11) BEST COSTUMES - Dayna / Zuul / "The Gatekeeper" & Louis / Vinz Clortho / "The Keymaster" from GHOSTBUSTERS
There were plenty of costumes that were more elaborate or obscure but this one hit the sweet spot for me for execution (light-up helmet!), conviction, and goofy delight. Bonus points for being a couple.
10) BEST TOYS - The Ever-Expanding Line of Marvel Universe Figures
I had no shortage of toys growing up and I'm no longer buying them now but I always get a little rush when I see action figure versions of a seemingly endless crowd of favorite characters. In this cluster alone: the cat version of Beast, Beta Ray Bill, and Kraven the Hunter.
9) BEST SUPERHERO ANNOUNCEMENT - Storm Joins the Avengers
At the time I was reading UNCANNY X-MEN as a kid Storm went through her famous transformation from a slightly aloof mutant weather goddess to a powerless punk with a mohawk as leader of the X-Men. I definitely have affection for the character but felt she should always have been more prominent as a leader of the Marvel Universe and, as a minority woman with an iconic look, an easy-to-understand power set, and complex identity (benevolent mutant worshipped as an Earth goddess) a banner character for the company. Now in the hands of Brian Michael Bendis and Daniel Acuña I have high hopes that that will be the case.
I'm no superhero artist but you can see my costume re-design for the character, HERE.
8) BEST ARTISTIC DISCOVERY - NICK DRAGOTTA
It often crosses my mind that there are countless undiscovered talents in this world. And then there are those like Nick Dragotta that were right in front of me but I'm seeing for the first time. Nick is no unknown. He's been working on Marvel books for some time, but, seeing his art at full size and in Black & White my eyes were snapped open and will never see the same again.
While his style pulls from all of the great Marvel illustrators (Kirby, Ditko, Adams) he recombines and delivers them in a package that feels new and slightly punked out. It's a visual language that I immediately respond to and one that movies can't match and with a cool they can only hope to emulate.
His website, HERE.
7) BEST BOOK - HEART #1 by BLAIR BUTLER & KEVIN MELLON
You know that for a while in Japan the number 1 selling comic was about Tennis? While there is a great diversity of genres and subject matter in American comics, it's clearly the superheroes that are the bread and butter and what most people associate with the medium.
Taking one step to remedy that is the Image series HEART written by Blair Butler and with art by Kevin Mellon and set in the competitive world of Mixed Martial Arts. I can't say that I've ever watched a match but the book takes full advantage of the medium's ability to convey external and internal drama with full visual might. And, Kevin's rendering is not what I would expect from such a book. Rather than muscular bold inks, he successfully builds figures and their environments from energized and well-chosen hatches.
Great review/analysis on Bleeding Cool, HERE.
6) MEETING OTHER NOVICE CREATORS - FRANK REYNOSO
One of the great changes over the last year is that now that we are published "professionals," aspiring writers and artists have been approaching us for advice.
We've seen a lot of incredible and promising work but the guy that impressed me the most is Frank Reynoso. From his EC-inspired writing on THE HUNTER to his own written/drawn horror book THE REMAINS he is someone with an engaging voice and with real chops when it comes to the not easy task of panel to panel storytelling. Publishers, I need to see Frank on the other side of the table signing books, come 2012.
5) PITCHING LIKE IT'S 2011
While I can't spill any details on my own 2011 pitching, two things became clear. 1) After the halcyon buzz of publishing our first book, this Con was a great perch to witness the industry and better understand our place in it. 2) I love telling stories. While I'm primarily an artist, I have gotten my greatest satisfaction out of working up stories with my collaborators. My bud and FEEDING GROUND co-hort Swift Lang is a writer with his finger on inherently visual stories that are essential and need to be told, now. And, with Jef Burandt, I have the potential to bring visuals to a concept that is both a sociopolitical epic and has the potential to be the coolest toy line this side of GI Joe. We'll see what comes of these pitches but I already benefited from the experience of working up the stories with friends and the editorial feedback we received in telling them over the weekend.
4) THIS IS YOUR LIFE
I cannot be more warm and grateful for the people that visited us to wish us well from all places and periods from our lives. Former co-workers, good friends, new friends, their families, and our family all came out with their support - often at the same time. Got to have dinner with my cousin Jen who I grew up with, blogger/podcaster pal Eric Jason Ratcliffe, and good friend/writer Swifty Lang all at the same table. Below are my Nickelodeon co-worker and pal Keelmy Carlo who had a whole list of friends he was there to cheer and also my sister's co-worker Angie, horror fan and FEEDING GROUND booster. Awesome people.
3) SIGNING THE FULL RUN OF FEEDING GROUND
There are many milestones in the act of bringing something like a book into the world. At our first convention appearance as creators in San Diego 2010 we were only signing a promotional poster for FEEDING GROUND and now this Con felt to me like we were tying a bow on the experience with the release of the Hardcover. The best book-related moment had to be when a fan had us sign the final 5 issues of the mini-series. We had hand-sold him on Issue 1 at NYCC 2010 and he continued to buy the rest at his local comic shop. Then, he thought enough of our work to bring them to the Con, find us, and have us sign them. Another first for us and I'll never forget it.
2) HUG THIS MAN! - Multiple outpourings of brotherly affection
PART 1 - Regular readers of this blog know that artist Juan Doe has been a great pal and artistic godfather to the FEEDING GROUND crew from the moment I met him signing at a Marvel booth in NYCC 2009, literally just before I pitched the book to Archaia.
I was hoping to see him this year but we've both been busy and out of touch. And then he appeared at our booth. Hugs all around and all night long as we celebrated personal and professional successes of the last year. So happy for him and the much-deserved love he's getting for his work on Marvel's LEGION OF MONSTERS mini but more so for the life he's created. Bonus - there he is below (LEFT) with Marvel editor Alejandro Arbona and Archaia's Mel Caylo, in total an NYC carpool crew from when they all met working at Wizard Magazine.
PART 2 - I was disappointed to hear that I wouldn't have the chance to meet up with MORNING GLORIES artist Joe Eisma at the con. We met over the Bendis Board and I'm honored to have seen his work grow and then explode with the success of his book with fellow Benboer Nick Spencer.
Joe and fellow Image artist Nick Pitarra (RED WING) decided to play a prank on Kevin Mellon (HEART, see #7 above) who I had just met. The premise: hug Kevin and win some books.
Contest + hugs + mild embarrassment = I'm all over it. Had a hard time getting a signal to be the first to send the picture but the guys were cool to include me as co-winner.
More details on the promotion and a look at their books, HERE.
1) HOW TO MAKE A GREAT INDIE GRAPHIC NOVEL PANEL
In Fall of 2008 we began construction of a pitch book based on advice we had seen given by creator Robert Kirkman in the back of a reprint of WALKING DEAD #1. In 2011, we were able to thank him and give him a copy of our finished book.
For me, more than anything, conventions are about paying it forward. I was proud to be included on Archaia's HOW TO MAKE A GREAT GRAPHIC NOVEL panel with Mark Smylie, Jim McCann, David Petersen, and Stephen Christy where we were able to lend advice to a standing room only room of aspiring creators who are looking for the same thing I wanted - how to make an idea a reality. Archaia owner PJ Bickett moderated a nuanced conversation that illustrated multiple experiences; no perfect answer but with many paths to learn from.
I've talked about our FEEDING GROUND pitch book in the past HERE. You can read our full pitch as a PDF HERE and we will be posting clips from the panel (recorded by FG co-creator Chris Mangun) on our FaceBook fan page by joining HERE.
Thanks to PJ and the whole Archaia team for taking a chance on us and bringing it all full circle.