Tuesday, 8 May 2012

Violence and the Modern Comic

I recently attended the Calgary Comic and Entertainment Expo. Not my first time at a major con, but certainly my first time trapped like a herring in one.

—Seriously, sent round and round in circles:
"Can I get out this exit?"
"No." Points to the right. "Go out the corral."
Goes right. "Can I get out this exit?"
"No." Points to the right. "Go out the corral."
Goes right. Reaches the end of the auditorium. "I'm leaving."
"Can't get out this way." Points left. "Go out the corral."
"Where the hell's the corral?!"
Points diagonally through the massive crowd to the opposite corner of the building which was much closer to the first attempt door and DEFINITELY NOT LEFT. "It's over there."—

When I say this was a big event, I'm saying it was nuts. They were expecting 30,000 people and got 50,000 or something like that. It was wall to wall geek, standing room only freak, complete with outrageous costumes, unending lines, deafening sound effects, massive art, expensive indulgences in fandom and unnervingly polite behaviour from just about everybody.

Gathering the ST TNG stars all in one locale was probably under appreciated as a draw. It was rather a neat thing to happen and I'm sure a lot more casual fans turned out just to see it.  But the con has apparently been getting bigger and bigger just on its own. It's not that old according to the locals. Edmonton's predates it, but is growing at a much steadier pace.

source: wikipedia
Regardless, I was there to see who might sell my book or be interested in my other work, so spent the majority of my time walking the venders' floor. There were little successes, little frustrations and a lot of trepidation as I made my way from booth to booth.

I knew these folks were busy, so I stayed polite and waited for customers to be served. When reception was good, it was great. When not, well, it's a good thing that I already believe that the Simpson's Comic Book Guy is a real person who has been (un)successfully cloned or I might have come out of there convinced there was something wrong with me.

I came across this booth where nobody was standing. There were two older women inside amid a lot of books. Turns out they represented Alberta Libraries. It's not as sad as it sounds, all the booths like this one were finding it hard to attract attention. If you weren't selling costumes or comics or action figures, offering the services of hollywood horror makeup or (I kid you not) fantasy escort "for a night that is out of this world" you were ignored.

I stopped and we started talking. They were impressed that their local convention had drawn people from as far away as Fredericton. I didn't tell them about the folks from California I'd been speaking with an hour before. I learned on Sunday and Monday that Calgarians were genuinely surprised by their raging success (sometimes out of control) convention.

I was lucky to get inside both days. Lots of people who bought passes were turned away. Once in, regardless of how tired or hungry I got, I had to stay or risk not getting back in. There were huge lines for everything, including the overpriced food (plate with potato chips, pulled pork sandwich and pop=$12; regular coffee, prepackaged muffin=$4.56). When I needed to rest I went to a panel discussion—not the Steampunk ones I wistfully wanted to see, because the line up to get into them was an hour at least and that sometimes didn't get you in the door.

So, there sat I, one of possibly twenty people listening to a publisher (Avatar Press) talk about how writers and artists can break into the field, specifically through them. Big FYI for you, they meant artists for the writers they already have. New writers with no artist have no real chance at all.

That's cool. But I might be interested in getting a comic published. What could I do? I learned from their long list of published examples that I need to write something violent, comedic and/or full of sexual innuendo. Sigh. Comics are indeed a teenaged boy realm.

That's okay. I have a couple of characters who are inclined to violence.  They're not all that funny, and one of them is utterly asexual, but hey. The wheels started turning. By the time I was wrapping up my rounds for the day I had a general idea of plot and setting. I thought maybe, just maybe, I could find myself an artist ('cause, you know, writers aren't worth a pinch of poo) and work something up.

But, as violent as my characters can get, I have never set out to write the story equivalent of chum (slimy, bloody bait to stir up a shark's hunger). I don't see it happening now.

Read Me
Lucky for me, I met another publisher in the venders' aisles. Edge and Tesseract Books are Canadian and both really one publisher. I went to their booth for reading material (which I found, Tesseracts 13 is very good) and ended up wanting to submit to them.

But what I have ready at the moment are all short stories and these folks are looking for novels.


A new place for my would-be violent comic series, with a whole lot less violence, a lot more SF action and poor Flame gets to keep her modesty. Best of all, I can do it on my own. No artist required. No offence there artists, but you know how complicated these partnership projects can be.

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