Friday, July 20, 2012

Comic Store Heroes: A Look Inside Midtown Comics

Attention National Geographic Channel: You have a mission should you choose to accept it. The mission is to give Comic Store Heroes a pickup for more episodes. Should you choose not to accept, then you will have scores of disappointed fans.

Before I go any further, I have a confession to make: I cannot write this without being somewhat biased. Midtown Comics has been my main comic book store for nearly a decade. During a time when it wasn't as acceptable to be a "geek girl," they treated me wonderfully and barring my leaving the state or some bizarre circumstance I can't think of, they have a life-long customer in me. We also happen to know a few of the people who work for Midtown and think they're great. Now, onwards.

Friday, July 13, 2012 saw the premiere of Comic Store Heroes, a hour viewing, that exposed us to the inner workings of the largest comic book retailer in America, Midtown Comics. It followed the adventures of Midtown crew members, Alex "The Negotiator" Roe, Thor "The Marketeer" Parker, and co-owner Gerry "The Boss" Gladston as they prepared for last year's New York Comic Con.

What I liked most about is the feeling of pulling the curtain back and letting us, the viewers, into the world of Midtown. It was fun to see how Thor and Alex related to each other and how they handled their jobs and the people.

Alex was given two missions from Gerry. The first was to get an additional 10,000 back issues for NYCC, and the second, which I found to be the most suspenseful part of the show, was to track down a near mint copy of "Hot Stuff the Little Devil #1." It came out in 1957. This was Gerry's very first comic, and it's what started him down his path towards to creation of Midtown. I can definitely relate to that. I spent years trying to find the very first Nancy Drew book I ever read because it was the book that made me go from a casual reader to hardcore book nerd. I just wish I had a someone like Alex to help me find the book because you can see how good he is at his job.

Thor's big mission was to book the one and only Frank Miller for a signing at the Midtown booth. I wish we could have seen more of what he went through, but instead we were treated to seeing some of the other aspects of his job, such as getting people hyped up for NYCC.

Last year, Midtown threw a "Not at Comic-Con" party for those of us who couldn't make it out west for SDCC. Wilderowens and I went and had tons of fun. I knew there was filming going on, but I didn't know it was for this. You can tell by watching that fun was had by all. I think Thor told me he had downed a few too many energy drinks, so he could get his "swag" on. An extra treat for me while watching this is Wilderowens appears a few times in a "blink and you miss her" kind of way, and I also got to see a few other people I know pop up. Special thanks to Ted and the Midtown Downtown crew for helping make it a great time.

Another aspect of Thor's job is working with new creators. In this case, it's Christopher Notarelli. He is the creator of The Protector. He went to Thor and asked what does he need to do to get on the shelves at Midtown. Thor gives him the info and off he goes.

Christopher is followed as he not only finishes his comic, but also as he creates a short film to help sell Thor on The Protector. I really admired Christopher's drive and determination and ambition. I thought he put everything into the book, but of all the different elements of this show, he was the one element that I found a little off-putting. He was a little intense. It might have been how the show was edited, but he wanted to be in Midtown so badly, he came across as a little desperate, and when that's added to his intensity... well, let's just say I wouldn't want to meet him in a dark alley. That said I think Thor handled him incredibly well and that, more than anything I've seen Thor do, and if you read us, you know we go to a lot of events Thor's put together, showed me how good he is at his job. It made me appreciate him more. (That's right, Thor. I think you're great. Please don't let that go to your head. ^_^) While I might not have connected with Christopher as a person, I thought his story was handled well. As to whether he made it onto the coveted Midtown shelves, you should watch the encore presentation of Comic Store Heroes.

One other great part of the show was the customers. Geek girl extraordinaire, Jill Pantozzi, was followed and interviewed about what comics meant to her. It also showed how Midtown customers come in all shapes and sizes and personalities. You had males, females, kids, adults, people in costume and others in business attire. Comics appeal to all types of people, and it was great seeing that realized onscreen. On a bittersweet note, at various points in the show, the late C.C. Banana kept popping up. I only got to meet him once at last year's NYCC, but I heard he was a Midtown regular, and he seemed like a really good guy. It was nice to see him again, if only for a few moments.

Overall, I really enjoyed this. I liked seeing Alex haggle for comics and getting to meet a few hardcore collectors like Vincent Pei and Don Corrado, who had an evil villain mustache. I"m not saying he's evil, far from it, but he actually twirled his 'stache. That alone should make you want to see it. I enjoyed watching Thor be Thor, and I loved getting to relive some of the great moments from last year's NYCC. Even in the NYCC footage, there were people we knew showing up (I mean non-Midtown people).

I thought the show was well constructed, entertaining, interesting, and my biggest complaint about it is that there wasn't more. I would have liked to learn more about Gerry and seen more of the inner workings of Midtown. One hour was not enough. I don't watch a lot of reality television because it's not appealing to me. It doesn't hold my interest. I've watched the episode on my DVR three times already. I think there's an audience for the gang at Midtown.

If you don't believe me, see it for yourself when NatGeo presents it again today, July 20th, at 4 pm EST. Watch and find out if Christopher 's comic made it into the store or if Thor booked Frank Miller, or more importantly if Alex found "Hot Stuff the Little Devil #1. You can also just watch it because it's a great show. You can find more information about it here.

Friday, July 13, 2012

Interview with a Real-Life Comic Store Hero!

Courtesy of Midtown Comics & National Geographic

That's no typo kids, I got a chance to chat with Thor Parker, one of the stars of Comic Store Heroes!  That's right, I got a chance to chat with the Events Director of Midtown Comics, one of the biggest comic stores in the world.

Unlike other shows, Comic Store Heroes tries not to focus on the in-store sales and trades. Gerry is one of the owners, while Thor runs events and Alex handles major buys. So they spend more time focusing on their customer stories and how comics can change lives. Thor really expressed his caring side (that's a new side) about how Midtown Comics can bring people together, and I have to admit he is right. I have met so many geeks that are now good friends in their stores.

If you have been to the Midtown stores then you will know that the show takes place in all three, despite only showing the front of the Times Sq store. Fun Easter egg! Filming stretched out over a year, so there is even a chance you might see someone you know!

Thor said he hopes no one judges this show based on Comic Book Men, and that it is a different store in a similar setting. I asked for some feelings about the lack of women on CBM, which Thor said is not an issue with CSH. Midtown staffer Zoe Gulliksen appears along with customer and blogger Jill Pantozzi. I'm sure some of the other store employees also make some quick cameos. Thor said that the CSH producers tried to take the complaints about CBM into account when planning the show. Thor's wish is that this show promotes a positive view of fans and who we are to the world.

Courtesy of Midtown Comics & National Geographic
Knowing Thor, I was quick to ask for embarrassing stories from the show. While he didn't divulge anything, he did promise that he is very comfortable making a fool of himself on camera and that I will be pleased. Thor did say he would love it if they did a blooper reel so he could see all the stuff that was cut. I also made a point to see how big Thor's ego had grown. Thor said with a laugh "My ego is already huge, so [the show] hasn't affected it at all."

While this is a one episode deal, there is potential for more if enough viewers tune into National Geographic at 8pm est to watch! Yes, a lot of geeks are at SDCC tonight but as Thor put it, everyone is focused on comics now. Get your non-geek friends to watch too!

Just remember, tune into National Geographic Channel at 8pm est to watch!

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SDCC '12: Thursday Recap

I'm actually writing this early Friday morning on line to get into Ballroom 20. Yesterday was a whirlwind of waiting on lines and putting faces to names.

We started off the day checking out the Batmobiles. All of them. It was very awesome. The owner was there, and he showed me a pic of a Keaton-era Batmobile limo. That exists. I will now make it my mission to ride in it.

After that, Getsuyobi wandered the floor and took pics of cosplayers while I went off to finally meet Bryan Young in person. Yup, our favorite writer is a real person! It's one of the best parts of con, getting to meet people that you have chatted with online.

Then, I went over to the San Diego Blood Drive. If you ever get a chance, please give blood. It's a worthy deed. However, my time was exceptionally busy, so it took me two hours to finish draining.

After that, Getsuyobi and I went around town for a bit, checking out all of the popup stores. In case you haven't been to SDCC, not all the action happens in the convention center. Plenty of companies have popup locations available to everyone. We hit up the Magic The Gathering store for some variant art cards, then went to the Yahoo Movieland for pics related to Expendables 2, Paranorman, and Total Recall. While on line there (lines being a general theme), we heard about free AMD processors being given away a few blocks up. We decided to check it out and randomly found it at the Geek & Sundry HQ! Best part is yours truly got the very last spot for their autograph signing! Woohoo! Got a small hug from Felicia Day and a pic and some FaceTime with Sandeep, who I'm mildly obsessed with. And of course, a fee AMD processor from AMD.

If our day ended there, it would be complete but after a quick ice cream break, it was off to w00tstock 4.0!!!! Now the offical recap will follow with lots of juicy goodness about the 270 minutes we spent there but I will give this. Levar Burton on stage singing the Reading Rainbow theme song with Wil Wheaton as a backup singer.

Will our plucky reporters make it into Ballroom 20 for panels? Will they get coffee? Stay tuned to twitter for minute to minute updates! Until tomorrow, Wilderowens signing off!

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Thursday, July 12, 2012

SDCC '12: Panel Q&A - A Guide for Fans

One of the main highlights of any large con is the opportunity to interact with the writers, artists & actors that bring your favorite characters to life. Throughout the numerous panels here at SDCC hundreds of fans will do just that through the obligatory Q&A sessions that most panels end with. These Q&A's can be enlightening and enriching experiences or cringe-worthy train wrecks depending on the quality of questions asked.

That's why I've decided to come up with a quick guide based on my own experiences at various cons across the country. Hopefully with these tips you can get the very most out of your panels and maybe even help you be the rock star that instigated a memorable SDCC moment for all.

What you should do:
A convention the size of SDCC takes months, even years, of preparation. In most cases panels are scheduled months in advance and the host and panelists come prepared with jokes, stories and anecdotes to share with the audience to keep things entertaining. Out of respect for all of this work the least we can do is put some effort into our questions. These tips should help you get started:

  1. Think Ahead About Your Question - All too often the Q&A line is too long to get to everyone, that’s why it’s important to not waste anyone's time.  There are about five panels that I know I’m definitely going to attend this weekend, and I’ve been thinking about what, if anything, I’m going to ask to the panel if given the chance. Remember, every “Umm” & “Uhh” said while you're trying to think something up on the spot is a missed opportunity for the other fans at the end of the line.
  2. Ask Questions to Provoke Discussion - The real purpose of the Q&A sessions is for the fans to either try and gleam some new info from the panelists or to try and make a connection with the people they look up to. There’s no better way to engage everyone than with a thought provoking question that doesn't have a simple yes or no answer. The only thing you need to remember here is...
  3. Ask Questions That Are Revelent to the Panel - The mere fact that there’s a room full of people there in the first place means that most of those people are fans of the panels subject. While you may want to know about one panelist's side project you should remember that the audience and the panelists themselves are all there because they want to discuss the subject of that panel.
  4. Ask Questions to Engage the Whole Panel - There’s nothing more awkward than question after question being directed at the same person. True, some panelists may outshine others in star-power, but that doesn’t mean the others don’t have anything to contribute.
  5. Keep It Short & Simple - Again, there are a lot of other people on the line behind you.  Be courteous and try to keep the line moving. Also, if someone already asked your question, then bow out gracefully and get off the line. Be happy that you got to hear your answer and let someone else have a shot.

What not to do:
It would be all too easy to start bashing people and turn this section into a smoldering pile of nerd rage, but that’s not what I’m about here. This is meant to be advice for those attending their first con, or maybe just people looking for a better experience. There’s a saying at my job “Assume positive intent”. Simply put, we’re all fans and we all want a great experience. We can all help each other out by avoiding the following:

  1. Don’t Go Up Unprepared - I know I technically already said this, but it cannot be stressed enough. As I mentioned there are more fans than minutes for Q&A, so be fair and don’t jump on line just because you can. You may think that you can make something up while you wait, but you aren’t doing the audience any favors with your half-hearted attempt.
  2. Don’t Ask Generic Questions - There’s nothing more boring that asking the actor or writer "who their inspiration is", or asking some silly “what’s your favorite blank?” question. Many of these generic questions have probably already been answered in published interviews, so be sure and have a little more substance.
  3. Don’t Ask More Than One Question and/or Follow Up Questions - I cannot say it enough, there are people behind you that have their own questions. Let the panelists elaborate as much as they want, but when they’re done say Thank You and step aside.
  4. Don’t Ask Something That’s Already Been Answered - Getting up in front of a room full of people to speak is no small task, doing it to talk to someone you look up to and who may or may not be very famous can be outright terrifying. So it’s understandable that while on line you might not be listening to other people’s questions, but you’re only hurting yourself by doing this. Obviously you don’t want to ask something twice, but by paying attention you may also hear something new that alters your question. Also you can calm yourself by watching the successful interactions of your fellow fans and reassure yourself that no one was mauled by the panelists or booed out of the room.
  5. Don’t Get In Line Just to Say Thank You - You can say this by starting a standing ovation when the panel is over, or by stalking them after.
  6. Don’t Ask For Things - The panel has a topic and a purpose, don’t be the person that hijacks the whole thing with their own agenda or request. Unless the panel is specifically about breaking in to the field, don’t ask to career advice. You may think you're funny, but don’t ask for a photo-op, autograph or sing along mid-panel. The fact is that by doing this you’re alienating a large portion of the audience and potentially taking the whole thing off topic.

Well, hopefully we’re all more prepared and ready to contribute to another great weekend of discussions in San Diego and beyond. Just remember that we’re all fans here and be sure to show the respect and appreciation that you’d want to receive.

See you on the floor!

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SDCC '12: Preview Night Recap

It's been a long day filled with comic-filled booths, fun freebies and lots of waiting.  In case you don't about Preview Night at SDCC, it is a chance for a few fans to raid the floor and check out all of the booths before it gets so crowded you can't walk.  [IGH] Tip: Always get the ticket for Preview Night.

However, we started off the day kinda slow.  Getsuyobi and I, still on east coast time, woke up and got breakfast before taking a walk around the downtown area.  There are a lot of awesome pop-up stores that are going to be open tomorrow.  Then we headed over to the convention center to wait to get in.  Yeah, that was 10 am.  We made it to the floor about 5:45 pm.  The waiting was kinda like waiting, nothing special.  I did go over and visit the Hall H crowd.  There were people there that started camping on Sunday.  Dedication.

This was it for about 7 hours.
Once we got to the floor, Getsuyobi went off to take pics, while I went hunting for exclusives.  My first stop was the Mattel booth for a Mystery Machine and then to the Archana booth for a Tesla GN.  (BTW, Happy Belated Birthday Nikola!)

I needed this.

After that, I hung out with the crew at Dark Horse and got some autographs from the Orchid creative team of Tom Morello and Scott Hepburn.  Very awesome.  I also got some freebies and a pic of myself getting harnessed at the Falling Skies booth.  Can't wait to see that on their site!  Some other highlights were playing Castle Crashers on an arcade machine and Cat Grab at the Adult Swim booth.

Yeah, that's me getting ready for Cat Grab.  

It was a fun night and we are so ready for tomorrow.  Can't wait to start panels and see friends!  Stay tuned for more fun from SDCC!

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Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Happy 4th of July!!!

It's Independence Day!!! A day of barbecues, fireworks, ball games, and fun times with family and friends. But let's not forget what today is really about - celebrating the adoption of the Declaration of Independence thereby making today USA Day! So to celebrate, here's Felicia Day and Tom Lenk.

And if that doesn't put you in the patriotic spirit, here's Captain America doing what he does best.

For all of us at [IGH] have a happy, healthy, safe, and fun 4th of July! And don't forget to wear your Pride Pants!

Monday, July 2, 2012

Fred Van Lente and Ryan Dunlavey at Midtown Comics Book Club!

Zoe, Thor, Ryan and Fred
chatting about Comic Book Comics!
This month, the Midtown Comics Book Club featured the ever-awesome Fred Van Lente and Ryan Dunlavey, who were talking about the collected edition of Comic Book Comics!

In case you haven't been reading Comic Book Comics, this series chronicles the history of comics through creative storytelling and design.  Many of the stories are ones that we hear as comic readers but never get the full story.  Van Lente and Dunlavey do their best to provide an unbiased look at how the comics industry came to be.  We have all been big fan since this release party for the fifth issue, the All-Lawsuits Issue!

Here are some tidbits from their Q & A, masterfully moderated by Midtown's Thor Parker and Zoe Gulliksen: