The crowds descended upon New York City for an epic 4 days of awesomeness that can only be described as “Nerd Heaven”. It’s the largest comic-con on the East Coast, and I believe second only to the famous San Diego Comic-Con in size.
I arrived Thursday to a very cool new check-in process. Instead of the normal badges, these super new high-tech badges were equipped with RFID sensors that allow you to “Tap-In” wherever you go. Pre-convention all the press were told to connect their social media pages and that really gave me a fun sense of community to the convention. So many times these events are cold and calculating in how they treat press. This is a bit different- press are revered and with the connection of social media and the overwhelming support from publicists, managers and staff I felt right away that it was going to be a fantastic convention.
I consider the first day a ‘warm-up’, everyone is making sure their booths are running smoothly, the celebrity guests are sometimes just milling around getting their moment of fandom. Yes, that’s right, famous people are just people. They’re fans, they like art, they like comic books, and they even like chubby studio executives. However that’s another story for another time.
The press lounge sits on a bridge between two giant halls and has eagle eye 180 degree views of the whole convention floor. It truly is a spectacle. I haven’t set up any interviews for today because I wanted to get my sea legs and enjoy the convention experience on my first day but sometimes you can’t help but stop and get a picture with Zachary Levi. He’s so cool. We’re going to make a movie together, I can’t tell you what it’s called or where I’m going to get the money to finance it yet, but it will happen.
The booths this year are exceptional, Intel has a huge spread and are hosting a “Gaming Masters” Starcraft II tournament with some of the best players in the world! On Nerd vs. Nerd we don’t really cover a lot of PC Gaming but with all the attention this tournament is getting and after meeting some of the superfans (getting their Keyboards signed) I think we might have to start.
Speaking of Zach Levi, his group The Nerd Bastards and NerdHQ are allowing fans to take pictures at their booth with random celeb nerds, proceeds going to charity. That’s where I snapped the pic. I even paid, and I didn’t have to wait in line or give a huge chunk of cash. More on that later.
Day 2 started and I really wanted to get a chance to experience the panels, as I have always been a lover of the creative process. A writer that I support in all his Kickstarter endeavors, Jimmy Palmiotti, had a panel with Ross Ritchie and Mike Richardson. If you’re not familiar with the last two names, you might want to get to Googling. Ross is the head of Boom Studios, and Mike is the head of Dark Horse. Collectively these gents have had over 100 options, with dozens made into big budget Hollywood studio films. The panel was called Comics and Hollywood, it was all about how to get your property to become a movie. I thought it was stellar. Mike stressed the importance of not doing everything on your own, get an agent, get a manager, and most importantly, get an “Entertainment” Attorney. Not just the attorney from down the street or your wife’s brother the ambulance chaser. Professional E-Attorneys are specifically trained in the word of film. It’s an art form like any other. They shared some war stories, some good and some terrible like Jimmy being sent a letter from a studio saying “we know we stole this from you, but if you sue us we’ll bankrupt you, win or lose”. These guys successfully crossed the divide from Comic Books to the Silver Screen and even they have trouble with piracy, theft, and the greed of others.
Jimmy had a lot of cool insider tips. “Choosing an agent is like dating”
Mike said “Pick an agent you like because you’re going to be mad at him, all the time.”
Jimmy said “don’t pitch me ideas” but it wasn’t because he doesn’t think you have good ideas, he said “my brain is like a parking lot, and it’s full. If I want to put one car in I have to take one car out.” He seems like he has a lot on his plate.
Ross had some great news about a “First Look” deal with Fox. He said it was great because it was like having a studio financing agreement and they cover a lot of overhead so there are some great freedoms. He also talked about some of the movies he was doing and it seems like Boom! studios is really on the rise. They did 2 Guns (Denzel, Marky Mark) and they have a few options as well which is really exciting.
Mike also had some excellent news and that was on Thursday they just inked the deal to get the license for Prometheus! Dark Horse already wrestled away Star Wars from Marvel, but now that Disney owns Lucas AND Marvel who knows what will happen to it?
My next panel was “From Page to Panel”, essentially the inner-workings of the comic-book making process. It was hosted by Mark Silvestri, Jerry Ordway, Jamal Igle, and a moderator from SCAD. These guys have some amazing history in Comic Books and they gave me a first-hand look at how to transform words to pencils, inks, colors, words. There are multiple steps and every step should have it’s own person at the helm. There was a point at the beginning of the lecture where Mark said “raise your hand if you’re a writer”, half the group raised their hands. “Raise your hand if you’re an artist”, the other half raised their hands. “Raise your hand if you’re both”, about a dozen people raised their hands. “You guys are idiots”. Mark told them to find one thing that they excel at and REALLY go for that. There is always someone that will be better suited for either writing or graphics, and you get to work with more people in collaborations. The point is to make great work, and having more people involved with allow for different points of view and opinions that you may not have seen before.
Mark left the panel with a very poignant thought: “Always keep in mind [when creating comic books] that your comic book might be some kids very first comic book, so always put out your best”.
I thought that was awesome.
Day 3 I wanted to experience the show floor. There are essentially 4 different types of vendors: ones that sell things they made, ones that sell things other people made, ones that sell people, and ones that sell nothing. My favorite, of course, are the first ones.
Artists, inventors, innovators, tech nerds, writers, toy makers, the range of original geek-related materials is INCREDIBLE. The creativity is astounding and you only get the occasional odd duck that makes things just because they think they’ll be able to sell and not because they believe in what they do. I saw intense original artwork, apps that blew my mind, and of course some fantastic new indie comics. Artists Alley is where they keep most of the indie artists and publishers, the scale is pretty incredible. Oh and on a funny note, I FOUND THE PODCASTS! They stuck them all in AA this year, fitting I suppose since I’m guessing that means Podcasting is becoming a relative art form in itself. I guess if lots of people listen to you then you’re probably doing something right. These are my favorites, they bleed for their craft and they have a lot to lose if things don’t go well. These booths are super expensive and they have to be able to justify the expense. I know how they feel, so it’s really exciting to see people being successful at it.
The second type of people are the ones that sell things other people made. Comic book stores, film studios, toys, collectibles, LOTS of cool doctor who licensed materials, video games, etc. They’re all about the art of the deal, what can they say to you to make you buy something. It’s great if you’re there looking for something or if you have a couple hundred extra bucks laying around. These aren’t really my people but a lot of these guys are creators themselves and have branched out into merchandising which is an eventuality that I want for Hashtag Studios so it would be a bit hypocritical if I were to say these weren’t my people. One day I’ll probably be in their shoes and of course, I do want to point out that one of those people happens to be Tom Chillemi, one of my better friends. Tommy owns Comics & Gaming and he’s making BIG moves. Tom has 4 original titles in the comic book world under his company Azure Press and Azure Multimedia. He’s good people (he also co-hosts Nerd vs. Nerd with me so you might already know he rocks).
The third type are an interesting breed. Typically they’re publicists or media groups and they bring in people from all walks of fame (retired WWF wrestlers, B-list celebs, Nerd Icons, etc). I only ‘mostly’ like these folks because it gives famous people a way to give back to the fans. The tough part is waiting in line for hours and having to pay a lot of money for the pleasure but to be honest, it’s mostly worth it. I got a picture signed for Hashtag’s head of production, Christy. She’s the biggest Doctor Who fan on the planet and I got John Barrowman to sign a headshot for her. Sure, I got one for the studio, too, I’d be dumb not to! There is one group that is doing a trio of autograph/picture deals. I don’t remember their name (yes I do) but they have Chloe Moretz, Sly Stallone and Sigourney Weaver. Weaver and Moretz are relatively inexpensive, Weaver being more but I was told she visited with each one of her fans that spent a few hundred bucks for the picture and/or autograph so that’s really nice. Sly and Chloe are today. I’m going to get Chloe, I said no way to Sly. He’s nearly 400 for a signature and nearly 500 for a picture. It’s INSANE. He’s never done a con before, and he’s being flown in from Bulgaria (where they’re filming Expendables 3) so I can understand it costs a lot to get him here and it’s tough on his schedule. But I doubt he’s going to create any small talk and it’s almost a thousand dollars if you want both, I have no idea how you can justify that expense. Chloe was 200 and I think (outside of her current stardom) that she’s going to be a big star for a very long time. At 16 she’s one of my faves, in the least creepy way possible.
The last type of people are the ones that sell nothing. These are good people. They’re people like the Art Institute, the Savannah College of Art and Design (SCAD), and other scholastic programs to help bring the new talent into the world. I LOVE these people and I intend to get new talent every year from their programs because they rock.