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by Teresa Jusino

23 Jul 2009


As I mentioned in my last post, I attended Wizard World Philly 2009 to volunteer at the Comic Book Legal Defense Fund table.  So, I thought I’d tell you a little about that organization and why I chose to support it in this way (other than I didn’t have the resources to give money myself).

Since 1986, the CBLDF has been working to protect the First Amendment within the comic book industry.  Historically, comics have been associated with youth.  Even as they have become mainstream and more adults are reading them, they remain an easy target for people who would censor a writer’s work, because it’s one of the few industries in which it’s still easy to do so in the name of the children.

As a writer, I understand how important it is to be allowed to express yourself in a way that makes your story successful, or allows non-fiction to get your point across.  As an adult comic fan, I want to be allowed the choice to read what I want and when, and I firmly believe that it is up to parents to keep objectionable material away from their children.  More than that, I think that parents should be willing and prepared to discuss objectionable material with their children.  Children armed with information are less vulnerable than those who are not.

So, I spent two days shilling a variety of signed collectibles for a good cause.  Creators like Neil Gaiman, Brian K. Vaughan, and Frank Miller all donated books.  Artists like Jeff Smith, Amanda Conner, and Matt Wagner donated prints.  Then there were unique items exclusive to the CBLDF, like the fragrances inspired by Neil Gaiman’s novels!  All of these items are also available at their website.  Visit www.cbldf.org.

I’ll leave you with a word from Neil Gaiman, who provides a unique perspective regarding the First Amendment:

by Chris Conaton

22 Jul 2009


Another Comic-Con gets going on Wednesday with preview night, San Diego’s 40th. I love Comic-Con and this will be my seventh in a row. But even in the relatively brief time I’ve been attending, the event has changed a great deal. Despite retaining the name “Comic-Con”, these days the convention bills itself as the largest pop-culture gathering in America. Comic books still have a presence, of course. Panels involving Marvel and DC’s biggest titles can come close to filling the mid-sized 1,400-seat rooms, and occasionally a creator will build a big enough name for himself to hold court in the 3,000 or 4,000-seat rooms. But that’s a rarity. Those rooms are mostly reserved for television shows these days.

Down on the main floor, several dozen retailers sell current graphic novels and individual issues, while an entire section of the floor is donated to dealers who trade in comic books from the golden (1930’s, ‘40s) and silver (‘50s, and ‘60s) ages. Individual comic publishers have booths on the floor, everything from the biggest (Marvel, DC, Dark Horse, Image) to small press imprints you’ve probably never heard of. Not to mention artists’ alley, where dozens of artists, some famous, some not, set up to sell their work, talk with fans, and create new sketches. But even on the massive main floor, the comic book people and the major tv and movie studios don’t always get along. In the wake of Comic-Con 2008, Chuck Rozanski, who runs Mile High Comics, one of the largest dealers at the show (and in the United States, for that matter), had a long and fascinating column about the dealers being virtually ignored in favor of catering to the major film and television studios. Comic-Con PR man David Glanzer’s take was that the same percentage of floor space is dedicated to comic books as in previous years. But if we’re to take Rozanski at his word then clearly something that was once the lifeblood of the show is now more of an afterthought.

by Teresa Jusino

17 Jul 2009


It’s been a month since Wizard World Philly 2009, but I have to write about it.  Someone has to mark its death knell.

I started going to conventions in 2006, when I was lucky enough to be hired as a volunteer at the Official Star Trek Convention in Las Vegas.  I’ve been to New York Comic Con twice, and plan on going yearly, because it’s a great con, and I live in NYC, so it doesn’t require airfare or hotel expenses.  Over the years, as I’ve listened to fellow geeks make me jealous with tales of all the conventions they somehow find the time and money to go to, Wizard World Philly was always mentioned as a natural, desired stop in their convention circuit.  So I was excited when I saw a chance to go to WWP as a volunteer.  Finally, I’d get to see what all the fuss was about!

Turns out it’s not about very much, not anymore, and I wasn’t the only one who thought so.  Being a volunteer, one hears the gossip amongst the vendors.  This is the worst Wizard World Philly in years they said.  No one is here! they panicked.  The “exhibition floor” looked more like a PTA swap meet in a school gym.  Nothing caught the eye, and the floor was only about half full.  The cast of Battlestar Galactica was signing autographs, which was amazing…but Lou Ferrigno and Peter Mayhew?  Really?  No disrespect intended, but are they the best that WWP has to offer?  The programming schedule also left a lot to be desired.  There were one or two interesting panels, which I’ll write about another time, but for the most part…well, they’ll have to invent a new word for boring to capture how boring this convention was.  I mean, I didn’t even take any pictures, it was so boring.

Wizard World seems to have been the victim of convention over-saturation.  HeroesCon was going on the same weekend, and lots of people chose that instead.  I would have, too, if I could have afforded to fly to Charlotte!  Brian Michael Bendis was there!  As was Matt Fraction, Ed Brubaker, Tony Harris, and other powerhouses in the comics industry from both mainstream comics as well as indie comics.  It’s only natural that with the increase in conventions some will fall by the wayside.  Sadly, though Wizard World Philly is happening in 2010, it seems to be on the way out.  Which is a shame for East Coasters like me who can’t afford to fly across the country to get our geek on.  Ah, well.  There’s always New York Comic Con!

by Zane Austin Grant

12 Jun 2009


Arnold Roth and Al Jaffee
Arnold Roth and Al Jaffee

Arnold Roth and Al Jaffee

One of the highlights of my visit to the MoCCA convention was attending the ‘AH, HUMBUG!’ panel that featured cartoonists and comedic geniuses Arnold Roth and Al Jaffee in conversation with Fantagraphics editor Gary Groth.  Roth is well-known for his broadly published illustrations and cartoons, and his comic strip Poor Arnold’s Almanac.  Jaffee is renowned for his foundational work on MAD magazine and his signature MAD ‘fold-ins’, illustrations that fold together to reveal another picture that gives a second meaning to the caption. 

The subject of the panel was a satirical humor magazine called Humbug that ran for eleven issues from 1957 to 1958.  Together with comics giants Will Elder, Harvey Kurtzman, and Jack Davis, Roth and Jaffee pooled their money to put together a creator owned and run magazine.  Roth said that they were such a talented group of people that when Kurtzman suggested they do an issue that parodied New Yorker cartoons by drawing in its style and making the cartoons not funny, they all came back and said, “I can’t think of anything that’s not funny”.

Part of the discussion focused on why the magazine folded, since it is widely agreed that it represents some of these respected cartoonists’ best work.  Roth pointed out that Kurtzman always wanted to do things different, so he made Humbug a smaller dimension than other magazines to stand out.  It would have stood out more if it were taller than other magazines, because its small dimensions meant it was lost behind the other books.  Jaffee made a note that their distributors were a little shady.  They were using the same people to print and distribute and he always felt like the sales figures they were giving them were off.  They always came back just below breaking even.  He implored the audience to take control of the publishing process of their work as much as possible. 

The complete run of Humbug was recently reprinted as a two volume set by Fantagraphics.

by Zane Austin Grant

11 Jun 2009


Nate Doyle and Julia Wertz at MoCCA 2009,

Nate Doyle and Julia Wertz at MoCCA 2009, “Look at these cartoonists”

Last weekend, I had the pleasure of attending the Museum of Comic and Cartoon Art 2009 festival. The annual event is a comic convention that focuses on small press and self-published comics artists and enthusiasts. People from all over the world come to mill about the many booths where creators showcase their works, attend panels on subjects that vary from alternative histories of comics to the current state of the small press publishing economy, and to meet like minded members of the underground comics community. This year the event was housed in the Lexington Armory, a behemoth military structure in Manhattan, originally built in 1906 for the 69th regiment, who shared the halls with this year’s convention attendees.

As I made my way up from the train, I came upon a line of well over a hundred people waiting to get inside. Finding the end of the line down the block and around the corner, I spoke casually with a woman who gave me a self-published mini-comic about her childhood relationships, while another comics artist who was a recent Pratt University graduate showed us his comics about a race of cannibalistic Cyclops. Pretty soon we drew another MoCCA attendee into our conversations, and she told us of her intent of making friends with (or stalking) Randall Munroe, the author of the webcomic xkcd

Once inside, I systematically made my way through the large room of around 200 booths searching out friends to say hello and see their new works before hitting up some panels and lunch. I found most everyone to be sweaty but happy beneath the cavernous and flaking army green ceiling. A lot of people I met up with had finished their work just in time to get it printed for the fest, and their ‘stay up all night for three days’ dedication left me inspired. 

The picture above is one such source of inspiration.  In it we see the always positive Nate Doyle who just put out the fourth issue of his comic Crooked Teeth with a limited run of 200 screen-printed covers and Julia Wertz of The Fart Party, who, like an ‘Eazy E’ of comics, is renowned for her quick temper and street fighting insults. Wertz said, “Don’t take my picture, I look like I was just punched in the face.” When I asked her if she had actually been punched, she responded, “No, not really. Fine, take the picture. Have the caption say, ‘Just look at these shitheads’”.  After drawing an unflattering picture of Nate, she signed my book with the same words.

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