Author Archives: Nick

random thoughts on TCAF 2014

Setting up the TCAF Saturday morning

• This is the best organized comics festival I’ve ever been to (though I’ve only done the APE and SPX). Lots of helpful e-mails, tons of volunteers ready to assist, a money changing station…

• The Toronto Public Library is amazing. A wonderful space. Big and full of modern equipment. The wi-fi couldn’t handle all of us, though. Still, no-one wanted to pay with a credit card anyway so that wasn’t a problem.

• Speaking of credit cards, the U.S. is way behind. Magnetic strips are a thing of the past. Canadian and European credit cards use a chip now. And restaurants have these nice hand-held gadgets to scan credit cards that let you automatically add a percentage for the tip.

Chris Butcher is a really nice guy and he has a real vision for the festival. I was totally on board with everything he said.

• I stayed with my family at Saint Mike’s College. Beautiful campus with really well fed squirrels. The dorm rooms were bigger than mine in college.

• And Porter Airlines is my new favorite airline. The most civilized airline I’ve ever experienced since Japan Airlines.

The view from behind my table.

• The festival was busy as soon as the doors opened and mostly stayed that way all Saturday. This was so different from the long lulls of the APE.

• I’m getting older and most everyone at the TCAF seemed like recent art school grads. So doing a table feels a lot like teaching: being ignored by college kids while trying to get them interested in something they are actively trying to avoid.

• My wife tabled on Sunday, and she felt there was a forced innocence. Both she and I remember desperately wanting to be adults when we were younger. The young people we saw at the TCAF seem to want to hold on to childish things as long as possible. In all fairness, maybe it’s a way to deal with the harsh realities of the current economic climate.

• Anime-looking and video game-looking art really attracts attendees. The Cucumber Quest table had a line to it all day Saturday. Mostly young people. Lots of women as well as men. If it wasn’t already apparent, superhero comics are out of touch with younger readers.

Would you buy comics from this man?

• I’m no good at doing cons. I just don’t have the right skills. My approach is basically to stand there and hope people discover me. That means that I place a work I’ve been working on for seven years, a piece of my soul, on the table and watch hordes of people pass it by without a glance.

• My wife took over on Sunday. She didn’t sell more books, but she went out and talked with publishers and handed Carnivale around. I’ve been trying for years to do that. My excuse was always I didn’t have the right book yet. Well, now I do and I still can’t do it.

• I went to the Toronto Zoo with my daughter on Sunday. That healed my soul.

Posted in comics, cons | 1 Comment

trying out Sequential

So the issue with the new version of the comiXology app made me want to see what else was out there. Sure, comiXology is the most popular, but many publishers have their own apps and while the selection at comiXology is really big, it’s mostly comics I have no interest in. Anyway, I stumbled upon Sequential.

So this is a new (or new to me) comics reading app available on the iPad. The selection isn’t huge now, but the publishers include Blank Slate, SelfMadeHero, and Fantagraphics. The upshot of this is that Sequential has many more books that I actually want to read. It’s also a nice app. It’s a lot like comiXology used to be, but with a nice bookmark feature and a quick link to reviews when you are looking at a title through the storefront. Again, the selection is a bit small now, but hopefully it will expand. Sequential just added Top Shelf, so that shows the makers are trying to add to the offerings.

I just read Sandcastle through Sequential. As long as the app keeps adding title like this, I think I’m going to move from comiXology to Sequential.

Posted in comics, graphic novels, Uncategorized | Leave a comment

my experience with ComiXology: Holiday Funeral

The people working at ComiXology have been very nice to me, but the above photos of the Holiday Funeral page through the ComiXology app tell a story. One: the people who read the book didn’t really like it. Pretty much every book I’ve seen at ComiXology has a four (out of five) star review; Holiday Funeral has two. The “people also liked” list may explain that a bit. The books there have almost nothing in common with Holiday Funeral. I think the normal ComiXology reader just isn’t my audience. What you can’t see here is that I haven’t made any money from this yet. ComiXology only starts paying when you sell over $100.

I really don’t have an argument here; I just want to put my story out there. When I started trying to get my stuff published I had so many mistaken notions about how everything worked and how easy it all would be. I just want to use my experience to offer a little dose of reality.

Posted in getting published, my comics | Leave a comment

pictures over words?

R.C. Harvey has an interesting essay over at the Comics Journal. I find a lot of what he says very thought-provoking and I have to agree with him on the examples he gives (for the most part), but one underlying preference that governs his criticism is that in comics the pictures should lead the pacing and not the words. While I too tend to prefer comics that are visually paced, I am loathe to overprescribe the medium. And in fact, I can think of works I like that are word-centric. For instance, I know that Alison Bechdel composes her comics in words first and then decides how to illustrate them later. And I think Fun Home is an incredible book. Dan Clowes also has a lot of works, such as “Immortal, Invisible” or the beginning of David Boring, that a very narrative heavy. I would say that in these works words set the pacing more than the images.

And yet I agree with Harvey’s overall point that many people who try to create graphic novels seem to not really understand the medium. Part of this may be they are coming out of a writing tradition and have not really thought through how comics function and the unique advantages of the form. Still, I don’t think the problem is that the words are the prime mover of the pacing.

More fundamentally, the problem is that the words and pictures are not given unique jobs. In the word-centric examples Harvey provides, the problem is that the pictures merely illustrate the words, not that the words lead the narrative. This is what Scott McCloud calls a “duo-specific” relationship. And this is not a new problem. The old  Classics Illustrated books and many of the EC horror comics had this same problem. So I also disagree with Harvey that somehow writers new to comics are destroying the medium. I think the problem is the same one that has always been: the medium has been viewed simplistically and its potentials ignored.

Posted in comics theory, graphic novels, links | Leave a comment