Toronto Comicon - Fan Appreciation Day

This weekend I got to head downtown for the Fan Appreciation Day event, mostly to represent myself as an artist and not just a Red 5 colourist.

And yes, I have many stories to tell.

Thanks to some well-timed last minute intervention I was able to score a free pro pass and share a table with a writer I'm collaborating with on an upcoming project. NDA says I can't say what yet but details will come soon after the go-light. I do however have a related story to share about that later on in this entry.
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    First day was noticably slow as apparently the early bird weekend passes cost around $15. There were some faithful Atomika fans who made a long beeline for the Mercury Comics table so they got their signed swag in before everyone else. The dealer's section was in full swing selling old and new issues of everything they had in stock. One booth I heard had sold broken Transformer toys for 10 bucks a pop. Surreal.

    The overall experience was pleasant as I had plenty of time to enjoy casual conversation with table neighbours, artists and the visitors. While I walked around I was able to get portfolio critiques of both personal illustration pieces and on the Neozoic sequential pages I coloured.

    For once I'm grateful for coming out to a con as I received some very insightful tips and suggestions on what I could try with my work. Usually there's not enough time to move away from the table to do this during an event, so that was a refreshing change of pace.

    Coffee at the venue that day was nonexistent and as I've failed to find any in the immediate area, I had to journey up 4 escalator flights, go across the street to the convenience store to find some other form of caffiene [ie AMP] and bought lunch at Subway - which for me was righteously awesome. Last year at FanExpo that area wasn't even open for business yet so I walked all the way down there looking for grub and suffered the mental equivalent of blue balls before painfully trekking the concrete jungle into an East Side Mario's for pasta.

    Earlier on the guys around our artist tables were hankering for Harveys while none of us knew where it was - until the next day we recalled the one all the way back at Union Station via skywalk. The brave souls who did go also managed to score some change for their table. For some reason we couldn't get the staff to help us out on coins, so we kept having to ask each other to break bills. It grew into sheer insanity when Sunday rolled around. I have come to love people who give exact change.

    Once 6pm hit the con was closed and everyone piled out of the basement exhibit hall to plot their dinner plans. That evening I had the pleasure of going to the Lonestar Bar & Grill with new con buddies Howard, Josh, Attila and his wife and ADORABLE bear-hugging daughter Mo - who made me do funny faces and attempted to make my elbow bend the wrong way in an arm bar. Which failed by the way MUAHAHAHA~ *ahem*.

    It was a very busy night at the joint, I think there was a baseball game going on as well. The waiter with the cowboy hat and suitably fake Texan accent who spent extra time getting our orders had inspired merciless subtle joking at the table - the contents of such discussion I shall leave to your imagination. That aside the food there was quite nice. That place really knows how to grill their meat.

    Attila by the way was awesome, he told me how to use the Gradient Map - which I never thought of using up till now - to take colour experimentation further than what I had done with adjustment layers alone. I toyed around a bit last night and I feel like a kid with shiny metallic crayons again.

    The evening ended on a good note with a lot of funny horror stories and idea bouncing, I headed back home in Howard's brother's fancy cramped car feeling quite productive. And thankful for being small.


    My eyes were burning from sunlight when I woke at 7 to compile the all-important pitch material on a USB drive and dragged extra table display stuff on a 1.5 hour TTC ride downtown.

    [Yeah, very "Wow, that was genius of me," I know.]

    My printer ink was out so I thought to use the business printing center at the venue to spit some files, however I was informed by security in the lobby it was closed.

    One officer offered to do it at their office, 30 minutes later we find out their printer network was down. By then I had reduced myself to screencapping the PDF file, cropping in MS Paint, and - on suggestion of the supervising officer- pasted images into MS Word, before finally printing the damned thing at the security booth back where we first started.

    The things I do for a hardcopy.

    It was almost 11 when I speedwalked into the exhibit hall and set up my side of the table at ultra light speed. Black table cloth, easel, comics, vinyl spread, portfolio, business cards, signs, the works- past experience at cons have taught this grasshopper well. Good thing I did because I found out the Sunday one-day-pass was free so EVERYONE poured through the doors that morning.

    Sunday I actually did quite a bit of drawing for once. Most of the sketches I've done were observational studies with light grey marker rendering. The ones of artists I drew on the tables across from me were well-received and they themselves wanted one, which I gladly gave away for a few bucks after I shot sketches on camera for posterity.

    If there was one sketch I forgot to shoot it was the one I did in one moleskin of a pierced dude with a huge screw through his head. I liked that one ;_;.

    In the middle of all that sketching I was also able to sell a quite a few Neozoic issues from the Fanexpo stock. Met con familiars and new readers who were missing some books and were estatic about completing/starting their collection.

    Seriously wished I had the Neozoic trades with me, but apparently there was another delay and as a result I had no advance copies to share. I've underestimated the sheer WTF-ery that goes on in Diamond's shipping lists. On top of that the book signing at Paradise comics is unfortunately on hold until things clear up for sure. There are hard lessons to be had in experiences like this, I consider myself thoroughly schooled.

    Sunday, like all cons around then had ended early without much incident. Lil Mo gave me another bear hug and some of her left over pencil drawings that she sold for 25 cents. I'm like "Wow this kid is so much younger than I am and she's already got con experience sellin' stuff on tables," and died of cute all over again.

    Packing things up took a little longer than expected but otherwise the time was well spent bantering with artists around the aisle. On the bright side it all paid off in business-card-swapping and hushed promises of future collabs.

    The one thing I'm glad I bought at the con was a 600LB Gorilla t-shirt from Attila because the A/C inside the venue and the wind chill outside was getting really cold. As much as I'd have loved to hang out longer I ended up having a quick bite at Tim Hortons with some friends before heading home to pass out while trying to write this ridiculously long entry that I just finished this morning.

Still in the middle of waking up and - oh hey, FedEx just popped by with a big box of advance copy Neozoic trades. I really coulda used those yesterday...


New Neozoic previews, TPB Vol 1 preorder info

Neozoic penciller J.Korim was generous enough to post up some previews of issues 3-7 up on his website - JKorim.ca - as we wait on pins and needles for the trade to roll out this spring.

Diamond order code - JAN094410

Speaking of the trade, online comic retailers TFAW and HeavyInk are taking pre-orders right now. If online isn't your thing, by all means head down to your local shop and ask to keep a few trades in stock.


Retrospect on issue #8

Shyte. It's done. IT'S DONE. NEOZOIC 8 IS DONE! That was the most amount of YELLOW I've put into a comic. Ever. And it's the damn prettiest issue I've slaved over all year to boot.

Dinosaur stampede orgy was in full effect when I got to work on 'em, I'm happy how they turned out by the time I was done. It's like you can reach out and touch them and come back with a few digits missing! Or something like that.

Thankfully there wasn't an insane amount of debris I had to flat like in issues 3 and 4, but then there were a small handful of crowd scenes I had to wrap my head around.

There was some blood in this issue, and I almost wished for more until I remembered Neozoic was supposed to be PG-13. [Darn it!] There was one fight scene that made me go all "OOOOUUUGH" looking at it, sure it had a little to do with shish-kabobing living things but if I were to so aptly describe it, it'd be the term "marinating".

Some of you guys might get what I'm talking about once you read the issue, heck, I'm sure you've seen it happen at least a couple times by now. Yum... Food analogies.

On a completely different note, this blog design is really starting look old. I'll probably have to start working on a new layout soon enough. Wish me luck in figuring out all that CSSery.


Chewing away at issue 8

Right now Korim and I are doing our damnest to make #8 the best damn issue we've ever done on Neozoic. Just finished a very nice double page spread, pretty happy how it turned out. This month's colour inspiration is Hiromasa Ogura and Makoto Shinkai. Those guys have a large collection of wicked background layouts in their animation projects.

Here's an IGN review of #7 . I'm not surprised it also shares the MAKE-NEOZOIC-MONTHLY-PLZ notion with the one on "Comics and Other Imaginary Tales". Not that I blame them, not at all. It's been a given since the very beginning that Neozoic's meant to read better back to back.

Seeing the actual pages in print, over-saturating the colours on my comp was a good idea after all. There's a slight hint of desaturation and darkening but more importantly the pages read well.

There's quite a lot of stuff going on in the new issue so far, course lots of fight scenes but also there's the return of the dinosaur stampede orgy. Those made me feel very nostalgic, I used to go crazy trying to make sure each one didn't all look the same.

I'd probably still feel the same way now, hehehe.


Retrospect on issue #6 and #7

It's been almost a couple months since the last entry, I'm happy to say that I just finished colouring Neozoic #7... 15 minutes ago.

September had been a crazy month for me, some freelance work kept me busy on top of winning a couple film festival awards and hitting NYC to attend the New York Anime Festival [run by the same people behind NYCC]. Soon as I got back I had to scramble to get the next issue out the door. By far it's been one of the toughest ones Korim and I worked on, for the amount of detail the both of us put into the pages this time around. Me I'm pretty happy how a lot of them had turned out.

There weren't a lot of reviews of issue 6, but here's a couple I found:

Kleefield on Comics
Comics and... Other Imaginary tales

In issue #6, many of the pages had been either night scenes and dark interiors, it's been difficult making the colours pop just right. Overall that book had been a joy to put colours on, at least for the first 5-6 pages where I got to paint a jungle scene or two.

I braved about 3 tropical thunderstorms and power outages to finish this particular beast, which by far is my favourite double page spread -

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To my horror, Quebecor had been the new printing company we had been using since issue 5. The paper they used was so thin, much of the ink soaked into the paper fibers resulting in a very dark desaturated look in the pages. In addition to having the same paper stock for the cover again for the second time, you can imagine the look on my face when I flew into a great flaming inner rage.

I died a little inside.

So in order to try to overcome that, I started overcooking the colours on issue 7 - by overcooking I mean cranking up the contrast and the saturation. WAY UP. A good chunk of the book takes place at dusk, sort of like with issue 3 and 4, for me that instantly means the green light to abuse all sorts of atmospheric effects.

Which I did in excess.

Issue 7 was by far one of the toughest books Korim and I worked on for the sheer amount of character detail we shoved into the pages. And we got to see more blood spilt, yay~! Crowd scenes still kinda scared me though, I haven't done those in a while. Time flew by pretty fast in the book, I got to do vary up some colours in the sky to show how much time had passed between each scene. Took a few all-nighters looking out my window to figure out which ones to try using, watching the sun rise was fun. And it made my eyes burn.

The work files I kept had varying levels of brightness of the pages, one version of those would be for the final print at Quebecor, and the not-as-bright version in case we switch printers again for the trade-paper-back.

Yes you read right, there will be a trade.

I got the affirmative from our writer Paul Ens that we'll have one for next year. When? I have no idea at all.. Might get a better inkling once we finish the last issue, from there we can start planning book tours and all that jazz.

Moving on forward, I had already coloured the issue 8 cover a while ago but I wasn't too happy how it turned out. I'll need to go back and fix it before we start working away on the last issue. I got no idea what to expect in the next script other than the slim possibility of a massive dinosaur stampede orgy. Ahhh... How nostalgic. Fun times.