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Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Halcyon Halcon Part II

For the first part of my writeup on Halcon 2010, focusing mostly on the costumes seen that day, see this post.

As much as I enjoyed the costumes and sci-fi trappings of Halcon, the best part of the weekend, for me, was Artist's Alley. I think I spent more time stalking this area than I did in the rest of the event put together. Not only did I get some fantastic new reading material, and make some great additions to my ever-growing collection of signed comics, but I also had several talented artists graciously make contributions to my sketchbook.
I was, at first, somewhat disappointed that the "big names" that were scheduled for the weekend did not show up. Frankly, I had wanted to attend mainly because I thought I was going to meet such luminaries as Joe Jusko, Mark Texeira and Mike Golden, and nearly went in search of a refund when I found out that they'd canceled.
Fortunately, the appeal of spending a weekend hanging out in a comfortable environment with my fellow geeks won out, and led to me meeting some talented local creators.
Almost de rigeur for an event like this are local icons Mark "Thieves & Kings" Oakley and Faith Erin Hicks (of Zombies Calling and The War at Ellsmere fame). Faith's new graphic novel "Brain Camp" is just out from First Second books, and while I haven't read it yet, if it's anything like her previous efforts, it will be worth your time and attention.

Mark's latest effort is  "Star Drop", a digest sized collection of newspaper strips about a stranded space princess.  It's as much of a visual treat as any of Mark's work, with a story that's light and airy, with a surprising amount of emotional depth.  I think I've got a Mark Oakley sketch on nearly everything he's published at this point; he's fast becoming my most collected artist.

A pleasant surprise for me at this event was my introduction to the work of graphic novelist Caanan Grall, author of "Celadore" from Zuda Comics.  I haven't finished it yet, but this graphic novel promises to be enjoyable.  The only downside I've seen so far is that the quality of paper used for this printing doesn't do justice to Grall's eye for color.  His palette perfectly complements his art style and manages to be bright without being garish.

Caanan, to whom I owe thanks for a great Batman & Robin at a tea party sketch, by the way, also has a webcomic, Max Overacts, over at Occasional Comics.  Anyone who's ever been a fan of  "Calvin and Hobbes" is strongly urged to check it out.

The last big con I attended was back in 2000 in Toronto, at which I had the pleasure of meeting the co-creator of the original "Men in Black" comic and Captain Canuck artist, Sandy Carruthers.  I'm pleased to say he was in attendance at this event as well, and this time I was privileged to have him create a Captain Canuck drawing for me.  The good Captain was one of the first comic books I remember reading, so it's nice to have some work by someone who worked on the actual character.  Of course, his drawing is almost side by side with one from the Captain's creator, Richard Comely, so it's in good company.
Sandy is currently the artist on the "Twisted Journeys" series of graphic novels, the first "choose your own adventure" comic books I've ever seen.  I do not envy him the task of figuring out the art on these.

Of course, no local comics related event would be complete without the presence of some people from my (and the world's) favorite comic shop, Strange Adventures.  Not content to be some of the best and most knowledgeable salespeople in comics, the employees of the stores are some very talented people in their own right.
Dave Howlett, who's done quite a lot of comics projects in the time I've known him, contributed a fine looking Darkseid to my sketchbook.  Dave's current project, SlamARama, can be found a Tuco Comics, and is the best, no holds barred, best two falls out of three wrasslin' action to be found in comics.

Meanwhile, not to be outdone by his coworker, the artist known only as "Ben" is a fantastic character designer, as can be seen at his blog, The Second to Last Picture Show.   Thanks, Ben, for the martini-swilling Demon you sketched for me.

I think my most embarrassing moment of the weekend came when I met Andrew Power...simply because I had waited around his table for quite a while believing he was someone completely different who I had previously met.  I'm sure I must have looked like a stalker or other species of freak, but in spite of my weirdness, he favored me with a rockin' sketch of his character Rina Wu from his comic "Aptitude Test", which can be read here.  Thanks, Andrew...I'm not crazy, I promise.  Well, mostly not crazy.

One of the great things about a con like this is that I get to meet other creators who are trying to kickstart their own books, like most of those mentioned above, or like Rich Morris, creator of "Yet Another Fantasy Gamer Comic".  This is a fun strip aimed square at the D&D players in the audience, although my younger daughter took enough of a shine to it that she started drawing her own renditions of the Beholder, so make of that what you will.  I had a great time talking to Rich and Hilary about not only their book, but about marketing and self-publishing in general.  I'll probably be swapping more ideas with them in the near future, so don't be surprised to hear their names pop up again sometime.

When all is said and done, though, the big surprise of the weekend (for me, anyway, although it might not have been had I been paying closer attention) was the release of Darwyn Cooke's second adaptation from the Parker novels of Donald Westlake, "The Outfit".

I started reading Donald Westlake (aka Richard Stark for the purposes of the Parker series) shortly after the author's death on a recommendation from Spider Robinson via his Spider on the Web podcast.  I had previously been introduced to his work via the Mel Gibson movie "Payback", but did not really know much about the source material.  Having read some of the books, and having seen as much comic art as I have, I cannot think of any artist who could do a better job of adapting Westlake's writing as perfectly as Cooke has done so far in "The Hunter", "The Man With the Getaway Face" and now "The Outfit".  Even Frank Miller, as much as he it touted as a kingpin of comic noir, would not have been able to capture the essence of Westlake as Cooke has done.  These graphic novels hit with the same rapid flurry pace and knuckle hard intensity of the books from which they're adapted.  The style Cooke uses, the same signature style he has used for books like "New Frontier" and "Catwoman", has a 60's throwback quality while at the same time being fresh and innovative, especially in contrast to the multitude of Miller and Steranko clones who proliferate in crime comics.
I am fortunate to live in close proximity to Darwyn, so that when he releases a new book, I can line up to get a signed copy.  That is why I now have a pair of signed Parker graphic novels and a limited edition portfolio occupying a place of pride in my collection.  It is also why I had the opportunity to see Cooke execute a dead on Green Lantern sketch in less than a dozen lines and under 10 seconds.  This is the kind of thing, deceptively simple yet right on the bullseye, that shows the kind of mastery an artist can achieve.  It's also the kind of thing that give me just enough envy to want to spend more time at the drawing table, which I think is one of the best things I can take away from any art.

There's plenty of other people I met...artists Jay Paulin, Jono Doiron (love that Cat in the Hat poster!), writer Nina Munteanu, the editors of the Airborne anthology of Cape Breton genre fiction, the representatives of DragonFly Studio, and the members of the local chapter of the Society for Creative Anachronism, The Barony of Ruantallan, just to name a few.  I got to take my girls to a thoroughly fun costume contest, attend part of the recording of an episode of "Geeks vs. Nerds", and meet fantasy model Drakaina, about whom I'll post more on my other blog.  In short, it was a whole lot of fun squeezed into a couple of days.  Thanks to the organizers, the volunteers and everyone who worked to make this thing happen.
From the attendance, I'm going to say that this event was a success, which means that if all goes well, we won't have to wait 15 years for the next Halcon.  My biggest hope is that when the next one rolls around, I'll be looking at the event from the other side of the table as I promote what AIM Comics has to offer.  Wish me luck.

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