Thursday, June 28, 2007

Brave New Worlds: CCS News, MoCCA Followup/Conclusions, Mobile Phone Comics & More!

A few things to cover this AM; hope you enjoy the return to potpourri format.

  • I've known about this for some time, but now it's public and it's official: The Center for Cartoon Studies earned MFA degree granting status from the VT Board of Education. Read about it here!

  • "The Center for Cartoon Studies (CCS) is proud to announce its approval from the State of Vermont Department of Education Board to award Master of Fine Arts (MFA) Degrees. Based on recommendations from the Vermont Higher Education Council during their June meeting, the State Board approved CCS for Degree-Granting Authority and a Certificate of Approval to offer one-year certificates in cartooning and summer educator courses."

    This is big news for CCS, and bodes well for the future.

    More MoCCA followup and my own conclusions (as a non-participant), for whatever it's worth:

  • The amazing Alex Joon Kim posted some more pix, compliments of Jovial Joe Lambert, at his own blog -- check 'em out.

  • Alex
    was among the Sundays editorial crew, but also had his own comics and prints at MoCCA, prominent among those the exquisite collaborative accordion-mini Medusa, based on Jess Abston's poem, which likewise sold out (for a preview of Medusa, check out Alex's blog, too). Congrats, Alex and Jess!

  • I you missed MoCCA or arrived at Alex's venue after Medusa sold out, Medusa is available right now at the I Know Joe Kimpel site, along with oh so much more I've already shamelessly huckstered on Myrant this past month.

  • Robyn Chapman was there, too, a tireless worker and promoter of her own excellent comics and of CCS. Robyn writes, "Thanks to all for a great show! The CCS table looked great, the school and the students were well represented. Shout outs to my awesome table managers, Jon-Mikel and Penina. Special thanks to Alex, Bryan and crew, who went the extra mile carting CCS merch back to WRJ. Also, much thanks to Steve, for donating half the profits from the Zombies book to CCS." You're welcome, and I just wish we'd sold more (the only Zombies US venue garnered a few modest sales at MoCCA).

  • Daniel Barlow posts his post-MoCCA thoughts on the Trees & Hills blog, noting location, location, location biting some MoCCA participants on the ass a bit.

  • "...The Trees & Hills/Mimi's Doughnuts table was located on the seventh floor of the Puck Building, six floors up from the three other MoCCA rooms. This meant we got about one-fourth the traffic that the other floors saw, but the incoming natural light and breathing room turned our floor into a nice island away from the bustle of the convention. Reviews are a bit mixed on this. Marek Bennett (Mimi's Doughnuts) preferred the location. But he's a true natural with relating to people and sold what appeared to be a good number of comics and a few shirts. Trees & Hills co-founder Colin Tedford and I felt that the access that the downstairs floor would have given us outweighed the nice, upper floor atmosphere."

    "Medusa, Medusa, Let Down Your Pages!" Quality spills over from the Sundays table at MoCCA (Photo: Joe Lambert)

    My considerable thirty years+ convention experience (with video industry trade shows as well as countless comic conventions and media shows) had me concerned at the multiple-floor layout of MoCCA; there's no getting around the fact that the main display floor is prime real estate, and all dealers & participants on the floors or in rooms/salons elsewhere are second fiddle at best. Though it sounds like MoCCA made sure there were "destination guests/tables" in these remoter nooks and crannies to offset their segregation from the main floor, traffic inevitably is concentrated on the main floor, and all other levels/rooms are detours from the main event.

    Other verbal conversations with CCSers, though, note the downside of being placed alongside 'hot spots' and/or wedged between 'destination' tables (e.g., major indy publishers or participants).

    If you're next to a hot ticket guest or key publisher venue, your table may be either cut off from traffic due to lines waiting to reach the table/guest next to you -- though there's some benefit to this, many fans (with limited budgets and/or attention spans) simply ignore the table/cartoonists/comics "in the way" of their destination, and the lines prevent those seeking out you or your table/comics from getting to you! Placement alongside a key publisher/participant is likewise a double-edged sword: you're second fiddle by proxy, catching some spillover traffic but only as the "oh, what do you do?" table next door to the big kahuna.

    Dan also notes that "The Green Mountain State was well represented. The Center for Cartoon Studies had two tables at the show and their Sundays anthology sold out on, appropriately, Sunday, and was one of the true buzz books of the show. Rick Veitch (Army @ Love, Rare Bit Fiends) was right around the corner from our table and he had some nice original pages for sale. Alison Bechdel had a huge line for sketches, which nicely occurred directly behind our table." Cool!

    In conclusion (and in response to a few of this week's emails):

    Sundays did great, CCS did well, vets like the One Percent crew (JP, Stephen, Joe etc.) and Marek Bennett did well -- MoCCA was a worthy venue and profitable and/or breakeven for many. This is now a CCS tradition, and like SPX I've no doubt MoCCA will remain a fixture of every year for past and future CCSers, and this is as it should be. It's their time, it's their shows!

    Pragmatic self-assessment: For all the ballyhoo I hustled here at Myrant, I haven't heard or read of a single MoCCA participant who benefited from all the effort that went into the interviews posted here for almost a full month. No regrets -- the interviews are/were solid reading and worth posting in and of themselves, and the creators involved deserve attention, and that's all that matters here -- but that experiment in promotion was a failure. Some of the best comics (in my estimation) at the CCS table registered barely a ripple, despite promo here -- Sundays, at least, garnered attention and sales, though the book itself and its solo table status amply justified that deserved attention. I've no reason to believe otherwise, given reports.

    I'll also note that sales were modest for the couple of items I had work in, other than Sundays, which most deservedly earned the attention it was worthy of. I'm not disappointed -- I had/have no expectations -- but for those who continue to push/cry/shame me into believing in there's some vast public need only Bissette comics can fill, the reality once again confirms it just ain't so. I'm happy to be drawing again, and will continue to do so for my own pleasure and where it might benefit CCS and/or CCSers and Trees & Hills, and I am moving ahead with Tyrant this year. But that indifference of the comics community (such as it is) is measurable this week by modest sales. Nice to know, a solid reality check.

    Shameless flea-marketeer and huckster I am, no doubt I could have hustled more sales had I been there in the flesh, but that raises other issues:

    None of this stirs in me any desire to return to the convention scene, even an 'enlightened' con like MoCCA or SPX. My being at the CCS table might be a draw for some, but fielding fans who only want to ask me about Alan Moore, '1963' and "when will you draw Swamp Thing again?" (every one a lose/lose proposition for the fan and I and certainly the CCS tables, had I been there) may bring foot traffic but distract from the reasons for being at the show/table, and not add up to any sales for anyone at the booth.

    As I've said & written before, the flea market orientation of US cons is what I've had enough of; an event that really embraced and engaged with the creative life and wellspring of comics would be another matter. MoCCA and SPX and such are necessary and beneficial venues for the young cartoonists and those with new 'destination' product to hustle, and kudos to those who organize these events and please, keep 'em coming. But for my age/time/money, staying home remains a far preferable option.

    My CCS-centered orientation to the comics community, such as it is, is all that matters to me at this phase in life, and if my humble participation makes White River Junction in any way a destination point, all the better that I don't go to cons.

    Back to the boards -- in the CCS classrooms and my own drawing board -- is my best use of time for myself and for comics. 'Nuff said!

    This just in from my Puma Blues/Mirage/VMag amigo Steve Murphy and from Josh Peres of uclick; the press release, in full:

    uclick Brings Detective Drama Umbra to Mobile Phones

    KANSAS CITY, MO (June 27, 2007) uclick, a leader in mobile entertainment, has announced an agreement that brings the critically- acclaimed comic book series Umbra, by Stephen Murphy and Mike Hawthorne, to mobile phones throughout North America, UK, Australia and South Africa.

    The first weekly installment of Umbra will launch on June 27 through uclick's GoComics Mobile Comic Reader, available on all major carriers, including Sprint, Verizon and Cingular.

    "I'm very excited to be able to offer Umbra to an expanded global audience through uclick," said series creator/writer Murphy. "This story, with its imperfect heroine, exotic locales and blurred division between dream and reality - not to mention Mike's brilliant artwork - really resonated with fans in print, and it's been fascinating to see it make a smooth transition to mobile.

    "Mobile fans will read it in weekly installments, which I feel actually adds a level of tension to the already- intense storyline. I think they are definitely going to enjoy the ride."

    Originally published as a three-issue mini-series by Image Comics, Umbra is a mystery set in Iceland during the year 1999. The story's protagonist is a young, self-medicating police forensic scientist named Askja Thorasdottir whose first big case involves the discovery of a strange skeleton hidden in a glacial cave.

    Umbra joins a GoComics mobile line that boasts several popular titles from a wide range of genres, including the sci-fi fantasy hit Godland, the webcomic- turned-comic-book PvP, the manga and anime horror epic Guilstein, martial arts adventures starring the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, and many more.

    "One of our goals with the GoComics Mobile Comic Reader is to offer comic book fans a mobile experience that reflects the diversity of the comics medium," said uclick Manager of Product Development Harold Sipe, "and Umbra certainly does that. It's a finely-crafted detective story with dramatic artwork that plays out beautifully on the mobile screen."

    That's the press release, folks.
  • For more info on this and on uclick, click here
  • or text "COMIC" to 26642 on your mobile phone.

    Why my posting this this morning? Well, other then my glee at Murphy landing this, and my desire to bring his Umbra to your attention, I've a selfish motive: among the licenses I've pursued for my trio of '1963' characters -- N-Man, The Fury and The Hypernaut -- is a mobile phone game of -- The Fury!

    More news on that, and other N-Man, Fury and Hypernaut news, later this summer.

    Have a great Thursday, one and all...

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    Blogger Mike Dobbs said...

    I took a break from frickin non-stop work in order to meet short deadlines, a diminished staff and an effort to build up enough storties so i can take a few days off next week to tell you that your efforts are valuable to the CCS students and their works but in the scope of a marketing plan they are just ONE element. There should be many more.

    This all gets back to the essential question of how to market comic books/graphic novels. Do you market to stores or market to readers? Frankly it's time to devise a new marketing distribution plan dor this new era in which graphic novels are gettign mainstream attention.

    You web efforts are admirable, but Catholic boy you can't beat yourself up if there weren't a bunch of sales at ONE show of NEW material by UNKNOWN creators. And don't get me started about the demand or lack of for Bissette stuff. Again, effective marketing goes beyond one blog or a group of web sites.

    Get off da cross, we need the wood for next winter!

    Love ya


    Blogger Colin Tedford said...

    Staying home is not such a bad alternative to MoCCA - I had a wonderful time, but it was EXHAUSTING. We are going to try some different things with the table, including simplifying the display - test run occuring the weekend after next at Chathamfest Zine Fair & Punk Rock Flea Market.

    When I get a chance I'll be posting links to your CCS interviews on the Trees & Hills 'Articles' page for posterity. In the meantime, I set up a newsbox a while ago so they (along with feeds from other blogs) were accessible via our front page. I haven't read all of 'emyet b/c I was so busy preparing for MoCCA, but I love that stuff.

    I'll be scanning & posting Field Guide to our shop tonight for online ordering.

    And then I'm off to the Mad Midwest for a few days! Whew!

    Anonymous Marek Bennett said...

    Steve --

    I enjoyed your interviews because they made me feel like I knew a little bit about these CCS folks.

    I'm certainly rethinking my initial enthusiasm for the skylit penthouse floorspace... When I consider that ALL the people who reached our table had to squeeze into those two tiny elevators! It's quite a bottle-neck. I'm now officially hopeful for downstairs space next year.

    And about those other cons... somebody handed me a flyer for the Big Apple Comics Convention happening that same weekend. Man, you know something's WRONG when you're inviting Rowdy Roddy Piper and Eric Estrada (of "CHiPs"!) to be your guests of honor at your Comics Convention ...

    -- Marek

    Anonymous Blair said...


    The MFA news is great for CCSers... though it brings up a question -- what did we get at JKS? I think all I got was a "certificate of graduation" (which some of us called "the receipt"). Not that it detracts from what I did learn at JKS, but it would be nice to have put MFA on a few resumes rather than just "graduated".

    On another note, Bob mentioned you might be interested in meeting up next week? Because I think that'd be quite swell (see -- I know what slang's hep with the kids).



    Blogger SRBissette said...

    This JKS grad got a diploma! But you're right, there was no degree -- but then again, as a member of the first-ever class, JKS wasn't as yet accredited, and had no degree-granting status. I've no idea where it's at now -- anyone?

    Blair, ya, we'll meet this week, if you're up for it.

    Anonymous blair said...

    It didn't used to be there, but the info was on the site when I checked last night;

    "Approved by the State of New Jersey Department of Education. Approved for the training of Veterans and Eligible Persons. An eligible institution under Government Insured Students Loans and Grants for those who qualify. Accredited by Accrediting Commission of Career Schools and Colleges of Technology. Authorized under Federal Law to enroll non-immigrant alien students. Member of Career College Association, Private Career Schools of New Jersey and Better Business Bureau of New Jersey."

    So basically, it's considered just a trade school. I wonder if the difference is a) Vermont and NJ have different determinations of what schools can grant MFAs and/or b) CCS spends more time on the history of narrative art and comics. While I was there, JKS only briefly touched on it. Maybe that makes all the difference.

    As for meeting, sure. I'll run it through my people, and get in touch with Bob.

    Pheh. Who am I kidding? I don't gots people.


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