Cartoon and Illustration

Small thank you to Comic-Con

Just a small addendum to yesterday’s comments about San Diego Comic-Con.  Today I was happy to receive a well-worded and informative response to my inquiries about getting a complimentary pass to Comic-Con.

I was pleased to let the representative know that I had actually secured a complimentary pass during the interim between initially contacting them and their response.  I don’t know whether this was because of  my original misunderstanding or Divine Providence stepping in (or a little of both), but the task was completed.

But it was nice to hear from them.  The representative that responded, Chris, was kind enough to follow up with a congratulations and hopefully we’ll meet up when I attend the show in July.

So they are making an effort to be more friendly and informative already.  Thank you Comic-Con.  May you continue to be all of that and more.

As someone has said, “all’s well that ends well.”

Cartoon and Illustration

Hit the ground running and don’t stop running…

I don’t normally post two days in a row, but then again I don’t normally have days like yesterday was.

I began negotiating two client contracts simultaneously.  I talked to a third client about doing more work for them.  I answered about 200 emails.  I turned in two pages of completed artwork.

And…I got my professional registration for San Diego Comic-Con set up.  That is, I have my pass (a UPC code) in my possession.  Of all the things accomplished getting pro registration for SDCC is probably the most complex thing.  To give you some idea of how complex; it was somewhere between doing my yearly taxes and hacking into NORAD (as in the 1980s movie, War Games).

While I realize that in recent years SDCC has gotten a lot of national press and therefore has expanded exponentially as a venue itself (thereby adding more to its fame, and so on and so forth)–that snowball effect has led the organizers to tighten up on their application process to allow schlubs like me free pro passes.

But it really was a huge pain.

Most shows you call them up, or email them, ask if they have any free passes for pros.  If it’s a little show they ask what you’ve done and if you have almost any sort of credits to your name–or can even draw a decent anime looking girl (Sailor Moon, whatever) they give you a table and lots of build up.  If it’s a medium sized show they may ask for a list of your total contribution to the industry as a whole, a paragraph about your career and then still want you to pay $50-100 for a table space.  If it’s a large show they will often have you write something along the lines of an essay as to why you should be allowed to be there, then wait 6 months before responding to you, only to tell you that they not only won’t give you a free pass, but that table space all sold out months ago anyway.

But SDCC is all automated now.  I’ve gotten strange communications from them in the form of emails that appear to be written in English–as they do contain words anyone can look up in a dictionary–but the words are combined in strange ways that are not always apparent to the reader.  At least not to me.

Back in late summer my collaborator on DoorMan, Mike Leonard, sent me a copy of the book “Comic-Con and the Business of Pop Culture” by Rob Salkowitz.  The book is supposed to be an examination of the market forces that are driving the present expansion of Pop Culture and how to build on that as a business model.  It is that–but it’s also a cautionary tale to anyone who is vaguely interested in attending San Diego Comic-Con–that is “GET OFF YOUR BUTT AND GET YOUR PASS NOW OR YOU’LL NEVER GET IN!”

A bit earlier in the summer I went to Heroes Convention in Charlotte, NC.  I split a room with ex-Disney animator and swell guy, Tom Bancroft.  I also spent a lot of time with my other frequent collaborator, Shane Berryhill.  Between the two of them they managed to convince me that I needed to be more agressive in my pursuit of comics work, and that going to SDCC was key.

So putting two and two together it became apparent that I needed to go look at the SDCC website and figure out how this was to be accomplished.  I spent the better part of two days trying to figure out the website in order to, get this, apply for a special code number that would allow me to (at some unspecified future date) apply for the chance to get a pass to SDCC.  This process applies to ANYONE who would like to attend–professional or fan.  

Which is to say, if you were planning to go in 2013 you’re probably already out of the running.

Now, let me just say that if you’re Stan Lee you probably don’t have to go through the process.  They’ve had their lawyers talk to Stan’s lawyers and that was all taken care of months ago.  But for anyone as far down on the food chain as I am, the process is what it is.

Anyway, a month or so ago I got an email from SDCC’s automated systems telling me that all guest registration was closed–sorry.  Which kind of made me angry as nobody had told me that the process of registration had started.  I sent a few emails around to folks I knew had been guests in the past years (Tom among them–did I mention that Tom had been coaching me during all this time about dealing with SDCC?) and found out that none of them were aware of this cut off date either.

Being the vice chairman of the Southeast Chapter of the National Cartoonists Society I felt that an apology for this should be forthcoming from SDCC and wrote to tell them so.  But I got no answer as such.

Then on Saturday last, I got an email telling me that on Monday the website would be accepting requests for professional registration after all.  That the website would open up at 10 am California time and that I could log on then and be given the opportunity to put in a request after all.  So I did the virtual “que-up” and somehow found all the info that I had input months before in order to apply to apply got to a screen on the SDCC site that indicated that I had no need to be verified.  That is a nice little icon came up in a pleasant blue (kind of looked like one of those post-it note pointers that lawyers use to make contracts look more fun and inviting) that said “VERIFICATION NOT DUE”.  I figured this meant that I was all signed up for the next wave of obscure and confusing emails–one of which would contain my pro pass–or not.

But I sent an email off to Tom just to make sure.  He wrote back saying that he had secured his own pass already (the aforementioned UPC code in an email) and that if I didn’t have one of those, I should log back on and get it.

I did so, searching high and low for a link to the proper page to do this “getting” thing.  I downloaded PDFs of forms I’d filled out back in October, I looked at the pro checklist PDF, only to find that none of the highlighted links therein were actually “hot” (that is, “click me and you’ll go to the right page!”)  I finally figured out that by manually entering the string of code in one of the PDF documents that it would take me to the right page.

However the “right” page was by that time shut down for “routine maintenance” and would be until 2 pm California time.  But it also said that all complimentary passes had already been spoken for.

My only hope was to log back on at, what? 5 pm east coast time (give me a break, I’d been online for 4 hours by then and am still getting over flu) and see about securing a pass at whatever cost.  Not like I have any money right now, but I figured I could at least get to the point of handing over my credit info and still turn back at that point if it seemed too costly.

As it was, when I logged back on, promptly at 5, the page took me straight to a prompt that said I was in!  I got my pro pass UPC code, printed it out and an email was sent to my inbox with confirmation.  They also sent me straight to the hotel booking page–which comfortingly assured me that just because I booked a room there was no guarantee that I had a pass to get in to the show itself.  So I then double-checked all that I’d been doing for the past 6 hours.

My point?  My point is that while I can appreciate that SDCC is having to deal with increased traffic every year–to the point of ridiculousness–that the automated systems that they have put in place are not operating as smoothly as they might.  I realize that it’s difficult to create anything I.T. at all–one reason that I don’t do that sort of thing is that it IS difficult and I lack the skill to do it.  But just because a fellow can write code does not mean that he can write English–at least not in a calm and reassuring manner.

I also realize that it is probably in the worst of taste for me, a first time applicant to attend who in spite of all the difficulties and frustrations actually was awarded a complimentary pass to the biggest comics convention in the United States–free of charge, based solely on my body of work–is now writing what might be perceived as a huge flame to the organizers.

That is not my intention.

My intention is that hopefully the organizers of SDCC will realize that the difficulties inherent in their new process of registration will only cause frustration on the part of many people and that they would be well served to secure the services not only of competent I.T. professionals (and I have to admit the website worked on schedule), but that they should also hire some competent word-smiths to craft the wording of their communications and perhaps give some thought to future design of the portion of their (admittedly voluminous) website devoted to application for entry–making it more navigable.

People aren’t applying for citizenship for Pete’s sake!  The process should be streamlined and made more comforting.  Hire someone from a cruise ship line to write your copy and answer questions–you know they’re all over San Diego.

Okay, enough.  Aside from that small set of objections, I truly do appreciate the folks at SDCC letting me in.  Thank you for being so kind.

I will attempt to behave myself in future when speaking of your fine organization.  You do indeed do a lot for the community of comics fans and creators, bringing us together like no other venue in the world and I don’t mean to be difficult.


It’s still up to me to figure out how to get there and pay for all the travel, hotel and food while I’m there.  It’s still up to me to put together a decent self-promotion package, as well as meet as many potential clients as possible during the time I’m there.  But the first major threshold has been met and conquered.

Looking forward to July.



Cartoon and Illustration

Feeling much better, thanks.

The past couple of weeks have been rough.

I feel a bit like repeating that old Rodney Dangerfield line, “I’m okay now, but let me tell ya’–last week I was in rough shape!”  I really was in rough shape, for the past couple of weeks.

I got the flu–or some flu-like thing around January 10.  But my wife and I had scheduled a trip to see her Dad in Illinois and help settle the estate of her recently passed step-Mother. We went, and I felt lousy.

Between home in the mountains of North Carolina and Cincinnati, Ohio, my ears were plugged up so that I could barely hear a word that was said.  The drumming of the rain on the car top, however, nearly drove me insane.  I actually had to put on my polar-fleece cap to try to drown out some of the noise.

Thankfully, Chicagoland was unseasonably warm and so I did not contract pneumonia.  I was still miserable the whole time with body aches and upper respiratory symptoms.  Fortunately for me (and everyone around me) I did not ever develop nausea or vomiting.  My stomach did have it’s hurting moments, but nothing dire.  I just lay there like Cameron in “Ferris Bueller’s Day Off”.

Seriously, Karin came in on Tuesday where I was sprawled on her Dad’s old recliner with a comforter spread out and she sang, “When Cameron was in Egypt land…let my Cameron go.”  It was incredibly funny–but I didn’t laugh too hard, it hurt too much to move.

By Wednesday evening I felt well enough to accompany Karin to dinner with her Dad, our niece, Ashley, and Ashley’s husband, Zach.  We had pizza, and I babbled on about some comic book historical thing for what must have seemed like hours for them (giving the total history of Max Gaines, EC Comics, DC Comics and All-American Comics before getting to the point).  I can still vaguely recall their stunned faces.  Sorry about that.

During my rant I worried that I was going to give them all the flu.  Apparently I didn’t.

By Friday I only felt lousy, rather than really lousy.  Which is good because did I mention that Ashley was pregnant?  She gave birth to their first son, Greyson Cruz Gibson, sometime on Friday, January 18, and my brother-in-law (the Grandfather) and his whole family, as well as my sister-in-law also came to Chicagoland to be in on that (as well as the aforementioned estate stuff).

Again, I worried about passing germs along to the crowd–even while I enjoyed talking with my other 3 nieces and nephew on that side of the family.  Great kids.  Love them all so much…great fun to be around, even when ill.

On Saturday we loaded up the car with a lot of stuff.  So much stuff that there was some worry that we’d wreck a fly-spring, but we didn’t.  Then on Sunday we drove back home to NC–well, Karin drove.  I mostly sat in the car and coped with still feeling–um, not great.

Monday I unloaded the car.  Our living room is still a shambles.

Tuesday Karin came down with it–big time.  She got the whole enchilada–or rather lost the whole enchilada.  It takes that sort of thing to stop her from pushing herself, and even then she’s been trying to do too much stuff.

After two full weeks, and five days, I’m finally back in the studio for what feels like a full day’s work.  Mostly I’ve just been dealing with old emails.

I’ve been unsubscribing from various news services, simply because I can’t handle them sending me daily updates about everything.  I know it’s important to be aware, but give me a break!  I don’t need updates every day on most of this stuff–much less twice daily like some of these services do.

Anyway, my career is progressing in the meantime.  I’ve agreed in principle to a regular project and am talking to another publisher about stuff to fill in the blanks, and I’ve got a game design project pending too.  Considering that on Friday I was afraid we were going to go broke from all the unexpected expenses and time off of work, things are looking much better.

Yesterday the sermon text at church was on Matthew chapter 6–in particular the part about not worrying.   The problem is that we Christians often go down that list of things not to worry about as if by worrying about the list we eliminate the worries from our lives.  Not so.  It turns out that the whole chapter kind of works backward.  If we have our treasure stored up in Heaven, and we’ve got our vision set on the kingdom of God, and we have God as our master–then we don’t have to worry about the little things like food and clothes etc.

Cartoon and Illustration

A little promotion goes a long way!

I mentioned my little notice in the local papers.  I’m not sure that these were all that’s involved in the deluge of other things that have happened in the past couple of days, but they certainly didn’t hurt.

First off, got a commission from an old patron.  It’s not that much in financial terms, but considering I’m returning to creating art for someone who bought one of my very first pieces back in my school days–it’s a real kick.

Then the folks at Swain Center for the Arts (who were behind the publicity I received  locally) have asked me to come back for a full gallery show–and they want “my” band, Gypsy Bandwagon, to provide the music for the reception.  That will be in October, Lord willing (there are probably still some papers to sign, and I’m going to have to stretch myself to get 30 pieces framed and cataloged by then–but it’s a go deal).

Then I got word that Game of Horror (which has been stalled for financial reasons) is suddenly back on the radar with two publishers that I’d given up on months ago.  I guess I was just being cynical.

At almost the same time I got contacted by a freelance writer who’s worked for several big companies and who’d like to talk about future projects–so he may be helpful in getting connected at those publishers.

Got the annual National Cartoonists Society division awards notice and it’s a relief to know that the Southeast chapter appears to be on a “skip” year for judging.  So this means I won’t have to arrange for a weekend in February to get the gang together to judge.  It’s a huge honor to do so, but for the past several years it’s been up to me to make the arrangements and it can be hectic.

But I actually have a piece I can submit to one of the categories this year!  And so I’ll be doing that soon.

In the past couple of days I finally realized that I had access to a piece of equipment I need to project an image onto a large canvas!  I’ve been pondering how to proceed on that for nearly two years.  So hopefully that canvas will be done in time to be the centerpiece of my gallery show.

I also just agreed in principle to doing artwork for a board game, and simply need to work out the contract details on that.

So it would seem I’m pretty busy all of a sudden.  Now the trick is to turn all of this into an income stream.  Not that I’m all about money, but with bills to pay, dentist appointment tomorrow, and taxes due next week–money is fairly important to achieving my short term goals of not starving or dying of exposure.


Cartoon and Illustration

Yow! Am I overexposed yet?

I did this program on comics and graphic novels for a local arts group last night.  While those in attendance were perhaps few,  the local press seems to have taken the story and run with it.  I keep getting people telling me that they saw me in the paper–students of my wife, people from our church, etc.  Seems that nearly all the local papers picked up the story.

Which brings up the subject of fame.

I’m not particularly interested in fame in and of itself.  That’s not say that it’s not flattering to have people ask for an autograph–but as for fame itself, let’s just say I can see how misleading it can be.

So what’s it good for?  Hopefully it’s good for promoting my abilities as an artist.  I’m interested in it to the point that it provides me with the ability to do the kind of work I want to do and be able to pay the bills.

This past week has been a good bit of sweating bills: county taxes, federal self-employment taxes are coming up, and we have phone bills, power bills, medical bills and many other debts to pay.

If my debts went away and I could get hired to do the sort of jobs I love without any sort of promotional considerations, then there wouldn’t be much point in the thing called “fame”.

However, the program went well last night and I’ve been asked if I’d like to do a retrospective show of my works at the same venue (Swain County Center for the Arts) and maybe have my band play there.  This is the sort of fame that I like–the kind that opens doors to more opportunities.

As my resolution for the New Year is to do everything I can to make a better living (as long as it’s not immoral or illegal), this sort of attention seems to be pointing in the right direction.  Just have to keep my head on straight and remember what fame is for (however localized it may be).