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    • Flesh of my Flesh: The Follow-up Interview September 25, 2015
      Hello Ghouls and Boils, I know… it has been a while. This year has been a trying one for me and I have been dealing with some “real life” stuff…  scarier than anything I post here. I apologize for our absence. But it was brief this time. Now that “real life” is levelling out, we are […]
      Sarah L. Gerhardt
    • Now available: The Lovecraft eZine 2014 Megapack! August 10, 2015
      Hello Ghouls and Boils, So for the brief week off. But I had a case of life. I was on a bit of a mission and it went quite swimmingly. But fear not wicked ones. I am still here to bring you the strange and spooky! Today we have some news from a wonderful ezine […]
      Sarah L. Gerhardt
    • A Conversation With Craig Yoe August 1, 2015
      Hello Ghouls and Boils, Today I was fortunate enough to sit and have a chat with the wonderfully fascinating creative genius, Craig Yoe. Craig and I met at HeroesCon this summer when he accepted an award at The Inkwells on Steve Ditko‘s behalf (sort of). I was beyond thrilled when this incredible talent agreed to […]
      Sarah L. Gerhardt
    • Flesh of my Flesh —- The Review! July 29, 2015
      Hello Ghouls and Boils, It is day seven of Flesh of my Flesh week! FomF was a zombie movie filmed here in Portland, OR. Please check out Tuesday’s interview to hear about it’s inception and long awaited release from the Writer/Director – Edward Martin III – of the film, Wednesday’s article written by yours truly, and Thursday’s interview with Sean Strauss […]
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    • Flesh of my Flesh: Interview (/Happy-Hour) With Actress Tara Walker July 28, 2015
      Hello Ghouls and Boils, It is day six of Flesh of my Flesh week! FomF was a zombie movie filmed here in Portland, OR. Please check out Tuesday’s interview to hear about it’s inception and long awaited release from the Writer/Director –Edward Martin III – of the film, Wednesday’s article written by yours truly, and Thursday’s interview with Sean Strauss – […]
      Sarah L. Gerhardt
    • Flesh of my Flesh: An Interview With Director of Photography Ryan K. Johnson July 27, 2015
      Hello Ghouls and Boils, It is day five of Flesh of my Flesh week! FomF was a zombie movie filmed here in Portland, OR. Please check out Tuesday’s interview to hear about it’s inception and long awaited release from the Writer/Director – Edward Martin II – of the film, Wednesday’s article written by yours truly, and Thursday’s interview with Sean […]
      Sarah L. Gerhardt
    • Flesh of my Flesh – Zombies Need Love Too July 25, 2015
      Hello Ghouls and Boils, It is day four of Flesh of my Flesh week! FomF was a zombie movie filmed here in Portland, OR. Please check out Tuesday’s interview to hear about it’s inception and long awaited release from the Writer/Director – Edward Martin III – of the film, Wednesday’s article written by yours truly, and yesterday’s interview […]
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    • Flesh of my Flesh – An Interview With Documentarian and Location Manager Sean Strauss July 24, 2015
      Hello Ghouls and Boils, It is day three of Flesh of my Flesh week! FomF was a zombie movie filmed here in Portland, OR. Please check out Tuesday’s interview to hear about it’s inception and long awaited release from the Writer/Director of the film and yesterday’s article written by yours truly!  Today we will be talking with […]
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    • Flesh of my Flesh – Through The Eyes of the 2nd Assistant Director – Madness, Mayhem, and Love July 23, 2015
      Hello Ghouls and Boils, Welcome to day two of Flesh of my Flesh week! FomF was a zombie movie filmed here in Portland, OR. Please check out yesterday’s interview to hear about it’s inception and long awaited release from the Writer/Director of the film.  Today you get to hear me ramble on about my time on the set. […]
      Sarah L. Gerhardt
    • Flesh of my Flesh – An Interview With Writer/Director Edward Martin III July 21, 2015
      Hello Ghouls and Boils, Those of you who know me personally and professionally have probably at one time or another been regaled with the stories of my time on the Flesh of my Flesh movie set. For those who are not aware, I was 2nd Assistant Director (amongst other things) of a feature film shot […]
      Sarah L. Gerhardt

Heroes Convention 2011

Hello Ghouls and Boils,

We’re thrilled to bring you a report from Heroes Convention 2011. The convention happens every year (sometime in June) here in Charlotte, NC. You will see the con from four different viewpoints. We will talk about everything from tips and panels to exhibitors and creators. There are a ton of photos and several videos. As always – Enjoy my fiends!

Abstrusely,
Sarah L. Covert

One of us, one of us: being a parent at a Con.

I’ve been a (step)parent at conventions for roughly a decade. I’ve taken my young ladies to gaming conventions like Gen Con, and have taken my youngest, Aubry, to two Heroes Cons. I’d like to share some tips, tricks and recommendations for parents at cons. I’d also like to offer some ideas on what cons can do better for parents. And if you’re reading this and thinking this doesn’t need to addressed, you better think about where the next generation of geeks are going to come from to keep the stuff going. Also, maybe this article will cause some of you in the comic/gaming world to rethink your behavior at cons. Yes, I’m talking to you, Navy guy who asked my fourteen year old early developer if she’d ever seen La Blue Girl.

TIPS FOR CON PARENTS

1) Bring Food. I can’t stress this one enough. Little mouths get bored and air conditioners in halls can only fight so much body heat.  So preparing for this ahead of time will make things better for all. Plus, convention halls obscenely overcharge. I know they’re supposed to make money, but if they’d lower the prices, maybe they’d get more. If’ I’m paying eight bucks for a  burger, it better come with a DVD.

2) Plan your day. Children do better with structure, so having a plan of attack for the day will help things immensely. There is a cliché about those who fail to plan, plan to fail — but it’s so true. You can always change them, but knowing when and where you’ll be trying to drool over some guy from DS9 helps.

3) Do things just for them. You may be into Spawn and zombie comics, but chances are your little girl will not be. So find artists or games that are kid friendly. You’ll show her that your world and hobbies are  fun, and you might just meet some artists or people you’d never get into. I’d lost track of Evan Dorkin for years, but he’d done a cartoon on Yo Gabba Gabba, a kids show. He gave a drawing to my daughter, and was a really nice guy, who just happened to be sitting next to the guy who does Owly [Andy Runton], which my daughter loved. So you never know.

4) Take Breaks. You may be a muy macho con ninja, who can sit for hours on end. Your kids are not. Be aware of this. Yes, you will not be able to sit through twelve hours of panels. But in the long run, both your kids and your bladder may thank you if you don’t.

5) Be a Parent. This tip isn’t so much for your benefit, as much for everyone else.  Don’t leave your kids alone if they’re not with responsible adults. If they’re older, have agreed meeting times and be aware of where they’re at. You’d think this would be common sense, but it isn’t. If you think it’s OK to let your eight year old wander a con floor without supervision, or leave them in some seminar by themselves at six just so you can go play Magic, do me a favor and stay home, ok?

TIPS FOR CONS TO GET AND KEEP PARENTS

1) Kids Events. I wish every con would do this, but it’s amazing how many don’t. Even family friendly cons like Heroes Con don’t list ages for events, or make some events kid specific. I wish they would. Maybe if Marvel and DC had to explain their continuity to more six year olds, they’d put out less ridiculous world altering events every year.

2) Con Suite. I know a lot of convention halls might have reservations about having meeting rooms with food and such, but I’m willing to bet most cons could do it better and cheaper than the food service mafia that are in those places.

3. Be aware of what’s being sold and where. One of the things I love about Heroes Con is  that it is family friendly, and tends to not have the silicon enhanced Bootharellas running around. There also isn’t a whole lot of adult material being flung around without warning.  Now if Shelton could only teach other cons about that…

4. Day passes to the floor. I know this might be a pain, but there really needs to be a pricing change at most large cons, be they gaming, sci-fi or comics. There needs to be a cheap rate where new people can just buy a cheap ticket and come in and see what the hobby/fun is all about. Don’t let them into panels or games or separate events, but give them a taste. First hit’s almost free, but then let them get into it.

Trevor Curtis, Minion (Reporter/Reviewer/Columnist)

Author S.L. Schmitz Discusses the Wonders of Heroes Con Through Her Son’s Eyes

My favorite photograph from HeroesCon 2011 in Charlotte, North Carolina was a spur-of-the moment gathering of three iconic masters from the comics industry – Bernie Wrightson, Steve Niles, and Scott Hampton – and the bright, smiling face of my own five year son, John Henry.

We had just finished listening to the collaborative panel discussion given by Niles (30 Days of Night) and Wrightson (Swamp Thing). Well, I had listened. John Henry spent his time quietly playing with his newly acquired Star Wars toys in the back of the room. The panel had been made even more interesting by the appearance of the famous artist Scott Hampton, who added humor to the discussion and spontaneously joined the other two artists at the table. People were standing up and making their way to the front of the room where several books were on sale, and the artists were laughing and chatting with each other and waiting for the book signing to begin.

I asked the three men if they would be willing to take a group picture with Superman (AKA John Henry in his Superman T-shirt and cape). All three of them got the biggest smiles on their faces – genuine smiles, not that fake un-smile stuff. They were so kind and approachable, and as a Mom I got this warm fuzzy feeling that they loved the idea of taking a picture with a little kid. These men, both collectively and individually, were creators of some of the most beloved stories, characters, and artwork in the comic world today – and I knew that when they looked at the eager face of my five-year old, they were seeing more than just a kid in a costume. They were seeing themselves, and their fans, and the future generation of comics lovers all rolled up into one smiling little boy.

John Henry went to Niles, and they all gathered around to take the picture – and then all three men just looked at each other and bent down to be closer to a five-year old’s height. Niles pulled John Henry onto his lap, and I took the picture. It came out great.

That night, when it was time for bedtime stories, I asked what he wanted me to read. I was assuming he would pick one of the Batman or Iron Man comic books we had bought that day. But John Henry pulled Wrightson’s gorgeous hard cover of Frankenstein onto his lap and opened up the pages to look at one of the ink portraits. “That man today, the one who was talking. He made this?”

“He drew the pictures. The story is very old,” I replied.

“I want to read this,” he said, pointing to Mary Shelley’s immortal words next to a drawing of Wrightson’s monster.

There is magic in the written word and the illustrated picture. Put the two together, and the magic weaves an even stronger spell. A little bit of magic came home with us that night from HeroesCon, and I am very glad that we went!

Stephanie Schmitz, Guest Minion (Reporter)

 

 

Let It Bleed is available in both E-book and soft cover through Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and Smashwords.  S.L. Schmitz lives in North Carolina, and spends her days chasing a five-year old and keeping 4 felines happy.

Henry Covert Reports on Panels and More!

HeroesCon 2011 was exciting, exhilarating, and exhausting. Through Minion ailments,  camera malfunctions, and fruitless searches for some key interviewees, the She Never Slept crew nevertheless had an amazing time. I managed to attend eight panels in three days and drop by a couple more. Two of the eight I attended with wife and SNS Overlord Sarah L. Covert, who covers those (the Inkwell Awards event and the Bernie Wrightson/ Steve Niles panel) elsewhere in this convention report.

Here’s the breakdown on the six panels I attended solo. I can divide the six panels into two areas: three panels spotlighted towering legends of the comics field; and the other half served as “how to’s” for aspiring comics creators.

The Art of Akira

The first creator whose legendary work was covered in a panel was Katsuhiro Otomo, in “The Art of Akira”, held at 12:30 pm on Friday.  Joe Peacock was the speaker and is considered “the foremost North American expert on Akira”.  Joe’s collection of art from the film Akira includes animation cels, design sketches, and architectural layouts of Akira’s 2019 post-apocalyptic world. Joe has set out to “to expose as many people as possible to the brilliance of Akira”.

Joe’s Akira collection began with one cel in 1989 and, in 22 years, he has amassed the largest collection of Akira-related art in the world. Joe’s interest in animation began when he watched Robotech, an amalgamate of three chapters of Japan’s Macross saga dubbed into English. Robotech was put together by Carl Macek, who, with Jerry Beck, formed their company Streamline Pictures. Streamline never really made any profits despite their productions’ popularity. Macek and Beck began dubbing and releasing anime feature films such as Twilight of the Cockroaches.

Streamline decided to dub and release Akira. By that time, Akira had sold over one million copies in North American bootlegs. Akira was a massive hit, and became Japan’s biggest anime export. Macek began rescuing Akira animation cels from incineration (a previously standard practice) and Streamline released a catalog, The Art of Akira, with key scenes.

Joe calls Akira “the Citizen Kane of animated film”, and that Akira “bridged the gap” between western and eastern cultures in its storytelling. Akira featured unconventional storytelling – Kaneda, our “hero” is “kind of a jerk”. Tetsuo is not a villain; he was a kid who “got a little power and got carried away”. The Colonel is Joe’s favorite character. He goes from seemingly villainous to almost a savior by the end of the film.

Joe shared many interesting technical details to elaborate on just how groundbreaking Akira was. Akira was shot in 70mm Cinemascope. All of the animation was done by hand. Akira was drawn largely by architects rather than artists. Everything that looks digital is actually airbrushed. Akira used more cels by far than any animated film before or since, with each anime cel measuring 11” x 14” and specially cut cels to create certain angles when juxtaposed. The entire Akira collection yields 350,000 pieces of art in five color palates and in 316 colors. All of the voice actors were recorded before any animation was created. Otomo wanted every mouth movement to exactly match the voices. Otomo himself hand drew every cel for one scene – that of Tetsuo’s MRI.

Joe put together a YouTube short, “Why Akira Matters”:

“The Art of Akira” was also set up as an exhibit in the dealers’ room. “The Art of Akira” will be willed to a museum when Joe Peacock passes away so that it can remain together as one collection.

Nick Cardy – A Golden Artist in a Silver Age

 

The next panel I tackled that was devoted to a legendary artist was “Nick Cardy – A Golden Artist in a Silver Age” on Friday at 2 pm. This panel also featured writer Todd Dezago, artists Cully Hamner and Adam Hughes, with panel moderator John Coates. Nick Cardy’s life and work were covered, mostly by Mr. Cardy himself. At 91, Nick is gregarious and quite a raconteur. His energy and enthusiasm easily outstripped that of everyone else on the panel.

Nick Cardy was born in 1919 in New York City and began working in comics in 1939. He worked for Jerry Iger’s studio under Iger and Will Eisner, where he did the strip Lady Luck with Bob Powell. Nick then decamped to Fiction House and subsequently went off to World War II. In the late 40s Nick worked on (and like) Gangbusters, and in 1948, he joined DC for many years. He handled many back-up strips for other books, notably in The House of Mystery. Nick worked on Tarzan and on Congo Bill, and on both, he painstakingly researched the animals and the jungle settings for verisimilitude, which, as he put it, “drove the other artists and editors crazy”. Then, he took over the book he is perhaps best known for, The Teen Titans.

Nick soon took over Aquaman also, with Bob Haney (The Brave and the Bold) writing. Nick introduced a cinematic panel flow to the book. After doing Teen Titans and Aquaman simultaneously for a time, Nick related, he asked for a raise but to no avail. Teen Titans # 13 thus was intended to be Nick’s final issue for DC, but everyone involved relented, and he continued a healthy run, churning out a slew of gorgeous covers for his own titles, and books like House of Mystery, Unexpected, and Brave and the Bold. Nick mapped out many covers with artist/ editor Carmine Infantino, and Nick became the first artist, after Will Eisner, to integrate a book’s logo into its cover art (Aquaman # 42 being a striking example). Nick described how he lays out a cover, forcing the reader’s eye around and through the images.

A slideshow of classic Cardy covers was screened. Chosen for display were some of his more dynamic (and all of his covers were dynamic) and noteworthy covers, as well as some of his own favourites. Nick discussed the covers on display, coached at times by Todd Dezago and  John Coates. Pictured here are some of these standout covers.

The eye-popping cover for Teen Titans # 23 heralded Donna Troy’s new Wonder Girl costume, while The Brave and the Bold # 91 boasted a terrific cover of Batman and the Black Canary (the latter in a very glamorous – albeit helpless – pose). Two of Nick’s favourite covers were to Brave and the Bold # 92, featuring Batman and the short-lived Bat-Squad (Nick loves the atmosphere of that cover); and Detective # 436 featuring an awesome and iconic Batman illustration. Another of Nick’s favorite Teen Titan covers is for TT # 42, designed to draw the reader’s eye (along with the Titans) into the maw of an ominous death’s-head icon.

An anomaly among the covers shown was one for Marvel, where Nick did little work over the years. For Marvel, he’s mainly known for his wonderful series of covers for Crazy magazine, a Cracked knock-off specializing in acidic send-ups of pop-culture heroes of the day. The cover to issue # 8 of Crazy was displayed in the cover gallery, and featured a take-off on Serpico. Nick noted that Serpico is being arrested by a fellow police officer because he’s mistaken for a hippy criminal – a scenario that does in fact occur in the film Serpico.

Nick discussed his many influences with the audience. He cited Degas, Toulousse-Lautrec, van Dyck, and the impressionists as early influences, followed by many fine line artists who worked in the 1930s and forties. Nick said the big influences on artists coming up in his era were Hal Foster, Alex Raymond, Noel Sickles, and “that guy… Kirby, what’s his name… Jack Kirby”, he said to much laughter. Nick said that in recent years he liked and admired the line quality of an artist influenced heavily by Gustav Klimt (another Cardy favourite) whose name Nick could not recall. I ventured a guess that it was Bill Sienkiewicz but was quickly shot down by two audience members before Nick could hear me. Why this happened I have no idea.

On the matter of influences Nick said, “There are no original artists; all artists are influenced by someone else” and on other artists one admires: “Anyone can tell you you’re great but when an artist you like tells you you’re great it’s really great”.

Nick Cardy regaled us with stories and wisdom, filled with good humour, great humility and a seemingly inexhaustible well of knowledge about art in general and about his chosen art form, the comic book. Nick is one of the last of a dying breed, and should be treasured as long as he is with us.

Moebius: The Master of Screaming Metal

The last of the trifecta of legends I covered was Moebius (born Jean Giraud, or “Gir”). On Saturday at 3:15 “Moebius: The Master of Screaming Metal” panel convened and lasted a healthy two hours. The panel was moderated by Craig Fischer, and attendance was fair. First, “Moebius Redux: A Life in Pictures”, a 70 minute documentary by Hasko Baumann about Moebius’s life and career, was screened.

Trailer:

Opening:

This amazing documentary covers Jean “Moebius” Giraud’s life and work. It traces his career from his early work for the French comic magazine Pilote to his work as “Gir” on the classic Western strip Blueberry, written by Jean-Pierre Charlier, who wrote 23 installments of Blueberry for Moebius until his death in 1989 (Fischer dedicated the panel to Charlier). Moebius’ life unfolds through a series of interviews with collaborators Alejandro Jodorowsky, Philipe Druillet, HR Giger, Dan O’Bannon, Stan Lee, and Enki Bilal; artistic admirers Jim Lee and Mike Mignola; and Moebius himself.

Moebius’ earliest major collaborator after Charlier was Druillet. They co-founded the imprint Les Humanoids and the magazine Métal Hurlant in 1974. Métal Hurlant (translated as “screaming metal”) became an international hit, and, in English speaking countries, became known as Heavy Metal. Notable Moebius stories for Métal Hurlant during this time were “La Deviation” and “Arzach”, which he continued for many years. Druillet contributed a remarkable story to Métal Hurlant in 1976: “La Nuit”, in which Druillet worked through the anguish of his wife’s death, something Druillet has said that no one had dared to do before then. Shortly thereafter, Giraud and Druillet parted.

In 1975, filmmaker Jodorowsky (El Topo, Holy Mountain) enlisted Moebius for his production of Frank Herbert‘s Dune. Jodorowsky enlisted an amazing pool of talent for Dune, among them: screenwriter/ special effects man Dan O’Bannon (Dark Star), artists HR Giger, Ron Cobb and Chris Foss, and actors Orson Welles, Charlotte Rampling, David Carradine, and Salvador Dali. This amazing project ultimately fell through when key funding was withdrawn, but the main crew, sans Jodorowsky, remained together to create Alien. Giger loved working with Moebius, and said: “Moebius can draw like a machine – he was a robot.”

O’Bannon wrote Alien, and Moebius, Giger, Cobb, and Foss all contributed design work to the film. Moebius did further work in Hollywood, notably on Tron. O’Bannon and Moebius collaborated on a story for Heavy Metal, “The Long Tomorrow”. The ever charitable O’Bannon states that Ridley Scott (who directed Alien)  “borrowed” the cityscapes and look of “The Long Tomorrow” for Scott’s subsequent film Blade Runner, and a side-by-side comparison is most revealing. Moebius expanded on some of his visual ideas from his collaboration with O’Bannon into The Incal, written by Jodorowsky, who has described Moebius’ work as “magic” and “shamanic”.

In 1978 Jean Giraud joined a metaphysical cult of sorts, the IOS, led by a man called Appel-Guery, and was affiliated with them for several years, finally leaving the group after he made contact with “evil beings”. In 1988 Moebius embarked on a wholly different kind of metaphysical work: he illustrated “Parable” a Silver Surfer graphic novel written by Surfer co-creator Stan Lee, who famously depicted the Surfer as a philosophical, angst-ridden alien being with ambivalent feelings about Earth. Some were puzzled that Moebius would tackle a Marvel superhero, albeit an atypical one. Stan Lee said that he would place Moebius “above most comic book artists” and remains in awe of Moebius’ ability.

Around this time, Moebius’s first marriage broke up, and, in 1989, Charlier passed away. Moebius wrote some subsequent Blueberry strips himself, and many fans were ambivalent about Blueberry as drawn by “Moebius” rather than as “Gir”. “Moebius Redux” ends where it opened, with Jean “Moebius” Giraud winning awards and drawing for fans at the 2006Angouleme International Comics Festival.

After the film, Geof Darrow, a cult comics artist in his own right (best known for Frank Miller’s Hard Boiled) and friend and associate of Moebius’ spoke for awhile. They became friends in 1979 and darrow assisted Moebius on Tron. Moebius got Darrow into Heavy Metal, but drifted away from Darrow during Moebius’ time in the IOS sect, who wouldn’t let Moebius “draw anything primitive”. Moebius and Darrow collaborated on City of Fire. Darrow said that Moebius’ fine line style was heavily indebted to Hergé and to Robert Crumb, both of whom Moebius was a huge fan of.

Darrow discussed Jodorowsky, whom he says he knows well; and Jean-Claude Mezieres, known for his strip Valerian, which, Darrow avers, George Lucas borrowed heavily for for Star Wars. Mezieres worked with Moebius on the conceptual design work for Luc Besson’s film The Fifth Element. Darrow claims Moebius’ early work was inspired by a combination of U.S. underground comics and Mexican hallucinogenic drugs. Darrow also says that “The Long Tomorrow” was definitely swiped for Blade Runner and also influenced the look of the cyberpunk genre.

The somewhat cynical lesson Darrow imparts to the audience that he learned from associating with Jean Giraud is that the way to get into comics is to “hook yourself” onto someone else and befriend them.

Craig Fischer initially intended to speak at length about Blueberry (he even baked a blueberry cake for the occasion!), but Geof Darrow ran so overlong with his stories of hanging out with Moebius that Fischer was left with roughly 15 minutes, which he used well. Fischer questioned the distinctions fans and critics usually make between Moebius’s eras and styles, i.e. he doesn’t believe there is a definite “Moebius style”, “Gir style” or “Jean Giraud style”, but that his work feeds into itself and there is overlap between eras, an “interpenetration” of styles, as Fischer puts it.

And that was it for my time admiring the work of three living legends; next is my coverage of three panels I attended over the weekend that dealt with “how to” aspects of comics.

Visualizing Writing

The first of these was on Saturday at 10:30 am. “Visualizing Writing” was hosted by Anthony Fisher, chairman of the sequential art department at SCAD (Savannah College of Art and Design). Fisher spoke to decent-sized group about the key elements of visual storytelling. His credo was “show don’t tell”.

Fisher exhorted aspiring comics creators to “visualize yourself in the story” and asked “how do we relate to the characters’ emotions?” Fisher pointed out (obviously) that comics are a visual art form and through a series of slides, he went over bullet points such as “the emotional state is visual”, “emotions are visual” and “don’t double up” (meaning, don’t let your words simply duplicate your images).

Fisher worked on points such as: predicting the story; emotional categorization based on duration; and “giving them just enough to want more” to move a story forward. And, of course, once more, “show don’t tell”. This was an interesting panel and geared towards a beginner to intermediate level comic artist and/ or writer.

Designing Comics

On Saturday at 1:30 pm, I attended “Designing Comics”, a panel of five artists who discussed design elements of comics – covers, color, graphics, communicating ideas, and so on. While this was an interesting topic, and was by far the most heavily attended panel I attended at the con, it was presented very dryly, with a poor set-up (no podium, no moderator, nervous speakers). Making it through this panel was more challenging than the cutting-edge design techniques discussed.

WEB COMICS – Group Effort

On a brighter note, Sunday morning at 11:30 am, I attended “WEB COMICS – Group Effort”, a panel sparsely attended but more lively, interesting, and encouraging than my previous two “how to” panels combined. Comic News Insider’s Jimmy Aquino moderated a panel of seven up-and-coming web comics creators – Curt Franklin, Chris Haley, Kevin Church. Benjamin Birdie, Chad Bowers, Chris Sims, and Matthew Digges. As an aspiring web comic creator, I found the points raised and advice dispensed heartening. The gentlemen discussed the advantages of web comics over print, both cost-wise and in freedom of storytelling. This was my favorite “how to” panel.

******

And that does it for my Heroes Con 2011 report. I didn’t even mention my thrill at meeting Jim Starlin (Dreadstar, Warlock) or reuniting with guest Micah Harris (The Eldritch New Adventures of Becky Sharp), an old buddy from my online Wold Newton group. Or meeting Bernie Wrightson, Steve Niles, and Scott Hampton (Sarah’s got that one covered). Or the zillions of dollars I could have spent in the dealers’ room – if I had zillions of dollars…

See you next year!

Henry Covert, Minion (Reporter/Reviewer)

Sarah L. Covert’s Thoughts on Heroes Con 2011
Comics, and Panels, and Exhibitors — Oh my!

Convention Tip #1 – Invest in a fan… especially if the Con you are going to is in the South AND in the Summer. Luckily there was a booth full of anime/manga stuff that sold fans and parasols – so I was saved. The exhibition floor is almost always hot and while most of the panels were air-conditioned this wasn’t always the case. That little five dollar purchase saved me.

Friday, June 3, 2011

The first day at Heroes Con for me was about getting the lay of the land and taking in a couple of panels. Once Henry and I had our press passes we hit the Exhibitor/Artists/Indie Alley floor.

We made a beeline to the table where  Bernie Wrightson and Steve Niles were setup. The last time I saw Bernie, Liz (the woman behind the master and a wonderful artist in her own right), and Steve was in ComicCon 2009. I wanted to stop by early because I knew they would be very busy. I got some hugs and introduced my husband to the terrorific trio.

My first panel wasn’t until noon, so me and the hubby had some time to look around and figure out where everthing was. There was much wishing and dreaming and drooling, but we had a limited budget. (Though I did nab that $2 Catwoman action figure!) This brings me right to another tip!

Convention Tip #2 – Budget wisely! Conventions can be very expensive. Make day one about window shopping only, you’re going to be real bummed when you see something you want more on day two or three and you spent your wad on day one. Also – the #1 costly thing at conventions – food and/or drink! Bring a bag/backpack and load it up with your favorite beverages and some snackies (granola bars and trail mixes are great con energy food). No one wants to pay 5 bucks for a pretzel… and you shouldn’t have to. Save money for food and fun AFTER the convention doors close.

After we got a feel for the floor we decided to head up to the room where my panel was (Henry’s didn’t start until 12:30, so he sat with me until things got started). Are you ready for another tip?

Covention Tip #3 – Plan ahead! Go to the website of your Con of choice and look over the events page. You may not wind up seeing/doing everything you planned, but you will be able to schedule your day. (At larger Cons, like SDCC, you need to get to panels early if you want to get in. When I went I sat at the door about an hour before each panel. Thankfully Heroes Con did not have seating issues.) Also – no matter how much you plan things don’t always work out. Sometimes panels start late, run over, have last minute changes — don’t get frustrated. Most conventions are staffed by volunteers. They don’t deserve your ire. Just know that this is normal and go with the flow!

Teaching Comics (How’s it hanging Juliette?)

 

The first panel was “Teaching Comics”. It was moderated by Shawn Daughhetee and 4 Professors – (in order)Alan Rauch, Chris Schweizer, Mike Kobre, and Craig Fischer.

I have more than a passing interest in becoming a teacher someday and I have several friends who are teachers – so this panel was the first one on the schedule that piqued my curiosity.

The first question from the Moderator was, “How do you create your Sillabi?” The answers varied a great deal between the Profs, but that was no shock.

Mr. Rauch teaches about “Jewish Identity and The Graphic Novel” discussing topics like How does visual media talk? and how Non-linear narrative/ Yiddish language is primed for visual media.

Mr. Kobre teaches his students about Pulp Fiction: Comics – Contemporary Comics.

Mr. Fischer likes to spend 6 weeks on one comic.

Mr. Schweizer teaches at SCAD – so his Syllabi is different than most. He teaches more comics, but breaks them down bit by bit. He wants his students to do rather than just listen. His students do a mini-comic that they sell in a comic book shop at the end of the course.

The next question was about the approval process to creating a course based around comic(s) – was there any issue? It was a resounding no across the board. I asked if they ever had parents calling to complain about their kids learning about comic books. That’s when I learned about FERPA – the Family Education Right to Privacy Act. Basically the parents aren’t allowed to interfere with their child’s education — and they rarely do. When complaints come in they go to the Deans and the Professors don’t deal with the parent directly.

The next topic discussed was Balancing between art/writing. They all agreed that both are equally important. They like to discuss what works and what doesn’t.

At this point the discussion veered to early education and comic books. An audience member, Jeni DeFeo, who is a middle school teacher (and no stranger to unusual teaching tools) said she had big success teaching  graphic novels to her students. At first parents were uncomfortable with this choice, but when showed the numbers and improvement they couldn’t argue the results.

The questions came pouring out from the audience and the panel went a bit long. (Which made me feel nervous since I had another panel I wanted to go to right after.) The panelists had a lot of interesting things to say about gender issues, social issues, and more.

The only thing that was off with this panel was the moderator. I am not sure if this was her first time as a moderator, if she was nervous for some reason, or if it was something else altogether – but she had a difficult time controlling the panel. All in all I was glad I attended this one. I gleaned a lot of useful information. It got to the con off to a great start.

******

Convention Tip #4 – . Study the Con maps and know where you have to go. When one plans ahead (see Tip 3) and knows the lay of the land it is easy to get from one panel to another without running around trying to figure out where they are supposed to be. Then cool-headedness will prevail and your blood pressure will thank you.

Storytelling with Michael Golden

The next panel I attended was “Storytelling with Michael Golden“. I was looking forward to this panel since I first looked over the schedule to divvy up duties. I am a writer and I write both fictional and functional pieces. (San Diego Comic Con had very little for writers when I went, score one for Heroes!) If you are not familair with Mr. Golden’s work, shame on you! Get to the comic book store now or I will take your Geek Card!

Michael has done everything from art and design on the web, writing and drawing comic books, and commercial art to editing at DC and Marvel. So he had a wealth of knowledge to share. There was no moderator and after a brief intro he decided to make the whole thing a Q&A – which worked out very well.

I used to work for an advertising agency and was doing full-time work here as well — I found my creative mojo was sapped by the end of the day and I had little energy/time to work on my stories. So I asked Mr. Golden how does he switch between writing non-fiction and fiction. He said he usually takes a half day off and steps away from the project – he then emerses himself in music, books, movies, etc. (whatever works for the project), when changing his mindset from commercial work to fiction.

Another audience member asked what his process is from idea to fully fleshed out story. He plainly answered, “Get up in the morning and get to work!”. Then Michael dropped quite a few words of wisdom. He doesn’t believe in writers block. Sometime you have to fight through distractions, you just have to do it! ! What he does is to pay the bills, not a personal expression. You just need to sit down and plow through it! A good editor for feedback always helps. You just need to ask yourself – are you doing this for a living or for self-satisfaction? He has one guideline when writing, you must answer – Who, What, When, Where and Why!

Another audience member asked him if he wrote to or played music. Michael said music was a big part of the creative process. He listens to everything from Country Western for Road Warriors, Lady Gaga for Ninja music, to Moby when he wants to be depressed, or Tool for anger, etc. – whatever works for his stories.

And for the record — he plays the mouth harp, piano, and guitar.

Someone asked Mr. Golden if there were more liberties/freedoms with writing comics as opposed to writing for film. The biggest benefits are budget (no mega-budget cgi) and no actors. You are in control – it is about you and your expression!

The next question was about the structure of storytelling. Michael said, “There is NO formula. The whole focus is to tell the story and to make it come across to the reader. Climax and the resolution!”.

I asked another question, this time it was sort of a two parter: “I don’t know if you write for children… but I have noticed over the past decade there has been a heavy trend in aging books (for kids under 7, etc.). When I was 10 I was already reading many of the great classics. How do you feel about this form of writing for/talking down to children?”

Yes he does write for children, but he strongly disagrees with writing down to children! Some stories are not appropriate for kids such as sexual/erotic stories, obviously. Michael has written semi-erotic, but WILL not write pornographic material. He also believes that adult material should be labeled as such, aside from that he doesn’t believe in targeting age groups.

Another audience member asked, “How do you find the voice of your characters?” To which Michael replied, “Write what you know.” “Be creepy!” He is an advicate of people watching. He said take a notepad, iPhone, laptop, or whatever everywhere you go. Bars are a great place to people watching. I also had to add my two cents and suggest (as crazy as it sounds) courthouses – they are open to the public and you see all different types of people. Mr. Golden also suggested movies and live plays. Live plays are better because the actors have to project and emote.

This panel was both helpful and affirming for me. It appears I have a lot of the key elements stored in my brain already — and as a bonus I learned a few new tricks of the trade. It was a great way to wind down on day two.

******

We were going to do the “Drink and Draw” event on Friday, but we decided against it and headed home where I did a recap of day one on BlogTalk Radio. Which brings us to yet another convention tip!

Convention Tip #5 – Know your limits! If you are feeling tired/drained then do yourself a favor and get some rest. This is particularly important for professionals, exhibitors, and reporters. You will have an awful time on day two if you only caught a few hours of sleep.

Saturday, June 4, 2011

Convention Tip #6 – Dressing up is a great part of conventions – but bring another outfit just in case. Heroes Con is the first convention I went to in costume. Steampunk is fun! But if you are going to be in a corset for 9 hours and are standing and sitting over and over – it can be painful. Learn from my mistake and pack a change of clothes!

Day two at Heroes Con was about walking the convention floor and the 4th Annual Inkwell Awards. I wanted to get some shots of people in costumes (surprisingly more than a dozen folks asked for photos of me as well). I also wanted to grab some shots of the writers/artists there. So, let’s start with the Inkwells and then we’ll get to the goodies from the exhibitors floor!

The Inkwell Awards

For those of you who don’t know: The Inkwell Award, sometimes shortened to the Inkwell, is an award given for creative achievement in the field of inking in American comic books.  It was created to focus on and show more recognition toward the inking art form and its artists, a production skill exclusive to comic books that is often misunderstood and under-appreciated and whose inkers are at times not presently credited as they were traditionally.

As Bob Almond said, inking is a misunderstood part of the industry. Ink artists don’t generally get the credit they deserve. They used to get more press/kudos. But not now. Inkers rarely even get copies of their work. Many artists go straight to color from pencil – with the idea of saving money. – skipping the inking all together.

Inking is an art! It is a skill I have had the fortunate experience to watch first hand many times. Sadly, as in Chasing Amy, too many people think of it simply as “tracing”. It is much more than that. That is why I was thrilled to attend this event.

The awards started with an outgoing committee member Bob Shaw – who received a silver Inkwell trophy after three years on the team.

Inkwell contributor Dan Panosian was the Keynote Speaker, and Inkwell ambassador Ethan Van Sciver was the auctioneer for the live fundraising auction that followed the ceremony (sadly my video of the auction got corrupted somehow). Tim Townsend introduced all of the award winners.

The first to accept an Inkwell Award was Scott Hanna. He won “Favorite Inker”.

Next up was Scott again – this time for “Most Adaptable Inker”!

The “Props Award” was given to Art Thibert.

The” S.P.A.M.I. Award” (Small Press And Mainstream Independent) went to Cliff Rathburn. He was not there to accept, but a hearty congrats on his win — I hear it was a close one!

The “All-in-One Award” went to Francis Manapul. He was also unable to attend. The staff at SNS wishes you a great big congrats!

Next up were the “Joe Sinnott Hall of Fame Award” winners. First to accept this prestigious award was Kevin Nowlan.

Wally Wood was the second award “Joe Sinnott Hall of Fame Award”. J. David Spurlock, the representative for the Wood Estate, accepted the posthumous award.

Ms. Inkwell taking a well deserved rest after escorting all the winners to the podium.

After the awards were over they opened the floor for Q&A.There were some very interesting discussions about working as an inker in the digital age and more.

There was a live fundraising auction (as I mentioned earlier). People got some great deals on some cool art! All in all it was a great event. There were some set-up issues and some minor technical glitches, but remember tip 3? Apply it here!

******

I spent the rest of Saturday taking photos of people in costumes and creators! (Note: The costumed photos and crowd photos are the only ones not hyperlinked in the article.)

Convention Tip #7 – Always ask permission to take someone’s photo – whether it is a celebrity or a costumed attendee. This applies to press and paying convention goers. It is the polite thing to do.

Now it is time to see all the wonderful costumes I saw on Saturday! (Yes, I am in two of them. Hey had to get a photo with a 501st member and then Vader came along — bonus!)

******

To give you some idea of how busy Heroes Con was – and to show you newbs that we’re not all costumed weirdos *chuckles* – here are some crowd shots.

It’s not a convention without people relaxing on the floor!

Awww, baby’s first con!

******

I couldn’t spend the day walking the floor without getting some shots of some of my favorite writers and artists!

Bernie Wrightson Signs a Young Boy’s Autograph Book

Frank Cho Poses for SNS Fans

The Legendary Terry Moore

The Amazingly Talented and Super-nice Nat Jones!

Tony More – Artist of The Walking Dead

Neal Adams Signs for a Large Crowd of Fans.

One of my Favorites – Scott Kolins – Taking Time to Draw

Scott Hampton Signing All 18 of my Simon Dark Singles! Squee!

******

We were initially planning on going to the Auction. This is one of the bigger events of Heroes Con. But Henry and I were very tired – and I desperately wanted to get out of my corset. So we called it an early night. (See Convention Tips #5 and #7)

Sunday, June 5, 2011

The last day (of any convention) is all about comfort. I threw on some jeans, my H.P. Lovecraft Film Festival T-shirt (designed by Bernie Wrightson), and put up my hair with my under-utilized hair falls. I was ready to go! I only had one panel, but it was the one I was waiting all weekend for — Mega Team : Bernie Wrightson and Steve Niles! I often say Bernie and Steve are two of the nicest guys in Comics. I mean that sincerely. (Though I was happy to add Nat Jones and Scott Hampton to that list as well!) I was lucky enough to meet and get to know Bernie and his wife several years back. They are the sweetest couple! I am a regular on Steve Niles’s Forum and I moderate at Bernie Wrightson’s forum. Needless to say – I was super psyched!

When we arrived at the convention center, Henry had to run off to a panel. I had a bit more time than he did so I wanted to get some things signed (and then return them to the car). I drug Guest Minion Stephanie down to the floor with me and waited to hear from my hubby.

Covention Tip #8 – Cell phones are your friends! You need to be sure to turn them off or to silent when in panels… but it is the easiest way to find your friends when you are seperated.

After a (too expensive) iced mocha, Henry and I went up to the Niles/Wrightson panel.

Mega Team : Bernie Wrightson and Steve Niles

This panel was moderated by Dollar Bin‘s Adam Daughhetee.  (Adam said this panel would be up on the site, so check back often!) He was a decent moderator, but I think everyone was in a bit of a haze on the last day. Despite a few little hiccups, the panel was everything I hoped it would be. It was nice and laid back and I got to learn some new things about the devlish duo.

Bernie and Steve started working together somewhere around 5 years ago. When Bernie first met Steve he had no idea who he was — he thought  he was just another fan. Steve told him about 30 Days of Night, they got to talking and soon found out that they were neighbors. When he met Steve, Bernie had been out of comics for 10 years. One day Len Wein contacted Bernie and asked if he wanted to do a “Treehouse of Horror” comic based on Swamp Thing. For many years his bread and butter was concept work for films. But the comic book itch began to tingle once more.

One night over drinks, they plotted out Dead, She Said. Soon as wonderful friendship and working relationship was born — along with it the “Benie-Verse”. City of Others was supposed to be the start of that Universe. But it looks like it will not be included in an eventual mash-up. But hey – an Undead Detective, a Ghoul, and a young genius… this will make for a very interesting story.

Bernie told us a funny story about Swamp Thing. Apparently several issues into the run the CCA fussed about Swamp Thing being “undraped”. They had to go page by page and show them that no “naughty bits” were showing. Boy am I glad those days are long gone.

There was a lull when Adam had to take car of something. Artist Scott Hampton was in the audience. He piped up and asked Bernie to tell us about the headless woman.

Apparently when he was a child a headless woman appeared to him on several occasions. He said he didn’t know if it was dreams or if it was a visitation from behind the veil.

After asking several more questions and stirring up conversation – Bernie and Steve said he should just come sit on the panel. And that was just what he did!

I don’t want to spoil to much of it for you since it will be available in podcast form from Dollar Bin.

After the panel Steve and Bernie stuck around to sign some books. Of course Henry and I had to put our geek hats on for a moment and take a pic with the terrorific twosome!

Here is a very brief nterview for SNS readers:

******

After the panel was through I did one last sweep around the hall. I had to give Liz Wrightson a hug and take pic.

Then I saw some more 501st members and couldn’t resist the photo op!

Here is my swag!

Final Thoughts:
Heroes Con puts on a spooktacular event. I have no major complaints. I am glad I had the opportunity to be there and I can’t wait for next year! I would reccomend this convention anyone who is sick of the crowds at San Diego Comic Con to come here instead and for those of you who are sick of comic conventions going all mutli-media, come here. I’d like to thank all the hard-working staff members for putting on a really great show.

Sarah L. Covert– Creator/Evil Overlord/Editor/Reviewer/Reporter

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