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Vincent S. Moore Presents:

Fun And Sun At LBCC

The approach of 5 pm on Sunday, October 4, 2009 brought with it the end of the first annual Long Beach Comic Convention. A small but enthusiastic cheer went up into the air from the rapidly exiting attendees, the just starting to wrap up vendors and publishers, and the tired, young and young at heart mix of convention staff, convention center security, and the many volunteers. It was the kind of cheer that signaled both victory and relief. Victory that the first show held by this particular group--not novices to the game of comics and its attendant conventions--was a modest success that can and will be built upon in the years to come. And relief that another convention on the to-do lists of the various and varied publishers, vendors, and creators in attendance had moved from the date book to the history books.

Naturally I attended the show.

And I had a good time. I saw many old friends and made some new ones. I came home each day with more comics, sketches, prints, and the other items one tends to gather at these shows. I sat in a few panels and learned something in each, even it if was something I already knew and just needed that bit of confirmation from outside my own opinions.

Just a warning: this won’t be a complete blow by blow report of LBCC. The last time I did that sort of thing I needed some bodyguards for a short period. Besides I have few complaints to voice and no axe to grind this time. And I understand that other, better reports will have already been printed, posted, and otherwise spread across the comics blogosphere and other media by the time this goes live at CWR.

That’s okay. One more report can’t hurt.

The first day of the show arrived with little fanfare as far as early con goers would have seen. Parking in the wrong area at the rear of the Long Beach Convention Center, I walked around to the front where the show was taking place. The line to pick up one’s professional badge was very short, with only one other person in line at the time. I asked for and accepted my badge and had enough time to buy myself some lunch from any of the many choices in the immediate area, from California Pizza Kitchen (ultimately my choice) to Islands to many others.

While I ate and waited for the opening, I watched the many volunteers and attendees come and go, along with other people attending other conventions occurring the same weekend. Even though two other events were happening in town, I wouldn’t know it for the most part the whole weekend. There was that much room.

The Long Beach Convention Center is a wonderful facility--bright, reminiscent of the San Diego Convention Center, and incredibly modern. It made me wonder yet again as to why Wizard magazine would feel the need to move their Los Angeles show into the real downtown LA. This was a much better place to have the show. Thankfully, the LBCC has arrived and staked out this territory for its very own.

As the show opened and I walked the floor, I passed by booths of some of the usually smaller publishers like Aspen, Boom!, and Top Cow who were the convention’s anchors, as well as the central Hollywood star of the show, Thomas Jane. For some reason that I cannot fathom at this time but wasn’t put out by, Mr. Jane made this convention his show. Not only was his comic book company, Raw Studios, in attendance, Mr. Jane also premiered not one but two movies, one he directed and the other in which he starred. At one point on Friday afternoon, Thomas Jane even took over the public address system to address his captive public. Although it did not bother me or others on the show floor, it was a moment of comedy I couldn’t imagine happening at any other comics convention. That helped me to feel that this convention would be its own show, with its own flavor.

With a late afternoon start on a Friday, the LBCC started slow and had kinks and rough patches to work out. The artists alley would end up as the centerpiece of the show, literally due to its central location in the layout and figuratively because most of the activity all three days would take place here. A good number of local comics artists, big and small, could be found there, to ask for sketches or autographs, to show one’s work if one were an aspirant, and just to talk to if one were friends with them. One of the rough patches though was the frequent thuds and thumps and splats of young wrestlers demonstrating their work at the mat set up in the corner. I saw a few folks in artists’ alley cringe and flinch with every bump and smack that happened. It wasn’t the best of things but for a first show the wrestling matches were something novel.

I didn’t attend any events that first day, mostly concerning myself with seeing what there was to see and to scope out plans for the next two days. I did find many friends to share words with, like the fine folks of The Antidote Trust, Richard Starkings, and CWR’s own Matt Maxwell, all trying to figure out how to play the game of selling comics at this new show.

The crowds were light but enthusiastic, more than I expected but probably less than hoped.

The next day, Saturday, would improve that.

The second day of LBCC would be the day the promoters hoped for. Arriving to find the lobby full of people waiting for the showroom floor to open, both in the entrance line and just milling about, warmed my heart and gave me hope. Plenty of people meant that walking the convention floor took more time, but I wasn’t concerned by that. LBCC is no Comic-Con International, thank the Buddha. This is a small show that will grow in time. This was a comics show first. Other elements of pop culture--video games, wrestling, and movies--were there but did not appear to dominate the scene. That is, Nintendo’s massive and noisy booth not taken into account.

I decided beforehand I would hit a couple of panels. I had seen what the show floor had to offer. I wanted to check out the panel offerings.

This would be another place where one could tell this was a first show for convention planners.

I ended up hitting the writing comics panel, sponsored by Aspen Comics. According to the program guide, I was supposed to see and hear from Jeph Loeb, Scott Lobdell, Jimmy Palmiotti, David Wohl, Frank Mastromauro, and JT Krul. Who I saw was Jeph Loeb, David Wohl, and JT Krul. No Lobdell or Palmiotti. From what was mentioned by the panelists, Mr. Palmiotti was double booked and had chosen the other panel. I can’t say if Mr. Mastromauro was there; I didn’t have my reporter’s hat on at the time, so I wasn’t taking copious notes.

The content of the writing panel was what one usually hears and expects: keep writing, setting goals, getting to know editors, find artists for self-published projects if one was breaking in, et cetera. Which was good, as repetition is the mother of learning as Tony Robbins says. What I found the most interesting was how the writers mentioned getting into publishing webcomics as a way to break into the comics game. Also, hearing Jeph Loeb talk about Geoff Johns’ work methods and work ethic helped me to understand that writing is as much a job and a business as anything else in the world. Otherwise, as the writers on the panel themselves pointed out, much of the information and tools any aspiring writer would need is out there. Part of the work of a writer is to write, to read, and learn their craft. No amount of listening to other writers will help in those tasks.

The second panel I attended focused on editing in comics. I wanted to hit this panel to see if there were any techniques I needed to learn for my other job as editor for Astounding Studios and others. However, the content of this panel was nearly the same as the writing panel. That made sense to me, as it isn’t usual to find people wanting to break into comics editing. But it was good to hear the views of those who make their living by putting together the comics we all love to read. Again, not everyone listed showed up, but the advice and observations given by Matt Gagnon of Boom!, Rob Levin, and Filip Sablik of Top Cow was helpful even though it reenforced much of what I had heard not three hours before. Especially when it came to mentioning the setting of goals and how a list of goals helps to shape one’s workday.

Back on the convention floor, I spied Amanda Conner’s section of artists’ alley and headed over. There I would end up being a rude bastard without realizing it. I say that because from the angle of my approach I didn’t complete see the line wrapped around the corner in front of Jimmy Palmiotti’s spot. I just stepped up and bought a couple of Conner’s sketchbooks. All as she was leaving for a break. To everyone standing there, I apologize. I’m usually more observant than that.

The rest of the second day flew by and after a quick dinner with the brains behind Astounding, Kevin Grevioux, I retired to home.

The third day of LBCC felt like the last day. The crowds were a little lighter. The dealers were dealing. Publishers large and small were trying to make those last minute sales or to hand out those final stacks of free books to attendees. There wasn’t a loss of energy. Just that nearly everyone attending had been to such shows before. The last day of any comics convention feels just as structured as the third act of a Hollywood screenplay, with all the beats arriving at all the right points.

Again, I would attend some panels.

First up for me was the Boom! spotlight. I went to hear what they had to offer as much as to see and be seen. I had introduced myself to Matt Gagnon the day before and hoped to catch his attention again. Also I know Ross Richie and wanted to be seen by him. Okay, it would be very nice to work for Boom! behind the scenes in the hopes of doing some writing some comics. I was putting the lessons of the editing comics panel into effect right away. The panel itself was the usual parade of upcoming projects from Boom! I’m most looking forward to titles like Dingo and Nola. But it was good to hear about the sequel to Mark Waid’s Irredeemable, Incorruptible. I may have to check that out. Without wanting to sound like a kiss-ass, I think Boom! Studios is proving the current saw that no one can make money selling comics to be the crock that it is.

That panel done, I hit the floor again. Mostly to see what sketches or prints I wanted to pick up. One thing I ended up buying was a beautiful print of a very stylized black woman sold by Kynt and Vyxsin from The Amazing Race. Another was a Wonder Woman by Ray Anthony Height, a good friend of mine. If there’s anyone in DC editorial reading this or knows anyone there, please give them Ray’s name. The quality of the artwork was top notch. Ray’s style would make him the perfect fill-in artist on the WW book. Just putting the idea out there.

Speaking of Ray, the last panel I attended was the art techniques panel. This would turn out to be the best one of the whole weekend, in my estimation. Half of the folks listed in the show program wouldn’t show but those who were there--Peter Steigerwald, Buzz, and Ray Height himself--would end up making up for it. At first only the moderator whose name escapes me, I’m sorry, and Buzz were there. Buzz is far too good an artist to not be making comics consistently but I can tell why that is. This gentleman is of an age and at a point in his career where he lets it all hang out and say whatever is on his mind. The jokes about being the Asian artist conventions get for panels when Jim Lee and Frank Cho aren’t available and others had the room rolling with laughter. After some confusion over who was the moderate and a couple of late arrivals (, Ray), the panel got into full swing. The moderator quickly decided to skip his own questions, choosing to open the floor for questions. From there, the panel really came alive. Most of the early questions, including my own, were basic, about who should an aspiring artist study and the like. But the answers were refreshing in their honesty, reflecting the number of years all three gentlemen had spent in the comics business. One thing Mr. Steigerwald said stuck in my mind: that comics, particularly superhero comics, have only been around for 70 odd years but art has been around for thousands of years and that it would behoove any artist to at least look outside of comics for inspiration. Buzz agreed with that, adding his own observation that any aspirants would do themselves a good service by learning more than just one skill, that one should learn to pencil, ink, color, and letter, to not only broaden one’s chances of getting work in comics but to enable one to get art jobs outside of comics if the need arose. Given his own experience working in advertising, this was sound advice. I almost felt bad for not digging out my reporter’s hat and taking notes. If what was said by the panelists is true, there may be film of the panel out there on the internets. Look it up and learn.

The remainder of that last day was spent talking with friends in the biz and saying goodbyes. After seeing him on the art panel, I stopped by Buzz’s spot in artists’ alley and bought his sketchbook. Instead of just autographing it, he did an ink sketch inside the front cover. It blew me away. I was so happy I showed Ray Height and then remembered that one should be careful in showing one artist another artist’s work. I was lucky to walk away alive.

In time, the show would be over and the celebrations I mentioned at the top would happened. I would leave, like so many others, with bags of books and other items and the memories of the new comics show on the block.

Even though it ended a week ago, I can’t wait until next year’s Long Beach Comics Convention.

Namaste, until next time, y’all.

Vincent S. Moore

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