Our Best Jackett
Our Best Jackett
Newsletter #150: A Pro's Guide to Comic Conventions

Newsletter #150: A Pro's Guide to Comic Conventions

Breaking down my San Diego Comic Con and how to handle conventions as an aspiring or established comic creator!

Hey guys, it's Scott.

It is Saturday, July 29th and I finally recovered from San Diego. I'm old, and long flights like that and massive energetic weeks of no sleep and work and play, I don't recover from them like I used to. So you can still hear it in my voice. But a couple bits of housekeeping and then I'll dive in. Today I'm going to do a free post and then a post for paid subscribers essentially both focused on San Diego as a convention, the experience of it will be part of the free post and then a more targeted conversation about how to use a con like San Diego, or how I've used conventions over the course of my career at different stages and how most pros use them over the course of their careers in a healthy, beneficial way. So we'll certainly do both things. Also, Barnstormers #1, the first print issue of the Eisner-winning Barnstormers is out from Dark Horse right now, an oversized issue.

Barnstormers: A Ballad of Love and Murder #1 (2023) | Variant cover by Tula Lotay

And Duck and Cover from me and Rafael Albuquerque. Our first issue is out from Comixology.

Duck and Cover #1 (2023) | Cover by Rafael Albuquerque and Marcelo Maiolo

Nocterra: Nemesis Special, the penultimate issue of the series, next issue is our last issue!

Nocterra: Nemesis Special (2023) | Variant cover by Jim Cheung and Jay David Ramos

We will return to it someday but this gives a really nice closure to this whole era of Nocterra, and please go support Tony on Edenwood, his new Image book that starts in September. It's going to be a lot of fun. So all those are our books out.

Also, we've retooled our Best Jackett site, really proud of it. Ty can put the link here. All powered by the amazing retailer Third Eye Comics down in Baltimore. We also have a new options on there, we're actually releasing our first merch very soon!

So we have shirts that you can take a look at for Best Jackett Press—black on black and white on black. And then we have a new feature which we're going to be expanding where we have a shirt that has the Best Jackett logo but has details from the different books we're releasing within that logo. So the first one has a Book of Evil scissor drawn by Jock that’s kind of scary. So I hope you enjoy it, really excited about that! And I'm putting up some signed comics for you guys to order from in the next week or so as well. So we're expanding on that front.

Also, next week, I was going to do a class but I'm going to a baseball game that night with my kids. We have that partial season tickets pack to the Yankees who are just barely hanging on and so bad this year. But hopefully tonight Judge is back and turns it around. So I'm going to do it the week after, I think it's the 9th. Ty, if I'm wrong, you can correct me (nope, that’s right—Wednesday, August 9th at 9:30pm EST). But we're going to do a big class, it's going to be how to write a superhero comic. It'll be a masterclass. Not sure if I'll bring in some surprise guests but it's going to be kind of my thesis on how to approach superhero comics. So it's going to be a really fun one, you can come to it with no experience whatsoever of the class. You don't have to read anything, you just jump right in. So we'll have a really good time. I'm super excited about it!

Okay, so San Diego. San Diego was really special this year. I know it sounds hokey, last year was the first year it felt special to me and I think that's largely because COVID shut it down for a while. But also because in many of the years that I was there over the past decade, I was there really, really pushing hard for DC stuff. And I was so proud of that stuff and I loved being a part of DC, but it was a very singular focus and there was a lot of things to do behind the scenes to push events and Batman and books and it meant a lot of running around town to different places. Like one of the things that I don't think most fans or aspiring creators who haven't been to a con in a professional setting are really are aware of is that the con for most of us is like 80% work. I mean, it's not just signing for fans. There are multiple meetings. I had meetings with multiple publishers behind the scenes. I had meetings with retailers, I had meetings with press, I had publicity things to promote the books, interviews, all kinds of stuff. But you run around also not just at the convention center, but you meet people in the Gaslamp district, there are people that you're going out to dinner with, lunches, breakfasts, and all of that sometimes gets wrapped around the maypole of whatever company you're working for at that time if you're working in a really singular capacity.

So for me, there was a lot of DC work at San Diego and having bosses there and having the studio there was stressful as much again as I would not trade it for anything and I love being a part of DC as a company. But I did not look forward to that convention for those reasons, that it was a ton a ton of high stress work and it was often also a place where a lot of people that I didn't see a lot of the year that were individuals that had more to do with different facets of Warner Brothers, you knew were there. And so there was a different level of scrutiny. So all of that combined plus coming back from COVID made 2022 have a completely different feel. I mean, I was totally independent. We had the Scottober West Coast party which was fun for Comixology. But above all, it was this overwhelming and palpable sense of joy that we were all back together there and it was this different energy altogether, not just for me, I think. But when I talked to James Tynion IV and I talked to Josh Williamson and Jock and everybody seemed to feel it. It was about, let's not focus so much on the priorities of work here, or of networking in a mercenary way, or the ways that you have to have necessity and utility. Let's instead try and get together and really prioritize reconnecting with each other. And that is the way last year felt. I mean, I made the effort, because I could, because I wasn't completely tied to one company, to be able to have breakfast with Mark Doyle and James Tynion IV and see Jock and get together with Sean Murphy or just old friends and connect on a human level.

With comic compatriots Michael Conrad, Becky Cloonan, and Tom Taylor at SDCC 2022

And this year was sort of double that. Everybody seemed to not only feel that, but also with the absence of Hollywood, which again, never wishing a strike upon anyone, but there felt like there was a double focus on comics which was additive to that energy, that we're here and that we're standing and that we're a community of people who love making these things. And the truth is, like, when you look behind the scenes, there's all this kind of doom and gloom and there always has been, but there's this sense that there's a glut of comics and it's corrective right now and sales are down a bit. But the truth is, when you get under the hood with a lot of it, it's extremely healthy compared to other industries right now in terms of downward curve when it comes to streaming, when it comes to all these different kinds of cultural neighborhoods that are taking a dip because of economic worries and because of max out on content. Comics is actually doing really well publisher to publisher when I talked to Image, when I talked to Boom, when I talked to DC and have meetings with friends at those places. And it felt like a celebration of those things. And without movies and TV there, it felt even more crowded in the comics. I don't know what attendance was like, but it certainly didn't seem down. It definitely was like, way more crowded in the comic space, which gave it this extra electricity that was super fun.

And I think like one of the things that makes this moment exciting to me is that it feels corrective on the same level that for me, my career kind of mirrors. I feel it on a personal and individual level as well as seeing it on a kind of macro level if this makes sense, bear with me. But the first decade I was at DC, we went from being kind of a bullpen New York-based comic book company to being fully acquired by Warner Brothers and moved out to the West Coast and then Warner Brothers was acquired by AT&T and then Discovery+. And all of those can be really great things, with that vertical integration there's a lot more focus and there's a lot more money involved for the comic companies themselves generally. There's a lot more resources for comics to get to more places, there's the ability to digitize, there's the ability to have merchandise, all of those things can mean really positive and healthy things for comics. But they also mean a lot of flux and they also mean a lot of new players and a lot of new priorities or a lot of new pressures and those things. So none of it is like, this big negative thing that kind of company should never be integrated into other corporate entities. It's more that during those years, there were all these other lanes people were driving in and there were power struggles. And there were people trying to find positions that didn't exist in comics that were liaisons to studios, and all of that kind of stuff. And all bosses that existed outside of comics, some of whom were wonderful but had priorities that were about how the studio is maximizing its kind of investment in these billion dollar characters. All of those things were swirling in the air, all that was part of San Diego, all that was part of the experience of being a DC and it was cumulative. And so I think on a societal level as well, comic companies, in an indie way, had streaming come in and suddenly have all this interest.

So if you're writing an indie comic back when I started, you didn't make a lot of money from doing an indie comic back in 2010. It was a labor of love and you were doing it for the reason of doing something outside the rubric of a major publisher that would take the ancillary rights, the movie and TV rights, but mostly just to have creative freedom. Then in 2013-2015 as streaming really arose with Netflix and other places, it became clear that comic companies and creators could use comics as content to shop around Hollywood. And so it was the rise of a lot of companies that, again, nothing against it, were called IP (intellectual property) firms where they could get great material from creators and then have the rights to those and finance the company by going out and making deals in Hollywood. And you saw a boom of all of that stuff in the mid/late-10s while I was at DC, and then now you're seeing a real correction for a lot of that. You're seeing streaming shrink in a bunch of ways. And that's not a bad thing. It might not even be shrinking, it might just be readjusting, but what I'm trying to say is that it feels like comics is finding this kind of healthy corrective to a lot of those things.

I know that the environment at DC, having spent a lot of time with them this con but also just being highly involved with them over the last couple of years, is really positive right now, is really comic-based, is really editor and creator-friendly. There aren't the same kinds of corporate pressures kind of reverberating through in some of the ways that were there before, and it feels really exciting to talk to them about superhero possibilities and stuff. In the indie space it feels like people are not quite as aggressive about thinking about how do I do books that are gonna sell to Hollywood? People are experimenting more and one of the great joys of this convention was getting to hang out with Jock and Tula Lotay and Dan Panosian, all of whom I'm doing pretty experimental books with just for fun. And Barnstormers, having it celebrated at the Eisners was a joy because it was a book that we took a risk on and was really different for us, and the books that seems to be getting the most attention right now for me are the books that we're taking risks on and trying things that aren't necessarily done for commercial purposes or for intellectual property rights but just to make weird fun comics. And I see James Tynion IV celebrated that way as a third-time Best Writer winner.

So all of that feels like there's this kind of new energy in comics the last couple of years that’s very comic celebratory, that feels like we've been through a lot of ups and downs through sales, volatility through COVID, through big rich venture capital players and everybody coming in and investing in different ways. And all those are exciting things and there's nothing against it, but it feels like it's a refocusing period for comics in all kinds of ways. And San Diego felt like the pinnacle of that, which was really, really nice. Again, I can't thank everybody enough for voting for us for the Eisners.

A couple other highlights of San Diego, and then I'll jump over and talk about how you use a con or conventions throughout your career to help as a creator, were getting to meet Marion Dayre and Jeff Howard. Marion is my co-showrunner on the Wytches animated series for Amazon and Jeff is one of our head writers and he's amazing as well. Marion worked on Better Call Saul and Curb Your Enthusiasm and is just a unbelievable powerhouse and Jeff Howard worked on a bunch of the Mike Flanagan shows like Midnight Mass and The Haunting of Hill House and is just another incredible talent, and to get to see them face to face especially in this time when our room is on strike and we haven't gotten to Zoom with each other in months, but to see them for the first time face to face was such a joy. We went out to dinner with Jock and with Will Dennis, who's editing Wytches now, and just really celebrate. So that was a huge highlight.

Team Wytches—me, Jock, Marion Dayre & Jeff Howard

Getting to have breakfast and catch up with Jim Lee and talk superheroes, huge highlight. Getting to have breakfast with Mark Doyle, who’s editing my IDW stuff and is the publisher of IDW and is also one of the first editor I ever worked with on American Vampire and one of my dearest friends, getting to hang out with Che Grayson and Regine Sawyer and going out to breakfast with James Tynion IV on Sunday and just catching up with friends, catching up with Jock, catching up with people I don't get a lot of chance to talk to like Zeb Wells and Ryan Stegman. And just all of it was just great.

I mean, it really was like a it sounds really fucking corny, but it's true. It felt like a magical experience. And the Eisners was another pinnacle where I haven't been to the Eisners in quite a few years and in my speech, I said I was lucky enough to win one when I was very early in my career and I was terrified up on that stage nd I didn't get to enjoy it. This time being in that room just full of people from Junji Ito-level to like, brand new people that are so exciting like Zoe Thorogood, all of it was just this feeling of community and it was wonderful. And the bigger the tent, the better. I mean, please come and make comics, it's a great great group of people and I couldn't be more grateful to you guys for letting me be a part of it.

One other big highlight of the convention was getting to meet you guys. So many of you came up to me, free and paid subscribers, to say hello at the beginning of the signings. And also to have our Black Jacket members dinner! It was a blast and to see you guys face to face and get to hang out and talk comics and hear about your work and get to say thank you was a huge, huge joy. So I'm really excited that we got to do that.

So that was kind of San Diego in a nutshell. It was a lot. I was up till 2am every night, up at in the morning at 6-7am every morning, I tried to go for a run and and do morning meetings. It was a lot of business, a lot of exciting projects, DSTLRY and other stuff that I can't talk about coming, and it was a lot of fun. It was a lot of just getting to talk to friends as well and catch up by the water and I really had a blast!

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