Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Portsmouth Comic Book Show

Cartoonist Stephen Bissette was just one of the guests at the Portsmouth (NH) Comic Book Show on Sunday. Photo by EJ Hersom, Staff photographer for Foster's.

This is the epitome of a great comic book show. Put together by the guys at Jetpack Comics, the event had presentations, comic book dealers, old and new creators. The feeling was relaxed and friendly. Stephen Bissette presented a slide show about the seminal graphic novels, aimed at educators and librarians. He even showed an example of "how to read a comic book page," for which a number of people in the audience were taking notes. It may sound silly, but for everything there's a first time. And of all people, I think the talented Mr. Bissette is well-qualified to be a knowledgeable guide.

I wandered from table to table, with my friend, fellow cartoonist Stephanie Piro.

There were a couple of tables of literary graphic novels, free for the taking for librarians with ID. This was, I believe, courtesy of the Center for Cartoon Studies. Most libraries have limited budgets, so this is generous, welcome and practical -- and above and beyond the call.

There was a good mix of comic book dealers, and creators. Lots of families and kids were there. (Good to meet Lenny Boudreau and his whole family, who had a big bag full of comics after only 10 minutes at the show.)

Everyone seemed to be in a good mood. I stopped by Ron Fortier's table to thank him for letting me know about the event. Ron is a professional writer and is now writing pulps. Stephanie picked up DRACULA'S DAUGHTER (that's the cover, to the left, and there's a 10 page sampler here), a graphic novel written by Ron, with art by Rob Davis.

We met Barry Borbett and Brian Codagnone, who had the Corbett Features table. I talked with Brian for a while about the old Cartoon Museum when it was in Rye, NY. Shawn McManus, veteran illustrator of books and comic books, had some fantastic prints for sale (I had to buy one) as well as information about the Comic Book Legal Defense Fund. (Good for him!) I got to meet and takl with a number of local cartoonists, including Ryan Higgins, who was selling his childrens book TWADDLETON'S CHEESE. Stephanie and I also admired the art of Ben Bishop, who had a table full of his work, original and published, including his tome NATHAN THE CAVEMAN. (Bottom right: Ben Bishop's art.) Some amazing, varied art, and all of the creators were local.

The one constant: most all of the creators I stopped and chatted with -- all talented, all very good, all devoted to the medium -- had self-published their work. Most of the younger creators had day jobs. I wondered, am I looking at the future of printed comics? Will it all be self-published, created on the side, part-time? I hope not.

The only way I got better was to quit my day job and take the leap: draw cartoons full time. I was happier, my cartoons got better, and I began to make some money.

But, that "leaping" stuff: it was scary. Like buying a house, having a baby, etc., it's not just a big life changing event -- there is also never the right time to do it. It would be better if I quit my job when we have more of the house paid off. It would be better if I waited until the economy got better. It would be better if I waited ....

OK, where was I? Oh yes. Back on topic:

The newspapers below had front page stories Monday about the convention:

Foster's Daily Democrat

Portsmouth Herald

I'm definitely going to make the next one.


Rod McKie said...

I think it depends Mike, especially now that there is no guarantee the day-job will even exist to support the drawing job. In Britain today we have very few full-time gag cartoonists, not many editorial cartoonists, and no real comics industry to speak of, outside the world of self-published comics. If Marvel and DC concentrate on the movie production side of things and also make the obvious next move to TV and webcasts and then they and King Features and the like kick up their digital business as print markets diminish, the US may go the same way.

Hopefully the cream of the crop will survive, but I'm sure a good few publications, magazines and newspapers, will need Goevernment loans to get through the next 2 years. There are some key publications for we cartoonists, as you know, and it only takes a couple of them to fold and gag cartoonists everywhere will struggle to make a living - with comic strip cartoonists following them.

so whether it's a job unrelated to cartooning or one facet of cartooning funding the other work, the future will be equally precarious.

Over the years you and I have talked about cartoonists getting together to form their own small specialist syndicates - working together selling, for instance, business-cartoons to publications, trade journals, etc - maybe even publishing their own greetings cards. That is still one of the best options, I think, and if just one of the big mainstream markets falls, it will look even better.

Marek Bennett said...

Don't forget education! There will always be a market for teaching these skills, and creative artistic work dovetails nicely with the teaching environment.

Thanks for the detailed report, Mike!

bishart said...

hey there, great meeting you at the show, thanks for the mention! youll have to let me know what you thought of NATHAN THE CAVEMAN. ben.bishart@gmail.com

Mike Lynch said...

Rod, this is a volatile time in history for many industries. You and I very fortunate to make money from our work. People love cartoons and comics. It's just a matter of creating new revenue models, like the one you mentioned, and keep producing material that people like.

Teaching comics is fine, but to if there is not a model for making a living from comics, then it's for shit. I don't see teaching comics to a young person, and asking that student to go into student loan debt, unless there is a viable market out there.

Ben, I enjoyed meeting you at the convention. And I just saw your work on the shelves of Casablanca Comics! Always great to see people I know on the bookshelves!