Wednesday, June 30, 2010

More from day 2

Day 2 Pics of MIni-Con

Sunday, June 27, 2010

More Day 1 Pics!!!

I do have to say, the Storm Trooper who came and represented the Imperial 501st was probably the most popular guy in the room. I hate that I can't recall his name at the moment, but he signed autographs, posed for pictures and patrolled the fans to make sure they were helping keep the air cool. He was a one-man show and a true ambassador for the group. If you want to learn more about the 501st (a.k.a. Vader's Fist) look them up and see all the charitable work they do and the lives they have been a part of. It may inspire you to go make your own Star Wars costume and perform good deeds, too.

Here are some more pictures from day one, including our brave (and good) Storm Trooper. And to John DaCosta- I don't know why your picture is so fuzzy- we'll upload more on Tuesday, hopefully!

Mini-Con Pictures- Day 1

Friday was INSANE!! The Union West Library is already a busy location, and parking is very limited, yet for events like this, hundreds of people turn out. How many did we get this year? Hard to say- there was a problem with the door counter, and not everybody was picking up goodie bags or registering for door prizes. However, we started the day with nearly 450 goodie bags to hand out to every child who came in and walked away with maybe 200 bags left. Assuming the kid, Mom and someone else came along, that's an average of three people per bag, which would be 750 people in five hours! But some families have three or four kids and maybe just one parent brings them- that would pull the average down. So maybe to be conservative, we could say between 500 and 750 the first day. One is sure- many of the artists there said they saw more children and handed out more sketches than they did in all three days of the Heroes Con! Wow!

The Friday crew was fantastic- Dave McDonald, Marcus Hamilton, Rich Barrett, Eraklis Petmezas, John DaCosta, Tom Davidson, Richard Stahnke, Troy Hasbrouck, Derek & Nikki Davis, and Jeremy & Kelly Dale were all in attendance and even I got a chance to sit down and draw some sketches for folks. Everyone was very humble and gracious and just a lot of fun to be around. I really hope each of the artists had a good time and feel like they were treated well.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

This is the day!

By the time you probably read this, it will be Friday- day one of The Return of Mini-Con! Hopefully, things will be in place and ready- there are the tables to get up, the list of who is coming to update, the food to prepare (a BIG thasnks to my uncle, to the Friends of the Library, and to Jill Peth), prizes to line up and hand out, Star Wars issues to handle and more. I don't think I'll get to sit back and enjoy too much of it, but if we get in good numbers (500 or more in the five hours) and a lot of kids are happy, I'll feel good. I'll feel even more successful if the artists go away from here happy to have come.

Things kick off at 1:00 (kids- get your bag and your ticket) and the art challenge will be at 3;30 back in the Reading Room (where the fireplace is). We'll take the first 20 kids and divide them into two age groups with a total of four winners- one of the top two winners will be the grand prize winner and will receive Dave McDonald's Cartoon Workshop boxed kit.

There will be lots of other prizes like comics and original art handed out, too. You can see in today's post my submission for some lucky fan- it's Mera, Aqauman's wife.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

How to prepare for The Return of Mini-Con!

Maybe you thought you would never have to prepare yourself for something so awesome sounding as The Return of Mini-Con!, but now the event is just three days away and you want to know if you're really ready for this.
Here are some tips to help you out- when you get to the library, get a bag and a ticket. The bag will have a comics template, and either a comic, a poster, or some other cool swag in it. The ticket gives you the chance to win more cool stuff including signed prints, graphic novels, autographs of creators who cannot make the show, toys, etc., etc.! Carry the stuff you win or are given in that bag- makes things easier and neater.
If you plan to get sketches or autographs, bring a blank sketch pad for the artists to put their drawings in. It keeps everything together and keeps it neat and clean. You may want to bring a Sharpie marker for autographs, too. Also, when you approach an artist, if the line is long find another table where the line is shorter. If the artist asks what kind of picture you want, keep it simple- a picture of Superman, a head shot of Cyclops, yadda, yadda. Don't ask for a picture of the Black Panther and Iron Fist battling Galactus and the Skrulls in color unless you're willing to pay for it!
Get plenty to eat or drink before coming to the library. Drinks and food are not permitted in the building and it could be 2 or 3 hours before you get back outside the library.
Dress comfortably (unless it's a costume!). Be friendly and patient. If you want to buy books or other prints, bring some money with you.
Now you are ready to patrol The Return of Mini-Con like a pro!

Monday, June 21, 2010

Artist Profile: Dan Johnson

Re-writing the classics? How dare!, some would scream. How about mixing traditions? Ghastly, eh? Well writer Dan Johnson is the guy who dares to rewrite claasic stories, and take long-established traditions and turn them on their ear by mixing them together! This Winston-Salem writer has penned stories fro graphic novels like Thor & Herc and is working diligently with Campfire Books taking classic literature like teh Jungle Book and bringing it to a new audience. Dan heard about The Return of Mini-Con and asked if we had room for him. I replied, "Of course!" (duh!). With the mini-con just a few days away now, here is another artist profile for you to enjoy!

1) Do you remember the first comic you read or bought? What hooked you about comics?
My godmother, Dot, was the one that hooked me on comics when I was about four or so. She read comics all the time and was always bringing me her old issues of Superman, Shazam! and World's Finest. I knew Superman and Batman from Superfriends, so I loved seeing them in comic book form. I also loved the idea of heroes going out to defend the weak and the innocent. The idea of good men and women out there fighting for what was right just inspired me to always try to be a better person. I lost my dad when I was thirteen, so superheroes gave me role models to believe in as a young man when he couldn't be there.

As for the first books I bought myself, that is easy. They were Superman Family #189, Super Team Family #15 and Fantastic Four Annual #12. Actually, those were the first books I picked out for myself. My dad picked up the tab. He and my mom figured they would help with my reading and be cheaper than toys. If they could only see how expensive comics are now!

2) Most people aspire to be the penciller, but some become writers. How did you decide to become a writer?
Well, I originally wanted to be a penciller as well. The turning point was in high school when my art teacher let me do comic book pages for an assignment. I still remember her critiquing my pages. She said I needed to work on my shading and my anatomy was okay, but I needed to pay more attention to details on things like buildings and the like. But then she said that she really liked the story I had written and it really kept her hooked. At the same time, I had an English teacher, Mrs. Shores, who started pushing me to write more and more and she really encouraged me to develop that skill. Thanks to her, I realized that my real gift was writing.

I also figured that if I became a writer, I would be in good company. Growing up, I was a huge fan of Cary Bates and Gerry Conway. As I got older, I discovered Stan Lee, John Broome and Gardner Fox. Also, around the time my teachers were redirecting my professional goal in comics, I was getting into Alan Moore's Swamp Thing and Watchmen. So, in the end, it is all good. Besides, I haven't given up on my artwork totally...

3) What's tougher- writing a Manga(eastern influence) about Norse and Greek gods(western influence) or re-writing classic literature for comics? My guess is the latter since many people feel great art shouldn't be toyed with and others feel comics are not a worthy avenue for literature?
I would have to agree that the latter is tougher, but mainly because of the challenge it represents. Greatest challenge of my life was taking a 400-plus page novel like Oliver Twist and boiling it down to an 80 page comic. Feats of daring and acts of the impossible? Superman ain't got nothing on me!

4) What is involved in taking a classic and converting it into a script?
The big thing is deciding what the important elements are. It is deciding what needs to stay for the story to remain in tact and what can go. Usually I will take Cliff Notes of the novel and use them to help determine what action needs to be on each page. The Campfire process is to turn in a page by page breakdown of each project before we start to script it. This way the editor will know what action will be on each page. It certainly helps me to keep on task. From there, it is a matter of deciding what dialogue can be used and what might need to be edited to gloss over those events or characters that might have been cut from the original novel.

5) Have you ever considered writing a script for TV, movies, or a play?

Actually, I have written a few screenplays. One was for a horror/western short movie that was produced a few years back. I also wrote a couple more screenplays for the same producers, but they were never shot. I also did two screenplays and a rewrite of an existing script for a friend of mine who wanted to start a film company here in North Carolina. Finally, I have written episodes for the Nashville, TN horror host show, Creature Feature, starring Dr. Gangrene (better known as my good buddy, Larry Underwood).

6)What would be your dream writing assignment- writing stories of something iconic like Superman, or creating a world of your own characters?
I would love to tackle Superman and several other heroes I grew up reading as a kid, but nothing beats the feeling of creating your own characters and seeing your own plots take shape and come to life on the page. Playing in someone else's universe can be fun, but controlling your own universe is awesome!

7)What projects are you working on now?
I am working on several projects at the moment, some of which I can not go into too much detail about. For Campfire, I'm currently writing my first biography for the company and I'm developing a series that will be a modern retelling of one of the great literary classics. I am also developing a web comic for Viper Comics. The plot for the first story was just approved and I'm working on the script now. I am still writing for Dennis the Menace, and I will be working on a new batch of gags after I complete this interview, as well as Back Issue magazine, which is published by TwoMorrows. I just did an interview with Herb Trimpe about the mid-1980's Rawhide Kid mini-series, and that will be our Wild West issue that should be out in the next few months. And remember I said I had not given up my artwork just yet? I am working on a comic strip that I would love to draw myself. It is just a matter of time of working it in around my other gigs.

8)What has been your best convention experience? Worst? Weirdest?
I am happy to say I have never had a bad time at any comic book convention. It is like I tell people when they stop by my table and ask how I'm doing, "It's the weekend and I'm at a con! It doesn't get better than that!" I can share my first and most recent best experiences though. My first, best experience at a comic book convention was when I got to go to my first show ever. It was a small show that was held at Hanes Mall on Labor Day, 1982. My dad took me to that one, and I was in sheer Heaven! At the time, I loved it because I was surrounded by old comic books as far as the eye could see! I look back on that day even more fondly now because it was one of the last things my dad and I were able to do together before he got too sick to get around on his own. God love him, he knew I wanted to be in the business, but he never understood how I could make a living drawing "funny books". None the less, he and my mother indulged me at every turn.

My most recent, best experience was at Heroes Con and it was on Sunday when the show was winding down. After several of the other guests had left, I had a chance to talk with Alex Saviuk, the artist on the Spider-Man comic strip, for about thirty minutes. I grew up on comics that Alex drew for, like The Flash and Superman, so it was a thrill to sit and just talk shop with someone who I had admired as a boy and was now treating me like a peer. Before I had to start packing up, I made sure to tell him how much his work meant to me as a kid and thanked him for the great memories and for giving me something to shot for when I was growing up.

9) Are you a Marvel or a DC (or something else entirely?)
I'm a DC boy all the way when it comes to comic books. When it comes to movies, I gotta admit that Marvel has the edge.

10) Celebrity death match! Ernie vs Bert, and what would the outcome be?
My money is on Bert. He has a lot of anger and rage in him (you can see it in his eyes). Heaven help Ernie, and us all, if Bert ever has the chance to unleash his fury.

Friday, June 18, 2010

One Week until The Return of Mini-Con!!!

Today is Friday and that means we are just seven days away from our library's second mini-con, The Return of Mini-Con. Many of the artists have been in touch with me to let me know they are excited about the event. It would be great to have a non-stop crowd on both days, and we are now that much closer to finding out how it will all go- I'm hoping for this to be one of the biggest events our library system has ever had.
I have to tell you that Dave McDonald was great with the kids at his workshop last night! I didn't get to sit in on the whole thing, but I was amazed at some of the ideas and techniques he threw out to the kids. Several of them looked for me after the workshop to show me their creations and I was really excited to see them. Dave also dropped off his "Comics Workshop Cartooning Kit' as a prize for the Art Challenge at Union West. The boxed kit includes pencil, sharpener, dual-point marker, sketch pad, a very nice workbook that follows the instructional DVD, which is also in the box? How much would something like this cost? $60? $40? No! Dave said he has a limited number of kits available but he is selling them for just $20! If you are interested, go to Dave's link over on the right.
Pictures coming soon!

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Activity schedules for mini-con announced!!

We have been working hard to make sure this year's Return of Mini-Con goes as smoothly as possible. For those of you who want to know just what will be happening when and where, fret no more! There is a schedule and we have it ready to show you! Just click either image to get a larger picture to read from.
The Costume Contest at Monroe is for kids ages 5-9 and 10-15. Costumes will be judged on originality and looking like the character the child represents. Participants can sign in at the information tent (located inside the library just behind the circulation desk).
The Comics 101 Seminar is for parents or educators who want to learn more about how comics have changed and are changing what kids today read. Jimmie Quisenberry of the UCPS is aware of the program and may allow the 2.5- 3 hours of credit to be added to someone's CED! In addition, we will give out three copies of Scott McCloud's "Understanding Comics" along with other books from Yen Press!
Our Rising Stars Art Challenge is not for the weak! There will be a limit on the number of kids who participate. Each child will be given a script, paper and pencil. They will be told they have 30 minutes to turn the script into a comic book page! Art will be judged on raw talent, following the script, and story telling ability. The winner at Union West will receive a Comics Workshop kit from Dave McDonald which includes his DVD of his workshop! The Monroe winner will receive a one-year subscription to the online library of Archie Comics (a $50 value!)!!
Finally, things will end in Monroe with a social in the Griffin Room as the rest of the library is closed. Here, people can mingle with the artists, ask questions, compare swag with others and just have a good time!

Monday, June 14, 2010

Toy Story 3: Incredible!!!

I got a call the other day from Disney wanting to know if I was interested in recieving some passes for an advanced showing of Toy Story 3. Of course I saud yes and was excited to see the passes were not just for a preview showing, but it was in IMAX 3-D!!
Immediately after work on Monday, I RAN out the door, met my family in the parking lot and took off for the movies! We got there about 45 minutes early, which turned out not to be early, but "just in time" according to the man at the door. There's hardly any room left.
After a short wait, the movie began and wow! it was something to behold! The trailer for Tangled looked a little overdone in 3-D, but the cartoon short, Day & Night took two standard concepts and completely turned them on their ear to present a story that worked for everyone in the family, with humor that worked on different levels.
Toy Story 3 worked well in the 3-D format. It wasn't overdone or gratuitous, and seemed to be very natural about 20 minutes into the movie. The cast of characters was smaller than in the previous films, but allowed for enjoyment of the characters than in the previous films, too.
The story begins with Andy, practically grown up now and about to leave home for college. His room is being claimed by his little sister and his mother says some things have to go- either trash, attic, or donate. Andy chooses to put his toys in the attic (which Jesse and Bullseye are willing to deal with this time), but he wants to take Woody to college with him. A mishap has the toys sent the way of the trash but a last second escape turns into a trip to the Sunnyside Daycare via the donation bin. There, they are befriended by the toys of Sunnyside, led by Lots O' Lovin' Bear. Some great physical comedy of young children "playing" with the toys convinces Buzz and the others the daycare is not all it was promised to be. From there the movie moves from one escape to another that each has you wondering "How do they get out of this one?!" The movie ends in a very sentimental sequence that does a great job of closing the Toy Story trilogy. Definately see this film if it was on your "maybe" list!

I don't know what Lawrence Toppman of the Charlotte "Disturber" will say about the picture. I told him on the way out "You'd better like this one." and he stops and says, "Oh, really? And what if I don't? What are you going to do about it?" What if you don't? The answer should be obvious- you lose credibility! Toppman actually told me he didn't feel the third film measured up to the first two, but even a "B" effort by Pixar was still above what other studios turn out.

Technically, this film is superior to the first two- the people are better rendered, the rubbery skin on Barbie and Ken looks authentic- the 3-D as I said earlier isn't gimmicky. The story is more action-packed and suspenseful than the firs two, and maybe not as heavy on the comedy but it does deliver plenty of laughs. The thing this film does is really cover the range of emotions from funny to bittersweet sentmentality which isn't always a bad thing, especially with this picture.

Friday, June 11, 2010

John Redcorn- Return of Mini-Con Reader

If you've ever watched King of the Hill, chances aqre good you've seen the lone Native American character in the town of Arlen, John Redcorn. It turns out, the man who gives John Redcorn his voice came across this blog and found The Return of Mini-Con to be very interesting. Jonathan Joss is John Redcorn and he is filling his calendar as best as he can with special appearances at comic conventions and other shows. Joss is a Native American and resides in his hometown of San Antonio ( I spent a summer there and loved it!). Besides being the voice of John Redcorn, he played Firewalker on Walker, Texas Ranger and made appearances on shows like ER. He also provided the voice of DC Western comic character Pow Wow Smith, an Native American lawman on the Justice League cartoon series. More recently, he is in an opening scene in the upcoming movie, Jonah Hex (another DC Western hero)- it's not a long part, but it does help set the tone for the bad guys in the movie. I don't want to say more and give things away!

Joss was just in Charlotte for the recently concluded Heroes Con and said if the Return of Mini-Con comes back next year, he would love to be invited!

It would certainly take some work to get him here from San Antonio, but it would certainly be fun to have him!

Al Bigley- Draw Like a Pro at Cheap Joe's!

AL Bigley - Draw Comics Like a Pro
FREE! June 12th, 2010 2-3pm

What do Monsters Inc, Batman, NASCAR, Bugs Bunny, X-Men, Shrek, and Michael Jordan all have in common?

They've all been drawn by AL BIGLEY, one of the most versatile, in-demand artist / cartoonists around! Al's worked for folks like DC Comics, Golden Books, Disney/Pixar, CBS, Children's Television Workshop, Marvel Comics, Saban, McDonald's, and more! He will be here at cheap Joe's, with copies of his book "Draw Comic's Like a Pro". Come and talk to him in person at Cheap Joe's art supply store! June 12th from 2-3pm! Cheap Joe's is located at 4420 Monroe Road, Charlotte, NC near Morrison's costumes.

Phone: 704 - 333 - CJAS (2527)

Thursday, June 10, 2010

This just gets better and better!

The Return of Mini-Con is just two weeks away, and the final wrinkles are getting worked out, stuff is still coming in, and artists are still asking to join in! I recently got a reply back from Steven Prouse of 803 Studios in Columbia, SC who told me he is coming for the Saturday event, and he is bringing artist Mike Sudduth with him! Mike is new to 803 Studios, and Steven is one of the founders and is a writer working on stories like Graffiti, Hand Me Downs, and Knowledge is Power.
Adding to Saturday's fun is the new Fite Klub Studios, a group of four men who are campaigning hard to get the attention of the big guys in the comics world. These four, also from South Carolina, include Brian Hollins, Jake Williams, Corey Davis (who is also with 803 Studios!) and Ben Murrey.
We want you to come out on Friday and Saturday (June 25-26) and make all these great artists and writers feel welcomed and very, very busy!
But that's not all I have to talk about! If I hadn't mentioned it already, Oni Press sent 400 more copies of their FCBD comic, making over 525 copies we have to hand out over two days! Once all the buttons, stickers, pencils, posters, comics, toys, and graphic novels were added together, their are more than 1,200 items to be handed out over the two days, and we may have even more stuff coming in! With the artists, the Star Wars characters from the 501st, and the hand-outs, this is one event that should have something for everyone in the family!
The art today is some of the story headers from 803 Studios (you can find them at and pictures from the four members of Fite Klub Studios. Enjoy!

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Comics Workshop & Cartooning Club June 17

That's right- it's a double dose of comics creativity on June 17. Beginning at 4:30, cartoonist and comics creator Dave McDonald will host a two-hour workshop all about creating your own comic. Dave will guide kids through the steps of fleshing out a character and a setting, to coming up with a short story or gag, and then placing the art and finishing the page. Dave's workshop comes with bristol boards similar to the ones used by professional illustrators for the kids to put their masterpieces on. He also includes the pencils and markers- all the kids need to do is show up! The program is designed for kids between the ages of 10 and 12 years. Space for the program is limited to a total of 30 kids, and so far 20 have signed up. If you are interested, call the Union West Library at 704-821-7475 ext 4 and reserve your spot, or drop by and sign up at the children's desk. The cost of this program has been generously covered by the Union West Rotary and so I'd like to offer a big thank you to each of them!
If you are younger than 10 or older than 12, the Cartooning Club will continue with its regular monthly meeting at 5:30. We'll look at how to draw heroes and characters based on different time periods and we'll get a last preview at the great swag that has come in for The Return of Mini-Con! The Cartooning Club will meet in the main area of the children's department.
Also I should mention two more things- 1) if you can't go to Dave's workshop in person, you can buy the DVD kit from him at his website (look at the links on the left!). 2) Friday, June 18, comic artist and conceptualizer Al Bigley will do a show-and-tell styled talk at the Monroe Library. Al will have a variety of his art to show off, talk about how his art is used for more things besides comics, and answer questions and maybe show a little of how he goes about drawing up his incredible pictures! Mark your calendars for these events, folks! They are a great lead-in to our mini-con.

Monday, June 7, 2010

The Art of Al Bigley!

More comics goodness is taking over our library! Al Bigley's art is on display in the Union West Library's lobby area. Al has stuff from when he designed the card backing for the Batman action figures, pictures from Batman story books (his first work for DC!), t-shirts he designed of NASCAR drivers, an educational toy featuring his art, in-house art of Food Lion, and pages he did for Archie Comics, the West Coast Avengers, and more! You can also get a glimpse of his work on Sonic the Hedgehog and the Power Rangers.
Al also dropped off six signed color prints to be used as part of our prize packs and they look awesome!
I was not able to attend Heroes Con this year (for shame!) but Al stepped in and took a bunch of the flyers to the big convention to hand out and get the word out. Thanks so much, Al!
Enjoy these samples of Al's art, or better yet, come and see them yourself. You can see more of Al's art at

Friday, June 4, 2010

Three weeks and counting

The Return of Mini-Con is just three weeks away! Of course, this weekend is the BIG Heroes Con in Charlotte, and just about anyone who is in comics is going to be there from today to Sunday. If you get a chance, go there- many of the folks you meet will be here in just three weeks!
Things continue to happen to make this mini-con unbelievably good. Teachers and parents, Yen Press has contributed a bunch of books, with many of them to be used in the Comics 101 seminar in Monroe on the 26th. I was floored when I picked up the massive sized copy (528 pages!) of With the Light- Raising an Autistic Child. I had never seen such a detailed story of a family raising an autistic child, the subject matter, the size of the volume, and my own relationship to my autistic brother just made the story grab me. If you are a doubter about comics as reading material, this one could change your mind. (Of course, if you are a doubter, you're probably not even reading this!)
Another guest has been added to the list of artists coming- please welcome writer Dan Johnson! This Winston-Salem scribe authored the manga novel Thor & Herc and is now taking classic novels like The Jungle Book and scripting them for graphic novels by Campfire Books! Some people would say re-writing a classic for a comic is dumbing it down, but fewer would say the same for someone developing a classic into a movie script. Consider that! We're excited to welcome this author and hope you will too!
More swag has come in. I mentioned Yen Press briefly, but this week I also received a box full of Oni Press Free For All. About 125 copies! Thank you Oni Press! I read the book back at Free Comic Book Day and loved hte Salt Water Taffey story! This is a great kid-friendly read.
And finally, those fine people at Dark Horse Comics sent a package filled with STUFF! There were Clone Wars graphic novels and Emily the Strange. There were story books including a very cool lost adventure of Tarzan by Edgar Rice Burroughs. Inside the box were also stickers, buttons and pounds and pounds of posters! Posters like Star Wars, Solar, Magnus, Aliens, Predators, Hellboy, the BPRD, and more! It needs to be noted that Dark Horse was the only company that was willing to help get our library's Cartooning Club started (and three years later we're still going strong!), they also helped get our teen graphic novel collection started, and now they have continued to contribute to this library through our mini-con. Dark Horse has been a best friend to us, and we won't forget it!
And finally, I got an email and later a phone call from Nancy Silberkliet, the co-CEO of Archie Comics! Nancy has this great thing going for schools called the Comic Book Fair where the school (or other institution) sells a variety of Archie comics (the Riverdale gang, Josie & the Pussycats, Katy Keene, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, Sonic the Hedgehog, etc.) and then keeps 40% of the money! It is an idea that will need to be looked at to make it work for the county's rules on the libraries. In addition, Nancy also offered up a great prize- a one year digital subscription to Archie! That's about a $50 value and all the Archie goodness from the past & present you could want to read!