MegaCon2015 = MegaCool!

Me, Brittany and Brett (attempting--but failing to hide behind us) at the booth!

Me, Brittany and Brett (attempting–but failing to hide behind us) at the booth!

As has been my habit the last few years, today’s entry will be a report on MegaCon 2015, which was held last week (Friday, Saturday and Sunday, April 10-12). This was the third year sequentially for me to be at MegaCon since moving to Florida, and my fourth MegaCon overall (the first time I went to MegaCon was in the late 90s—I wasn’t blogging then). Some of you recall my post from last year when I talked about the clogged aisles. It seems all that was resolved this year with the move back to the west arena. While there were still massive crowds (I never saw a final count), the aisles had been expanded allowing for greater foot traffic and stopping for cosplayers. It was still crowded, but with lots of elbow room.

So my move to Indy Press was an interesting experiment as well. There are pros and cons about the location. Pro: I was on the end of the row, a corner, so lots of traffic passed by on two sides. Con: the show would only let us open the booth to one direction, kinda negating the corner aspect. The other—and this was the far bigger issue, I think—is that I signed up to be in “Indy Press,” an area where I thought I’d be surrounded by other small press publishers. There was one. The people to the booth right beside me were selling…get this…pillows. Uh. What? How is that “Indy Press?”

I'm making the face because the young fan (to the right) said I didn't look like my caricature. After I smiled, she agreed I was indeed Roland Mann.

I’m making the face because the young fan (to the right) said I didn’t look like my caricature. After I smiled, she agreed I was indeed Roland Mann.

Sigh.

I shared the booth space with writer Wes Locher (who is also a former student of mine) because the price tag was higher than I really thought I could make. That was a good decision because a)I got to spend time in the booth talking with him when there were occasional lulls (and they were occasional); b)it cut the cost in half…which ultimately meant I covered my portion of the table—which is always nice. We did a give-away together and gave away $50 worth of books to Matt de Simone and Lucas Loman.

I got to take the annual photo with Robert McGinty…but I can’t seem to locate it. Had great dinners both nights; Friday night with the aqua-talented Paul Pelletier and Saturday night with Barry Gregory (and son!). Missed this year was old pal Bill Sawyer.

Autographs are always FREE!

Autographs are always FREE!

I didn’t do a panel this year. There seemed to be confusion about the Mega-folks the last part of the year—at least in their communication with me. They announced they’d sold the show a few days before the start, so I’m guessing that’s where all the confusion came from. The previous two years were smooth sailing.

As with good shows, I’m already anticipating next years. It’ll be moved to May (Memorial Day) next year…which I’m skeptical of (but note that I already said I was anticipating next year!) only because there are so many other shows in the summer, I’d rather see them move it the other way on the calendar. Part of the reason I think the April show worked is this is Florida. It’s not cold in the winter, regardless of what the locals say!

And for you Orlando-local people, don’t forget to mark May 2 on your calendars. It’s FREE COMIC BOOK DAY and I’ll be signing books at the COLISEUM OF COMICS in the Fashion Square Mall—all day long! Come see me!

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MegaCon this weekend—be there!

MegaCon 2015 starts tomorrow and I’ll be set up this year in Indy Press booth #574. I’m sharing space with writer Wes Locher, a rising newcomer in the industry. Take my word for it, you’re going to be seeing Wes’s work pop up regularly—and you can say you heard it here first! And have I ever steered you wrong?

booth574WandRThis’ll be my third straight year since we’ve been down Orlando way, but my first with an Indy Press booth; the other two years I was in artists alley. It’s a step for me in that it’s considerably pricier to get out of the alley. Truthfully, I’m not sure that it’ll make a difference, but I wanted to try it one year and see if it did. Artist alley seems to have become a place where anyone with a pencil and pad can set up. Additionally, artist alley no longer means “comic artist.” When I first started doing comic cons back in the late 80s, the only people in artist alley were people with published work of some sort. Before you think I’m slamming indy comics, I’m not—I’m a huge fan and supporter of them. But I seem to find a lot these days that a great many artists in artist alley have nothing—and I mean nothing—in comic print. Some of them don’t even have “art,” but they have trinkety stuff. Like handmade jewelry, buttons, etc. I always thought the people who did that were traditional vendors…and at one time, they probably were.

On top of that, many of the artists are selling illegal prints. The casual fan doesn’t know the difference, of course, and these artists end up making a lot of money illegally from unknowing fans.

Eh—but I ramble because this post is not about whining. I wanted to move to the indy press area to mainly see if the traffic I get there is different. Obviously, as a comic writer, I don’t have any “prints” to sell (though I’m considering talking to the artists I collaborate with about that), so it takes a lot of $3-$10 comics to make back the expense. I’m hoping the traffic in the indy area are fans actually looking to buy comic books and not just browsing for cool art or trinkets.

Cosplay (which is just costuming by fans) has become a huge deal over the last several years. There’s some hubbub about it in circles higher than mine, but in general, I don’t mind cosplay and think it’s kinda cool (most of the times). The issue to some seems to be they are rude and block the aisles. I’ve only had that happen once, and I asked them nicely to step around the side (I was on a corner), which they politely and immediately did. I’m planning to steal a page out of my friend John Metych’s playbook this year—I’ll tell you if it works next week.

MegaCon caught some flak last year because of the traffic on Saturday. And it was bad, but it was bad because so many people came to the show—which in my mind is a good thing. More people at the show means more money on the floor. They moved back across the street to their old location this year, so hopefully that will solve the traffic issues.

So, come out and see me and Wes. We’ll be at booth #574 in Indy Press!

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Heinlein’s Citizen of the Galaxy

The last book I re-read was accidental. Re-reading Robert Heinlein’s Citizen of the Galaxy was intentional. My enjoyment of it this time was probably greater than the first time. I don’t remember liking it that much when I read it back during college, but I really enjoyed this one.

Citizen of the Galaxy is the story of Thorby, a young slave purchased by a beggar on some far off planet because no one else would bid on him. The beggar, Baslim, takes Thorby in and treats him like his son. He teaches him the lowly job of “begging,” (an official job on their world) and of doing so with integrity. One thing Thorby comes to learn is that Baslim has a mad hatred for slavery. It’s his life’s passion and work to destroy it.

As Thorby grows, Baslim teaches him foreign languages and other really cool non-traditional-beggar stuff. He also gives him specific instructions on what to do if anything should ever happen to him.

CitizenofthegalaxyOf course, something does happen to him and suddenly Thorby is off to space. He ultimately learns Baslim was a high ranking officer in Earth’s military and thought he knew Thorby’s lineage. >Spoiler < Turns out, he did, and Thorby is actually the kidnapped son of a rich family from Earth. Thorby, equally hates slavery and sets out to use his newfound riches and power to put an end to it. And that’s where the book ends.

CotG is a whirlwind adventure from the seedy underbelly of the homeless, to a commune-style community of space-faring traders, to the ritzy life of the affluent on earth. Thorby’s frustration is that many on earth refuse to believe slavery is an issue, even though he clearly was one for several years.

Heinlein’s writing, like always, is easy to read and takes you fully into the world around Thorby. And while my old creative writing college professor might call it genre fiction, I liked it better than most of the li-fi I’ve read. It is what it is.

My final note is on the cover. I often don’t scan the covers of the stuff I’ve read—it’s so easy to find it elsewhere and of the same version that I read. But I can’t find the cover to the version I own…and it’s just a paperback, so I don’t think it’s that valuable…it was just odd.

If you’ve got this one sitting on your shelf, pick it up again and read it. It’s fast. It’s fun.

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AT&T irritates me

Before I dive in to my tirade, I should tell you up front that—in general—I like AT&T. I used their long distance service back during the calling card days, have had cell service with them, and even now have my internet with them.

And yet, with all of that, they still bombard me continually with advertising. I wish they’d give me a credit for all the money they spend advertising just to ME. In fact, I really wish that was an option on my statements; It would cut my monthly bills in half.

But you know, I get that big companies like that have to advertise. I get it…and in general, I don’t even care. But let me just give you an example of the waste in money from AT&T. In a recent week, on a single day I got mail, a phone call and even a knock on the door sales visit. Granted the personal knock on the door is rare, but it’s about the third one since the family moved to Florida.

The problem is two-fold: 1)we’re in 2015. We live in the most technologically advanced period in our history (is that statement EVER not true? Think about it for a minute). I can send an email and in less than 60 seconds, it can be read on the other side of the globe! Computers are so powerful now, they could easily spit out a list to their sales force so they’d know: hey! Roland Mann is already a customer. Spend time and energy trying to get someone NEW.

2)they’re mostly trying to sell me AT&T television, which I will never buy (they didn’t read my earlier blog, did they?)—or at least I won’t until I can choose channels and not “packages.”

I tell you no lie when I tell you I get a minimum of one mailer per week. Think about that: I get 52 pieces of mail per year trying to get me to buy a service I don’t have and will never have. I’ve told them as much both live (on those rare personal sales visits) and on the phone. If you add in the periodic phone calls I get, that’s a lot of time and effort spent on one person, who is already an AT&T customer anyway.

The wife says I shouldn’t mess with them when they call, but I always do. They tend to ask me if the deal they’re offering is a good one. I tell them it sounds that way and then they try to get me to order. Which I refuse. They want to remind me what a great deal it is, to which I again agree…but still refuse. It isn’t unusual they get frustrated and hang up.

The mail I can throw away (and do, filling up landfills in New Jersey somewhere! Thanks AT&T!), but the doorbells and phones I answer.

And it just irritates me every time!

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Snow Crash by Neal Stephenson

I haven’t blogged about any of my reading here lately, so I figure I’ll go ahead and post something. I’ve recently been in a re-reading mode and have just finished Neal Stephenson’s Snow Crash. I’ll admit to you that I re-read this one on accident. I meant to pick up and read Diamond Age, which I have not read before. However, I grabbed the wrong book and didn’t really notice it until I was about 50 pages deep. The problem was, I couldn’t remember how the book ended, so I just kept reading.

And while I liked Snow Crash, I absolutely hate the ending. Hated it the second time around, too.

SnowcrashThe story is about Hiro Protagonist, a pizza delivery boy in the real world and a hacker in the virtual world. In this world, though, the real and the virtual are tied closely together. Hiro delivers pizza for a mobster who is impressed with his pizza delivery skills, but then also needs him to work in the virtual world for the mob. The big threat of the book is the drug Snow Crash. It targets hackers. One look at the “drug,” which is actually data, and the user is off his rocker and effectively in a coma.

The world established by Stephenson is pretty interesting, too. The story is set on the west coast and small political blocks are in power. The cool thing about them is that many of the blocks are corporate in nature. The US still exists, but in limited areas here. It’s very much a corporate dystopia, and it’s very interesting.

Hiro is also an expert with a sword—both in the real world and the virtual. Thus the book has its share of sword fights and virtual head’s cut off.

My biggest problem, as I said, was with the end. The story reaches a nice climax…and then just kind of putters out. You finish with the expectation that there should be about ten more pages…but they don’t exist.

All this said, I still want to give Diamond Age a read…and will.

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I don’t watch “television,” but I might…

I don’t have cable…Nor do I have satellite. And I haven’t had it for over a decade. That surprises some people. But truthfully, I don’t miss it at all, and I miss it less and less. But I think we’re about to see changes—and that is kind of exciting.

Okay, how did I get to no cable? Well, thanks for asking. Lemme tell you.

For those of you who remember the 2000 elections, they were pretty nasty. Now I’m sure all of the … ahem … wiser readers of my blog might remember previous elections being just as nasty as that one, but to my memory, that was the worst one. And while there was certainly nastiness on both sides, part of my problem was that every time I turned on the television, someone of self-importance was condemning everything that I held dear (or at least that I believed) and applying all sorts of nasty labels to me.

Now, having grown up a white dude in Mississippi, I’m accustomed to the labels (my most asked question when I moved from Mississippi to California? “So, you hate black people? Are you in the Klan?” I kid you not) but I started noticing the attitudes and labeling started to spill over into my personal and some professional relationships. I couldn’t get away from it

Additionally, as a fairly new parent at the time, I was repulsed by all the advertising we were forced to sit through while watching cartoons and football games. It became such we didn’t really want to watch programs with the kids and the kids were such a huge part of our life. I actually blogged at greater lengths about this once before. It’s here if you want to go see what I said then.

But we turned it off and just didn’t turn it back on.

But I think what I really wanted to get at here is that I’m excited because I think the way television content is delivered is changing. I’ve always said to the salesfolks trying to convince me I need cable is that I’d talk to them if I could pick my channels. They always remind me that I can pick my “package,” but that’s not what I want to do. I want the History Channel, not the 400 channels that run infomercials. You can give me the ad channels for free if you like, but don’t put them in a package. Give me a checklist with a cost per channel per month, and then I’d consider getting television again.

I watched every college football game that I wanted to this last season. I watched many of them on European websites—which I’m sure the cable providers here don’t like. I’d even PAY ESPN to subscribe to their channels. But I’m not going to pay Comcast (or whoever) a subscription fee to get all the other channels I don’t want JUST to get ESPN. And since ESPN won’t take my money, I have to watch them on international websites.

But HBO offering their service to subscribers on the internet is a game-changer. Oh, I don’t know that I’ll subscribe to HBO, but I think it’s a great thing and that many other channels will follow. Yes, I’d consider subscribing to the History Channel for a reasonable fee if they would offer that via the internet. They don’t yet…but I think that time is coming.

Yay for all of us!

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The Old is…Published: The SadoMannequin

SadoCoversmallOne of the interesting things about creating as a writer is that projects are dead…until they’re not. The one I’ll tell you about today is one of those.

Available now (that’s a hint to you to go click on the link and purchase a copy!) is THE SADOMANNEQUIN. Now, don’t let the sexy image fool you, it’s NOT an “adult” comic. In fact, the story is a very Twilight-Zone kind of story. In a nutshell, a new security guard starts his job at a warehouse and is warned to stay out of the warehouse. Of course, weird things happen and he discovers the moonlight brings mannequins to life. Of course, he’s a dude so he doesn’t just choose any mannequins. He was, after all, warned!

The story is not an original one by me but an adaptation of the short film SadoMannequin by the now defunct PopGunProductions. PopGun was Jim Torres and Corey Hannah, two guys that I met while we were living in Florence, Alabama. The weird thing was Corey was working at the also-now-defunct Blockbuster Video when I first met him. Then, when I met PopGun thanks to Terry Pace, I put two-and-two together (and y’all know that’s tough for me to do).

After I saw some of their work, I immediately saw the talent of the two filmmakers and when they mentioned comic adaptation, I jumped all over it. They were already talking about feature length films and making it relevant to the local area and I was all about that.

Time is too far removed for me to remember the exact details, but my recollection is that they had someone who was about to invest in them, and part of what they were going to do with that money was print the comics. The idea was, of course, to package the comics with a DVD to get some bonus material. There was also to be a short story by a young writer named Mark (something—I can’t remember his last name now). Truthfully, I don’t recall whether Mark ever completed the story or not, but I printed an Ashcan version in 2001—it’s a real collector’s item now!

sadoSTILL3

This is a still from the film

But for some reason the money never materialized and the book sat finished but only existing in ashcan format. It stayed in my files until recently the realization came to me that with advances in technology and the whole digital revolution, there was nothing stopping me from getting this to press.

So that’s how it happened.

The story is adapted by me with pencils by Kris Hsieh (who’s now a lawyer with his own firm!), inks by Chuck Bordell, letters by Mike Belcher with the cover (the art you see) by Dave Roberts colored by Shawn Murphy (who I have no idea where he is now).

Go buy it. Digital or print! It’s a fun read.

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