In late summer my old friend Jim Rugg asked me if I’d be interested in attending a small show of Pittsburgh area creators… it wouldn’t be a HUGE thing, just a gathering of like minds, good conversation and craft…
A couple months go by and PIX picked up some steam as the exhibitor list grew from not just Pittsburgh area creators (who made up about 80% of attendess), but folks coming from all over. Here’s my rundown of my thoughts on this show…
Great location… When I first heard it was being held on the top floor of the “Guardian Storage” building on Liberty and 29th, I wasn’t sure what to think. You also had to ride an elevator up to the showroom… my main thought was… will people even find their way up there? When the elevator doors open you’re greeted with what might be the coolest looking venue for a comic show I’ve ever attended. There’s something about the “feel” of that place that screams “Independent Pittsburgh”
The Attendees… I was impressed by the number of people who setup here. It seems like this show came together really fast. I was impressed on how Bill from Copacetic Comics and the folks from Toonseum put this together so quickly and kept it pretty organized, but not organized enough that you felt like there was some deadline to make it to panels…. it was a very laid back atmosphere, and it was awesome seeing so many familiar faces.
Foot Traffic… as far as attendance and foot traffic, it was REALLY dead both mornings, but 1pm seemed to be this magical time for people to begin showing up. I didn’t setup here thinking this was going to be NYCC level traffic… I mainly came for the conversations and to talk to old friends and see what everyone was up to.
The Conversations…. were great. At one point Jasen Lex, Jim Rugg and myself talked about hijacking mainstream comics (just like the old days) – There was also a lot of talk about zombies and craft. I enjoyed turning many people onto Wally Wood for the first time, while many people know about 22 panels, there are some that were blown away by the resource and idea of the challenge. I can’t wait to see what some of them come up with. When/if I get anything from anyone else I will be posting it at wallywoods22panels.com – It was also kind of weird to be introduced to people as “the legendary D.J. Coffman” – that made me feel OLD. But I guess honored in a weird way. I’ve heard from so many people who said my Yirmumah minicomic and encouragement actually made them believe they could do this crazy stuff too…. sometimes I feel like saying I’m SO SORRY ABOUT THAT! Please forgive me.
Ethics in comics…. I heard some real horror stories about Bluewater Comics this weekend. I’m going to bite my tongue a little bit here (even though I don’t want to)- but hearing about how they never paid A DIME to the kid who drew the infamous Lady Gaga comic book really irked me. And how the guy promises these young artists that he’ll hook them up with other companies like Marvel and DC, Dark Horse because he has connections… who knows, maybe that’s true, but it sounds like the OLDEST TRICK IN THE BOOK! — And maybe I shouldn’t call him a KID. I’ve known Kristopher Smith since he was 13 years old… so I really hate to see his artwork and passion for creating comics exploited by some jagoff. I asked him… why didn’t they pay you? He said the publisher said the book sold poorly…but over on the Bluewater main page it says that “The comic sold out in just one week” – but Kris said he didn’t even get his initial contractually promised amount for producing the book. We’re talking PEANUTS here folks… like $400 bucks. So I say to my old friend…. how is it fair that the printer was PAID… the retailers were PAID…Diamond got PAID… and ultimately Bluewater got PAID…. but he didn’t get paid? My advice was to not lift another pencil for turds like that. I wish more artists would speak up about these types of predatory practices and that publishers like this weren’t even allowed to exist within comics…. but it’s something that has always existed and isn’t going to go away until more creators speak up. Unfortunately I have a little experience in dealing with shady companies. The only way to stop it is to speak up. Lady Gaga, Justin Bieber, Beyonce… if you’re reading this, and you haven’t sued this company yet, please do it and shut that circus down, it’s hurting a lot of young creators.
Original Ganstas… At one point there was supposed to be panels, but with the weird traffic fluctuations I believe panels were canned on Saturday, so there was only one panel on Sunday that was sort of a mix of talking about how all of us Pittsburgh creators got started, how we make money, find jobs, etc. The panel was Jim Rugg, Ed Piskor, Tom Scioli, Pat Lewis and D.J. Coffman myself. I think I counted 13 people in the audience, but it didn’t matter- we were dropping knowledge that can hopefully help enlighten the future generation of successful creators from Pittsburgh (and beyond)
At one point I found myself thinking… WOW. Everyone on the panel, including myself, I remember all starting out roaming around Pittsburgh Comicon and small shows… mini comics… self publishing… what I tend to refer to as the hustle and flow. I was really proud to hear how well Ed Piskor is doing with WizzyWig, Pat Lewis (Lunchbreak Comic) has a great hardback book from IDW and has just never stopped producing, Jim Rugg is kicking all kinds of ass (as usual), as is Tom Scioli... Tom especially since he’s such a Jack Kirby fan too and keeping that style and energy alive and well. Someone joked with me that if this would have been held in 1998, like 5 people would have showed up… and I was left thinking, dang, it probably would have been JUST US!
A first… This was the first time I had better Sunday than a Saturday sales wise at a show. It was a very odd feeling. When people asked me what I thought of the show… I seemed to be repeating that I was impressed that this show was just word of mouth primarily and that people had made it down, parked… walked through hallways with signs pointing to PIX and then went up an elevator to the 6th floor.
Next Year… I really hope they can do this show again next year and we have more time to figure out how to promote it better. Maybe ideas like teaming with ScareHouse or advertising through them– or actually reaching out to the broader communities around Pittsburgh even as far down as Greensburg, Uniontown… Since I’m a little further south I wouldn’t mind helping promote the show within my reach. It was certainly worth the trip into the city…. I mean, it’s FREE to get into and filled with all sorts of cool indy books, and very reasonably priced $1 books and art.– Back to the free thing for a minute…. I wish more comic shows were FREE. There’s really no reason that they can’t be… or at least DIRT cheap to get into. Pittsburgh Comicon should cost like $5 to enter, tops. This leaves more money in the pockets for people to spend on comics and actually help grow the industry and support the creative community.
If you’re interested in reading about all things creative around our city, Ed Piskor has a FANTASTIC writeup on his blog that goes through everything to be proud of from the creative side of the Burgh, from Romero and the birth of Zombies, to our awesome RollerDerby team, comic shops, hip-hop and more.
I guess what I’m trying to say is… Pittsburgh really kicks ass. And PIX just gave it one more reason to kick more ass.