Monday, May 23, 2011

Oni Press Makes a BIG Splash on the Mini-Con!

When I got an email from Corey Casoni at Oni Press a few weeks ago I was already excited. Corey had said that Oni would be sending some goodies for the mini-con and while they were shipping as media mail, they should get to the library in plenty of time for the event. THEN I get four more emails of tracking numbers! Not one package, but FOUR! Well, all four packages arrived last week and my jaw dropped when I opened them- inside each box was 250 copies of this year's FCBD edition- Rated FREE for Everyone. That's 4 boxes X 250 copies each= 1,000 comics!!!!
Oni Press, who was VERY generous last year, was even moreso this year. Thanks to them, every child who comes to the mini-con should walk away with at least two comics this year. If that won't help encourage kids to become comics fans, I don't know what will.
If you check Oni Press' webpage you'll see they have some fantastic kid titles like Possessions, and Salt Water Taffy (a favorite of mine!), and Ted Naifeh's (Polly & the Pirates) series Courtney Crumrin, which I haven't read yet but seems to give nods to past comics, and book series (like the cover for the League of Ordinary Gentlemen which combines the title from Alan Moore's League of Extraordinary Gentlemen with Harry Potter and a classic pulp noir picture).
Come by The Return of Mini-Con Strikes Back on Saturday, June 11 from 1-5 pm and get your FREE Oni Press comic along with some other great swag!

Top Shelf Comics Delivers

Last week we got in a BIG box from Top Shelf Comics and inside it was over 250 copies of their FCBD offering!! This year's edition is a great showcase of the company's growing children's selections, which just a few years ago was limited to Owly, Korgi, and Johnny Boo (which are excellent and well-crafted comics). Now, Top Shelf has devoted an entire group to kids' comics-the Top Shelf Kids Club. Newer additions include Okie Dokie Donuts, Dragon Puncher, Pirate Penguin vs Ninja Chicken, Upside Down Vampire Tales, Pinky & Stinky, YAM, Spiral Bound, Squirrelly Gray, Grandpa & Julie: Shark Hunters, and the graphic adaptations of Percy Jackson & the Olympians. Whew!
Right now, you can also join the kids club (WITH your parent's permission- don't forget that part!) and receive updates and activities sent to you by email. When you sign up, you will also get a kids club poster for FREE!
If you didn't get your hands on Top Shelf's FCBD comic, you can hopefully ge one at The Return of Mini-Con Strikes Back on Sat., June 11 from 1-5 p.m. Admission to the event is FREE and you'll get free comics and meet some great artists and writers!

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Campfire treats the mini-con to Robinson Crusoe

I just received a box of graphic novels from Campfire- about 50 in all- and WOW! It is filled with classic stories like Moby Dick, Tom Sawyer, Wizard of Oz, Call of the Wild, Frankenstein, and many, many more. Along with that assortment is a copy of Oliver Twist and about 25 copies of Robinson Crusoe! Why do I put those two titles in their own sentence and why so many copies of Robinson Crusoe (or Rob-crew as we call him around here!)? Glad you asked! Both of these titles were adapted by author Dan Johnson, who will be one of our featured guests at the mini-con on June 11 and he will be signing the copies of his books!
It's great to see a publisher get involved by giving books for an event like this, but it is even better to see them support the people who make their books happen. Both Campfire and Dan were a part of our mini-con last year, and we are very honored to have them both back this year! If you ever read the Marvel Classics, or better yet- the Classics Illustrated comics from the Golden Age, then you will appreciate the work Campfire is doing in re-introducing these stories to young readers. Classics are great literature and great reads, usually, but sometimes they aren't all winners, or they may need some more selling to get someone drawn into the story. Wishbone the dog was the last great intro to the classics for young people (look it up- it was a PBS show for a few years. George Plimpton hated the series!), Campfire looks like it is ready to take that same spot now.
Go here to read our Artist Profile on Dan Johnson from last year's mini-con!

Friday, May 13, 2011

Do you know about :01 Books? You should!

First Second Books, or :01 Books as they write their name, puts out an amazing array of graphic novels by a variety of artists and writers, covering a wide range of topics, yet they seem to have an underlying thread to all of them. While I'm terrible at telling people what it is they REALLY read, the themes of family, coming-of-age, finding identity and purpose, and acceptance seem to be present in each and every title, whether it is The Unsinkable Walker Bean (Eisner-nominated book!), Jewish and Christian kids befriending each other in WWII New York in City of Spies, kids going to summer camp in Brain Camp, or young people resisting an evil form of authority in Resistance (which has a cover that makes me laugh out loud!). The art of these books has the feel of traditional comics, cartoons, and concept art that you might see in a Disney project. The coloring is uncomplicated and harkens back to great comics like Tintin. These books are strong on both story and art, and while they may use some harsh language at times, it is never gratuitous or thrown in just for shock value. I give kudos to the editors and the art director at :01 Books for allowing for a variety in art and subject, yet selecting and working with these stories to make them seem like they all belong in one literary universe.
We here at the Return of Mini-Con Strikes Back consider the folks at :01 Books to be good friends as they have helped us with our event last year and this year. And if you're lucky enough to get one of their books at our mini-con, or buy one yourself, you'll understand what we mean!

...and Gina G, if you're reading this- thank you so much for being approachable, responsive, and very helpful!

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Artist Profile: Henry Eudy Art!

Artist Profile: Henry Eudy

Henry Eudy is an incredibly talented (and hard-working) inker who has an affinity for the humorous and off-beat comics ranging from Tom & Jerry funny to the biting satire found in Mad or Cracked. A part of the Sketch Charlotte gang, Henry also has his work featured in this year's sketchbook form Big Dog's Studios and was a key part to the FCBD edition put out by the Sketch Charlotte crew this year.

Our Cartooning Club had the priviledge of learning about inking from Henry last year, and we are very excited to have him as part of our mini-con talent list this year! So without further ado, here is the interview with Henry, presented uncut in its entirety. Enjoy!

1) Your focus is on inking pictures. Are these usually your own pictures or someone else's?

Inking is absolutely my favorite part of making comics and in the last year I’ve made a real effort to broaden my skills by working over the pencils of other artists. Primarily, I’m still just inking my own stuff but I’ve worked with both Erakllis “Herc” Petmezas and Brandon Padgett to good effect recently and I’d be really interested in doing some more collaboration in the future.

2) How did you decide inking was your "niche"? How long did it take before it became something natural?

I suppose inking is just what excites me about the comics process. All that layout stuff is just math in one form or another and my inner 3rd grader just wants to run from it, screaming. I’ve never been a particularly tight penciler and I normally just work from rough sketches of shapes and forms, making up the good stuff in the inking stage. Frankly, I find penciling a little tedious and I’m often anxious (normally too anxious) to get to the part I find fun and rewarding, which is in the inks. It’s a natural inclination, I suppose.

With each new inking tool there is normally a pretty steep learning curve that is going to take at least a few months in which to build up comfort. When I want to train myself to use a new tool, I’ll generally purchase a sketchbook and then devote my drawing time to working in that book (every day if possible) until I feel like I’ve broken in the tool and grown accustomed to it. I like to work this way in a sketchbook because it allows me to look back and review my progress, page to page. I’ve done this with nibs and brushes and brush pens and it is always beneficial.

3) What kind of tools do you use? What tools would you recommend to a child or teen who is just learning about inking?

I work mostly with brushes and brush pens these days but I’ll still use the occasional nib or even Micron for fine detail. In my ever expanding arsenal are: Several Winsor and Newton Series 7 Sable Brushes, I primarily use the Number 2. For on the go inking I use the Pentel Pocket Brush and occasionally some other smaller diameter Japanese brush pens that, I believe are also made by Pentel. I’m not using nibs much these days but when I do, I most often use a Japanese manga nib, the Nikko 357, and sometimes a Hunt 107 (Hawk Quill). I prefer a nib that is a little on the stiffer side but still offers flexibility. I also use a .50 Koh-I-Noor Rapidograph and once in a while a few of the Prismacolor Premier fine point markers. I use Holbein Special Black drawing ink.

For a young person interested in inking I recommend building up your skills slowly and over time, becoming acquainted with one tool after another until you find the one that fits you. Just because nibs and brushes are the traditional tools of illustration doesn’t mean you have to stick strictly to those tools. Most people these days use Microns and disposable pens and markers rather than rely on the older, more difficult to wield tools of our comics forefathers. So, I’d recommend buying a good range of Micron pens from the very small (.005) to the fairly large (.08) and getting accustomed to using a variety of lines of different width and character within your drawings. If you feel the need to move on, I’d suggest trying out some technical pens like Rapidographs. This will get you used to things like ink flow and introduce density and opaqueness to your work. Training with a Rapidograph will ready you for the very difficult task of using a dip pen. Using nibs and dip pens are incredibly frustrating and only the most determined artist will withstand their many challenges to get to the bounty of mastering the tool which is a beautiful, flowing line full of character and personality. If you can use a nib, then you can use a brush. Brush pens might be a good way to segue into brush inking since they require far less maintenance and control. Spend some time focusing on thin-to-thick lines, flowing and descriptive lines that round off an object. Nothing is better for roundness than a brush. Once you’ve built up comfort with the brush pen, try the real thing, the Sable Hair Round. And if you can learn to brush ink, then you’ll be standing tall right alongside the great masters of the art form.

4) You are the new addition to Big Dog's Studio. How did that happen, and what's it like to become "CORPORATE" now? (just kidding about the corporate part!)How does being part of a studio change things for you?

I feel very fortunate to be good friends with the Big Dog himself, Brandon Padgett. Brandon was kind enough to extend the offer to me to join his studio’s sketchbook this year and it is my great honor to be a part of it. Drawing is too often a solitary and lonely affair and having a group of friends with whom I can share my work and elicit feedback from is a great boon. I get this all the time with my friends at Sketch Charlotte and being part of the Big Dogs Studios just intensifies my enjoyment of working alongside good people making good art.

5) Your pictures draw inspiration from blues music, pop culture stuff from the 80s, a little Mad magazine and mainstream and small press/ independent comics- so tell us just what some of your interests are in comics and outside of comics.

I’m the odd duck that didn’t initially come to comic books through superheroes. Instead, I was a huge fan of humor magazines like MAD and Cracked when I was a kid. I was only ever interested in things that made me laugh and the first comics I ever bought were mostly funny animal stuff like Captain Carrot and Peter Porker, the Amazing Spider Ham. Eventually I did come to read superhero books but perhaps not with the zest of many of my compatriots. Today my big time hero is Robert Crumb and his love of blues and traditional music has really informed my tastes as has his shepherding of underground and indie comic artists into the field through publications like Weirdo and Arcade. Like Crumb, I feel like I’m always mining the past for lost treasures and, more often than not, I’m making fun of them in one way or another. My love of humor and parody are still with me from childhood and my greatest pleasure in life is making people laugh through dumb drawings.

6) Who's badder- Batman or Wolverine?

Wolverine is great and he’s awesome and everything but Batman is always the baddest dude in the room.

7) What was your favorite cartoon show as a kid? Comic book? Movie?

Ah, this will sound weird but I was really hooked on Jim Henson’s Muppet Babies when I was in third grade. Other kids liked Transformers or G.I. Joe, I loved Muppet Babies. I suppose it was because firstly, I love The Muppets and all their incarnations. Plus I remember the show being pretty funny and full of catchy songs and super imagination. Like the entire show was about the power of imagination and the Muppets were always imagining they were in Star Wars or Indiana Jones or The Wizard of Oz or something. I suppose it’s not the manly choice, but there it is. The first comic book that I remember following from issue to issue was Sergio Aragones’ “Groo the Wanderer.” I think I was reading it even before I knew it was a parody of the Conan stuff. I recognized Aragones’ style from reading MAD and Cracked and so I gravitated right to the comic. My favorite movie as a kid and one that still ranks pretty high with me as an adult is “Beetlejuice”. I’ve seen it 157 times and it just keeps getting funnier every single time I see it.

8) What is your favorite cartoon show now? Comic book? Movie?

Currently I’m all about “Adventure Time.” It’s like it was written by 12 year-olds, for 12 year-olds. Every episode is wall to wall sword fights, fist fights, monster punching, princess saving, dragon stabbing, dance party, bare butt fart fest. It’s incredible that it’s even on TV, much less children’s TV. At the moment my favorite continuing comic is Michael Kupperman’s “Tales Designed to Thrizzle.” It’s, again, crazy weird and funny featuring characters like Mark Twain and Albert Einstein as a detective team, a guy named Cousin Grandpa, a snake and piece of bacon that both go “Hssssssssss….” It’s a wonderful comic. The movie I enjoyed the most recently was probably “Scott Pilgrim Vs. The World.” Every part of that movie was so well done and a jolting pleasure to the eye. I mean, any movie that can make a showdown between Michael Cera and Jason Schwartzman seem more exciting than all of “American Ninja 4” has to be appreciated, right?

9) Your favorite or most influential artist?

Like so many people, I am completely in the thrall of Robert Crumb. He’s perhaps the very best draftsman that the comics medium will ever produce and over his long and varied career he’s opened the way for comics to be something far stranger and far more human than just guys in tights punching each other. As a kid, I suppose I wanted to draw comics so I could draw stuff that was awesome but after discovering Crumb I wanted to draw comics so I could express myself more fully to a thoroughly disinterested public.

10) What is a mini-comic and what makes them so great?

The first mini-comic I ever saw was one of Matt Feazell’s “Cynicalman” issues. It was a small Xeroxed affair, folded and stapled by hand and featuring simple stick figure drawings. Seeing it blew my mind a little bit because it showed me physical proof that anyone can make a comic book. In this day and age, access to printing methods and materials are at the fingertips of virtually anyone who wants to make comics and, thankfully, lots of people want to make them. Mini-comics are most often handmade books printed, stapled and folded by the creator and telling all kinds of stories from mundane autobiography to thrilling, imaginative tales of adventure. They are precious little things, full of idiosyncrasies and telling descriptors of the people who’ve created them. I love mini-comics in all their varied shapes and forms because they illustrate so clearly that comics are really about communicating and connecting with other people through storytelling.

11) What is one subject or topic you would love to see comics explore that hasn't been done or done enough?

I think comics can be a great tool for learning and as the format wins wider acceptance in our culture at large, we’re already seeing more and instances of comics being used to teach things like history, biography and science. For decades comics were considered a “trash media” but, in fact, they are a remarkably successful delivery method for information if given the opportunity. In the last few years I’ve seen scores of nonfiction comics come out on subjects like the decline of the Weimar Republic in Berlin, baseball legend Satchel Paige, Amelia Earhart and even Laika, the Soviet space dog. With a comic, details and descriptions can be absorbed in a glance and information can be passed on in a way that is often more dramatic and personable than just a printed page of type. I would hope that comics might be considered more often as a teaching tool in the future.

12) Buffy the Vampire Slayer visits Sesame Street during a zombie outbreak. How do things turn out for the following characters- Elmo, Big Bird, Oscar, and the Count?

I’m afraid Elmo gets it right away when his over friendliness inclines him to try and hug a zombie. Big Bird toughs it out alone for a while and them meets up with Buffy. The two are in a tight spot, surrounded by the undead in a derelict warehouse. But fortunately Snuffy burst through the wall, scattering zombies, and they all ride to safety. Oscar evades the onslaught as he already smells undead since he lives in the trash and the zombies notice him not at all. The Count gets staked by a regretful Buffy who didn’t understand that he only wanted to count her two beautiful blue eyes and not feast on her flesh. She said she was sorry but, after all, she is a vampire slayer.

Thursday, May 5, 2011

An Incredible List of Talent This Year!

The list of talented artists, writers and creators continues to grow for the Return of Mini-Con Strikes Back on June 11! Heading up our list are our three-year veterans- Al Bigley, who has worked on just about everything in comics and related to comics (no kidding); Dave McDonald, who served a short term as a cartoonist-in-residence at the Charles M. Schultz Museum and Research Center in California; and husband-and-wife team Derek and Nikki Davis, the force behind The Erad Adventures. We also have several returners from last year- John DaCosta, Brandon Padgett, Tom Davidson and Dan Johnson. It's always exciting to add new faces and so far this year we have three new additions to the mini-con! First is web comic guru, Jim McGee, creator of the Area 51 and Butterfly Effect comics. Next is Henry Eudy- an incredible inker (an undiscovered Tim Townsend or Joe Sinnott kind of good) who presented to our Cartooning Club last year. And finally, we have Ian Flynn, the writer of Sonic the Hedgehog comics who maintains the monumental task of showing some continuity between the video games and the existing stories of Sonic's world!
That's 11 great people already, and more are to come!
Remember, the big date is Saturday, June 11 and is slated to run from 1-5 pm.

Monday, May 2, 2011

Big Thanks to IDW!

I contacted IDW publishing last month about our mini con event. IDW publishes a couple of my favorite team-styled comic lines- Transformers and GI Joe. They do a bunch of other stuff, too, but I'm Joe fan and Transformers fan. Anyway, Marci- the executive assistant at IDW took my message and moved it along to whoever needed to hear it. She then told me 100 copies of Transformers:Prime were on the way. Last week, the box arrived from Diamond and inside were 100 copies of Transformers: Prime the graphic novel! This is a 96 page story, done in digest size, full color with a heavy cardstock cover! That means we have Muppets Comics to give away, Transformers graphic novels to give away, and Top Shelf got in touch with me last week to say they are sending a big box of comic goodness like they did for us last year!
If you're a comics fan in the vicinity of Union County or Charlotte/Mecklenburg, then you don't want to miss this free exciting day on June 11!
Thank you, IDW!