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

Friday, January 31, 2014


Some times it seems like, with all the many directions I'm being pulled on a regular basis, that I NEVER get anything done.  And then there are times where things serendipitously fall into place so well that I'm able to knock out a number of things at once!  This week happens to be one of those!

Just in time for Valentine's Day!

We're bringing back our 8bit Couples in new trading card sizes!  Featuring 24 couples from comics and beyond, you can show some love to the geek(s) in your life!
Get an assorted pack (6 for only $5) or a whole set (for only $20)!

Not a comic fan?  Want something a little more…traditional?  
We've got these awesome Valentines for you to give out!  
Get an assorted pack (6 for only $5) or all 9 cards for only $8!


Just email/Paypal to place your order!

From love to Lovecraft…!

I've been asked before to do a piece celebrating the Lovecraftian Elder-god, Cthulhu -- but you don't just jump off into something like that halfcocked!  I'm glad I waited, this one was a little difficult, but I think I kinda nailed it!  Patience is a virtue! 

**BONUS** I did it on Horror-scribe, writing maestro and my good friend Dirk Manning's birthday, so it was a super-win for the world!

You can nab this Cthulhu design on  a t-shirt EXCLUSIVELY thru our V:IPixels store on!

Thursday, January 30, 2014

Things I Love!

From the pages of this week's edition of the Columbus Alive!

Victor Dandridge’s eyes bulged like The Hulk’s transforming muscles when the breakfast plate named after the Marvel comic character arrived during our interview this week at SuperChef’s. The meal was huge and appropriately named (two green waffles sandwich an egg, cheese, sausage and candied bacon). Other meals at the Broad Street restaurant are likewise inspired by comics, which is one reason he loves the place (he ate there twice the first day). When he’s not at SuperChef’s, he’s usually creating his own comics, like “Kinderguardians,” which is “essentially the Muppet Babies meets the Justice League,” he said. The title will be available in April at most comic shops in Columbus. These are a few of his (other) favorite things.
VladTV interviews on YouTube is a hip-hop news interview series. It’s kind of genius. It’s introduced me to a lot of different long-standing artists, and some of their ideas of music fascinate me. I was introduced to Charlamagne Tha God, a radio personality and one of the most prolific minds in terms of hip-hop culture in my opinion. It’s very interesting to hear his takes on things; he’s so brutally honest, I love it.
Big Fun in the Short North
I found this store over Christmas break, and it changed my life. It's the whole store of my childhood just sitting there — it’s dangerous. I only go in there when I absolutely don’t have anything else to do, because I could spend hours there; it’s ridiculously great. There's a picture of me laid out on the floor looking at something in the cases. My friend took a picture of it like a jerk, got me looking ridiculous spread out on the floor.
The work of Natasha Allegri
She did this thing called “Bee and PuppyCat.” It's this quirky little cartoon series that actually, I think, fits very perfectly within my wife's mind. If you were to catalog and dialogue the inner monologue of my wife, this is what it sounds like. It’s ridiculous. Everybody should take a second to check it out. Grownups will get a kick out of it. Kids will probably laugh, but the grownups will be like, “Whaa, that’s amazing!”
SuperChef’s The “Hulk”
I'm almost afraid to finish this [meal] because I know I have work to do and it’s going to put me to sleep. They put itis in their food — I tease them about that all the time. It's a different experience, which I really like as a comic book person, and I do love me some foods. I love the mix of those two things. It's amazing what they've done. It’s crazy good, and they have good music, too. How do you not like that?
They’re a very innovative source for new art and wearables. It's kind of a cool thing to see a mix of art and fashion on a local level. I've had plenty of conversations with them via Twitter, and it's really cool to have that accessibility to something so global. My store site is VIPixels; you can definitely see some of my pieces up there. I just put up some Valentine’s pieces. [Phone vibrates]And actually they just tweeted me just now, speak of the devil.
Victor Dandridge Jr.
Comic book writer/creator/publisher
Vantage:Inhouse Productions
By Justin McIntosh Columbus Alive
From the January 30, 2014 edition

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

I Want to Draw…!

"Just Do It."  The consummate motivational phrase, wrapped in a branding slogan, tucked in truth.

Since the age of 10, I've wanted to be a comic book artist -- to bust out amazingly epic tales, rendered in graphite imagery that captures imaginations much like the artists/writers/stories/books that inspired me.  It has been my main creative pursuit for the last two decades -- even when I hit a creative wall with my own illustration abilities.

"I thought you were just a writer."

For the last few years, I've been predominantly known in a writer/publisher capacity only.  A while back, I felt that my skills as an artist kinda went stagnant, far from the level that I wanted (and truly believed was necessary) to become a comic professional.  So I kinda quit.  I would draw things here and there, but certainly not to the fervor that my 10yr old self would've wanted and even further from what my 30yr old self should be comfortable doing.  My self-criticisms were so strong that out of the many books I've had a hand in creating (a total of 12 titles), I've only seriously contributed art to 4 of them and maxing out at only 33pgs (out of over 300!).

What's the problem?

Coming into comics in the early 90's, my idea of "good/great" art was in the super-dynamic-hyper-crosshatching filled styles of Art Adams, Jim Lee and Rob Liefeld (that's right…Rob Liefeld).  It colored my artistic reverence for YEARS, undermining the skill of earlier innovators like Frank Miller, Walt Simonson, John Byrne and yes…even Jack 'The King' Kirby.  But I've matured since then, discovering what was so mind-boggling awesome about their work and how they paved the way for the high-kinetic art I was so enamored with.

But gaining that understanding did nothing for the sense of drawing style that I craved.  In fact, it's somewhat fed into my stagnation -- where once I had a particularly influential style that I was adamantly trying to mimic, my art sensibilities were exploded open and I was susceptible to a whole range of comic arts.  The influx made me a sponge, able to take in an appreciate what I saw, but not exactly capable of generating a satisfactory style of my own.

Gaining ground.

I've realized that I've created an unfair slant for myself.  So keen on my understanding of what proper "comic art" should be, I've forgotten the beauty of simply making some comics.  But ladies and gents, I HAVE SEEN THE LIGHT!  I'm taking myself back to square one -- the truth is, I KNOW how to draw.  I've shared my insights enough to help others draw better.  What I need to do is be more comfortable with the way I draw.  Stop trying to mold my art output to the stylings of someone else's voice, but to truly put stock in my own.

So, consider this a warning!  Expect some random (seeming) comic booky goodness to be coming out of yours truly.  I've got some stories that I'm itching to play with and I won't be waiting "till I grow up" any longer!  Thanks for your time and listening to me ramble -- it's time to get back to the drawing board!

Sunday, January 26, 2014

UnConventional Goes to Video!

Last year I had a thought: What if I'm going to be more known for my ideas, than my work?  It was kind of a harrowing experience -- propositioning a preemptive discounting all the work I've done (or will ever do).  But sucked up my fear and decided that if that was going to be my lot in this field, then I would do so with gusto and charm!  And what better way to do that than with VIDEO!

Since catching a few of the Vlad TV interviews on YouTube a while ago, I've been intrigued by what sort of energy using video could bring to my musings through UnConventional.  An informal convo about my personal views on comics and the industry could be plenty fun…so I did one!   Let me know what you think!

UnConventional Episode #1 - Indie vs. Indy!

Monday, December 30, 2013

Stepping Up & Stepping Out -- the 2014 Plan Begins NOW

Writer.  Designer.  Publisher.  Educator…I think I am a serial entrepreneur.

I've been quite fortunate over the last three years to spin my talents in these arenas into growing franchises -- each with its own standards of excellence and success.

But I want more.  

Scratch that…I want to DO more.  More with my vision, more with my voice -- more.  But the truth is, I've reached a funding cap that I just wasn't able to overcome thru the WHOLE of 2013.  But in more than a few hours time, that year will end and with it, goes its hinderances, restraints and excuses.  In 2014 --- I'm getting my legs back and the first project I'm going to KICKOFF will help seed my endeavors throughout the year!

Our first campaign:
Last summer, I began a very modest graphic t-shirt design brand called, GEEKing -- a visual celebration of the abundance of nerd-culture (i.e. "Geek") now prominent in pop awareness.  Featured on the Tumblr site and sold exclusively online through, the first collection (a total of seven designs) was finished this past fall, retailing at the average price of $36 per shirt.  

For our first campaign, we want to get you in a GEEKing shirt (featuring the crown & specs logo), but at the discounted rate of $20 (for sizes S-XL) $25 (for sizes 2X-3X) -- that's at least 30% off*!  To cover the cost of production for two projects (Ol' Crazy & the 40oz of Death/ Wonder Care), we're aiming to sell 100 shirts in the month of January!  

*Discounted price is ONLY available thru this KICKSTARTEDForever campaign -- purchases thru will be at full retail value.  

So grab a shirt, spread the word and help me get more done in 2014!!

Click on the KICKSTARTEDForever tab for more info on what our first projects will be and how to get started!