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...

    Labels: , , , , , , , , , , , ,