WonderCon, held last weekend in San Francisco at Moscone Civic Center, looked much like a miniature version of Comic-Con International in San Diego. This similarity is not surprising, as both events are organized by the same company. Movie studios and video game companies compete at ever-increasing levels of volume with comics publishers and individual artists for the conventioneer’s dollar.
This year, there were many familiar Portland faces and some new ones at WonderCon, and the Portland Comic Books Examiner was on hand again to discuss the latest events and projects.
Paul Guinan and Anina Bennett, with their full-size Boilerplate cutout proudly proclaiming “Soon to be a Major Motion Picture,” ramped up their game for this convention. “We brought six cases of books this time,” Bennett said, since Boilerplate: History’s Mechanical Marvel sold out very early at Emerald City Comicon and San Diego Comic-Con. “I’m wondering how it will be next year when Frank Reade is out, since we’ll have to bring twice as many books!” Bennett and Guinan are currently reviewing the first of three passes on the layout for the Reade book, expected in the Fall of 2012.
When reached for comment Monday, Guinan reported that all ninety-six Boilerplate books were gone by 2 p.m. on Sunday. He also related two anecdotes from the weekend’s show about special visitors to their table:
Producer J.J. Abrams’ personal assistant was at WonderCon and visited the couple. “He came by to reiterate Bad Robot’s enthusiasm and commitment to the Boilerplate film,” the artist recalled. “According to him, the project has not slowed in its momentum.” Copies of Boilerplate have been sent to screenwriters, who will respond with their treatment of the story for Abrams and his production company to review.
“I asked if it was okay to use our ‘Soon to be a Major Motion Picture’ sign,” Guinan said, and the assistant replied in the affirmative, adding that the director “would have gotten a kick out of it.”
One of the media events receiving large-scale attention was the new season of the BBC show Doctor Who, and Toby Haynes, director of the previous season’s Christmas special and season finale was in attendance to promote the show.
“[Haynes] looked at Boilerplate and totally dug it,” Guinan remembered. The following day, the director returned with the rest of the BBC group in tow and expressed his own interest in directing the movie. “He asked me if I would put a word in with Abrams,” said Guinan, chuckling as he pointed out that in the Doctor Who Christmas special, Haynes included a Star Trek pastiche that paid homage to Abrams’ use of lens flare. Word has it that the British director was reading Boilerplate on his flight back to the U.K.
The husband and wife team are looking forward to their stint as special guests at San Diego’s Comic-Con. “We’ll finally be able to see the show,” said Guinan. Only needing to be available for scheduled signing appearances means they will not be tied to a table in Artists’ Alley. “I’m looking forward to being a tourist,” he added. Their next appearance will be at Stumptown Comics Fest, table G-5.
Local writer Rick Remender’s Punisher miniseries In The Blood just released its final issue, which finishes up his run on the popular title. He is not relaxing, though, as he is also writing Uncanny X-Force and new series Venom.
Taking a look at the books he had for sale at his table, he commented: “I look at my earlier stuff like Fear Agent, and the covers are pulpy and colorful, and the books I’m doing currently are all in black and white… I’m dealing with the darker side of the Marvel Universe.” All three of his recent series feature characters operating on the edge of morality, such as the team of operatives in Uncanny X-Force. “I’m taking the shadow hit squad, which is pretty played,” he explained, “and giving it a human side, adding ethical twists.”
Remender doesn’t take his readers for granted, especially when he takes on established characters. “It’s not a lot of easy sales; I have to earn them,” he said. “I have to redefine the brands for a new generation while maintaining the loyalty of existing fans.”
His books will not be crossing over with the Marvel summer event Fear Itself, but the author did say that writer Rob Williams will be writing a separate Uncanny X-Force miniseries connected to the event, and Venom will be crossing over with three separate events.
“Venom is crossing over with Spider Island,” said Remender, “I’m working with [writer] Dan Slott and editor Steve Wacker to make sure it fits.” Venom will also connect with the Dark Angel Saga “mini-event” and another unannounced story.
“I’m just going to spend fifteen months trying to make great Venom and X-Force runs,” the author said. “Ultimately, I would like for people to remember my series runs fondly.” Remender will be at Stumptown Comics Fest, table A-15.
Shannon Wheeler (Too Much Coffee Man, The New Yorker) was at his table after participating at the “Indie Comics Marketing 101” panel that included Boom! Studios marketing director Chip Mosher. “Panels that are about humor are never funny,” he joked, “but this panel about marketing was a lot of fun.” Wheeler reported that the assembled guests came up with “fifteen or twenty good points” about getting a new comic noticed, including examining a company’s PR and mirroring that style in one’s presentation.
That is not to say that the panel was all business. The New Yorker cartoonist was asked what to do when an idea hasn’t broken through after a certain length of time. “Do something else,” Wheeler replied, suggesting a change of direction. “Not many people know this, but The Last Supper was originally about the waiter.”
Wheeler was also a panelist for a session entitled “Comics for Social Justice: The Making of Oil and Water”, which focused on the upcoming Fantagraphics book, which Wheeler created with Oregonian columnist Steve Duin. A recap of the panel is forthcoming from the Portland Comic Books Examiner. The cartoonist will be appearing on two panels at Stumptown Comics Fest, one for “Comics as Journalism” featuring Oil and Water, and another to promote the creation of a Northwest chapter of the National Cartoonists Society.
Well-known artist David Mack (Kabuki, Daredevil) only claimed to be partially based in Portland. “I have a place there,” he said, “but I haven’t had the time to move in yet.” Frequent teammate Brian Michael Bendis (Daredevil, Scarlet) has been urging the artist to relocate to the Rose City, and many of Mack’s friends live here.
Mack is currently writing and illustrating a new children’s book, working on a new Daredevil story with Bendis, beginning his new series Dream Logic, and producing a number of book covers. “I’ll move [to Portland] when I have a second to breathe,” he joked.
Eugene Ahn, also known as nerdcore rapper Adam Warrock, was in Artists’ Alley promoting his comics-based music. The D.C.-area artist’s latest production, The Oni Press Mixtape, is a collection of twenty tracks based on books from the Portland comics publisher, including The Sixth Gun and Stumptown. The album, created with input from Oni editor Charlie Chu, is available for free download from Warrock’s website.
The hip-hop artist does not expect to be attending this year’s Stumptown Comics Fest, as it occurs too close to the end of another trip. “I would like to set up a show in Portland to perform the whole [Oni Press] album, though” he added. “I think the first performance of it should be in Portland.” Chu confirmed via Twitter that the publisher is hoping to have such a show soon, but “not Stumptown [Comics Fest] soon.”
During a panel for local publisher Dark Horse Comics, editor Scott Allie caused audible groans of disappointment when he informed an audience member that no new Umbrella Academy books were planned at the moment. “I would love to do a one-shot,” he added, but noted that author Gerard Way’s schedule was currently well-filled.
Allie also announced that Dark Horse editor Dave Marshal would be working to develop the Mass Effect video game into an expanded comic universe, as mentioned in the Portland Comic Book Examiner’s profile on the Milwaukie company.
Occupying the other half of Dark Horse’s booth space on the floor was the publisher’s online retailer Things From Another World. Marketing coordinator Elisabeth Forsythe was at her first WonderCon, and spent most of her first day in panels and conducting interviews with Dark Horse artists. “It takes a day to get going,” she said, though she reported that sales were good.
Alexis Fajardo, the writer and artist of Bowler Hat Comics’ Kid Beowulf series, was kept busy drawing and talking to visitors at his table. “Sunday was by far the best day for me,” he said later. Fajardo’s retelling of the world’s epic poems as a series of road stories was recently profiled in the San Francisco Chronicle’s Datebook magazine, and he reported that reviews have been good. he is currently a third of the way through the next adventure for Beowulf and Grendel, which will take them to Spain to meet El Cid. Fajardo will be appearing at Stumptown Comics Fest (table B-2), and said that he is “looking forward to next year when the first Kid Beowulf trilogy will be on display.”
At the Craigmore Creations booth, Terra Tempo artist Christopher Herndon was sketching commissions and showing off his book about time-traveling kids learning geological history in the Pacific Northwest. The next Terra Tempo book, expected in early 2012, will focus on the Age of the Dinosaurs. In July of this year, Craigmore Creations will release Right Where You Are Now, which explores the people and events that happened where we stand today.
The next stop on Portlanders’ convention schedule is back at home as the Stumptown Comics Fest opens for the first time on the Oregon Convention Center’s main floor.