Monday, July 25, 2016

A Week in Writing #100 - Report From the Front: Comic-Con 2016

Well, comics and Comic-Con have certainly been the focus of the week. This week in writing was extremely curtailed by the prep for and the attendance of Comic-Con. I know a writer is supposed to write a thousand words every day, but there are times when even the most gung-ho amongst us don't have the opportunity. And Comic-Con is one of those times. Days start early and nights end late, so there is little time to be making edits, let alone writing query letters or writing up something new.

With the exception of some typing up on edits for Simple Sins, and I'm about 30% done with that, everything has revolved around Comic-Con. The work week even started with an update on my TV pitch, From Fan To Creator, which was certainly out of the blue. The last email had been one I'd sent two months ago, so I'm not sure what prompted the sudden response. Non-committal, of course, the email did say my idea was "fun" although it did warn "we’re not specifically looking for that kind of series at the moment." There's the vague promise to chat after SDCC, but while I'm not giving up totally on the idea, I'm not quitting my day job either. The idea has been evolving in my own head, so I would welcome the opportunity to talk about it further. As they say, you never know.

Onto Comic-Con itself. If you've read my past posts about WonderCon and Comic-Con on this blog or on Trophy Unlocked, then some of this may sound familiar. 

The first thing you'll need to know about Comic-Con is that everything will take longer than you expect. For us, it started with the trip down to San Diego. Last year the trip took about three hours, this year it took four and a half, We left a half hour later, but there had to be something else going on. There were no accidents, just really slow traffic. 

For only the second time since we've started attending, this year marked our 10th time in 11 years, we were able to go to Preview Night. I won't mention names, but it's nice to have friends in high places. We arrived a few minutes late, since everything was getting pushed back, but the floor was crazy in a fun way. On our only other time, it was crazy in a really bad way. Mostly this was a scope out and exclusives buying spree. I won't go into the exclusives that we purchased, which is a part of every Comic-Con, but there were some that we wanted but could not obtain.

One of the things we like to do at Comic-Con every year is to have dinner at the Old Spaghetti Factory and we decided to do that on Preview Night. It only took about twenty minutes to get a table rather than the hour or more it takes during the Con. 

Even though we went back to the hotel soon afterward, it was a really late night. We didn't get to bed until after 2 am and got up about 4. The idea is to try to get in early once or twice to scoop up the harder-to-get exclusives. This didn't work, as even though we got to the Convention Center about 5:30 or so, the line was already about a mile long, or so it seemed. The other lesson is that no matter how early you get there, there is always someone who is ahead of you, as people regularly camp out way in advance.

At least we were ahead of all of these people.

While there is a lot of running around getting autographs and meeting people, for me one of the highlights was the panel: Comics PR & Marketing 101 led by Chip Mosher from Comixology. Apparently, this is a yearly panel, in which Chip and his guests, David Hyde (founder, Superfan Promotions), Hunter Gorinson (Valiant director of marketing, communications & digital media), and Hope Nicholson (publisher, Bedside Press) answer questions from the audience. While I didn't ask a question, what I learned did get me to thinking about our own comic book, PowerSquared, developments on, I'll get to later. The book itself is only part of the work that needs to be done. Anxious to get it out doesn't mean that's the best approach. I'm thinking we need to wait at least until Part 2 is completed before we start to release anything and even then, there are other steps that need to be taken to ensure it's a success. This panel really got me thinking.

Thursday night we attended some anime, which is a part of our tradition, so by the time we got back to the hotel, the restaurants nearby either had a very long line or they were expensive. We ended up at the Shakespeare Pub, which had to be the darkest place, as in low light, I can remember ever eating. Slow service didn't help either. Maybe it's me, but Comic-Con always brings out this sense that no one cares about your time. This was repeated at the Con several times when we were told to come back at various booths on the floor. As if our time meant nothing or very little to them.

The actress at one booth didn't make her call time at 10 am. "You know how actresses are," we were told, come back in half an hour. Don't professional actresses have call back times that they meet? Why not this one? T-shirts at one booth weren't there. "Come back in an hour or so, we should have them in by then." "Come back tomorrow and we'll sell you a box," the vendor at the Konami booth told my sons. But by the third day, and the third "Come back tomorrow" I told the guy we'll buy it elsewhere. In an environment like Comic-Con, where everything is pretty scheduled, being told to come back to spend your money not only throws off your schedule, but is a little insulting. Who likes hearing, "I won't take your money until later." If you want my money be ready and be nice, is that too much to ask?

The issue with Konami brings up another issue that we found happening several times at the Con. Exhibitors make promises that they can't or don't keep. Now maybe they've underestimated their own popularity, but when a booth promises some little trinket for free and then changes it to only when you make a purchase, or sells out before the morning of the last day of the Con (Fox and their Ryan Reynolds signed Deadpool Blu-Ray and VHS exclusive) then they're not planning things out very well. While that may not turn consumers off, as an example, who's going to hate Peanuts even though the booth couldn't handle their pin a day promotion, it still doesn't leave you with a good feeling about them. 

One of the great things about Comic-Con is that you get to meet new people and reconnect with old ones. Spoke briefly face to face with Chip after his panel, and sort of interrupted the set up of the first Comic Creator Connection to slap a howdy on Doug Neff and Corey Rothermel, I did run into other people I knew from work and from Facebook. Really enjoyed meeting Lee Oaks in Artist Alley, putting a face to the Facebook as it were. Lee had recently finished his own Kickstarter for a comic he's doing, Thunder Monkey, so I wanted to hear more about that. Also ran into Matt Patterson from Warner Archive a few hours before he was to lead a panel on Cartoon music and on the final day ran into Gary Teetzel, an old friend from my MGM days which made the Con complete as we see him every year.

Even though we were at the convention, the duties of our comic book were never too far away, as both the artist and the colorist sent us emails and pages to view; layouts and character designs for Part 2 from the former and revised pages and a first pass on the cover from the latter. Still haven't been able to find the time to look at, let alone comment on the color revisions for Part 1, Did write back about the layout and character designs. Based on what we saw, Part 2 seems to be off to a solid start. 

Still managed to post a review on Trophy Unlocked on Saturday morning: Star Trek III: The Search for Spock (1984). The title seemed appropriate since SDCC was celebrating the 50th Anniversary of the iconic TV show as well as hosting the premiere of the new film in the rebooted franchise, Star Trek Beyond. Nichelle Nichols was one of the featured signees in the Sails Pavillion and in addition to her signing a photo she was selling, also got her to sign the front cover of the Con's program, which features a drawing of Leonard Nimoy as Spock. (Signees are expected to sign the program for free.) Meeting her was definitely a highlight of the Con for me and my wife. As was meeting Genndy Tartakovsky, the man behind such animated series as Dexter's Laboratory, Samurai Jack, Star Wars: Clone Wars (2003) and Sym-Biotic Titan.

Genndy Tartakovsky was one of many creators doing signings at Comic-Con.
Almost as earth-changing as Chip Mosher's panel was, another one comes close to being as meaningful. On Saturday morning, Paul and I attended the The Writing a Story Using a 3-Act Structure panel led by author Maxwell Alexander Drake. While some of what Drake said I had head before, he was a very charismatic speaker and it never hurts to hear something more than once or in a new and entertaining way. Even though we had not attended the first two on Thursday or Friday, we were still able to pick up on his concepts of writing and even purchased his book Dynamic Story Creation, but also his CD presentation for The Anatomy of a Fight Scene. Even though neither Paul nor I had heard of Drake before, the panel was nearly filled. People ahead of us in line commented that people follow him. We were definitely in the minority as most, 90% plus, had seen him the two previous days. I just began to read the book, so I can't comment here too much about it, though I do like his no-nonsense approach. I think it will be helpful for both the mystery writing and for the comic book as well.

It's hard not to feel a little depressed after such an event. Let's face it, for most of us, our daily lives are anything but super and reality, given the state of the world, sucks. But Comic-Con provided more than just a break from the everyday, it reminded me once again of what I want to become. As much as I may love my job, it's not what I feel passionate about. When we left, I had to fight from literally crying as not only did I not want to go back to the humdrum, but I wanted to make a change in my life, both physically and professionally. Now I'm a man with responsibilities, so change doesn't come easily, unless of course we win the lottery, but I do know the direction I want to see my life go in and it's more than just north on the I-5 to Los Angeles.

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