Okay folks in following with the 10 MINUTE CON SKETCH CHALLENGE promotion we are doing some 10 minute requests. Starting with Jeff Clare who called dibs on Bucky, Tracie Malloy with one for Punxsutawney Phil and finally Joe Perry with one for Nova. Lets see what short notice and long imagination have turned out???
Hi folks! This is Dan Nokes from 21st Century Sandshark Studios and The Virginia Comicon. Every once in a while I like to sit down, pound my grey matter, and ponder a subject that is near and dear to me about comics, fan culture and media in general, that I have stuck with the moniker known as…
THE OBSERVATION OF THE WEEK!
SMALL PRESS SECTION: WHERE ARE THE FRIGGIN COMIC BOOKS?
I have been attending comic book conventions since 1992 and have been an exhibitor at said events since 2002. Now maybe this is a very subjective perspective. There is simply no empirical data or solid hard fact I can quote; no think tank website I can direct you to. This is in essence derived from my observances and subsequent opinion.
WHAT HAPPENED TO ALL THE FRIGGIN’ SMALL PRESS COMICS AT COMIC BOOK SHOWS?!?
When I go and set up at comic book shows I typically set up in the small press/artist alley section. The area is chocked full of mash up pop culture prints, fan art galore, trinkets, handmade garments, and all assortments of merch that celebrates big two comics, horror, sci-fi, and nerd and geek comic to be had to your heart’s content! But you know what I see increasingly less of as time progresses?
Creator owned comics…
Now I am not bashing the people who make and sell these items. They are trying to make a buck in a very competitive industry that has a steep pyramid mountain face to climb to make it to a comfortable plateau, let alone the top. I myself am guilty of being part of this machine. I sell fan art, prints and sketch covers at my booth. Hell! That stuff takes up about 70% of my table. I am no better nor worse than anyone else who does likewise. Simply trying to be a successful businessman in that particular field, using my talents as an artist and creator to make items I think people will buy.
But does it give me as much satisfaction as a writer and artist to sell say, a print of Deadpool than it does a regular who comes back and picks up a book I worked on and self-published? Absolutely not! Not even close!
For me as creator, my biggest thrills are when that piece of brain-spawn that worked tireless months and years to craft into literary and artistic life gets snagged by someone at a con. It’s an even bigger delight when those people write or come back to my booth and told me I did a good job, when they start asking me questions, or debating me on the direction on the storytelling elements. I can sell a $1000 worth of merch and fan art items at a show, and I would come out happy that my bills are going to get paid, I’ll have gas to get home, and food in my belly for a good while. I would be grateful for the patrons that made that happen. And sure I feel pride in the items that I put out that they liked and took home with them. But it isn’t the same feeling as when a book is bought, or a webcomic is checked out by a soon to be fan of such creator owned endeavors.
So getting back to point, I noticed that there are a LOT less people making actual comic books and trying to peddle them at comic-cons, and it does make me wonder why that is. I have had some theories talking with fellow creators at said events and online on the subject, and here is what I have come up with.
1) FANART AND MERCH SELLS- Its simple: people want what they already like. It’s not a cut; more of a statement on one aspect of the human condition. We like what we like, and as such want to stock up on related items to what we indeed prefer. As such any market caters to these likes and connoisseurs and crafts their wares to such tastes. In short: If your clientele wants Batman, you are going to give them Batman.
2) IT’S EASIER IN THE LONG RUN TO DO FANART: A one off fan art print of say The Avengers is less time consuming, and creatively aggravating than trying to put out a 32 page comic book let alone a 150-400 page graphic novel. Now let me be clear once again. Fan art crafters are not less of artists or devoid of originality because they specialize in this. I tend to think that it’s more of the fact for most comic and nerd type artists, that we have been drawing fight scenes, and pin up shots of our favorite comic characters and teams since we were young children. It’s in our DNA by the time we try to crack the pro ranks. It’s almost a reflex. Which leads me into point number 3…
3) INTERIOR COMIC ART IS HARD: Honestly, most comic artists do not begin their training by learning how to tell stories through pictures. It’s a painful, trial and error process for most. Like I said in the previous bullet point. Comic artists grow up drawing their favorite characters in heroic poses and fighting each other. In our child and adolescent minds, backgrounds, and conversational scenes are simply boring. It takes a real drive to draw the same character or characters over and over again, in…not so heroic fight scenes. To actually form anywhere from a couple of hundred to THOUSANDS of individual panels that you have to string together into a coherent readable tale is a massive undertaking. It takes planning, it takes dedication, and as such large investments of time and effort into sequential storytelling, that leads into point four.
4) NOT ALL ARTISTS HAVE WRITING ABILITY: When I was kid, I tend to think that I grew up in the golden age of the writer/artist: Frank Miller, John Byrne, Paul Chadwick, Walt Simonson, Mike Mignola, Howard Chaykin, Matt Wagner and a host of others dominated the landscape. My impression as a child was that it was a natural progression that not only was I supposed to be a writer/artist. But these two were physically intertwined and inseparable. Only as I got older did I realize that these are two separate disciplines. Simply put, not all artists have the ability to craft a good story. Some do not even have an idea to tell a story through their pictures. Some more even still have no desire to learn this trade, and are content to put out fan art. And let me state one more time. I have nothing against this. If you are happy in what you do, and you are clearing cash from doing so. MORE POWER TO YOU! This is more a statement of cold hard fact.
5) PUBLISHING IS EXPENSIVE AND TIME CONSUMING: This is why so many have turned away from print all together and headed to the world of web comics. From trying to edit a book and scrape it all together, to picking out a printer, to maintaining updates with said printer, to finding a distribution network, to getting press and promotion for your creative brainchild. It winds up being very pricey, and a huge time guzzler to get a comic book to market and making any kind of cash on it. Way more on both fronts than churning out a print or commission.
6) SOME ARTISTS JUST WANT TO BREAK INTO AN ESTABLISHED COMPANY: Many artists in the comic field just want to draw Spiderman, Superman, or some established property and company. Again nothing wrong with that. It’s a simple matter of different people have different goals in this field. Some want to be putting out a book for Marvel or DC as their big goal. Others have the need to tell their own stories. Like I said, different career goals for different individuals.
7) MY EYE CATCHES ALL THE FAN ART AT CONS: Let’s be honest! When I am walking around a con floor, much like everyone else, my eye will fixate immediately on the familiar and eye catching. That my friends 99.9 percent of the time, will be on a piece of fan art. Most people’s mind will gravitate towards “OH WOW! THAT POWER GIRL PIC IS AMAZING!” rather than “HEY! LOOK AT THAT INDIE COMIC? I WONDER WHAT THAT IS ALL ABOUT?”.
8) READING A NEW COMIC IS A SERIOUS COMMITMENT: I can go out get a print, t-shirt or merch item from a crafter or artist, wear it or hang it up on my wall, and that is as far as things will go as far as an intellectual investment. But buying a comic book means I have to READ THE COMIC BOOK I have to set aside the time and personal involvement to read such artistic and literary endeavor, absorb the content, and form an opinion on the project before me. There is the chance that I may not like it. That “WHAT IF ITS NOT GOOD ?” idea tends to creep into the consumer mind and affect their purchase decision making engine. Which results in many occasions, them not picking up a creator owned title, which further results in many creators giving up the self-publishing route.
9) MANY CREATORS DO NOT WANT TO BE SALESPERSONS: Let me be more precise…NO CREATOR WANTS TO BE A SALESPERSON! Every single one of us wants to go in there with a comic we made up, slap it all down on the table all by its lonesome, and out of nowhere, a swarm of fan boys and girls swoops from all points on the convention floor, throw wads of cash, and lambast with compliments, while leaving with every last copy of your book in tow. This unfortunately is NEVER the truth in the world of small press. Which means that every last one of us has to assume some sort of sales roll in trying to get product on the market. Now some artists do have an aptitude for this skill. But no one really wants to have to go this route. Now fanart and merch has the vantage of having to engage in great deal less of this salesmanship route than a creator owned comic. This kind of goes hand in hand with point 8. That you have to work many times harder to successfully pitch a comic to a potential reader, than it is to have a piece of fan art hanging up on display that catches someone’s eye.
10) STRETCHING YOUR DOLLARS-I know the term is cliché. But the economy is not what it used to be. People walk into a comic show with a set amount of funds and in many cases, a set list of what they want, and huge pantheon of vendors vying to supply that want. Many in artist alley see that supply/demand scenario and are just trying to find a niche within it.
So those are some of the reasons I came up with. They tend to work together in congruence, to create the climate we have now. It’s where at least that I notice, that I see a dwindling amount of comics being published and sold at cons, or at the very least being relegated into the background of a booth in a swath of merch and fan art related items. Is it wrong or reprehensible? No, not at all; It looks to me that it’s a matter of how the state and condition of the small press area/artist alley is at a comicon and the market in general is at the moment. And there are those that argue that we have events like SPX, APE, and STAPLE that deal with those issues.
My end thought is this. That for the craft and industry to survive and continue to prosper as a medium and viable media, as well as grow out of the confines and popular definitions that has plagued it for decades. A lot of its future rides on small press comic creators. It depends on those individuals making books and stories that push and redefines what you can do with the comic book format. It also depends on readers and consumers patronizing such efforts to create a symbiotic relationship of growth and expansion of the field.
So I do ask this of you con-going types. Next time you roam the floor in small press and artist alley. Take a chance. Visit that guy or gal or team with a book they just put out and at least ask a couple of questions. If it doesn’t meet your taste, then sure, don’t pick it up. But if you do, then by all means, TAKE A CHANCE! There will be a cavalcade of Wolverine Prints, Star Trek/Star Wars mash up T-shirts, and Green Lantern replica rings waiting in the winds. That comic book or graphic novel on the other hand, may be that chance to get in on the ground floor for something new and special. Just a thought?
What do you think Planet Earth and neighboring star systems capable of supporting life?
21st Century Sandshark Studios
Hello and welcome to today’s WARM UP QUICK SKETCH CHALLENGE! Today we are continuing our promotional efforts for THE TEN MINUTE CONSKETCH promotion that we will be trying out at the next few shows, including SHOFF SHOW tomorrow at the Crowne Plaza in Tyson’s Corner http://shoffpromotions.com/, The Bel Air opening of Collectors Corner on February 1st http://www.collectorscornermd.com/, and The February 9th edition of VA Comicon http://vacomicon.com/ The deal is simple! You lay down five bucks, I put up the clock at 10 minutes and I in that time produce a head sketch of comic or pop culture request of YOUR CHOICE! Now some may ask. What can 10 minutes of work put out?
How about this Red Skull piece as requested by Jeff Clare, Cable for Travis Miller, and ROM The Space Knight for Steve Howard.