A Girl in Boyland - WizardWorld Chicago
Though, I have to admit . . . it's one HOT boy's club. If you think that comic conventions are made up primarily of sweaty, overweight men in spandex and capes, you really couldn't be any further from the truth. I don't know why the convention reports always focus on the few instances said costumes occur, because it really is a misrepresentation of the number of cute, unattached 20-something guys in NORMAL clothing.
That aside, artist's alley was freakin' amazing and technical skill abounded. I don't think I've drooled over so many sketchbooks and inked pages in my life. My pockets itched to buy more, but somehow I managed to stop myself and walk away with only a few prints from David Mack (creator of Kabuki) and a book on political cartoons from the late 1800's that I found at a little booth selling older comics. (yeah, yeah, so maybe I'm really a geek at heart)
To say the least, Chicago was . . . interesting. Most of my weekend I spent either with the TP crew or discussing comics with Felipe (Smith) and Takeshi (Miyazawa) (and various other artists) until 5 and 6 in the morning. I knew Felipe would be there but Takeshi was a surprise; I was browsing through artist's alley, when suddenly I was like, "heyyyyyy . . . I know that art!" To say the least, I got to see MUCH more art (inked and toned pages from a series called "Sidekicks") and have been thoroughly humbled by his skill. IT'S NOT FAIR!!!!! *weep* And Felipe draws his art with the speed of a bat out of hell. No wonder he got his book done so fast. O_o
However, I should probably end my babble here and discuss the more serious issues that continue to linger in my mind.
The comics industry is changing.
I have no doubt that what we saw in comics 5 years ago is going to be nothing like what we'll see in stores 5 years from now. And it isn't just what I saw inside of the convention. It's what I saw OUTSIDE of it.
Being able to speak to other artists and writers . . . the kind that work for Marvel, DC, Darkhorse, etc . . . was nothing short of amazing. These guys have some incredible skill, but it's more than that. Being unfamiliar with the American comics industry, nearly half of the people I spoke to, I was unable to attach art style to face or name. "Yeah. I draw for Spiderman."
Cr*p. I've never read Spiderman. Or Superman. Or the Fantastic Four. So I thought up the only question I know to ask:
"Do you ever draw anything for yourself?"
The reaction I got to that querry both confused and inspired me. One guy . . . I can't remember his name but apparently he's incredibly popular for his catwoman covers or something . . . said outright, "No." And he gave me this look of confusion that said, "Why the hell would I do that?" Like I was *nuts*.
But with others, there was something different. Maybe it's because the majority of people I asked are from a younger generation such as myself, with different dreams and ambitions influenced by a more open global culture spurred on by the success of the internet.
First I'd see a spark in the eyes. Someone would sit up a little straighter. Others would lean in. Somebody would shift in his seat.
"Have you ever wanted to create your own stories? Your own characters? Your own worlds?" I'd ask.
Felipe spoke of the FEAR that drives him to create. I spoke of the PASSION and the LOVE. In other people's eyes, I'd see almost a flash of fear, and then one of hunger.
Because you see . . . apparently those who work for Marvel, those who work for DC, those who work for the companies that have premade-characters fashioned out of plastic molds and branded with the seal of corporate approval . . . even they want to create something new and innovative. Something they can feel passionate about.
Yet still, almost none of them understood.
Them: "How can you feel so passionate about your art? I don't get it."
Me: "How can you NOT?"
HOW. CAN. YOU. NOT?
Because that's it. For many it's just a job. You go in at nine in the morning and leave at 5 in the evening. Yet . . . like all sane yet inspired people . . . there's a craving for something more. Being an artist or a writer doesn't make you automatically creative. It just makes you good at what you do and exceptionally talented. And just like the 9-5 worker, there's always the dream for something *more*.
There are some *really* good stories that have been brewing in the minds of these guys. Everybody has a story they want to tell, something that continues to linger in the heart. It just needs a path to come out.
After a weekend of being surrounded by the guys and the girl(s) that really do work for these companies, I'm starting to view the industry in a new light. A lot of these people really do have good intentions. But I still have mixed feelings about these intentions. I saw marked hesitation for change.
But nothing will ever improve unless you change. Otherwise it'll stay the same old stories and the same old characters recycled over and over and over again. A certain someone at DC . . . told me that they were looking to hire more female creators and get more girls comics out there. But he said it with a sort of disinterest and scorn. And I was incredibly insulted when he said (along these lines), "Sure working for TOKYOPOP is fun, but a corporate paycheck is even nicer."
It isn't JUST about money to some of us, man. Of course, it is to the company. But do you really think waving a bigger paycheck in front of my nose when the end result may be a restriction on my story and my characters will win me over? I kept his card, but I pray I never have need for it. Because TOKYOPOP gives me creative freedom. I'm given room to explore and develop my characters. I'm aloud to give them LIFE.
And the pay isn't great right now, but these men and women who work for TOKYOPOP fucking LOVE what they're doing to the industry right now. They're EXCITED about our books. F*ck. They WANT change. They want to stir things up and shake it around. Every story TOKYOPOP picks up is different. I've never met Stu, but apparently he's told his editors that even if he doesn't quite like a series, if THEY feel passionate about a certain creator and their work, he'll back them. How often does THAT happen?
And while I've made sacrifices of my own giving up a job and going full-time into a career that currently pays peanuts, the company I work for has made sacrifices of their own, too. It's expensive to produce original graphic novels. But somebody out there believes in us.
And so, I've learned something this weekend in Chicago. I've learned that the desire for change is there. I've learned that TOKYOPOP is sweeping up all the innovative talent they see as fast as they can and truly building a formidable machine to implement that change. I've learned that DC and Marvel would *like* improvement but aren't always willing (or maybe unable) to follow through. I've learned that technical and creative skill are two entirely different things. I've learned a little more humility and awe from fellow creators.
And I've become even more passionate and dedicated to what I do. One tiny voice, barely even a blip on the radar, adding to all the barely sub-blips clamoring for something new.