Friday, 31 May 2013

A Scottish Barbarian in Arizona: Phoenix Comicon, Day 3

Day three approacheth! I discuss animation, more indy comics, couple teams, and more!

Well, I turned the heat down a few degrees on Friday night, but ended up still too hot. However, I was fed up with this, so I popped out and got some ice, and had it close at hand to wrap in a napkin and dab with. It worked well enough, though I was a bit late getting up.

I first zoomed to the Animated Career panel, which was very informative: it featured Joel Adams, Bret Blevins, Shannon Eric Denton, Kristen Fitzner Denton, and Christy Marx. It was a very interesting panel, which discussed the intricacies and mixture of patience and urgency which seems to permeate the life of the animator. Bret Blevins (who worked on Batman Beyond, one of the most interesting Batman series) had the most soothing, gentle voice. Imagine Kiefer Sutherland with his vocal cords replaced with Kashmir. And of course, we also heard from Christy Marx,* lead show writer of Conan the Adventurer, and I knew I had to talk to her!

So I tracked down her booth, and found two others waiting: a chap with the two Conquests of Camelot games (in big boxes like with King's Quest, which is a form of packaging I'm still inordinately fond of), and a girl dressed up as Jem. When Christy showed up, the girl was so incredibly excited I thought she was going to burst to pieces! I was happy just watching her gush, but she wanted everyone else to go first so she could compose herself. I let the Conquests of Camelot chap first, then I talked to her about how Conan the Adventurer was part of a thread in my life that took me to America, Arizona, and my first published comic. At this, she shook my hand and congratulated me. We also talked about Howard, how she went straight to the books for inspiration, and the complexities of trying to adapt such material into a Saturday morning cartoon, which still seems somewhat ridiculous. Considering this was the early '90s, I'm rather there was a lot she couldn't do even accounting for the "R-rating": there were so many editorial mandates it's a wonder there was any REH left at all! Lovely lady.

 Though I still can't stand Needle. Maybe I should've brought this along for her to sign.

I was more confident taking pictures, including one of a really well-built Space Marine, who must've had a hell of a time with the heat and helmet. However, I made it my mission to find everyone I had already interacted with in a friendly manner, and got their picture with Melville. The three girls working at Half Price Books were so lovely, even though I only bought a $2 paperback!

An interview with Natali Sanders courtesy of Cinema Head Cheese.

I came by to Val to say hello, high-fived again. She was doing really well, selling a lot of stuff and getting a lot of interest. I wandered about again, and settled on another artist whose art intrigued me: Natali Sanders. She used pencils like Denae, but while Denae's work tended towards the stylised, Natali's veered more to realism, and they were near-photographic. Very dark, gothic stuff, all of werewolves, vampires, ghosts, and other such beasties. She was dressed in rocky-punky gear, and I got to talking with her. She was also very kind and accommodating, we talked about the prevalence of female artists drawing pinup art, and the like. I decided "alright, I shall endorse her work," but unfortunately she didn't have any more copies of her comic, though she directed me to her publisher's stall, if I was interested. It was on the other side of the place. Onward!

Melville with Yi Gon Shin Issue 1 and issues 1-4 of Yi Soon Shin

So on my way, I decide to look through the indy comics area more closely. A well-dressed gentleman caught my eye (argh, reeled in again!) and showed me his comic, which has just been collected into a volume. Now, what intrigued me was this was a historical romance of sorts, set in Ancient Asia - naturally thoughts of Romance of the Three Kingdoms and the like come to mind - so my interest was piqued. And of course, the artwork was stupendous - so I bought some, eager to see how the artist managed the grand battles. I hope Bannockburn could be a fraction as successful as this comic is.

I came across another interesting group at the Ginger Rabbit Studios booth: Jared Sams, Giulie Speziani, and Rob Harrington. Again, I got to talking, and I got on so well I bought some of their comics too! Jared's work included a lot of blaxploitation-style comics like Mad Muslim Mulatto and Space Negro, while Giulie wrote more slice-of-life stuff. Rob wrote about a pirate named Rainbowbeard, which is exactly as ludicrous and preposterous as it sounds. I don't know, stories about pirates with luxurious beards speak to me, I know not why...

I also encountered a good couple called Judd & Lindsey, and again, bought a comic of theirs. I wish I got a picture of the delightful painting Lindsey drew: Maleficent drinking a coffee with the Wicked Queen from Snow White. It was inspired by an actual event: Lindsey went out and about the convention, and came across this world-weary, exhausted lady dressed as Maleficent clutching a Starbucks coffee! Inspiration strikes when you least expect it. Another couple who I didn't get to chat to as long, Clint & Dawn Wolf, were also very nice and gracious. I've endeavoured to keep everyone's business cards so I know who they are!

So I finally get to Natali's publisher's stall, when I notice none other than Jolene Houser, who I'd been hunting for since seeing her last year. She was part of the same panel as Val and Jean, and she was rather memorable for her exuberance and excitedness. She remembered me too (mostly because my very loud phone interrupted the panel and I was forced to make my profuse apologies as I ran from the room), and I finally got a better look at her artwork. I spied a particularly delightful little print which I got for my darling niece. She was also wearing a mini-kilt, and I felt compelled to be all Scottish and comment on how kilts are usually longer back home in Scotland. Then it occurred to me I was spending an inordinate amount of time looking at a gorgeous lady in a very short skirt, and realised that this might be misconstrued - I'm probably the only Scotsman you'd meet who'd be staring at a Tilted Kilt waitress' skirt to discern the clan tartan, after all. Luckily her man Dana seemed to take it in good humour, and understood that I'm just a very strange Scotsman.

Unfortunately, Natali's publisher was all out, so I returned sadly. However, Natali said they would be bringing more in tomorrow, so I was welcome to buy the last copy. Her husband was there, and I must say he was Ridiculously Photogenic: handsome, fit, muscular, like Casper Van Dien. It was then it occurred to me just how many couples I've interacted with at the convention, and it was really lovely to see so many married couples especially. I guess there's always a part of me that's conservative with a small "c," and it does my heart good to see happy long-term relationships - indeed, a few have been together as long as my sister and brother-in-law are. They were just so incredibly nice and open! What is with all these nice people in America? I'm not used to it back home in dour Scotland!**

I then found Shannon Eric Denton's table, and he gave me a TON of advice, completely unsolicited, about what to do if I ever consider going back into animation. He was extremely kind and helpful, and I gave him my life (well, higher education) story about how what I really wanted to be back in the early 2000s was an animator, with the desire to make my own little films. Unfortunately, when you go for a career in computer animation these days, you have to specialise: particles, textures, rigging, modelling, lighting. I just wanted to make stories. I wasn't proficient enough at any one thing, and so I felt rather dejected - but luckily comics proved a far more flexible and, more important, accessible medium with which to tell stories, and my degree has at least prepared me for it. And I got a picture of Shannon with Melville, naturally.

Next to Shannon was a gentleman with longish black hair and sunglasses, piercings and a leather jacket. He looked familiar, like a thug from Teenage Mutant Hero Turtles. Then I saw the line queueing for an autograph... Then I saw the name above the booth - Kevin Eastman, one of the creators of Turtles! Dude! Radical! I was too cowed to say anything, but I said to his assistant "he's a big fan" and motioned to Melville. She smiled graciously. I never got around to meeting him, but I was a bit intimidated at the same time. I'm sure he was a nice chap, though.

Bladdy Chundah, I had no idea Ben was TV interview big!

I encountered Ben Templesmith, who Todd Vick suggested I meet up with. His work was very 2000AD to my untrained eye, with a lot of lovely Lovecraftian nastiness sprinkled in. Ben was Australian, so we had a great deal of fun trying to one-up each other with tall tales of our homelands. "Ah, mate, I came from Australia to use the Internet!" "Indeed? We Scots only got television in 1987!" And so forth. Very "Four Yorkshiremen" from "At Last the 1948 Show." But at the end, he dropped the Aussie act and gave me a sincere handshake.

Other fun stuff: when I crossed the only Aquaman I saw in the entire convention, I cried "Aquaman!" and he gave me a thunderous high-five. I saw Merida and cried "Merida, my countrywoman!" which gave her a delighted start, as she and her entourage asked me about Scotland (and Melville). There was also an incredible moment where a troupe of Disney princesses - Belle, Aurora, Cinderella, etc - all in ballgowns, ran out the front door in a fit of giggles. It would've been quite surreal outside the bounds of a comic convention.

WARNING: You are likely to have one of two reactions to the above video. Either you will find it utterly adorable, or unbearably annoying. Possibly both.

Towards the end of the event I was getting tired, so I wandered back. As I passed the last booth, I heard a little voice say "hi!" I looked down to my left, and this girl dressed as an elf of some sort was reclining on the floor on one hip. For some reason, I thought she had fallen and hurt herself, and asked if she was alright, only to realise she was having a seat to give her feet a rest. Seeing the ridiculous high heels, I understood and we both had a good laugh. I complimented her on the costume, and she talked about the seamstress, and it became clear that she was the mascot for the comic being sold. She was very pleasant, and adored Melville, of course. A fellow costumed lady dressed as Knightingail's compatriot Kaeli came over to coo over Melville. I'm sure Melville would've been rather flustered if he weren't a highly traditional tortoise.

Kaeli has a conversation with Natali: funny how you find people on Youtube.

Went back home, straight to bed (more or less), didn't have time to email. Best night's sleep I've had since I came to Arizona.

*I was utterly mortified when I discovered I was incorrectly spelling her name as Marks, not Marx. This wouldn't have been quite as bad if there wasn't an actual Christy Marks out there in a... well, a very different line of work from Ms Marx. This is the only remotely work-safe link I could provide, though I suppose if you require more information, Google will be happy to oblige. Now if you'll excuse me, there's a hole in a wall somewhere I must crawl into to die.

**Of course there are plenty of lovely people back home who are just as warm and welcoming, but for some reason it feels different when a foreign country welcomes you in. I guess I just "expect" a welcome from my countrymen, but from people whose country I feel like I'm invading, it's a pleasant surprise!


  1. I love Ben Templesmith's work. He's the man for almost anything in the horror line.