Wednesday, July 23, 2014

These Kids Got STYLE!

So...if you've been following Justin on Instagram (and you really should be -- what ELSE do could you use IG for??), you'll note that we're but weeks away from Wonder Care Presents: The Kinder Guardians #1 being released.

Y-A-Y!  It's coming!  It's coming! (I'm doing a dance) It's coming!

But for you super-astute watchers, you may have also noted that the character designs look A BIT different…alright, in a way RADICALLY different, from our previous promo materials.  And I have to admit -- I COULDN'T BE HAPPIER ABOUT IT!

Now you may be wondering, 'why the change'?  And the simplest answer is I'm working with one of the most thoughtful creators in the game!

That's right.  I said it!

No really, Justin hit me up and said that he really wanted to make this book stand out and right now, the  circle-headed, all-ages well is being tapped (and tapped well -- see what I did there), by some of comic's heaviest hitters like Franco, Art Baltazar, Katie Cook and of course, Skottie Young!

But wait, there's more.

Justin is approaching this not as simply a comic book, but a property ripe with potential for the animations market!  There, Wonder Care's distinctive new style could flourish among the ranks of shows like 'Hey, Arnold!' or 'Phineas & Ferb'!  So with that in mind, he went back to the drawing board, and crafted this BEAUTIFUL style that captures the personality of each character, moving them up, up and way beyond the realm of just kid-friendly cute!

Again, I can't tell you how lucky I am to be working with him!  Alright -- I'll stop waxing and get back to lettering so you guys can get Wonder Care #1 in your hands as soon as possible!  That way you TOO will know what all the fun is about!

Sunday, July 13, 2014

Comic Cons: Coast to Coast pt 2

20 events.  17 weeks.  14 cities.  9 states.  3 time zones.  2 coasts.  

Me at the airport en route to Seattle
This was my life this spring, by the numbers (no, I've not counted the miles or the hours -- it would scare me to know!).  In a herculean effort, mixed with a slight rivalry (shout out to Dirk!), I took on one of the BIGGEST, self-imposed challenges of my career (to date)!  Last post I walked through the 'why' I did this to myself [sic], but I think there's INFINITELY more to share on 'HOW' I did this and what that means to any other creators on the market!

Now, I will be quick to say -- this move is NOT for everybody.  Not even to dismiss or sway anyone from attempting this, in all honesty, this move might not be necessary for what you want out of your time in comics and by no means should it be looked at as the standard.  But having said that, it certainly is A standard (curse you semantics!) that should be respected, mined for content and emulated (if applicable).  Here's my quick list of the pre-req's you need to make this happen.

1.) Type A Personality: We comic creators are NOTORIOUSLY introvertive beings! We labor over fictional beings, in intricate detail, secluded from the light of day and physical interaction.  If your idea of socializing requires internet access, you may way want to forgo tackling this crusade, because there's a lot of extrovert-necessary, personal, public, and interactive attention needed to pull this off!  

2.) Access to Materials: Get your prints exclusively from the Mom&Pop store in town?  Use an overseas printer or a POD company, with a few weeks turnaround time standard for your books?  Then you might want to pass up on doing something like this too -- its way too hard to know what's going to move where and how quickly, so if you've got a problem tapping a national chain like FedEx, Staples, etc. you may be plum outta luck should your Deadpool print sell out and you want to maintain quality.  

3.) A Support Team!: There is no such thing as a TRULY self-made "man" -- every successful person on the face of this earth has had people in their corner who believed and supported them in their efforts.     You will feel lows, you will feel highs and its important to have a foundation of support to both, lift you up  and ground you when its needed -- those outside pair of eyes can be EXTREMELY beneficial to help you gauge your activities and progress along the way.

These mark the three most important tools to have in your belt BEFORE jumping into such a crazy campaign, but what follows is what you will need to maintain along the way.


Comic conventions and events are A LOT of fun!  You're surrounded by like-minded fans, celebrating a culture of immersive pastimes, featuring colorful characters enacting every adventure you can imagine.  But despite all the stargazing of notable celebs and legendary creators, the thoughtful and provoking panels or the intrepid fans that fill convention halls, conventions are a whole lotta work!  LIKE A BUNCH!  For myself, I tend to stand throughout the duration of the show -- to me, its a mark of professionalism and readiness, but at the end of the day, is downright EXHAUSTING!  Make no mistake, this is a "job"-- a physical one and it WILL take its toll on you.

Feet hurting and voice gone are regular feats for me, and yeah, I've even suffered a paper-cut or two.  I've lost sleep hours in time-zone transitions, simply absurd take-off/arrival times, and last minute inventory checks that last into the wee hours.  And even with all of that, there's one more, most-critical tax you pay when adopting this coursework -- being away from your family at long intervals.  This past June, I was home for a total of 11 days throughout that ENTIRE month. 

My Kids working the table at Awesome Con
But if you maintain your PASSION about your craft, about what you're bringing to the show, about comics as a whole -- you can acknowledge all these difficulties and KEEP pressing on without stopping.  If you can keep your eye on the bigger picture of success (and I don't JUST mean money), you can stay motivated and hungry to keep pushing yourself, against all odds! 

And believe me, that last bit is truly the hardest of all -- I've heard many creators use their family obligations for why they can't chase their dreams.  I'm a devoted father of four beautiful children, ages ranging from 5-11 -- there is NOTHING I won't do for my kids, including work my butt off to show them that if there's something they believe in and love, that they can find success within it.  

Your Goal is to Create a GREAT Experience: 

I just said that doing this is a lot of work -- and believe me, it is!  But, becoming an active part of the comic book community has fandom at its roots.  We, all of us, got into comics because we were a fan of some part of it -- whether it was the books we read, the shops we went to, or the creators we had the fortune of meeting, we became fans of the medium.  Its the fandom experience that inspired us and it's in creating that experience, both for ourselves and for others, that needs to be your number one goal.

I know, I know -- you're probably thinking, shouldn't MONEY be the number one goal -- and from a purely practical/fiscal standpoint, you're absolutely right.  But there will be times when the monies a little slow, the totals a little less and you still have to find something that keeps you going, keeps you smiling and excited about being at the show.  And that's where the goal of creating a GREAT experience will serve you best!  

Great experiences build fans!  And look -- DIRK!
Music lovers can cosign this with me -- we'll pay large amounts of money to see some of our favorite entertainers perform and its all justified by the experience we're given!  We don't go expecting get anything more than that (unless you bought the VIP package, then there's a whole meet-n-greet, swag-bag, photoshoot portion, but that too builds on your experience of the event!) -- and we leave satisfied if we had a good one.  BE that experience!  Create an environment that your growing fanbase can enjoy and frequent!  Create something that will get people talking POSITIVELY about you, that they want to share -- because remember, you even being behind the table is an extension of YOUR fandom!  

And if you create a great experience for yourself and others, one of three things WILL happen: 1.) the money will come automatically.  2.) the money didn't show, but you still had a great time, setting the stage for future payoff of either contacts, friends or future buyers.  3.) you get the connects AND the money!

I'm gonna cut it short here -- I've got three more points to share before I wrap this up, but they're probably some of the most important!  Hopefully, you've gleaned a bit for yourself from my journey -- check back here soon for the final spin!


Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Comic Cons: Coast to Coast Pt. 1

Writer.  Artist.  Publisher.  Iron man…??

That may be what I put on my resume after completing a GRUELING 17 weeks straight of comic book shows and events.

That's right.  You read correctly.  Seventeen weeks.  In a row.

I know, I know -- why in the world would someone do that?!  It's the same question pantomimed (if not outright blurted) by EVERY fan, friend, family member, and peer I mentioned it to during this marathon of comic book geekery!  And now, with the haze of what I've done finally lifting -- without hesitation or sense of doubt, I can tell you all I did it because of one thing: Dirk ********** Manning!

That's my VICTORY face!
It all started on an assuming Saturday…
Dirk and I were neighbors (well acquainted already, with a robot-dance-like handshake ritual) at the first Appleseed Comic Con (formerly Summit City).  Dirk leans into me, with a hint of exhaustion, revealing that this was his fifth show in as many weeks and its starting to catch up.  And believe me -- 5 shows in 5 weeks is exhausting.  VERY EXHAUSTING.  And I would know -- because that same show, unbeknownst to Dirk at the time, was my 8th show in 8 weeks.

Now, let me preface that making comics is my full-time job -- I've been determined/lucky/blessed enough to make my lifelong dream of being a professional creator a very real thing and it affords me a whole host of opportunities that others couldn't fathom.  But, in that same breath, I have to admit that I'm a family man with four kids, so even though this is my job, I've got a hefty share of responsibilities which means that every decision for being on the road has a significant consideration and cost -- so NO dismissive caveats!

So I told him, "This is week 8 for me…"  And when I did, the look of shock he carried, last all of ONE SECOND before he made a solemn vow to blow that out of the water in the fall.


He planned on a 13 in 13 (he's a magnificent horror writer and the appeal of such a spooky number was too good to miss) -- but the ACTUAL appeal of Dirk pulled him two more events and consequent two more weeks to a MASSIVE 15 shows in 15 weeks.

Now, I'm not exactly competitive…despite being an outspoken Aries, first-born son…okay, maybe a little ;)…but could I really top what DM had pulled off?  How would I do it?  What would it mean?  There was only one way to find out.

I made a list.  I made some calls; sent some emails.  And THIS was the schedule that was born from it.

Week 1: Main St. Comics and Games Anniversary/ Indies Comic Fair  - March 8th
Springfield, OH/ Columbus, OH

Week 2: Lexington Comic Con - March 14-16
Lexington, KY

Week 3: Dan Con - March 23
Oakland Park, IL

Week 4: Emerald City Comic Con - March 28-30
Seattle, WA

Week 5: Gem City Comic Con - April 5-6
Dayton, OH

Week 6: SPACE - April 12-13
Columbus, OH

Week 7: Awesome Con - April 18-20
Washington D.C.

Week 8: C2E2 - April 25-27
Chicago, IL

Week 9: Free Comic Book Day (FCBD)/ Amazing Spider-man 2 - May 3-4
Columbus, OH

Week 10: River City Comic Expo (RCCE) May 10
Louisville, KY

Week 11: Appleseed Comic Con - May 17-18
Fort Wayne, IN

Week 12: Oakland Park Elem @ Laughing Ogre/ X-Men: DoFP - May 24-25
Columbus, OH

Week 13: Tri-Con - May 31-June 1
Huntington, WV

Week 14: Phoenix Comic Con - June 5-8
Phoenix, AZ

Week 15: ToonSeum Art-Bit Exhibit/ Sp. Edition NYC/ Coz-Art Gallery - June 12-15
Pittsburgh, PA/ New York City, NY/ Brooklyn, NY

Week 16: Wizard World Philadelphia - June 19-22
Philadelphia, PA

Week 17: Derby City Comic Con - June 28-29
Louisville, KY

Now, I'm by no means RICH!  But I had the clear understanding that in order to do something kinda amazing, I'd have to spend a bit of money and I couldn't just rely on the shows I'd been to before.  Also, recognizing that Dirk keeps things to a general region, I wanted to test myself by reaching beyond my usual scope of Midwest/East Coast shows and make this excursion as much about building my name professionally as it was any personal conquest.

So now you know the scope and scale of what I've done -- tune in soon for the follow up piece where I tell you about the nuts and bolts of doing such a feat and how I feel now that its done!

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Art-Bit: The 8-Bit Art of Victor Dandridge

*   *   *   *   For Immediate Release:   *   *   *   *

The ToonSeum Goes 8-Bit With Latest Exhi-BIT!

Pittsburgh, PA- The ToonSeum, Pittsburgh’s museum of comic and cartoon
art, is going retro with their latest exhibition entitled Art-Bit: The
8-Bit Art of Victor Dandridge.

The exhibition features popular superheroes, television icons,
celebrities and more, re-imagined as 8-bit characters.

8-bit is a term used to describe the images used in the video games of the
1980’s, as popularized by the Nintendo Entertainment System. Notable
characters such as Mario, Mega Man, and Donkey Kong made their debut
in the 8-bit era.

This blocky pixilated style has become as iconic as the games
themselves and is currently playing a bit part in a digital pop art

Artist Victor Dandridge of Columbus, Ohio is at the forefront of said

Victor is an independent publisher, artist, educator and life-long
comics fan. His 8-bit art was initially a way to stand out
stylistically at comic conventions and he has gone on to create
hundreds of individual works. Victor’s debut gallery exhibition is
here, at the Toonseum!

“While it would be easy to dismiss the art as simplistic, his work is
deceivingly complex,” said ToonSeum director, Joe Wos. “A great deal
of thought goes into the choosing of the color palate and positioning
of the blocks in order to convey enough information to represent these
iconic characters.”

Joe had seen Victor’s work at a recent comic convention in Chicago.
As he observed the crowd gathered around Victor’s art, attempting to
identify the pixilated personas, he knew immediately it would make for
an engaging exhibit.

These petite prints are only the size of traditional trading cards. To
encourage the audience to engage with Victor’s unique art, the
ToonSeum has left the prints untitled allowing guests to test their
8-bit pop culture knowledge! They can then submit their guesses for a
chance to win comic and gaming-oriented prizes.

This exhibition is sponsored by Schell Games and runs through July 6th
2014. A special artist reception will be hosted on June 12th, 7pm-9pm
at the ToonSeum.

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Wonder Care Takes Center Stage!!

It's been on the burner for a little bit, but we're making some headway on our upcoming ALL-AGES title, Wonder Care Presents: The Kinder Guardians!

In an effort to add to our accessibility as a publishing imprint, we've wanted to make some stories that would resonate a little closer to younger audiences.  Immediately, I thought about what I loved so much growing up and I couldn't escape the allure of Jim Henson's The Muppet Babies.  Adding a superhero twist of the Justice League (or more appropriately, Super Friends, I came up with the idea for the Wonder Care series!  Though I've had this troupe of super-powered kiddies in my mindscape for a while there was an urgency to get things started when Mark Millar announced his own kid-friendly project, Kindergarten Heroes.  With such high-profile competition on the horizon, I knew we had to jump on production QUICKLY!!

I tapped one of the most creative, innovative voices whose ALREADY making a name for himself in kid-centric markets (with work his self-published "When I Was Little", "Share My Heart", and an strong association with Aw Yeah Comics) -- JUSTIN CASTANEDA!  He loved the idea and couldn't wait to get started on our first tale -- an 8pg heart-tugger called "How Far is Up" featuring Pep (our resident speedster) and the super-twins, Castor and Pollux!  I whipped up some quick character sketches for what I had in my head and let me tell you -- JUSTIN BLEW EVERYTHING I DID OUT THE WINDOW!!!  His cartooning, characterizations, designs -- EVERYTHING -- he just gets these guys and it looks like he might be just in love with these guys as I am!

While our individual workloads have slowed the process down a little, we've got enough going to put together a little teaser, introducing the six characters of the initial Wonder Care series -- The Kinder Guardians!!!  And if you're gonna be at C2E2 this weekend, stop by my table (V-7) and grab a copy of our limited edition promo book that gives a little backstory to each member of the team!  And just like in old-school tradition, the cover can be removed to create the poster below!

Monday, February 24, 2014

A Little More UnConventional...

As a life-long fan of comic books, spending so much time, effort and money into the medium, I've developed a number of ideas that I think would have a profound effect on the comic industry, the products it produces and the creators within it.  To get those ideas out in the world, I crafted the article series UnConventional, which had a short-lived publishing run on  It was fun to do, but I thought I lost a lot of people because I tend to get rather wordy (especially on things I'm passionate about).  After hem-hawing for a while, and with the help of my friend James Robinson, I FINALLY transitioned to doing UnConventional in short video segments (which I figured would liven things up and let my personality shine!).  We've already gotten four pieces up for your viewing pleasure (with a few more planned to make up Season One of the series) -- if you're a fan of comics and you haven't been following them, I invite you to do so and see what sort of ideas it sparks in you! -- but one of our recent posts has sparked a rather aggressive response in opposition.

UnConventional Episode #3 - It's ALL Fan Art!

Here's the gist of this one: To erase the divide between self-publishers and creators of fan-art, I've ruled all that we do AS fan art.  Everything we produce ALL stems from us being fans of the medium, a certain story, a character, a writer, an artist, etc.  No aspect of our creative ventures is without some part of us being a fan.

The WHOLE reason I decided to get on this subject is FOR YEARS now, I've heard people complain how fan art was choking out comic book sales at conventions.  Now, because I tote the line of fan-art/self-publisher, I overtly get a pass -- but there are others that are looked down on for their work!  And often times its under the guise of validation or some such non-sense ("Well, that's not REALLY comics…").  That's not something that sits well with me -- I mean, frankly, this is how some people eat -- are we really trying to nitpick at it because it's successful?

So, there's already been this established view, predominantly FROM small-press creators, that somehow in the hierarchy of comics, fan-art rates BELOW their efforts.  This sort of, "rolls down hill" mindset is rather bothersome, to say the least, as it used to be the same perspective leveled at self-publishers (from the mainstream side of the fence) and still is at comics as a whole (with regards to other forms of art AND literature).  

But if its ALL Fan-Art what's the issue?

Fan-art, as it's commonly broken down, is the unlicensed production of commercial work (prints, stickers, artbooks, etc.) that feature characters from popular branches of mainstream media.  Aside from the undertow of it bleeding money out of convention-goers so that they can't support small-press comics (an attribute also aimed at media guests and entry prices at conventions), the biggest complaint that Fan-Art gets is that its a shady and illegal practice since its a blatant act of copyright infringement!

Er…wait.  That's not right.  It's NOT copyright infringement at all.  Copyright protects the authorship of a physical item -- so that wouldn't apply to the intellectual property of a comic character, but the physical artwork itself…which legally belongs to the "offending" artist.

No, the only offense that Fan-Art COULD BE guilty of is Trademark Infringement: the unlicensed use of a registered trademark (image/word/etc) to sell your MASS PRODUCED product (prints, t-shirts, artbooks, etc) -- NOTE, original artwork (pages, sketches, commissions AREN'T protected under this! But…here's the rub.  Trademark is an elective process -- its not something inherently bestowed upon you for having thought, drawn, written or published anything.  You have to file a REQUEST for trademark registry and if the your request features the correct conditions, then you may obtain the registry so you may protect your new trademark.  But YOU must actively protect it.  The PTO DOES NOT do that for you!  You basically must police any infringements of your trademark all by yourself -- scouring for its use, in whatever capacity you may find.

Because if you don't…it's NOT trademark infringement!  That's right -- unless the bearer of the trademark acknowledges an infringement, there is NO infringement.  No third-party, unless operating under the instruction of the trademark holder (like a lawyer), can deem an act an infringement.  So, as long as publishers like Marvel/Disney or DC/Warner Bros. don't enforce their right of trademark, artist who create awesome pinups and prints of their characters are doing ABSOLUTELY nothing wrong!  

But let's play devils advocate for just a minute -- even if these artists were licensed -- how would you know?  Is there a sign they wear when exhibiting?  Maybe there's a special stamp made with custom ink?  No?  There's no actual way a layperson could know whether an artist has license to use a character or not.  So all the hubbub about shady practices could very well be unfounded!  And it's STILL Fan-Art! 

Now, having eliminated the moral/legal issue of Fan-Art, what else could be the problem?  

Honestly, I'd say misplaced ego.  If everything we do is Fan-Art, then there is an aspect of being a derivative work that creators don't want to acknowledge.  They feel their story is WHOLLY original (which applying the label of derivative works, by definition destroys).  

Now, I'm as full of myself as the next creator, but I can't consider any work I do within a medium I didn't create, a format I've yet to innovate, in a genre type I've loved for DECADES -- original.  Not wholly.  I believe that there's a level of derivation that occurs in EVERYTHING we do -- but having a unique or original source isn't what's cool -- it's execution of it!  We can have the same ideas (and many of us do) but HOW we execute them is what will make that character, that story, that art piece our own!

I'll give you proof, pulling work from just ONE MAN'S wide body of work: Alan Moore.
Here is a man who makes no beef about his appropriating others' creations and making something wonderfully new and fantastic with them!  Let's look at his work on…

Watchmen!  Regarded as the highest selling graphic novel of ALL TIME, Watchmen is well known for featuring analogue renditions of characters born from the Charleton Comics imprint (who had been enveloped into the DC Comics roster at the time).  Dr. Manhattan -- that's Captain Atom, Rorschach is The Question and Nite Owl is Blue Beetle -- it's been commented on at length and probably the LEAST obvious of what I'll list here.
Supreme!  With beginnings at the hands of Rob Liefeld, Supreme was one of the first Superman-esque characters to emerge from the Image imprint (characters like Mr. Majestic, Invincible, Omni-man and Captain Dynamo would follow in the years after).  And oh what a superman he became!  Under Moore's careful hand, he crafted the character into a commentary on the state of comics, breaking the fourth wall and delving deeply into the meta-textual conceits of the Silver Age!  Teamed up with cover artist extraordinaire (who added his own Superman symbolism to Supreme's design -- check out that "S" across his chest!), Moore's first run on Supreme won an Eisner -- AN EISNER!

And then there is the League of Extraordinary Gentlemen.  Moore took characters from popular Victorian-era books and just put them all together as a super-team.  No name changes, no visual revamps.  And it was a fantastic ride, spanning at least three graphic novels, covering everything from an invasion from Mars to James Bond's grandfather!  
So let me express, once again and without any hesitation -- being a derivative of something ISN'T BAD!  If you feel it cheapens the work, then you're operating with a HUUUUUUUGE chip on your shoulder and it needs to be SHOVED off ASAP!  Being able to divine from something else doesn't mean you haven't given some sincere effort to what you've created -- to a degree, you may have put in even more to make sure that what you've done ISN'T where it came from.  Execution will always be the better judge than origination -- just look at our phones: Apple didn't invent the cellular phone, but the iPhone is by far and away MUCH BETTER than the earliest models.

But if Fan-Art is Fan-Art and self-published books are Fan-Art, is that where it stops?  ABSOLUTELY NOT!  Fan is as far reaching as the fans themselves -- up to, including and beyond: Cosplayers, Nerd-Core Rappers, Film Shorts, Flipbooks -- THE LIST GOES ON AND ON AND ON!  

So, to close, lets stop using these titles as a means to either look down or envy one another's contribution to this medium that we ALL love and cherish so much! 

Friday, February 14, 2014

Comics Should Be Good reviews The Trouble w/Love!!!

Posted 2/13/14:
"All this month I’ll be reviewing different comic books by African-American creators, based on submissions from the actual creators of the comic books themselves. A quick note – since this month is so relatively short, I’ll be featuring an extra comic every week, for a total of 32 comics spotlighted! Here is a list of all the comics spotlighted so far!
Today we take a look at Victor Dandridge’s graphic novel, The Trouble With Love, drawn by Harold Edge and Ryan Carter.

This graphic novel is absolutely fascinating, in the sense that so rarely do you get a well-rounded look at infidelity in fiction PERIOD, but in a SUPERHERO comic? Victor Dandridge has a very ambitious story in mind here and I think he pulls it off nicely.
The concept of the comic is that a young man confronts his father over his father leaving the boy’s mother and re-marrying. Normal enough conflict in the world, only in this instance, the father also happens to be essentially Superman. And the boy has some futuristic ray gun trained on his father.
First off, what an awesome flashback sequence by Edge and Carter, right? They totally got across that it was a flashback without explicitly stating “this is a flashback,” all through some quality storytelling and some good use of colors.
Dandridge’s story is an emotional tale, as the Superman-esque hero struggles with his attraction for “the other woman,” but eventually gives into his feelings. And here is where Dandridge uses the superhero trope in a really clever way. Superheroes are already used to living double lives, right? So wouldn’t it be so much easier for a superhero to add a THIRD life in there? On the other side of the coin, the paparazzi can’t really get at a superhero when he is just by himself with his family in the suburbs, but when he is sneaking around with a woman in the city, there’s a better chance of being caught – and if they DO get caught, how can anyone know that the “other woman” isn’t the ONLY woman?
It’s a complicated tale with a powerful ending filled with strong artwork from Edge and Carter. It’s a story well-worth picking up.
You can buy it a lot of different places. Here it is at Amazon."
-Brian Cronin