics from this year’s show....

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Ready to hop aboard the Comic-Con express!

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Open for business


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Line outside the convention center

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All exhibitors were tagged for the show with these non-removable wristbands.
This is my brother and me.
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Calm before the storm....
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Another day at Comic-Con

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Hobbit boy and Mom
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Another satisfied customer!
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Onward, Patsy!
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Tintin maquette figures at the WETA Digital booth

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Tintin book display

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Photo op


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Original art by the late Alex Toth—why we're here!
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Waiting for Boba Fett to pick up his cargo...
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Dressed as the Spirit (see below)

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Row of limos for Comic-Con parties at the Hard Rock—I'm pretty certain these
weren't for the cartoonists!
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Who's keeping an eye on Gotham?

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Just your friendly neighborhood Spider-Man!
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Where's Waldo?
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THERE'S Waldo!

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Another day at Comic-Con
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No, I have no idea what this is about!
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Breaking down after the show—this is less than an hour after closing!
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Dealers waiting for the elevator with their product after the show —
I carried my stuff down the stairs!