Sunday, February 26, 2012

Image Comic Expo: A lot to love in this little show

I managed to wrest a day away from the clutches of my writing schedule and my boring mundane stuff to get myself over to the Image Comic Expo, held at the Oakland Convention Center this past weekend, February 24 - 26. I'm extremely glad I did, as this show netted a lot of great people, new contacts, and what must be 25 pounds of comics to review. More about that at the end.

Billed as "A 3-day celebration of creator-owned comics," it was primarily put on by Image, which is celebrating its 20th anniversary this year, and most of the signings and panels were focused on their titles, and a lot of that was focused on Walking Dead, which didn't interest me personally as I'm suffering from complete horror fatigue in my choices of entertainment. However, some of the other panels featured topics such as "Womanthology" which discussed not only women in the field of comics, but diversity in general, and "Pro Tips with Todd McFarlane" which offered insights into his creative process.

For me, the real highlight was not the TV stars or the signings, but the people and the tone of this show in comparison to others. Comic-Con San Diego is no longer a place for fans and industry professionals to gather and talk about what they love, it's an epic 50-ring circus where you have to shout to be heard and you risk being crushed in the wall of humanity trying to occupy a finite space. The Alternative Press Expo (APE) show in San Francisco is interesting, but it goes beyond traditional comic books and encompasses art projects, cartoon art, and what used to be called "underground" comics, still done as folded and stapled printouts. Which I respect, but it's not what I'm after.

I was surprised by the high level of participant quality at this show, considering its relatively small size. Image was there, of course, but so was Archaia, IDW, Top Cow, Comicraft and a number of excellent vendors. Artist's Alley was impressively skilled and the level of creativity in the new projects I saw was encouraging. Sure, the usual "show artist" was there, cranking out fan art sketches for the money, as well as the occasional "are they at the right show?" type of vendor, but the Image Comic Expo hit all the right notes for me, the right middle ground which is the current vibrant heart of the comic book industry.

It's about the people who are in this because they love it, not to be part of some mega-corporation who lost touch with what real people want ages ago. Archaia and Top Cow and Image get it. The people who run them understand that not everybody is the same, not everybody wants spandex... but some people do, and that's fine too. These companies at this show understand that talent can be found when you stop to listen and look at what's around you. They're not writing just to the 18-30 year old male demographic as discussed in the previous article. They write for everybody.

This show is inclusive. That makes all the difference in the world.

While there, I met up with old friends, made some new ones, and walked up to booths and said "Talk to me about your best titles." This is because the show is on a human scale, and you can actually talk to people instead of trying to shout at each other for 30 seconds before giving up and rushing off to another panel, signing or party. I never got the vibe of "buy something or get out of the way" as I have at other shows. As a result, I have never walked away with so many fantastic books as I did at this show.

Upcoming reviews will include (in no particular order): Lucid, A Tale of Sand, Elephantmen Volume 4, Invincible Ultimate Collection 1, Locke & Key, The Power Within, Witchblade Rebirth, Silver, Hello My Name Is Asshole, Vescell, Flying Sparks, The Last of the Greats, The Mark of Aeacus, Marineman, and The Pound.

I hope Image does this show every year, because I will be there. I can see it being perhaps twice as large, but no more than that or it'll lose the reason to go and become just another comic book convention. Well done, Image. As my father used to say, "And a good time was had by all."

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