Pipeline: Pipeline2, Issue #97: PittCon Wrap-Up

Fri, May 4th, 2001 at 12:00am PDT

Comic Books
Augie De Blieck Jr., Columnist

THE QUICK SKETCH IDEA

The Comic Book Legal Defense Fund did three "Quick Sketch" sessions to raise money at the Pittsburgh Comicon 2001 last weekend. I think it's an interesting idea that would work well at other shows. Pittsburgh is the first one I've ever seen list it. The idea is this: Five or six artists sit down at a table at the front of the room with a really large pad of paper in front of them. I'd guess the paper was about twice the size of the pages used for original comic art. They sit there for an hour doing as many sketches as they care to. Some do straight pencil work. Some go straight to the marker. Some go for the polished look, while others keep it loose. Along the way, the artists take audience suggestions (when the audience feels like talking), chat about things in general, and just draw their little hearts out. The artists came from a wide variety of comic areas, and included Rudy Nebres, Steve Lieber, Jeff Smith, Evan Dorkin, Jamal Igle, Patrick Block, Randy Green, Keu Cha, Buzz, Andy Park, and Rags Morales.

Patrick Block did two of the sessions and got the award for being most productive. He drew at least six sketches per show. He did everything from the money bin on the hill to Uncle Scrooge diving through his money bin to a drawing of the audience watching him, all of whom were transmogrified into beagles. It got to the point where each raffle had one of his sketches in every other drawing. Evan Dorkin dared challenge the record on Sunday afternoon, drawing Batman, Iron Man, The Human Torch, and some Mexican wrestler looking thing. All had funny little word balloons about their heads. Iron Man complained about his underwear being rusted after a fight with the Titanium Man in the rain. The Human Torch realized he didn't have superpowers and was just on fire. Batman had more punchlines over his head than I could possibly remember. Jeff Smith drew the Green Lantern. You wouldn't have believed Smith drew it. It looked like some overly rendered thing from the early 90s. Lantern was hunched over, his muscles rippling.

Smith discussed the BONE movie while he drew. He said that the movie was dead. After two years in development, the movie died when Viacom brought him up to New York for a meeting. They asked him if he saw any point in the movie in which they might be able to throw a Britney Spears or Backstreet Boys song in. Then they could make $12 million or so with a soundtrack. That, ladies and gentlemen, was the end of the BONE movie. For now.

Steve Lieber drew a nice full-body Midnighter from AUTHORITY, with the aid of a bit of reference. Buzz drew the cutest little Baby Lady Death. Picture one of those anime kids you see in the borders of some manga. That's what it looked like.

Rags Morales surprised me the most, perhaps. I've only seen a couple examples of his comic art and while it was nice, it didn't excite me. The sketches he did at this show were amazing. He whipped out a head and shoulders shot of Hawkman that was eye-popping in its three-dimensionality. It was done in marker, but the shading was dead on. He did another one – I forget of who – that was just as remarkable. I'm going to have to keep an eye out for his comics work in the future.

Where does the art go? The audience can buy chances at the art. The cost is a buck a ticket, with all proceeds going to the CBLDF. All the tickets go in a jar and at the end of the hour the pages of art are held up one by one and a ticket is drawn for each. Your dollar ticket could win for any one of the drawings. You don't have a choice; it's completely random. However, it's not unheard of for trades to go on after the raffle.

This is a great way to give people a chance to win some beautiful original art without paying an outrageous price. All you need is a dollar and you have a chance. Judging by the numbers on the tickets I bought and what the organizers said over the weekend, it seems that the Quick Sketch raised over $3000 for the weekend. Sunday's panel – including Lieber, Dorkin, and Smith – probably brought in close to $1200 alone.

That being said, there's room for improvement. For starters, the tickets went into a small fish bowl. It was too small for the number of tickets in them. On Friday night, it seemed that the same three people won everything. It improved a little as the weekend went on, but the number of repeat winners did seem a little high. On Sunday, they were smart enough to put the tickets in a larger container to mix them up.

Second, I wonder how this would work as a Tricky Tray/Chinese Auction kind of thing. After the drawings are finished, put a bowl in front of each for people to place their chances. If someone wants a certain piece the most, they can buy more chances to better their odds, and nobody would get a piece they don't want. The big problem with this is a matter of organization. It's a little more complicated to put into place, particularly when you don't know how many sketches you're going to end up with. Plus, you'd need more room for people to move around in to put their tickets in. And, of course, you run the risk of humiliating an artist who doesn't get that many tickets put in for their work. These things can be overcome, though.

For what it's worth, I won nothing. I just chalk up my stack of losing raffle tickets to a somewhat large-ish donation to the CBLDF. I got some nice sketches elsewhere at the con that weekend, though. And it was a nice chance to sit down after milling about the con floor all day, and yet still see some good artists at work.

CON LAYOUT

[Pittsburgh Comicon]The organizers did a really nice job of organizing all the booths and dealers. I can't recall a better-laid out convention. Not even San Diego and Chicago, although they're so big that things are bound to slip through. You won't find half-naked models across from the Friends of Lulu in Pittsburgh, for example. (The latter wasn't in attendance. It's just an example.) You had nice groupings around the con floor. The anime dealers weren't completely clumped together, but you could find a number of them in the same area. The small press people stuck together across from some of the artists who didn't necessarily draw the large lines. The big names at the con in artists alley all had nice-sized booths and were spaced out enough that I didn't see too many lines overlapping. The Insight Studios Group booth was just across from Brian Bendis', so you could get your POWERS stuff autographed by Bendis and then turn around and hit up Michael Avon Oeming.

There was some problem with the Frank Miller line to the CBLDF booth. It choked off a number of small press booths that I never even saw until Saturday afternoon.

The aisles in the dealer's area were wide enough that you could look through back issue bins without getting constantly bumped into. You never got the feeling of being really cramped, except for some parts of Saturday when the crowd was its densest.

VARIOUS AND SUNDRY THOUGHTS

I bought about a half dozen comics from a dealer's fifty-cent bin, including one spare issue of the second DAMAGE CONTROL mini-series. Aside from that and a couple of books at artists' tables, I didn't spend any money on single-issue comics. I did, however, somehow manage to come home with about three bags filled with trade paperbacks. One dealer with $5 trades got a quick $30 off me. It was well worth it, too. A lot of the stuff I hadn't read yet, including USAGI YOJIMBO Vol. 2, Steven Grant and Mike Zeck's original PUNISHER series, a pair of GROO collections.

The Con program was pretty nice, featuring a Matt Busch painting of a bunch of Star Wars characters and a Brian Rood cover of Xena's stars. (Yes, that's right – there were two collectible covers. ;-) On the inside were nice short biographies of all the guests and artists, along with small boxes to have them do autographs, if you wished to collect some. The floor plan included was accurate and easy to look up.

I have a couple of other stories and publishers to talk about, but I'll sprinkle those through Pipeline in the near future. I'm sure I've forgotten about something or other here.

FINAL THOUGHTS

Pittsburgh Comicon is a great comic convention. It's got a pretty large guest list with a nice cross-section of dealers. (Oddly, I didn't spot any original art dealers.) The con hall isn't so large that you'll get lost, and the crowds aren't so thick that you'll spend all day saying, "excuse me" as you try to get to a table. The auction and the Quick Sketch and the Harveys and Casino Night and all the rest keep things moving along. My lone complaint is that there's no panel schedule. You pretty much have to spend all day on the con floor, because there's not much else going on. That's different from San Diego and Chicago where you have to make choices about the floor versus the panel rooms. Of course, San Diego gets so crowded on Saturdays; you're better off sticking with panels for the day to avoid the masses of humanity.

Thanks to everyone who made it a great trip. Thanks to professionals like Jamal Igle, Ed Brubaker, Larry Young, Billy Dallas Patton, Beau Smith, and Anthony Bozzi whose enthusiasm is truly infectious. Thanks to the organizers and volunteers who made the comicon so special. And special thanks to good friend and "traveling companion" Dani, who happened to say in an e-mail a few months ago, "I was thinking that Pittsburgh might be fun." So you all have her to blame for the Pipeline columns of the past week.

MUCH LINKAGE

There have been a lot of Pipeline columns here in the past week, so I wanted to give you a rough breakdown of what's been going on, for your reading pleasure:

  • Last Friday's column featured a preview of Tom DeFalco's upcoming series (with Ron Lim) called RANDY O'DONNELL IS THE MAN. Looks back at Evan Dorkin's FIGHT MAN and Dwayne McDuffie and Ernie Colon's DAMAGE CONTROL rounded out the column.

  • Saturday's column is an overview of the first day of the Pittsburgh Comicon 2001, plus some miscellaneous ramblings about the drive out there. Name-dropping commences with Brian Bendis, Michael Avon Oeming, Steve Lieber, Jamal Igle, Larry Young (in a spiffy matching ensemble with yours truly), and Terry Moore.

  • Sunday's column covered Saturday at the con, complete with bar stories, booth babes, auctions, Ed Brubaker, ELECTRIC GIRL's Mike Brennan, fun with the NOBLE CAUSES gang, and the not-so-gruff Beau Smith.

  • Tuesday's column covered Sunday at the con, with Tom DeFalco, Evan Dorkin, Patrick Block, and local Pennsylvanian curiosities.

Next week, I get back to reviewing some comics. I finally got the chance to read some this week, so now the fun can begin.

You can e-mail me your comments on this column, or post them for all the world to see and respond to over on the Pipeline Message Board.

More than 200 columns are archived here at CBR and you can get to them from the Pipeline Archive page. They're sorted chronologically. The first 100 columns are still available at the Original Pipeline page, a horrifically coded piece of HTML. Those columns are even migrating over here in drips and drabs. Eventually, they'll all be on CBR.

This year, you can still catch me at the Chicago Comicon (i.e. WizardWorld) and the San Diego Comicon (i.e. the Comic Con International: San Diego). I might even show up at the Small Press Expo in Maryland later this year, but that's tentative at this point.

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