One of the biggest days in comics is happening tomorrow – Free Comic Book Day! This is an annual event where free comics are given away to anyone who walks into a comic book store, and many stores have special sales and events, as well as artists on hand for free sketches, and lots more. Check out FreeComicBookDay.com for more details and to find participating stores near you.
The LA comedy quartet Jawiin put together this video to explain how Free Comic Book Day works (while addressing some confusion about the day):
Golden Apple Comics is opening at 10 am with free Gamma Labs and Hubert’s Lemonade drinks and a Cinco de Mayo taco bar with purchase. Our own Scott Shaw! will be doing Simpsons sketches, plus there’s a sidewalk sale, $5 grab bags, a kids play area, a bounce house, and more. Plus signings by Felicia Day and the cast of The Guild, Andrew Chambliss (Buffy the Vampire Slayer Season 9), Scott Davis (Wrath of the Titans), Marc Andreyko (Manhunter), David B. Schwartz (Idolized), Peter Calloway (Anti), and Geoffrey Thorne (Prodigal: Egg of First Light).
Meltdown Comics will hold their Free Comic Book Day festivities from 11 am to 9 pm. As if giving away free comics wasn’t enough, they’ll also give you a 20% discount on any Marvel Comics products if you show your Avengers movie ticket stub. Plus a 50% off sale from 11 am to noon, 30% off all back issues, sidewalk comics by the pound ($3/lbs.), a Marvel Comics grab bag of 10 comics for $10, and more. Greg Weisman (Gargoyles), Victor Cook (Mecha-Nation), Caleb Monroe (The Remnant), Brandon Easton (Shadow Law), Scott Lobdell (Teen Titans) and creators from Archaia Entertainment (writers Tim Beedle [Fraggle Rock], Mike Kennedy [Bleedout] and Heather Nuhfer [Fraggle Rock]) will all be signing throughout the day.
Collector’s Paradise in Winnetka and Pasadena wasn’t content just having Free Comic Book Day. They’re expanding it to Free Comic Book Month with special events, signings and sales throughout May. But for tomorrow, there’s a 3-for-1 sale, and appearances by writers Ed Brubaker (Fatale), Steve Niles (30 Days of Night), Joshua Fialkov (I, Vampire), writer Corinna Bechko and writer/artist Gabriel Hardman (Planet of the Apes), writer Kyle Higgins (Nightwing), the Mind the Gap team of writer Jim McCann and artists Rodin Esquejo and Sonia Oback, Shane and Chris Houghton (Reed Gunther), and Matt Whitlock (Peanuts).
The Comic Bug in Manhattan Beach has so many creators, like Richard Starkings (Elephantmen), Joshua Dysart (Harbinger), and Jeff Stokely (Fraggle Rock) and fun stuff to give away, they made a 20-minute preview video (special password at the end of the video gives you a 25% discount!):
The Spidey Project’s LA Invasion: How an Underground Musical Sought Out Comics Fans and New Audiences
Guest columnist Cindy Marie Jenkins explores the unexpected yet increasingly frequent relationship between theater and comic books, two art forms that must be innovative in attracting audiences.
Most likely if you’re reading this site, you heard of the record-breaking, bone-breaking Broadway debacle turned box office success called Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark last year. Going over budget was not such a big deal (often happens with such a huge project), even pushing the opening back months wouldn’t have been such a big deal. What really put the PR nail in the Spider-Man musical spectacular coffin were injuries performers sustained during rehearsals and previews.
Of course, even a year and two lawsuits later, we’re still learning everything that went into the rise of the hype, the fall of the actors (sorry, I had to) and ultimately the writer/director Julie Taymor’s exit. From most accounts, the show is a spectacular good time if you don’t mind a thin story and extravaganza for extravaganza’s sake. As pure entertainment, it seems to do a non-offensive job. I’m curious to know what Spider-Man fans think about it, if you’ve seen it or followed the story at all.
One of the more positive things to arise from all of this craziness is The Spidey Project. Creator Justin Moran released this video last February challenging himself – and anyone game enough to jump along with him – to write, score, cast, rehearse, costume, tech… you get the point… in 30 days and open his zero budget show before the $65 million dollar musical. The big payoff is that Moran didn’t just want to get the new musical open before the mega-musical, he wanted to prove you don’t need $65 million dollars to write a good story. For anyone remotely involved in the theatrical hierarchy and being told to write smaller cast plays so theaters who pay actors can actually consider producing them, Moran’s challenge hit home. Are theaters as a whole putting their money in the wrong places?
It is incredibly telling that their second video begins with a small print disclaimer making it clear, in case you were confused, that Moran in no way has the rights to do anything that he’s doing with The Spidey Project. In fact, that was Moran’s response to Gregory Crafts, Managing Director of Theatre Unleashed in Los Angeles who asked for the rights as soon as he saw the challenge video. His thought was that his theater could produce the West Coast premiere in solidarity with Moran in New York City: “We’ll see if we get sued first.”
Crafts was impressed with Moran’s results: “Well, they didn’t get sued. The show was a complete success. I finally got to see it when he posted it on YouTube. We kept in touch and late last year, we struck a deal for Theatre Unleashed to premiere it out west. It’s been our most successful show to date.”
He wasn’t just interested in the show for the marketing appeal, though; Crafts details how big a role comics have played in his life. “The first comic book I ever read was Web of Spider-Man #12. I’ve been collecting and reading them off and on for twenty-five years now. It’s kind of crazy. Books like Spider-Man, X-Men and The Avengers influenced me a lot growing up, and played a big role in defining who I am today. We’re talking they’ve shaped my life to the point where, for my day job, I do marketing for a company that makes high-end collectables based on Marvel characters (as well as Star Wars and other major geek intellectual properties). So, it’s not hyperbole when I say comic books and characters like Spider-Man are a huge part of my life.”
Truth be told, one of my personal beefs with theatrical productions that have such a great cross-genre appeal is that they do very little to no realistic attempts at reaching that potential audience. They usually send a few emails inviting comic stores to their show and call it a day. So I was highly impressed at the extensive outreach that Theatre Unleashed accomplished in their short rehearsal period. Although they’ve had a few months to prepare, T.U. still delivers the same kind of guerrilla quality love for their premiere of The Spidey Project while attempting to reach a new audience with many different tactics. In no particular order:
1. Because it’s an unlicensed parody musical, they faced quite a few marketing challenges in order to stay under the “Fair Use” rules. Says Crafts: “We were really gun shy about using the #Marvel or #SpiderMan hashtags, but we still tweeted a lot about the show, about Spider-Man himself.”
2. They also integrated an extensive social media campaign Crafts called “the 50 Days of Spider-Man, where we shared the top 10 stories, top 10 villains, etc. in honor of Spidey’s 50th anniversary this year. So, for us it was about raising awareness and sharing our appreciation of the character with our patrons, theatre-goers and comic book fans alike.” A recent Facebook post featured David Letterman’s Top Ten Changes to the Spider-Man Musical also paid homage to this project’s birth.
3. “We were also very active in the real world.” says Crafts. “We did put up posters around town, especially in comic shops.”
4. Meltdown Comics hosted a one-night teaser where the audience heard some songs along with other entertainment acts.
5. Offering steep discounts through Goldstar’s Deal of the Day was probably the most important step for both ticket sales and word-of-mouth. “We sold over 300 tickets in one twelve-hour period, and word of the show spread like wildfire from there,” remembers Crafts.
6. They went a step further and opened their lobby to other sorts of art, creating a gallery of “Spidey-themed art by fans, for fans. More like a “tribute” gallery.” Crafts added, “This was pretty awesome, because we put out the call to artists everywhere and did get submissions from across the country. We also had a whole bunch of submissions come in from a grade school class. It’s kind of cool to see Spidey interpreted through the eyes of a child.For those who haven’t been to the show, we’ll be posting pictures of everything on our website soon.”
7. Something Crafts did not mention and which I know thanks to their social media campaign is that they also created guerrilla, effective process videos from Day 1. You definitely want to watch the time lapse of the set being painted, especially for the video bombs near the end. More photos of the rehearsal process are also on their Facebook page.
8. With all of the successful efforts listed above, Crafts sees their partnership with Children’s Hospital LA being the more important part of their campaign. Crafts explains that Theatre Unleashed is running a book drive for the hospital’s Literally Healing program. Crafts explains, “This is an innovative program that gifts books to children in long-term care and their families. This one hit close to home for me, as I’ve got a cousin whose life was saved by Children’s Hospital Boston, so when we came up with the idea to run a book drive in conjunction with the comic book musical, CHLA was the first place I researched. We’ve been offering patrons that bring a new children’s book to donate to CHLA the ability to name their own ticket price to see the show. A nice incentive, I think. Taking things one step further, we actually had members of the cast visit the Hospital last week in costume and in character. We hosted story time and gifted books from the hospital’s Book Moobile (a book cart that looks like a cow). It was a great experience and the kids were absolutely thrilled to get to meet Spidey in real life. The folks at CHLA were absolutely fantastic to work with and we’re looking forward to partnering with them more in the future.”
Up until the last week, T.U.’s message to their audience prevails: Come experience this show with us. The final push in an otherwise sold-out run had them running a contest to win two tickets to their closing night, typically also a party night in the theatre world. How can one lucky fan win free tickets to closing night? That is one more inventive idea that proves Gregory Crafts and Theatre Unleashed are looking for long-term relationships with their community and their audiences.
Cindy Marie Jenkins admits her childhood playmates were Gilbert & Sullivan. She works as a Storyteller and Freelance Consultant. Current writing found at the Blue Dragon Scribe Shoppe and MYTHistories. @CindyMarieJ. She is a big fan of beer. CindyMarieJenkins.com.
You might not think it, but the comics community has a big heart. One great example is The Hero Initiative, a Los Angeles-based charity that raises money for creators who are in dire straits (not the band but the financial situation). Here’s a video I put together of a special event held at Meltdown Comics this past Saturday night.
For you savvy comics folks, that’s writer Mark Waid of Kingdom Come fame yelling out “you’ve made a powerless enemy”. He and producer Tom DeSanto were probably the most generous bidders. Mike Malve of Epic Digital Media was the winner of the Alex Ross cover in the video above. The entire night raised about $15,000 for The Hero Initiative.
Little Island Comics has opened in Toronto, Ontario, and it may be the world’s first comic book store specifically targeted to children. It quietly opened this week, with a more formal grand opening planned in the near future. The store is run by The Beguiling, an acclaimed comic book store in Toronto that has been open for 25 years now.
What a smart move!
Comic books needs kids, and fortunately more educators and parents than ever have been realizing that comics are a great reading and education tool for kids. But as you might’ve noticed, some of the material isn’t exactly appropriate for younger readers. Having a store exclusively dedicated to reaching this specific demographic, parents have a peace of mind that only the right material will reach their kids’ hands. And with workshops and other events planned for the store, it should build a wonderful community that encourages kids’ creativity and imagination.
It’s also great for a retailer to get so specific and specialized. With the digital side of comics growing, stores will have to find a good reason for customers to stop by beyond them carrying as much as everything that they can fit between their walls. Because there’s no competing with Amazon.com‘s warehouses or comiXology‘s ever-deepening library. So, survival will depend on the ability to engage customers and the larger community in specialized retailing like children’s comics. Or maybe literary and art comics, and mini-comics. A unique experience will be more important and more valuable than simply having every volume of Ed Brubaker’s run on Captain America.
Meltdown Comics in Los Angeles has done a great job at this. It helps that they have a massive space to work with, which gives them a much larger selection. But they also have international comics and mini-comics and more experimental material. And most of all, they’ve become a destination for events. Stand-up comedians regularly perform there now. Popular podcasts regularly do live broadcasts from the store. An art gallery in the back displays comics art exhibits of varying themes. Workshops are held there. Every week, there are a large number of events being held there. Meltdown Comics is a venue as well as a store. They are a physical destination that gives patrons more than any online shopping can give. Other stores in Los Angeles have similarly transformed themselves but none on the scale and success as Meltdown.
I’m hoping Little Island Comics has just as much success, and helps strengthen the children’s comics market.
Full press release after the jump. Read the rest of this entry
I interviewed director Ben Dickow* when they had this show at the Bootleg Theater earlier in the year, and now they’ve tweaked and improved the Spectacular Superhero Variety Hour for its debut at Meltdown. Prepare yourself for hilarious performances depicting Joker and his colossal boner, Supergirl getting hazed at college and other classic stories from yesteryear that maybe haven’t aged so well. Plus musical performances and old comic book ads brought to life before your very eyes and ears.
No superhero knowledge necessary, it’s just a great time. If you don’t laugh, you’re probably dead.
*Of course, this interview entitles me to eternal bragging rights for any and all future successes enjoyed and/or obtained by Captured Aural Phantasy Theater and its members collectively and individually.
Everyone Back to 1: Thoughts and Theories on DC Comics relaunching superhero comics synched with digital initiative
In a bold gamble, DC Comics announced yesterday at their own blog The Source, USA Today (part 1 and part 2), and a letter to comic retailers that they would be replacing all of their long-running superhero comic books with relaunched stories starting over at issue #1. Each issue will be released digitally across DC Comics’ multiple platforms the same day as the print version’s release, a major shift in policy that was protecting comic shops from digital competition.
Digital comics provider Comixology has confirmed via Twitter that it will be continuing their partnership with DC Comics on this new digital initiative. New issues will appear simultaneously on Apple’s iOS (iPad, iPhone, iPod Touch), the Android and their web-based DC Store, although exact pricing has not been revealed. Digital comics are generally priced at $1.99 for a standard comic book that’s been converted to their guided view digital form. Past experiments with day-and-date releases have been priced at the higher cover price of print comics, usually $2.99.
As for the books themselves, exact details of what’s changing, what’s staying the same, and who will be working on what books, are slim. More will be revealed throughout June.
What is known is that starting August 31, 2011, a brand new Justice League #1 will be released. The following weeks, it will be joined by relaunched Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman and other titles. In total, DC Comics will debut 52 comic books, approximately 13 a week! The stories will feature younger versions of their recognizable heroes, redesigned by artist and DC Comics Co-Publisher Jim Lee, and are meant to be ideal for new readers.
Justice League will be helmed by Lee and DC Comics Chief Creative Officer/writer Geoff Johns. Both Lee and Johns are responsible for a lot of popular titles from DC, so it seems only natural to team them up for the comic about their premiere superhero team.
Comic Book Resources has rumors on other titles, including Superman being written by Grant Morrison, an award-winning and critically acclaimed writer that has been shepherding Batman for the last several years. He wrote All-Star Superman, a quintessential take on the iconic character, to nearly universal acclaim in 2005-2008. A previously announced new Aquaman series by Geoff Johns and artist Ivan Reis is also expected to be part of the new universe. The two had previously collaborated on successful Green Lantern stories, including the big Blackest Night event.
The question of course: Will this work? Read the rest of this entry
You don’t have to sit at home alone reading to get into comic books and graphic novels. There are always great events going on that celebrate the vitality and creativity of comics. Just here in Los Angeles, there are more events I can ever make. But I try, and so should you. You never know what you’ll discover.
Here are some local Los Angeles events coming up that celebrate the sequential art form.
Tuesday, January 4, 11:30 AM: Stan Lee (co-creator of Spider-Man, Fantastic Four, et al.) will be honored with the 2,428th Star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame (in the category of Motion Pictures) at 7072 Hollywood Blvd., Los Angeles 90028 (in front of the Live Nation Building). Guest speakers: Gill Champion (President/COO, Pow! Entertainment) and Todd McFarlane (Spawn). Tickets: $0.
Wednesday, January 5, 8 PM: Comics podcast Bagged & Boarded with SModcastle’s Matt Cohen and Brendan Creecy with special guest TBA has a live show broadcast at SModcastle, 6468 Santa Monica Blvd., Los Angeles 90038. Tickets: $10.
Wednesday, January 5, 8:30 PM: The Meltdown (weekly comedy show) with stand-up comedians Barry Rothbart, Brett Gelman, Jackie Kashian, Brendon Walsh, and Maria Bamford, at Meltdown Comics, 7522 Sunset Blvd., Los Angeles 90046. Tickets: $8.
Saturday, January 8, 8 PM: Battle for the Planet of the Geeks, calling itself “the dorkiest trivia war ever waged”, is being held at SModcastle, 6468 Santa Monica Blvd., Los Angeles 90038. Tickets: $10 or $40 for 4-person team.
The future: Read the rest of this entry
This Saturday at 5:00 PM at Meltdown Comics in Los Angeles, a group of local artists, comic professionals and enthusiasts (including myself) will gather for a discussion of their favorite comic books, graphic novels and comic strips. If you’re in the area, come experience a unique opportunity to talk about the artform with others. You never know, you might discover a comic you never knew about! Or learn about a comic you’d previously dismissed! This is also a great event for people more casually aware of comics. You’re bound to discover something new! (Oh yeah, and free pizza!)
If you’re a local professional and would like to speak on the panel, contact me and I’ll hook you up. There’s still room!
UPDATE: Check out the Comics Critic’s Circle flyer (PDF) for more info. I hope to see you there!