Sunday, June 29, 2008

Wizard World Chicago: My legs hurt, year two

So my big event for the weekend was hanging out in a large room full of strange people, bizarre costumes, rampant commercialism, endless hype, and some pretty awesome art. It was fun; one of these years I'm going to have to go to San Diego and get the full experience.

Being more of an indie comics fan than a mainstream suckler at the "big two" teat, I didn't spend too much time messing around with the programming or the giant displays from Marvel and DC. I did catch the last half of a Vertigo panel featuring Brian Azzarello, and there was some interesting discussion which probably stated nothing new. Azzarello talked about his writing process, which is surprisingly non-descriptive. His least favorite part of writing is giving art directions, so the scripts have little beyond the dialogue, leaving most of the art choices up to the artists. If you ask me, that works great with a talent like Eduardo Risso, but I don't know if, say, Jim Lee would do too well working in that style. When asked about how satisfied he was with the ending of Loveless (and what would have happened if he had been able to continue the series), Azzarello said he was very comfortable with the final issue being the last issue, although he wouldn't say what would have happened next, since the possibility of a follow-up still remained. I guess that means fans should encourage people to buy copies of the trades; I know I wouldn't mind reading the remainder of the series after I stopped buying it around issue #10. Azzarello is also apparently working on a Joker book with Lee Bermejo, but I missed any discussion of it. He did say one funny thing though, when comparing artists that he has worked with. Unlike Risso, "Lee couldn't do 100 Bullets. Lee could do six bullets." I thought that was funny. Skipping some talk of Batman (it's a Vertigo panel, people), that was pretty much it. Here's a not-very-good photograph:

The other panel I attended was about digital artists, and featured discussion among (from left to right in the photo below) Adi Granov, Greg Horn, Alex Maleev, and Freddie Williams II:

It was an interesting discussion, often due to the participants' chafing at the perception of digital art as somehow "cheating". Myself, I would agree; while "digital art" might have meant rubbery characters and lots of lens flares five or six years ago, computers have become an essential tool, capable of turning out some incredible work, especially when coloring "traditional" comics artwork. Of the group, I generally like all of the artists except Greg Horn, who kind of made an ass of himself here, mostly by talking about how photoreferencing can sometimes make characters look stiff. I thought this was hilarious, since posed stiffness is kind of the name of his game. That and ridiculous sexiness, which I suddenly understood when he said that his background was in airbrush art, as in stuff painted on the side of cars. Now it all makes sense; I can totally see any of his overly sexy Elektra or White Queen covers painted on the side of a van. I'm probably being a bit hard on him, since I do think he can do good work, as in a lot of his She-Hulk covers, but he seems to focus on horniness and little else.

Anyway, there was still some interesting talk about techniques, including Maleev's troubles with trying to print colors over a scanned line drawing. I find that sort of thing fascinating, and I've seen plenty of step-by-step online tutorials on Photoshop coloring, so I know it's not like they just press a button and make some artwork, which is what they said people think they do. As Granov said, and the others agreed, it all comes down to whether the art looks good or not.

Granov and Williams were interesting participants as well. The former said he was surprised he was asked to be included, since he does about 75% of his work on paper before using a computer at all. That was a surprise, since his work has a very digital "look" to it. Williams, on the other hand, said he does almost exactly the opposite, working on the computer for most of the process before printing out the results and adding some tweaks by hand. That was also a surprise; his art doesn't look "computery" at all. All of the participants agreed that the biggest drawback of working digitally was that there was no original art, the sale of which is a good source of income. Granov's method helps in this aspect, and the others said they did try to at least do some preliminary work on paper so that they would have something to sell. Hey, you gotta pay the bills.

All in all, it was a pretty interesting panel, and I'm sure there was plenty more interesting stuff that I forgot about. And while that was fun, I was really more interested in spending time checking out the booths in Artists' Alley and talking to creators. So that's what I spent a lot of my time doing. I made some good contacts, and hopefully I'll be able to interview several of them, either here or for IndiePulp.

One thing I thought would be cool to do would be a theme sketchbook, like Sean T. Collins' David Bowie sketchbook, or Eric Reynolds' TMNT collection. I decided I would do one with a Groo theme, since Sergio Aragon├ęs ' Groo the Wanderer is one of my all-time favorite comics. The results can be seen here, and I'm so stoked that I got so many great artists to contribute. I'll have to keep it going at any other shows I manage to attend. I think my favorite one so far is Ryan Kelly's, since I totally didn't see it coming.

The Top Shelf booth held a plethora of talent, and I spent a long time talking to Matt Kindt, creator of Super Spy, my favorite comic of 2007:

He's a cool guy (and the first to draw Groo for me!), and he seems really excited to be doing his comics. He has some follow-ups to Super Spy in the pipes, starting with Super Natural, which is set in the 50s and deals with ghosts and paranormal stuff. Then the "super" trilogy will be rounded out by Super Computer, a sci-fi-themed book set in the 60s. These books will feature recurring characters from Super Spy, and there will be kind of a throughline throughout the three of them. I can't wait to read them; they sound awesome. Kindt also autographed my copy of Super Spy and did a neat sketch inside:

And I bought a sweet page of original art from Super Spy:

Also at the Top Shelf booth, I bought the latest Owly volume for my wife. As I confessed to creator Andy Runton, I'm not really a fan, not because I think it's bad or anything, but it's just too, I don't know, cute and sweet for me. But my wife loves it. He said that's something that has actually worked out quite well for him, since he ends up at shows where guys have dragged their uninterested girlfriends, who end up finding Owly and becoming fans. Here's the sketch he did for my wife in the book:

Alex Robinson was also at the booth, and I picked up Too Cool To Be Forgotten, which I didn't realize wasn't out in stores yet. So watch for a "pre-release" review! I didn't really get a chance to talk to him much, but he did do a nice sketch in the book:

And he was giving away candy cigarettes, so I took a picture of myself "smoking" one:

Over in Artists' Alley proper, I talked to Nathan Fox, possibly my favorite new artist that I've discovered in the last couple years:

His big bit of news was the upcoming Free the Gene (that's a Flash-heavy website with noisy sound, so you might want to check out the MySpace page instead), a graphic novel written by M.K. Wilson which will be published the September issue of Heavy Metal. Looks like I'll be taking the plunge and buying my first issue of that magazine. Fox said it was uncensored, and they weren't just using that as a buzzword to get attention. I can't wait to check it out.

Next up was Christopher Mitten, artist of Wasteland:

He's a cool guy (who, it turns out, lives a couple suburbs away from me), and he had pages of original art on sale for cheap, so I picked one up for a steal. It was the one that I really liked when I reviewed the second volume, so I was pretty stoked to obtain it. Check it out:

Mitten also had some art on display from the upcoming Tori Amos anthology, Comic Book Tattoo. It was some really nice-looking work, much more soft-edged than his rough art on Wasteland and featuring some nice watercolors. It's a great departure for Mitten, one which displays the range of which he is capable.

I said hi to Joshua Hagler, creator of The Boy Who Made Silence:

That's such an incredible indie book that I try to mention it whenever I can in hopes that more people will check it out. He gave me a nice poster, which I've already hung up on my wall:

I asked him about the length of the series, and he said the first volume will be six issues, with a second volume soon to follow. It's a big story, with a lot to tell, so he is definitely going to keep working on it. I'm impressed at how regularly it has been coming out, so hopefully he will be able to keep going at a steady pace and get the work out there. It certainly deserves to be seen.

I briefly talked to Geof Darrow, who had a cute little "assistant manager" accompanying him at his booth. While I was right there, I saw him draw a dinosaur in a sketchbook for a kid and a sketch of some sort on a balloon for another. It's cool that kids like his stuff, but I don't know if I would show it to them, since it's often so violent and gory. I bought a Shaolin Cowboy print from him, and queried as to when the next issue would come out. "Soon," he said. Here's the print (already on my wall), and be sure to note the shark sketch in the lower right corner:

I made sure to talk to Chris Burnham, the artist of the Joe Casey-written graphic novel Nixon's Pals:

He's another up-and-comer, and he has a cool, lumpy art style that I dig. I'll have to try to pick up the most recent issue of Fear Agent, since he illustrated a backup story for that. And he has a story in an upcoming volume of the Popgun anthology (he thinks it will be in volume 3; volume 2 is scheduled to come out in July). I'll be watching for anything else he does too.

Zander Cannon was another great guy to talk to:

I spent a long time discussing all the cool details that he stuck in the backgrounds of the Alan Moore-written miniseries Smax. I had heard about his upcoming Top 10 series with Gene Ha, but I didn't realize it would be out so soon; he said it is scheduled to appear in September (I think). Cannon is scripting and providing layouts, with Ha doing finished art. He had some of those layout pages on display, and they looked nice, but I can't wait to see what Ha does with them.

Other artists I spoke to included Gene Ha, who confirmed that the Authority series he was doing with Grant Morrison is pretty much dead, mostly due to Morrison's unhappiness with the poor reaction the first issue received from fans. That's too bad; I was curious to see where it was going, and Ha was doing some amazing artwork.

Chuck BB said the next volume of Black Metal should be out around December. Dean Trippe expressed some annoyance that he wasn't invited to participate in the panel about superhero costume design; he is the head of Project Rooftop, after all. Carla Speed McNeil said she had no plans to do any more work with Warren Ellis, but she thinks he's put a lot of the impulses from their collaboration Frank Ironwine into Fell. I hope he continues to do so, since we haven't seen a new issue of Fell for a while. Spike said that the second print volume of Templar, AZ should be out in July (look for a review here soon!).

And that's pretty much all I have to report, for right now. I'll have another post up later this week in which I talk about some of the comics and minicomics I picked up at the con, or some of the lesser-known artists that I think deserve some attention. So stay tuned for that. In the meantime, feel free to check out my other photos from the convention, including some silly costumed people. I always find it amusing to take pictures not when the person is doing some dramatic pose, but when they're eating a hot dog or something. So that's why there are some weird pictures of flamboyantly-dressed folks just hanging around. I think my favorite is the middle-aged guy dressed as Obi-Wan Kenobi standing around and drinking a Pepsi. Enjoy!