Look at that cheery lil’ fella up there! Grinning like a monkey at the thought of faking his way into being a comics pro at Free Comic Book Day 2005. (Note to self: pros don’t take their name placards with them when they leave. Next time, act like ya been there before!)

If you’re not a comics fan, this entry’s going to bore you to tears. Check back tomorrow for a link to this week’s GONE YARD, where I’ll tell you why the Yankees’ failures are a moral imperative–and fun, too. But for now, a little comics geeking out. Some highlights of the afternoon:

–High marks to Dr. No’s in Marietta for putting on a great affair. They were pitching the free comics hard to everyone who came in, but were doing a great job of steering the little kids away from the boob-a-riffic Red Sonja and toward the Star Wars book and Flight anthology. Smart salesmanship like that is going to get repeat customers–and it’s going to keep the so-called “religious” yahoos from complaining that lil’ Johnny ended up with porn from that smutty comix dump. This is the way to run a comics store.

–The comics industry is such a strange thing…the people who are involved in it love it so much, and anybody outside of it just doesn’t care one way or the other. The best analogy I can make is to the blues–there are blues aficionados who live and die by the hundred-disc-press-run CDs of ultraobscure artists. Similarly, the love of comics in the room was infectious–everybody was having a great time, nobody was bemoaning the state of the industry, and the fans who weren’t too scared to come over and say hello really seemed to enjoy themselves.

–I spent the afternoon sitting next to the very cool writers Dan Jolley and Marie Croall of Studio Phoenix and a bunch of Marvel, DC, Devil’s Due, et. al. publications. They gave me a year’s worth of messageboard education in how to pitch books to the big guys. They both have some kick-ass projects coming up, too–I don’t know how much they want made public, but watch for some challenging, thought-provoking work from both of ’em.

–Mark Bagley was the star of the show, making wisecracks and dishing dirt on industry pros left and right. Told a great story about how he thought Ultimate Spider-Man was going to tank, so he’d planned to quit after six issues, and actually put in his notice. That day, Cliff (Dr. No’s owner), told Bagley he was insane for leaving this gig, so Bagley called back and reclaimed his job. Trouble was, the gig had been offered to another artist in the interim, who was none too pleased to be bounced, and threatened–only mock-jokingly–to kick Bagley’s ass. Bagley also looks uncannily like Joe Pantoliano, too, so he probably oughtta steer clear of horse barns and bathtubs.

–Paul Jenkins was Mikey Multitask, signing comics, conducting a phone interview, scarfing a sandwich, and darting out to a wedding. But he invited me to play golf with him, so I got that going for me.

–Folks are incredibly high on the smaller publishers in the industry–Speakeasy in particular–which is good to see. What was also interesting was how professional the panelists were. They’re all a scruffy lot, but they take their work damn seriously, and mentioned several artists and writers–many of whom you in the industry would know–who aren’t going to be getting more work any time soon because they’re so bad with deadlines. There’s a lesson in there for us newbies.

–I did my first portfolio review, which was kind of strange but flattering at the same time. And I probably sounded like a babbling idiot, but at least I didn’t go all Simon Cowell on the kid.

–There was also a guy there who recognized my name from some long-ago Wizard articles I wrote, which was kind of weird.

–A lot of people seemed really high on SUNDOWN. Whether that translates to more orders remains to be seen, but folks are pleased so far, as am I. I didn’t have any actual comics to show, but the full-color pinups and covers drew some fine oohs and aahs, and the little promo packs I put together with cover, press release, and thumbnails of pages seemed to go over well.

All in all, a damn fine experience. Many thanks to Cliff and the crew at Dr. No’s, as well as the many people who came out to visit, especially Egg Embry from Arcana Studio and my neighborhood pal Connie and her boy Chandler. I’ve already been invited back for next year; by then I oughtta have some actual books to put in front of me.


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