Monday, August 26, 2013

ComiCONN celebrates comics

This past weekend I attended one of my favorite conventions - ComiCONN. It's Connecticut's biggest and best convention and one that certainly reminded me how fun real comic conventions can be.

I first set up a table for TJ Comics at ComiCONN 2011, which was held at a hotel literally across the street from where I live in Stamford, CT. The ONLY problem with that convention was that Hurricane Irene was barreling toward the tri-state area and traffic in and out of New York City was being shut down. Nevertheless, the con's attendance was solid and it was a great show.

In 2012, I wasn't able to make the show due to a wedding, but I was still reeling from New York Comic Con 2011.

In fact, the last convention I set up at was NYCC 2011. As I've mentioned before, that con is a separate story I will eventually share one day, but that show nearly broke me.

So ComiCONN 2013 was my return to exhibiting at cons and it was an absolute blast. Mind you, I was utterly exhausted from the previous night - my wife and I finally allowed our son to "cry it out" at night and all he needed was one night to finally do what his twin sister does so well - sleep through the night.

My buddy and co-worker, Alex - the writer/creator of Sarah Faire and the House at the End of The World - joined me at the TJ Comics table for this show. It was his first con with Sarah Faire in tow and the first con under the TJ Comics banner. Although we arrived a bit late, the Trumbull Marriott was already PACKED.

The con was laid out a bit strangely, but that was due mostly to the layout of the show... there was a big main floor for vendors and exhibitors were put into smaller side rooms. We were in a particularly smaller side room, but were placed across from the one and only Billy Tucci. Staring at gorgeous pin-ups all day isn't a bad thing at all, but Mr. Tucci was also a major featured guest, so much traffic was directed to our small room.

The great thing about small conventions like this one are that they are about comics. There are some media guests, but people attend this con to find toys and collectibles at affordable prices, back issues for cheap and meet creators without the shadow of the big publishers.

That's the real kicker from small press and creators at these kinds of shows. Marvel, DC and the other publisher stay away. These shows are about comics as a hobby and art and ComiCONN is one of the absolute best. Creators and small publishers don't have to compete with Marvel and DC - specifically their abundance of freebies. Also, the "exclusives" in terms of toys, statues and what not are nowhere to be found, allowing attendees more of a flexible budget to support small press and find new stories outside the realm of the corporate comics.

Sure, a creator still needs to have a good sales pitch for someone to sell their books, but con-goers are much more receptive to a pitch.

Overall, ComiCONN was great and I can't wait until next year's show.

Saturday, August 17, 2013

Character files are fun

One of my favorite things about creating a story or a universe is the wide variety of characters that populate said world. There are few things more liberating to me than creating and defining a character. It's one reason why I LOVE video games that are heavy on customization. It's also why I really get into stories in any medium that focus on character. One recent example of character taking centerstage is the Jack Reacher movie. In the books, Reacher is described as being 6'5 and between 225-250 pounds. He was portrayed by Tom Cruise - much to the chagrin of fans. But Cruise OWNED the character and reaffirmed my belief that although he might be a little nuts, Cruise can easily make me believe he is the character he plays.

I don't necessarily think character should overshadow plot, though I do believe that they should work in tandem. Obviously, a story's main character tends to be the most developed and supporting characters often end up serving the plot.

In Patriot-1, I created a number of characters, some that serve the plot and some that are in direct support of the main character. On that same token, I cut a number of characters as well, as the final version of the book will differ greatly from the original version. In fact, a major player in the story wasn't added until the final draft was being written.

Regardless, the plot and main character of Patriot-1 take center stage throughout the book, but there are a lot of characters that are kind of awesome and to really add weight to the story - the supporting cast needs back story.

I'm a fan of character files - like the old G.I. Joe file cards for example - because they give you the history behind a character. What can't be explained in the story itself, can be outlined in a couple of paragraphs.

For me it's fun to do say: "Okay, this character will is 'this and this' and then start doing research and expand from there.

So I've done that with Patriot-1, and I do have backstories mapped out for my characters, and I'm slowly starting to put them on the book's website.

Since the book has a military and espionage theme and the CIA is heavily involved, I gave the character files the "spy treatment."

The first character is David St. Croix. In the story he works for the CIA's Special Activities Division. Since the first draft of Patriot-1 he's been a French national - what became the CIA team was originally a mercenary outfit - and as the story evolved so did he. He was originally portrayed as a bit nuts, but he's since become the quiet professional of the ensemble.

The most fun was coming up with a backstory for him. because that's when research and character creation REALLY gets fun. 

You can check out the full version of the Character File at the book's website

Saturday, August 3, 2013

Patriot-1 website

A big step in the modern world for any product, service - whatever - is the right website.  I wrote an earlier post about developing a website that suits your needs and my experience doing so.

I made mention that the inspiration for such a post was the development of the website for my upcoming graphic novel. I've been involved in a lot of web designs and redesigns over the years from amateur to professional to some big ones very recently at my day job. It's fun to see the concepts of what could be and to talk over and against co-workers and bosses in the effort to explain your reasons for why.

Anyway, I spent quite some time debating the look and feel of This particular page will be the face of the book and brand from a digital standpoint. It's a sea of uncertainty in the comics industry because I'm competing with the big publishers.

I like to think Patrtiot-1 stands out because it's more of a throwback to old war books. I once told someone that it takes old World War II books, Kubert war books and Larry Hama's early G.I. Joe and mashes them together in a type of homage to the genre. It's really an action-movie in sequential form and I think that's where it really shines.

I don't have zombies, aliens, vampires or whatever the current overplayed trend is in pop-culture - it's a straight up down-to-Earth- story about war, espionage and standing up for what is right.

When it came to the site, I didn't want to go completely content heavy with random news items and other things that could ultimately detract from the main focus - the book. I wanted a destination where readers could come and learn about the book, preview pages, read about the creators, pick up some customized merchandise - and of course - buy the book when the time comes.

Overall, I'm happy with how it looks right now, though I'm sure it will continue to evolve in the months to come.

So check out the site, there's a 5 page preview of the book and a lot more cool features coming!