Arisia went very well. Unlike last year, I didn’t exhibit at a table, because I was tapped to play local guide and guest liason to my friend and this year’s Webcomics Guest of Honor, Shaenon K. Garrity. Also thanks to my Boston Comics Roundtable compadre, Jaime Garmendia, the comics programming was top-notch, and I enjoyed being on a full load of panels.
Interestingly, the “Challenges of Self-Publishing” panel’s audience seemed to be weighed toward non-comics publishing, and everyone on the panel was from a comics background. We tried our best to generalize the discussion, but we had our limitations. Personally, I found it difficult, because I share the industry’s skepticism toward self-published prose. While comics has a long, storied history of people getting a great start on indy side of the aisle, prose is littered with vanity presses and poorly-proofread tomes that the larger presses had rejected, often for good reason. However, given the changing nature of publishing, is that skepticism still justified? Perhaps that’s a conversation we should have.
Last year’s “Tools for Digital Art” panel had been a highlight, and I was looking forward to this year’s reprise. However, due to a change of format and venue, this year’s was a bit rougher around the edges. Despite the extra time added, we barely scratched the surface of the topic, and got a little too in-depth into specific features in programs like Photoshop and Poser. My feeling is next year we should consider dividing the panel into separate panels dealing 2D and 3D tools, respectively. There’s just too much ground to cover to try to squeeze it all into 75 minutes. Of course, it’s far too easy for me to talk at length about art process and how I use my tools, so perhaps I’m biased. Perhaps a workshop specifically on using digital tools in comics creation would be a good panel topic. If you happened to attend the panel, I’d be delighted to hear your thoughts.
On a related note, I worked up a walkthrough on how I’m using Photoshop to pencil PS since getting a Cintiq last month. I wasn’t able to use it at the panel, so I’ll be adapting what I have and debut it here in a future post. Stay tuned!
The “Comics: Not How You Start, But How You Finish!” panel was an experiment posed by yours truly. Oftentimes, many panels cover the topic of “How to Start a Comic”, but I’ve never seen one that discussed how to reach the finish line. We primarily covered ground on what stumbling blocks you may run into as a creator, and how to keep motivated to push through those obstacles and finish your comic. Seeking informative feedback, writing & drawing what you love, and getting over perfectionism where all highlights. It was a trickier topic to discuss at length than I’d imagined, but overall the discussion went well.
BCR’s Roho and Dave Marshall hosted the Comics Fight! on Saturday evening, and as usual it was lots of fun. I never do quite as well as I’d like at these, but I always have a good time. In a surprise turn, previous champion Braden D. Lamb emerged from the audience and kicked our collective butts. His “Baby Turkey as a Monster” drawing was simultaneously adorable and the stuff of nightmares. I should have gotten a photo. Did anyone else?
Much like the self-publishing panel, “Marketing Independent Media” was attended by a wide range of people wanting to bring non-comics work to the world, including podcasts, internet TV episodes and independent film. Inevitably, we mostly discussed ways to get the word out online, but also covered approaching stores, networking in person, and the importance of attending real events and conventions to find other people doing what you’re interested in.
By far, the best-attended panel was “The Best Webcomics Youâ€™re Not Reading”, which was a resounding success, which Kelly J Cooper broke down in great detail here. She covers it there better than I. Suffice to say, despite the impressive list, I still had more recommendations that we didn’t get to.
Lastly, the “How to Write a Comic” was probably my favorite for the whole weekend. I adore talking about process, and this was nothing but. I think the most fascinating thing I took away was that some writers who I admire greatly, and think of themselves as writers first, actually thumbnail out their comic scripts before writing them down. This is exactly the opposite of how I work, despite the fact I think of myself as an artist first. Yet, I write up scripts before I start drawing. I wonder if I would benefit from trying this.
Finally, I think the highlight of the weekend was meeting a fan who discovered Shaenon’s and my work through a little giveaway comic called “Next Stop: Germany!” that we were hired by Viz to do for the 2006 U.S. World Cup Team. It was a fun little project and a great paying gig, but I’d figured that nobody had ever really seen it, let alone enjoyed it. Well, it turns out it was very well received among fans of the US team. I was especially pleased to find that he even recognized and appreciated all the research I put into the art in the comic. He even pointed out that some of the photos I reference were considered to be iconic images amongst followers of team. Thank you so much, man! You totally made my weekend.
Anyway, it was a lots of fun. Thanks to everyone who came out for the panels and/or caught me in the hallways in between. If you happened to attend any panels and somehow missed chatting, please let me know what you thought.