What's new with Carter Comics in 2018:

Yes, we're already three months into the year, and some of the new projects and techniques that I wanted to try out with Carter Comics are currently in progress. Others have yet to be used.........but they will be. Here's a quick list of what's new and what's kind-of-new at the ol' C.C. headquarters:

Cosmic Force #6: "Aftermath Part Two."  Following the completion of Damn Tourist #4 last February,  and the reminders of convention fans who purchased my previous 5 issues of the science-fiction/suspense series, this sixth issue will be finally finished at the end of April. Unfortunately, that won't be in time for my biggest show of the year Wondercon, but it will be ready for my May shows East LA C.A.P.E. and Comic Con Revolution. The reason for the delay was the same as for Damn Tourists #4: moving, personal issues, and two freelance projects. It will all be worth it though, as the ending of "Aftermath Part Two" will feature the biggest cliffhanger yet since our five meteor shower spectators-turned superhuman fugitives had their lives turned upside down by the five mysterious light sources: The individuals behind their two-year disappearance, strange abilities, and even stranger appearance, finally reveal themselves! 

Just Imagine: A Cosmic Force Prequel: The second of the five 12-page single character stories that I will be developing, this book will chronicle the early years of Sandra "Imagine" Winters' life, from demanding parents, to having a career forced onto her, all leading up to the final twenty four hours of her old existence before the "meteor shower incident" changed all that. This one should be completed by the end of April or early May.

Mongoose Mondays in Motion:  A much more interactive version of my three-year social media illustration game series, I am now recording my figure of speech sketches in time-lapse format, and they are completed in pencil only before they are uploaded to Facebook, twitter, and Instagram. Not only can fans try to name the figure of speech being displayed, but they can watch the creation of the drawing as well. I started this new version in February.

Damn Tourists #5: (No Story Title Yet)  I'm currently brainstorming possible names for the title of this issue, but the more important thing is that I know where I want to take my clueless travelers next: Florida. Driving in from the west coast after being chased out of Las Vegas, Nevada due to their unexpected good luck with casino games that drained the city's finances dry, our unknowingly obnoxious foursome enter the sunshine state and encounter theme parks, the everglades, the miami club scene, and finally, spring breakers in Ft. lauderdale. I'm shooting to have this one completed by the end of the year, or at the latest, in time for Wondercon 2019.

Exhibiting at more out-of-state comic book conventions:  I have done only one convention as an exhibitor back in June 2014: Amazing Las Vegas Comic Con. That needs to change, and soon. So, this June, I will be taking a short birthday vacation to Seattle. While I will primarily be there to relax and sightsee in a city that I've always wanted to visit for the last eight years, I will also be checking out the downtown convention center and surrounding areas, getting familiar with them, as the wildly successful Emerald City Comic Convention takes place at that site every March. And I may possibly try to exhibit at another out of state show this September in nearby Portland Oregon: Rose City Comic Con.

So, that's about it for all the Carter Comics happenings. I'm making it my mission this year to be very choosy when it comes to tabling at cons and art festivals, so I can have more time to complete new material, and at the same time, focus on shows that I either have been successful at previously, or new shows that I have a good feeling about. Check back here around late springtime for a report on how it pans out so far. Until then!

Carter Comics looking back at 2017 and looking ahead to 2018

Hello everyone!

The fact that I haven't had time to write here since the beginning of the year should definitely indicate just how busy my 2017 was. Now, I'm back here writing with just a week and a half left in the year. I guess now's a great time to look at how the last 12 months went for Carter Comics. I'll cover the good, the bad, and the just plain weird.

THE GOOD: Simply put, Carter Comics took everything to a whole new level this year. From the convention appearances to sales made to number of books sold to new artist contacts I met, I can clearly see an improvement on promoting and selling my work in 2017 compared with last year. Highlights of the year include an unexpected success at the new small Earth Realm Comic Con at Align Gallery in Highland Park,  breaking my all-time sales records at Wondercon Anaheim, then breaking it again at San Jose's Silicon Valley Comic Con, my first Free Comic Book Day at a legendary Culver City comic shop, and absolutely killing it in attracting crowds and making sales at both Glendale and Reseda outdoor artwalks. At the Earth Realm show in late winter, myself and a handful or artists set up shop in a tiny art gallery for three days braving heavy rains, a presidential inauguration, and a march protesting said inauguration.  These three adversities not only brought us closer together than we already were (figuratively and literally), but it eventually attracted the few people who braved the elements and other events to come see us. One man in particular, who was a family member of a 13-year old artist prodigy vending with us, purchased art and books from nearly every exhibitor at the show. The result for overcoming all those odds: 15 items sold and a $160 profit after paying just a $25 table fee for a three-day event. In the spring, my fourth appearance as a small press vendor saw me debut the often-delayed but finally completed 4th issue of Damn Tourists (completed at the end of February), and in addition, start a "buy issue 1 get issue 2" free deal with my Damn Tourists series. While the crowds in the small press area weren't nearly as consistently crowded as artist alley, the attendees that did wander into our area ate up both my 2 for 1 deal and Damn Tourists in general, purchasing full sets of the book series and selling out of issue 2. A few even purchased a full-set of my Cosmic Force series (five issues), and a few of my Mongoose Mondays books. The result of this new sales strategy: 42 books sold with a $217 profit, up from my last showing there in 2014 when sold 22 books and made a $122 profit. As mentioned previously, my very first showing at Silicon Valley Comic Con was even better. Here I sold out of issues 2,3, and 4 of Damn Tourists, and even picked up a custom print and t-shirt from my talented table neighbor. Also, thanks to a good friend of mine who I saw for the first time in five years, my all-time convention sales record was broken in just a month after Wondercon with 46 books sold and a $224 profit. In the late spring, I got to participate in my very first Free Comic Book Day, which is an event that takes place at multiple comic shops in California. I set up shop with some other artist friends of mine at the Comic Bug in Culver City. Despite car-trouble to and from the event, and nearby thunderstorms threatening our outdoor event, the show went very well. While I sold some books, the highlight of the show was getting to do free sketches for comic fans of all ages.  Finally, going into fall, were two shows that absolutely took me by surprise: Glendale Open Arts and Music Festival, and Reseda Rising Artwalk and Night Market. For the Glendale show, I had done a smaller 2-hour version of this outdoor art event the year prior on a Friday night on a sparsely populated side street, but this year's show could not have been more different: An 8-hour Saturday outdoor event which closed off a major Glendale Street anchored with numerous restaurants and shops. 8-ft tables with canopies and lights for the evening hours totaled just $15 each for vendors, but I qualified for an artist grant from the show promoter and wound up with a free table. The happy result was a show that drew in alot of attendees right off the street and in front of my table, and with lots of money to spend. I ended the night with 35 books sold and a $208 profit----the most that I had ever made at a one-day show. Reseda Artwalk sales were only less than Glendale because I sold most of my inventory at Glendale, and was unable to restock for the Reseda show that took place the very next week. That of course, meant that I sold out of whatever books I had left (Damn Tourists again), with a show tally of 22 books sold and a $136 profit, up from last year's show where I sold 9 books and made a $75 profit. Vendor spaces for both shows were $50 by the way.

THE BAD: Yes, like the old sitcom theme suggests, you have to take it with the good. You can only get better when you recognize your failures, and mine were at the following shows (four of which I made no sales at): The Hive Art Gallery show and Zinefest in downtown LA, which really didn't turn out to be the right fit for me, as attendees were not there looking for comics (or at least my comics), Comic Invasion at the City of Commerce Public Library was more of an interactive panel event then a proper comic convention, with the few attendees frequenting the panels more than the vendor hall. Also the hard-to-find location resulted in low attendance. The final San Fernando Valley Comic Book Convention of 2017, a show I had done previously three times a year since 2014, unfortunately had a less-than-stellar December due mostly to the extensive wildfires in Santa Clarita, Sylmar, The 405 freeway/Sepulveda Pass, and of course Ventura. The diehards that did come by were mostly bin-diving for great deals on old comics. Announcing the hourly raffles was fun though. Stan Lee's LA Comic Con at the Los Angeles Convention Center (which I called "Stan Lee's Lookie-Loo Comic Con in response to a facebook post about how the show went for vendors), took a huge step back from the improvement it made in 2016 by in my opinion adding too many celebrities that commanded most of the attention and money of the attendees (After Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson was announced, the fate of Artist Alley sales was sealed). Last year, which was the first year of the show's name change from Stan Lee's Comikaze Expo, showed alot of promise with a large Artist Alley far away from the celebrity stage, and some attendees that were willing to take a chance on new art and comics. That show in 2016 resulted in 16 books sold and a $136 profit. This show unfortunately drew a different type of crowd mainly there for brand name products, which resulted in the same number of books sold, but with a $90 profit (though I did get interviewed for a dailymotion video podcast, and got to spin the Price Is Right wheel, which was featured at the show).

THE JUST PLAIN WEIRD: Yeah, these shows were just random: PartyPunx at The Airliner Bar in Lincoln Heights combines a smaller version of a local artwalk via the Bar's back patio outside, with live local bands inside. It was an interesting collaboration, though I wasn't entirely sure how many bar patrons would be purchasing art or books after spending money on drinks. We got decent crowds and sales (vendor spaces were free), but the difficult part of the show was the hours: 9 PM - 2AM. Luckily I had some vendor friends helping me load my car in the wee hours of the morning after the show was over. A Geranium Festival and Artwalk? Yep, that happened in Monterey Park following the Commerce Comic Invasion show. With just a $15 table fee it wasn't much of a financial gamble, but the customer base was.........interesting. An older Japanese crowd (many of them speaking only Japanese) came by my table, but my lack of bilingual skills prevented any kind of conversation. I wound up with a few sales from other vendors which made up for it, but yeah, this show was just a little weird. Finally, while Comic Con Palm Springs was a decent three day show (being able to save on a hotel by staying at a friend's place helped, along with alot of last minute buyers), but this one interaction with a customer classifies it in the "weird" category:  A guy in his mid-20s came by my table, looked at my single pieces of comic book artwork, and said to me: "I don't get it."  I explained to him that they were comic book panels, but he still responded by scratching his head. I haven't had quite that kind of reaction to my work before or since.

PLANS FOR 2018: So, what does this mean for Carter Comics next year?  For one thing, being extremely picky when it comes to exhibiting at new shows (especially the smaller ones). No more appearing at the same show that occurs more than once a year. Instead, I will pick the time of year that I will be vending at that show. Also, look for a new book release schedule. Currently, I try to release one new book a year to debut at Wondercon, historically my biggest show of the year. Now, I want to increase that by releasing two new books a year, with the second book debuting at a fall show such as Bakersfield, or if I decide to give Stan Lee's LA Comic Con one more try. So for 2018, expect issue 6 of Cosmic Force at Wondercon, and my second Cosmic Force Prequel "Just Imagine," at the end of the summer ready for Bakersfield or LA Comic Con. Lastly (but not leastly. Yes, I'm making up a word),  I will be working on new monthly Mongoose Monday games via flash animations. Those will be done the 1st of the month starting in February. In the meantime, I will be taking a much-deserved rest from both my day job, conventions, and social media. So, thank you all who have supported me through likes, comments, social-media lurking and then telling me later in person that you've followed me and my work. No matter the method, it all means alot to me.

Merry Christmas and a Happy 2018!

Allen Carter
Carter Comics

New year, New schedule, New approach.

Happy 2017 everyone!

I know that I haven't written anything here in quite some time, but I needed to get my priorities in order both my professional and personal life---which will be the focus of this blog. So, the weekly schedule I started with this back in late 2014 will now be a monthly one.

2016 was an incredibly busy year for me, both at my day job and at Carter Comics. A total of sixteen conventions (which would have been seventeen if my poor health hadn't caused me to cancel one appearance), a full year of Mongoose Mondays, comic page work on Damn Tourists issue 4, completion of my third freelance project Slade Minister, and a fourth freelance project that was later terminated. For 2017 I'm going to reduce the number of conventions I exhibit at, focusing more on the quality of the show, rather than the quantity of shows that I do. So far I'm booked for six shows between January and April: The brand new three-day show Earth Realm Comic Con in Highland Park, Pasadena Comic and Toy Show, the two-day event Tulare Sci-Fi Con, The Hive Art Gallery Bazaar in Downtown LA, and two three-day extravaganzas at Silicon Valley Comic Con in San Jose, and my biggest show of the year: Wondercon in Anaheim. I will also be completing my fourth issue of my satire comic book series "Damn Tourists" at the end of February, resuming work on Cosmic Force #6 in March, ordering alternate covers for my Damn Tourists #1 and Mongoose Monday titles, creating new Mongoose Monday Facebook games featuring literal band name illustrations, and streamlining the look of my Carter Comics brand using a signature orange color for T-Shirts, table covers, business cards, and more.

That is alot to do just in the first four months of the year to be sure, but I'm just gonna take things one at a time unlike last year. There will be plenty of time to rest between projects as to not "burn myself out" as I've done many times before.  Well, that's it for this month. Come back here in February to read about the results of my first show and new merchandise. Best wishes to all of you for a great 2017 and I'll see you later!


Winding down Carter Comics Convention tour 2016

Hello everyone! For those of you who followed this once weekly blog, you may wonder why that schedule has changed since I last wrote here back in May.  Well simply put, I've been busy. A lot of my time has been divided between my full-time day job, two freelance art jobs, Mongoose Monday illustration games, my own comic projects, and of course, exhibiting at Comic Conventions.

From Long Beach Comic Expo in February, to Long Beach Comic Con last weekend, and all the smaller shows in between, 2016 has been a very "con-heavy" year thus far. However, despite the sheer number of shows I've appeared at this year, the attendance and sales have been lower. Salesand attendance wise, my best shows were Reseda Artwalk and Night Market back in June, Glendale Open Arts and Music Festival, Highland Park Comic Con, and Long Beach Comic Con. My just-okay or worst shows this year were Baldwin Park Comic Expo, LA Derby Dolls Comic Con, Buy Indie Comics Day, San Fernando Valley Comic Con, Long Beach Comic Expo, and Comic Invasion, where for the first time in my six years of exhibiting, I never made a single sale. There are a number of different reasons as to why my worst shows were so bad: Low attendee turnout, unenthusiastic crowds, not enough promotion, cons scheduling too many side activities (like panels) that keep attendees out of the main exhibit floor, and sometimes just bad timing. I'm also honest enough to admit that perhaps my skills as a salesperson were poor during these bad shows. On the other hand, there are a number of different reasons for my best shows: High attendee turnout, enthusiastic crowds, no competing events on the same days, and most importantly: Good communication between show promoters and residents of the town they're throwing the event in, in terms of what they want out of a comic convention. This of course, ensures that potential convention attendees will be treated to things that they like and want at the shows, instead of being told what to like and want.

There is another side to doing too many conventions, regardless of their quality: Not enough time to finish new material. Although I'm still building my fanbase and can currently get away with not releasing a new issue of my larger projects like Cosmic Force and Damn Tourists (this is where the quickly-produced Mongoose Monday books come in handy), there are a lot of the same convention attendees that go to many different shows throughout a year, and even if they don't stop by your table to view your work, they still see you. Should those same attendees pass by my table and not see anything new, that doesn't say a lot of good things about how quickly I can produce a new comic. I recently ran into a fan who only likes and buys my Cosmic Force series at Long Beach Comic Con. He's purchased all five issues and has been waiting for issue number 6 for almost two years. While I understand his persistent asking, and I'm happy that he does still ask (which makes him very loyal of course), between everything else on my plate, I haven't been able to fulfill that request unfortunately.  As fun as doing cons can be, they can be addictive to an exhibitor: Too many can take a toll on you physically, and the sheer number of new conventions popping up nowadays can be extremely enticing. Case in point: Due to me being way behind schedule on both Damn Tourists issue 4 and Cosmic Force issue 6 (both were supposed to be finished in time for Long Beach Comic Con last week), I decided to end my convention tour for the year after Comikaze Expo in late October. Then I get news on cheap tables at Palm Springs Comic Con in November.  As much as I try to say 'enough for now,'  that convention enchantress keeps pulling me back in.

So will I do that show? Who knows. I don't even know yet. But what I do know is that I won't be doing any other 'out of the blue' show between my next three cons: Santa Clarita Valley Comic Con next weekend, Mystic Dragon Indie Book Festival in City of Industry on October 22nd, and Comikaze Expo the weekend before Halloween (Friday October 28th to Sunday October 30th).

Of course, that could all change, if that "con enchantress" has anything to say about it.

LA Metro Expo line to Santa Monica: History is Made!

Well, as the media said time and time again, rail finally returned to Santa Monica Friday, May 20th, at 12 PM PST for the first time since 1953, when the red streetcars were discontinued. This time, it's a sleek new light rail line called the Expo line (its name coming from the boulevard it parallels, exposition boulevard to be exact) that has just opened a 6.6 mile extension from Culver City (where the original terminus was) all the way to Downtown Santa Monica, just four short walkable blocks to the Santa Monica Pier and the pacific ocean. While LA Metro has opened several rail and bus lines previously (The Noho to Pasadena Express and the Azusa Gold Line extension most recently), This Expo Line extension to Santa Monica is widely recognized as a 'game changer' in LA public transit. People who normally commute by car and look down at public transportation were getting just as excited about the new line as longtime transit riders. I of course, had to experience this new way of traveling to Santa Monica without a car for myself.

What did I think of the extension in general? It's a huge step forward in getting non-metro riders interested in trying out rail service. Thousands of people already frequent downtown Santa Monica and the adjacent Pier, along with the other thousands that either commute or live in the area, and the Expo Line is a great alternative to sitting in traffic. Granted, the line isn't the fastest with the two end portions in Downtown LA and Downtown Santa Monica running in the middle of the street, causing slowdowns at stoplights, but it serves its main purpose of giving commuters another way to reach an already bustling community.  Aside from the line's new terminus, there are some other station areas that our worth exploring: The Westwood/Rancho Park station comes to mind. It's barely a half-mile from Pico Blvd, where the Westfield Mall and a nice arrangement of shops/eateries are located. I personally liked a new pub I found called "Gulp," which has a great selection of beers and burgers. For future explorations, I'll be using this line mostly to rollerblade at the Venice Beach to Will Rogers State Beach bike path without having to pay $10 for parking, but I'll also be trying out new areas by other stations such as Westwood/Rancho Park, and Expo/Bundy. This line extension was a long time coming, and it's only the beginning, with the Crenshaw Line being the next new rail line set to open in 2019. This line (with the help of and elevated airport terminal tram), will finally connect Metro rail to one of the nations busiest airports. Combine that with the building of the purple line extension to Westwood and UCLA, and the long-awaited Sepulveda Pass/405 freeway rail project, and Los Angeles stands a good chance of transforming its "car-culture" stigma.

Transit Fridays

In my continuing quest to support public transportation in Los Angeles, I've decided to extend my use of LA Metro beyond the weekends. For the last three weeks, I have taken one day out of my workweek to leave my car at home and let someone else do the driving. While I have regularly used Metro Rail, Bus Rapid Transit, and ridesharing to explore LA on the weekends, I recently started using the new express bus that runs between North Hollywood and Pasadena. Called the 501 express, it was put into service back on March 1st in order to connect three Metro rapid transit lines: The red line subway and orange line busway in North Hollywood, and the Gold Line light rail in Pasadena, serving the cities of North Hollywood, Burbank, Glendale, and Pasadena via some surface streets and the 134 freeway carpool lane. Since one of the few stops is in Glendale where I currently work, this express line was feasible for me to use. There are sacrifices to make of course: The express bus' North Hollywood Red Line Station terminus is a one-mile, forty minute walk from my apartment, which requires that I leave an hour earlier for work than I usually would when I drive, and the Glendale stop is a twenty minute walk to my office, but those sacrifices are easy to make for once a week, a day I like to call "Transit Fridays." I chose Friday to do this transportation experiment because I don't work late that day, which would definitely require me to drive. So far it's been a very relaxing change of pace in my work commute routine, where I can relax on the way to work, and access my building quicker without having to cross through the parking garage first. On the way home, I can stop by a great burger joint to grab dinner, as the bus drops me back off at the North Hollywood Station and I use Lankershim blvd to walk home from there. The main reason for this transit experiment: Los Angeles Metro is using this express bus to gauge passenger interest in a possible bus rapid transit or rail line between North Hollywood, Burbank, Glendale, and Pasadena, should the current line be successful. While most of the buses initially picked up no more than five passengers the first few times I used the route, the number of passengers nearly doubled the next week. I can only hope that this line does become popular enough to warrant a mass-transit line (rail or bus rapid transit) that serves these very same communities. If or when that happens, I'll be commuting to work via public transit more than just on Fridays.

2016: The Year of the Mongoose

Happy New Year everyone! For those of you who didn't see my facebook post detailing the changes to how and what I promote from Carter Comics, I wanted to use my first blog of the year to elaborate on that announcement: As the headline suggests, 2016 will be all about The Figure-Of-Speech Mongoose!

Months of creative burnout from writing, illustrating, and promoting three comic titles (FOS Mongoose, Damn Tourists, and Cosmic Force), combined with the increasing popularity of my Mongoose Mondays illustration games on facebook drove me to this decision. As much as I enjoy all three of my comic titles,  I need to start focusing on one title that can be the flagship of Carter Comics, and the FOS Mongoose fits that bill perfectly: Simple and fun to create, a growing audience on social media, and a character that can be or do anything.

To begin this creative shift, I will be doing some retooling of the Mongoose Monday games (which started up again last month). The game illustration categories will be broken up by the number of Mondays in a given month: The first week will be a Figure-Of-Speech illustration, with a theater background drawn, the second week will be a Pop Song illustration with a youtube player shell background, the third week will be a movie illustration with a multiplex theater background, and week four will be a tv show illustration with a flat-screen tv background. For months with five Mondays in them, I will be doing a special "Mongoose Mondays Mix" which will contain all four categories in one illustration that must be named (these categories will be different from the previous four given in a particular month). I will also be celebrating the third birthday of the FOS Mongoose, and the third anniversary of Mongoose Mondays in mid-February during my first show of the year at Long Beach Comic Expo on Saturday February 20th to Sunday the 21st.  Also, expect a Mongoose Mondays figure-of-speech illustration book to debut at the show, featuring 16 pages of illustration games that readers can name. In addition, I will have a new vertical banner and table cloth featuring my flagship character to further hammer down my message.

So that's what you can expect from Carter Comics in 2016. Hopefully I won't be burned out enough to do another one of these blogs, but I can't make any promises. In any case, stay tuned to this site during the month for more of my thoughts on movies, comics, transportation, and other topics!

Brave New World Comics Indie Bazaar: What a way to end 2015!

It's been awhile since my last blog here (mostly due to me being backed up with art and comic projects, my day job, and the thanksgiving holiday), but I'm back to talk  little bit about the event that marks the end of my comic convention/podcast/comic shop signing circuit for the year 2015. Brave New World Comics, a small comic shop in Santa Clarita with a large loyal following, worked in conjunction with Barbra and Bryan Dillon of Fanboy Comics (comic vendor friends of mine who also had a table there) to make this indie-creator friendly event a reality. I must mention first that in between Comikaze Expo and this comic shop event, I did have a vendor appearance at the fall edition of the San Fernando Valley Comic Con, however that show was very lackluster in both sales and customer engagement. This small comic shop event in Southern California's Antelope Valley was the complete opposite, and this great experience actually began long before the event started:

Earlier in the day Saturday, I spent the afternoon in Valencia with my friends Chazlynne and Nathan Bishop, who I had not seen in six years-----Chazlynne. specifically, I had went to elementary school with back in Hawaii. We went to lunch, and had alot of time to talk about what we're all up to now, and old times growing up in the 50th state. As the comic shop show start time got closer (the show hours were from 6-9 pm), I realized that I would also be meeting up with two other Valencia and Santa Clarita friends who were planning to stop by the shop to see me. Upon setting up my display in the shop ( the first time I had ever been to Brave New World Comics mind you), I instantly loved the intimacy of the small shop, which featured seven independent artists between their downstairs floor and upstairs loft. I wasn't even done setting up when a new fan of mine that i had met at San Fernando Valley Comic Con, came by with his friend to see my work and buy my books. Charles Winters, who since the valley convention, has been sharing alot of my artwork and art-related posts on Facebook and twitter, purchased the first issue of Damn Tourists, and stuck around to chat about my work and some of the conventions that he's attended. Shortly after Charles left, two of my other Santa Clarita friends walked into the shop: friend and animal trainer extraordinare Tuesday Torrese, as well as special education teacher and number one fan of the FOS Mongoose, Wendy Shaner. They picked up some books and chatted also ( I even gave Wendy a printed version of her mongoose monday illustration game sketch prize that I signed for her). Rounding out the sales was Chaz's husband Nathan, who picked up at least five of my books------how a bout that! Before the event was over, I did some christmas shopping at my fellow vendors tables, who in turn shopped at my table and purchased more books!

When the clock on my droid phone struck 9:00 p.m, I had a great feeling of accomplishment inside of me. Taking a chance on a shop that I had never been to, in a town that I had never been to, and all the while,  I never felt more at home------thanks mostly in part to the friends I knew there that came out to support me,  and especially to the wonderful Barbra and Bryant of Fanboy Comics for putting alot of leg, arm,  everything-work to make this holiday show happen. As the title of this blog states, this show was the best way to end what had started out as a very challenging year for me both financially and mentally. It only gives me even more motivation next year to not only return to larger conventions as an exhibitor, but to also hit up other smaller shops and conventions in towns that are starved for new, off-beat comics. The sky's the limit in 2016!

Comikaze Expo: Back behind the table

The 2015 edition of Stan Lee's Comikaze Expo at Los Angeles Convention Center has officially wrapped up as of Sunday evening. This time last year, I reviewed the Expo's 2014  show in my very first blog as an attendee hanging out with friends from out of town, talking with Artist Alley friends, and being interviewed by good friend Tyrone Tann of Stauros Entertainment about the progress of a comic book that I was producing for him. Three-hundred-sixty-five days later, I'm an Artist Alley exhibitor once again at Comikaze's fifth show, joined by Tyrone and other great friends in promoting and selling the now-finished freelance comic book. How was the show for me on the other side of the table again (I exhibited at Comikaze once before in 2012)? How do I compare this year's event to last years? Was the show great or not so great overall? Well, just settle down, and I'll start from the beginning: 

This year's Comikaze Expo was a three-day ordeal spread across not one but two halls of the Los Angeles Convention Center. The South Hall---it's sole location the past four years----was now home to celebrity photo ops, movie and tv props, and the show's famed "Hot Topic" stage, while the West Hall housed comic dealers and retailer booths, a Stan Lee museum, and of course, Artist Alley----my home away from home. For this event, my temporary "home" included not just yours truly, but also friends and business partners Tyrone Tann, actor/puppeteer Justin Galluccio, his mother Joann, and actor Zane Huett. Since the show started on Friday, I wasn't able to set up the table due to my work schedule, but Tyrone and his crew were more than happy to do so until I joined them the next day. Our main objective: to promote and sell copies of the aforementioned new freelance comic book I wrote and illustrated, a four-color panel adaptation of Tyrone and Justin's "Blooob" live-action web-series, featuring Justin as the operator and voice of the Blooob puppet, which he also brought to the show. Also present on our tabletop, were my other comic titles fully created by me: "Damn Tourists," "The F.O.S. Mongoose," and "Cosmic Force." with "Blooob" the puppet as our main draw to the table, the show was moderately successful for us, as we sold eleven books between the Blooob, Cosmic Force, and FOS Mongoose books. The main highlights of the show were the reactions Justin got with "Blooob" greeting customers (especially little kids), and the interviews and promos we did discussing the book thanks to the help of Tyrone and his cameraman. Then there were my various rounds to the rest of Artist Alley to visit my vendor buddies and their tables, including Christie Shinn, Lonnie Milsap, Paul Jamison, Wendy Shaner (who presented me with more Mongoose Monday art to sign), and newlyweds Mark Rivers and Kamiel Harrison, who just got back from their honeymoon in Europe. Rounding out the show highlights were unexpected visits from old and new friends/acquaintances like Francisco Dominguez from Meltdown Comics, Jesse Campbell from San Fernando Valley Comic Con (my next show), new Damn Tourists fan Soni Trevor, and former co-workers Vahagn Kirakosian and Jenn Muranaka, all of whom stopped by to say hello. It still amazes me just how many people I've met in the five years of being an Artist Alley Vendor, and I expect that number to grow the further my convention circuit rolls along.

So, my overall thoughts on this year's Comikaze Expo? Despite the kind words and fun experiences, the show was mediocre in terms of both sales and customer interactions. I suspect it was the Halloween weekend that kept many attendees from parting with their cash, and perhaps the event organizers should rethink next year's show dates. I would recommend the weekend after Halloween for next year's Comikaze, as a general public recovering from the holiday would be in more of a spending mood after the parties, costume purchases, and trick-or-treating are behind them. Also, and this is a smaller issue: get some microphones with less audio feedback, and try not to speak to close to the mic when doing loudspeaker announcements. You'll give both vendors and attendees less migraines that way. On the positive side, I did feel that splitting up the show was a good idea, as the customer-distracting Hot Topic stage did not share the same space as Artist Alley. This was definitely a step in the right direction in showcasing us members of the "Alley" more. As a whole, this year's Expo I felt was better than last years in terms of show scale and floor organization. This con has the potential to be a can't miss show if it can zero in on what sets it apart from other shows. I personally don't like the "L.A.'s Comic-Con" tagline they're starting to use, as we don't really need another "comic-media" event like in San Diego. Perhaps Comikaze can study what Wondercon does at the same venue next year and learn from that, as that show has a fantastic reputation for balancing celebrities, pop culture merchandise, large comic dealers, and artist alley. So whether you liked this year's Comikaze Expo or not, just remember these four words:

There's always next year.


Carter Comics gets ready for Comikaze Expo!

I know it's been awhile since my last blog, but work's been very busy lately, which leads to long nights (but bigger paychecks). Aside from my day job, I've been preparing for my return to exhibiting at large conventions, which will start again at this year's Comikaze Expo next weekend (yes, Halloween Weekend, just like last year), from Friday October 30, through Sunday November 1st at the Los Angeles Convention Center right in the heart of Downtown LA. Thanks in large part to my new job, I'm finally able to afford promoting and selling my comics and artwork at larger venues once again. There is one difference to this show compared to many other that I've done in the past five years though; For this event, I will be sharing my table with a popular production company called Stauros Entertainment, with whom I've written and illustrated a comic book based on their live-action YouTube series called "Blooob," about an alien that comes to earth to learn about human behavior that can be adapted to the extra-terrestrial's race. His "teachers?" two teenagers and a pool guy who find his crashed spaceship in their pool.  In addition to this project, the producer, actors, and relatives of the actors will be present at the table. One of the actors, Justin Galluccio, will have "Blooob" himself (in puppet form) at our table. But that's not all, as on the Carter Comics side of things, I'll have my three separate comic titles (Damn Tourists issues 1-3, The Figure-Of-Speech Mongoose issues 1-4, and my Cosmic Force volume one trade paperback). Another change to my usual convention formats, is that I will only be present for just two days of this three-day comic extravaganza, due to Friday being a workday for me. My fine friends at Stauros Entertainment Tyrone Tann, Justin Galluccio, his mother Joann, and "Blooob" co-star Zane Huett will be holding down the fort on day one of the show until I make my first appearance Saturday morning. Preparing for this show under these new conditions has been a little nerve-wracking at first (due to Carter Comics being a one-man show for so long), but I welcome the new challenge and experience. 

A few words about the show as well: Comikaze Expo, better known as "Stan Lee's Comikaze Expo," has been L.A.'s largest and most popular comic conventions since it started back in 2011. Hosted by both comic legend Stan Lee and the "Mistress of the Dark" herself Elvira,  both of these talented and dynamic personalities spread their presence around the convention floor in the form of themed-activities such as museums, as well as just walking the floor and greeting fans. While a large part of the show is pop-culture media oriented, Comikaze has over the years made quite an effort to make sure that comics share just as big a piece of the convention pie.  This year's revealed show floor layout details  proves that in spades, expanding the event from the convention center's south hall and lobby, to its west hall across the street. The South Hall will host both celebrity and cosplay activities, while the West Hall will feature comics and comic-related material. A Stan Lee Museum, Artist Alley, and Small Press tables (we'll be at Small Press Table N05 here by the way), will be the attractions to this part of the floor. Anchoring the independent creator areas will be comic industry heavyweights Grant Morrison, Todd MacFarlane, and Jim Lee! With such an expansion to help keep a balance between pop culture media and comics, this is a show not to be missed. Carter Comics and Stauros Entertainment both look forward to seeing you there! 

My car-less weekend experiments:

If you've been reading at least a few of my blogs since I started them last year, you'll know that I have embraced the mass-transit portion of the Los Angeles Metro since moving from the mostly sprawling suburban Western San Fernando Valley in Canoga Park, to the denser East Valley in North Hollywood. Now that I've started working again at a new job in Downtown Glendale, where restaurants and stores are within walking distance but is sadly not served by any Metro Rail, I have decided to use more mass-transit at least once on the weekends since I have to drive to and from work during the week.

My first "transit experiment" actually started on Labor Day weekend, when I left my Jetta parked on the street, and took a trip to Venice Beach and Santa Monica Pier to rollerblade. To accomplish this car-less feat, I carried my rollerblades in a backpack and walked to the North Hollywood Red Line Subway Station (about a mile from my apartment), took the Red Line to the 7th Street Metro Center Station in Downtown LA. From there I transferred to the Expo Line light rail, which currently runs west all the way to Culver City, which is still about six miles short of the beach (that will change next spring however, when the second phase of the line to Downtown Santa Monica is completed). To fill the transit gap until then, I took a Lyft rideshare vehicle from the station and was dropped off at the Venice Beach Pier. I then put on my rollerblades and skated all the way to Santa Monica Pier, switched back from my skates to my shoes, and walked around the nearby Promenade Mall until I was ready to make the return trip on a Lyft back to Culver City, Expo Line to Downtown, and a Red Line back to North Hollywood. The results of this first experiment: Not bad at all in terms of wait time for trains or rideshare vehicle, and the travel times were decent. The major downside was the separate expense of $12 each way on Lyft, when my Metro rides were technically free (since I had loaded a full balance on my TAP fare card). This is something I would definitely do if meeting up with friends on Saturday nights at any of the bars in Santa Monica, but I would still drive during a Saturday or Sunday to skate at the beach until the Expo Line extension is finished.

Transit experiment number two was this Saturday, meeting up with family in Woodland Hills. Despite the 100-degree heat, I left the old volkswagen parked on the street and braved it out to the Orange Line busway Station in North Hollywood (which is right across the street from the Red LIne Subway Station). Almost immediately, one of the two parked articulated buses the line uses pulled up to pick up passengers. The trip was fairly quick at 45 minutes from North Hollywood to Canoga Avenue in Woodland Hills. While this bus travels on an exclusive roadway that gives it a more reliable schedule, it does still have to stop for a few traffic lights, so the travel time can sometimes vary depending on how many lights it has to stop for, and how long the it is stopped for the traffic light. I believe that this trip only had about two or three brief stops at a traffic signal, which isn't bad at all for a Saturday. After arriving a block away from the Westfield Topanga Mall at the Canoga Avenue Station, it was just a short walk to meet my family for lunch and shopping in the newly-opened Topanga Village shopping center, which is an open-air segment of a mostly enclosed mall that covers about three blocks in the Western San Fernando Valley. It boasts a more pedestrian-friendly experience----well, except for the new Costco that anchors the center, I'm not sure how that's gonna fit, but I guess we'll see. Most of the major restaurants have yet to open, so we just explored the few things that were open along with plush seating arrangements and family activities. To really hammer home the "pedestrian-friendly" message, this new section of the mall has an air-conditioned trolley service that runs through not only all three sections of the shopping complex, but also nearby Warner center offices and apartments. How much does it cost? Nothing. It's free of charge, the trade-off being the non-stop promotion of the mall on TVs inside the trolley. Following a great new burger and beer at Red Robin and some shopping at both Costco and Target, I declared this transit experiment  a success. Once the new restaurants open up like Lucille's Barbeque and Pieology Pizzeria, I'll definitely be taking some weekend trips on the Orange Line there for a Saturday or Sunday lunch. And with many of these eateries serving beer on their menu, I can safely drink and dine knowing that I'm just an Orange Line ride away back to North Hollywood.

Final thoughts: I'm glad I'm taking on these weekend adventures without my car. it saves me on gas and maintenance, while allowing me to explore new areas I would have simply drove by in my car. I encourage everybody to take a least one day out of your weekend to take Metro Rail or BRT to a place you've always been meaning to check out, but never got around to doing so.  You'll be glad you did.

Long Beach Comic Con 2015:

I'm starting to not mind sitting out some conventions and just attending again. I just have to remind myself that I'm no longer on the outside looking in when it comes to the exhibitor experience, especially in "Artist Alley." This year's Long Beach Comic Con event once again didn't disappoint. A two-day convention taking place at the beautiful Long Beach Convention Center just steps from the waterfront with lots of great restaurants, aquariums, and scenic ferry rides like the Aqualink, its surroundings rival San Diego Comic Con for best overall convention experience.  

Since I wasn't exhibiting this year, I just got a Saturday attendee ticket (I should really start springing for a professional badge, since I am one). To avoid both the parking crunch and fees, I Metro'ed it from North Hollywood to Long Beach using the Red Line Subway and Blue Line Light Rail. The only downside in this option this weekend was the fact that a segment of the Blue Line track was under renovation, which meant that passengers had to use a temporary shuttle bus between the closed track to reach the other stations and continue either north to Los Angeles or south to Long Beach. Once I got there though, I was amazed at the large crowds gathering outside the Convention Center----more than I've seen in the five years I had exhibited there. Inside was just as crazy, but it luckily didn't translate to the ticket lines, as I was able to get my wristband rather quickly. My first thought when entering the exhibit hall this year, was how dark it looked. The same lighting system appeared to be in place, but for some reason it seemed like there were very few lights on in the hall. My first stop was Artist Alley of course, and I explained this weird lighting decision to all of my vendor friends I greeted: Tobias Gebhardt, Mark Rivers, Barbra and Bryant Dillon, JD Correa, Josh Hauke, Wendy Shaner, and Lonnie Milsap are just a few of my exhibitor buddies present behind the table. Lonnie had told me that Artist Alley this year had broken off into smaller segments. For example, Lonnie was a part of a table segment just for "funny books." It was a new way of spotlighting specific independent creative talent that the con was trying out, and from the looks of the crowds, it seemed very promising. Aside from talking shop with my artist friends, the other two highlights of the show was my lone purchase of the DVD documentary "The Death of Superman Lives," autographed by director John Schnepp who was in person, and then doing some autographing of my own when fellow vendor buddy Wendy Shaner brought out glossy printed versions of the sketches I did for her online for winning my "Mongoose Monday" illustration games. She asked me to sign them for herself, family, and students at her school, who have grown quite fond of my "Figure-Of-Speech Mongoose" character, as Wendy has used him in her teaching lessons. I was more that happy to sign my artwork, and later asked her if she could take photos of the signed sketches later to post them on my Facebook page. One of the last stops I made in the hall was to Phat Collectibles, an orange county comic shop that had a booth at the con. They run a convention of their own in January called Phat Con in Anaheim, and I went to ask for information on exhibiting. It's always great to hear about new shows (especially new FREE shows) where I can take my work to new audiences.

Well, after three hours simply flew by ( I arrived there around 2 p.m. and stayed until 5), not to mention my phone battery dying, I decided to call it a day. I said goodbye to as many friends as I could and began the trek back to North Hollywood via Metro Rail and temporary shuttle bus. Despite the fact that Long Beach COmic Con has been running shows since 2009, it's still an event that not many people outside of Long Beach know much about. While it doesn't have the name recognition of a Wondercon or even a Comikaze when you mention comic conventions to non-comic media fans, it has carved out a niche in being a show more for the traditional comic fan, rather than a media-heavy event with tv show and movie panels. I'm hope that my Artist Alley friends had a great show this weekend, and I will definitely be back behind the table for next year's Long Beach Comic Con, and Comic Expo next February and September. Now, it's on to preparing for my return to large comic conventions, starting with Comikaze Expo this Halloween! More details to come...

Back-to-Back Convention Weekend Aftermath:

 I just finished an appearance at the second of two local conventions this weekend, and they both were fantastic (albeit exhausting) shows: a short trip down the street Saturday afternoon to Emerald Knights Comics and Games in Burbank, close to my apartment, and then a longer trip across the valley to Granada Hills most of Sunday for the 2nd of three San Fernando Valley Comic Con events. Despite the fact that these were both smaller, local shows compared to larger conventions like Wondercon and Long Beach Comic Con,  the smaller size of both events was a great advantage in getting to know my customers better without all the loud noise and constant loudspeaker announcements. How much of an advantage were these shows for me? Well, let's start with the first show I did on Saturday at Emerald Knights Comics.

The event, a kind of mini-artist alley called "Support the Independents," is a showcase for new comics talent held twice a year at this spacious, two-level comic shop (they had another one in February). I first heard about the show from my good friends Bryant and Barbra Dillon over at Fanboy Comics, who were a part of the shop's February event, as well as this one.  I arrived about fifteen minutes before showtime, setting up my table in about twenty minutes (hey, it's not how fast you set up, it's how organized and attractive your table looks). After exchanging pleasantries with the three other vendors around me, I began making my sales. Alot of my friends showed up for both support and to purchase books from me, and some new faces came by to get better acquainted with my books and artwork. One of the highlights of this show was a customer who purchased the first four issues of my science-fiction series "Cosmic Force," as he was very intrigued by the story. The day ended with a representative from the Comikaze Expo convention (an event branded by Stan Lee and Elvira that takes place on Halloween in Downtown LA) asking myself and the other vendors if they were planning on exhibiting at the show. I am, but I still have to get some things worked out first, as I'll be possibly sharing a table with a friend that I did a freelance job for. Final thoughts from the Emerald Knights Indie Comic Artist Event: A decent turnout with 8 books sold and $40.00 in sales! Now onto Sunday at San Fernando Valley Comic Con.

This small, but intimate convention located at the Granada Hills Pavilion is a show that I have done three times last year (they have shows in the spring, summer, and fall), and because I have both developed a great relationship with the three promoters and am usually the only independent comic creator at the show,  They make sure that I get as much promotion for my work as possible. This show was no exception. While my sales were a little less than Emerald Knights at 5 books sold and $30.00 profit, customers were now purchasing a full series of my books. For example, my first sale was from a customer who bought all three issues of my "Damn Tourists" comic series.  Another customer picked up an issue of The Figure-Of-Speech Mongoose, and my first issue of Damn Tourists. I even go to do a raffle at the show with two of my books included. Even one of my new co-workers from my new job showed up to greet me at my table, and thanked me for telling her about a show that was within walking distance from her house. Toward the end of the show, I got two offers from writers looking for an artist for their projects. They were introduced to me by one of the show's promoters, Joe Williamson, who continues to be a driving force in my increased exposure for both myself and my artwork. I can't thank him enough for what he's done for my visibility as an emerging comic artist and writer in the year that I've known him. 

And that was how my convention weekend turned out. 13 books sold, $70.00 profit, customers purchasing multiple books from me, friends coming by to show their support, and being able to sell myself and my work on the microphone in front of a crowd. I think it's safe to say that each appearance I do, no matter how big or small, only gets better, and it will continue to get better with two more shows on the horizon: Sherman Oaks Comic Expo and Comikaze Expo---which will be my first large convention in over a year. Until the next blog everyone!



Glendale needs Rail!

As I mentioned in a blog a week or so ago, I got a new job in Glendale, which is only a 7-mile, 15 minute drive on the freeway from where I live in North Hollywood. After working in this area for two weeks so far, I really took a liking to the location, which is right in the heart of Downtown Glendale. With my office sitting right next to three shopping malls full of places to eat, I never have to use my car once I park it in the garage to enter my building. That led me to start thinking about one of two downsides the Glendale area has: Dangerous criss-crossing freeway on-and-off ramps, but just as important, is the lack of mass transit.

Think about it: Pasadena, which is the next major town to the east of Glendale, has the Metro Gold Line, which currently runs from Sierra Madre to Downtown Los Angeles and East LA. Imagine if Metro created a spur line from the Gold Line's Memorial Park station, and brought it through Glendale (with an underground station downtown near the Glendale Galleria Mall) and further stations at the Burbank Promenade, Burbank Media Center, before ending at the North Hollywood Red Line Station. That would eliminate the need to extend the Orange Line busway eastward (which would be a very problematic process due to the lack of dedicated right-of-way options), and still connect both the San Fernando and San Gabriel Valleys (once the Gold Line extension to Azusa is completed). Such a line would work best being partially underground through North Hollywood and Downtown Glendale, and grade-separated the rest of the way. Having this existing rail line through Glendale won't just help me leave my car at home when going to work, but also allow other LA residents to discover a town that I feel gets overlooked sometimes in favor of Pasadena. Don't get me wrong, I love Pasadena, but Glendale has what I think is the best downtown area in Southern California: Lots of small shops and eateries close together, reasonably priced parking, and a shopping complex with just about anything you need in it. In fact, the building that I work in has three restaurants on its lower floors (California Pizza Kitchen, BJ's Restaurant and Brewhouse, and Olive Garden). The three shopping areas that cover at least three square blocks (The Americana, Glendale Marketplace, and The Glendale Galleria) have everything from Outback Steakhouse, The Cheesecake Factory, Red Robin Burgers, Granville Cafe, and Blaze Pizza. And just to make it even more attractive, there's a Target located inside the Galleria Mall, which I will be frequenting after work once I get a few more paychecks saved up. Having an underground Gold Line light rail station within steps of all this commercial activity would make Downtown Glendale twice as fantastic as it already is.

So get on this Metro. After you finish the eastside Gold Line extension to Azusa, and the expo  line extension to Santa Monica next spring, make this "Glendale to North Hollywood" Gold Line spur a reality. I'll be the first in line, walking to a newly linked Red Line/Orange Line/Gold Line station in North Hollywood, as I breeze past and underneath the traffic on the 134 Freeway, and arriving at work by exiting an underground station to experience the awesomeness that is Downtown Glendale. That is all.

Tune in to next week's blog, as I'll be giving a wrap-up on what what will be a busy weekend for me: Dark Nights Music and Food Festival in Downtown LA friday night,  Emerald Knights Comics Artist Alley exhibitor appearance in Burbank on Saturday from 12-5 pm, and a vendor appearance at San Fernando Valley Comic Con in Granada Hills from 10 am to 4 pm.  expect that column to be written next sunday evening, shortly after I get back from the SFV show. Until then!

Carter Comics gets a "Meltdown!"

This past wednesday I did my second signing at, what a good friend of mine described as, "the carnegie hall of comic shops."  Meltdown Comics and Collectibles, located off Sunset boulevard in Hollywood, is THE place to be for any comic fan or aspiring comic creator. The store is more than just comics, but also live podcasts, and even comedy shows in their back room. As excited as I was to be doing a signing here, I was equally as nervous in getting there on time. Since I was starting my new job this past week that ended at 6:30 p.m. everyday, I meticulously checked google maps on my phone to make sure I could take the best route from my job in Glendale, to arrive at the Comic shop by 7:30. Driving to the shop the day before I started work to get a better idea of the route, parking, and meeting the manager in person definitely helped, as when the big day finally came, I got there just in time and lucked out with the last 10 hour parking spot right across the street from the store. Once I entered the shop to set up, my good friend Mark Riccardi was there to both greet me and help me out with grabbing my inventory and supplies from my car. Then more friends and family came by throughout the night to lend their support: fellow artist friends Christie Shinn and Saddler Ward, and both my mother and sister. It helped to make for great conversation and draw attention to my table when customers came in. While most of my sales were from visiting friends and family, I did make a few sales from customers passing by who took an interest in my work. The toughest part of this signing was getting used to customers paying for my books at the shop register, rather than directly from me. At the end of the night, I had to remind the clerk about splitting up the profits made from my show, so they can email me my share to my paypal account. Even though I sold less books there than my first signing at Pulp Fiction comics the month before, I'm still glad I did this signing----mostly due to the fact that the name recognition of Meltdown Comics carries alot of weight with comic and even some non-comic fans who have passed by the store. Just mentioning that I did a signing there can make people who may not be completely aware of my work, start to take me seriously. I'm already looking forward to my next two appearances at both Emerald Knights Comics and Games in Burbank on Saturday August 29th, and at San Fernando Valley Comic Con on Sunday August 30th. Expect to hear about my thoughts regarding both of those events in one big blog. Tune in next week when I talk about the latest thing that interests me. Until then!

A second chance.

I normally don't talk about myself that much. Instead, I just talk about my interests and opinions on certain topics, I had to change that way of thinking this week, however, as something happened to me that I had been wishing, hoping and praying for two years (that's right, two years): I finally got another job.

While my career as an independent comic creator and freelance artist has been blossoming in that two year time frame with interviews, book reviews, convention appearances, two freelance comic projects, and comic shop book signings, what has been missing was a 9-5 occupation and a steady income to support it. As you may or may not know, the last two years of my life have been extremely rough, having only been able to secure three very short-term jobs and having to move out of a shared apartment to stay with a relative. Then at the same time, having to cope with the death of my father. What followed was a dual journey: Looking for another full-time job while promoting and selling my comics any way that I could.  But for every door that opened on the independent comic front, several doors closed on job after job that I applied and interviewed for. No matter how frustrated and depressed that made me, however, I never gave up. I got up, dusted myself off, and looked for the next opportunity. I was told that this amazing persistence comes from my father, and I'm sure that he was watching over me when I interviewed last week for the position I finally got hired for. One recruiter, two interviews, and a stack of paperwork later, I was officially part of the work force once again as of last thursday. While the hiring manager had told me the news first after my second interview on monday, I never truly believed it until after I filled out the paperwork and passed the background check. Being out of work for so long can make you that paranoid. Now, I have to keep reminding myself that I actually have the job and will start next tuesday. I also have to tell myself not to be nervous during my first day, despite my large work gap. I will be fine, and this will be the first step in rebuilding my life in both a personal and financial sense. I've just been granted the one thing that alot of people rarely get, if ever: A second chance.

It's great to be a "Level-Head"

Ever since I was a child, I've always been fascinated with England. From the locales to the weather to the women with those sexy accents and especially the music, I could never get enough of anything from across the pond (well, maybe the comedy). Growing up in the mid to late 1980s, I caught the tail end of the last British Invasion that brought over many groups to America that were heavily inspired by soul music: ABC, Spandau Ballet, and Swing Out Sister, just to name a few. But there was one group----no----one band,  that towered above them all, and sadly didn't get the recognition they deserved for their incredible musicianship and ability to master just about any genre of music. You've probably never heard of them, but then this is why I'm writing this blog: To tell you about the band known as "Level 42."

Here in the U.S., Level 42 were best known (to those that were aware of them) for the hit single and intriguing music video "Something About You," in 1986, but their career as a whole takes them far beyond just that one perfectly crafted pop song. Formed during my birth year and month of June 1980, the band consisted of Mark King on bass and lead vocals, Mike Lindup on keyboards and vocals, and brothers Phil and Boon Gould on guitar and drums respectively. Level 42---named after a passage from the Douglas Adams book "Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy" where "42" is the answer to the meaning of life---played mostly instrumental jazz funk before moving onto vocal tracks with a more soul/R&B sound, then radio-friendly pop and later even some pop/rock. Their signature sound both vocally and musically were King's baritone vocals and Lindup's falsetto vocals (though they would often take turns with lead vocals on some of their songs), and Mark's mesmerizing slap-bass guitar technique that drove most of their tunes. They performed originally from 1980-1994 with various band member changes, but reformed back in 2006 with a new lineup that includes Mark's brother Nathan on guitar and Pete Ray Biggin on drums. After a new album and subsequent tour, they announced their 30th anniversary in 2010. And that's where the personal part of this story comes in:

It was July 2010. A month after my 30th birthday. I had just received the biggest news of my life a few months back via a friend's facebook message saying that Level 42 was returning to the U.S. for a tour. I couldn't believe what I was reading. A band that I had followed since I was five years old, would be performing live at four venues across California. I quickly snatched up tickets for two shows (One at the Grove Of Anaheim and the other at Club Nokia in Downtown LA), and asked my boss to let me out of work early, since the first show in Anaheim was happening on a weeknight. A three and a half drive later, I was at the stage pit with several other groups of fans, rocking along to the band's funky, chugging opening tune "Hot Water," grooving to the jazzy "Love Games," (complete with long bass solo), swaying to their heart-wrenching ballad "It's Over," and bobbing my head to their signature tune "Something About You," among their other fantastic catalogue of songs. When the show ended, I got to meet other "levelheads" as we all waited for the band to come out to sign autographs and take photos with us. It was here that I met two people who have become great friends of mine: Angel and Mark Riccardi, musicians, vocalists, and rabid fans like myself, who in turn introduced me to a whole group of Levelheads over the next year. Then came the other moment of the night: Meeting the band! As we patiently waited for Mark, Mike, Nathan, Pete, and Sean Freeman (their saxophone player for the live gigs) I had just remembered that I left my "World Machine" LP (from their fifth album in 1985) in my car. Following a sprint that would've made The Flash proud, the band came toward us for the long-awaited fan meeting. This is one of those situations where you always think that you're gonna play it cool when you meet someone or someones that you admire, but all that "play it cool" crap flies right out the window when it really happens.  I couldn't tell you what I said to the band members when I finally got to meet them, since most of what I said was babbling, but I do remember just enjoying being in that moment, as nearby fans helped snap photos of me with keyboardist Mike Lindup, drummer Pete Ray Biggin, and I almost missed having my photo taken with lead singer and bassist Mark King, as their road manager was trying to rush them onto the bus, and my camera battery was dying. Thankfully, neither issue stopped "the money shot." As I drove home listening to their albums, I truly felt that If I died the next day, I would've done so a happy man.

And that's my story of not only seeing my favorite band live, but also meeting them in person. Five years later, it's still hard to believe that happened, which is why I 'm so glad I have the photo proof. While there are other funky british music men who I admire (Songwriter Rod Temperton also comes to mind, with the legendary tunes he wrote for Michael Jackson, George Benson, Michael McDonald, and Heatwave), Level 42 will always be on the top floor.

Sorry, I couldn't resist.



My very first book signing, and many more to come

This past wednesday I entered a new chapter in the promotion and the selling of my comic book and graphic novel series: My first book signing! Held at Pulp Fiction Comics in Culver City, California, this shop in its first year of business has been extremely indie creator friendly, having held a monthly "Artist Alley Saturday" late last year. Speaking with the clerk during my creator appearance, we agreed that new creator signings are a much better way to promote new comic talent, as only a few artists appear in the shop at a time and are mentioned by name, and they are placed across from the register near the front door usually on a wednesday---where foot traffic is at its highest in the store due to this being the day new comics are released. Now, onto how my "signing debut" went.

After my usual prep-work of ensuring that all my change, merchandise, and display portfolio are up to date, I loaded my two suitcases full of comics, duffel bag full of magazine holders, nameplate, and table skirt, personalized table runner and retractable banner into my car for the often congested trek from North Hollywood to Culver City via the 405 freeway. Since I left at 8:30 in the morning, and only had to be there at 11, it was one of the few times that the traffic didn't bother me.  I arrived at the shop about thirty minutes before they opened, so I killed time doing some FOS Mongoose sketches. Then came showtime: Following a standard 15-minute setup, I continued my sketching started from my car while talking shop with fellow indie creator Matt Macfarland, the artist and writer of his own series "Dark Pants," about the journey of a mysterious pair of pants through the city of Los Angeles. This was his first signing too, and we were both curious as to how the day would turn out for both of us. With this being a workday (though school and college kids were out of class for the summer), the customer traffic came in waves throughout the day. While Matt and I were both billed as appearing in the shop from 11-2, the store clerk was very cool with us staying longer if we wanted to. Matt stayed until  4 p.m., and I stayed until 6, as my good friend Andy Cogan was performing stand-up comedy in Northridge at 9 later that night. That was the best decision I could have made that day, as I made eight sales and a profit of $60.00---almost double what I did at the shops "Artist Alley Saturdays" last year. I even made my very first sale for my new trade paperback "Cosmic Force" Volume One" here, where I also included the fifth issue of this series as a complimentary part of a $30 offer. Sales of standard comics from my FOS Mongoose and Damn Tourists series included complimentary prints featuring characters from that series. Customer interaction was also great here, with most people drawn to our tables due to the proximity to the register as they waited to pick up their pre-ordered new comics.

So will I do this again? DAMN RIGHT I WILL!  I just signed up for a creator appearance at a shop called "Emerald Knights Comics and Games" in nearby Burbank on Saturday August 29th, and I am currently reaching out to other comic shops across Southern California for any indie creator signing opportunities (The Comic Bug in Manhattan Beach and Meltdown Comics in Hollywood are possibilities right now). These comic shop appearances are probably the most affordable (no table charge like conventions) and more intimate comic events that any up-and coming comic artist or writer can be apart of, and I definitely look forward to doing more of these in the future. Perhaps I'll be appearing at a comic shop near you! Stay tuned!


What's wrong with "The Wiz?"

This film (and its soundtrack) has been a part of my life since my infant days, and when I recently found out how it got, and still gets somewhat, of a negative reception when its mentioned, I just couldn't understand why. What exactly were people expecting out of  a silver screen version of The Wizard of Oz with an all-black cast? Was it being compared to the broadway play starring vocalist Stephanie Mills as Dorothy? Were some actually trying to compare it to the original 1939 Judy Garland classic? I just don't get it.

Taking off my nostalgia glasses for this column topic (I'll just leave them on my desk here), "The Wiz" is nothing more than an entertaining, lighthearted re-imagining of the original "Oz" film. Produced by Motown founder Berry Gordy and released in 1978 starring Diana Ross as Dorothy, Michael Jackson as the Scarecrow, Nipsey Russell as the Tin Man, Ted Ross as The Lion, and Richard Pryor as "The Wiz," the "re-imagining" part of this version was that the story was set in (and in some points shot on location) New York City instead of Kansas---there's even a scene depicting the emerald city, filmed at the World Trade Center. Dorothy is now a 24 year-old kindergarten teacher instead of a 12 year old girl, (both live with their uncle and aunt) who lacks the confidence to take a better- paying high school teaching position so she can afford to live on her own. Dorothy is then whisked away to the land of Oz thanks to a "snow tornado" during a blizzard (probably the only part in the movie I have a problem with). As expected, she meets the memorable characters The munchkins (now street kids), Glinda the Good witch, played by Lena Horne, Scarecrow, Tin Man, Lion, and The Wicked Witch of the West, called "Evillene" here, played by Mable King. Once again, the new take on some of the characters and environments I liked as a kid, and still do now. The original character Miss One, who sort of comes off as Glinda's assistant, has some memorable lines like "bottom line, honey, this chick put the UG in UGLY!" when referring to The deceased wicked witch of the East, "Evermean." The costumes and set designs are fantastic, incorporating late '70s black culture in New York at the time. I'm torn between Michael Jackson's scarecrow outfit and Nipsey Russel's tinman outfit as far as the best costume is concerned. Both are very creative, and in the case of the Scarecrow, make the actor almost unrecognizable. 

By far, my two favorite things about this film are the "concrete jungle" scene (an urban version of the original film's "lions, and tigers, and bears, oh my" scene), and of course, the music.  Taking place in a deserted subway station,  Dorothy and her friends are confronted and then chased by such characters as a subway peddler with two giant orange puppets (which still scare the crap out of me to this day), mutant trash cans with sharp teeth (I was never scared of these as a kid because they were shorter than the puppets. I always felt that I could just kick them over), and support pillars hellbent on crushing you. Then there is the one thing that even people who hate this movie, love: The soundtrack. You just can't go wrong with Quincy Jones at the musical helm of this film. From songs such as Michael Jackson's "You Can't Win," to "Poppy Girls," with a bassline obviously inspired by the OJay's "For the Love of Money," to the iconic "Ease on down the Road (speaking of basslines)," most of the songs are bouncy, funky, fun, and even the slower songs such as "Is this What Feeling Gets" and "Home" range from heart-wrenching to triumphant. My personal favorite song in this movie is an instrumental: The Main Title/Overture, a dreamy sequence that opens the movie, complete with beautiful strings, funk guitar, and a fantastic but short harmonica solo by Toots Theilman. Yup, before Stevie Wonder and songs like "Oh Girl" by the Chi-Lites, it was this soundtrack that made me first fall in love with the harmonica. Toots Theilman later would play harmonica on a live version of the Billy Joel hit "Leave a tender moment Alone." And while we're talking about what some cast and crew from "The Wiz" would do afterward, there's no way I could leave out Michael Jackson's "Off The Wall" album being created due to this movie. After all, this is where Michael and Quincy Jones met before producing that R&B/Disco/Funk masterpiece.

So take that, all you people who still hate "The Wiz." If you simply watch the film for what it was, and what it was trying to do (be a black Wizard Of Oz), it's  a very entertaining film. On a sad note, it's a shame that very little of the original cast is still alive (in fact, Diana Ross is the only surviving member of the main cast). Despite this, I can only hope that there is some type of lost documentary footage with full cast interviews that could be used for a special edition DVD release (the current DVD just has a short featurette with the Director Sidney Lumet, Producer Rob Cohen, and Diana Ross). I know that there will people who still don't like this movie even after reading this, but at least if I made you want to take a second look at this film, well, that's all I can hope for. 

Baldwin Park Comic Expo

While I usually do a blog once a week, this time I changed up my usual schedule as I really had nothing interesting to talk about until my first convention appearance in three months. How did it turn out? Great of course, since I'm willing to devote a column to it.

Seriously though, I was very satisfied with this year's Baldwin Park Comic Expo, located in the San Bernardino region of Southern California east of Pasadena. I had exhibited here two years prior, and my customer interaction and sales were nothing much to write home about, but It was another opportunity to get my work out to the public (and an affordable one at that at just $35 for an artist table). This year was different in the best way possible, having sold 7 books and making a profit of $50.00 (I sold 3-4 books the last two years and made only $25). The crowd this year was even better two. This is not a large show with a busy crowd by any means ( the show lasts only one day on a Saturday for about five hours), but the family crowds are very appreciative of everything they see, from the art workshops and art gallery upstairs to the artist vendors on the main floor. Aside from the improved sales I had, the other great experience from this convention were that alot of my friends were able to come out at attend/exhibit. My good friend, stand-up comedian Andy Cogan, showed up to help out with sales while I took bathroom breaks, and I was also able to bring in new talent to the show in the form of three exhibitor buddies Paul Jamison of Superhero Network, and The Dillons Barbra and Bryant of Fanboy Comics. They really enjoyed the show as well and thanked me for recommending it. It was a great feeling to help out fellow artists who have always done the same for me with reviewing my books and sharing hotels at out-of-town conventions.  Some sale highlights of the day included a sale initiated by Andy while I took a went upstairs to use the bathroom and view the gallery, and a 15 minutes before closing final purchase by a woman picking up some comics for her two sons. She had no cash, so I put my square credit card reader to use for the first time at that show. Had I forgotten to bring it, I'd have missed out on a $10.00 sale (well, $9.72 to be exact. Square has to get their cut somehow, but money's money).

My final thoughts for this show: Once again, a much improved crowd and sales performance from the last two years. Great to see so many people I knew exhibiting along with me, and a special thanks to Andy Cogan for coming out to support me. I'll return the favor at his comedy shows next week in North Hollywood and Silverlake. The only improvement this show needs is an updated website or facebook page to inform new attendees. The only reason I heard about it was because I did the show the previous two years, so they just need to do some updates and promotion on their  facebook page for next year. Other than that, Baldwin Park Comic Expo is a great little show that can only get better with time!