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Some pretty exciting news for Pinocchio, Vampire Slayer fans (and for co-creators Dusty Higgins and myself). Now on sale is the Pinocchio, Vampire Slayer statue!
You can see in the 3-D rendering at right that the statue is inspired by the cover of the second book in the trilogy, Pinocchio, Vampire Slayer and the Great Puppet Theater. Pinocchio strikes his typical tough guy pose, echoing Hamlet as he watches a vampire skull burn.
This is an extremely LIMITED EDITION piece, with only about 50 of the statues being created. They are now available for pre-order through our publisher’s website: SLG Comics.
This just over six inch figure will be cast in high density polystone (the same material used by Gentle Giant and Electric Tiki for their statues) and will be nearly made to order in terms of its production run. The final version will be hand painted. It was designed by Figurebang Toys. Available exclusively from SLG, we will stop taking orders for this piece on Oct. 31, 2011.
The statue will cost $189 for pre-orders, and those who place orders won’t be charged until the statue ships.
I’m going to be on the road at conventions over the next several months, and I’ll update this page with new appearance info as it comes up. (Shows marked with an asterisk are tentative.)
June 3-5 — Heroes Con
Held in Charlotte, N.C., this was the first con I ever attended and it remains my favorite (only partially because Rob Venditti’s mom lives nearby and is an amazing cook). PVS artist Dusty Higgins and I will be set up in Indie Island. I’m planning to debut Nebraska #3 at the show. Make sure to pester Dusty about all of his upcoming projects. Heroes Con
July 21-24 — Comic-Con International
The mother of all conventions, Comic-Con is the biggest, craziest show there is. I’ll be set up at the SLG Publishing booth (I’ll update the number when I have it). We might even have a little preview of PVS 3 as well as a new series I’m writing. Stay tuned. Oh, and if you don’t have a ticket already, better luck next year. Comic-Con International
Sept. 2-5 — Dragon*Con
Held in Atlanta, the show is probably best known as a sci-fi/pop culture extravaganza and for its crazy costumes. But Dragon*Con also has a strong comics presence. It’ll be my first time exhibiting there, and I’m really excited since it’s a hometown show. Also, I’ll be hanging out with pals Andy Runton and Chris Schweizer! Dragon*Con
Sept. 10-11 — SPX*
I missed the Small Press Expo last year for the first time in a while, much to my chagrin. If you haven’t gone, it is an excellent show in Bethesda, Md., and my personal favorite place to see the future of cartooning/comics. The display of creativity is astounding. Plus it’s always fun to see comics folks geek out over a chocolate fountain at the Ignatz reception. I’m tentatively planning to go this year. Small Press Expo
Oct. 13-16 — New York Comic Con Thanks again to the organizers for moving the show from February to October. A great excuse to visit a great city (and some great friends there). With all of the New York publishers present, NYCC has become a can’t miss event. New York Comic Con
UPDATE: I had to cut Baltimore Comic-Con and New York Comic Con after realizing I had conflicts. Next year!
In a couple of days I’m heading out to San Diego for Comic-Con International 2011. I’ll be set up with my great publisher, SLG Publishing, at booth #1815. In case you needed an extra excuse to stop by, I’ll have a handful of limited edition free previews to my upcoming SLG series (with artist Robin Holstein) Snow White: Through a Glass, Darkly.
Want to snag one? Here’s the plan:
I will be signing from 11:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. and 5:30 to 7 p.m. each day on Thursday, Friday and Saturday. For each of those six signing sessions, the first six fans to come by and pick up either Pinocchio, Vampire Slayer book (or both) will receive one of the 36 copies of the Snow White preview.
Look for the Snow White series to launch in spring of 2012. And next year also will see the long-awaited release of Pinocchio, Vampire Slayer 3. Comic-Con attendees who stop by the SLG booth will be the first to see the cover and full title of that final book in the PVS trilogy.
And of course make sure to check out all of the great comics SLG will be displaying. There’s going to be a cool, innovative display for digital comics as well.
Back when I was a reporter at the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, one of my happiest days was when the older reporters brought me in on a little secret. Over the decades, clerks at the newspaper had compiled a list of all of the most bizarre, preposterous names to appear in the paper.
A few examples: Monkietron Ward, Mary Screws, Diaretha Nelson, Duford Lafoon, Atomic Junebug Hill.
These are real, verified names. And there are thousands of them. When I left the paper, I was sure to print out the list and take it with me.
I always wanted to do something with the list, but I never knew exactly what. Until last summer I went out to Utah with my dad to go fossil-hunting. In the little town of Moab, we popped into a bookstore. They had a row of old hardcovers that had had their pages stripped out, replaced with blank journal pages. One caught my eye. It had a black cover, and the title, in red all-caps, was “LABELS.”
I went through and wrote down a name on each page. At last year’s Heroes Con, I started passing the book around to artist friends and asking them to draw each name the way they imagine the person might look. It took off in a way I couldn’t imagine, and eventually I started to have people go out of their way to ask me if they could contribute. This was a relief, given my reservations about sketches.
At the Atlanta Comic Con in December, I happened to meet June Brigman, longtime artist of the Brenda Starr comic. She was kind enough to add to the sketchbook. Her contribution? Velvet Couch.
By coincidence, it was that very week that the Brenda Starr strip was retired. Through Facebook, I happened to come across this post on Politics Daily by Suzi Parker.
Suzi worked at the Democrat-Gazette before I did and has gone onto a career as an author and freelancer. I posted a comment on Facebook, letting Suzi know the coincidence about me having just met June and getting the sketch.
Suzi mentioned that she knew about the list from her time at the newspaper. I told her that June had drawn a version of Velvet Couch. Suzi then commented that she had written the obituary for one Velvet Couch several years ago.
It was that obit that led to Velvet’s name being on the list!
Times like these, the world feels very, very small. Thanks to June for the sketch! Expect to see more from LABELS in the future.
Now, here’s Velvet Couch:
There’s been some brouhaha lately around the Internet about a push for more support of creator-owned comics and for more creators to go in a more independent route.
Steve Niles, whom I had the pleasure to meet last year, has been a big factor in this. He’s been blogging and tweeting regularly about the issue. His first post, which is a good summary of his position, is right here. It’s a nice, positive position that boils down to readers spreading the word about what they like rather than trashing what they hate.
Eric Powell, creator of The Goon, posted a video on YouTube that has since been pulled. It was a bit crass, but I think it came across more harshly than Powell intended. For some background on the video and the movement (and the source of that ridiculous image at right), there’s a nice summary at The Beat.
There was also a post from Dean Haspiel that went a little farther:
Being published by someone else does not legitimize your hard work. And, the financial advance hardly pays the rent. Think about that the next time you sign a contract for your original ideas.
I am a comics creator, and so far I’ve only ever done creator-owned work. And there’s some absolute truth to the fact that making creator-owned comics is a hard living at this time, at least unless you’re Robert Kirkman. New people to comics are always surprised at just how hard of a living it is (as I am not Robert Kirkman, I hold down a day job).
I definitely support what Niles and Powell are doing. Any advocacy is great and can only help. But is it enough? And what can we do to get creator-owned comics to a place of being financially viable?
The problem, for starters, is not Marvel and DC. A lot of criticism centers on the big two superhero publishers, but I don’t think it’s deserved. Marvel and DC haven’t done anything to limit the proliferation of creator-owned books in the past 20 years. Yes, they dominate the direct market, but they also provide tons of work to lots of great comics people. And by keeping the direct market viable, they have helped maintain a market for creator-owned books.
The problem also is not diversity. Comics are incredibly diverse today (at least in content, if not in those creating them). In recent weeks I’ve read work by Brecht Evans, the brothers Ba and Moon and the fantastically different Return of the Dapper Men, just to name a few. There are comics being made that anyone and everyone can enjoy.
The problem is connecting with those potential readers.
Estimations are that about 300,000 people make up the core American comics market. A glance at any sales chart from the direct market shows that these people are spending the vast majority of their cash on Marvel and DC superhero books.
Indie books like mine, the Pinocchio, Vampire Slayer series, are considered a success when they sell several thousand copies. Not tens. Just several.
There was a recent graphic novel release — I won’t say which book it was, but it wasn’t from Marvel, DC, Image, IDW or Dark Horse — that sold about 200,000 copies in just its first few months. Two hundred thousand!!! And yet it wasn’t listed among the top-selling books in the direct market charts. In fact, fewer than 1,000 copies sold to the direct market.
So let’s think about those numbers. We say that about 300,000 Americans are willing to buy comics, based on direct market figures. Yet this book sold 200,000, with essentially none of that going to the direct market. So, right there, this one book has revealed another 199,000 people who will buy and read comics.
That’s just one example, and graphic novels like Maus, Persepolis, Watchmen and Blankets each illustrate a similar point. There are millions of people out there who will read comics.
The question becomes, why aren’t they reading comics more frequently?
I suspect that it has a lot to do with Wertham and the Comics Code and a whole generation of American children (and parents) being taught that comics are evil and juvenile. I won’t go into all the details. Just go out and buy David Hajdu’s The Ten-Cent Plague, if you haven’t already.
I think we in the comics community tend to lose perspective of the limited place of comics in culture. I still regularly meet people who are surprised that I write comics. They imagine that it’s all superhero hijinks. They have no idea that a work of brilliance and complexity like Eddie Campbell’s Alec is out there.
I remember the book that won my mom over — Drawn & Quarterly’s Aya. My mom spent quite a bit of her 20s in Africa, and the book related to her in a special way. “I didn’t realize there were comics like this,” she said.
And why would she? We in the comics community tend to do a horrible job of reaching out to the uninitiated. Instead, we fight over the dwindling direct market buyers. They’re the safe route, the audience we know.
If we’re to have any success building up the comics industry, it needs to come through creative methods of reaching out beyond that audience (though never ignoring it).
Digital will be part of the answer. Some initial research has shown that the digital readership differs in its tastes from the direct market audience, which means we’re getting to a few new readers. That’s still a nascent area, though, and it will never be a panacea. Web comics, though, are doing wonders in getting more people engaged with comics.
We need to push to get more graphic novels/comics into new outlets. Independent bookstores should be a great fit for comics, though many in that community are still resistant. That comes through partnerships with trade organizations and simple local outreach. There are plenty of places left out there that sell books but not comics. It’s time we gave them a hard sell.
We need to support the push for comics to be part of the cultural landscape. No, that doesn’t mean buying a ticket to see Thor. It means building up more comics-related curriculum in colleges and even high schools. It means creating graphic novel clubs and participating in events like Read Comics in Public Day.
And we need to do everything we can as creators to expand the audience with each one of our books. This comes down to marketing. Yeah, it’s great if your new comic gets mentioned on The Beat, CBR and Newsarama. But that crowd would’ve heard about the book through Previews or just seen it on a Wednesday outing anyway. With the Pinocchio books, I’ve tried to think about what non-comics people might like the books and how I could bring them to their attention. That meant spending a lot of time marketing the comics toward nontraditional outlets like horror magazines and blogs, vampire fan clubs and fairy tale fanatics.
I feel like comics have come an awful long way just in the past decade, but we still have a lot farther to go. Fighting each other isn’t going to make the industry more stable. And simply recommending books that we like — by the way, the all-color Owly book is awesome! — can only go so far. It’s going to take hard work, but it’s well worth the effort.
The second volume in the Pinocchio, Vampire Slayer trilogy is out now. Pinocchio, Vampire Slayer and the Great Puppet Theater was released Dec. 2 from the great folks at SLG Publishing.
It’s a 176-page, black and white graphic novel that picks up shortly after the first book leaves off. Pinocchio and his team are adventuring across Italy, searching for the source of the vampire menace.
They’re joined in the effort by members of the Great Puppet Theater, a troupe of sentient puppets who are similarly bent on undead annihilation.
The book has been getting a good response so far from critics and fans. But, most importantly, my mom called to let me know that she liked it. And you know how hard it is for children to impress their mothers.
I hadn’t been home to western Nebraska for Thanksgiving since my last semester of college six years ago. So we decided to make the trip (a flight to Denver then a three-plus-hour drive to Lewellen) this year.
In the days leading up to our departure last Wednesday, the news was filled with horror stories about a little government agency called the TSA. Air travelers were warned they would come up against a two-headed security beast: One could choose to face the Scanner (which captures essentially a nude image of the Scannee) or that guy in the photo, the Pat-down Man (aka Groper, Fondler or Happy Ending-er).
We had a 6 a.m. flight, so we woke at 3 and got to the airport at 4, thinking a full two hours would be needed with the holiday crowd. Instead, we found Hartsfield-Jackson airport to be all but empty. We walked right up to the front of the security checkpoint, not a soul in front of us.
Things took a turn for the interesting as we passed our shoes, coats and carry-on bags through the X-ray. Luckily, the Scanner was blocked off (one threat down!).
But after I walked through the metal detector, I looked back and could see two TSA agents puzzling over a bag on the X-ray screen. It was my bag. And in the middle of it was a large, solid, rectangular mass. Just a day before leaving, I had received a shipment of the new Pinocchio, Vampire Slayer and the Great Puppet Theater. So I’d packed up 20 or so to take home and give to relatives. On the X-ray, the stack of books looked like a brick of C-4.
One of the TSA agents turned to me. “Is that your bag?” I said it was. He pulled it off the conveyor belt and headed for the table where they root through luggage. “It’s books,” I offered, trying to be helpful. “What kind?” “Comic books.”
The agent gave me a curious look. Uh oh, I thought, here comes the Pat-down Man.
He pulled out the stack of books and picked one up. He opened it, and then he began to flip through it. He looked up. “You wrote this?” I nodded. He turned toward the other agent, still at the X-ray scanner. “It’s a comic book! He wrote it!”
The agent put the books away and said they looked cool. I thanked him and started to reassemble, pulling on shoes and coat, stuffing wallet, keys and phone back in pockets. Before I could finish, I looked up to see the two agents talking. The first agent walked back over. “Can I show him?” he asked, pointing to his fellow agent, still stuck at the X-ray scanner. “Uh, sure.”
The first agent grabbed a copy and took it over. I noticed the X-ray conveyor belt had stopped moving. The two agents flipped through the book, looking at it. After a few seconds, the first agent started to bring the book back. “Is it for sale?” he asked. I nodded and said it was on Amazon — as well as the first book in the series. The second guard stood up from his post at the scanner. “I can find it on Amazon?” I nodded. “Write the name down,” he said to the first agent, who by that time was repacking my bag for the second time.
“Do you have a card?” the first agent asked. I didn’t (man, I really need to get cards made), so I reached into the bag and grabbed a copy. “It’s cool, he can just have one,” I said, holding it out to the first guard. “Can you sign it?” he asked, holding out a pen.
So, with the whole security line shut down, I signed a copy of the book (“For Doug, the best TSA agent in the world!”) before venturing off in search of our gate.
When we arrived in Denver, we saw a man walking around with a Big Gulp in one hand and a sheet of printer paper stuck to his chest. END THE TSA, it read in huge letters, ASK ME HOW, much smaller below that. I wanted to walk up to the guy and tell him to knock it off. TSA employees are just regular folks, doing their job and trying to keep travelers safe.
Plus, some of them like comic books.
There’s a strange aspect to writing a series of graphic novels (at least, one aspect that I’m thinking about today). At the time one book is about to come out, I’m always in the midst of working on a future volume.
In this instance, Pinocchio, Vampire Slayer and the Great Puppet Theater is a bit more than a week away from hitting shelves (Dec. 2, for those looking). Meanwhile, I’ve been working hard on the script for the third Pinocchio book for the past few months. It’s a strange dissonance, talking up the second book in interviews while I’m so immersed in the third one.
So I’m going to break form a little. While I should be focusing all my energies on promoting The Great Puppet Theater (it is a heck of a fun book), I’m in the mood to talk about Pinocchio 3.
The important thing to know about the as-yet-unsubtitled third Pinocchio, Vampire Slayer is that it’s most likely the last of the series. Artist Dusty Higgins and I always thought of it as a trilogy. And while I won’t say never, the third book wraps things up so neatly that I doubt I’ll want to revisit the property.
Earlier tonight, I finished some last edits and sent off the finished script to Dusty. He’ll start drawing it in the next couple of months, and it should be out in the next year or so.
As I was working on the last page, I found myself suddenly a bit emotional. I know this is obviously a pretty ridiculous series, but Dusty and I always made an effort to give the story a heart, to focus first and foremost on the characters. I was sad, I realized, to say goodbye.
It was more than three years ago now that Dusty called me up out of the blue and asked if I wanted to write a book about Pinocchio killing vampires. I’d seen Dusty’s sketches for the character, and I knew he was a great artist, so of course I said yes. But I also remember being skeptical. A whole book pinned on such a clever — but seemingly limited — concept?
I wrote the first book in a couple of weeks. It came pretty quickly once we decided to base it on Carlo Collodi’s original Pinocchio. Dusty drew some sample pages. SLG Publishing picked us up. The book came out. It seems rapid-fire in hindsight, but of course at the time it seemed like forever until October 2009, when Pinocchio, Vampire Slayer was released.
Dusty and I hadn’t been sure what to expect, and so we hedged our bets with the first volume. It ends satisfactorily enough, but by that point we’d realized something. Not only did we have enough for a book. We had a perfect story for a trilogy. So we left the door ajar.
It was during the process of writing book one that the idea came, a mythos that explained not just how Pinocchio came into existence, but also the origin of the vampires. It would be a big story, and an unpredictable one. We crossed our fingers the first book would do well enough for us to tell it.
And, thanks to our amazing fans, it did better than we ever could’ve imagined.
I spent about six weeks writing the second Pinocchio script last fall. It’s a fairly classic book two of a trilogy, in that it expands the physical and emotional scope of the story while ramping up the dangers faced by the heroes. It also introduces a new crew of vampire-slaying puppets and features … wait for it … vampire pirates.
I’m really happy with how it came out, as Dusty and I both pushed ourselves to learn from our first published work and — pun warning! — raise the stakes on this volume.
I won’t say much about the third book, because it would be impossible without spoilers, but it took me a few months to write, and I labored over the story more than anything I’ve ever worked on.
Back in 2007, when I first signed onto Dusty’s project, I never imagined it would take up more than three years of my life, or that I’d be so invested in the story. It’s been an incredible run, though, and I’m eternally thankful to Dusty for giving me the chance.
OK, now who wants to talk about Pinocchio, Vampire Slayer 2?