Tag Archives: Ka-Blam

Catch-up con report

Brittany, Chris Ulm, and me at SDCC2017

I haven’t done a con report since MegaCon, and that was back in June. So this will be a catch-up Con report!

In July I did the Orlando Collect-A-Con in Altemonte Springs. It was a fun show and I’m already planning a return there for next year! Also in July, I went out to San Diego Comic Con for the second year in a row (thanks to my buddies at Ka-Blam!). I got to see many old pals, including my former boss and Malibu Editor-in-Chief, Chris Ulm!

Steven Butler, Barry Gregory, me, John Crowther

I was no sooner back from SDCC when my other old pal, Steven Butler was in town for a convention in Tampa. I rode out there with old pal Barry Gregory and we were joined by new pal John Crowther for a fun dinner and lively chat!

In early August, Jeff Whiting and I made the long trip up to Pikeville, KY for the inaugural Pikeville ComicCon. We had a blast. What an awesome first show it was. Got the chance to meet a lot of new people there. Got my fingers crossed for an invite back to the second one—yes, it was that cool of a show!

Stephen Rosys, Jeff Whiting, Cody Barker, Todd Goodman, Mike W. Belcher, Me, Aiden Belcher

In late August, I went to the Orlando Infinity Con. This was my second time to be there and this is one of the closest ones to my home, so it’s very easy to do.

I had planned to do the Lake Collect-A-Con in October, a show I’ve done before and look forward to doing again, but my band chaperone mishap the day before (you can read about it here if you missed it) kept me from attending. Yes, I basically laid around the house and moaned all day. If you don’t believe me, ask BJ. I’ve been to LCAC twice, and I’m looking forward to making the third one next year.

I had help a few weeks later, though, as Brett supplied the muscle to get me in the door at Emerald City Comic Fest, another inaugural show. This one, too, was very good. One thing I really liked about it was that admission was free! Not sure how the show managed to pull that off, but the free admission got a whole host of folks in, some comic fans and some just curious to see what all the noise was about. Met some new folks, but had the chance to catch up with Dave again, who always brings me something to sign when he comes to a show I’m at. I think I’ve signed more books for Dave than any other single person. He brings me books I’ve forgotten I worked on!

Barry Gregory, John Crowther, me!

Another fun thing about ECCF is that The Geeky Mom set up right beside me! (that’s BJ, for those of you with raised eyebrows right now!)

Central Florida is a great place to be if you like comics, comic conventions, and meeting comic creators!

Coming up, I’ll be at Smashcon on November 18th and unless I can work out a show for early December (trying to, but it may not happen), that’ll be my last show for the year.

 

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Con Report: San Diego Comic Con 2016

Me with Hank Kanalz

Me with Hank Kanalz

Me with Kurtis Fujita, Larry Welch, and Diana Fujita.

Me with Kurtis Fujita, Larry Welch, and Diana Fujita.

I went to San Diego Comic Con last week for the first time since 1999. There’s far too much excitement to be contained in a single blog post (and too many pictures!)…but I’m going to do it anyway!

First, I had the opportunity to go thanks to Barry Gregory and Thomas Florimonte, my pals who also happen to be co-owners of the premier comic POD (Print on demand) company in the US, Ka-Blam! And I wouldn’t have been able to accompany them without the support of my fantastic boss, Noelani Cornell. I gotta admit, it’s pretty cool to actually be appreciated for my comic industry ties (instead of having to hide it at my previous university teaching positions).

Me with Alan Payne

Me with Alan Payne

Me and Ross Richie

Me and Ross Richie

Thomas and I left Wednesday morning of the convention and arrived at SD not long after lunch (I thought I was arriving much later, but that’s another story). Barry was there waiting on us and already all set up in the Indy Comic section. Wednesday was basically “attendees trying to get free and exclusive crap.” And some of the booths had it down to a science—the DC Comics booth moved people through like a ride a Universal!

Me with Jim Chadwick

Me with Jim Chadwick

Me with Dave Dorman

Me with Dave Dorman

Most people told me that I would be surprised at how “different” the show was. Maybe it was because of that, but it didn’t really strike me as that much different than 1999, only far bigger. Yeah, there were a lot of booths of things about which I had no clue (mostly tv shows) and all the madness that is Hall H was away from the convention floor—which is where I pretty much always spent my time anyway…so, to me, it was the same, but bigger…but it was MUCH bigger!

Me with Nat Gertler

Me with Nat Gertler

Me with UV Superfan Michael Novotny, Dave Olbrich, and Tom Mason.

Me with UV Superfan Michael Novotny, Dave Olbrich, and Tom Mason.

There were far too many people I caught up with to compile a complete list here, but some of those I got to see and catch up with included Ross Richie, Hank Kanalz, Bobbie Chase, Kurtis Fujita (and his lovely bride, Diana), Alan Payne, Scott Rosenberg, Dan Nakrosis, Larry Welch, and Bob Schreck. I saw a bunch of people I just got to say a quick “hello” to without catching up—and that was still cool: Joe Phillips, Julie Anne Wight, Dave Dorman, Tom Mason, Mickie Villa, Dave Olbrich, Nat Gertler, Marv Wolfman, Howard Chaykin, Aaron Lopresti, Darick Robertson, Terry Dodson, Robert Roach and I’m sure I’m leaving some out.

Me with Julie Anne Wight

Me with Julie Anne Wight

Mostly, I spent the show catching up with friends and hanging out at the Gallant table (where Barry debuted a cool new action figure!) and Mike Hefforn of Archblue’s table.

I also got to meet some cool indy comic creators I didn’t know before the show. In fact, we hung out a bit and had a fun time: Mike Heffron, James Heffron, Steve Bryant, and Chris Murrin. They even invited us to participate in their traditional end of con debriefing!

Steve Bryant, Chris Murrin, James Heffron, Me, Barry Gregory, Thomas Florimonte

Steve Bryant, Chris Murrin, James Heffron, Me, Barry Gregory, Thomas Florimonte

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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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My Old Pal!

For most people, friends from childhood are distant memories and/or simply pictures in a school annual. Facebook and other social media has changed that some, now they’re pictures on the computer. Prior to my joining Facebook in 2009, I hadn’t seen or heard from most of the people I went to high school with since my 20 year reunion a few years earlier. And prior to my reunion, it’d been 20 years since I’d last seen or talked to the overwhelming majority of them.

Me with Thomas Florimonte and Barry Gregory, co-owners of Ka-Blam!

Me with Thomas Florimonte and Barry Gregory, co-owners of Ka-Blam!

There are a couple of people, though with whom I have kept occasional contact from way back when. The earliest friend I still speak with every few months is Duane Holland, a friend from my elementary years. Duane and I were comic book geeks together. He was the only one in my school who could talk comics with me…and yes, we’d occasionally trade comics: he liked the Fantastic Four while I was an Avengers fan. He’d probably strangle me if he knew I was going to tell all of you about the time we camped out in a tent behind my house and sang goofy superhero songs thanks to Mad Magazine. Weirdly enough, I can still hear those tunes in my head.

Barry Gregory, however, is probably the oldest pal that I kept any sort of regular contact with. My friendship with Barry goes back to the 6th grade when I was the new kid in class after transfer-induced move. One or the other of us found out we liked comics and we immediately hit it off.

As 7th graders, Barry and I created our own group of superheroes; we mostly liked the same stuff and so mostly dug each other’s creations. I can’t recall who was first, but it was probably Barry who showed me a few pages of a comic he was drawing (and often tracing. We did that in a bunch of the comics we produced) and I was doing the same.

L-R: Barry, Tony Fortenberry, me, Mark McElroy. The Four Horsemen!

L-R: Barry, Tony Fortenberry, me, Mark McElroy. The Four Horsemen!

But, because we did like the same sort of stuff, we ended up doing a “crossover,” inspired very much by the then-recent Avengers/Defenders crossover. We divvied up the chapters and stories and chores and the story line hopped from my comic to his—just like the Avengers/Defenders story.

I still have much of that work in my possession. In deference to Barry (and since he knows nothing about this post), I won’t put any of his artwork here—and I’m not going to put MUCH of mine here; keep in mind I was in middle school when I did this, so don’t be hatin’! Many of the characters I created way back then live still, if in changed form. The least changed character still around is the Demon character from the Cat & Mouse series.

We kept going to comics one way or another and tried a couple of times to do different things. We were writers in perpetual search of artists. After a few false starts, I stumbled across a few and we tried again. When we pitched Cat & Mouse, we also pitched SilverStorm (written by Thomas Fortenberry) and something we called Hero Task Force (the name taken from several years of RPG sessions). Regrettably, the publisher only wanted C&M and SilverStorm and HTF never came to be.

This is the cover to the first full comic I ever did...back around 1976.

This is the cover to the first full comic I ever did…back around 1976.

Barry, of course, continued to work not only as a writer but as a color guide colorist (created guides that computer colorist would then use to color in photoshop) and I was able to hire him some when I was an editor.

Barry is the same one I mentioned a few months back who introduced me to the comic shop and back issues. He’s now not only a comic creator, but the co-owner in the premier POD (Print on Demand) comic printer in the industry. And while I don’t talk to him as much as I probably should, we remain friends to this day. Facebook or not!

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The First Time

I can’t recall if I’ve ever told my “learning to read” story here. I’ll have to do some searching and if not, tell that story at another time. It’s probably clear to those who visit here that comic books played a vital role in my learning to read experience.

When I first started reading comics, I had to buy them off the spinner racks at the local Stop N Robs. When I was in 7th grade, however, a friend introduced me to something that would forever change my life: the comic back issue. For those unsure, a comic “back issue” is simply an old comic. It could be months or it could be years, but it simply isn’t “new” anymore.

One day while at my friend’s house (we didn’t live near—I’d stay at his house after school sometimes until my dad got off work and would come pick me up. Or I’d spend the night with him and go to school the next day and just ride my own bus back home), we walked several blocks to a sidewalk mall. There was a used bookstore there, and within the bookstore; there were a few boxes of comics. My first trip there, I spent all the money I had on me—which wasn’t very much, of course—but it caused me to want to earn more money so I could buy more back issues (this is what drove me to cut so much grass as a kid—but that’s another story!).

Within a few short months, I learned of the flea market that featured a few vendors there who carried more than just the 4 or 5 boxes at the used bookstore. Shortly after that—before I could drive—I learned of the comic shop and my mom would take me sometimes. Never as much as I wanted, but I did get to go. Once I was able to drive, the comic shop was a weekly destination.

You have to understand that in this pre-internet age, the newsstand dominated distribution and if you were unlucky enough to miss the issue (even of regular magazines!) while it was out, tough luck. I was a big Marvel fan in those days and they always had the editorial notes that pointed me to issues in the past, issues that I wanted because I wanted to know what had happened to the characters that I loved to read about. Discovering there was an outlet to actually find and purchase those back issues was a real revelation for me and changed my “reading” habit into a collecting one. It was at this used bookstore that I saw the first bagged comic (I don’t remember when I first saw backing boards, but I’m sure it was sometime considerably later) and realized that the better condition a book was in, the more value it had. Often I couldn’t afford those in the best condition, but I didn’t want those in poor condition either—I was going to READ it after all.

Of course, we know what my comic reading/collecting turned in to.

That friend who took me to the used bookstore that first time? Barry Gregory. My second oldest friend that I still keep in touch with (the oldest, Duane Holland, only has him beat by about two years) is now a comic creator in his own right and the co-owner of Ka-Blam, the premier POD service for comics! I’ll have to write up an entry about Barry and our budding comic career sometime in the future…but that was not today’s story.

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Hot Springs Village…and MegaCon

This will be a short and quick update on some places you can catch me in the next weeks. If you’re nearby and are able, look me up and say hi. Bring a copy of something for me to sign…or better yet, buy something new from me on the spot…autographs are always free!

On Saturday, March 9, I will be speaking and overseeing mini-writing exercises based on the material covered in Hot Springs Village, Arkansas (sponsored by the Hot Springs Village Creative Writers group). I met a couple of the writers when I led the Hemingway Writers retreat in Piggott, Arkansas. I’m honored to know that they enjoyed the retreat enough to suggest bringing me in just for their group (which is, by all accounts, fairly sizable). Now—the pressure is on me! Click here: http://www.villagewritersclub.com/ for more information.

Additionally, I’ll be at MegaCon the following weekend, March 15, 16 and 17 (Friday, Saturday, Sunday). You can find me in Artist Alley at Brown #9. While I’ve done a bunch of conventions, this is only my second trip to Orlando, the last one being in 1998 where I got the chance to hang out with a lot of my old buddies (Bill Sawyer, Barry and Jenny Gregory, Tony and Claire Fortenberry [who also put me up during my stay then] and Thomas Florimonte). Some of you know the Gregorys and Thomas from the top POD printing company they own and run: Ka-Blam. While I haven’t talked to them, I’m assuming they’ll be there again—it’s local to them.

If you’re going to be at the convention, come out and see me. As I said above, bring something for me to sign…or better yet, buy something new from me at the con. Autographs will be free there, too!

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