NO Credit? NO Problem!
Here, at last, is the Abismo/Nerve Bomb San Diego Comic-Con report for 2007.
A COMIC CON trend that some small-press and indie exhibitors complain about is the growing presence of huge media companies using Comic Con as a place to pimp their wares and offer previews of up-coming games, toys, films and books. Their enormous displays with all the bells and whistles, and appearances by Hollywood movie stars are crowd pleasers for sure (judging from the spike in attendance since this trend began) but it makes it hard for the little guy selling home-made books to get any attention.
With these deals, we must be CRAZY!!
In the spirit of “if you can’t beat em, join ‘em”, Rhode and I resolved to go CORPORATE. Salesmanship itself was going to be our marketing “angle” this year. But what do a pair of self-publisher fly-by-night cartoonists know about MARKETING? Plus, after paying for the Abismo/Nerve Bomb booth space, we didn’t have much money left over in the budget for booth decoration, which makes it hard to compete with all the full-scale Pirate Ships, Giant Robots and sexy Booth-models of other displays. What’s a down at heel indie self-publishing duo to do?…
Thankfully, two expert salesmen came to our rescue and offered to help out in exchange for taking a controlling stake in the burgeoning Abismo/Nerve Bomb business empire. Our new C.F.O. RODDY MONTECARLO and and C.E.O. JIMMY BAKERSFIELD took over the booth display this year, and really came through for us. Who better to work the CON than two bona fide CON-MEN? Thanks to their oversight, the Abismo/Nerve Bomb booth was transformed into RODDY and JIMMY’s Discount Emporium which was, without a doubt, one of the classiest on the showroom floor this year. To match their natty jackets, pumped up sense of style and full-bore salesmanship, Roddy and Jimmy tricked out the booth in snazzy signage and covered it in plaid, even though finding THAT much LOUD fabric was no easy feat.
As seen on TV!
The customers were really pulled in by the crazy mark-down signs, especially the FREE TOASTER deal, though sad to say, nobody spent the $1000 on comics that was required to take it home (as mentioned in the fine-print). That may be just as well, otherwise Roddy wouldn’t have anything to make his breakfast toast with. The New C.E.O. of Nerve Bomb anticipated higher sales this year but even despite all the NEW product (my Dad’s elephant book, a new mini-comic and some Giclee prints) sales were not much more than in 2006, when there was nothing new to sell. It is tough to figure out the key to sales… it isn’t simply a matter of new product, good booth placement and high attendance, that is for sure… because all those things were on hand this year, and KILLER salesmanship as well.
Act NOW to avoid Disappointment!
Thanks to Roddy and Jimmy’s help with the booth, Rhode and I both had time to do some socialising. One of my favourite things about Comic Con is the chance to meet friends whom I haven’t seen in ages, including a lot of people that I only see at cons. Each evening, there are so many people that I would like to spend time with that it is getting progressively harder and harder each year to organise a get-together when so many people are involved. Spending an hour or so on Wednesday evening (after Preview Night) wandering from pub to pub with a huge group of hungry people, who were steadily growing HANGRY (hungry and angry) I resolved to thereafter venture out to eat with a group only it had a reservation. A few years ago, it was possible to just luck into some place that had space to seat your huge party of chums but that just isn’t possible these days, at least in the nearby Gaslamp area.
Thursday evening we really hit the jackpot when a stripped down, special-ops task force of hand-picked and hungry folks successfully mounted a raid on a fantastic “all you can eat” Brazillian BBQ place called Rei Do Gado, which was scoped out by our San Diego food recon team of Jeff and Lovelyn (who took us to Hash house Au Go Go last year). Along with them, I spent a very enjoyable evening with Rhode, my good friend John Stevenson and the always hilarious Kirk Thatcher. We got an early reservation and hunkered down together to climb the meat Materhorn pausing between mouthfuls to disturb the surrounding patrons with both the tone and volume of our conversation.
The next night, I had a very enjoyable dinner with another old friend, David Gordon, who now lives in New York. He introduced me to a whole table of his friends from Blue Sky. The service in the restaurant was slow but we weren’t in any hurry and had a very enjoyable time just chatting away about publishing and animation, while our food showed up bit by bit. As we ate, cellphone calls came in from reservation-less and hungry pals who were wandering the wasteland outside, looking for a place to sit and eat on a busy Gaslamp Friday evening, so by the end of the night our table was full of cronies from Pixar, ILM, Maverix and Blue Sky, as more and more friends came our way. Saturday night there was a big group heading off to dine in Old Town but I was very tired and the fact that the group was going a long way with no reservation made me balk (even though I later found out that they all had a fun evening and were seated no problem) and instead I went to dinner close by the convention center with Benton, Anson, Deanna, Bosco, Steve, Steward and his family and an old crony from my Colossal Pictures days, Antonio Toro.
When you spend all day surrounded by nerds in spandex, it is good to have a hearty breakfast, which I did most days, starting with Rhode and Sam Hiti at the hotel we all shared a room at. Saturday, I had breakfast with John, Kirk and Dave at a Hawaiian themed diner by the harbour. The morning of the last day of the show started well with a HUGE Buffet Breakfast with Vincent Stall, and my hotel roomies Sam and Rhode. Sunday evening wrapped the show with the traditional BBQ at the home of Derek Thompson’s ever gracious parents Barbara and Larry. This is the nicest end to the con for me. A large group of weary but happy attendees and exhibitors got together to wind down over gourmet hotdogs and drinks. Monday morning we slept in a little and had a breakfast at the SUN CAFE before we all made our separate ways home. I managed to fit in a lot of socialising this year but I still missed out on eating with a lot of friends. That is what NEXT YEAR is for.
My SWAG for this year includes a book I have been seeking for some time, namely TIFFANY, written by Yann (prior collaborator with the great Denis Bodart) with artwork by Herval, an artist I first became familiar with through the Drawing Board. Herval has a clean style with great figure drawing and warm, clean colour palettes. The book is in French and although my ability to speak that language is close to zero, I can read it a little and I am battling my way through the book with a dictionary at the moment. The story is a whodunnit, concerning an elegant young woman, descended from the same family as Joan Of Arc, who takes over her brother’s detective agency after he is killed, to investigate his murder.
MONSTER ALLERGY by Alessandro Barbucci and Barbara Canepa, the husband and wife team that did Sky Doll. This time their artwork is an appealing fusion of both European and Japanese cartoony comics drawing styles.
GYPSY COLLECTED is an omnibus edition of 3 graphic albums, written by Thierry Smolderin and illustrated by a Swiss artist whom I admire very much; Enrico Marini. I first became aware of him when he drew in a very Manga-influenced style on a series called “Olivier Varèse” (also written by Smolderin) which was collected in an English edition called Negative Exposure. More recently, he illustrated a series called RAPTORS which was drawn in a different style. Gypsy shows his artwork in a transition between those two styles.
MASSIVE SWERVE by Robert Valley. I have bought about 4 variations on this book so far… hopefully Robert will actually put out a NEW Massive Swerve (rather than reprints and colour variations) sometime soon.
POPPING THROUGH PICTURES by Amanda Visell is a charming modern picture book in the tradition of little golden books; thick card stock pages and vivid painted, fun and cartoony illustrations. She also makes fantastic little toys which she sold at the con, and more of them can be seen in her Blog.
BUBBLES SKETCHBOOK by Luca Tieri was one of my favourite scores this year. This guy draws cartoons that leap from the page (or screen) with a crazy Pop-Rock energy. I’ve been a big fan of his energetic line and electric colour choices since I somehow stumbled onto his website a few years ago, so it is wonderful to finally own his book. Luca came all the way from Italy to attend the con and I had the pleasure of meeting him in person when he came by my booth with Rajesh from the Department of Art and Power.
I came by some great little books by way of swaps, including Marty Ito’s PAINTMONSTER book and Doug Holgate‘s SPAGHETTI WESTERN/CHECKMATE WORDSWORTH Mini, both of whom had come a very long way to be at the con (from Japan and Australia, respectively). In exchange for some hits of our OLD SPICE, Marc Nordstrom from B-Minus Comiks swapped me an anthology of their previous hilarious stuff plus a NEW issue of GO GO CHANGEBOTS, which is their very funny Transformers parody. There were a few things that I wanted to buy but didn’t get, and I hope to pick up later. These include Chris Sanders’ new colour sketchbook, and Bill Presing’s beautiful BELLE DU JOUR book.
2007 was the 10th year that I attended Comic Con, the 7th time as an exhibitor and the 4th time sharing an exhibitor-booth with good pal mr Rhode Montijo. In the time that I have been attending, Comic Con has not only grown in size but the focus and tone has changed as well. 10 years ago it was already huge but my memory of that time is that it was mostly about comics and the people you saw about the place, both exhibiting and attending, were overwhelmingly nerdy, pear-shaped or skinny, men.
In those days, the few women in attendance were most likely models paid by booths to be in costume. A few years later the numbers of women fans started to climb when we began to see tubby ladies dressed in Sailor Moon outfits. Now the Con is attended by a broad range of men women and children, and a lot of the fans walking around wearing HERO outfits are actually good looking… but thankfully there are still plenty of pear-shaped anime characters, fat Spidermen and skinny Hulks about the place because that is what Comic Con really is about, for me. On the subject of costumes I didn’t attend the masquerade this year so my costume watching was limited to what walked past my booth. This year there were a lot of buff-dudes strutting around in capes and speedos brandishing cardboard shields. Most of them were “spartans” methinks, but some had a Viking vibe.
Highlights of this year’s con (apart from those mentioned already) were:
- Steve and Bosco’s reaction to the booth (which made it all worthwhile)
- getting a smile from Rosario Awesome.
- Steve Purcell winning an Eisner!
The only bummer this year was the Faulty air-conditioner in our hotel that blew piping hot toilet smell into our room.
No interest ’till 2008!
I came away from this year’s show very inspired to do some new stuff for next year. The quality of self published books has really soared from the Black and White sketchbooks done at Kinkos a few years ago, to square bound books, and then to the hardbound full colour books that we see now. The affordability of quality small-run printing means that it is a great time to be a self-publisher but on the other hand it means that you really have to raise your game if you want to stand out these days. The number of indy artists producing their own beautiful figurines and toys is also very inspiring… it gives me a lot to think about!
See you all NEXT YEAR!