Monday, November 16, 2015

NYCC: Artist Alley

So it turns out that despite my whining in the last post, I had a lot to write about. Enough that I decided to break this part into two. The first section is on Artist Alley, the second part on the show floor, panels, and cosplayers.

Here we go…

Artist Alley is always my favourite part of the con. Every table I stopped at has a good story. Here are a few of them.

1. I mention you go into these things with a plan of attack. Well, my plan is always to hit Artist Alley first, to try and grab artists I really want to get commissions from before they get booked up. It was a good plan, except a few of the artists I really wanted either cancelled at the last minute, weren’t at their table yet, or weren’t taking commissions at this con.

So I’m wandering around and I pass Michael Golden’s table. Funny thing about cons is that people who are utterly anonymous outside the Javits Center are rockstars within. Golden might not be one of the biggest names right now, but in the 70s and 80s he was huge. But he’s not the fastest artist, so monthly books have always been a challenge.
Michael Golden showing off his finished

But in the 70s he drew one of my favourite, and first, comics….Micronauts. It was based on a Japanese toy I loved as a kid. But the combination of Golden’s art and Bill Mantlo’s story added a lot of depth to some generic toys. I’ve been rereading some of the comics lately. It’s pretty dark stuff at points. I missed all of this as a kid, of course. I just thought it was cool.

So I’m poking around the table a bit and chatting. I didn’t think I would get a piece from him because I assumed he was already booked for the weekend or it was well out of my price range. But, nothing ventured, nothing gained. So I asked.

“Oh, no. I don’t have anyone on my commission list yet. Would you like one?”

Uh oh. “Well, what are your prices?

I’m told prices for a head shot, bust or full body. They are, in fact, a lot less than what I thought he would charge. Not cheap, but reasonable given who he is. When you get in these situations you sometimes vapour lock on who you want drawn. I was torn between Acroyear from the Micronauts, which I know no one knows, and Dr. Strange. He settled it by saying he would have to charge more for the good Doctor because his cape is a pain in the ass to draw.

Fair enough. His cape does, in fact, look like it would be a pain in the ass to draw. I check back 24 hours later and I have this beauty. Worth every cent. Plus, I chatted with him about Micronauts. He still loves the book, and it sounds like he has something coming out when the series relaunches next year. Cool.

2. You walk around Artist Alley and you’ll inevitably find artist you’ve met at other cons. For example, I didn’t really need anymore Katie Cook art. I bought nine of her little pieces (they were $5 each in 2012) last time. But I walked by and, miraculously, there was no on in line. Next thing I know I have six more (WALL-E and EVA, the 11th Doctor, Hellboy, Spider-Woman, Death, and McGonagle.) Oh and a poster. Bollocks.

3. I also met Russ Braun at this con and in 2012. Russ has the piece of artwork that I most regret got away.  He drew a series a series about five years or so ago which was called The Night Witches. Fantastic war comic based on actual Russian women fighter pilots during World War II. The last page of the mini-series is just haunting. He had it for sale in 2012 and I didn’t buy it. I was tapped out at the end of the con. He later told me he freaked out because he thought it was one of his best pages and he almost sold it. So he pulled it from his portfolio and now won’t sell it. Damn it.

When I was at his table I asked him, jokingly, if he would now. Nope. But he did do a replica sketch for me. The price? The cost of buying one of his sketch books, which was $10. An absolute steal.

3. Sticking in the déjà vu circuit. I ran into Matthew Clark. I just wanted to thank him for the lovely Huntress he drew in my sketchbook in 2012. Pro tip. If you ever do a sketchbook, get a really good artist to do the first sketch. Every
artist after them will try and top it. I mentioned that to him and he laughed. Then he looked at some of the sketches I’ve gotten since his and said he was glad to have helped.

Have sketchbook, will travel. And three-part art process
piece by Matthew Clark on Spider-Gwen.
He’s a really nice guy and when we were chatting I was looking at some of the art on the table including a beautiful process piece for a trading card he did of Spider-Gwen (stupid character name. Basic premise – imagine Gwen Stacy got spider powers instead of Peter Parker. Great concept, stunning costume design). I was asking questions about it and then he told me how much it was. It was ridiculous. I have it on my desk next to me looking at it right now. It’s insane how little he asked. So yeah, bought those.

4. Here’s another pro tip. I think sketchbooks are an awesome way to get something nice form the con. Yes, you can drop a lot of money on sketches, but you can also get some quick ones reasonably priced. You can go to Staples and get a perfectly fine sketchbook.

Yanick Paquette's doing pencils on a Swamp
Thing sketch before adding watercolours.
But in 2008 when we were in Venice I bought this absolutely gorgeous leather covered sketchbook. I’ve never seen the like of it since. Clearly, we’re going to have to go back and find that tiny store in Venice so I can get more. But every artist I’ve ever handed it over to for a sketch has fallen in love with it and asked where I got it.

This occasionally comes in handy. I stopped by Yanick Paquette’s table. He has some beautiful posters of his work from Swamp Thing on the table. I asked him about sketches and prices, and he told me no problem, mentioned his wait list and I mentioned about being careful about leaving my sketchbook there. He took it, and then started asking all kinds of questions about it.

“Well, maybe I could do one for you now.” And he started painting away.  All because he loved the book. And I also got a lesson on how watercolour paints work on the type of paper that’s in the book, which was kind of interesting.

So yeah, get a fun sketchbook. Spend a few dollars on it. It’s a good investment.

5. If you’re lucky at a comic con you get to meet artists who are right on the edge of becoming huge. I met two this time around. Annie Wu is drawing attention after runs on Hawkeye and the criminally under read Black Canary. But I managed to walk by her table when there was only one person in line and got a great sketch from her. She doesn’t chat much and was very focused. But she’s going to be huge in a few years.

So is Babs Tarr. She had the inevitable task of taking over and redesigning Batgirl about a year ago. And she hit it out of the park. It’s one of the best redesigns around. I asked if she was doing sketches, figuring I’d get a no considering how mobbed her table was. She said sure, and knocked out a quick 10 minute sketch. Lovely stuff.

Annie Wu drawing Black Canary
Babs Tarr working on a Batgirl sketch
6. Two more Artist Alley stories. I bought a couple of books from Terry Moore as I didn’t have the last two of his fantastic Rachel Rising series (great little horror book). I was chatting with his wife and mentioned how warm I was because it was so hot (22C) in New York that week and I had just flown down from the Arctic. She laughed and said how cold it was for her and Terry who had just come from Houston where it was 88F.

Finally, I met Terry Dodson, who just put out Red One. Honestly, the book is kind of ok. The story is shaky, but Dodson’s art is great, if you like a little cheesecake. He’s signing the book, looks at me and says, “I’ve met you before.”

Which is true. He signed some books for me at NYCC….in 2012. I told him that and he nodded. “Yup, that’s where I remember you from.” Given how many people he meets at these things, that’s pretty remarkable. Just hope it wasn’t because I was an asshole last time…

Last Five
1. Poor in love - Destroyer
2. Listen to the radio – Sloan
3. Lucky you – The National
4. 38 years old – Tragically Hip
5. Beloved freak – Garbage*

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