This is Chris Ayers, yup, he looks like a nice guy with some exceptional character design skills. This is what we thought as we approached his booth at the Long Beach Comic Expo. Nope, I'm not going to tell you he has some underlying mysterious mad scientist skill or that he's saving the world. But his story and the reason for what he does has fully affected my point-of-view of myself as a professional artist, a parent, and as someone trying to fulfill a passion project.
Chris is a classic success story of pursuing your dreams. In 2000 he left Minnesota at the age of 24, with just a packed car and a passion to make it in LA. Montage forward, 2005, he's made it. He's worked on Men in Black ll, Fantastic Four, Penguins of Madagascar amongst others. But then he was diagnosed with leukemia, cancer of the blood. He spent the next year experiencing all the scary, painful, and hardships you would expect.
In 2006, on the one-year anniversary of his diagnosis, Chris decided to start a sketchbook as part of his personal healing process. He set the goal to draw an animal a day, a subject matter he loved drawing, to give him a focused opportunity to appreciate the gift of each healthy day.
The good news, Chris has been in remission since and is going strong with his goal of an animal drawing a day. He's a family man with a 5-year-old and has taken this experience on the road to share his story with students, and other cancer patients/survivors. He's created The Daily Zoo book series which you can find here, documenting his drawings, each having a tie-in to what he was feeling that day. A portion of proceeds supports cancer-related charities and research. I'm proud, and inspired, to have drawing #559 as a new favorite shirt.
If you want more information on Chris and his works, see the following links:
Year seven and this once small expo has officially broken the 100,000 attendee mark, making it the biggest pop culture convention in L.A.’s history.
When we left Stan Lee’s Los Angeles Comic Con I said to myself, “Wow, LACC has come to play!” Convention.Life-ers have been going to this event since it was an “Expo”. My, how it’s grown. The first couple of years, it contained the standards of a comic/pop culture convention: an exhibit hall with vendors and artists showing their wares, separate rooms with panels from how-tos to meeting the casts-ofs. One of the more curious distinctions for this convention was the integration of the Hot Topic Main Stage within the Exhibit Hall. The first couple of years the stage felt more like a show to walk by and check out in passing, the Exhibit Hall’s vendors were the draw. The guests and topics on stage were fun and informative but nothing I could really highlight.
This time, as we entered the convention we had decided on a plan: find some innovative vendors from the Exhibit Hall to cover, catch a few panels and share fun stories we heard from celebrities, add to our Instagram stories, and of course, cosplay pics! That plan blew up quickly, and not in a bad way, the second we decide to “check out” the Hot Topic Main Stage. We were sucked in.
Together Joel and I found a nice spot close to the front of the stage to get pics and take down notes for the upcoming panel. The usual move from panel-goers is to take in the panel and then move on, as that happens, the people in the back move up to get closer for the next panel. That’s the rotation. Most of the panels in these conventions don’t cater to everyone so people move in and out.
While we were waiting for the Stretch Armstrong & Flex Fighters panel to start we REALLY looked at the upcoming schedule then realized the onslaught of awesomeness coming and knew we were going to be in for a long day in that one spot. I’m not complaining because it was a treat of a long day. Following Stretch Armstrong was the Power Puff Girls original voice reunion, then came the Sabrina the Teenage Witch Reunion, we then got sucked into the funny but personal stories of Katee Sackhoff, then up next we watched Drew Carry’s 2017 Comedy Legend induction.
We noticed this year, the crowd just grew as the panels went on, the rotation barely existed. Each panel was only 30mins, just enough to be insightful and fun, then the hype level rose again as we waited for the next panel. It was just celebrity-appearance-high after celebrity-appearance-high. At this point, we broke; we didn’t prepare to be in this one place all day. We reluctantly left our spot to get some food then quickly came back. Well, Joel did. I decided to cover some of the Exhibit Hall, but as far as I got away from the stage I can hear the crowd roaring. It was electric.
Joel was there getting pics of Scott Bakula, as a huge fan of Quantum Leap, he had to. The super talented people who made up the Cosplay National Championship immediately followed that panel. I barely made it through The Price is Right wheel line on the other side of the convention floor when I ran back to see what all the hubbub was about. I reached the Main Stage just in time to catch the ridiculous line up of musicians along side the Black Eyed Peas, my face was melting. My creative heart was crying as Will.I.Am expressed his passion for the making of Masters of the Sun, an amazingly innovative book with so many ways to entertain from the illustrations, to the star-studded voice-overs within the fully animated VR experiences, to the music. It has over one and a half hours of recorded content, all in one book, that’s just crazy.
After we thought we couldn’t have any more celebrity power as the Black Eyed Peas left the stage, I looked around and see the floor around of the stage is completely full. No one has left to rotate out. It’s standing room only, and it’s a sea of people waiting because… “FINALLY, the Rock has come back to Comic Con!” Joel and I have been fans of Dwayne Johnson since he was a wrestler. This was work and fun for us. Joel and I were separated at this point but I know we could hear each other “sqweee” across the crowd. Johnson played his best card, interacting with the crowd. He is such a likable and humbled person, it didn’t feel like a pitch for us to watch Jumanji as much as it was supposed to be. He was asking the crowd for questions, and then came the one question he didn’t confirm or deny, “Will you run for president?” Johnson gave a long pause as the crowd chanted, “Rocky, rocky, rocky.” His response with a strong smirk was, “I think the ‘People’s President’ has a really nice ring to it. I’ll just say that.”
Mic drop, our night was over. There was more from Johnson but that was it for me. Wow, what a crazy fun convention and that was just Saturday. Look out SDCC, NYCC, ECCC, C2E2, and others receiving votes, LACC is making its move and is only getting bigger and better.
Long Beach Comic Con embodies the lifestyle of its namesake. Laid back, open and inviting, while giving you plenty to do without the feeling of haste. We enjoyed our time strolling up and down every aisle, stopping to really get to know more about what caught our eye. Below are some of many exhibitors we got to know:
PinkOwlet: Dana Duncan
By day Dana teaches Design and Illustration at Art Center in Pasadena, where her students refer to her as the digital dominatrix—she whips pixels into shape on a daily basis. Her well branded booth caught our eye and we were rewarded with visual eye-candy from patterns put on dresses to pins to fun greeting cards.
Gears & Roebuck - Rust Junk Emporium
Shannon Hoage started as a Prop Master's apprentice when she was 14. Her love for props and painting came together in what she likes to call wearable Steampunk. Most of her products use already existing toys, or masks, that are then repainted to have a worn metallic feel. Watching anyone who came by the booth, you saw a similar reaction when they realized how light the items were since they are not actual metals. Very comfortable indeed.
Tee No Evil
The brothers behind Tee No Evil - Zany Zombie Shirts, got the Kickstarter backing to make their dreams come true. These high quality shirts are hand inspected by them to ensure each one meets their standards. They want to make sure the quality matches the art, and the art is great.
Will Terry has been an illustrator for over 25 years with over 30 children's books and clients ranging from Time magazine, Pizza Hut, and MasterCard. He's now taking those skills to the masses for consumption in the form of prints while still finding time to run an online school.
What's next? Not a LONG wait.
If you feel like you missed out on the fun, you did. But you don't have to wait a year. The team that brought you LBCC has Long Beach Comic Expo, February 17-18 2018. Tickets just went on sale today, click here to get yours and we'll see you then.
Check out some of our favorite shots from this year's Long Beach Comic-Con! Click on our galleries above!
We will be covering Long Beach Comic Con 2017! LBCC is upping their game again, making it more than just another comic convention. There's a good chance I'll be spending most of my time covering the panels in "The Garage," see full program schedule here. But I'll have to choose my panels wisely to make sure I get to experience all the other exciting festivities:
- SpaceExpo fills a chunk of the show floor and an entire dedicated panel track with experts in their respected scientific fields talking about our biggest and most current findings alongside displays from actual space exploration and interactive experiments your kids (or big kids) will be talking about for weeks!
- Burger Con provides a fantastic option for Saturday night fun as music tastemakers Burger Records roll out a lineup of incredible bands to keep you rocking into the night. This year's lineup includes DJ DON BOLLES, NOBUNNY, DWARVES, THE ZEROS AND WHITE FANG. Note that this event has a nominal, separate fee for entry. Further Info HERE!
- GeekFest Film Festival will provide two solid days of indie movie bliss, often with the film makers themselves on hand to discuss the ins and outs of their creations. See the full schedule of films here.
- South Bay Gaming Community's “Fighter's Ring” where gamers can challenge their friends and rivals at: Super Smash Bros.Wii U, Street Fighter V, Injustice 2 and more. For those looking for an eSports experience, sign up for tournaments throughout the day and compete for special prizes against the best!
- The LBCC Fashion Show will feature ladies and gentlemen modeling the latest trends from top-level chic and geeky designers who are on the verge of breaking into the fashion world.
- LBCC's Cosplay Contest will give the West Coast's most inventive and artistic costuming wizards the chance to show off their fantastic talents and compete for prizes in categories including Best in Show, Best Fabrication, Best Construction, Best Couple/Group, Best SciFi, Best Anime, Best Villain, Best Hero and Best Kid! Register now. Spaces are going fast!
- Star Cars! Relive your favorite high speed chases and escapes from certain doom as you take pictures alongside instantly recognizable, film inspired vehicles including the Blues Bros Bluesmobile, the Back to the Future Delorean, Jurassic Park Jeeps, the Jokermobile, Bumblebee from Transformers, Speed Racer's Mach 5, KITT from Knight Rider, the Eclipse from The Fast and the Furious and many more!
- Comic Creator Conference on September 1st is an event designed to connect professional comic creatives with other high-level industry professionals to empower them with exclusive and personal insight, as well as providing access to decision makers, peers, publishers, and other leaders within the industry. Learn how to make smart business decisions on the path to taking your creations into film, television, and interactive entertainment. Note that this event has a nominal, separate fee for entry and is open to industry professionals ONLY. Further info HERE!
Tickets are on sale NOW at LongBeachComicCon.com. Check in for details on limited VIP packages and photo ops with your favorite guests. Kids 10 and under get in FREE! If we don't see you there, follow us on Instagram to enjoy LBCC with us.
By trade I’m an Art Director in advertising. I’m responsible for coming up with new creative ideas and concepts to present to clients to choose from. This means only one of those ideas lives, while the others go away into oblivion. When I was an illustrator, there was a saying, “You have a million bad drawings in you, hurry up and get them out.” I regularly go through critiques with my creative teammates, agency partners, and clients. Over the years, I have grown thick skin when it comes to feedback, it’s part of the process, and most of it helps make the idea stronger. Critiques and feedback, they’re expected.
That’s creative in the world of commerce. It is hired work with a goal to make someone take action. I love it and it’s a creative challenge that will never get old. But it’s rare for me to find time to make art for myself. Art to share, without any tangible goal other than the hope it will move someone. I’ve always wanted to write my own story but haven’t found a concept strong enough to keep my attention. And by story I mean a comic book. And when I say comic book I don’t mean superhero in tights, I’m talking about stories like Walking Dead or Preacher or Secret Service (Kingsman).
Over the last year, I had one concept that wouldn’t let me go. I knew I had something I could really spend time with. I gave myself a Stuart Smalley pep talk and started writing.
Over the last few months I put my idea down on paper. I then pushed it through my close friend/comic book editor, Justin Giampaoli, and completed my first issue. After writing the first draft, it took me a month to share it with him. A whole month, why was I so afraid to share it? This was my first story; do I have a million bad story ideas I need to get out? I was dumb to wait because Justin liked it, enough to give me notes to tighten it up. He encouraged me to pursue it!
A few weeks before San Diego Comic-Con I gave myself two goals: finish the first issue and complete my pitch document. It’s Comic-Con and at Comic-Con you bring comfortable shoes, deodorant, snacks, water, a phone charger, and your pitch doc. It’s on the list.
Comic-Con was closing in as I tried to find time to work on the above goal and I did it. I got it done. Justin gave me the thumbs up on the progress. As we talked, he mentioned a new up-and-coming publisher making a name for themselves in the industry, Vault Comics. They were having a two-hour open pitch during Comic-Con for new story ideas. And I thought, “This might be my opportunity!” My next gut reaction wasn’t as excited. I thought of the producers of Vault as the judges on America’s Got Talent, being bombarded with bad idea after bad idea, from people with wild and not-thoroughly-thought-out concepts. I didn’t want them looking at me through that lens. I shared my concerns with Justin, he said when I’m ready he can send it in via e-mail. That way it’s coming from someone they know, it had been vetted. Phew! I felt better.
Flash forward, it’s the first day of Comic-Con. A buddy and I just attended a few panels on storytelling and how to break into comics. The overwhelming takeaways; make something (don’t just talk about it) and get it out there (don’t just sit on it). It was a different vibe this year; the panels were less about what inspired a creator or how hard it is to get noticed. It was a strong, “It’s a great time for creators, take advantage, and feed the masses who are looking for new and fresh stories.”
It was around 3:30 in the afternoon when we ran into the Vault Comics booth. We decided to check out their books. As we approached the table we noticed the pitches were happening right there at the open booth! I looked over to see three guys behind a table being pitched to. On the left was the taller and slender of the three, Oliver Ridge (Producer, Blue Moon). In the middle was Adrian Wassel (Editor, Vault Comics) and to the right of him was Damian Wassel (Publisher, Vault Comics). All three of them were dressed professionally casual, very approachable, very sharp looking guys. The two Wassel brothers had full but very kept beards, I noticed that kind of thing because I’m almost 40 and I can’t do that with my face. I hesitated and thought of pitching my story, but decided I was going to stick to my original path and have Justin send it to them when I was ready.
About 30 minutes later the idea of pitching was eating at me. I felt my script taunting me from my backpack, “Why did you struggle to make me for this event if you’re not going to take your shot?” The Art Director in me was calling myself names for not doing what I do, pitch. Then I remembered something I always give out as advice, “What’s the worst that can happen if you try? You’ll be exactly where you’re at now and nothing will change.” I agreed with me. If it didn’t work out, nothing in my life changes for the worst. If I went for it, I got experience, exposure, the chance to not only pitch my story but show how passionate I am. Those benefits outweighed sending it in an e-mail. At least there, at the open pitches, they’re waiting for it and were looking for a great idea.
I headed back to the Vault booth and jumped in line. My buddy was great at keeping my confidence up, I know he saw the sweat beading around my forehead. After 15 minutes it was my turn. I took a few steps forward and pulled out copies my packet, pitch document with the first script. I started by telling them I didn’t know why I was nervous but I was, I’m in advertising and this kind of encounter is regular. Oliver and Adrian offered friendly smiles and assured me there was no reason to be nervous. Damian quickly clapped his hands once in an ok-you-got-this kind of way, pointed at me, smiled and said, “Pitch us like it’s advertising.” And with that friendly confidence boost, I did.
I won’t go into the details but their approachable candor put me at ease and my pitch went better than I expected. I felt like we were just talking and I was leading them into a world I created. Their body language was forward leaning with engaged nods and followed by specific questions to further understand my story concept. Then it was done. I pitched my idea. I didn’t die.
I may have fumbled a few things here and there but I didn’t crash, at least not in my eyes. The panel was every bit as cool and professional as they looked. It was only Thursday with three and half more days of Comic-Con to go but my convention was already made.
Another takeaway from the Comic-Con panels I attended; once you get the first idea done and out, you’ll be less afraid. And they were right. I was wrong. I am not exactly where I was before the pitch. I now have more confidence in myself to write and to share my stories.
Well, just yesterday I received an e-mail from Adrian saying that my story didn’t get picked for publication at Vault Comics. It made sense, they were specifically looking for heavy Science Fiction or Fantasy based ideas. My story was a stretch to fit into Sci-Fi, it's mostly geo-political with mild hints at futuristic tech. Back to the world creative and the world of rejection. Adrian assured me that it wasn’t a reflection of my concept or my pitch but more that my story is not the right fit for their position in the market. He did encourage me to pitch any future story concepts that fit in those two genres. It was a kind personal note that took effort from someone with a very busy schedule, and for that I am grateful.
What’s next for me and my story? Justin and I are moving forward to get this book made, he’s really excited about it. I also have a second story I’m feeling pumped about; it may be harder to share because it’s so personal. But it’s so important to me I have to write it.
I try to find comfort in the new normal of vulnerability as I push out more of my writing, like this article. This is more of a cathartic exercise to hopefully inspire anyone hesitant to start something new in their lives. If you’re thinking it’s too late for you to try something different check out this list of 20 People Who Became Highly Successful After Age 40. The first one was purely coincidence but Samuel Jackson at 43 gives me hope.
Convention.Life was fortunate enough to score some face-to-face time with the cast and creators of AMC's hit show "Fear the Walking Dead" at this year's San Diego Comic-Con. We were joined by actors Kim Dickens, Colman Domingo, Mercedes Mason, Michael Greyeyes, Alycia Debnam-Carey, Frank Dillane, Dayton Callie, Sam Underwood and Daniel Sharman, as well as series writer and producer, Dave Erickson. We took a few minutes to catch up with our survivors, as they head into the second half of season 3 of the apocalypse.
Season 3 finds our survivors separated.
The Clark Family (Madison, Nick and Alicia) have cautiously taken refuge in a community of doomsday preppers run by a tough-as-nails rancher named Jeremiah Otto. Jeremiah's two sons, Troy and Jake, have differing ideologies when leadership of the ranch is thrust upon them, with Jake being the level-headed peacemaker in direct conflict with Troy's hot-headed sociopath. The ranch is built on Native American land, and is under siege by the tribal owners, demanding its return. Ofelia has returned, but on what terms? To make matters worse, The Clark Family's moral compass, Travis, is gone, and is probably not coming back.
Strand is wandering, looking for friends in the apocalypse. He finds out very quickly that friendships of the old world don't necessarily translate into the same friendships in this new apocalypse. In the end, he drives around in a Jaguar and celebrates the end of the world on his yacht, so things may be looking up for him.
Finally, a ghost from the past makes his return to the land of the living dead. Daniel Salazar is looking for his daughter, and he is prepared to kill a few people to find her.
CONVENTION.LIFE: From season 1 to season 3, how has your character evolved to adapt to the apocalypse?
KIM DICKENS: For Madison, she's definitely become more of a merciless character. In the beginning, she was probably a merciless high school counselor, but she was really beholden to her morality, her compassion and her heart. By season 3, she realizes the currency is more brutality when required. Her main goal throughout has been to survive and protect her family. And now, it's at a higher cost. I think Madison has been quick to realize that.
CONVENTION.LIFE: One of the themes of "Fear the Walking Dead" is that they can't seem to stay, or find a home or place to rebuild. Is there hope that this crew can rebuild somewhere?
COLMAN DOMINGO: I think there's always hope. I think that's the nature of all these characters, that you're constantly going to this new place to build and rebuild. And you see them fall apart, like great civilizations crumbling down. That's just the nature, the humanity that we're exploring in the show. That we're always hopeful, and seeking this place we can build on.
KIM DICKENS: The nature of the human spirit is resilience. That's a human instinct to survive.
MICHAEL GREYEYES: The narrative also plays with the tension created when people are homeless. It asks, "What do you do when you don't have a home?" It presses on the nerves of the audience, and I think it immerses us in that kind of tension.
MERCEDES MASON: I think it's more exciting for the fans, too. I remember, in "The Walking Dead", when they're stuck in one location for too long, I'm like, "C'mon, c'mon! Let's move on!" I love getting to see all of the different places.
CONVENTION LIFE: At this point in the show, we all know that no one is safe from being unexpectedly killed off for the sake of progression of the story and characters. If the producers of the show came to you and said, "We are going to kill of your character tomorrow, but you get to decide how your character dies", how would you choose to go?
DAYTON CALLIE: I don't have a choice, do I?
(LAUGHTER, AS WE REALIZE THAT DAYTON'S CHARACTER HAS JUST BEEN KILLED OFF IN THE MID-SEASON FINALE)
SAM UNDERWOOD to DAYTON CALLIE: How WOULD you have wanted to die?
DAYTON CALLIE: Heart attack... with Alycia.
SAM UNDERWOOD: I love that this show is such a female-driven, female-empowering show...
SAM UNDERWOOD: There was a lake that I took Alicia to in episode 5, and one of the things that wasn't left in the episode was that was the lake where I was taught to swim. I had this line with Alicia about how you start learning to swim, and you drown a couple of times, but you keep going. So, I think poetically, if Jake was to die, it would kind of be cool if he walked into the lake, and just kept walking into the lake. That would be cool.
ALIYCIA DEBNAM-CAREY: I would think being a zombie is too much hard work, to be honest. That's all I've decided. Doing the whole makeup, the eyes, everything. I don't want to have to do that. It seems really hard. So, I'd have Madison shoot me in the head or something. That would be crazy.
CONVENTION.LIFE: What is one key thing to know about your character in the second half of the season?
ALYCIA DEBNAM-CAREY: We get to see (Alicia) stake out her path. I am really looking forward to her character's journey.
DANIEL SHARMAN: Finding out who Troy is. Finding out what it is he really wants out of life.
SAM UNDERWOOD: Assuming Jake wants to lead or be a leader is not necessarily true, but we'll see how that plays out.
DAYTON CALLIE: I don't know this, but I think the camp is gonna' go to Hell without me. I don't know this, but I think so!
FRANK DILLANE: I have a 9mm, now. With notches on it. I'm gonna' use it.
CONVENTION.LIFE: Looking forward to it. Stay alive. I'll find you.
"Fear the Walking Dead" returns on September 10, 2017, and can be seen on Sunday nights on AMC. Check your local cable provider for time and channel.
Check out our coverage of this year's Comic-Con international San Diego in our gallery! Or this guy will show up at your house. Yes, the guy behind the Joker.
Most fans start San Diego Comic-Con on Thursday. The hardcore SDCC-goers get in a little early with Preview Night the Wednesday before. The super-nerds (two thumbs pointing at this guy, then they point to the side at Joel, who’s pointing at himself) kicked off SDCC week on Tuesday. We attended The Lindley Lecture of Law & Comics: The Business of Comics, at the San Diego Public Library, hosted by San Diego Law Library.
The panel was made up of Ryan Benjamin (20 year comic book illustrator and creator, one of the original artists behind the start of Image Comics/Homage Studios), Rob Salkowitz (author of Comic-Con and The Business of Pop Culture), and Stu Rees (Specializes in newspaper cartoon syndication contracts).
This experienced panel covered a wide range of legal questions and scenarios for new creatives trying to get into the comic industry. One thing they all agreed on was the rise of the digital age and how it has changed the landscape for comic creatives, writers and illustrators, to their benefit.
Unlike the music industry where digital pretty much destroyed the stores, digital only helps the creatives more while leaving room for physical comics and stores to thrive. A new pattern out there is getting your work (Web comic, or as an artist, on Instgram or DeviantArt) out into the digital world. Over time your work builds a following, the work gets noticed, and then you’re approached to either join a creative staff or get your story published. You have work, you have an Internet connection, then you have a chance to get your work noticed.
I’m an Art Director by trade and love what I do in advertising but now I’m just tapping into my writing side and have been slowly creating stories I plan on sharing later down the line. Panels like this help me make smarter decisions about how to put my work out there. It’s one thing to be a great artist, it’s rare combination to be a great artist and business person.
With the first panel for SDCC week in the books, it’s time to hit the ground running at Preview Night tomorrow. Hope my fellow nerds warmed up and stretched it out, ‘cause I’m coming in hot for some panel-learnin’ and toy (ahem, collectible) buying!
"Expect nothing, and you have everything to gain."
One of the biggest lessons I have learned from covering conventions is that while you can try, to the best of your ability, to prepare for everything coming your way, the reality is that you can only take what the day gives you. The Con gods are fickle like that. At the end of each day, you walk away with your victories, and move on to the next opportunity. It's not a game of win-some, lose-some, because it's never good to dwell on the things that didn't pan out. Spilled milk and what not. Instead, it's a game of enjoying the victories you rack up during the limited time you're given, and being satisfied.
Mike Tyson taught me this. Well, not directly. Mostly by example. But with some words. And a little bit of Fear-Of-God sprinkled in.
When someone tells you that you have the opportunity to meet boxing legend Mike Tyson, you drop everything and make the time in your schedule. It's not every day that you get to meet "Iron Mike", "Kid Dynamite", "The Baddest Man on the Planet", the youngest man to ever win a heavyweight boxing title, and the only heavyweight to simultaneously hold the WBA, WBC and IBF titles and successfully unify them.
Sports icon. OG video game final boss. Convict. Ex-con. Movie star. Broadway darling. Author. Entrepreneur. Seeker of Redemption.
When someone hands you that opportunity, you just go. No-brainer. You just go.
That day in 2014, Mike Tyson was attending San Diego Comic-Con International in San Diego, California. He was promoting his new cartoon, "Mike Tyson Mysteries", in which Mike, the ghost of John Douglas the 9th Marquess of Queensberry, Mike's adopted 18-year-old Asian daughter, and a talking, alcoholic, sexually deprived pigeon go around, solving mysteries. Imagine Scooby Doo, but filtered through the wacky minds of Adult Swim. At 3 seasons, it's still running strong.
So, I stroll into the press room, and carve out my little piece of the universe in the line of photographers and videographers. Mike walks into the small room, and everyone grabs their gear, like it's 1988 again, and we're in the locker room after Mike's 91-second, first-round knockout of Michael Spinks for the title. I'm here to cover a cartoon, but I'm all jittery and more anxious than I should be. Mike's wearing a tight, white t-shirt and a WB Comic-Con attendee backpack. "Supernatural", I believe. He's lean, and arguably in the best shape he's been in since his fighting days. The face tattoo takes on a life of it's own when you're up close.
Mike only stops for a handful of photos and moves right along to the interviewers. Did I get my shot? Absolutely not. Did I miss my opportunity. Unfortunately. Was I done trying? No friggin' way.
At this point, you may be thinking, "What about all that talk a few minutes ago about 'walk away with your victories, and move on to the next opportunity' or 'it's never good to dwell on the things that didn't pan out'?" C'mon. This is MIKE TYSON. I'm not walking away from this. If this is the day I get punched in the face by Mike Tyson, then I am going to get a photograph of him doing it. The lesson is coming.
So, there I am. I'm just waiting around. Maybe he'll get done with the interviews early, and will come back for photos. Maybe I can snap a few photos of him during his video interviews. Maybe he will see me lingering, and he'll take pity on me.
I decide to be proactive about the situation and make small talk with one of Mike's handlers. I ask his handler very politely that if Mike has a few moments, could he spare them for a few more photos. His handler kindly says that Mike's time is limited, but he'll ask. 15-20 minutes roll by, and Mike is finishing up his video interviews. Most, if not all, of the photographers have left. His handler turns to me and says, "Since you've been so patient and have been so nice about it, we can do a couple more photos. Just hang back here." Score.
"Expect nothing, and you have everything to gain."
Mike strolls over to me and he is happy. This isn't the stone-faced killer I expected, stalking his way down to the ring with the towel draped over his head. I shake his hand, and he smiles. "Nice to meet you, Champ". To which, he responds in kind. I tell him I'm a big fan of his boxing career, as well as his Broadway show, which brings an even bigger smile to his face. He is funny, introspective, inspirational and verbose.
I pick up my camera. I want to make these photos count. I want to impress my editor with shots that no one else is getting. I want something iconic that I can be proud of. I don't want to waste this opportunity with mike Tyson.
This is about the time I almost royally screw things up, and throw my victory out the window.
I politely ask him to simply flex for me. I immediately get stopped by his handler, and told that Mike doesn't do that anymore. Mike's face has turned from smile to annoyance, and I know he's on the verge of leaving if I can't salvage this. He's looks nervous now. Uncomfortable. I swear, there is a flash of light, a glow, that briefly envelops his entire body, and I freak out, knowing that a series of Razor Uppercuts might be coming, and my game will be over. I am Little Mac, and I don't have the secret code to make this moment happen again.
I don't understand why it's such a big deal, but he's knocked people out for a living, and I've been in two fights my entire life, so I relent. I apologize and say, "Sorry, champ. It's just that you're in amazing shape. Like, fighting shape." The steam goes out in the room, and he lets me grab a couple of shots of his choice that I'm more than happy with. The smile comes back to his face, and his handler is no longer kicking himself for extending me some courtesy. Mike and I exchange a few more words about boxing and Broadway, and I wish him the best on his cartoon. I just met Mike Tyson. I just inadvertently pissed off Mike Tyson. And I'm still alive. Buster Douglas. Lucky, lucky Buster Douglas.
I didn't let the opportunity pass me by, but I knew that I needed to take my small victory and walk away. You take what the Con gods give you, and move on to the next opportunity. I didn't get the photo I planned on getting, but I got my photos nonetheless, and was satisfied.
"Expect nothing, and you have everything to gain."
In hindsight, I think the lesson also applies to my subject, Mike Tyson. He has seen countless opportunities in his life, and has squandered some of them. He's had some victories. He's had some defeats, both professionally and personally. He planned for greatness, but has taken what the gods have given him, and made the best of it. He came up from nothing, and had everything in the world to gain.
One of the best moments I've ever had at a convention.
"Deer in the headlights". At the time of the above photo, I wasn't completely sure if that phrase applied to me or to Olivia Munn.
With the release of the major motion picture blockbuster "Wonder Woman" by Warner Brothers this weekend, I felt that this photo was somewhat apropos, given that she has always held a public admiration for the comic book icon.
2009 was the first year that I had the opportunity to shoot for Fox 5 News San Diego at Comic-Con international San Diego, and I was nervous. I hadn't gotten my sea legs yet as a working photographer, and I was surrounded by professionals who had been at this for years. These pros knew who to look for, where to look for them, and how to get them to stop for a photo - all the while, with poise and professionalism, choking down any fanboy excitement that we all knew was just simmering below the surface. I, on the other hand, was still secretly following people down the exhibit floor aisles, deciding whether or not I was going to summon up the courage to ask them to stop. Sometimes I did. Sometimes, I missed out.
One of the first celebrities I ever had the opportunity to shoot at Comic-Con was Olivia Munn. At the time, she was riding high off the success of her television show, "Attack of the Show" on the G4 network. She was the cute girl-next-door that grew up and became a sex symbol for the new nerd generation. Nerd girls wanted to be her, and nerd boys wanted to be with her. One moment, she could be broadcasting in a Chun Li or Princess Leia cosplay. The next moment, she could be dancing seductively with a dead octopus stuffed down her shirt, or trying to figure out exactly how many sausages she could fit into her mouth. Complete package. Smart, funny, beautiful and down-to-earth. Belle of the Nerd Ball, as it were.
And this was BEFORE she would go on to write a best-selling book entitled, "Suck It, Wonder Woman! The Misadventures of a Hollywood Geek". This was BEFORE she would date Green Bay Packers superstar quarterback Aaron Rodgers. And this was definitely BEFORE she would move on to Hollywood, with memorable roles in "Magic Mike", "Iron Man 2" and "X-Men: Apocalypse" as fan-favorite mutant ninja assassin / psychic Psylocke.
Knowing this, I decided that this was going to be a defining moment for me behind the camera. It was time to decide whether or not I was going to do my job, or let the opportunity fall by the wayside.
I choked down my inner fanboy, took a few steps ahead of her, flashed my press badge (to help avert the notion that I was just a "creepy guy with a camera"), and politely asked if I could take a few photos. I took 5 or 6 photos, the last of which, my favorite, is the one you see above. She was friendly and generous with her time, which luckily, in the end, made the experience of my first celebrity photo easy for me.
Unfortunately... for Ms. Munn, our encounter lasted a little longer than it should have, as she was then mobbed by a thousand people wanting selfies (or whatever people called them in 2009). Yeesh. Seriously. My bad.
I like to think that her expression in the photo is one of awkward understanding, knowing that I was new to this element, and she was trying to help me "fake it until I make it." I was a deer in the proverbial headlights, and she was going to slowly pump the brakes, and gently nudge me off the road.
In reality, her expression was probably more indicative of the fact that I just stopped Comic-Con's most sought-after deer in the middle of the road, asked her to wave, and invited a thousand cars, with a thousand headlights, to run her over... one at a time... for the next ten minutes.
A learning experience for me on multiple fronts: 1) If you don't step up, the opportunity won't happen. 2) Act like you belong there, and most people will unknowingly believe it. 3) Be ready with your camera, because moments are fleeting. 4) Be quick but efficient with your photos, mostly because nobody really wants to wipe deer blood off of their windshield.
When you read a company’s About page, or their Mission Statement, it’s usually something they spent months on to help position themselves in a market. They find their space to own, to show how they're different from the rest. Then when it finally comes down to execution, some companies worry too much about what the competition is doing. They resort to copying the competition because, "Well, if it works for them." Then all that time and effort to set them apart is lost and they are just another one.
Comic Con Revolution (CCR) states in their Info page, "Comic Con Revolution was founded on very simple principles. We are excited to celebrate comics and the creative arts. At the absolute core of what we do are the creators themselves. The people who create the comics, games, toys, film, movies and more that we all love. Without their tireless dedication to creating the fantastic worlds we all get lost in events like Comic Con Revolution would not be possible.” After experiencing CCR's first showing, they did just that and lived up to their brand promise. The physical center of attention, and floor, was Artist Alley. It felt like most of the exhibitors were presenting something new of their own creation (a few highlighted here), and the panels where filled with creators sharing tips on how to get to where they're at. From learning more about writing to pro tips on how to shoot cosplay photography to how to start a podcast, CCR kept their focus on the creator, even more, how to be a creator.
Walking around I felt the excitement from the exhibitors to the attendees, it was as if we were all thinking the same thing, "Wow, this is really nice. Like, it's really well organized, this is legit. Are we in on something cool?!" Many of us gave each other that look, there may have been some unspoken high-fives. Speaking with some of the exhibitors who've worked with Atomic Crush Events (ACE), they were not surprised. Because ACE was putting this event together, they said it was a no-brainer to participate. What's amazing is the team put this together in about three months. I'm excited to see what they can do with a full 12 months to prepare and even more room to play in 2018.
With an official count of 5449 attendees, excluding exhibitors and staff, CCR was no doubt a hit. The Inland Empire has a Comic Con of their own and it's something to be proud of. With even better news, CCR has announced, "Comic Con Revolution will grow in 2018 taking over both exhibit halls as well as the Mayoral Ballroom." and staying true to make the show about the creators, "The event will add additional features including a Professional Creator's Summit on Friday, May 18th, play host to the Girl Scouts of Greater Los Angeles as they complete their Comic Book Artist badge while growing the exhibitor and guest lists."
It wasn't all work for the Convention.Life team. I got to meet my favorite color artist Dean White! (Yup, I follow colorists. A great artist is a great artist) If you like Rick Remender's Uncanny X-Force or the earlier issues of Black Science, you've seen his amazing painterly approach to color. The best part was when we discovered we went to the same small art school in Sherman Oaks, CA at the same time.
I caught The Strength of Independent Comics, an insightful panel, with Ray-Anthony Height, Ron Marz, Karl Altstaetter, Joshua Hale Fialkov, and Hope Larson. Moderated by Beth Scorzato.
I couldn't leave a comic convention empty-handed. Only a monster would do that. I met Derek Fridolfs and picked up the second volume of his and Dustin Nguyen's Secret Hero Society for my son, we had such a great time reading the first one together. Derek was kind enough to sign and sketch it for my boy. If you aren't POP! hunting in any way at a convention, you're not living. I found myself a very rare Chuck D for my collection. And I had to remember this inaugural event with a souvenir pint glass. With that, I raise this cold beverage to you for making it to the end of this post. If you want more on this event, be sure to check out the gallery of cosplayers here and be sure to follow us on Instagram.
The inaugural Comic Con Revolution in Ontario, California had no shortage of commercially packaged collectibles and mass-printed comic books, both are staples and are important to have in the makings of a comic convention. What makes each convention unique is the showcase of local artists. Even more fun than discovering these talented creatives is purchasing their wonderfully crafted pieces. Because we all love to hear our friends ask, "Wow, where did you get that?!"
"I crochet all things cute!" is the first thing you read on Cielo Pinawin's Etsy store. That pretty much nails it. Each of these creations are handmade by Cielo on her own time when she's not on the job as a respiratory therapist. Yup, I asked her exactly what you're thinking. How long do these take? If it's a brand new idea, from concept to final takes about a week. If it's repeat design, it takes about one day.
Cielo started crocheting 10 years ago and used her talent to make gifts for friends. After hearing "you should sell these" enough times, she did just that. It's been two years of selling and the demand grows, along with the amount of inventory she brings to each show. Check out the links below to learn more or even buy a few. She takes custom orders.
When I first stepped into Owen Klaas' booth I felt like I left the convention and entered a gallery. I almost shushed myself for talking too loud. Looking at all these amazing paintings that float between dimensional and strong graphic composition, I was inspired by a wide range of emotion. I couldn't help but get drawn in. While soaking in the framed artwork, Owen was off to the corner seated and kept to himself. He was not overly pushy and definitely not shy. It looked like he was used to people connecting to his work, and he didn't want to interrupt.
Owen is married with three kids. He had been sculpting for 15 years while painting for six, when he decided to go full-time with his passion to paint. He explained that each one of his acrylic pieces are inspired by life experiences happening at the time of painting, they aren't overt but they all have a deep personal connection with him. Visit the links below and find your connection with his works.
Etsy: Fiendish Thingies
Have you ever thought of quitting your job to go full-time selling phone cases? Well, somehow Ted Pinhirun not only figured out how to do it but how to make it fun and unique at the same time. His niche, in the world of cell phone protection, is using a precision laser to create intricate designs on wooden cell phone cases. The laser designs can be directly etched on to a wood case or laser cut out of a black finished wooden case then revealing the grain underneath supporting the design.
In the early stages of learning the craft, he had to translate his pixel based Photoshop skills to a linear vector based approach in Illustrator. Judging by his Roaring Lion King case, he's mastered vector art. But Ted's skills doesn't end at just cell phone covers. He also laser etches coasters, jewelry, and trivets/Hot Plate Mats. If your phone can use new clothes in a wooden form, see the links below.
The next convention you attend, avoid the long lines and use that time to chat up a local artist, maybe purchase one of their works. They're equivalent to that farm-to-table concept that's all the rage, they're locally sourced artisanal…creatives trying to share their world with you.
Check out some of our coverage of the inaugural Comic Con Revolution in the "Photos" section. And then, "Get my hatchet."
The Comic Con Revolution is having its inaugural opening this Saturday and we're looking forward to seeing what Ontario has put together. With a robust list of guests and a packed day of programming, this first year is looking like they're living up to their promise to celebrate comics and the creative arts with the creators at the core. A ribbon cutting by Ontario Mayor Paul Leon will kick things off and they'll cap off the event with the 1st annual Cosplay Revolution Costume Contest, with a $500 prize on the line!
Here's what we plan on attending:
Bringing Comics to Screen with Matt Hawkins, Doug Jung
Hosted by John Nguyen & Mike Villareal
The Strength of Independent Comics with Hope Larson, Ray-Anthony Height, Joshua Hale Fialkov, Ron Marz, Karl Altstaetter
Hosted by Albert Ching
Pro Tips for Digital Art and Illustration by Patrick Scullin
This is a small taste of what we'll be doing outside of the normal comic/toy hunting and cosplay high-fiving. You can get your tickets here to join in on the fun. If we don't see you there, follow us on Instagram to enjoy the Comic Con Revolution with us.
METALS is forging their lineup (see booth #3746 at SDCC)
In our recent visit with Anime Expo, we had the awesome surprise of running into the METALS display for Jada Toys. Their footprint was impressive, even more so was the amount of eye candy in the display cases. We were able to talk with Darryl Li (eCommerce Manager) and Michael Jimenez (Creative Services/Marketing Manager) to learn more about Jada Toys, the METALS line and their plans for SDDC.
For those just discovering METALS with Batman vs. Superman, Civil War, and Suicide Squad, can you tell us more about Jada Toys?
Jada Toys is a leading manufacturer of authentically licensed and highly stylized toys, games, and collectibles. Jada works closely with major entertainment and vehicle brands to produce the innovative, patented items that our fans have come to expect.
How did Jada Toys get started with licensed character properties and METALS?
The METALS line was born from the idea of changing the way fans and collectors perceive collectibles. We saw an opportunity to create something new that could differentiate us from the rest of what is currently being offered. Because Jada has always held expertise when it comes to working with die-cast, we saw it as a perfect opportunity to create something completely new.
Where do you want to go with these licensed properties?
As with any brand, we look to continue to expand our vast portfolio to continue to bring to market everyones favorite characters in true METALS form.
Does METALS have other plans for exclusives at conventions or retail stores, other than the SDCC sets?
Yes, we will be offering more exclusive items to be featured at different retail stores coming later this Fall.
Anime-Expo was a great showing! What can we expect for SDCC and beyond?
We will have many new properties and characters coming to the METALS line on display at SDCC. We are viewing SDCC as our coming out party for the METALS brand. Some properties to be on display include WWE, Star Trek, Dr. Strange, and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles just to name a few.
Find these 4" SDCC exclusive 2-packs at booth #3746. $30 each or both for $50!
Darryl Li has been with Jada Toys for two years as the e-Commerce Manager.
Michael Jimenez has been with Jada Toys for over 11 years and is currently the Creative Services/Marketing Manager.
We were told a new RFID enabled badge will be used for San Diego Comic-Con in 2016. For those of us who went to WonderCon we got a taste of what the new-fangled bagdes might look like and what the process of using them will entail.
If you work in a corporate office, it's just like swiping your I.D. badge, except if you don't swipe your badge on the way out you may not be able to get in without going to customer service to reset your badge, and you'll need a picture I.D. to confirm it's your badge.
We didn't get to WonderCon early enough to deal with the door-busters who have to get their exclusives, so we didn't experience any slow entrance traffic. During the day, the process of swiping in and out was as smooth it should be, just a simple beep as you go through and tap.
The good: It will cut down on counterfeit badges which should result in shorter lines to anything you will be waiting in lines for.
The bad: I didn't see any but again I wasn't there for the morning rushers. They shouldn't be running and stampeding in the first place.
I'm sure it won't be perfect but it shows SDCC making moves to ensure those of us who got our passes fair and square don't get cheated by those who try to go around the system. It's also another way for them to track our movement! #ForTheConspiracyTheorists
Check out some of our coverage of 2016 WonderCon in the "Photos" section. Or he'll do it.
The folks here at Convention.Life had the amazing opportunity to catch up with one of San Diego's most beloved personalities: AJ Machado, from San Diego's Energy 103.7FM's "The AJ Show."
As a long-time resident of San Diego, and an unabashed fan of everything pop culture, AJ shared his thoughts on SDCC San Diego Comic-Con, comic books, movies, Con swag and helping the kids. -JF
CL: When was the first time you ever attended San Diego Comic-Con, and how many years have you been attending?
AJ: I moved to San Diego in 2001 and was thrilled to attend my first Con that year. I haven’t missed a year since.
CL: What comic books or graphic novels are you currently reading, and what can you recommend to someone looking for the “best thing they’ve never read?”
AJ: Lately I’ve been getting caught up on Saga which I was totally missing out on! I’ve really been liking Suicide Squad since the “New 52” , I’m always down with all things Batman and I follow too many Marvel titles to mention. As far as my “Best thing you’ve never read” recommendation: If you somehow missed out on “Locke and Key” you need to run through that series. On a more obscure note, “Global Frequency” was a super fun and original series written by Warren Ellis. “The Map” is a fun new post apocalyptic title written drawn and distributed by Chad Cavanaugh who I should say in the interest of full disclosure, is a friend of mine. I’d like to add that one of my favorite geeky reads of the last couple years wasn’t a comic at all….it was the novel “Ready Player One” by Ernest Cline.
CL: Typically, part of the universal pre-Con ritual is packing in preparation for long days and countless miles of walking up and down aisles and standing in panel lines. As a veteran of comic convention life, what would be your ultimate survival Pro Tip for attendees new to the scene? Something you could not survive a Con without?
AJ: I always wear a backpack. Yes, some would consider it sacrilege to pass on the giant collectible Con back but I like having my hands free to maneuver the floor.
CL: What would you consider your most treasured item picked up at Comic-Con?
AJ: I thought about this and laughed because the item that came to mind was actually “the one that got away.” Several years ago, I came across a set of limited edition Alex Ross “World’s Greatest Heroes” prints with matching numbers at a great price. My friend and I BOTH almost picked them up and we both walked away and every year we talk about them like they are are own personal Moby Dick.
CL: Conventions are ultimately more enjoyable when attended with friends - people to hold your bags, stand in line for you, maximize your chances at exclusive Con swag, etc. Do you usually attend as a lone wolf, or in a pack of wild, nerdy beasts?
AJ: I generally roll with a pretty small pack may up of my buddies Vernon, Dave and I. I have two daughters who haven’t been old enough for the Con yet, but that’s going to change soon!
CL: Favorite place to eat when attending Comic-Con?
AJ: We usually hit up The Old Spaghetti Factory.
CL: Best comic book movie adaptation? Most anticipated comic book movie adaptation? What would you love to see adapted?
AJ: I’m going to avoid picking a single movie and say that everything Marvel has done since Iron Man 1 is the best comic book body of work ever. I loved Nolan’s Batman series but it was a whole different genre…it was the comic book trilogy that did everything possible to not feel like a comic trilogy. As far as things I’d like to see adapted, I like the idea of Runaways being part of Marvel’s Cinematic Universe. I’s also like to see Fables as an HBO series.
CL: A-List celebrities and legendary comic book creators all breathe the same air and occupy the same personal space for four magical days at San Diego Comic-Con, allowing for the possibility of a chance meeting with one of Geek-dom’s elite. Favorite person you ever had the chance to meet at Comic-Con?
AJ: Meeting celebs is never a huge part of my agenda, but as a big martial arts/MMA fan I did get a kick out of running into Randy Couture, Gina Carano and Cung Lee.
CL: Winding down from Comic-Con can hold its own set of obstacles, like trying to rid yourself of the collected germs of your 130,000 fellow attendees. How long does it typically take you to recover from the post-Con plague that has affectionately been dubbed the “Nerd Flu?”
AJ: I fight the good fight against Nerd Flu by taking plenty of Emergen-C and using hand sanitizer like a maniac.
CL: 2014 was the inaugural year for Crane Con, a comic book / toy / cosplay mini-convention held in conjunction with your AJ’s Kid’s Crane toy drive for charity. Both events were highly successful in helping you achieve your goal of raising over 100,000 toys for charity. How fun was that to be able to bring together two things you love, comics and kids?
AJ: It was amazing. At the end of the day, geeks are just people who made it to adulthood without losing our childlike enthusiasm for the things we love. Seeing so many people who love toys and costumed heroes and stories and comics come together to celebrate all of those things so that kids at the hospital could get more of them….it just felt like we were looking out for our own. When I got on the mic and asked if everyone wants to make “Crane-Con” and annual tradition and that sea of glorious geeks went nuts!!…………total goosebumps
CL: Thanks, AJ! Great spending some time with you! Keep up the good work on "The AJ Show" and with the Kids Crane! Looking forward to 2015 Crane Con!