Australian Comics Panel (L to R): Nicola Scott, Jon Sommariva, David Yardin, Tristan Jones, Wayne Nicols, W.Chew Chan, Dean Rankine, Doug Holgate, and Me. I know, Right?
(Photo taken by Liam Merrick)
As I sit here frantically repacking my suit case for a trip to San Diego to research more for my thesis, meet some of my comic book heroes, touch base with some Editors, and get some feedback on my more recent comic book scribblings, I reflect briefly on the inaugural Melbourne Oz Comic-Con, for which I was an official Guest on the bill with some of the most talented writers and artists in this country, some fantastic international comic book guests, TV and movie stars, and two gentlemen by the names of Patrick Stewart, and one Mr Stan Lee. Yes, I am dumbstruck that I was on the same bill as one of my comic book inspirations, and the chance to meet him was one of the major moments I couldn't wait for.
Now, in several hours, I need to be on my way to the airport, and so I will be making my best attempts to keep this recap brief. However, the people that know me most are clearly aware that often my optimism outweighs reality in regards to time, and keeping within the intended word limits. Yes, my world is a John Woo gun fight: plenty of Action, but somehow a lot of slow motion. But I digress...
Let's try and cover things chronological-like, and if I miss anyone, I will blame the 5 other things I'm currently concentrating on at the moment to make sure I forget nothing for this flight, and that I'm yet to have a good night sleep post- Melbourne.
So there's two things I like to do when I get a chance to do what I like in Melbourne: Visit All Star Comics on Lonsdale Street, and South Pacific Health Club on Bourke Street. Troy and Mitch, it was great to catch up with them, their shop is a huge supporter of local Australian comics, and I look forward to having the latest Soldier releases don the shelves there. I also followed my tradition and picked up a Kirby book: 'Essential Rawhide Kid', which I look forward to reading on my friggin' long flight to LAX.
As much as I desperately needed a workout after several days of being tied to the computer to knock over the latest freelance design gig, I was ultimately embarrassed when I accidently let out a little too much frustration on the gym's heavy bag set up. It seems I was a little too overzealous when I finally got a chance to put on some gloves and blow off some steam...and snap the thick bolts holding up the Bracket arm. *sigh. At least the bag missed me when it hit the floor, and after returning the gloves to reception, and a handful of washers and broken parts, I sheepishly made my way downstairs to play around on some fantastic equipment. A slick, stylish setup, and easy to get on what you need at that time of the evening.
Anyways, while checking in to the Hotel, I bumped into nice guys David Yardin and Jon Sommariva, down from Sydney. Getting to hang out with these guys in parts over the weekend was really cool- a lovely couple of guys, and David's "Vin Diesel" story is bound to go viral soon. Or at least earn him a fortune on the lucrative Dating book market ;P Jon, well, I made an idiot of myself while waiting for the elevator, stupidly demonstrating to Tristan Jones how to take off the wrist band from the Platinum attendee VIP party. This resulted in an unexpected back fist into Jon Sommariva's stomach. If there was any doubt that I may or may not be invited back as a future guest of the con, all doubts were erased then and there :P I was the butt of many jokes for the rest of the evening.
At the party and throughout the con, I would just like to give a shout out to the talented people who I had a chance to hang out with or catch up with, for which I am very grateful: Andrew Constant, the nice guy author of 'Torn', Christian Read, for which the irony of the last name is not lost on me, as he is the writer for a heap of fantastic reads, including 'The Eldritch Kid', Unmasked and the upcoming 'Rombies' project with Doug Holgate. Speaking of Doug Holgate,...Doug Holgate. What a top guy. I which I still had hair like that. Or in general. Anyways, we had a laugh or two onstage where we shared several seats between us during the panel, and the idea to mimic the 'Invincible Iron Man Gene Colan homage' Soldier Legacy cover in a picture, that for all intents and purposes, looks like we're attempting to spectacularly soil ourselves on the con floor. Never mind.
Nicola Scott, Stewart McKenny, Dean Rankine, Wayne Nichols, all wonderful to see again. Wayne, I will get to a D & D in Brisbane, I swear! Dean, I took a bullet for you on Friday night, you owe me ;P But again, thank you for the fantastic Simpson-esque Captain America sketch. I will hook you up next time for sure. At the party and post- party quiet drinks, meeting Agnes Garbowska, Francis Manapul and Scott Allie was awesome.
They are such lovely and down to Earth people. I say that a lot about the various people I encounter at the conventions. Must speak volumes about the professional comic book community in general. Anyway, Mr Allie's folio review on the Sunday morning of the con was very kind and very enlightening, and although in many respects made me feel like an amateur, it really pleased me to hear not only the positives and constructive criticism of my more recent pages, but also hear what was NOT mentioned- meaning I can take stock knowing that I've improved on elements that needed attention last time I had my sequential art looked at, and as Mr Allie indicated, there are a couple of thing to look at to "take it to the next level".
Sarah and the Gentleman, Colin Wilson.
As my concentration begins to fade here, I realize I have barely scratched the surface of the fun and games that occurred at the con. I'm sorry folks, I need to be up in 3 hours and I still have much to pack. Let me just say a huge thank you to the Following people who made my weekend fantastic: Sarah- my self appointed "financial adviser"- Adviser in a sense that she often made commonsense points like "you should cut off your sketch list now", and then having agreed moments before, promptly take on another one because it was a Kirby character :P. Thank you so much for your help and company on the weekend. I hope you had an awesome, albeit exhausting time. Jason Franks, great to see you, brother, great to catch up as always. Tristan Jones, there are some nice guys in comics, and then there's some really nice guys. Tristan is neither.
A blurry Tristan and Sarah. With a special cameo appearance by my Elbow.
A top guy; we had a few laughs, and it's always great to talk to him. And steal all his rubber bands. Speaking of really nice guys; Bobby N., Tom Taylor, Wolfgang Bylsma, it's never long enough to catch up and chat, but at least we touched base all the same. Tom, your Eric Roberts stories were epic. And Gents, congratulations on the sellout at Gestalt. My close friend Chewie Chan, great to see you again mate, Hayden Fryer, Paul Abstruse's Sunday cameo, Brendan Halyday, I think the thing about these cons is, the more successful and busy we all get, the less we see of each other. Never mind. Who else...errr..... look, I know I'm going to forget one or two people here, I'm sorry. Please don't take it personal, no doubt I'll remember your name in a half-comatose daze at 30,000 feet about the ocean, and unable to do nothing about it. Take stock knowing that I'm concerned about this, rather than not caring at all, yeah?
Chewie and I. Man, my camera sucks!
(ok, losing patience with the whole "link' thing. Just do what I've been doing and google the rest of these fine folks, m'kay?)
Finally putting faces to names, such as Steve Sparke of Fec, the very cool Ryan Lindsay, Greg Curcio with the James Chimp game/comic (something to keep an eye out for) to name a few.
Ok, I look a little manic. In my defense, that's Stan Lee. You get one shot NOT to blink. Mr Lee's reply: "Good Job". Thanks sir, but not really. I take terrible pictures under pressure :P
The con organizers, and volunteers, a huge thank you to you. Particularly Carissa, Rand, and Cordy for all of your help, support and running around, including the other volunteers at the show who I'd met before or on the day, getting water, directing traffic etc. It was a first time show in Melbourne, and with two massive guests alone, and an unsympathetic media/fan contingent, I humbly believe you still managed a fantastic event. Anyone who complained about the waiting, I sympathize with you too. But please understand- San Diego Comic Con lines are often longer, more unwieldy and part and parcel of the con experience. Don't let negative press or your first culture shock to the world of fandom ruin any future con trips.Unfortunately, Mr Lee is in his 90's and can only sign so fast (which mind you was very fast! He is the hardest working guest I've ever seen at a con. Straight of a plane from LA to do so many signatures and photos (plus a panel or two) on day 1, plus a fan dinner, then 9-6 the next day again. In his 90's. Inspirational in itself. To have Mr Lee also thank me for giving him a copy of my book as a gift to him, show genuine enthusiasm over the images, and say how appreciative of my work and comments about his and Jack Kirby's influence in my work as he reached out to shake my hand, really blew me away. It's nice to think that perhaps Mr Lee may read my book, coming from a source of inspiration that he helped produce, way back when I was 12 years old, reading his book "How to Draw Comics the Marvel Way". A green room highlight was Sir Patrick Stewart, who when I asked how he was going, he simply replied "F***ing freezing...", with which we, along with Chewie, and Wolfgang, chatted about the weather, air con, and airlines. Straight to the top of my 'Awesome Actors' list.
All in all, the fans on the floor were fantastic, and I enjoyed talking to all of you. Thank you for the virtual sellout of my prints, I ran out of 3 of my 5 types on the first day, and was down to only 1 lot of a half batch by lunchtime day two. The prints were a first for me, and I'm happy with the response to them. I must remember to redo more for the next convention appearance, and update with some new images. And, Soldier Legacy books, I barely have any left for possible store distribution, meaning All Star Comics and Gifts of the Geek might get the last of what I have in stock. Keep you all posted. Thank you to my publisher, Baden Kirgan of Black House comics, for providing me with all the stock and arranging freight. Thanks jason for bringing it down too.
The Ghost Riders Dave and Fez. I want that Shirt, Dave!
Special mentions to buddies Bruce Moyle, Dee Pirko, Daniel Zachariou, Stephan Ford, Wendy Keulemans, Bron Mitchell of WAHM bags (thank you!), Skye, who said hello at the show, the fantastic Illustrator Colin Wilson, Samuel David (writer of the graphic novel 'College Hill' with Wayne Nichols), James Andre of Milk Shadow books, Shaun Paulet of Comics2Movies, James Gilarte who had a chat, and the wonderful fans and friends who always humble me with their support of my work, such as Roger, Liam, Wayne, Stephan, Paul, Scott, and especially Dave, Fez, Julie and Amy, who were there before the beginning, and who make the most noise. Thank you guys.
The last 'Justice League' print...
The last 'Batman' print...
The last "Marvel 1962" print...
The FIRST Luke Cage print (where's the love, people? ;P "Sweet Christmas!")
The very last 'Punisher' print, cleaned up off the wall.
To all the new fans too, I thank you, and I also apologies for all the thank yous and well wishing I tend to do. I guess at the end of the day, I'm thankful for this part of my life that allows me to do something that I love, for the people around me for their support, to have the honour and privilege to talk to peers and top of their game professionals, some who I can call "friends", and to have a growing number of supporters who seem to be genuinely entertained by what I'm attempting to do on paper. You bring me happiness with every nice word, every nice piece of feedback. No amount of negativity, jealousy or indifference from others can take that away.
I look at the clock. I'm going to be so tired on this plane. Oh well. This was something I wanted to do while Oz Comic-Con was fresh in people's minds, and again, I know it's very rambly, and if I missed a name, take heed in the words of the awesome Jim Kelly from 'Enter the Dragon': "Please understand, if I missed anyone, it's been a big day. I'm a little tired'.
I look forward to next years event for sure.
Steve's Francis Manapul 'Etrigan' head sketch, and my 'Vandal Savage' head sketch, for the beginnings of a very cool 'Demon Knights' jam piece.
Con Sketch: Thanos!
Avenger's vs X-Men sketch cover- Frank Castle: Referee ;P
Con sketch: Poison Ivy
A somewhat 'What If' sketch request- What is 'The Soldier' was in the Navy...thanks for the pick, Paul :D
A challenge- Jack Kirby's Kamandi sketch as quick as possible...
Speaking of quick...
Well, 3am, up at 5:30am, off to airport, then to LA. So the next time you'll "see" me, I'll have even more photos, and little stories to tell. And hopefully, the first pieces of art roughs for 'Soldier Legacy #5' due out later this year.