Monday, September 21, 2009

Voices from Artists Alley

Everyone loves a comic book show. Sure, Comic-Con in San Diego gets all the big press, but for most fans, just heading down to the local hotel complex to browse through a hundred long boxes in the renovated dining hall provides just as big a thrill. And even if you can't afford the big back issues up on the display wall, just getting a look at them in the flesh -- seeing those crisp Golden Age Adventure and More Fun covers, for example -- is exciting enough.

But as nice as rifling through the bargain bin can be, the big draw at most conventions is the chance to meet the people who create these stories. After all, back issues you can get at your local store or online. But when was the last time you were able to buy a conversation with Walt Simonson on eBay? That's an experience that can only be found in one place on Earth, the most magical street this side of Diagon Alley: Artists Alley.

It's not just the big stars who show up at conventions to mingle and mix with the fans, though. Take a look around Artists Alley and you'll likely see a dozen or a hundred unknown faces, sitting at table after table promoting titles and characters you've never heard of. These are the up and comers, the dreamers and the people who work in comics not for fame or fortune but simply because they love the medium. And the sad thing is, while you line up behind forty other fans to have Geoff Johns sign three dozen copies of his latest crossover for some online auction, most of those independent creators on Artists Alley sit alone, ignored, talking mostly to each other while people with DC and Marvel in their eyes wander by in an oblivious fog.

Hey, I've done it too. But in our zest to meet the famous, we sometimes forget that those people once were unknowns too; and that the richest ideas don't come out of editorial decrees, but out of individual visions. As I've discussed before, I learned that myself purely by accident when I passed my time in line for some star by chatting with Alex Robinson, whose little indy book -- Box Office Poison -- went on to become one of the most acclaimed (and one of my favorite) comics of the decade.

So what other voices are out there right now, struggling on the convention circuit to find a few people willing to give their book a try? That's what I'm aiming to find out in my new feature, Voices from Artists Alley. In this (necessarily) sporadic feature, I'll be heading to comic conventions when I have the chance and conducting interviews -- not with the big stars, but with the creators in Artists Alley, the men and women who are chasing the dream. Not a dream of movie rights, action figures and Wizard promotions, but the ultimate dream: making good comics that tell good stories.

Starting tomorrow, then, I'll be presenting a series of interviews I conducted this past Sunday at the New England Comic Convention in Boston, where I had the opportunity to talk to six of these new voices in comics about their projects. I hope you'll give these interviews and these comics a try. And the next time you're at a show and you head down Artists Alley, take a minute to look around.

Because you never known who or what may be there, just waiting for you to find them.

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I also wanted to mention -- even though I'm sure nobody cares except me -- that I struggled for quite awhile trying to determine whether the proper name was Artists, Artists' or Artist's Alley. Or Artists's. Or just Artist. Seems like all are in use depending on what show or person you talk to. I went with "Artists" because it doesn't mess up the html.