Monday, 31 August 2009

Buskers: First Look

This week we have a 15 page preview of Buskers to read to whet your appetite for the launch at BICS 2009 in a few short weeks.

Myebook - Buskers - click here to open my ebook

The special signed limited convention edition that will be available from the Insomnia stand at BICS comes with a CD featuring music by the Bullitts.

If you are coming to the show and want to reserve one, then email us and let us know.

MILK Exhibition and Launch Party

The MILK exhibition in the at the Fine Art Library in Edinburgh starts this week and runs through the whole of September.

There will be the opportunity to buy some of the original artwork during the course of the show, although, of course, you won't be able to take it home until the exhibition has ended.

The gallery is open open 10-8 Mon- Thurs, 10-5 Fridays and 9-1 on Sat.

You can order the special edition hardback from amazon now!

News Round Up

Quite a few little snippets this week:

  • Head over to Andrew Croskery's blog if you want to hear the real story of how Kronos city came about. Or if you want to see an artists impression of how colourist Lauren Anne Sharp thought it happened have a look at her page first.

    Kronos City is developing at a blistering pace. Here is a first look at a mysterious and dynamic page from chapter two.

  • Jennie Gyllblad is back from her trip to Sweden and cracking on with Butterflies and Moths. Have a look at her blog to see her work in progress, a really expressive speedpaint and a splash page where you can even recognise the picture on the bathroom wall! What's more impressive is that Jennie's work is all real hand painted watercolours, so no "undo" button there.

  • Cancertown artist Stephen Downey was pleased to find, to his complete surpise some Cancertown sketches from Northern Irish artist Darren Reynolds on his blog.

    Stephen says: "I love his interpretations and really hope to see them in person if he brings them along to the next Belfast comics creators meetup. I only really know Darren's art through his blog, but I love his style and really want to see more."

  • Our podcasting friends from the Geek Syndicate Network (Including Insomnia writer Richard McAuliffe) are going to be featured in an upcoming prog of the Judge Dredd Megazine talking about their shows. It will be Rich and co-host Flint on "Everything Comes Back To 2000AD", Barry Nugent on "Geek Syndicate", Iz McAuliffe on "Comic Racks" and Jimmy Aquino on "Comic News Insider". They are not sure which prog number exactly yet, but it should be out in October / November.

That's all for this week, I'm off to enjoy the bank holiday and think about what the Disney take over of Marvel means for the industry!

Monday, 24 August 2009

All Aboard for Kronos City

The last week has been incredibly busy with 3 new books to get to press, and a trip to Birmingham to launch the first ever comics/quilting crossover (more on that later).

But we are not the only ones working hard. The first chapter of Kronos City (and much of the second) is now complete and in celebration of that fact we have put the first 16 pages up as a free ebook preview.

Myebook - Kronos City - click here to open my ebook

Writer: Andrew Croskery
Pencils: Alex Willmore
Colours: Lauren Anne Sharp
Letters: Jim Campbell

And here is what they have to say about seeing it all come together as a book for the first time:

Andrew says:

"I’ve really been enjoying writing Kronos City. It started off as one short story inspired by a throwaway comment from my housemate and then snowballed into a big story as it absorbed a couple of other ideas and characters and it’s been great being able to bounce ideas around the Kronos City team and have it all come together.

Alex, Lauren and Jim are doing a great job at the art and lettering. That first page is awe-inspiring and they’ve really made the characters and the city itself come alive.

My scripts can be pretty lengthy as my mind starts to spew details into the scene descriptions, and Alex and Lauren are amazing at capturing all the little background touches. There are some scenes coming up that I’m really exited to see how they come across on paper, particularly when the city gets hit by a time storm, and the poor wee pigeons get turned into skeletons and eggs.

Seeing the final coloured lettered pages has been truly staggering, with Lauren’s colours adding a great sense of atmosphere and Jim’s European style lettering fits really well with the art.
And there’s a real buzz telling people I’m writing a graphic novel, so thank you Insomnia for that. This has just upped the excitement quotient by a large degree!!"

Alex says:

"Working on Andrew's script has been great fun so far! The world Andrew has created is surely an exciting and original one. When Lauren and I first read the script we were blown away by the diverse and original world of Kronos City and it's bizarre residents. Andrew's scripts are so insanely detailed that sometimes trying too fit everything into a frame can seem daunting but once that's been achieved it becomes apparent that all these small details make the city and characters really come alive!

Kronos City is the first graphic novel Lauren and I have worked on and it's been a real learning experience, I'm continually picking up on little ways to improve as I go along. It's also really useful that Lauren and I share a house as it makes the whole process a lot quicker and easier than if I had to send off my inked pages. Which is nice.
Working on Kronos City is a real joy! Despite working on a number of other illustration jobs it's always Kronos City that I'm excited to drop everything and get stuck into! Cheers Insomnia!"

Lauren says:

"My favourite thing about Kronos City has to be the water. Working digitally makes life so much easier, especially with the 'edit-undo' function. However there's something so free and spontaneous about working traditionally in watercolour, so when it comes to the scenes viewed in the Kronos Water, it's fab. And luckily for me there is more of that to come!

I love being a colourist! Even when I find my role being compared to the activities of 3 year olds (sigh). Every day I see Alex painstakingly studying the correct angles and figures to get everything perfect. Colouring is such a relaxing thing for me. So thanks Insomnia for giving me a stress free job that I actually enjoy!"

Bad Rain Hits Birmingham

This weekend saw the unveiling of Bad Rain, the immense "double page bedspread" from Cancertown by the award winning maverick quilter and textile artist Ferret.

The finished piece is 90" by 70" (that is about 15 times the size of the original art, and half as long as me again!) so to see it for real was nothing short of incredible. People's mouth's were literally dropping open as they came around the corner in the gallery where it was hanging.

It makes the Badmouths at the front of the piece actual size, which is somehow very upsetting!

Seeing the scene done in fabric, scale aside, adds other interesting dimensions to the art. The tension of the thread against the different fabrics, and the fact that it is hanging up, cause slight ripples and fluctuations in the surface, which in turn cast different little shadows depending on the angle of viewing. This, combined with actual physical texture, really brings out the nasty, mutable, "everything's alive" quality of the Cancertown locations.

The reactions of the quilters at the show (The Festival of Quilts - think of it as the San Diego Comic Con equivalent for textile artists) were incredibly positive. We really had no idea how this kind of thing would be received by the traditional quilting world. It was not only the handful of existing comics readers who happened to be there who were into the work, either, and we found ourselves discussing magic realist horror noir with fascinated elderly ladies who had never read a comic (although they might now!) as much as the younger textile and fashion students who were around.

As always the fascinating conversations you find yourself in at art based event were wonderful, but I did particularly enjoy getting chatting to an American visitor about "needle based art" and the really quite short distance between textile art and tattooing (prompted by the fact that Ferret had some pieces done on leather and skins and also a huge quilted piece of the dragon from her own tattoo).

The Forbidden Planet blog has already suggested a Mega City One piece, and Tank Girl was also proposed by a visitor to the show. Ferret is keen on doing more comics based work, so keep an eye on her blog. If you're an artist or publisher interested in working with her, drop me a line and I can put you in touch.

We had copies of the book with us to show the origin of Bad Rain and not only did sales go into double figures, but 2 visitors had even seen Cy was going to be there and had brought along their own copies to be signed - which was not really what we expected at a quilting convention!

At dinner on the Saturday night I found myself sitting next to an incredible lady by the name of Jennie Bowker. Now, not being familar with the names of quilters I did not know that this was as if I was sitting next to the Alan Moore of this medium! In addition to doing great and very thought provoking work in fabrics, she is an amazing photographer, and, as it turns out a reader of graphic novels - so we had a great time talking about the power of comics and the expansion of the art form. She also taught me a great psychological experiment to do with drawing a cartoon face :)

Ferret will be updating her blog over the coming days with other work that was on display at the show including her dragon, the amazing Phoenix Rising and the nude portraits for which she very well known.

We are hoping to be able to get Bad Rain on show at BICS - watch this space.

Crawford Coutts Under The Spotlight

This week Crawford was interviewed by Bob Heske for his column Indie Creator on Invest Comics.

Find out about the past, the future and what comics he thinks would save us in the face of an alien invasion.

Sharing The Love

A message from Barry Nugent of The Geek Syndicate

Geek Syndicate meets Jonathan Ross!

In this special episode join Dave and Barry as they chat with celebrity geek and comics fan Jonathan Ross.

During the interview Jonathan tells the lads where his love for all things geek ,especially comics, started. He also reveals why he would never own a comics shop again.

Jonathan explains why is unable to attend comic conventions as much as he would like.

There's some talk about the adaptation of Mark Millar's Kick Ass that Jonathan's wife, Jane, is working on as well his view on comic to film adaptations.

Jonathan has his feet firmly placed in the Marvel comics camp. He explains why and shares some of his favourite creations. He also tells a very interesting story about his encounter with Steve Dikto.

The guys discuss with Jonathan why he decided to write his own comic. He reveals the title and gives us a few details on the project.


So now I have lots of emails to read having been away for 4 days - and I know one of them contains the music files for the CD for the special edition of Buskers. More on that next time.

Until next week

Monday, 17 August 2009

Introducing Melanie Cook: Queen of Colours

Mel Cook was the first ever artist signed by Insomnia, for the cult teen sci-fi book Cages, described by horror master Ben Templesmith, no less, as "Lovely...lovely and disturbing".

Mel's soft, illustration style artwork set against the very adult issues of identity, power and freedom at the centre of the story, bring a haunting poignancy to the events of the book and, as good art should, add a deeper emotional complexity to the questions explored.

Appealing equally to readers of classic thought-provoking sci-fi and watchers of high concept anime the book was a fantastic first launch for Insomnia and was described as “Mother of a compelling read.” by Comics News.

It was this ability to bring out the psychological and emotional aspects of a script that made Mel the perfect choice for her next Insomia project, Cancertown, where the place is in many ways as much a character as the people that inhabit it. Bryan Talbot, in his foreword to the book, picks out the "atmospheric colouring" for a particular mention - and that is a man who knows his colour work.

Of course we weren't about to let Mel escape once Cancertown was done, and she is currently colouring Average Joe (by Thomas Romeo and Kelvin Chan) and has just begun work on The Indifference Engine (by Cy Dethan and Rob Carey).

And here it is, the very first peek at a panel from The Indifference Engine itself:

Then it will be back to Cancertown for Mel next year for Volume 2: Blasphemous Tumours.

And finally, at the risk of making her blush, it needs to be said how much Mel has also brought to the Insomnia family behind the scenes. Although incredibly busy with her books for us, work for other publishers, and projects in a whole variety of other media Mel has always been happy to take the time to offer help and advice to newer artists . She is pretty perfect, really, and a demon on Rockband, so I hear.

So, buckle your seatbelts for a trip inside the head of the talented Miss Melanie Cook...

Q:Tell us a bit about your artistic background (self taught, art education, experience etc) and how you got into working in comics.

A:I've always loved drawing and being creative. I was passionate about my art studies throughout highschool, but never managed to take my formal art education any further. Most of what I have learned post- highschool has been thanks to the bevy of wonderful resources available in print and online these days. That said, I also couldn't be where I was without the time spent studying cinematography and lighting at film school. It was actually thanks to film school that I first began working in comics. Cages writer Xander Bennett had seen the storyboarding I was doing for my cinematography projects and invited me to work on a comic pitch with him. I took him up on the offer and the rest was history.

Average Joe

Q:What does the job of a colourist involve?

A: At its most essential, the job of colourist involves working with colour and tone to create an atmosphere and mood that parallels the narrative. Practically speaking, this usually requires a fair amount of collaboration with the writer and artist, as well as a thorough breakdown of the script and some trial and error exploring various styles and techniques.

Q:How /where does a colourist fit into the team and what does the colouring bring to the finished pages and how do you accomplish this?

A:The colourist joins the production line once the pencils have been prepped for printing, either via traditional inking, digital inking, or a digital darkening of the pencils in a program like Photoshop. The colourist then works traditionally, or digitally in Photoshop or Painter, to build upon the guidelines established by the artist/inker.

Q:What is the process for colouring a page in technical terms, how long does it take, what tools or programs do you use?

A:When I first receive a page, I open it up in Photoshop to make sure it's saved in the right resolution and page size for printing. For comics printed in the US, those specs would be 6.875" by 10.438", and for the UK, 6.537” by 9.883”, both at 300dpi. If I'm working on an uninked page, my next step is to then clear up any pencil smudges or unwanted marks that might have been accidentally picked up by the scanner, and then digitally ink it if necessary. I find this process works best if I'm operating in grayscale mode, where I use a combination of Levels and manual selecting-cutting to eradicate unwanted lines. If inking is also required, I darken the pencil lines as best I can and fill solid areas of black with a simple lasso-select and fill technique.

Once the linework is ready and secure on its own channel, and the colourspace has been set up, it's time to start with the Flatting. I would liken Flatting to laying down the foundations for your soon-to-be coloured page. It basically involves manually selecting the different parts of the artwork and filling them with their solid base colours. Though an essential part of the process, it can be rather tedious and time-consuming and take between half an hour to an hour and a half or more depending on how detailed and busy the page is.

After the flats are in place it's finally time to commence colouring. The actual colouring of the page, where you go in and work out your tones and textures, can take anywhere from about two and a half hours to five or six, again depending on how involved the page is, and how much trial and error is needed. I usually commence colouring a page by roughing in my light and shadow in each panel, then building in the detail, adding textures and finally putting in any special effects or colour holds needed. Once the colouring is complete, all that's left is to separate the blacks, double-check your printing specs and upload it to the ftp server.

Q:How do you go about deciding on colour schemes, palettes etc ? I've heard it said that colourists are the cinematographers of the comics industry adding lots of additional information regarding context, feel, moods, psychological tone and setting, what do you think about that?

A:I would agree that there are elements of cinematography shared with colouring. But I believe the artist/inker to be as much a cinematographer as the colourist. Not only that, but it could be said that they share similarities with the position of production designer on a film set as well. Like a cinematographer, the artist/inker sets up the composition of the frame and provides guidlines for the mood and lighting. And in the role of production designer, the artist/inker creates the design of the mise-en-scene within each panel.

The colourist then works with the artist/inker's guidlines and uses colour to create the illusion of light within a panel. It's the role of the colourist to think practically about natural and artificial lighting, key-lighting and back-lighting, and the colour temperature of different light sources, as well as the emotional and psychological effects these colour choices might have on the reader. In addition to these cinematographical aspects, the colourist, like a production designer, makes conscious decisions about the colour of objects, places and people within the frame. He or she must ascertain how these components might work to influence the mood of the page and how they might detract or draw attention to key story elements within the panels.


Q: There are many pre-existing colouring conventions in comics (eg primary colours for 'good' characters), do you find you use these at all, are they helpful or restrictive?

A: Having entered into this field with very little prior knowledge of pre-existing conventions or norms, I'd have to say that they haven't really had much of a conscious effect on my work. Most of my colouring decisions and approaches have stemmed from colour theory in general and inspiration from the works of other artists.

Q: Has colouring become an entire art in itself now, rather than just a part of the production process, allowing the development of personal techniques and styles?

A:Indeed. And I think that it's largely thanks to the improvements and advancements being made with digital painting software, and the ease at which artists from any background and media can communicate via the internet. Colourists are able to work much more efficiently in programs such as Photoshop and Painter, giving them time to explore the vast array of tools, techniques and ideas at their disposal.

Q: What are the differences in doing 'full art' and colouring someone else's work? How do you deal with the different styles of underlying pencils, different tones of scripts etc?

A: Although I enjoy doing 'full art', it's been a wonderful learning experience working with someone else's work. There is less of an emotional investment when working with the linework of another artist, and I think that this frees the colourist up to take risks and really explore a page's potential.

It's also not uncommon for a colourist to receive the script around the same time as the penciller, so to be able to have access to the written visual cues from the beginning, and witness another artist's approach never fails to inspire me. It gives you an opportunity to get inside the head of another artist, to explore and examine their decision making, and should their style be considerably different from your own, you have a chance to approach colouring in a way you may not normally consider.


Q: What advice would you give for people wanting to become colourists?

Aside from just 'practice, practice, practice', there are a lot of wonderful books and forums out there to explore, which will certainly give any prospective colourist a better understanding of what the job entails.

The most helpful book for me so far has been Hi-Fi Color for Comics by Brian and Kristy Miller. It has some invaluable information about the technical side of colouring comics, such as page and printing specs, how to set up an efficient workflow, and creating cuts, grads and colour holds. Plus there's a bonus CD of goodies with things like lineart samples for you to start working on. Brian and Kristy Miller also have a second book coming out at the beginning of 2010 which takes colouring comics to the next level, and looks at different colouring styles for Manga, Superhero comics, covers etc.

In addition to this there are a number of forums you can go to where I'd recommend posting your work, getting feedback and finding advice from fellow colourists. The two main ones I can think of are Gutterzombie and Huedoo. The former is often frequented by colourist veterans Laura Martin and Dave McCaig, and the latter is run by Brian and Kristy Miller.

Q: Which artists and colourists do you admire and inspire you?

Laura Martin is certainly a colourist that stands out in my mind. Her work on Warren Ellis' Planetary was the first time I was ever consciously drawn to the colouring of a comic as much as, if not more than the artwork itself. Which is saying something, because John Cassaday is an amazing artist.

I also love Dave McCaig's work on Mark Waid's Birthright. You have to be a real master at cuts and grads to be able to use them in such a distinctive yet suitably understated way as he does. That particular colouring style stands up on its own, yet never draws so much attention to itself as to detract from the rather fine linework.

Outside of comic book colourists, I find I'm currently drawn to the amazingly hyper-real paintings of matte painters Dylan Cole, Dusso and Dan Wheaton, and a number of storyboard/concept artists and character designers, like Adrien Van Viersen, Dawood Marion, Brett Bean and James Paick.

Q: You also do work for film and television as a digital artist and storyboarder. Tell us about some of the projects you've worked on, and a bit about what is the same / different about working in these various media.

My film work has fallen more and more to the wayside as I've become more involved with illustrating and colouring comics, but I do still create the odd concept art and character designs here and there for various pitch projects. Probably the most notable project I've worked on was an Australian feature film called Crooked Business, where I was responsible for churning out storyboards for the 95 minute film. Aside from this I've also worked as storyboard artist on a number of short films, music videos and commercials, and created concept and character art for feature and television pitches. Nothing overly fancy, but it helps to pay the bills.

I think that the biggest similarity between my roles in film/tv and comics is the use of sequential imagery to tell a story. However, that's possibly where the similarities end.

With comics, the artwork is the end product, there is little else to consider other than the limitations of the page, and there is a great deal of freedom awarded to the artist because of this. With storyboarding on the other hand, the artwork is merely a small cog in a very large and complex machine.

When storyboarding a project, attempting to get story across quickly and visually is not your only major concern. You've also got to take into consideration how your shots might influence or be influenced by the production of the film. A storyboard artist needs to be aware of things like film lenses, camera limitations, budget limitations (most everything that's drawn needs to be recreated somehow on screen), and communicating necessary visual information to the various departments. It's a rewarding if not stressful process, but I much prefer the creative freedom offered while working in comics.

Q: Colours often look different on the printed page, to how they look on screen. How do you work around that?

A: Send hate mail to the Printers? No. That's a lie ... mostly. It is a big issue, and it's been said that you almost need a background working with commercial printers in order to really understand the mechanics behind the printing process. I can't say that it's something I've managed to satisfactorily work around yet, but I'm learning more about it as I witness more of my work being translated from monitor to printed page. At present I'm experimenting with working in Photoshop in RGB mode with WorkingCMYK (under View >> Proof Setup) turned on. Previously I merely worked in CMYK mode, but after doing some research and reading up on what a couple of veteren colourists have said, this current method seems to provide the most accurate depiction of what your colours will look like once printed. Or at least that's the plan. I'll let you know how it turns out when the next book comes out.

Q: What is the hardest thing about being a colourist?
A: Flatting? It's mind-numbing and I hate it. Seriously. No, but honestly, I'd probably say that all the technical learning involved with colouring digitally has been my biggest hurdle. I was never previously all that technically inclined, but I must admit, that once it's under your belt and you can get back to focussing on the creative aspect, the rewards are astronomical.

Cancertown Double Page Spread with Initial Colours

Cancertown Double Page Spread with Full Final Colours

Q: The story is now well known that when Xander Bennet asked you to do the art for Cages it was the first time you'd done a comics project of that length. How did you go about jumping into that, what did you learn from it, and was having the freedom to start from scratch and develop your own method liberating or terrifying?

A: It wasn't a small jump, I can say that. I think from memory I spent two months during my last year at university being force-fed comics by Xander. It was his way of introducing me to the medium. This was closely followed by an insane number of technical books on making comics and creating art digitally.

The whole process ended up being quite long and drawn out. I was trying to learn about the medium I was working in from scratch, as well as the tools I was working with, whilst simultaneously attempting to produce as professional a looking product as my meagre art skills would allow. Up until this point, all I'd really done was draw quick, crude storyboards in pencil which I didn't even ink.

So yeah, definitely more terrifying than liberating.

You'll be able to find out more behind the scenes info on Mel's work in The Insomniac's Guide To Cancertown next year.

Who Wants To Be A Zombie?

Rich McAuliffe and Mark Chilcott, the slight unhinged creators of Damaged Goods, are currently on the prowl for victims...umm...I mean willing immortalise within the pages of the dark and twisted story The Bride.

All you need to do is send a photo of yourself doing your best zombie or victim expression.

Should you be one of the 3 that makes the cut (sorry, I tried to resist doing that, but I was weak) and be chosen as the model for either a zombie or a wedding guest then you'll appear in the story, get a full name credit in the book, have your original photo appear in the back matter and receive a free copy of the book.

Full details of how to enter can be found over on Rich McAuliffe's blog.

You can read Tea Party from Damaged Goods as a free preview on MyeBook to get an idea what you might be in for:

Myebook - Damaged Goods: Tea Party - click here to open my ebook

Sharing The Love

The next but one Accent UK anthology, Victoriana, will include a story from yet another Insomnia Supergroup. At this rate we're going to be able to play "Rock Family Trees" for the comics industry in no time!

Michael "Quarantine" Moreci has penned "Wolf Like Me" and art is in the capable hands of the Kronos Citizens Alex Willmore and Lauren Anne Sharp.

You can see a sample page over at Michael's blog.

Things are starting to gear up for BICS 2009 now...more news very soon.

Monday, 10 August 2009

Such Stuff As Dreams Are Made On

A few months back we announced the signing of Dream Solver by Luke Foster and Chris Wildgoose.

"When 22 year old picture researcher Ione-Rose Young has a disturbing, recurring dream about seeing her own death, she doesn’t know whether to dismiss it as just another weird dream, or worry that it’s about to come true. Unable to shake the dream from her mind, she sets out to decipher its meaning"

The first concept art for the main character design is now in, and when I opened the pages it was really quite creepy how perfectly the picture of Ione-Rose matched what I'd had in my head when I was reading the script.

Ione-Rose Young

Jacob Young

Danielle Carter

The story is set in Canterbury, and the pair have been there on trips to get location photos and soak up the atmosphere. According to his blog Chris thought the city was like something out of Harry Potter.

I'm especially looking forward to seeing the first sequential pages as I lived in Canterbury for 3 years when I was at Uni, and often go back. In fact Canterbury is the home of the wonderful Whatever Comics, which is still my "local comic shop". Hmm...I feel a tailored made launch event in the making there.

In other news Chris has recently been working on the indy film Warhouse, which looks very very interesting indeed.

Clap Your Hands If You Believe in Fairies...

Oh that's nice, you are all true believers, so you can see her...

There, you're glad not you're not all cynical hard hearted non-believers now, aren't you?

This little beauty is from the brush of Kev Crossley, and she is set to appear in the 2010 'Dark Fairies' calendar Kev has just done for Infocado. She's just landed here for a second to give you an idea of what you can you expect in the upcoming Art of Kev Crossley book we mentioned last week.

Long Nights and Golden Dawns

So, you want to work on a Vigil Book, do you?

This intimidating pile is Martin Hayes initial research material for Crowley: Wandering The Wastes.

Writing on his blog this week about the book he says he " had to crawl around the attic like some kind of giant, malformed silverfish to gather up all my old Crowley books" which is quite scary in itself.

Better get on with making that circle of salt!

From the Chicago Con

Last week Michael "Quarantine" Moreci was at the Chicago con. Here is what he got up to:

"I began going to the Chicago Comic-Con back when I was a kid. One of the best memories of that time is the year Stan Lee attended; I remember anxiously waiting with my father for what seemed like days simply to be called a “true believer.”

Maybe it’s nostalgia for the past, but as I took in this year’s con, I couldn’t help thinking how much things had changed. Back in the day, the con was all about comics—one of the first things you’d encounter upon walking in was the artist tables; now they’re the last, one step away from being delegated to interact with fans in the food court.

In recent years, Chicago has followed in the footsteps of others cons—San Diego, most notably—in shifting its focus from comics to mixed media (movies, television, games). In a sense, I understand this necessity; cons are an extraordinary marketing tool and, in order to survive, comics need the crossover fans brought in through movie adaptations such as Iron Man, or even American Splendor.

My disappointment in this year’s con was seeing the artists cast off to the Island of Misfit Creators while significant focus was given to the supporting-supporting cast of Twilight, Willis from Diff’rent Strokes, and an assortment of washed-up wrestlers. It’s hard to see novelty celebrities placed front-and-center while someone like Jason Aaron (Scalped) is exiled to the far side of the con.

Griping aside, there was a lot to like about the weekend. Chicago has a great community of creators, fans, and shops, many of whom came out for the weekend. I sat in on a Battlestar Q & A panel, and got to hear Admiral Adama—er, Edward James Olmos—lead a chant of “so say we all!” Mark Millar attended, as did Brian Azzarello and George Perez. I admit, I didn’t meet any of these fantastic creators—though I’ve encountered Azzarello a few times in the past (he’s a local guy)—but there was a genuine excitement in the crowd. I did manage to get my hands on a fairly-mint copy of Uncanny X-Men 171, where Rogue (one of my favorite X-Men) joins the team, for two bucks (two bucks!).

One of the highlights of the weekend was meeting Robert Venditti, author of The Surrogates (which has been turned into a soon-to-be released motion picture, starring Bruce Willis). We spoke for awhile; Robert was a great guy, very energetic and insightful about his work. I’m about halfway through the graphic novel, and couldn’t be enjoying it more. The book reminds me of two films—Blade Runner (one of my all-tome favorites), and Gattaca. It does what all great sci-fi does, blending a unique—yet familiar—scenario with a profound look into the future, via social commentary. I couldn’t recommend it more.

So that’s that—another Chicago con come and gone. Next up: the Windy City Comic Con, which is only six weeks away."

Comics In The Classroom

And in more Michael Moreci news...

Michael will be teaching a 6 week course in Graphic Novels from October to November at the Newberry Library in Chicago.

The course description says:

"Comics, or graphic novels, are the topic of many scholarly studies and a myriad of blockbuster films. Yet many Americans consider comic books a lower form of culture, not an art form. This course will challenge that idea by demonstrating comic book authors’ abilities to examine characters and to critique society in ways that are novelistic in scope and depth. We will read Alan Moore’s Watchmen and Brian K. Vaughn’s Y: The Last Man, among others."

Full details and links to registration can be found over on Michael's blog.

Michael Moreci holds an M.A. in English from Northwestern University. He teaches at Flashpoint Academy, and his work has appeared in a number of publications.

Comic Racks

This week I'm going to be a guest on the fantastic Comic Racks podcast. We'll be recording episode 42 on Thursday night, technology willing.

I'll post details when it goes live.

And Finally...

It seems that Burke and Hare are still making their influence felt from beyond the grave.

In a sinister co-incidence this week, the very week that the book is being finalised for print, the life mask of Hare himself, thought lost to history, has turned up in a museum in Swansea.

You can see the mask and read the story over at the BBC Wales site and find out more about the Crime and Punishment exhibition at Swansea Museum, which runs until the 30th November.