Thursday, October 16, 2014

4 Years Later...

Then
4 years, man.  A time frame typically revered for the summer Olympics and Presidential terms, now quantifies how long I've been on this journey of making comics as my full-time, one-and-only gig.  I took that step.  I made that leap.  I shuffled loose the mortal toil of the 9-to-5 daily grind, FINALLY setting myself free to realize my wildest dreams…and let me tell you, a great many of them have come true!

In just these last four years, I've EXPONENTIALLY outpaced the earnest start of my comics career that I THOUGHT I had mustered in the years prior.  The idea that you don't really know how far you've gone until you get there is so much MORE than true for me.  I thought I had done something.  Been somebody.  I was decently known in my little sector of the 2814 (or so I thought), having racked up some fans, friends and comrades in the continually growing comics mecca of central Ohio.

PSHAW!  

 I hadn't done nuthin' (if you'll pardon the double-negative)!  Not socially, not creatively, and certainly not professionally.  Don't get me wrong; my aim ISN'T to discount the connects and creations I had made up to that point -- just recognizing, with a little retrospective recognition, how large that ripple grew to be! 

Then vs. Now BY THE NUMBERS:
Average shows a year - 4 to 15.75 (Growth of 393%)
Books with my name of them - 7 to 34 (Growth of 485%)
Max distance traveled (for a show) - (then) Chicago, IL (now) Seattle, WA (Growth of 634%)

Things grew, as I said, exponentially -- a verbose term usually, but I promise -- if those numbers don't wow you at least a little, you may already be dead...or superstar colorist, Jeff Balke!  
NOW!  Well...sorta...Appleseed 2013!  But still!

It's true; I have seen some things and been some places.  But, it's only informed me of how truly far STILL, I have to go before my name resonates with the Geoff Johns, Brian Michael Bendises, Jim Lees and Joe Quesadas of the world!  That's why, despite my growth and accomplishments thus far, I'm calling this the "High School Years" of my career!  In fact, I'm reviving our brand magazine, On The Horizon with 'The Year Book Issue' -- a COMPLETE editorial of my take on what these past four years have done and mean. 

At its core, I believe this gave me a taste of what life has in store, IF I can maintain my focus and dedication.  These years have been wonderful and dynamic!  I look forward, not just to four more, but DECADES -- all spent in pursuit of story and with all the love of comics I can muster! 

But...before I go.  How about a hint of what's to come...?


Oh my?!

Saturday, August 16, 2014

WONDER CARE Presents: THE KINDER GUARDIANS#1 Premieres @ WizardWorld Chicago!!!

At long last, the first issue of this EXCITING all-ages title will premiere at Wizard World Chicago (Aug 21st-24th)!

Wonder Care Presents:
The Kinder Guardians #1
Can you break the sound barrier or shoot lasers from your eyes, then join the school for the EXTREMELY gifted and talented -- Wonder Care!  Where training the next generation of heroes isn't just our job -- IT'S OUR PLEASURE!!

"How Far is Up?" - Pep, the resident speedster, has a goal to run through the sky!  But supporting it puts super-twins, Castor and Pollux, at odds.  Is better to let reality anchor your dreams or encourage the impossible?

Written by Victor Dandridge
Art by Justin Castaneda

GONNA BE AT THE SHOW??

JOIN US: SATURDAY, Aug. 23rd for an exclusive signing (time to be determined)!!


Friday, August 1, 2014

Comic Cons: Coast to Coast pt 3

17wks of comic conventions and events describes the year for many comic professionals.  Doing them consecutively, though, totes the line of being downright mythic -- but if you want to be a legend, then you have to DO the legendary!!

Okay...so maybe I didn't set out to do anything specifically legendary (per se), but doing 17 straight weeks of shows WAS a tremendous experience, a notch that I'm still feeling the residual gains from, both personally and professionally.  And I'm presenting the details to you, wanting to share as much as I can to inspire/educate other creators to follow their own path(s)!

Now, this is the third (and final) post on this one -- not that I couldn't talk at length about the shows I attended, the people I met and more, but the SECOND HALF of my yearly con season (that's right…it ain't over!) is about to begin and I don't want to dwell too much on what was and not be focusing on what I'm going to make happen next!  Still, to make sure you're all up to speed on things, make sure you checkout the first two posts: HERE

We ended things last post in the midst of discussing just HOW in the world one could MAINTAIN enough to accomplish this heptadeca-thalon.  In a checklist recap, we hit the points of the pre-reqs:

- The Right Personality: Being able to BE social and handle the various forms of personal and public interactions that are inherent to convention presentations.

- A Materials Source on the GO!: The specific flux of sales can be so varied that if you rely on a single source for your materials, you may miss out on sales opportunities when you're light on product.

- A Foundation of Support: You've gotta have people to lean on, both in failure and success -- make sure your corner is filled with folks you can count on!

And then during the course…

- Passion: Executing something like this, your love for what you do AND your patience will be tested!  But having an intense passion, for not only the medium, but what you want within the industry, can keep you focused and motivated to keep your output at 100(+)%!

- A GREAT Experience is your #1 Goal: Despite conventional wisdom of letting making money be your goal, putting yourself in the position of creating a great experience, both for yourself and your (potential) fan-base should be your core!  The fun you have will keep your passions high AND could lead to immense returns!

And now the tale continues…

Instagram Pic of Dragonzord WIP
Keep Things Fresh and KEEP CREATING:
Of the twenty events I took part in, TEN were within a mere four-hours drive from my hometown of Columbus, OH.  That means half my schedule was spent hitting the same potential sales market -- because just as easily as I can travel, so too can a lot of my customers -- and they did!

As much as I need to build my brand, which requires quite a bit of consistency, I NEVER wanted to have a customer that I'd seen at another show, whether that was just days/weeks before or a full year, look at my setup and figure they'd already been there and didn't need to shop by again!  I've seen creators who don't have a flow of new product coming in get left in the dust because customers have heard their pitch or bought their wares at shows prior!  To keep that away like the stagnant plague it is, my solution was to have something new (or at least try!) at every show!  That's right, crank something out EVERY week!

Instagram Pic of Maleficent WIP
If you're an artist, that shouldn't just be your goal -- that's already your JOB!  You should producing something new as often as your medium allows!  There's really no excuse not to, considering that size and detail is a matter of preference (you can go sketch cards on up to full commissions if you want -- there is no limit to your creative scope!).  If you're a writer, the new wave of Flash-fiction, is a way to go for you to have new pieces without waiting on art development!

No matter what, whether you're hitting the same area or not, getting in that creative grind despite being on the road will ingrain a skill set in you that will become INVALUABLE should you say -- BECOME A HIT SENSATION!!!  Being able to balance all facets of your workload will be a tremendous key to your growing success!

Networking and Making Friends:
Remember how I said an outgoing personality is a pre-requisite to this -- where here is where that comes into play!  Despite the cosmic magnitude of its characters, the global acceptance of its form or the international pride of its fans, comics REALLY IS an insular community!  And as you do more and more shows, you'll start to see some of the same folks over and over and over and over…  Considering that you'll be sharing workspace with a lot of these folks time and again, it's a remarkable skill to align and ally yourself with like-minded creators who you can offer opportunities to and can, in-turn, offer opportunities for you!

And I don't just mean on the comic page, either!
Me, Dirk and Chris Charlton chatting up comic goodness at C2E2!

Just starting small, being personable can get you the skinny on the best local eateries or the most cost effective places to stay/park/visit!

Become friends and it can do even more -- getting you an invite to an event that will change your career -- get you introduced to PEOPLE who will change your career!

The rule I live by when it comes to networking is because you can't see the future, you never know where the person you meet can take you.  I've been the most successful guy in the room, and I've been the least successful -- in either case, though I take pride in who I am and what I've done, my ego was checked at the door and I've made MANY connections because of it and here are some highlights of what it got me during this tour:

- A hotel-mate in Seattle -- imagine flying across the country and not having your nightly stay locked down.  I did that, but with the help of my friends I was taken care of!
- Access to unpublished material from two of my FAVORITE creators.  I seriously sat and read their 230+ page graphic novel in one sitting…at a hotel party!
- Inclusion to a networking panel in NYC to a number of upcoming creators that I STILL talk to now.
- My first solo gallery exhibit in Pittsburgh at the beautiful ToonSeum!
- Invite WITH GUESTS to Wizard World's VIP parties.

Know Your Limits:
Perseverance and persistence will get you through most anything, but they have their costs!  To the intrepid creator, this may seem like the best job in the world and my sharing of my multi-city exploits only confirms their drive and desire to follow suit.  But along the way, something happens -- as things are wont to do -- be ready and able to say enough is enough!

If something happens along the way that throws a wrench in your plans, flee and live to con another day/year!  The night we came home from Tri-Con (Huntington, WV), we had a break-in and while nothing was stolen and no one was (seriously) injured (don't come into my home uninvited, yo!) -- it called for a serious discussion on whether I was going to fly out to Phoenix Comic-Con just a few days later, leaving my family to fend for themselves!  That's that support system at play, both having it to insure that it'll be okay and in needing me to continue working!

That boy tired!
And have those people in your corner that can tell you when you're working TOO HARD (I'm looking at YOU, Nana)!  That'll notice if you're being worn too thin, physically, mentally, OR financially!  I started off all this saying that it's not for everybody -- heck, beating it doesn't seem to be for ME (despite Dirk setting up #TheDirkestTimeline, which reportedly is going to TROUNCE my 17wks from this year)!  That's not to say that 17 straight won't be my norm in the spring…but that's just a matter of coincidence and timing, NOT ambitions!

I hope you found this fun and enlightening, encouraging and insightful!  I had a blast running around those few months, trekking this way and that, all in the name of comics!  It makes me wonder what sort of new fun I'll come up with NEXT!!!!!

Stay tuned to V:IP and all that we do!!!

V.




Final Dragonzord piece -- available in a 11x17 print!

Final Maleficent piece -- available in a 11x17 print!


Wednesday, July 23, 2014

These Kids Got STYLE!

So...if you've been following Justin on Instagram (and you really should be -- what ELSE do could you use IG for??), you'll note that we're but weeks away from Wonder Care Presents: The Kinder Guardians #1 being released.

Y-A-Y!  It's coming!  It's coming! (I'm doing a dance) It's coming!

But for you super-astute watchers, you may have also noted that the character designs look A BIT different…alright, in a way RADICALLY different, from our previous promo materials.  And I have to admit -- I COULDN'T BE HAPPIER ABOUT IT!

Now you may be wondering, 'why the change'?  And the simplest answer is I'm working with one of the most thoughtful creators in the game!

That's right.  I said it!

No really, Justin hit me up and said that he really wanted to make this book stand out and right now, the  circle-headed, all-ages well is being tapped (and tapped well -- see what I did there), by some of comic's heaviest hitters like Franco, Art Baltazar, Katie Cook and of course, Skottie Young!


But wait, there's more.

Justin is approaching this not as simply a comic book, but a property ripe with potential for the animations market!  There, Wonder Care's distinctive new style could flourish among the ranks of shows like 'Hey, Arnold!' or 'Phineas & Ferb'!  So with that in mind, he went back to the drawing board, and crafted this BEAUTIFUL style that captures the personality of each character, moving them up, up and way beyond the realm of just kid-friendly cute!

Again, I can't tell you how lucky I am to be working with him!  Alright -- I'll stop waxing and get back to lettering so you guys can get Wonder Care #1 in your hands as soon as possible!  That way you TOO will know what all the fun is about!




Sunday, July 13, 2014

Comic Cons: Coast to Coast pt 2


20 events.  17 weeks.  14 cities.  9 states.  3 time zones.  2 coasts.  

Me at the airport en route to Seattle
This was my life this spring, by the numbers (no, I've not counted the miles or the hours -- it would scare me to know!).  In a herculean effort, mixed with a slight rivalry (shout out to Dirk!), I took on one of the BIGGEST, self-imposed challenges of my career (to date)!  Last post I walked through the 'why' I did this to myself [sic], but I think there's INFINITELY more to share on 'HOW' I did this and what that means to any other creators on the market!

Now, I will be quick to say -- this move is NOT for everybody.  Not even to dismiss or sway anyone from attempting this, in all honesty, this move might not be necessary for what you want out of your time in comics and by no means should it be looked at as the standard.  But having said that, it certainly is A standard (curse you semantics!) that should be respected, mined for content and emulated (if applicable).  Here's my quick list of the pre-req's you need to make this happen.

1.) Type A Personality: We comic creators are NOTORIOUSLY introvertive beings! We labor over fictional beings, in intricate detail, secluded from the light of day and physical interaction.  If your idea of socializing requires internet access, you may way want to forgo tackling this crusade, because there's a lot of extrovert-necessary, personal, public, and interactive attention needed to pull this off!  

2.) Access to Materials: Get your prints exclusively from the Mom&Pop store in town?  Use an overseas printer or a POD company, with a few weeks turnaround time standard for your books?  Then you might want to pass up on doing something like this too -- its way too hard to know what's going to move where and how quickly, so if you've got a problem tapping a national chain like FedEx, Staples, etc. you may be plum outta luck should your Deadpool print sell out and you want to maintain quality.  

3.) A Support Team!: There is no such thing as a TRULY self-made "man" -- every successful person on the face of this earth has had people in their corner who believed and supported them in their efforts.     You will feel lows, you will feel highs and its important to have a foundation of support to both, lift you up  and ground you when its needed -- those outside pair of eyes can be EXTREMELY beneficial to help you gauge your activities and progress along the way.

These mark the three most important tools to have in your belt BEFORE jumping into such a crazy campaign, but what follows is what you will need to maintain along the way.

Passion: 

Comic conventions and events are A LOT of fun!  You're surrounded by like-minded fans, celebrating a culture of immersive pastimes, featuring colorful characters enacting every adventure you can imagine.  But despite all the stargazing of notable celebs and legendary creators, the thoughtful and provoking panels or the intrepid fans that fill convention halls, conventions are a whole lotta work!  LIKE A BUNCH!  For myself, I tend to stand throughout the duration of the show -- to me, its a mark of professionalism and readiness, but at the end of the day, is downright EXHAUSTING!  Make no mistake, this is a "job"-- a physical one and it WILL take its toll on you.

Feet hurting and voice gone are regular feats for me, and yeah, I've even suffered a paper-cut or two.  I've lost sleep hours in time-zone transitions, simply absurd take-off/arrival times, and last minute inventory checks that last into the wee hours.  And even with all of that, there's one more, most-critical tax you pay when adopting this coursework -- being away from your family at long intervals.  This past June, I was home for a total of 11 days throughout that ENTIRE month. 

My Kids working the table at Awesome Con
But if you maintain your PASSION about your craft, about what you're bringing to the show, about comics as a whole -- you can acknowledge all these difficulties and KEEP pressing on without stopping.  If you can keep your eye on the bigger picture of success (and I don't JUST mean money), you can stay motivated and hungry to keep pushing yourself, against all odds! 

And believe me, that last bit is truly the hardest of all -- I've heard many creators use their family obligations for why they can't chase their dreams.  I'm a devoted father of four beautiful children, ages ranging from 5-11 -- there is NOTHING I won't do for my kids, including work my butt off to show them that if there's something they believe in and love, that they can find success within it.  

Your Goal is to Create a GREAT Experience: 

I just said that doing this is a lot of work -- and believe me, it is!  But, becoming an active part of the comic book community has fandom at its roots.  We, all of us, got into comics because we were a fan of some part of it -- whether it was the books we read, the shops we went to, or the creators we had the fortune of meeting, we became fans of the medium.  Its the fandom experience that inspired us and it's in creating that experience, both for ourselves and for others, that needs to be your number one goal.

I know, I know -- you're probably thinking, shouldn't MONEY be the number one goal -- and from a purely practical/fiscal standpoint, you're absolutely right.  But there will be times when the monies a little slow, the totals a little less and you still have to find something that keeps you going, keeps you smiling and excited about being at the show.  And that's where the goal of creating a GREAT experience will serve you best!  

Great experiences build fans!  And look -- DIRK!
Music lovers can cosign this with me -- we'll pay large amounts of money to see some of our favorite entertainers perform and its all justified by the experience we're given!  We don't go expecting get anything more than that (unless you bought the VIP package, then there's a whole meet-n-greet, swag-bag, photoshoot portion, but that too builds on your experience of the event!) -- and we leave satisfied if we had a good one.  BE that experience!  Create an environment that your growing fanbase can enjoy and frequent!  Create something that will get people talking POSITIVELY about you, that they want to share -- because remember, you even being behind the table is an extension of YOUR fandom!  

And if you create a great experience for yourself and others, one of three things WILL happen: 1.) the money will come automatically.  2.) the money didn't show, but you still had a great time, setting the stage for future payoff of either contacts, friends or future buyers.  3.) you get the connects AND the money!

I'm gonna cut it short here -- I've got three more points to share before I wrap this up, but they're probably some of the most important!  Hopefully, you've gleaned a bit for yourself from my journey -- check back here soon for the final spin!

V.

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Comic Cons: Coast to Coast Pt. 1

Writer.  Artist.  Publisher.  Iron man…??

That may be what I put on my resume after completing a GRUELING 17 weeks straight of comic book shows and events.

That's right.  You read correctly.  Seventeen weeks.  In a row.

I know, I know -- why in the world would someone do that?!  It's the same question pantomimed (if not outright blurted) by EVERY fan, friend, family member, and peer I mentioned it to during this marathon of comic book geekery!  And now, with the haze of what I've done finally lifting -- without hesitation or sense of doubt, I can tell you all I did it because of one thing: Dirk ********** Manning!

That's my VICTORY face!
It all started on an assuming Saturday…
Dirk and I were neighbors (well acquainted already, with a robot-dance-like handshake ritual) at the first Appleseed Comic Con (formerly Summit City).  Dirk leans into me, with a hint of exhaustion, revealing that this was his fifth show in as many weeks and its starting to catch up.  And believe me -- 5 shows in 5 weeks is exhausting.  VERY EXHAUSTING.  And I would know -- because that same show, unbeknownst to Dirk at the time, was my 8th show in 8 weeks.

Now, let me preface that making comics is my full-time job -- I've been determined/lucky/blessed enough to make my lifelong dream of being a professional creator a very real thing and it affords me a whole host of opportunities that others couldn't fathom.  But, in that same breath, I have to admit that I'm a family man with four kids, so even though this is my job, I've got a hefty share of responsibilities which means that every decision for being on the road has a significant consideration and cost -- so NO dismissive caveats!

So I told him, "This is week 8 for me…"  And when I did, the look of shock he carried, last all of ONE SECOND before he made a solemn vow to blow that out of the water in the fall.

AND CRUSH IT HE DID!

He planned on a 13 in 13 (he's a magnificent horror writer and the appeal of such a spooky number was too good to miss) -- but the ACTUAL appeal of Dirk pulled him two more events and consequent two more weeks to a MASSIVE 15 shows in 15 weeks.

Now, I'm not exactly competitive…despite being an outspoken Aries, first-born son…okay, maybe a little ;)…but could I really top what DM had pulled off?  How would I do it?  What would it mean?  There was only one way to find out.

I made a list.  I made some calls; sent some emails.  And THIS was the schedule that was born from it.

Week 1: Main St. Comics and Games Anniversary/ Indies Comic Fair  - March 8th
Springfield, OH/ Columbus, OH

Week 2: Lexington Comic Con - March 14-16
Lexington, KY

Week 3: Dan Con - March 23
Oakland Park, IL

Week 4: Emerald City Comic Con - March 28-30
Seattle, WA

Week 5: Gem City Comic Con - April 5-6
Dayton, OH

Week 6: SPACE - April 12-13
Columbus, OH

Week 7: Awesome Con - April 18-20
Washington D.C.

Week 8: C2E2 - April 25-27
Chicago, IL

Week 9: Free Comic Book Day (FCBD)/ Amazing Spider-man 2 - May 3-4
Columbus, OH

Week 10: River City Comic Expo (RCCE) May 10
Louisville, KY

Week 11: Appleseed Comic Con - May 17-18
Fort Wayne, IN

Week 12: Oakland Park Elem @ Laughing Ogre/ X-Men: DoFP - May 24-25
Columbus, OH

Week 13: Tri-Con - May 31-June 1
Huntington, WV

Week 14: Phoenix Comic Con - June 5-8
Phoenix, AZ

Week 15: ToonSeum Art-Bit Exhibit/ Sp. Edition NYC/ Coz-Art Gallery - June 12-15
Pittsburgh, PA/ New York City, NY/ Brooklyn, NY

Week 16: Wizard World Philadelphia - June 19-22
Philadelphia, PA

Week 17: Derby City Comic Con - June 28-29
Louisville, KY

Now, I'm by no means RICH!  But I had the clear understanding that in order to do something kinda amazing, I'd have to spend a bit of money and I couldn't just rely on the shows I'd been to before.  Also, recognizing that Dirk keeps things to a general region, I wanted to test myself by reaching beyond my usual scope of Midwest/East Coast shows and make this excursion as much about building my name professionally as it was any personal conquest.

So now you know the scope and scale of what I've done -- tune in soon for the follow up piece where I tell you about the nuts and bolts of doing such a feat and how I feel now that its done!