Savage Enterprises Publishing
Mike Aragona - Freelance Writer / Editor

Convention Venture

Paradise Comics Toronto Comicon 2005 - Location: National Trade Center - Dates: April 29, 2005 through May 1, 2005
The Shuster Awards and Meeting Legends!

Friday April 29th: I'm up and ready quite early in the morning. I feel a little strange due to the fact that this will be the first convention that Chantale does not attend by my side in many years. Plus, it being a Comic convention as opposed to a Media or Science Fiction convention which is not being held at the hotel we're staying at brings about unknowns. Still, it's something I've been looking forward to for a long time and I'm ready to go. Except, Francisco (who I'll be referring to as FMR from here on in) just doesn't seem to be arriving! When he finally does show with his cousin Francisco (now you know why I'm calling "our" Francisco FMR!) I find out they misjudged the time and FMR had left his cell phone on the bathroom counter back home. Finally on the road, we find out within a few blocks that Francisco suffers from motion sickness and can't stay in the back. Oh boy. He refuses to change seats with FMR and I ask if he took any Gravol. He never heard of any anti-motion-sickness medication so we agree that he'll stay in the back with his eyes closed until the first gas stop after which he'll pick some up. His biggest discovery of the weekend turns out to be the Gravol which finally allow him to travel without nausea. :)

The rest of the trip goes without incident except for the disappointing fact that the Tim Horton's stop we normally make on the 401 no longer served breakfast! That was the biggest thing I was looking forward to from the road trip! (Sad, I know, but how can you start a traditional road trip if the place you actually "begin" your road trip isn't really "there" any more?). Fast-forwarding to the destination, we checked into our hotel (not the Quality I expected), unpacked, and hit the road. According to the directions, we were under 5km away from the National Trade Center. I can normally walk that in 35 minutes, but both Franciscos aren't used to walking. Thus, it turned into a mini-adventure made the more laborious due to the fact they were carrying bags and Francisco was wearing his "pimp" shoes. Why someone would pimp up to go to a Comics Convention I still haven't figured out. :)

Check-in went relatively quickly and we began to walk around. Personally, I wasn't really there to scope out any deals. I wanted to see what was available and to meet people and make contacts. You know, the usual. The Franciscos, however, came loaded up with their want list and a drive to spend :) The only books I had brought to sign, really, were some Teen Titans GO! for James! J. Torres turned out to be a great guy and I was able to pick up some of his other Oni titles as well. At 6pm I made my way to the first panel of the evening featuring Speakeasy Comics. I hadn't heard of them before (obviously due to my staying away from most comics advertising for the last several months) and was pleasantly surprised with them. The creators of Atomika, Beowulf, Grimoire and more were there and they all spoke about their books, how they came about them, and what's in store next. It was nice to meet Sebastien and Djief, the two main guys of Grimoire who are actually Quebecers. I spent the next few days chatting with them at their booth. They got a kick out of the company as well as being able to talk French :) I touched base with the VP of Speakeasy as well and got the low-down on submissions with them. Considering they have a desire to reach a market The Minute-Men want to, there could be a possibility of working with them. We'll see.

At 7pm, "What's New at DC in 2005" was up and Bill Willingham, Phil Jiminez, J. Torres, and Joey Cavalieri took the stage. Bill talked about Fables and what he was going to do now that the characters were established. He and Joey started talking about how much they love Ragman, without realizing that sitting next to me in the front row was none other than Gabriel Morrissette! I spoke out on this twice (with Gaby telling me to stop) but they tried to ignore me. Phil didn't :) When it got to him, he stopped and pointed to Gaby asking if he created the character. Gaby blushed and related his pencilling work on the series. He was introduced and suddenly Joey exclaimed: "You're Gabriel Morrissette? What are you doing down there while I'm up here! Get up here with us!" They scrambled to try to get a seat up there but Gaby declined over and over, turning completely beet red in the process. My first "pimpage" of the convention was complete :)

Once everything was settled, Phil got to talking about The Return of Donna Troy and he just raved about it! He had such a blast doing it and he could not stop complimenting the artist. Joey continued and spoke about his work and then laughed at how he ran Marvel's 2099 line "right into the ground" as he was treating it like his "very own fanzine" :) The discussion eventually turned to trade paperbacks and the impact they are having on the industry. Joey wanted to point out that trades for series aren't a done deal. DC will only put out trades on books that are selling and which they feel they can make money on. If a mini-series isn't selling because fans are waiting for a trade, chances are the trade isn't going to happen since DC looks at the low sales as being indicative of a failed series. Phil interjected how at Vertigo things are a little different. Individual issue sales are generally quite low, but the trades are phenomenal sellers. The discussion continued for a while, bringing up points on how you miss out on the suspense of the individual issues when collected in trades (bill) and the comparison to watching 24 on t.v. or in the season set. A really fun panel.

As that was the last panel of the day, we looked around a bit more until deciding to go back to the hotel. I went about looking for the closest way to get back and managed to catch a lift with the shuttle back to the hotel. And so, I picked up FMR and Francisco and we shuttled back with Bill Tucci and David Mack, all the while laughing about Francisco and his Pimp Shoes. We dropped our stuff off at the hotel and headed to the Hot House Café for supper. It was such a long day that I barely made it to midnight, passing out in exhaustion.

Saturday April 30th: After breakfast at the hotel, we took a cab and made our way back by 9:30am. As before, we split up at the convention to do our own things. I met up with them near the end of the Brian Michael Bendis panel. I didn't want to go but popped in there near the end since I was looking forward to the one after his. But, lo and behold, who do I see sitting up there with Bendis? None other than Joe Michael Strzynski. Holy hell I couldn't believe that! Seems he came to the convention as moral support for Samm Barnes who was up for a Shuster and thus he began crashing panels! He turned out to be a very funny and amiable man. Some memorable quotes include: "I'm an athiest, it's all fiction to me!" when asked about Peter Parker's religious moments. "Do something that's never been done before and see what happens," he explains in regards to his processes of coming up with ideas. He explained about how the Military pushes people and machines to the wall until they break so that at least they'll have parameters to work within. JMS applies that to his characters as well. He also did admit that Peter Parker WAS supposed to be the father of the twins in the recent Gwen Stacey storyline. I sure as hell would have preferred THAT than the disgusting use of Gwen being seduced by Norman Osbourne. Bendis ended off the session by talking about how much he had wanted to kill off The Kingpin when he took over Daredevil. Then, in discussions with Ralph Macchio, he was told "It's more creative not to kill The Kingpin" When Bendis sat back and thought about it, he realized it was true and worked within that mindframe.

The Jerry Robinson panel began at 12:30pm with Blake Bell introducing him as the legend responsible for co-creating the Joker and Robin. I was the only guy seated in the front row and felt as though Jerry spoke to me during the entire panel :) He shared with us the life and times of Joe Shuster, discussed Milton Caniff and Hal Foster – as well as how he salvaged early Tarzan strips from the Syndicate who were getting them trashed! He spoke about working with Bill Finger and how Bill would spend every lunch hour calling his out of town girlfriend from a phone booth :). Jerry told us stories about how he, Bill, and Bob Kane would meet daily and talked about their stories. He then paused and stated how Bill should have been listed as co-creator of Batman. He began praising Bill and how he spent a lot of time researching for his stories and was very meticulous in his details. We were informed of how Bill created Robin and his thoughts and reasons on it – how the kids could identify with him and the potential for stories. Robin came out of Jerry's love of Robin Hood and he had sketched out the costume based on a book. Bill tagged it as The Boy Wonder and they would kid him as being the youngest of the three.

Jerry talked about Joe Shuster and how they were good friends who often double-dated (insert joke here of Batman and Superman out on a double-date :) ). We were told how they met and stories about Bernie Klein, Mort Weisinger and how Jerry taught Steve Ditko at his art class (at a school co-founded by Bernie Hogarth on the principle that all teachers were working professionals). We were told about errors that are found in the DC Archive books that could have been resolved had he been called about them, but he never was. An example of such was a Gardner Fox credit on writing an origin story of Batman that was actually due Bill Finger. From there he went on to talk about how even the history books are full of errors including the History of the comic strips. He had researched The Yellow Kid and found that it first appeared on February 16, 1896. It took him a year trying to get that date. And then, one day he was at the New York Historical Soceity talking to the curator and he mentioned how the basement had bound volumes of New York World. Amazed, he went down and spent weeks going back through each issue from that date and found other Yellow Kid stories! He tracked the first appearance back to May 15, 1895! He laughingly told us how after that, he became a collector himself and spent a fortune purchasing original tear sheets :)

We went back to Batman and he told us how Bob would not acknowledge anyone having had anything to do with Batman. We were all happy to hear about how Jerry worked at getting the 1st Annual Bill Finger award acknowledged at San Diego. Paul Levitz okayed the award and the San Diego committee agreed as well. Thus, the award makes its appearance this year for Excellence in Comic Book Writing. (Information to follow after this section).

Bill Blake, who's currently working on a Ditko biography, asked Jerry if he could provide a story about Ditko that no one heard before to close off the panel. Jerry thought about it for a bit and then asked, "Did I ever tell you about the time Steve Ditko saved a girl from being raped at the art school?" Shocked, everyone shook their heads no, including Blake. "It didn't happen!" said Jerry with a huge smile on his face. We all got PUNKED!

The 1:30pm panel was to be on Remembering Eisner but, unfortunately –and a little sadly, actually, no one else showed up. So, Jerry spent some time talking about how he had met Will back in 41, that they used to play tennis together and that Will was a very competitive player. They even were on the Board of Directors together at the Cartoon Museum. He had known of The Spirit before actually having met Will and loved the splashes – he wanted to use them on the Batman covers!

The Warren Ellis Q&A followed at 2:30pm and, sadly, my notes during the next hour are barely legible. I'll attempt to translate what I can but I can at least attest that he is not as scary in real life as he comes across online :). In fact, when someone handed him a Red Bull, I actually managed to snap a picture of him smiling! :) I do wish I had managed to bring along a tape recorder, though, because he was hysterical. He made a few mentions about his current work like Ultimate FF, Planetary (by issue 6 he decided the FF would be the villains and created the book to be totally different issue to issue in order to keep Cassady happy), and Jack Cross. He pointed to the microphone and said "You can ask me a question and I'll lie" and when everyone laughed he finished with "You notice how helpful these Q&As are?"

In regards to his work, he comes up with ideas and then looks for an artist who would fit it and then tailors it to them. He did confirm that he's working on something for Dean Haspiel for later in the year (yay!). He likes to create stuff that he liked as a kid – blowing stuff up! On working on the JLU, he states that the "story editors are quite, quite, mad!"

Questions started coming and he replied on his inspiration for Jenny Sparks (a strong female character that had a personality and didn't look like all the other women in comics), stories he tells his daughter ("I get told off for them!"), and the story behind his Hellstorm for Marvel. He got back around to talking about DC and the "raping" characters: "It's dangerous to be a hero in the DC Universe these days. Don't drop the soap!"

I managed to screw up the courage to stand at the microphone and speak to him myself. To be honest, I couldn't understand why I was so nervous. Heck, Warren's not the biggest or most famous person I've met or spoken with but, somehow, I was a wreck. I guess that underneath all that gruff and violent work he produces, he's brilliantly inspirational. So, when it's finally my turn I manage to stammer out a big thank you for introducing the Fast Fiction challenges on LiveJournal and then I asked him what there was left for him to conquer (since he's done comics, television, animation, video games, etc. etc.). "What's left for you to conquer? What do you want?" His reply? "Money! Loads of it!" [insert fanboy rampage here]

He talked about being online and how he once had 10,000 hits on his site on a Sunday. "10,000 people with nothing to do! Waiting to see if I've posted a picture of someone's ass!". From there, he went on to tell us about Garth Ennis' wedding and bachelor party weekend they thought they wouldn't survive. He discussed the reason why he hates San Diego (50,000 people in 97, last year something like 100,000!). The reason he has a mild limp was due to a rugby injury at age 14. An Apparat trade will be out by the end of the year. He would be afraid to try his hand at a Judge Dredd story. And then, he ended off his session describing a telephone call from Alan Moore who could keep you on the phone all day discussing the plot for the next two years of his books… in detail :)

Finally, The Joe Shuster Canadian Comic Book Creator Awards was scheduled to begin at 4:30pm. It took them some time to set up and by the time we were let in, there was hardly any space in the room! Jam-packed! It all began with a really nice, emotional introduction by James Waley, the organizer and main driving force behind this Award. After a few more key-note speakers, Jerry Robinson took the stage and spoke of Joe Shuster including how he had Joe's drawing table until he donated it to a museum in Atlanta in order to re-create Joe's workshop. He spoke of Joe and Jerry Spiegle's plight and how Robinson worked with the Cartoonist Society to get them help, finally settling on matters of health care, income, and annuities. Robinson was also responsible for working the deal to restore their names on the books and movies during the time the first movie was getting ready for release.

The Hall of Fame award was accepted by Joe Shuster's sister who told us about how Joe and Spiegle had met and how her family moved from Toronto after their father failed as a Tailor (he had opened up a shop from money he got from his father). Afterwards, the ceremonies continued with more stories, pictures, and emotions.

Arcana Studios won for Outstanding Publisher. He was actually sitting in front of me and when he got back to his chair he could not speak as he was shaking and breathing so hard from the shock/ emotion. That made the event seem so much more real to me. "Real" regular folks who are just trying to put out as good a product as they can, suddenly recognized by their peers.

Outstanding Achievement went to Dave Sim and Gerhardt, presented by Bill Sienkewicz. Ed Furness's HOF award was accepted by his daughter in a very touching speech. Adrian Dingle's award was accepted by his grandson. Les Barker's HOF award was presented by Rob Pincombe and accepted by Les' son Dan who recounted a great tale Les loved to share. In fact, I remembered it from the last time Les and I were hanging out together in Toronto lo those many years ago! Outstanding Writer went to both Ty Templeton for Batman and Samm Barnes for Doc Spectrum! Kaare Andrews won for Artist. Hal Foster's HOF award was accepted by Dave Sim who also gave a very emotional speech which left him leaving the stage in tears. Finally, Darwyn Cooke took the award for Outstanding Cartoonist, speaking about the ceremonies as a whole and how touching an event it was. He left the stage with the command "Let's all make it a better industry!" Amen to that.

With the awards over, everyone began to disperse and partake of the special cake made for the event. I introduced myself to James Waley who embraced me in a giant bear hug thanking me so much for the work I did and how my energy and enthusiasm was so refreshing and welcome. I wasn't expecting any praise, but it sure felt nice to receive it :)

Between panels, I spent quite some time speaking with folks I had just met (Speakeasy) or those I knew from before (Craig Taillifer) as well as meeting some new creators. I wasn't at the convention for signing, so I didn't go searching for anything (outside of ONE signature from Jerry Robinson :) ) Before the evening was over, I did get to have a picture taken with JMS, though :)

Sunday May 1st: The last day of the convention was, by nature, the most relaxed. We ate breakfast, checked out of the hotel, and drove in a little too early. While FMR and Francisco waited around for the booths to open in order to get their updated passes, I took a walk and ended up having a long chat with Ron Kasman. I went in with him (one of the small perks of the Press Pass allowed me access prior to others) and once the doors opened officially, FMR and Francisco went about pillaging the booths for more loot. Since the car was parked right outside, they didn't have to worry about carrying heavy stuff for too long :) As for myself, although I picked up a few items here and there, I was more interested in chatting with the folks on the floor. That's where the action was for me. I got to hear some not-so-good stories from Dave Ross on being screwed over by a few companies, along with some interesting/ funny stories from Ty Templeton on getting an award "for a book I was fired on!". I also finally introduced myself to Azad of whom Johane Matte often talked to me about (and who almost made the Shuster ballots as well). I ended up pimping FMR to him for which he also got FMR to sign his copy of Comicopia 84 :) Azad turned out to be a really nice guy and I thoroughly enjoyed the set of Sammy books I bought off of him. If you haven't picked up the mini-series from Image, I urge you to do so. It's a whole lot of fun!

At 11am, the first panel began: Writing Comics Roundtable with Bill Willingham, B. Clay Moore, Ian Boothby, J. Torres, JMS, and Sam Barnes. They all talked bout the medium, editors, writing for creator-owned books versus work-for-hire, pitching stories; etc. I was sitting first row again and managed to snap a few pictures (a little too dark unfortunately). Samantha Barnes called me up and I helped take a few pictures for her as well :) The most memorable story of the panel was from JMS who related The Story of the Loo. The day before, he had gone to the bathroom and did his business at the urinal. Then, he goes over to wash his hands and someone else walks into the deserted bathroom. With so many urinals to choose from, the guy went to the same one Joe had used. When he finished, he turned to Joe with a big smile on his face and said, "Right on top of JMS!" :) He then went on to discuss how he uses everyday events in his stories. To quote, "Writers are observers!". Samm encouraged everyone to "Study, work, and read as much as you can."

At 12pm, I headed to Joey Cavalieri's Editing Workshop. I chatted with him before the panel, showing off the Comicopia Manhunter cover drawn by Gabriel that I made into a t-shirt. The panel was actually a lot of fun as well as being informative and seemed to zoom by. Some tidbits: don't bother submitting proposals to DC, they're closed. Instead, head elsewhere and make a name for yourself – prove what you can do. Then, you'll have a better chance. When pitching, it should be a page to a page and a half stating "what he's going to do, where it's going to go" in regards to the hero and the story. He said something that struck me in a manner of confirmation as to what I do with Comicopia. He explained how Editors are, in regards to the work, really just "coordinators, show runners, cheerleaders". When pitching, pitch towards an editor who's in synch with similar work. Everyone is He then told us how he hates crossovers and how it always takes so much work and there are always egos involved. "Oh, my character would never say that!" "Oh yeah? Look, he just did!" That brought quite the round of laughs :)

That was the last panel of the day for me as I then proceeded to spend the remaining time chatting and saying good-bye to everyone. I spent some more time talking with Joey and he asked how it was that I got a Press Pass for Comicopia. I explained my involvement with The Shusters and then he flipped through a couple of issues and actually asked if he could take a copy of issue 86 to read on the plane. Like I was going to say no, right? :) My Gabriel Pimpage knew no bounds that weekend, my friends :) He left to talk to JMS and I continued walking around. Since there wasn't a long lineup at Warren Ellis' table, I waited and talked with him a bit. I was a lot less nervous this time and got to thank him again as well as shake his hand. I didn't have anything to autograph but he let me take his picture so that's cool :) Speaking of cool photos, I also got to take a terrific photo with Jerry Robinson before going back and doing some shmoozing with Samm Barnes and JMS, getting some more photos and signatures. I talked with Samm about how she felt in getting the award and she was still in shock at being honored like that. I then asked if she wanted me to send her copies of the photos I took and she immediately said yes and gave me her direct email address. I have to laugh at the fact that I ended up getting her signature and email written in my NOTEBOOK. You know, the place where I write all my notes and that I then rip out and throw when I've transcribed them? Now how, tell me, can I do that when the only signature I have of Samm's is on the page along with my other notes? :)

And thus, shortly after that, I got the Franciscos together and we began our trek back home, reflecting on the weekend and what it meant to each of us individually. Francisco was totally hyped as it was his first ever comic convention and he loved the loot he got. FMR enjoyed himself and they both got a kick out of the fact that along with the Pimpage going on during the weekend, I managed to score what no one else had seemed to, Samm's email. Sheesh, guys, give me a break! :)

Although I haven't made any concrete decisions about next year's convention, I do admit that it would be nice to attend again. The only concrete thing I did state was to James Waley and that was that I would be available to continue helping in any way I can with the Canadian Comic Book industry. Though I can't be a judge for next year due to the rules, that doesn't mean I can't lend a hand in any other way. His reply was along the lines of hoping to have me involved again :) Sometimes I'm glad the Canadian Industry is so much smaller than the American one. It makes things like this feel so much more special :)

New: For those of you inclined, you can also see the Montage of Guests of the Paradise Comics Toronto Comicon 2005 that I took as opposed to clicking on the individual names above.

(Convention Venture (c) Mike Aragona. All rights reserved. No reproduction or retransmission of this article is granted without written permission of Mike Aragona)

—} [Fast Fiction]

—} [The Last Word Editorial Articles]

—} [In Conversation With...]

—} [Book Reviews]

—} [Movie Reviews]

—} [Convention Reviews/ Journals]

—} Comicopia

—} SavageLand

—} Comic Views

—} Feedback

[   Home  |   Blog  |   Conventions  ]
© Copyright Savage Enterprises. All rights reserved. Contact: Mike Aragona    Powered by Free Site Templates