Archive for August, 2014

At this very moment, FXX is about halfway through their Every Simpsons Ever Marathon, and I am already worried about what I’m going to watch when it ends.

Sure, HuffPo can tell us that they’re ruining the whole thing by meddling with the aspect ratio, but does anyone really care? Maybe some do, but I sure as Hell don’t. All I really care about is this blissful trip down memory lane that I’m taking these last few days.  I can’t even begin to count how many times I’ve said, “This is a classic! This is the one where Homer…” I know I throw that word “classic” around a lot these days (because I’m so damn old), but some of those early Simpsons episodes truly are. I mean, they’re almost 25 years old, so I think that technically qualifies as “classic.”

Seriously, though, I think when a show becomes an institution like this (I’ve had students ask me, “Is that show still on?”) it’s easy to forget how great and different it was in the beginning.  It started off as an animated take on the wacky, family sitcom, and also a satire of the middle-class American lifestyle. Over the years, it kind of just became wacky. But not in a “Modern Family” kind of way, where they think they can just add a gay couple and hilarity will ensue. It’s hard for me to say it’s a “situational comedy” at all, really, because the characters on the Simpsons create the situations. And the situations can be anything, because that’s the beauty of animation. The characters don’t grow old or tired. They don’t have to put shopping bags in front of the pregnant women. They can have aliens come from space and interact with the characters and not have it be weird. They can have NSYNC guest star (as I saw last night) and interact with Bart’s boy band, and people buy it. You would never buy that on a regular sitcom. I would think it was a lame, ratings-grabbing stunt, like when Bill Cosby and his family hung out with Stevie Wonder. Incidentally, I’m sure ardent fans know that the Simpsons originally aired opposite the Cosby Show, and so they even created a character, Dr. Hibbert, to spoof Healthcliff Huxtible; the doctor who laughs at everything. They’ve also spoofed Cosby numerous times, which is a great segue into one of my favorite Simpsons quotes:

Which can also segue into why I’m writing this thing in the first place: Simpsons quotes. I have long-time friends with whom I can have entire conversations made up of just quotes from this show. I don’t even think we realize we’re doing it.  Some of my favorites being the Krusty The Clown, raspy, down-trodden “Oooohhh,” Homer’s “Mmmmmm” when he’s thinking of something delicious, and the Marge grumble, which can also be spelled “Mmmmm,” but pronounced much differently. and of course, another all-time favorite:

Those friends and I are part of what can be called The Simpsons Generation, because this is our show.  We watched it as children, and obviously can still enjoy it today.  There aren’t many shows that i can say that about.  I mean, I can watch reruns of Seinfeld and still laugh, but I pretty much have memorized all nine seasons of that.  I can watch old cartoons for the nostalgia factor, but I don’t enjoy them in the same way i did.  You could say that watching the first season of The Simpsons is nostalgia, but it’s different because you can see how it has changed, you can see how you’ve changed, and you can laugh at the ridiculousness.  I can see now why people from my parents’ generation talked about M*A*S*H and shows like that with such reverence. But The Simpsons, with 78 Emmy nominations and 31 wins, and even an Academy Award nomination in the Animated Shorts category, still trumps them all.

I know there are people who never got into it, and who aren’t buying what I’m selling, and that’s cool. But i was about 13 when the series debuted, and I remember watching the first episode, many times, on VHS.  I know who shot Mr. Burns.  I know who does most of the voices. I even had a Goddamn Bart Simpson T-shirt:

Who the Hell are you?

Who the Hell are you?

But I never even realized how much of an an impact a silly, animated show had on my life, and what a fan I really was, until now. The good news is is it’s not too late.  I have six more days.

Just one more quote before I go:

  Heh-heh. Classic.

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Boston Comic-Con 2014 is in the books, and it was the biggest one yet, as thousands and thousands waited in lines for hours to get in, and as far as I could tell, everyone who passed by my table was having an amazing time. My League of Ordinary Gentlemen Podcast mates and I were able to spread the word to the masses, and even managed to record an episode during the madness that was the convention.

The one drawback for me was that I wasn’t able to sell as many copies of Robin Hood as I wanted. It’s obviously not about the money, and I can say with much pride that those that did buy a copy seemed to think it was pretty cool,so that’s awesome. But with the thousands and thousands of people there, I was hoping to move a few more. But I understand. It’s hard to compete for people’s entertainment dollars with that guy from Buffy.

Here’s the funny thing; as happy as everyone is that all these comic book movies and TV shows are out there to soak up, there is a group of comic people who think that it’s not so good. These people think that these johnnie-come-lateleys don’t really understand, and will never understand, why this stuff really is cool, because to these newbies, it’s kind of just a fad. While I don’t agree with them, I do kind of understand their point, because on Saturday, I watched literally thousands of people walk by my table and not buy my little comic book. I kept thinking, “They don’t want this book they’ve never heard of.  They want a Groot action figure.” And who could blame them? Not me, certainly, because I myself purchased a Groot action figure!

I am Groot!

I am Groot!

But is it because of this market saturation that I didn’t sell more comics?  I don’t think so, because there is certainly enough room for all of us in the industry. But it does change the game somewhat.

Before you think I’m getting all sad panda, though, let me say that I did have a fun time, a lot was accomplished, and it was a tremendous learning experience. And let me say thanks to everyone who came by the Leaguepodcast table and a special thanks to those folks who I made “promise” to listen to the podcast in exchange for a grab bag of free comics. I’m gonna hold you to that!

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The guys and gal of the League!

I touched briefly on it in my last post, but as I am just a couple days away from manning the table at my first comic convention in almost ten years, I was thinking a lot about how much has changed over all those years, and how much hasn’t.

One aspect of the business that comes to mind is that, while it’s easier to make your comic these days, like I did with the help of Kickstarter and Print-On-Demand services and being able to find collaborators online, it is also harder to stand out from the thousands of other people who have done what I have. Years ago, when John Hunt and I were doing the Secret Monkey as a comic, there were a lot of independent comic creators, for sure, but we somehow managed to spread the word better by handing out bags with our own Mad Libs in them at conventions than I have in 2014 for Robin Hood with Facebook and Twitter. There’s just too much information out there for anyone to notice one comic book that is available in one store (and online!!!) Maybe I need to come up with Robin Hood Mad Libs.

Another thing that comes to mind is how creators get people to buy their comic.  The best sales tactic I can remember came form a gentlemen who created a book called My Monkey’s Name is Jennifer named Ken Knudtson. Ken would pour you a shot of Vodka if you bought his book, so I would naturally seek him out at every big con I went to back then, because how do you get through a con without a little sumpthin’. So, as you can see, it worked like a charm. I don’t even know if Ken is still making comics, but if so, I hope he’s coming to Boston this weekend!

But, if you’re someone who doesn’t want to hide a handle of vodka underneath your convention table, or can’t really afford to buy a handle of vodka for every convention, how do you get people who don’t know you to care and give you money for your book? No, really.  I need to know. Because even after our mad Lib wave died down, we tried selling books at cons, and I remember giving my pitch to people for long minutes, and they seem interested, and they flip through, then decide it’s not worth it and walk away. I’d rather you treated me like those protesters who are looking for you to sign their petition out on the street and run in the other direction than have me do my spiel for five minutes and then decide you don’t want the book.

There are different kinds of people who will buy it, though.  Some are banking on the fact that your book will become the next Walking Dead and they can send their kid to college because they have a signed first printing of Robin Hood #1. That is highly unlikely, of course, but hey, their money is good here. There are those who hear the spiel and genuinely think it’s a cool concept and decide it’s worth a read, and those people are really awesome in my book.

However, my favorites are those who know and love comics, and want to support the little people in the industry. They know how much work went into your book, and they want to show you their appreciation by forking over a few dollars, and hey, if they like it, they might seek out your second issue.  Those are my favorite because they come to the con with money in hand, and they are willing to spend it, and they are just about the least pretentious and unapologetic people you will ever meet. They just love this stuff and they appreciate what you are doing so much, that they will support you in any way they can.

photo 4 And thanks to you!!!!

One of my favorite convention-selling stories was at an independent comic expo, and my friend was approached by a creator who handed him a comic, saying, “Hey, check this out!” Thinking it was a free sample, my friend thanked him and started to put it in his bag, until the creator said, “Uh, that’s three dollars.” My friend then reluctantly took out his wallet and handed him the money. He’s a much nicer guy than me. It’s sad how little sympathy I have for my fellow creators sometimes.

But in all seriousness, I guess he felt like that was what he had to do, and that is part of the problem. How else do you get noticed? Personally, I am so fearful of being like that guy that I go completely to the other extreme and thus, have barely sold any copies of Robin Hood, with the exception of my Free Comic Book Day signing, where I was the only game in town that day.

This weekend, at Boston Comic-Con, I will be one of many. And as I know, that is both good and bad. let’s just hope this doesn’t happen again:

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