Friday, July 25, 2008

Comic-Con: Day One

Well, don’t I feel dumb...

For my second installment of my Comic-Con report I had wanted to post some pictures of some of the people and things I’d been seeing. Unfortunately, when I unpacked my camera I discovered I’d left the cable that connects it to the computer back at home. I’ll just have to upload the photos when I get home and edit the posts later.

I think my favorite part of going to Comic-Con are the panels. It’s a change to learn something, be inspired, find out more about someone whose work you’re interested or just have some geeky fun you can’t have any place else. Of course, in a very ying-yang sort of way, panels bring you face to face with the least favorite thing about Comic-Con: standing in long lines. With 100,000 plus people attending the convention, it shouldn’t be surprising that the lines and the waits are getting longer and longer. Even panels that I would have thought of marginal interest to most people have lines stretching down the hall. And if two panels you want to see overlap you can forget the old strategy of starting in one and then ducking out to get to the next one. These days, it’s very likely that both will be full and you’re better served sticking with one of them.

I went to three panels on the first full day of the convention. The first one was Writing Professional, given by J. Michael Straczynski. Straczynski is probably my favorite television/comic book writer, and he always has something for me to take to heart when I listen to him. This panel he talked about “following your fears,” putting what you’re most afraid of in your writing and letting that lead you to your hope.

I was unable to get into the “How to Tell a Story” panel with David Gerrold, Marc Zicree and others. The line ended up having what appeared to be twice the number of people that could fit into the room. I did got a panel on “Science Fiction that will change your life.” It got me thinking about how science fiction changed my life, and gave me some titles to investigate later.

The last panel I went to at the end of the day was “Goal-Setting for Creative Types.” A very fun presentation put on by a man named Douglas Neff. One that was both practical and inspirational as well. If I can find a link for a website I’ll edit it into the post later. Participating in this panel made me want to follow up on all of my goals and see them to fruition.

I also got to meet Rikki Niehaus, an artist that’s a member of my Comic Book Creators’ Meet-up. We’d communicated on line, but had yet to meet face to face. We had a good time hanging out at the convention after she got here (she was six hours late due to an accident on the 5 freeway) and went to the “Goal-Setting” panel together. Rikki is here with her writer to pitch a comic they’ve created called “Monocle & Jimmy Specs.” It’s a cool looking comic that takes a different take on the Hero/Sidekick relationship. I hope they do well with it.

That’s it for now.


Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Comic-Con Preview Night

This is the first of a series of daily reports on the San Diego Comic-Con.

If it’s meant to prepare you for the crowds to come later, the “Preview Night” certainly lives up to its name. The Exhibitors floor now feels like any other day at the con. Except for Saturday, of course. Saturdays at Comic-Con bring their own special form of ‘crowdness.’

I did get to run into a few of the people I know through the convention. I spotted Val Hochberg at her table. She self-publishes a book called “Kick Girl.” Here’s a link if you want to check it out. Val is perhaps the most consistently happy person I’ve ever met. I also ran into a couple of guys named Matt & Justin. Matt and I got to know each other the year we both stood in the Industry registration line for the first time. I think we use each other to gauge our forward progress in in the industry. And I also got to see Lanny Liu. She drew the Best Romance story that appears in the same Rising Stars of Manga anthology that William and my story, “Gagaku Berceuse” appears. Part of the fun of Comic-Con is seeing people again you haven’t see for some time.

There are some people I won’t get to see this year, though. TokyoPop doesn’t have a booth at Comic-con this year. That wasn’t a surprise (they’d announced they weren’t coming after their restructuring), but I figured they’d at least have a panel or something, like they had at Anime Expo. A quick skimming of the programming schedule doesn’t show anything involving them. More surprising and disappointing was discovering Radio Comix isn’t here this year. William and I first met Elin and Pat at what was the first Comic-Con for Radio Comix (they shared a space with Antarctic Press). They also published our first comic book story, "Time Venturer." I double, then triple checked, but the space I thought of as “theirs” is occupied by someone else, and I don’t see them listed in the program guide.

Unfortunately I didn’t have any pictures today. I forgot to bring my camera in my rush to get to the convention center. There’s a couple of things I already know I want to shoot. I’ll make a point of posting them once I get them in my camera.

That’s it for now.


Saturday, July 19, 2008

Ghost Ensemble Extended/Going to Comic-Con

The completion deadline for "Ghost Ensemble," the online pilot based off our winning Rising Stars of Manga entry, "Gagaku Berceuse," has been pushed back to January 1st, 2009.

William Ruzicka, my artist/partner on the project, has been using a new technique to create the manga. It is one used by Ken Akamatsu, the creator of "Love Hina" and "Negima," where you use 3D modeling software to create the environment where the action takes place. You then take snapshots of the scene and layer the other elements, such as the character renderings, on top of those snapshots. While this method takes a lot of time and effort up front, it should save time in the long run, especially with large project, such as a graphic novel or on-going series.

Unfortunately, William hit a snag in trying to get the right look of the line work, causing us to come up on our deadline. When we contacted TokyoPop, they basically told us take our time and extended our deadline until the beginning of next year. I know William is pleased with the extension. I'll keep you posted on how things turn out.

Secondly, next week I'll be in San Diego for Comic-Con. This has become an annual pilgrimage for us. An opportunity to get away from the real world and rejoin "the tribe." I'll be there all four days, including Preview Night on Wednesday. William, due to his new job, can only make it Saturday and Sunday. I'll take my camera and will try to post a daily update on my experiences there. If you're coming and want to say "Hi" you can send an email to my gmail account, (you can find the link in my profile to the left hand side). I can get messages from that account on my cell phone.


Sunday, July 13, 2008

Anime Expo Impressions

Last week I made my first visit to Anime Expo. I'd wanted to go to AX for some time, but conditions never seemed to make that possible. It's proximity on the Calendar to Comic-Con, plus it distance from my home (usually being held in Orange County or in Long Beach), made it seem too much like an added expense.

This year, however (and for the next couple of years at least, according to the staff I spoke with) it'll be in the L.A. Convention center, a relatively easy (two transfer) train ride from my apartment. Being able to get in as an "Industry Professional" meant the price was right, too.

Since this was my first time at AX, I was going with more of a 'look and see' attitude, than with any clear objective. The L.A. Convention center is a nice one, a very modern and attractive facility (William thinks the San Diego Convention Center is better looking).

The one complaint I have isn't with the center itself but with surrounding environment. Unlike San Diego, where you step out of the convention center and into the Gaslamp District, with all the shops and restaurants you could want to find, the L.A. Convention Center is surrounded by warehouses and parking lots that service the Staples Center Sports Arena next door. If you want to get something to eat, your only choices are to eat at the overpriced food court at the Convention Center itself ($9.50 for a cheeseburger), drive someplace (fighting downtown L.A. traffic and parking), or take public transportation someplace.

The public transit option is by far the best option. One stop north on the Purple Metro Line train is 7th & Figueroa, a shopping area with malls and restaurants and the like. You can also go south by bus (the DASH bus is 25 cents) to Exposition Park (near USC University) and find another area with cheap eats. A $5.00 day pass lets you ride the Purple Line and the 81 Metro bus (which follows the same route as the DASH bus) all day long. L.A. doesn't have the greatest public transportation system by any means, but it is quite serviceable for the going to the convention.

The convention itself is much like any convention, with viewing rooms for anime, panels, dealers' floor and artists' alley. The anime viewing rooms very large, with nice wide aisle set up for walking through. That was the one good thing about them. Unlike at Comic-Con, they were spaced rather far apart (the layout of the convention floor plan worked against them in this regard), and the schedules were schedules in name only. I was told by staff members to ignore whatever was printed in the program and just go to the rooms and see what was posted as playing that day (difficult to do when you had to trek from one room to the next).

I sat in a number of industry panels where various companies were promoting 'up and coming' releases. I wasn't taking notes so I don't have specific titles to convey to anyone. I did notice some general trends: Lots of boxed sets of completed series. Several releases of older works by famous artists before they become famous. Most of the new stuff coming out was "shoujo-something" (shoujo-fantasy, shoujo-horror, shoujo-goth, etc.). The TokyoPop panel was interesting for the repeated use of the term "under review" when they were asked by someone about the fate of whatever series they had been following. Part of the impact of their recent reorganization. The dealers' floor was set up with nice wide aisles between the booths. So it felt busy without feeling like you were in a crush of people.

Artists' Alley was in a separate room next to the dealers' floor. I got to talk to a number of people there. Once more, I heard about fallout from TokyoPop's reorganization, with projects being suspended, cancelled or simply in limbo with no sure direction in sight. It was rather depressing to hear.

The best part about going to Anime Expo was rejoining my fellow geeks and nerds. Working in the 'real world' for eight hours a day can be a drain on one's soul. Being at the convention was invigorating. Compared with Comic-Con, there was a greater percentage of cosplayers at Anime Expo. And they were much more active in their presentation, with more groups staging little scenes or vignettes for the numerous picture takers. I think seeing Marvin there (see above) was a special treat for someone like me, raised on Bugs Bunny/Daffy Duck cartoons.

The most popular costume type I recognized were Shinigami or "Death Gods" from Bleach.

There were also more 'odd' costumes at Anime Expo. I'd seen people dressed as something from a video game before, but never a Tetris piece. And there were bunch of them, too. I later heard a rumor that three of them jumped in line for some special event, and promptly disappeared allowing everyone behind them to move up.

I have no idea who this guy (or gal?) was supposed to be. If you know, send me a message or leave a comment.

All in all, I had a good time going to Anime Expo. As long as it stays at the L.A. Convention Center I'll make a point of going. It did whet my appetite for Comic-Con, which is week after next.

Hope to see everyone there!