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Dollar Dreadful Family Library: Sold out!

Wow, MoCCA was a great time! We went in with literally no expectations and came away amazed with how well everything went. We had a number of items that we were selling: our Dollar Dreadfuls, Budgie Buddies, and our friend's T-Shirt/CD/Poster sets and we sold out of everything by the end of Sunday. We came to the show armed with two boxes full of Dollar Dreadfuls and even though we were worried that some people would be turned off by the fact that they aren't strictly "comic books", lots of people seemed really intrigued by them and picked them up.

Business on both Saturday and Sunday was brisk, and even though we were in room "C" we got quite a bit of traffic coming through. The only downside was that we didn't realize that half-tables were so small and that we paid so much for such a small space. Fortunately for us, the people sharing our table were hardly there all weekend and they said we could use their half when they weren't around. So we really got to spread out our things, which helped. (And we signed up for a full-sized table for next year so we don't make the same mistake again.)

Our neighbor was Rosemary Mosco, who I met at the Toronto Comic-con and she was also selling prints and mini-comics like crazy and sold out of practically everything by the end of the show! And other people must have been doing well, too. Ryan North mentioned that he had sold out of some of his books as well, to the disappointment of his fans. (As a side note, his mini storybook/comic: Happy Dog the Happy Dog was one of the funniest things I've read in a while). Alas, I was not able to get a copy of Life Meter 2 before they sold out - that seemed to be quite a hot item at the show!

Overall, I didn't have much time to walk around but, as always, there was so much cool stuff to be found. Fellow MCAD alumni were representing at MoCCA- we ran into Will Dinski who had some amazing screen-printed comics in really creative formats. We also saw Tyler Page who also used to attend MCAD, and I picked up his new Nothing Better trade. Ryan Kelly was also there, and let us know how life is going with his new twins!

Will had fun exploring the show and picking up lots of swag. He was quite impressed with Petteri Tikkanen, who was at the Finnish table, and who chased Will down 15 minutes after he purchased a book, in order to give him the translation guide!

Even though we were happy about leaving the show with less stuff to carry, it didn't quite work out that way because we bought so much stuff! But if there's one show that I like spending money on, it's MoCCA, because oftentimes that's the only place where you can pick up all these cool and unique comics and works of art in one place.

I brought my camera but for some reason I hardly took any pictures... but here's a couple of our table. Forgive the blurriness.



Anyway, it was a great weekend, and we're definitely going to miss New York. We leave for Cali on Wednesday, or at least that's the plan. Our dog fell unexpectedly ill a couple days ago and she's been in the animal hospital all weekend. :( So we're really hoping she'll recover quickly and that it doesn't turn out to be something too serious...

Well, thanks to everyone who stopped by our table to chat or to buy our Dollar Dreadfuls! We'll see you next year at MoCCA!
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MoCCA Debut of The Dollar Dreadful Family Library!

I'm really looking forward to this weekend. After being away for 3 months, Will is coming back to NY from LA and we'll have a table at the MoCCA Art Fest!!

There we'll be selling a bunch of cool stuff like Will's amazing posters from his design site lonewolfblacksheep:

Tattoo Pirate Warren the 13th Valhalla Lola Muerte

I'll also be selling some amigurumi from my own crafty label Say Llama Friends! Meet the Budgie Buddies! I'll be selling assorted colors!

Say Llama Friends!
Budgie Buddies!

Our good friend Mike Turzanski of The Good Product will be at our table selling some of his incredible t-shirts and posters

The Good Product

Last but not least, Will and I will be debuting our new pet project: The Dollar Dreadful Family Library!

T.D.R and Wilhelm Staehle of SteelRiver Studio are proud to present the Dollar Dreadful Family Library which debuts at the jolly old MoCCA Art Fest, June 23 & 24!
DDFL is a collection of exciting, thrilling, and ghastly short stories with exquisite vintage illustrations that hearken back to the Penny Dreadfuls or Dime novels of the early 1900s.
Indeed, there is something here for everyone – and at an affordable price which the whole family can agree upon!

Why not try Archibald Grey: Investigator of the Macabre and Possessor of the Skeleton Key? Read his adventures in The Golem’s Labyrinth and gasp at the supernatural terrors he encounters!
For those of a more sensitive nature, try The Domestic Adventures of Octavious Watt and his Pneumatic Bride as they attend the grand Worlds Fair and gain the interest of a strange duo who just may be up to no good!
If mysteries are more your speed, you might enjoy The Dressmakers Detective Journal as four plucky women gather each week to solve shocking puzzles!

Collect all three and share them with your friends or display them proudly in your washroom where visitors can enjoy a quick read as they attend to their business! You won’t be disappointed – for where else can you discover enormous family fun for such a small price?


And, of course, we'll also have copies of Mangaka America Available!

Mangaka America

So please come visit our table, C-2, this Saturday and Sunday!
our table

It's going to be our LAST weekend in NY before we make the cross-country trek to LA, so we hope to make it memorable!!
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Heroes Con Report!

Well, I just got back from my first time at the Heroes Con in Charlotte, NC. I've actually wanted to attend this con for a couple years now because I've heard so many good things about it, but various circumstances never allowed me to go (for example, last year it was on the same weekend as my wedding!). Well this year I was determined not to miss it! I'm so glad I went, because it really was a good show - a decent size; not too big, not too small, tons of creators and interesting guests, and lots of families came by with their kids which was so great to see. At most cons I go to, I'm lucky if I see 3 or 4 little girls tagging along with their dads. But at Heroes, I saw many more, and not only that - but entire families: moms, dads, sons, daughters, babies in strollers, and even some grandparents.

And even better, I was seated right next to Jim Amash, inker on Sabrina and Sonic, Teresa Davidson, my letter, and Ian Flynn and Tracey Yardley, writer and penciler of Sonic the Hedgehog, respectively. So with this sort of "Archie corner" we got quite a lot of traffic which was nice!

Since I arrived just before the show started, and left almost as soon as it ended, I didn't have much time to explore the city of Charlotte, but it seemed like a nice place and the weather was mild. Instead, I got up a few times to explore the inside of the convention and ran into a lot of old acquaintances such as Brian Defferding and Patric Lewandowski, (We all shared some comic classes back at MCAD), and Chris Moreno who, incidentally, is also moving to LA at the end of the month with his significant other. I also got to catch up with Tim Seeley, who was one of the first guys to give me a shot at comics when he put one of my short stories in his anthology, "From Heaven to Hell", back when I was still in college. I also chatted with Louis Small Jr. (He's funny - and trouble! ^_~ ) and Jonboy Meyers, who penciled the Spider-Man/Arana story I wrote. He's a great guy.

I also got to meet a few new people such as Todd Dezago, writer on Perhapanauts. He's so friendly and funny - I had a good time chatting with him. And of course, I got to meet my inker and letterer Jim and Teresa for the first time. Jim has been working on the Sabrina book with me ever since I started back in 2004, so it was nice to finally put a face to the name (and voice).

I didn't have as many sketch commissions as usual at this con, but I think that's because it was more of a family show and less of a place where tons of hardcore fanboys go around filling their sketchbooks. Or maybe people didn't realize that I can draw more than just Sabrina. Or maybe it's because Jim convinced me to raise my commission price. (Hmm...) In any case, I did hand out a ton of comp Sabrinas and got a few people interested in the series, so that definitely made up for it. A lot of people still assume that it's directly related to the TV show, and they'll tell me "Oh, I never watched/liked that show" and therefore aren't interested in my comic. So I'm always trying to show people that's it's not related to any of the past Sabrina incarnations - it's has a new look, plot, characters - everything is different.

On Friday night I had dinner at Jolina, a nearby Mexican/BBQ place which was pretty decent, and I went to an after-party at the hotel afterward where a couple bands were playing before a screening of Rosario Dawson's new film, Descent. I skipped the screening though, and went to bed early since I just wasn't in the mood for an intense NC-17 movie that night. ^_^

On Saturday night I went to watch the auction with a friend, Erick, who I first met at a Boston convention years ago, and who was now at Heroes helping out some of his buddies at the show. I had donated a Sabrina page to the auction and was beginning to regret it as soon as I had a look at all the other pieces of art that were available. I could just imagine them announcing my piece and then hearing crickets in the room. Luckily, it wasn't that bad at all. My page had a couple bids and ended up going for 50 dollars. (phew!). There were so many amazing pieces in the auction I wished I had enough money to bid on them. But no one could beat the bid on Adam Hughes' Star Wars piece which ended at $5000!

I had one panel about kids' comics on Sunday with Ian and Teresa and we had a good crowd who asked some smart questions. I actually really enjoy doing panels now. I used to be so terribly nervous and I dreaded doing them. But somewhere along the line I started feeling comfortable and now I like doing them quite a bit!

Before I knew it, the weekend was over. It really flew by! I had a great time at the show and I hope I'll be able to go back again in the future, even if I will be further away now. I'd like to thank Shelton and all the people who put it together, and who so kindly invited me to participate, and who put me up in a great room at the Westin. I really appreciate it!
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Toronto Comicon Recap!

I just got back from my first trip to Canada, where I was a guest at the Toronto Comicon! I had a great time and met lots of people and made new friends!

I have to say that the Toronto Comicon is really one of the most pleasant, well-organized cons I've been to. The people there really made sure that everything was taken care of - they provided transportation to and from the convention center, they came around often to see if we wanted water or soda, they escorted us to panels and signings, and watched our tables for us while we were absent. Each guest had ample room to display their work, and the Women of Comics were given tote bags filled with little goodies like lotion, a note pad, lip balm, and Godiva chocolates!!. It was a really nice gesture and made the experience that much more memorable!

Initially I was a little bummed that I wouldn't have Will along - I'm so used to him going to cons with me and being my right-hand man/personal gofer! (Just kidding!) Seriously though, he's always wanted to go to Toronto but because of all the craziness with his new job and such, he just couldn't come along. I'm not sure why we never went to Toronto during the 5 years we've lived in NY, since it's so friggin close.... but go figure. Now that we're moving across the country it won't be as easy...

Anyway, I digress...

(I was going to put a cut here, but for some reason it doesn't show up... so sorry!)


I got to the airport early and was confused because my itinerary said I was on a United Flight, but they couldn't find my name. Luckily, Dave Roman and Raina Telgemeier spotted me and told me they had the same problem. It turns out we were in the wrong area - we had to go to Canada Air! So we walked to the right place where we met up with Christine Norrie, whom I've never met before. I'm a huge fan of her work so I had to resist going into fangirl mode at first! ^_^

The flight to Toronto was almost effortless - even for me and I HATE flying! I had downloaded the season finale of House (which I missed the first time around) to watch on my ipod and I didn't even get to finish it before we landed! Talk about a short flight!

We then were picked up by Peter Fisico of All New Comics. He's the one who put together the Women of Comics event - and he's a super nice guy who happens to be a fan of Sabrina, which made me happy! ^_^

He dropped us off at the Holiday Inn on King which is right in the entertainment district. It was only about 2:00pm at that point so I had the rest of the day to do whatever. So I decided to wander around and explore Toronto a bit. I decided to go to Magic Pony which is an art gallery/designer toy store. It was only about a mile away from the hotel so I walked. On the way I found an awesome yarn store that had so much yarn I wanted to fill my arms with bushel-loads. But I restrained myself and only bought one single ball of yarn!

Then I found Magic Pony and took a look at their Team Macho show which was fairly amusing and bizarre. They had so much cool stuff to buy there... again, I wanted everything in there! But I was actually on a mission to buy Will some birthday gifts (His 27th birthday is on the 19th!). I think I picked out some cool things for him. I went back to the hotel to drop off my stuff and then decided to go be a true tourist and go up the CN tower, which I did not know (but do now) is the tallest building in the world, and which has the highest observation deck! I spent a few hours there and had a great time - it was really neat. Especially the glass floor. It was so thrilling to stand on it and look down, 1100 feet below!

After that I was hungry so I went back to the hotel and ate at their restaurant which, in retrospect, was not the best choice. It was overpriced and I was in an area with a ton of places to eat! Plus eating alone in the hotel restaurant felt awkward for some reason. Oh well.

I was exhausted so I went to bed early to prepare for the con the next day!


I got up early and met up with Raina, Dave and Christine in the lobby where some con volunteers shuttled us to the convention center. Inside, we were escorted by Peter to our tables. It was kind of neat to see a whole wall of tables all reserved for female creators! I was sitting between Christine and Nicola Scott, who is an amazing artist.

Christine Norrie

My table

Nicola Scott

I had a productive day, and had a lot of sketch commissions which was nice. I was surprised at how laid back the con was, overall. It didn't have that uncomfortably hot, desperate buzz and shuffling and bustling that most conventions do. There was ample room for everyone to walk around and even the most popular guests didn't have too much chaos, which was great for the fans. However, Nicola undercharged for her lovely inked, copic-shaded sketches and her list was 5 pages long before the end of Friday and she had to cut it off! I felt kind of guilty charging more for my pencil sketches, because she's so much more talented, but I still did ok. ^_~

After the con, I went with Dave, Raina, Christine and Tara McPherson to Club Lucky where there was a Women of Comics party going on.

We were originally planning to sneak out to go eat somewhere but we ended up socializing and snacking on the appetizers there, and the time just flew by! I ran into Svetlana - and it was nice seeing her again. I also met Eric Kim and Christopher Butcher - both really nice guys. Before I knew it, it was midnight. There was another party going on somewhere, but I decided not to go, so I walked back to the hotel with Dave and Raina.


I had breakfast with Dave and Raina and had a good time chatting with them and learning more about them. The "shuttle" to the con was pretty packed with other guests, so we ended up taking a cab to the convention center, which is actually not that far. I had a good day doing more sketches and I even got a chance to get up and walk around to see what else was on the floor. I like how this convention truly has a focus on comics. There were a couple media related booths, and one or two anime booths, but that was it. It was all about comics and the Artists Alley was just about as big as the Dealer area which was nice change from other cons where the artists are literally shunted into a corner. I also met Danielle Corsetto and Cecil Castellucci which was neat! Apparently there was a huge thunderstorm going on during the con, but inside we didn't hear anything other than an occasional distant rumble. By the time the show ended, it was sunny outside again! I took the rest of the night pretty easy. I got a smoothie from a great Canadian coffee chain called Second Cup (better than Starbucks!) and sushi take-out from a little place down the street (omg it was sooo good), and I hung out in my hotel and read some new graphic novels I had acquired, the P.L.A.I.N Janes and Love as a Foreign Language!


I had a rough start to my day. I knew that the "shuttles" to the convention center tended to fill up quickly because there were so many guests staying at the hotel, so I decided to get down to the lobby extra early to wait. When I first got down there, there was only 2 other guys there. But within 20 minutes, several more had come down. They all knew each other and had sort of formed a group, so when the first shuttle arrived, they all jumped up and filled it up quickly. Well, fine. It was still early and I figured I'd just take the next one. At this point, it was only me and 2 other guys again. So, when the next shuttle arrived about 20 minutes later, I jumped up right away because I didn't want to miss it. The 2 other guys (who shall remain nameless) had since been joined by two more of their posse. So we all walk out to the vehicle, and start loading our bags in the trunk. At which point, one of these guys - who wasn't even there until about 10 minutes prior tells me "Looks like there's only room for 4 in this one." And, including the driver, there were 5 of us. And I was just so stunned at his arrogance - because I had been waiting since 8:45 for the shuttle and it was now almost 9:30. And I said "I've been waiting since 9." And he just said "Sorry. There'll be another one." (Note, this was not the guy driving the shuttle, but the creator who had just shown up about 10 minutes ago.) I was so furious. The way they basically kicked me out even though I had been waiting there longer than them! I wish I was as good at standing up to people in real life as I am in my head. I just grabbed my bag and stormed off saying "Fine! I'll just take a cab!" barely realizing that I passed Terry Moore and his wife who, being respectable people, were waiting for the next shuttle as they had just arrived moments before. If I wasn't so mad I would have used this as an opportunity to say hi to them, but I was really upset. I mean, it's not so much the fact that I missed the shuttle again. It's not like I was in a huge rush or anything. It was the way I was just brushed aside like that. I know I'm not a big-shot artist and I'm fairly new to the game, but they looked at me like I had no business being there. I know they were all buddy-buddy, but whatever happened to just good old fashioned respect? You wouldn't think one of them would say "No, she was waiting here first. You guys go ahead, I'll take the next one." Of course not. These men just fuel the stereotype that "comic book guys" have a severe lack of social grace. 9_9

So I took a cab to the convention and cheered up a bit after I got set up and started taking commissions again. And my day was especially brightened by meeting a couple young girls who were fans of my work. Nothing makes me happier than when I see girls come to conventions with their dads, and of course, it especially makes me happy when they're fans of Sabrina and I can tell them a couple "secrets" about upcoming issues. ^_^

Overall, it was a bit of a slow day, but Sundays usually are. I think it's a shame that more people from the States don't cross the border to attend this con. It really is a great little show and it's not that far from New York and it's surroundings. I know I've been guilty of not thinking outside the border. I usually just assume in the back of my mind that Canada is sort of "far away" because it's another country. But Toronto is much closer than some of the other cons I've attended! Anyway, the day went by quickly, and I had a nice panel about kids' comics with a great group of people: Mike Cho, J. Torres, Joan Hilty, Michèle Laframboise, Dan Davis, and Brian McLachlan, and moderated by Janet Hetherington. Later, I walked around some more and got to meet Faith Erin Hicks, who seems really cool.

Overall, my day was good and I had a successful time with my commissions which is always a nice feeling! I love it when people ask me to draw different characters - it gives me a new challenge. Two guys even asked me to draw them in a manga-style face off! That was a first for me! I always get really nervous when I draw real people, but I think they were happy with the end result...

And so the con came to an end and I got a couple photos with my fellow Women in Comics:

Svetlana, Christine, and me!

Tara and me (she's so nice!)

After the con I went to a place called Victory with Eric Kim and Rosemary Mosco who, like every other Canadian I've met is really sweet. There we met up with Nadine Lessio, Ryan North, and Chris Hastings, some of the cool guys who work at the Beguiling and Mike Drake who works at a store in Halifax called Strange Adventures.. Phew!

We had a good time sharing crazy comic stories, talking about stalkers, the glue guy, and offensive webcomic topics!

Eric outside of Honest Eds!

Afterward, we met up at Second City for its 24 hours of improv benefit. It was pretty cool. Colin Mochrie was there and we watched him improvise in some good skits.

Later I had a good time hanging out and chatting with Eric, Nadine and Mike until late. At one point they pointed out a Canadian TV personality named George Stroumboulopoulos who came into the room and whom, admittedly, I've never heard of. But they convinced me to go and ask him for a photo and tell him I was a big fan from NY! ^_^

I wish I could have stayed out later, but alas it was time to return to my hotel because I had an early flight the next morning which turned out to be just as pleasant and short as the one going... but I LOST MY IPOD ON THE PLANE!!! ARRRRGGGGH. I'm sooooo bummed! It was brand new! How could I be so careless?? ?I carefully guarded it all weekend, because it's new and it was my baby. I even got a lovely protective sticker for it at Magic Pony. I just don't know how I managed to leave it on the plane... Well, I called the airline lost and found and filed a report. All I can do now is hope that whoever finds it is a nice person who turns it in instead of pocketing it. T_T Will's gonna be so mad at me. He gave it to me as a gift. *headdesk*.

Well even that wasn't enough to wreck what was such a great weekend and I would love to thank everyone who showed me a good time - from the convention organizers, to the people I hung out with! I think Canada rocks!

The future of comics and graphic novels... and my utopian hopes.

I was checking one of my favorite sites, Mangablog, and from there I was led to a link of a recent blog post by Becky Cloonan about floppies vs. graphic novels and how the whole Original Graphic Novel thing can't keep on the way it is. Too demanding, not enough pay, and individual volumes tend to disapear on the shelves with the rest of the masses unless they are lucky enough to receive a hefty amount of promotion. A lot of people have been discussing this on the web and many good points have been brought up.

As for my own perspective, I'm in a situation where I am not a graphic novelist- I work on a monthly book for Archie comics. When I first got the job 3 years ago, it was just the beginning of the "OEL" boom. Lindsay Cibos and Jared Hodges, the grand prize winners of the same RSOM I was in, were signed on by TOKYOPOP to create Peach Fuzz as a series, and many more artists soon followed in their footsteps and were being recruited by TPOP to create original graphic novels.

I admit at first, part of me was a little sad that I wouldn't get to jump into graphic novels right away - especially since floppies seemed to be a dying breed. Back then, it sometimes felt like TOKYOPOP was an awesome party that I wasn't invited to (although we often flirted!).

But now that I've been working on Sabrina for 3 years I can definitely see the advantages of this format. Not only do I get the gratification of seeing my work on newsstands consistently, I have a steady paycheck. Every week I turn in pages, and every 2 weeks I get a paycheck. It's nice! As long as I keep doing my work, I don't have to worry about when my payment will arrive (a rarity in the world of freelance!).

I've also been lucky in regards to getting fans and loyal readers. Rather than putting out one graphic novel, and trying to maintain my audience's attention for the next year until the next one comes out, I'm fortunate that new issues of my work are available at any given time, and that each month, I gain new readers. For every issue I get feedback - I can tweak a future storyline if I realize my fans aren't digging the direction I'm going in, or sometimes I'll deliberately do the opposite just to stir the fans up! (Hehehe) For example, if most of my readers claim that they want to see more of a certain character, I can arrange that. Or it the majority say they want to see Sabrina and Shinji get back together, I can bring in a third love interest just to make things interesting! It's this kind of interaction with my readers that I value. It's the ability to change my storyline and direction month by month. Of course, I have a "master plan" of major plot points, but it's nice to have some breathing room and the chance to be spontaneous with my stories. And now that I've already worked on close to 30 issues, there is more than enough material to make into graphic novels. (Archie already released my issues 1-4 in a mini trade).

I'm not trying to sound like a braggart, it's just that floppies really have been getting a bit of a bad rap lately. There have been times that I've felt that I don't get as much respect as a monthly comic artist as opposed to a graphic novelist, because floppies are "disposable" and temporary, while graphic novels have a more lasting appeal and are the "in" thing right now. Even I am to blame. I have failed at times to realize that graphic novels are not the only or even the best comic format. Are there problems with the monthly format? Yes. There's a reason that sales are dwindling and that more and more people are saying "I'll wait for the trade". It's a problem that floppies just can't be found as easily anymore. One pretty much has to go into a comic store to get comics, (and comic stores are also dwindling), whereas graphic novels can be easily found in the comfort of your local Borders or Barnes & Noble. Then there's all the annoying ads that you have deal with in a floppy. There's nothing like reading a story only to turn the page and find an 8-page comic insert advertising goldfish crackers. And now with Diamond having so much say over what makes it onto comic store shelves, a lot of aspiring creators can't break into the business of producing their own floppies. The good thing is that TOKYOPOP has given a lot of talented people jobs who may have been ignored in the regular comics world.

And you know, it's always been one of my personal dreams to look on a shelf and see it filled with graphic novels that I've created or worked on. To have a hefty product - with a spine! Something that gets to hang out with books on the bookshelf and not over there, wilting on the comic rack. I envy these Japanese creators who have 10+ volumes and multiple series on the shelves, and I marvel at how much work it must be to get to that point. I love reading manga because I get a satisfying chunk of story at once. Because I can sit down and spend a good hour reading a volume, as opposed to a floppy which I can breeze through in 15 minutes. There was a time when I would have given an arm and a leg to sign on with TOKYOPOP. Over the years I tried often to get something going with them. And, ironically, now that I've sort of stopped pursuing that, they've approached me about doing a one volume graphic novel. (Paperwork has not yet been signed, so I won't go into detail).

But I'm sort of glad that the last three years of my life have not been tied up creating graphic novels. I have several friends in the business, and I see how they struggle at times, how the workload and the payoff sometimes appear to be incongruous. I'm glad that I have had the chance to pursue my own side projects in addition to Sabrina - I've been able to put together Mangaka America, and maintain a webcomic as well as work on some other projects that have yet to be seen by the public. And hobbies! Yes, I even have some time for hobbies. Because I've always felt that it's really important for people to balance work with leisure. Too much of either is a bad thing, but if you can balance both, you'll be happier and less stressed.

But I digress. Now that it's possible that I'll be doing a graphic novel for TOKYOPOP, I am realizing how challenging it's going to be. To dedicate a year of my life - in advance - to this project, and then trying to balance that with Sabrina - and future volumes of Mangaka America - is a tough pill to swallow. Sabrina was my first gig and it's a good gig. Because of that I still consider it my #1 priority. I'm not willing to let my work on Sabrina suffer because of other projects that may come along. But other projects are necessary because, let's face it, Sabrina isn't going to pay all the bills. As a result, I have let TOKYOPOP know that I'm going to need to find an inker and a toner for my book because there's just no way I can do the whole thing myself in the time frame they want. I know some artists may find it hard to let go of having that full creative control, but I actually feel very comfortable with it if I'm working with a team I feel good to be a part of . I guess that's another reason I'm lucky to have Sabrina. I get to work with inker Jim Amash, and colorist Jason Jensen, and a variety of letterers to put an issue together and, corny as it sounds, I've learned the benefits of working with a team. And this is the sort of thing I feel really needs to happen more with graphic novels. Like Becky pointed out, in Japan, graphic novels are rarely done by one single person. These artists have assistants - sometimes as many as 10! Contrast that with the young American artist - often just starting out, creating a 160 page graphic novel for a market that, while growing, is still nowhere near the Japanese level of comic-consumption, and then to expect that same artist to do everything from the script, the thumbnails, the pencils, characters, backgrounds, inks, and tones, and sometimes even the lettering- does sound kind of crazy! Add that to the fact that they have to pretty much self-promote the hell out of their books, it's really amazing that any of them have managed to do it at all! Well, I'm sure they've learned a lot from the process, at least!

I hope with my own graphic novel I'll be able to enjoy the support of a small team, but the biggest hurdle will be finding one. The budgets for these projects are already so low, that there is hardly anything I could offer an inker, money-wise. And, unfortunately, part of having a happy team is making sure that everyone feels like they're being paid fairly for their efforts. It's just such a difficult thing to balance.

I find it so frustrating that this industry, one that provides good entertainment, that encourages kids to read, that inspires and gets imaginations flowing, that leads to blockbuster movies and merchandising, would have so little money to spend on the hardworking artists that are a part of it. I just did a 3-panel comic strip for a soft drink company and I got paid more for that one strip than I do for a whole issue of writing and drawing Sabrina! They're not even going to end up using it and I still got paid for it. Why is it that advertising has so much money to burn? That's a rhetorical question, of course.One just has to open up any floppy to see that advertising is probably the one thing keeping this industry afloat. (And it makes me wonder how much the people drawing those Goldfish cracker comics actually get paid...) That aside, I sometimes feel that a big comics union would be a good thing for artists... but that would probably be pointless anyway, since most of us are freelancers. It's not like we can start demanding higher "salaries" or "benefits".

Anyway, I'm not sure what I'm trying to say other than that I share Becky's frustration with the way things are going. I don't want to see this industry die, but I don't especially like where it's going, either...

Will this industry eventually drown under it's own weight? I think it's possible. I agree that there definitely needs to be changes made because it really can't continue like this for the next 5, 10 years. Something has to give, or it will collapse. Now, I'm no expert on business. I'm definitely too right brained for that. But these are my sort of suggestions, or rather, "wish list", of what I'd like to see more of in the comics world. These are things I feel could potentially strengthen or even save comics (and the creators!) although I know people will probably come back and say that my ideas are un-realistic or there's too many potential problems, etc etc. I understand that nothing is ever as easy in execution as it is on paper, but nonetheless, this is what I'd like to see in a happier, healthier comic book industry:

1. Anthologies

I'm going to agree with Becky wholeheartedly on the concept of anthologies, or collaborative works where artists can showcase their work in a monthly format, which can later enjoy being collected into a graphic novel format. I actually wrote a column about this a while back, as it's something I'd really like to see more of.
I always hear people say "but it's too expensive" or "it's too risky" or "it's not cost effective". But I guess I fail to see how this would differ from what TOKYOPOP has already been doing. It's just another way of presenting the material - one that I feel could be more successful. Let's say, for the sake of this example, TPOP decides to "take a risk" on 8 artists. Each artist signs a contract with TOKYOPOP to do at least one 160 page graphic novel, with the possibility of 2 more. TPOP isn't sure whether or not these books will pay off until they are completed and in stores, so it's a risk and an investment on their part. But lets say these same artists sign a contract to do 160 pages, but in 20 page installments. Every two months TPOP releases a graphic novel sized book with 160 pages, but with 20 pages from each artist. And two months later, the next one, and so on, until the 8th volume is complete. The stories which have received the best reaction could then possibly graduate to their own title, and new artists could be phased in from time to time to keep things fresh. Of course, this is a very simplistic view of the matter. I know printing costs and distribution are things that would make it difficult to release something like this every two months. But what if they lowered the "quality" of the graphic novel format and made it more like a magazine? TPOP was printing and mailing out free copies of their Takuhai magazine every couple months for a while there (I'm not sure if they're still doing this...). But that was a full-color magazine with new articles, activities, and comic previews, and printed on nice paper. If they could afford to do this and mail it out for free, why not make a b/w version, on cheaper paper with a few stories by OEL artists and charge a small subscription fee? Well, maybe there's something I'm missing, but I'm surprised it hasn't really been done yet. (Except for Drama Queen's yaoi Rush anthology - which has proved to be high quality at a reasonable price.)

2. Pay what it's worth.

Graphic novels have been often touted as the "savior" of the comic format. Many have seen them as a way to preserve what is perceived as a dying format, and it seems to be working so far. However, I strongly feel that if graphic novels are expected to take on this lofty task of saving comics, then publishers should put more money into making them. Especially with so many publishers jumping on this trendy graphic novel bandwagon, they clearly expect to gain something from it. If they're so confident about diving into the graphic novel arena as a way to tap into a hot trend, then they should show their enthusiasm with dollar signs and put more faith in their artists to put together a good product. If this means they have to be more picky about what they choose to print, so be it. At least quality standards will be higher, and readers appreciate a high-quality product - not something that appears rushed. And if artists get paid what they deserve to make a graphic novel, they won't have to go fishing for as many freelance jobs on the side to pay bills, so all their time, energy, and focus can go into making a great graphic novel. A graphic novel in itself is a huge chunk of work - it's a year of someone's life. And with more and more graphic novels gaining recognition and acclaim, their worth as a medium is growing, but the paychecks aren't. Bigger budgets would also be able to allow for more...

3. Team work

Graphic novels don't have to take a year to complete. Not if the lead artist has a team of assistants to help get the job done! I would love to see more teamwork and collaboration in graphic novels. Not only does this give more people the chance to break into the business, but it also provides a neat sort of mentorship, where the assistants learn the trade by doing, and by following the examples set by the lead artist. But this is tied in to my previous suggestion, which is for publishers to invest more money into their graphic novels. If the assistants can get paid what they're worth, they're more likely to really do a good job, and this creates a better product overall. Also, publishers gain by having their product finished in less time so it can start making money sooner. And with volumes coming out more frequently, it is easier to maintain the interest of the readers and attract new fans. And when fans get to read their favorite titles with less downtime in-between, even better!

4. TOKYOPOP is not the only publisher

Are they the one's who sort of started all this? Yes. Are they the leading publisher of Global Manga? Yes. But they aren't the only ones doing it. Del Rey is starting to experiment with Global Manga, and so is DramaQueen and a number of other smaller publishers. And then there's all the major book publishers. Graphic novels are "in" right now, and many book publishers are starting to get into publishing graphic novels, or are at least interested in getting into it. Some may not know the best way to approach it, but the interest is definitely there. Even my own webcomic, My Poorly Drawn Life, has received interest to be printed as a graphic novel by a major publisher, and that was the last thing I would have expected! Memoirs like Fun Home and American Born Chinese have shown what is possible for this format. And the nice thing about big book publishers is that they often have larger budgets and distribution. You don't have to deal with Diamond when you work for a book publisher. Your book can be special-ordered by comic shops but are sold primarily in bookstores, not the other way around. They also have a close relationship with the major book chains and have strong marketing departments. Unfortunately, it is harder to get your work seen by a book publisher, since many don't accept unsolicited material. It usually requires some word of mouth or other creative device to get noticed by these big publishers. Which brings me to...

5. Self Publishing

Everyone knows that self-publishing is hard. And few can expect to make a profit off it. But those who are persistent - really persistent, do get noticed after a while, especially if they have a strong web presence. Right now, comics pays so poorly that it's almost worth it to try self-publishing. You can expect to pay out of pocket for all of the expenses, but at least your material is your own. And once you have a finished product, it is that much easier to get picked up by a publisher, because by having made your own comic you have proved that you can handle all aspects of the process and follow through with creating a complete package - story, pencils, inks, letters, etc. Unfortunately, getting your comic distributed is a whole other story, especially since Diamond has made it so hard to even get into their catalog. So I say forget Diamond and forget about self-publishing floppies because it's going to be too tough to get through those doors. Instead of floppies, self-publish graphic novels. Is this more work? Yes. Is it more expensive to print? Yes. But! If it has a spine, and if you buy it a barcode you can at least sell it on Amazon, and you have a better chance of getting it onto bookshelves overall. But how does one afford to do all this? This is where teamwork comes in again. What if 10 people got together to self-publish an anthology? These ten people could split the costs and if you still wanted to go the Diamond route, they might be more willing to take a product that has multiple artists involved. They can easily turn down a single comic by an artist they don't like, but if there's a graphic novel with a variety of art styles and content, they may feel it to has more potential to sell. And what about taking the teamwork even further and teaming up not just with your friends, but with other small self-publishers? Each company can arrange to have one portion of the book, and all the expenses and profits could be shared. Of course, this can also be tricky to orchestrate, and contracts would have be exchanged and all that. But again, once you have a solid, professional product, it's that much easier to show it to book publishers and try to get them to buy your idea and take over the printing and distribution costs.

6. Subscriptions

It used to be that you could subscribe to almost any comic book and have it delivered to your door each month. You see how well magazines handle subscriptions - they can offer them at a fraction of the cover price, simply because they can avoid distribution fees that way. And not only is it harder to find comic stores these days, but I've gone into a shop looking for something only to realize it's not there. Then the shop owner will tell me "I can re-order it from Diamond" or he'll tell me to give him a list ahead of time of what to order, but that's really not something I want to do! When I physically go into a store to buy something, I want it to be there. I don't want to have tell the store to order X and Y months in advance. I don't want to order it after I find out it's not there. I'd rather save myself the trip and just subscribe to the things I want, and have them delivered directly to me. I know if subscriptions were more common then comic stores would suffer even more. But what it comic stores took the initiative to offer mailed subscriptions? I know Midtown Comics here in NY does that. That way they could still sell comics, but perhaps to an even wider audience. Anyway, on a self-publishing side, subscriptions is another way to get your book directly into the hands of readers, and bypass Diamond altogether. I think this could also work with magazine-style anthologies, sort of like Shonen Jump, but with original content, and released bi-monthly or even quarterly.

Phew! So anyway, those are my thoughts on the issue. This has been my longest post in some time. But I guess I had a lot to say! ^_^ What do you guys think? Am I living in a fantasy land or being overly pessimistic? Or do you also believe in change?
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What does one have to do to earn a spot at San Diego Comic-con?

Last year I was unable to get an Artist Alley table so this year Will and I tried to get a small press space for our company SteelRiver studio, but I just received a letter saying we were turned down. :(

I sent them samples of our work - including a copy of Mangaka America, and we also sent in our application long before the March deadline (we sent ours back in December).

I know space is limited and we are supposedly on a waiting list, so there's still a *chance*, but I'm honestly not too optomistic.

Does anyone have any advice or know any specific things they look for when giving people space? I'm just so frustrated... I was really banking on being able to have a space to promote our newest projects...
b/w face

Things are a-changing.

Well I've been busy so I haven't had much of a chance to update lately. For those of you who read My Poorly Drawn Life, a couple weeks ago I had a mini-recap of NYCC, which I feel was a huge improvement over last year. I went in this year thinking that if it was as disorganized as last time, I would never go back again. And, well, it wasn't perfect but it was better. Except for Artists Alley - what a nightmare! I didn't even get to look through half of it because it was so packed. I did fight my way through on Sunday just to reach the gaming area where I could set my stuff down and relax for a bit!

Below the cut are a few pics from the con.

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What else? Oh yes, I changed the news page of My Poorly Drawn Life to a livejournal account - so if anyone is interested in weekly updates/reminders and other MPDL tidbits, feel free to friend poorlydrawnlife. This week I added some youtube clips of the noises Will and I heard late one night in the haunted bamboo forest in Arashiyama, Japan! ^_^

Now for the biggest news.... Will and I are moving to LA!

This sort of came out of the blue.... a short time ago Will got a job offer from JibJab. And even though he's really enjoyed his time designing book covers over at HarperCollins, he felt like it was time for a change. I do feel Will has really has reached a peak with his book cover design- some of his best covers are the ones he's worked on just before he gave notice at Harper and I know he'll go even further at JibJab.

Of course, it isn't an easy decision to move all the way across the country... especially since New York has really grown on us and we've made so many friends here. And, of course, I'll miss being so close to my family...

But we went to LA one weekend and visited the people at JibJab and we were really impressed by the work that they're doing- and just how nice everyone was and it just makes sense right now for both of us. It just felt "right". Not only is the weather nice, JibJab is within walking distance to the beach (it's technically in Santa Monica/Venice, not downtown LA). Everyone there is so laid back and healthy... I really think it's a change Will and I could use.

Will also has another opportunity in LA that I can't mention just yet (but soon I hope!), and it looks like I might be working on something for TOKYOPOP - yes, finally, it looks like it might really be happening. Of course, I'm lucky in that I can work from anywhere, so I can continue doing Sabrina like always. But I will miss going in for my weekly meetings with my editors...

But I guess that's life. I've moved around my whole life - growing up I spent on average about 3 years in any one place, and I've been able to experience many different things in different places. So I'm used to the feeling. I still hate leaving friends behind, but the good ones always stay friends no matter where you are. And sometimes I hate the places I move to, only to have them grow on me. When I first moved to Colorado from England - I just hated it completely. I thought it was so barren and uninviting. But by the time I left, it was (and still is) one of my favorite places in the world! I didn't even like New York that much when we first came here because I really missed the Midwest. But the character of New York is unlike any other place, and it's really grown on me. So even though LA isn't my ideal place and there are a lot of things about it that turn me off, I'm sure I'll find things to love about it as well. This is just another part of my pattern, I guess...

Will's already leaving in about a week and a half! I'm staying behind a couple months to pack up the place and take care of some commitments I made such as workshops and such. It's going to be weird without Will around, but he'll be coming back in a couple months and we're going to drive cross-country with the dogs - something we've always wanted to do!

So, big changes ahead!
knit wits


Hey everyone,

I haven't had a chance yet to update my lj with my pics from Kyoto, but I will soon. In the meantime, I'd like to remind people of :

Photobucket - Video and Image Hosting

It went through a period of inactivity but it's now back. The idea behind the comic was to make a quick, crappy comic that I could do quickly as a sort of instant gratification, but unfortunately, although the comic itself doesn't take long to draw, getting it scanned and ready for the web did take a really long time - sometimes a couple hours or more. And I found myself just not having the time to dedicate to getting it online each week.

So I have now hired my brother to help out. I taught him the ropes and each Monday I'll hand him my sketchbook full of comics and he'll take care of the rest! What a weight of my shoulders! Now I don't see any reason why I can't keep to my weekly schedule. ^_^

Secondly, for those of you interested in crafty type stuff, I started a new lj dedicated solely to my knitting and crochet projects. Will and I started a little brand called Say Llama through which, eventually, we hope to make things to sell. Another thing I talk about in this blog is my progress on my own personal comic, Knit-Wits, which I hope to have ready in time for this year's MoCCA art fest. Anyway, to visit my other blog, visit sayllamafriends. Although, I'm warning you - it might be boring to most of you!! ^_^

Belated Japan pics - part 1

A while back I promised to post some pics of my honeymoon in Japan (which was back in October - yikes!)

But it's driving me crazy -- all the pics are low-res!! I don't know what happened. My camera takes hi res photos and I usually dump them on my PC without any problems. But since we were in Japan (and Will brought his Mac ibook along), I dumped the photos on his computer in order to make room on my camera's memory card. And later on I realized that something funky must have happened when we dragged the pics into iphoto, because all the photos are 72dpi and tiny! I didn't notice it at the time because I was just dumping the photos and deleting them off my card but arrrrggggggh! I weep to think that I'll never be able to print out nice pics of our trip. Why does this always happen to the important photos?

And I'm not saying that I'm blaming the Mac... because I used to be a faithful Mac user and supporter...

...but still...


Oh, well. T_T I'm gonna split these photos into a couple posts because even though I'm only picking out several of the 300+ that we took, there are still a bunch!

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