My family lives here.
That may sound crazy to some of you but it's true. My family lives at the shows. These are people that I have had the pleasure of spending the last four years of my life with. We have supported each other in different ways over that time and I could not be more thankful. This weekend was incredibly special to me. I had not seen most of these people in two years or longer.
There are so many things I want to say about this show. If you haven't yet, I encourage you to check out the interview article with the head show runners from last week, as that is a great piece on the show itself and what it's all about. I would like to start off by saying thank you to Rob Humphrey, Pat Kawula, and Michael Ackerly for putting on an AMAZING show. I don't think a lot of people realize how much effort goes into making a comic con happen. I saw it for real on Sunday working as a volunteer. I ran hard from 11am to 7pm, running between tables making sure people had water, relieving guests for breaks, and talking to con goers. I have to say that in itself was a wonderfully positive experience. I was able to interact with people I would might have had the chance to. I was able to see a lot of great art on my runs. Corey Masolowski and Jason Plowman did an excellent job organizing volunteers. I have to say, I have NEVER seen another con have so many volunteers go above and beyond the call of duty. People making sure everyone got fed, was well hydrated, received breaks, helped people load up their merch after the show- I had no idea just how hard these people worked, and seeing that now, I can tell you this- if you are ever going to come to a show in Michigan: come to C4. You will not find a show that is run better. You just won't. They go all out for their guests and attendees. I am in awe by the magic these people make happen.
Speaking of magic, my absolute favorite moment from this weekend was the Gary Reed award announcement. Dan Dougherty was this year's recipient and there was some fierce competition for that award including the illustrious Victor Dandridge Jr., Dirk Manning, and Travis McIntire. When Dan received that award, the shock and emotion he was overcome with, it blew me away and I instantly welled up with tears of joy. Dan works so hard. I mean, he puts out some of the best stuff you'll ever get to see like Beardo comic strips that he worked on for ten years, and Touching Evil a horror thriller about a curse that kills evil people. He has had several collaborations with other people like DJ Corchin, Seth Damoose, Jay Fosgitt, Dirk Manning, and many more. He works as an instructor at The International School of Comics, teaching the next generation of comic artists. I have interviewed Dan before and have had the pleasure of watching him grow over the past few years and I have to say there is nothing greater for me. I love watching people grow. It's incredible. There are people like Dan that I always want to support because I want his success to continue. I reached out to Dan to ask him what it was like receiving this award and this is what he had to say:
"This has to be the most personally moving award I could possibly receive on every level. Each nominee is like comic brethren to me and deserves to win just as much as I did, the people responsible for creating and shaping what the award represents are near and dear to all of us, and the man whose spirit we are celebrating with the ceremony meant the world to everyone involved. I'm honored to be mentioned in the same breath as any of these people, and to be seen as someone who carries any part of Gary Reed's spirit to the next generation of comic creators. I'm constantly inspired by my fellow nominees and by Seth Damoose (last year's winner) and I hope to live up to the example they set for what our community can do when we take the time to help each other out." - Dan Dougherty (Beardo, Touching Evil)
I didn't get the full video of the award presentation but you can check out Dan receiving the award here.
One of the best things about this show was the panels. While I only got to attend one, it was a big one. It was on kickstarting comics. You couldn't ask for a better crew of people to talk about kickstarting comics: Derek Becker, K. Lynn Smith, Dirk Manning, Dan Dougherty, and Gene Ha. I have to say, this was one of the coolest panels ever because the entire time, gene was doing quick sketches of people in the crowd, and even hooked me up with one! He was also offering people a FREE issue of the reprint of Mae if they drew a picture for him. My friend Cora took advantage of this too and did this sweet quick sketch of Gene drawing here. Ha by Aah Cora!
I got my copy and was just in awe at his presence and kindness. I had a lovely conversation with him and am looking forward to reviewing Mae. Back to this panel though, there was some INVALUABLE advice in this panel. Particularly the points of watching shipping costs to overseas, not feeding the online trolls, being nice to your crowd and building it up, including bonus rewards, putting money back into projects....overall it was an impressive panel and I think watching this would benefit everyone- especially people who are interested in kickstarting their own comics. You can check out the panel on my YouTube channel!
I would like to say thank you in a big way to Tony Barry and Jared Whitaker of Superfly comics in Yellow Springs, Ohio. These guys managed to get ahold of all the Black Sad comics for me and hold them for several months and then haul them up to northern Michigan so I could pick them up from the show. If your retailer isn't that cool- make the switch! Also, Tony was cool enough to set aside other books relevant to my interests and thus ensuring he got all of my money. It should also be noted that the Superfly booth is the only place at a con where you can get serenaded.
I finally, FINALLY got to meet award winning author DJ Corchin this weekend! He is an amazing writer of many children's books as well as a superbly talented illustrator. I chose to pick up, "Do You Speak Fish?" from him and this book won a Nautilus Book Award and is illustrated in watercolor by Dan Dougherty. What is so great about DJ's books are they teach important life lessons to children and adults alike. They make us stop for a moment a view things differently. Do You Speak Fish? Is about learning to properly handle barriers of communication. It was beautifully done. If you have kids, consider checking out all of DJ's work. There is something for everyone!
Another find I managed to pick up is Kitty Game- written by Comfort Love and Adam Withers, watercolors and pencils by Corinne Roberts, and digital colors by Travis Perkins and Will Jones. Let me tell you, Corinne makes magic happen with watercolor. I am blown away every time I see her post something online. This book was a lt of fun, all about the big imagination of a cat, and his love for his owner Dave. This cat tackles dragons, mice, space aliens, and a crazy mean lady trying to hurt Dave! I had a lot of fun reading this book, and if you like cats- this book is totally for you! You can check it out for FREE online here.
I also had the chance of meeting Adam Ferris. Adam is a super talented artist who had his hands in some illustrative work for, "This Nightmare Kills Fascists," edited by Eric Palicki and Matt Miner. I will be tackling this book at a later date with a separate interview with Eric. You can find it on Amazon, your local retailer, Comixology, or by hitting up one of the great guys at a show. Adam is working on another anthology The Good Fight. It is about taking a stand against racism and bigotry. It features over 20 stories from both comic book legends and talented new comers. All proceeds will go to charities that help victims and change laws. Kickstarter coming in early July, and make sure you visit the Vault Comics booth at SDCC for an exclusive Ashcan. You can check out Adam's work here.
I picked up one of the limited copies of the C4 exclusive release of Cosa Nostra by Dirk Manning and Dan Dougherty. Now this was a comic I have been longing for. I really enjoy horror, noir, crime type books and this gave me all of those flavors and more! This book is about twin brothers and one of them is using the other to carry out his path of revenge from the afterlife! Dirk and Dan make a heck of a team. Dirk always just blows me away when he writes. You can tell that both of these guys were excited be working on this project. The pacing was perfect, the time it was set in, the costumes, the lighting, the way it was lettered, and the fact that it was all done in black and white- just floored me. Dan's art is absolutely GORGEOUS. It is not available for digital release yet, but I bet if you found either of these guys at a show or online, they may be able to hook you up with a copy! I am told that it will receive a wide release in July, so be on the look out! You can check out Dirk's work here, find exclusive previews and other goodies here. You can find more from Dan by going here, or check out his killer (literally) kickstarter here.
I just finished up read Mae by Gene Ha. What a great comic. I had a chance to talk to him briefly about it at the show and this is a reprint of issue #1 and the series will be releasing again in June from Lion Forge. Both volumes one and two are available for order through your local comic shop. This comic is great for several reasons. First off, I love the idea. Mae is about a girl named Mae and her sister Abbie. Abbie disappears for nine years when they were children, when she comes back- she tells Mae she has been in other worlds fighting off monsters. Naturally, Mae thinks she's full of B.S. until a monster that has piggybacked through the portal attacks her and Abbie has to fend it off. Apparently in this other world Abbie was a cat herder, and there was a sneak peek of those cats, and that alone is enough to sell me. I am a HUGE Wizard of Oz fan (especially the darker Return to Oz) and the thought of traveling to other worlds and having that fantasy and conflict involved is just so beautiful to me. It's romantic in a way. It opens up the doors to big imagination and endless possibilities. Gene did such a great job writing this, the pacing was on point- and he really nailed their personalities in a way that makes you feel like you are there. Gene masterfully creates emotion not only through script, but in his art as well. He captures facial expressions and body language and really brings characters to life. I am excited to keep reading this series! You can check out more about Mae and Gene Ha by going here.
I also picked up a copy of the table top game Grimoire Quest by Tom Savage. Grimoire Quest is a fantasy themed war game. Up to 6 players take on the persona of wizards like the Fire Wizard, Earth Wizard, Shadow Wizard etc. Each player is in an all out war to claim the lost pages of the Master Grimoire book. Using monsters, weapons, trickery, and spells to disarm your enemies and destroy them. There is a narrative story element that sets the imagination in every round, as well as playing a pivotal point in each round with special rules or directions to follow. The game features a very unique "zombie" element which allows certain times for players to raise defeated players back in the game as their personal zombie minions. This allows for maximum involvement in the game from beginning to end. I am looking forward to playing it! You can check it out by going here.
There were many comic and media guests there including Jill Thompson, Gene Ha, Mike Grell, Angel Medina, Tony Isabella, Billy West, and Jim Steranko. Every one of them that I had a moment to talk to while volunteering were genuinely happy to be there, and they were excited to be talking to their fans and friends as they told stories, shook hands, had photos, filled commission, and of course autographs. This was a great bunch of people that were personable and just wonderful to be around. Derek Becker of Comics Pros and Cons also did panels with Mike Grell and Billy West which will be published on his website in the coming weeks. If you haven't had a chance to check out Derek's podcast, I highly recommend it. He is an amazing interviewer and brings incredible guests on his show.
The show managed to raise over a combined $2,000 for the Hero initiative and the Traverse Bay Children's Advocacy Center. There are any great things about this show to begin with, but the fact that they go above and beyond to give back to charity is really great. The 501st legion table was selling these patches for $10 as part of those charity sales, and several artists participated in the Friday night Steve Dillon Drink n Draw where they created pieces that were donated to silent auction for the charity funds as well. The fact that these artists participated in that and were willing to donate their art to such a wonderful cause is so heartwarming. Tony Miello, who just knocked it right out of the park designing the patches for the kids fund. Make sure you check out his up and comic wrestling comics here.
There was also some amazing cosplay, and two contests held. One for adults and one for kids. The winners for the adults received $200 for first place, $100 for second, and $50 for third. The kids costume contest participants all received prizes from the 501st Legion. I cannot say enough good things about the 501st legion and all of the wonderful things they do for kids.
Here were the winners this year:
I'd like to give a really big shout out to Jay Fosgitt who just is an absolute gem to any kids or adults that come to his table. Jay is the creator and illustrator of a magical book called Bodie Troll that follows Bodie the troll around and his keeper Cholly on all of their adventures! Jay has a wonderful puppet of Bodie that he takes with him to conventions. Watching him interact with children is just such a sweet thing. I will be reviewing the latest book from Jay in another article. He has also done several covers for Marvel and works on IDW's My Little Pony. You can check out more of Jay's work here.
To Dirk Manning, my friend who has been there for me more times than I can count. He said something to me this weekend that really stuck and I wanted to share it because I think it would do well for others too. We were discussing how I was finishing up my degree and I was just so tired and worn out, but about to cross the finish line. He said, "yeah, man. I have two master's degrees. I get it." I said, "Dirk, how in the hell did you get through it?" he said to me, "you know Wylie Coyote, and how he would run off the edge of the cliff and just keep going into the air?" I said, "yeah of course." he said, "well... that's what you do. You don't look down and you just keep going. Keep looking forward to that end point, and keep moving." Thanks buddy, I will carry that with me.
I asked for moments from other people to be shared that were their favorites and this is what I got.
Tony Barry, "Brian O'Halloran's heel turn at karaoke was legend"
While he put on a good show, the ultimate winner of the "Cherryoke contest" was Victor Dandridge Jr.
Andy Shaggy Korty: "My favorite moment - all the hugs I got when we got there.
My second favorite - when Dan won the Gary Reed Award."
Richard Sparks: "My son asked for advice (drawing hands specifically). Pens and paper began to flurry with people trying to help him find his way. You could totally do worse than Gene Ha, Curt Neeb, Angel Medina, and Jay Jacot."
Teresa Mork, "Jill Thompson being amazing and sweet."
Melissa Wong-Becker: "Sketch battle fun."
And as always, one of my favorite moments is watching Seth Damoose just kill it on this Harley piece:
And to everyone else this weekend, thank you so much for coming out and hanging. It had been two long years of not seeing some of you, and others meeting face to face for the first time. I cannot tell you how happy it makes me to see everyone come together at these events and really make everyone feel like family.
Please consider joining us next year! We love seeing fresh faces!