Tuesday, July 21, 2015

3 Days. 3 Targets.

3 Days. 3 Targets.

The True SDCC Story of one former fanboy's take down of 3 Comic Superstars.
Signed, Sealed, and Dismembered.

"This is a triumph for comic geeks everywhere!!!!!"- Hart D. Fisher, American Horrors

First off, this story spans 20 years. I shit you not.

 The year was 1995, my last year of high school.
With Liz O, My Los Animales co-creator and actual high school friend 20 years ago.

I was the the school's “Weird Art Kid”, and was voted “Most Unique” to prove it. I was an alternative music listening, half-assed psuedo goth. You have to give me credit though- I attended a Catholic high school.

I was the type of goth who rocked black Bahaus shirts under his uniform. Wore black and white stripey socks and black steel toed work boots (Hey! they looked good with the khaki uniform shorts). Painted only his thumb and pinky nails for easy concealment from the school deans. Listened to bands like The Cure, Joy Division, Siouxsie & The Banshees, or Sisters of Mercy during lunch on a yellow, busted Walkman held together by duct tape. On ACTUAL cassette tapes! My gossipy Art class teacher was scared of me, which left me time alone to have free reign over what work I did in class.
Actual Yearbook page
 That didn't stop me from bringing comics to class to read and pore over and study the artwork and stories.
Let's go back a little further. I had started my love affair with comics in Junior High with books like the X-Men and the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. By the time 8th Grade graduation rolled around, my horror film addiction for gore and blood had blossomed, so I had been begging my mom to buy me a subscription to Fangoria and to buy me Adults Only comics like Faust. 9th grade followed, and with it one of the last greatest renaissances in Comics, the early 90s.

I followed the works of Jim Lee, Rob Liefeld, and Todd Mcfarlane like I had been reading the bible gospels of Saints Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John. I witnessed their emancipation from Marvel, and followed them blindly into their new foil embossed, 2 stapled, fully colored religion, The Holy Church of Image Comics. WildCATS. YoungBlood, Spawn. They were the Holy Trinity- and I lapped that shit up like a kitten's first bowl of ice cold milk.

Back to my Senior year. By this time, I had begun to discover Underground Comix, DC's Vertigo line, SlaveLabor Graphics, and more. One day, I was shopping at my go to place since I was a kid- Continental Comics in Granada Hills (a quiet suburb in the San Fernando Valley). Shout out to Paul, the store's owner! In fact, I believe it was Paul who suggested I check out these books he thought I would dig by a hardcore independent company named Boneyard Press. The books were Kill Image & the follow-up, Kill Marvel.
I was hooked. My friend Brian & I sat in a booth at Biff's Diner near Continental (RIP, it's now a Denny's I think) laughing our asses off at the books as the waitress kept rolling her eyes at us while she refilled our coffees (that was about all we ordered anyhow).
The Infamous Marvel Can Suck My Cock Boneyard Shirt!
I became a Boneyard convert. I idolized Boneyard's publisher Hart D. Fisher, AKA “THE Most Dangerous Man In Comics”. I ordered Boneyard shirts, bought mostly everything they put out I could get my hands on, spread the word at school and even got suspended for passing out Boneyard catalogs in school!
Hart & I at my 1st signing at Komic Kid, a local comic shop in the Valley.

Komic Kid flier

One day, I was on a date with a then girlfriend at a movie theater in Granada Hills when I see Hart Fisher, clad in a black trenchcoat, walking toward us and into the local Wherehouse Music store. She convinced me to grab my sketchbook that was in my car and go say hi to him. I'm glad she did. Apparently, Hart liked what he saw and soon enough he published one of my very first published pin-ups in one of his Bill The Bull comics!

Later on, Hart would be kind enough to let me play with one of his most cherished characters, Dark Angel and he published my very first comic story work based on a short story of his, No Time For Tears, in the premiere issue pages of Dark Angel/Bill The Bull #1.
In 1998, I earned my Boneyard Thug status in the form of a pre-internet April Fool’s Day hoax wherein Hart faked his own death! The brilliant and outrageous hoax was eventually uncovered by journalists at The Comics Journal and TheComic’s Buyers Guide a full week after we unleashed the prank!

My 1st crowning achievement in my Boneyard Thugdom came in 1995. At the Northridge (Mall) Fashion Center.

It was there I met the legendary Stan Lee.

 Lee was there on a hot summer day in August, for the reopening of the shopping mall's Bullock's department store which had sustained major damage in the 1994 Northridge earthquake. I went with my brother, and we waited in line with all the other fan boys and collectors. I was repping Boneyard with my killer Kyle Hotz Bill The Bull t-shirt, and copy of Kill Marvel in hand. Sure, I was nervous about meeting Stan “The Man” Lee- but I kept it cool as I plopped Kill Marvel in front of him. He grabbed it, squinted at it, and peered up at me, asking me if it was “One of theirs?” I blurted out “Yes, Sir!” before his wrangler could get a chance to tell him NOT to sign it!

I'll never forget the sheer terrified look on his wrangler's face as Stan signed my book, or the smile creeping on the old man's face as he handed it back to me. I thanked Stan and waited for my brother to get his X-Book signed.

Mission Accomplished!
Let's forward to 1998/9. I was Boneyard's Managing Editor for a bit, and Hart took me to my very 1st San Diego Comic-Con. It was AMAZING, and everything I could've ever hoped for in my fan boy-iest dreams. It was a COMICS Fan's true utopia back then! You could walk! And more importantly, you had room to walk! No real film industry or television presence or media over-saturation at this point!

The ONLY film presence I can honestly remember was a young student handing me a flyer for some Missing College Students. I looked at the sheet, and realized that the girl who had handed me the flier, was ALSO the girl ON the flier! I told her, “Waitaminute! I FOUND you!” and she explained to me that they were doing grass roots marketing for her film that would be coming out soon. When I asked her what the film was called so I could be on the lookout for it, she replied, “Blair Witch Project”!
Celebrities were walking among you, with no disguises and no throngs of fans hounding them! I met KevinSmith, Jason Mewes, and Joey Lauren Adams and had some nice conversation with them! This one is important for later: You could EASILY walk up to the BIG comics artists and superstars and start a conversation with them, throw them a slice of pizza and pull up a chair to sit with them.
Waitaminute! I FOUND you!

I have very fond and very good memories of my 1st San Diego Comic-Con during the late 90s, thanks to Hart.
Fred Seibert of Frederator Studios & Jeaux Janovsky

Since then, I have gone on to Art School for fine art and graduated from Calarts in their esteemed Character Animation department. Worked for such places as Disney's Buena Vista Games, Frederator Studios (Producers of the CartoonNetwork hit, Adventure Time), Mattel, Topps, Spiral Toys, Ralph Bakshi Productions, Rembrandt Films/Gene Deitch, and Welcome Literary (children's books). Interesting enough, working for Hart and Boneyard as Managing Editor prepared me and gave me the skill sets that I use and still apply to everything in today's Social Media savvy world and climate. P.S.- you can find me on Instagram, Tumblr, Facebook, and Twitter. ;)

Hart was a brilliant mentor, and I'm so very thankful for the time I was able to share learning from him.

Going back to a modern day San Diego Comic-Con has been a complete mind fuck, to say the least.

Too much media. Too many people. No room to walk around. Too little comics. What happened to the Late 90s comic filled Utopia? Where did it go? Ah, yes. Hollywood took over like Captain Ahab harpooning the San Diego convention center like it was the Great White whale, Moby Dick itself. It's a completely different beast. A bloated, washed ashore, rotted, decaying whale.“The Geek Shall Inherit The Earth.” They said. Too many tv shows, and films of all sorts. Video Games. A Cosplay wasteland. What happened to the comics, man? Ugh.

I decided to go back this year with a vengeance. 20 years later I wanted to get my copy of Kill Image signed by the Holy Trinity. Bring it back full fucking circle. This will grant me Boneyard Thug Immortality Status. Like 2Pac.
I became a shark. I began researching my targets. Stalking their facebook fan pages, their company twitter accounts, making notes as to when and where they'd be appearing to sign. All 3 were going to be at Comic-Con this year. Their pencil and ink stained blood will become mine.

Friday, Day 1. Target: Jim Lee. DC's Boy Wonder. 
There was one problem though.

I didn't realize it was standard and required now to get bracelets or wrist bands in order to get a signature from the “BIG” Comic Superstars!

Here's how it works now: you HAVE to get to the comic con floor at 9:00-9:30am in the morning in order to receive these magical wrist bands. They ONLY hand out 100 of the fuckers. Yea, I know. Lame. I didn't get any on Friday, for Jim Lee's day. I was super bummed. I decided to try my luck and just wait with the people who were lucky to get a wrist band. The super fans. The comic bro dudes who bring 20 of the same damn comic, in this case, Justice League shit because of the new films coming out. Fucking fan boys, collectors, retailers. I stuck to my guns even though I could feel them burning a hole in the back of my soul with their hate for me not having the glowing wrist band.

It only fueled me more.

I made sure to blend in with them, a wolf in sheep's clothing, by bringing along a few old school items I’ve had in my collection of comics for each artist to sign to show them that I, too, am a die-hard fan. And that they'd never suspect the next book, Kill Image, to pop up and punch them right between the eyes.

So I waited in line for an hour. Anticipating getting kicked out of the con, by Lee, Mcfarlane, or Liefeld. Nervous to pull off this Comic-Con hijacking. Finally, it came to my turn in line and the line checking dude at the DC booth Jim Lee was signing at was pissed that I had no wrist band. I told him I wasn't going anywhere, and that I'd press my luck and try to see if they'd take me after the blessed 100 lucky fanboys got their shit signed. Luckily the 2 assholes behind me were the last of the wrist banders and I firmly stood my ground.

Finally came my time. I dug out my books, he said he'd “Only sign 5.” I said “Ok.” I spoke no other words. Silent. Like a ninja. He was super stoked to see one of his first published works, a copy of Alpha Flight #53. He also signed Batman Black & White #1, WildCATS #1, one of the Jim Lee X-Books (it was for my brother), and finally my copy of Kill Image.
Disappointment Strikes! 

That was when his smile stopped and he actually did one of those cartoony double-takes, where his eyes popped open really big and he momentarily looked stunned as if to say, “Why the fuck would you bring me THIS to sign?”

He signed it, I said “Thanks.” and went on my merry way with the hugest shit-eating grin on my face. Thankfully my friend Lisa was there to snap a few pics of him signing the book.

Comic Superstar Take Down Rating
Who: Jim Lee
Level of Kill Image Disappointment: 7 bullet holes
What were they doing in 1993? WildCATS
What are they doing in 2015? Co-Publisher of DC Entertainment
Overall: He's a signing Terminator machine, and has his doctor quality signature down to a science. Doesn't talk much, but seems appreciative of his fans.

Saturday, Day 2. Target: Todd McFarlane. Toy Maker of The Gods.

Saturday was a shit-storm cluster fuck for me. I woke up at 6am that day. Showered, got ready. Lisa gave me a ride to the convention center around 8am. So I'd be sure to get there bright, and bushy tailed at 9am on the dot to get the fucking wrist band for Todd's signature.

All, ok... SOME of the security there are assholes with SEVERE power trips. Some were nice. This whole thing was badly disorganized. They allow professionals in early, but... we weren't allowed to wait on the first floor for some reason. So I loitered around the Professional Badge Registration areas as long as I could before getting kicked out, or told to go upstairs. I got kicked out a total of 2 times. But kept finding the nicer security guards to let me in again. It was a finely tuned Tango dance.

9am comes and rolls by. I'm freaking out at this point, because the Image Comics booth told us we had to be there AT 9am in order to get a limited wrist band. Things are running super hectic late for the con and they decide to open at 9:30am. LUCKILY, they allowed the Pros in 15 minutes early, so I booked it right the fuck to Image's booth and made my way to the line.

YES!” I cheered to myself. “I made it to the fucking Todd line!” I felt like Rocky having just finished running up the steps to the Philadelphia Museum of Art! I inch closer and closer, trying not to pat myself on the back too hard when all of a sudden- with 2 fucking people in front of me, the girl passing out the wrist bands shouts out, “We are NOW all out of Todd McFarlane Wrist Bands!!!”. I was livid. But kept cool. I asked her if it would be possible to “hang out behind the lucky ass asshole Todd McFarlane wrist bander fanboys, and see if we'd also be given a shot to have something signed as well?” (not exactly in those words.) She looked at me like, “Whatever.” and said that “I could try but no guarantees.”

I was super bummed. Again. So I Charlie Brown walked my way around the Con for a bit, tired and checking stuff out. I decided to go see if maybe Rob Liefeld was around to sign my stuff. Nope. No one at his table. A super small table, like the size of one chair at the very end of Artists Alley. No one guarding his table, just a big ass poster of Deadpool staring me in the face. Mocking me. Like an asshole.

Todd's signing is at 2pm, so I figure I'd go check the Image booth and see if people started lining up. I arrive at the booth, and see no one. So I wander out to the Mcfarlane Toys side of the Image booth, and who do I see standing right next to me, signing autographs while standing (like a champ saying “Fuck Booths bitches!”) with a semi mid-to-long line?

Todd “Muthafuckin' Fuck Booths Bitches!” McFarlane!

Seriously? How cool and gracious is that of him to have an impromptu signing before his Actual signing??? He is a true bonafide Comic Superstar Gentleman.

The wait time wasn't that bad. Yes, there were the usual fan boys there. But I made friends with a great kid, and his father who was a prop man in Hollywood back in the day who happened to work on the original Spawn film. So it was neat talking to them both. Great guys. Makes a world of difference when you're stuck in a line and waiting. I asked the kid if he'd take a few pics of me getting my stuff signed by Todd, and he agreed to.

From there it's a blur.
McFarlane Toys' Walking Dead  Michonne's Pet Walker mini Zombie SDCC Swag

Todd's promoting his new buildable mini-sets for the Walking Dead for his toy empire, McFarlane Toys. I got a free blind bag zombie toy. His toys are great and super detail oriented. Which I'm a sucker for. He doesn't have a lot of time to sign everything I brought. So I figured I'd hit him with the Old School Fan bit, and then the sucker-punch. He is genuinely happy to see a copy of one of his 1st published DC comics work, All Star Squadron #47 from 1985! 

The conversation goes as follows:

Todd: Hey buddy. (beat) oh wow, the Old School stuff! Killer!
Me: Heh. Yea. I've had it for a long time. Thanks for the signature, can I get a pic?
Todd: Sure!
Me (after pic): Can I actually have you sign something else?
I pull out Kill Image.
Todd: (Disappointed look which then flays out into a shark's smile, nay Venom's crazy smile!)
Disappointment Strikes! 
Todd then holds the book up to his wrangler, smiling, and says, Somebody hated us!”
He signs it, then I ask his assistant to snap a pic of us, and Todd holds it up to the camera!
(Inside my head): HOLY SHIT!!! VICTORY IS MINE!!!
I LOVE this pic!
2 down. 1 more to go.

Comic Superstar Take Down Rating
Who: Todd McFarlane
Level of Kill Image Disappointment: 5 bullet holes
What were they doing in 1993? Spawn
What are they doing in 2015? CEO of McFarlane Toys & Todd McFarlane Entertainment
Overall: I was expecting Todd to be an asshole. But you know what? He wasn't. He was actually a pretty stand up (haha literally) guy, very genuine and appreciative of his fans. He takes the time with his fans, and that's what counts. Again, not much was said, but he shook my hand with that McFarlane charm in his eye. I felt like a fan boy again for a split second. No remorse though. 

Sidenote: Was really hoping to get this little gem signed, for no good reason at all. haha 

Sunday, Day 3. Target: Rob Liefeld. The Artist Alley Mercenary.

Clearly, this was Rob's Con.

With the hype machine pumping the Deadpool movie, this was his con to shine. And he shone so brightly, he was NEVER at his booth deep in the trenches of Artist Alley. I tried looking for him, for 2 days and it was as if Deadpool had assassinated him.

I finally caught him on the last day of the SDCC Con. By this time I was Conned Out. I felt like I had seen everything I could possibly see at the Con. I tried for 3 days to find ANY horror items that piqued my interest, but to no avail.

The only thing left for me to do was to get my last target's signature. I had been circling his rinky dinky artist's alley table corner for days, and I could smell his blood in the air. The shark was getting closer, Rob. I even wore my Jaws shirt for the occasion.

Rob had a long line. But significantly shorter than his Ol' Image buddies. Considering all the Deadpool hype they gave him, I'm surprised you didn't need golden wrist bands or magic bracelets. I made friends with a few people behind me in line.

The one kid who was behind me didn't even know who Liefeld was, he just got in line cause he saw all of us in line waiting for someone. But he sure knew who Deadpool was. He didn't have anything for Rob to sign, so I told him that he should have him sketch him a Deadpool and sign his SDCC Badge.

I felt bad for the other artists who shared the row with Rob. His line covered their tables for a good 40 minutes solid. No one was checking out their work. It was awkward. I finally made my way up to Rob, and shook his hand, congratulated him on the success of Deadpool.

He's a good guy. But all about the $$$. He almost immediately went into salesman mode, pointing to a sign posted on his table about all Deadpool related comics signage prices. Turn off for sure- but ya can't get mad at a brotha making a buck off his creation. Hate the game, not the playa. I didn't want to blow my cover, so I paid an undisclosed amount to get my copy of Marvel's New Mutants #98 signed. Hey, it was Deadpool's first appearance. That comic was going like hotcakes at the con, and you could not find a copy anywhere at the con for cheap.
Disappointment Strikes! I love the dude in the back with the Sanrio hat checking out Kill Image!

I pulled out my copy of Kill Image. He looked at it for a moment with a brief and fleeting disappointment in his eyes. There's the rub, Rob. It may have lasted mere seconds, but I savored that moment.
He scrawled his autopilot messy signature all over Jim Lee's face on the cover.

I asked the kid behind me to snap a few pics for me, with me holding up my signed prizes. A proud hunter, standing over his freshly killed carcasses. Breathing in the smell of blood... Victory.
He looks like he's grabbing my ass here! Check out the dude behind us checking it out. LOL

Like a proud hunter, standing over his freshly killed carcass trophy. Victory is mine!

Comic Superstar Take Down Rating
Who: Rob Liefeld
Level of Kill Image Disappointment: 8 bullet holes
What were they doing in 1993? YoungBlood
What are they doing in 2015? Slumming it in Artist Alley, but reaping the insane benefits he will undoubtedly get from the Deadpool film.
Overall: Who really won over who? Yes, I got his signature- but it was literally at a price. He's the one laughing his way to the bank. And for that, I have to give him props. He's a down to business kind of dude, but still pretty chill. He still does it for the fans though. I know Deadpool is going to be a huge success for him, as well as the world of comic book films. 

Sidenote: I was really hoping to get my copy of Captain America #1 and Troll #1 signed by him, but I was too pissed I had to shell out for the New Mutants autograph. I was literally TROLL-ing him. 

20 years.

At times I felt like a time traveler, lugging around books that were older than most attendees there. ALL my books are well read. Some wrinkled and dog eared, plastic bag and boards holding them and their bones together. I actually read my books. I enjoy them. I love studying the artwork in them, the writing.

Some of these collectors, man- and their pristine, perfectly mint books. Vacuum sealed, and pro-graded. 15-20 copies of the same book, signed, with the sole purpose so they can make some moolah off of Ebay or their comic shops from other needy fan boys. I don't get it. I don't get their world. And I don't want to. I must look like an alien to them.

For me, the con has always been about the love for comics. And that love has been diminishing for quite sometime.

The actual Comics section of the con is one of the only spots where you can freely walk around, with all the space you need. Breathing in that musty, familiar scent of newsprint paper and ink.

It's there in that section, where you can still catch a glimpse of the Comic Con Utopia days of yore- if you stare hard enough towards the right place.

-Jeaux Janovsky, Boneyard Thug Immortal For Life

Too Tough For Color

I did it Hart.
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Compooter Animation by Avi Tuchman based on art by JEAUX Janovsky!