Cons part 2

Continued from the below post…

Budgets are also getting tighter. I’ve heard two sides of the story: when budgets get tight customers stick to what they know, and the other, that people are more selective when they buy books and actively search for works that provoke the most engaging response.

At conventions this year people were taking more time with making their purchases, but were willing to chance to discover something new. Classification about what’s out there and what might pair nicely with a reader’s mood or sensibility is the killer app that needs to be invented.

Connecting to the mainstream has become easier thanks to the high profile films, but their needs to be prominent pointers to other related work. If you liked Downey Jr. In Iron man, then why not pick up book x?

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posted by JP at 10:10 pm  

MCM Expo Day 2 pic of the day

It’s always reassuring when you’re able to sell Freddy Kruger a horror comic.

London Horror Comic at MCM Expo 2012

Careful. It's sharp. An so are his claws. Mwah ha ha

Today marked the last of the cons for me until November. Until then it’s all about getting issue five produced.

It’s been a wild couple of months. A common theme at all the conventions I’ve been through has been that people are interested in seeing new types of work that they can’t find in their local comic shop.

It’s weird, but the delight I’ve seen people buy new comics with at conventions doesn’t seem to pair with the usual crowd of people buying their comics every Wednesday. It’s more like the latter is informed by habit or a sense of completism then any real delight offered by the comic.

Part of that sense of excitement must be do to with meeting a creator who almost acts as a warm up act for the book itself. But the majority of enthusiastic reactions from readers must be to do with finding a work that speaks to them on some level, rather than a piece of work that ultimately is about executing an editorial policy with toybox of properties that can then be licensed.

My visit to MoCCA is ultimately where I see the UK small-press scene heading: a room as large as any mainstream convention, holding its own with strange and unfamiliar titles and unknown faces and not relying on toys or video games or film. You walk in the door because comics are what you’re interested and that’s the only price of administration.

To get there, we still need the light of the mainstream. But the benefits don’t have to be one way. If someone gets into comics because of a small press title, chances are they’ll reconsider what other stuff is out there. In the small press scene we’re ultimately creating new entry points for new readers by producing work in areas other than the super-hero genre.

Digressing slightly, DC’s Before Watchmen strategy should have been laid several years earlier by seeding new talent and giving them opportunities to produce books that took creative risks. The next Watchmen could have occurred naturally. But it hasn’t as yet.

[to be continued tomorrow…]

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posted by JP at 10:12 pm  

MCM Expo London Day 1

MCM Expo 2012 London Horror Comic Day 1

Can I sell you some insurance, sir?

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posted by JP at 9:13 pm  

London Horror Comic @ MCM Expo London

I’ll be at London MCM expo at the Excel centre tomorrow for what will be the last convention for me until Thoughtbubble in November.

There have been a wealth of conventions for me this year and it’s been hard work. But in a good way.

Getting out from behind the desk and up in front of the actual people who buy comics reminds you that there is a living breathing someone who’s reading your work.

These people are looking for laughs, scares and generally something that will move them to fish out a few pounds from the pocket.

Small press titles generally don’t have the luxury of being a continuing series or a rotation of creative teams that one day might make the book worth reading. Small press titles have to grab you from page one panel 1 and use every trick in the book to keep you turning the page. Pulp writing at it’s finest.

While this does stack the odds slightly against you, creatively it’s a great challenge in getting the maximum response with the fewest pieces of information.

Anyway, I’ll do a wrap of cons after Sunday. Not having a con to go to until November will leave my weekends pretty empty, which is what I need as I get issue five together.

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posted by JP at 7:23 am  

London Horror Comic Issue 4 available to order in Previews UK

Just a quick note to say that London Horror Comic #4 is available to order in the May issue of Previews UK.

This means if you’d like your local comic shop in the UK to order the comic simply go to them and give them this code:

London Horror Comic Order #4

London Horror Comic Order #4

Or if you want something super-easy click on the pic below, print out the coupon and hand it to your retailer to order:

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posted by JP at 11:59 pm  

Kapow! 2012 Round Up

Finishing Kapow! 2012 marks the completion of the fourth stop of my six stops of cons this year.

Right now I’m boarding between an ecstatic high and a physically drained low, where a sense of euphoria over the results I’ve achieved these past few weeks has collided with the anger of not having more energy to do more than I’d like.

Hey, ho. If you can’t have an argument with yourself, who can you argue with?

Kudos has to go the Kapow! organisers: the event was well promoted, with strong headline guests to draw in the footfall, ample room to amble and an array of comics-related goodness to keep people engaged.

Having attended the event last year, I was surprised that a lot of returning guests remembered me and were keen to get the latest issue. Kapow! is such a large event and a year had passed, so to meet recurring people who liked and remembered the books they purchased last year was very warming indeed.

Outnumbering the returning customers though were the new ones. Lots of people picking up bundles of issues 1,2 and 4 which means new people discovering the comics. Always good that.

Saturday was the busiest, with Sunday being a bit slower (natch). The timings worked better though: an extended Saturday finishing at 7pm with a much shorter Sunday finishing at 3pm allowed punters enough time to browse and grant them enough grace on a Sunday to make the last minute purchase.

It’s going to be interesting to see how Kapow! evolves as a convention. At the moment there’s the right mix of back issues, small press, mainstream heavy hitters and panels and interviews that strive a chord with people while remaining manageable for the punter to see in a day.

A few of the people I spoke to said they had travelled a fair way down to the event in London, leading me to believe that punters are really facing an either or choice when it comes to the conventions they’re able to attend.

Food and lodging ain’t cheap and unless cons next year are more spread out I fear we’ll continue to see a trend where one event absorbs the potential audience from another where they sit within weeks of one another.

There’s room enough for all types of conventions and it would be a shame to see the power of pulling a crowd rest in one organiser’s hands. I don’t know. Maybe we need a UN of UK comics convention or something.

Anyway, next week I’m at MCM Expo in the Excel Centre, the penultimate convention before ThoughtBubble in November. Pop along if you get ten. You might see scenes like this one:

Kapow 2012 London Horror Comic

Carnage Loves London Horror. OK, so it's not, Ladies Love Cool James, but, y'know, it has a nice rhythm to it.

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posted by JP at 10:33 pm  

Pit stop in the cons

I’m halfway through my monster month of conventions and thought I’d make a mid-point mind stop in the form of a blog post.

First it was New York and MoCCA and last weekend it was Bristol. Two weeks and two different continents of comic book fans. My head’s still spinning and there’s Kapow and MCM left to go.

It was my first time in Bristol. Having been to Cardiff earlier in the year I wondered how much crossover there might be between the two events. I saw some familiar faces. Trade was brisk enough.

The event was large and there was lots to see. Plenty of room for punters to stand and talk and for exhibitors to display their wares.

Weather is a double-edged sword when it comes to conventions: if it’s pissy and rain falls, people don’t want to go out of the house and if the sun’s out the last place the general public want to be is inside a passenger shed reading comics (well, all except the most hardcore fans).

That said, people seemed genuinely enthralled with their purchases. It’s a strange thing is conventions in that you don’t see comic buyers reacting the same way to purchases when they’re buying a comic in a shop.

What’s reassuring to see on both sides of the Atlantic is the appetite for NEW stuff. And when I say NEW, I don’t just mean newly published, I mean comic books that tackle subjects and which present world views that don’t really fit within the confines of the 3,000th spandex story.

***

Conventions are also where you make new connections. At Bristol this weekend I had the pleasure of meeting Rob Williams, creator of the nineties hit Cla$$war.

Cla$$war was a book that was published way ahead of its time and which predicated a lot of the themes explored in The Ultimates. It was published by Com.X and if you were in the know you would have picked it up. (note: a lovely deluxe edition has been released so go and pick it up if you can, well worth it)

For me, it was one of the books that prominently marked a change in mood in the way that superheroes would eventually be delivered; knowing, political and with a healthy dose of the ultra-violent.

Rob was kind enough to let me know he’d read a past issue of the London Horror Comic and had enjoyed it.

Weird and joyous little moments like these where people whose work you remember and admired and who then come and say they remember your book is one of the joys of working in the field of comics.

Bristol Comic Expo 2012

Bristol Comic Expo 2012

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posted by JP at 11:49 pm  

Eleven Thoughts about Digital Comics

Spent the weekend immersing myself in digital comics, most notably through the Comixology App, and here are some quick thoughts:

#1. Convenience – It was bloody cold this weekend. I had a cough and wasn’t up to much but could still get the latest releases. Nice.

#2. HD rocks – The books I downloaded were in a HD format. Colours looked vibrant as hell.

#3. Range – That is: range of new books wasn’t as complete as the comic book store. Also, if providers like Comixology want to really open comics up to people that might not be interested in Superman, they should really be ramping up the small press and indie section.

#4. Reading – Noticeable difference: I worked through the book as if I was consuming information on a web page: fast, transactional and with the impetus on running my finger across the screen to get to the next page. Not my usual comics reading experience where I take in info from several different panels, go back and try and absorb all information on the page before turning.

#5. Page Layout – Smaller more dense panel layouts slowed me down (a good thing). The nine panel layout worked well for Watchmen, but it also works better on a tablet in slowing you to take the time with each panel.

#6. Up selling – Get to the end of the book and you have a standard three-book recommendation. What’s another £1.99. Brilliant way to keep them hooked.

#7. Bonus content – Come on publishers, it’s 2012. I get a whole second disc loaded with special features when I buy a DVD, why are digital comics so light on extras? Interviews with the creators? Twitter accounts linked to the book to act as a hub for the community? You’re not just selling digital comics, you’re embedding an audience faster and more directly than you could through selling a book in a store.

#8. Form – Paper and ink is the technology used to deliver print comics but forms but of the object itself. Content and form are linked. Turning the page transforms the object. On an iPad there’s a layer of separation between the content and the form of delivery. An iPad doesn’t have a comic printed on its casing, it’s inside the iPad. Turn a page on the iPad and the iPad stays the same even though the page on the display changes.

#9 Price Point – Sorry, but if you’re not printing this on paper (and not very good paper judging from the current industry standard), then £10 should buy me like thirty books. Cloud storage longboxes should also preserve my collection for the future.

#10 Affiliate Marketing – Anyone that reviews a comic should be engaged as an affiliate partner by way of making a direct link available to download the digital comic.

#11 Previews App – Where is it? Where can I tell Previews/Diamond what apparel or books to order and which comic shop to deliver them to so that I can collect from them? Googlemaps mash-up listing all comic shops worldwide?

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posted by JP at 2:42 am  

Thoughts on New York

Quick history lesson: back in 2003 and through a series of accidental circumstances I ended up in New York for a weekend. Stuck without much to do, I did what any right-thinking guy alone in a big city would: I found the nearest comic store and spent the weekend reading comics.

The store was Jim Hanley’s Universe, the one opposite the Empire State Building, and in my haul was a bunch of indie comics including Optic Nerve, Joe Matt’s Peepshow and a whole lot more.

The weekend opened my eyes to some great work and in part laid the foundation for me starting the London Horror Comic.
Flash-forward nine years to 2012 and I’m standing in Jim Hanley’s Universe once again, but this time with my book on the shelf.

Little moments like this make me realise just how long I’ve been on this journey of making comics. It was a nice touch point for my first convention abroad.

***

It’s always a little worrying when you do a new convention. In any new place, you wonder how you and your work will come across to the people that have paid the price of admission.

New York is a big place. You have to tilt your head back to touch your heels to take in the full height of the surrounding skyscrapers. Giant billboards lord over the population. Advertising is the church and the cash register is where you seek forgiveness. The coffee shops carry 28 different flavours of coffee.

It’s a demanding place.

And then there’s me with my comic books and an English accent most people might suspect of being a put on.
At times like this this, it’s reassuring to remember why I produce comics: to tell the stories I want in the way I want to tell ‘em.

My mission when I go to a comics convention? To find some like-minded cats who dig what I’m about and who I can provide a few chuckles and chills for.

If your mission veers too far from the above ethic, you won’t fully enjoy the show.

***

The most startling thing about MoCCA was its size. The small press scene is a fully matured one. High-quality books covering a range of subjects by hundreds of people with an audience size comparable to a mainstream comic book show here.

I definitely think that the UK scene is on its way there. It may take a couple of years, but the talent is here and with more and more people discovering indie books we’re not too far off.

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posted by JP at 12:26 am