THE COMIC PIMP BY REQUEST - BWM04
This week's crop of emails contained this request:
Wanted to say thanks for your recent series of ingenious Comic Pimp columns on bagstuffers and contacting comic retailers; as a self-publisher who's preparing some comics for release myself I especially find your columns to always be helpful and insightful. And you can know for a fact that I'm going to be using the ideas in your columns for years to come.
But I KNOW you've got more going on at that comics lounge of yours than just pimping comics and doing a weekly column to help out guys like myself! --- Isn't January Brian Wood Month?! I like his comics (esp the "Couriers") aren't you the one who's throwing a month-long event doing all sorts of cool stuff like seeing punk bands, doing some kind of tikibar tour and going to the firing range?! Don't be shy Comic Pimp, take a week off from saving the comic industry and do a column all about all the fun you guys are having out there in California, huh? You can always go back to saving the comic industry next week.
Take care and keep comic pimping!
Okay okay! I believe in giving the people what they want and with a request like that, Andrew, how could I refuse? So this week in The Comic Pimp we're going to be talking about more than just comics… we're going to be talking about punk rock shows, black light bowling, San Francisco nightlife, sexy ladies with handguns, island cocktails and hanging out with Brian Wood all month long.
For those who don't already know, I suppose a brief introduction is in order… Brian Wood is a writer, artist, designer and producer best known for graphic novels like "Channel Zero," as well as "Couscous Express," "Public Domain," "Fight for Tomorrow," "The Couriers" and "Jennie One." He's contributed to the world of the X-Men with a short writing stint on Marvel Comics' "Generation X," and was graphic designer on the popular videogame franchises "Grand Theft Auto" and "Midnight Club." His current 12 issue mini-series with artist Becky Cloonan "Demo" was recently called "Best new series of 2003" by the fine folks over at The Fourth Rail. But what most people might not know is that Brian is a really cool laid-back guy who is damn fun to hang out with.
I met Brian back in my first six months of comic retailing, November 2001. His was my first big in-store event with a creator who I had never met before, and as you can probably guess, I didn't know what to expect. He flew in from Brooklyn for the weekend and (as usual) I was determined to make his trip to the West Coast and my store as memorable as possible so I ramped up the staff and my customers for an exciting day with the out spoken and often controversial creator. But I never could have guessed that Brian would forevermore alter the flavor of my fledgling business with his founding of the Comic Rockstars Toilet Seat Museum. And it turned out he was a really nice guy who appreciates great punk rock, the smokiest of scotches and whose love for great comics is second to none.
Now that's my kind of comic creator!
Two years later when I heard Brian was going to be switching coasts and moving to the San Francisco Bay Area just in time for January, I thought it was only right to use the opportunity to throw an amazingly kick ass Brian Wood Month. When I decided to go completely overboard in my ambition for the greatest comic store creator event yet and throw the industry's first ever month-long event I knew I had to do it. And given that Brian is such a laid back and cool guy it only made sense to go for it… but how the hell were Brian and I supposed to throw a month-long party and still keep it fun and exciting?
Now the annual tradition of celebrating Brian Wood Month in January started three years ago, when one of Brian's publishers (AIT-PlanetLar) decided to spice up the traditionally sparse month of January by declaring the entire month devoted to the works of Mister Wood. AIT followed this up by releasing some great new books for readers to add to their ever-growing Brian Wood library and thus a treat great promotional tradition was born.
If only it had a party to go with it!
As regular readers of this column know, I tend to do a lot of events at my comic store, and I'm always trying new things to make each creator's in-store special for Isotope guests (both featured and otherwise). And for the third annual Brian Wood Month, the Brian Wood Month when the man himself would be kicking back in my town, I wanted to kick off 2004 with an in-store that was going to blow people's minds all over again, something on the scale of the Isotope's 2002 Warren Ellis Scotch Tasting and the 2003 Ed Brubaker Armwrestlathon. I wanted to introduce Brian to San Francisco, and the comic reading city of San Francisco to Brian Wood. And I decided the best way to this was by showing off the city to Mister Wood with many cool, over the top events as one month can possibly handle!
And what better way to break the year in than with Isotope's most famous pubcrawl, the San Francisco Tiki Tour? San Francisco has enough tiki bars, tiki restaurants, and tiki dives to exhaust even the most dedicated rummy and the goal of the Tiki Tour is to visit every one of these jungle-inspired haunts in a single evening.
The Tiki Tour, like re-creating Jack Kirby's Fourth World has been attempted by many, but finished by few… well, actually, none. Some things just aren't meant to be, I suppose. In the case of the Tiki Tour usually it's either the constraints of Father Time or Uncle Liver that make it such a challenge, although sometimes it has been the sheer impact on the wallet that has cut the tour short. In any case, in celebration of BWM04 our goal was simple, visit as many of San Francisco's tiki havens from 8 pm until we either passed out or were kicked out. Our courageous band of rum-runners managed to island hop between only seven bars, leaving a trail of pineapple mugs and umbrella toothpicks in our wake. The travel brochure detailing the stops along the tiki way, allowed members of our troupe to sleep it off in the gutter and still rejoin the party farther along the way. One of our travelers, Teague, was celebrating his twenty-first birthday at midnight and spent many of the early stops with his nose pressed longingly against the bar windows, but made up for lost time in the later stops, racking up the umbrellas and charming the ladies with his tiki-god hat. All the while Brian entertained his throng of fans with tales of convention antics and Rockstar Games Office parties.
The very next evening, those of us who were able to shake off our island revelries were treated to manic night of punk rock, pro wrestling and flying tortillas at Incredibly Strange Wrestling. No description can truly prepare you for the crazy ass fun of Incredibly Strange Wrestling, a punk rock pro wrestling extravaganza, but when even Jesus Cross wrestles for your pleasure, let me tell you that you too will find yourself cheering wildly and throwing tortillas into the faces of your neighbors in jubilation. Combine that with punk rock bands with nearly naked Iggy Pop antics and a maniac on an electric washboard, and you've got a match made in Brian Wood Month heaven. Early on in the evening, after receiving a particularly vicious tortilla shower that threatened the sanctity of our beer from some thugs across the ring, the Great Tortilla War began. Many innocents were caught in the crossfire and went home with tortilla shavings in their hair, down their shirts, and even in their socks. Brian later told me that he wasn't initially altogether sure that he was going to enjoy an event featuring pro wrestling, but that he thoroughly enjoyed the action, not to mention the two lovely ladies that were making out directly in front of him for nearly a half hour. Now that's what I call a San Francisco welcome!
Wednesday, January 14th found the Isotope posse enjoying Booze and Bowling. Miller High Life pitchers were so cheap that we were all enticed to discover whether it is, in fact, the champagne of beers. Once we all remembered how to bowl, the black lights, the strobes and the 80's power ballads came on. Dave Robson, who has not bowled since childhood, made a dramatic comeback by bowling a turkey. The Great Five Pin Curse was faced by many and thwarted, though not by all! The evening was rounded out with a vicious Battle of the Sexes match.
Booze and Bowling was a great night, but it didn't even compare to our next event. A small army of Brian Wood fans were instructed in the basics of firearms at Jackson Arms Firing Range and then received 100 live rounds with which to kill countless paper men.
"Bubba" was the enemy of choice for most Brian Wood fans, mostly due to his menacing sunglasses and dated facial hair, and received innumerable head and crotch shots in punishment. The police target, detailing the location of vital organs, was also a popular target. Jared Guenther, Isotope's Enforcer, managed to take out the tiny Gall Bladder and spent the rest of the evening yelling"Gall Bladder" at anyone who would listen. One attendee, Ken Kneisel, who is no stranger to Isotope creator events and is one of the few who managed to beat Ed Brubaker during our Armwrestlathon, said to me as he loaded a clip into his handgun,"This is the best comic store event ever!"
Truly the men in attendance were glad that the Battle of the Sexes from the previous event didn't flare up at the firing range as the Isotope women proved to have spot on aim. Time and time again myself and the other males in attendance were humbled by the feminine first-time handgun wielders who left tight groupings of bulletholes where the targets hearts and brains would be. If I have learned but one truism during Brian Wood Month it is that only a dead man fucks around with heavily armed Isotope women.
But, really, all these events would be for naught if it weren't for the comics, because at the Isotope, it's all about the comics. So, this Wednesday we celebrated the comics. Most especially we celebrated Brian Wood and Becky Cloonan's Demo. Isotope customers were treated to the opportunity to get Demo #3 a week before its release. One customer who sat down immediately and read it cover to cover proudly exclaimed,"Brian and Becky have done it again! Demo gets better and better." While you could see the wear and tear of the Brian Wood month festivities slowing down a few, Brian was his usual fun-loving, affable self. With a Pabst Blue Ribbon in hand, he laughed as we watched, Aaron Farmer, famous for his off-the-wall antics at the Isotope, stopped a passerby and bought the Pez shirt right off his back, sending the man home bare-chested.
All that in one month!
But, you know, the month isn't over yet. We still have three more events to go, including a concert, a brewery tour and even Brian's birthday. For Comic Pimp readers like Andrew Yates, you can rest assured that in coming weeks I'll continue to provide helpful advice to assist your self-publishing ventures, but I'll also be sure to give you a report on these last three events so that you don't feel left out.
I love Brian Wood Month!
For more information on BWM04 visit the Isotope website www.isotopecomics.com/events and as always, feel free to pontificate on industry issues, preach the gospel of great comic books or discuss this article on the Comic Pimp Forum.