Saturday, February 23, 2013

GET YOUR ART ON AT SketchCon


“The purpose of art is washing the dust of daily life off our souls.”
~ Pablo Picasso

Just say the word to yourself; SketchCon.  If you’re hearing it for the first time, you have to admit, it sounds intriguing as all hell.  I know I was.

The first time I heard about SketchCon was when I interviewed artist Christian Masot at the ‘Toys on the Hudson’ show in ­Jersey City. Mascot summarized SketchCon by saying, “It’s a show for original artists, sculptor & paintersto show off their work, and sell it as well.”

After talking about it for some time, Masot really hyped up SketchCon.  Oddly enough, I still didn’t know what to expect from the show.  The second I walked into the Whisky Café, I could tell that this show was going to be fucking awesome.
           
Ever see the look on a kid’s face when they see presents under a tree or walk into Toys “R” Us for the first time?  I’m pretty sure I had that same look.

I noticed breathtaking paintings, zombie prints, custom t-shirts and best of all, a fully stocked bar.  I instantly wished I was there as a spectator so that I could have more fun, but I reminded myself that I was on the clock, which helped me stay clear of the bar.

The show was a lot to take in. One thing I should mention is if you give me a pencil and sketch pad, I’m more likely to hurt myself than accomplish any type of beautiful art.  So for someone in my position, it was a little overwhelming.

Luckily, the vendors and other show goers made this a great experience.

Not one artist/seller talked down to me while I asked them, what may likely have been, ridiculous questions. Nor did anyone refuse to explain to me the creative process of a piece or act as if they were plain old better than me.

Meanwhile, I was talking to other show goers as if we had known each other for years. Talking and simply being in awe of the artists’ work brought a sense of community. All these great conversations took place while awesome rock music was being played… this was pretty bad ass.

I mentioned before that I’m not much of an artist…surprise surprise…but that also goes for home decorating as well. I REALLY don’t like going shopping at big stores for decorative household items like Ikea or Wal-Mart. Although some of the individual items may look nice, and will possibly bring a particular feel to your home, that one item that you think will make you original can be found in thousands of stores around the world.  In retrospect, there really isn’t any individualism to anything at a major store. 

Cue in SketchCon.

Each item at SketchCon is truly one of a kind.  Better yet, if you find a particular piece that you kind of like, you can have it specifically modified to be something you truly love!  Here’s an example of something I want to get my parents:


I want to give my folks something unique for their anniversary.  They love Harley-Davidson motorcycles and zombies.  So I’m going to turn to Gerald for help.  I plan on giving him a picture my parents love of the two of them next to their Harley.  Terado will do his zombie magic, and will soon make an awesome zombified portrait of my parents.

This is just one example of the uniqueness behind SketchCon.  You won’t find this in just any store.  You won’t find this in another home across America.  Instead, I’m going to find something personal that my parents will really enjoy, and I’ll give my money to a local artist. Personally, it would be greedy to ask for anything more. 

I mentioned before that the show is a lot to take in.  However, if you’re an art student, or someone that wants to learn more about art in some way, you’re going to learn A LOT at SketchCon. 

Artists wanted to talk about, well, art.

They want to share their experiences.
They want to tell people about mistakes they’ve made so that others don’t do the same.
Basically, they want to share knowledge, and give people advice on how to accomplish their artistic goals.

Class truly is in session as SketchCon.  If you just look around and ask a few questions, you’ll definitely walk out smarter than when you walked in.

Except for the fact I couldn’t drink at the show, the positives greatly out way the negatives.  Here is a breakdown of the 2012 SketchCon…

CROWD:
            Young to old, novice to expert, even clueless to teacher, there’s a nice eclectic crowd that comes to SketchCon, but best of all, non of them have a narcissistic attitude, making you feel like they’re better than you.
            It’s a real nice mix of people, to match the different types of art being shown.  The funny thing is that I didn’t even realize till just now just how friendly everybody was. Seriously, if it wasn’t the fact that I was working at this show, I could’ve had a beer with anyone there.  Well, except for the 13 year-old-kid.

STAFF:
            Except for Christian, I didn’t really deal with much of the staff.  However, I noticed how the staff interacted with the vendors, and show goers.
            The whole time, I noticed how they were helping answer questions, showing people where they should go, and most importantly, letting people know the second that the bar was open.
            Of course, the crowd broke out into applause when that announcement was made.

SIZE OF THE SHOW:
            As the day went on; the crowd size fluctuated a lot.  It went from easily movable, to somewhat jam packed (especially near the stage).  However, once the bar/kitchen opened up, the entire floor was pretty easy to move around.
            After that, it only got annoying when people were carrying around large purchases, or when a few vendors took up too much space at their table.  Not sure if this is a sign that the show will get larger next year, but it would be great if they add more floor space and vendors.

VENDOR QUALITY:
            On a 1-10 scale.  This is an 11 easy.
            The vendor quality is really what made SketchCon so fantastic to visit.  There was literally a little of everything, and something for anyone. 
            You had custom t-shirts, to hand-made jewelry, to personalized art, to pretty much anything else. 
            It’s also proof that if you have personalized art that you want to sell, that this is the best way to take it to the public.

GETTING IN/OUT:
            The Whiskey Café is pretty easy to get to no matter where you’re coming from.  It’s off of two major highways, and can easily be accessed through public transportation. 
            As a bonus, it was surprisingly easy to get there by using some local back roads.  I didn’t have to deal with the headaches of weekend highway driving.  Yet another reason why Google Maps kicks the snot out of Apple Maps.
            Most people in New Jersey know where ‘Mid-Evil Times’ is located.  For the most part, it’s right next door.

WORTH YOUR TIME:
            SketchCon is a toddler.  This is the second year the show has been around, and anyone that visited can tell you, it’s going to get A LOT bigger and better.
            The organizers are onto something big here. I don’t know what they’ll do next to take the show up a notch, but I’m really excited to see what they do.  Personally, I’d love it if they have tattoo artists and creative workshop classes.
            The atmosphere is second to non.  People will find high quality work, experts want to spread knowledge, and just an overall good vibe from everyone attending.
            Anyone who’s a novice to master, looking for original work that someone took pride in making themselves or is just looking to have fun, needs to visit SketchCon.  Hopefully this show is held more often, because if that happens, everyone in general would benefit.

Monday, February 11, 2013

11 TIPS FOR COMIC / COLLECTIBLE HUNTING


A hobby or collection is a wonderful break from life. 

No matter how bad, or how great everything is going, it’s like a personal escape to fun-land.

The only thing that is any better though, is adding to that collection.

Personally, I get a thrill out of adding new comics to my long boxes every time. 

Getting a good deal is the only way to make it sweeter. 

Hell, that goes for anybody.  Doesn’t matter how much money you have in the bank, or how broke you may be, nobody wants to get ripped off.

So before you go off and pay big bucks for your next collectible centerpiece, check out these tips on how to save some money.

In order, here is how I would go about saving a lot of money for some expensive comics…

1) RESEARCH
            - It's an old cliché, and it can be applied to pretty much anything, but "Knowledge is power".   You need to know…
- Is a movie is coming out based on a particular character who’s book you want? 
- Is the character in the news for one reason or another (i.e…Amazing Spier-Man 700)?
- Is the general value of a book naturally going up or down like general stock.
            - These are the general questions that’s worth looking into before spending big bucks on a comics.  It’ll give you a proper gauge to see if now is the time to strike, or if you should hold off. 

2) WHAT CONDITION DO YOU WANT?
            - Everybody knows that conditioning is everything when it comes to collecting.  You have the option of picking up anything from a reader’s copy, or a mint condition masterpiece.   So figure out what you want.  It would suck to realize you bought the wrong item, and have to start all over.

3) FIGURE OUT A PRICE
            - The very important question which everyone must ask, “What is an expensive, fair and inexpensive price for the book I want?”  There’s a few ways to go about this, and I HIGHLY RECOMMEND, you use all of them to decide upon the appropriate prices…
                        - THE OVERSTREET PRICE GUIDE: This book is a long running guide on comic book pricing.  Many, swear by it’s price listings, while others consider it a joke.  Either way, this guide is a resource, and should be taken into consideration with what you should spend.
                        - EBAY: I’ve gone on record many times that I’m not a big fan of ebay.  However, it does a great job of dictating market value for items.  I don’t base that off of what people are selling items for, but more for the completed sales.  If you’ve ever noticed, once you’re logged-in, and do a search, you’re able to look up completed auctions.  This will show you what books, in various conditions, have been sold for.  Just remember, prices are driven up by market news.  So you still need to do homework.  The price isn’t always appropriate.
                        - STORES / SHOWS: This is probably the most obvious way to price something, but simply shop around.  These are comics, not medicine that we need to survive.  So you have no reason not to take your time and see what people are selling books for.  We all want instant gratification, but if you rush to buy the first book you see, you’ll only screw yourself over in the long run.

4) WHAT CAN YOU SPEND?
            - Yes, we all want to have all those sought after books from the 40’s & 50’s, but will your bank account allow it?  If you want a book that costs $5,000, well you better save up.  You’ll feel better comfortably saving for a $5,000 book, rather than depleting all the money in your savings account.  Also, don’t put a very expensive book on a credit card.  Not only is that just stupid, but it can be a terrible spiral of debt to fall into.

5) WHERE CAN YOU GET THE PARTICULAR ITEM?
            - You can make a valid argument that this should be one of the earlier tips on the list.  However, it needs to be in the middle in order to help you save money, and figure out who to talk with.  Here me out…If you want the ‘Days of Futures Past’ comics, chances are, you can find those in almost anywhere.  Now if you are looking to pick up an ‘Action Comics #1’, you’re going to have to look a little harder.  You may have to plan a road trip to some type of huge comic convention.  It wouldn’t hurt to possibly call vendors ahead of time to see the big books that they may have.  All this work will help you save time, and better yet, figure out your bottom line of what you can spends.
            - It's worth mentioning that there's a huge benefit to buying from your local store, or local show seller, compared to ebay.  I can easily be put on a weekly payment plan at my local store, or show.  Yes, you can do that on ebay, but you'll be paying interest, taxes and shipping.  It's an available option, so don't be afraid to inquire about it if you're interested. 


6) BRING A BUDDY WITH YOU
            - This is something I realized when I went car shopping the very first time.  Bringing an extra set of eyes to buy something is imperative.  Your friend may notice something you may have overlooked, or may ask a question you didn’t think of.  Simply put, bringing a friend helps cover your ass when buying anything.  They may also help prevent you from spending too much money on a shopping spree.

7) ASK QUESTIONS
            - NEVER, be afraid to ask a seller questions.  In fact, not asking questions is one of the dumbest thing you can do.  If I go to my local store, or show, I know I’m buying an item from an experienced seller.  I may learn some history about the particular item, the overall market value or be given an idea of what other books should be on my radar.  You can never go wrong with asking too many questions.  At the same time, this is one of those times where doing your research will protect you.  You need to know when a seller is literally feeding you bull shit, just to sell you something.  I find this more so at much larger conventions.

8) BE NICE & DON’T INSULT
            - I remember my grandfather telling me something along the lines, “Don’t act like an asshole to people unless you have to”.  In other words, don’t be a prick nor insulting to someone selling you a comic.  Sellers not only want to sell items, but they want to make YOU the buyer, happy. Acting like a d-bag will only hurt your chances of getting an item for a good deal.  Hell, I’ve told people to fuck off because they were being so absurd and ridiculous.  So play nice.
            - That being said, don’t take shit from someone that is pressuring you or acting disrespectful.  I’ve dealt with it at car dealerships, which have let to some loud arguments, but I’ve yet to deal with someone trying to sell me a comic. Hopefully it doesn’t happen.

9) DON’T LET ANYONE PRESSURE YOU
            - This is more of a problem at a car dealership than at a comic store or convention.  However, it can easily cross over.  If someone is pressuring you to buy a book, just simply walk away.  You don’t need to deal with someone that is making you feel uncomfortable.  In an ideal situation, you both want to do business in the future.  So why would you possibly deal with someone that doesn’t make you feel comfortable?  This is a hobby, as nice as it is, you will survive without comics in your collection.  So if someone is pressuring you, just simply walk away.

Sometimes, this is what a comic
shopping spree feels like
10) DON’T BE AFRAID TO NEGOTIATE
            - The title of this one speaks for itself, but you really need to grow a pair and be able to negotiate.  At the same time, be respectful with your offers. You’ll get laughed at for a ridiculous low-ball offer. I always try to at least save the cost of me driving to a location, and lunch.  It’s just a personal goal of mine.  Do whatever you need to do to save some cash.  As a last resort, I may even ask them to throw in another comic to sweeten the deal.  You’ll be surprised how often that works.

11) CASH IS KING
            - A wallet full of green will get you much further than a wallet full of credit cards.  Sellers are willing to give you a better deal, and may not even charge you tax. So have that money clip full when you’re ready to buy that book you’ve always wanted.  You’ll save money in the long run, and won’t fall into any credit card debt.
            - Also, bring  A LOT of small bills with you.  You can never go wrong with having an enormous amount of singles and $5 bills at your disposal.  The smaller amounts will help you while negotiating, and you’ll save little by little.

These are my tips to properly purchasing those expensive books you want in your collection.  I hope they can save you some green, and help you become a much wiser buyer.

If you have any tips that you can suggest, what would they be?

Monday, February 4, 2013

REVIEW: The Secret Adventures of Houdini (NO SPOILERS)


My professional life has been a constant record of disillusion, and many things that seem wonderful to most men are the every-day commonplaces of my business.
         ~ Harry Houdini

     While conducting an interview at the Clifton Comic Book Expo, something was distracting me in the background; it was kind of hard to tell at first what it was, at first.  Turned out, it was someone trying to escape a straightjacket.
         
     Not something you see everyday.  
     So like I said, it was hard to tell what it was right away.

     The escapee was the artist of ‘The Secret Adventures of Houdini’, Sean Von Gorman.  A straightjacket escape is totally worth an interview, so I made my way over to talk to him, as well as his buddy and writer of the book, Todd Hunt.
         It was great talking to them about the show, and their opinions on why smaller comic shows are so important.  Then, they told me about their Houdini book.
         It’s best to check out the video below to see them talk about their book.  All I can say is that they built a remarkable fantasy world around one of the earliest entertainers in this country.


         By the end of the taping, I couldn’t wait to pick-up their book, but does it hold up to the expectations?   

VITALS
Writer: Todd Hunt
Artist: Sean Von Gorman
Price: $6.99

­­
BREAKDOWN (NO SPOILERS)
     Before I go into the story, I feel like it’s important to quickly mention the cover. 
     Houdini is in a straighjacket, chained from his shoulders to ankles, and is suspended upside down.  Meanwhile, a bunch of hands are reaching up to Houdini, trying to kill him.  All while Houdini has a smirk on his face and seemingly thinking, “these bastards are so screwed.”
     This is just so bad ass, and perfectly symbolizes what this book is about.
     The story starts off as everyone knows Harry Houdini best.  
     He’s mesmerizing crowds and leaving them in disbelief, while performing a near death escape on stage.  After the performance is over, the real story begins.
     You slowly discover the paranormal activities that Houdini  involved himself in, starting with the death of his mother, to a creepy ceremony that reminded me of ‘Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom’. (minus the whole heart tearing out part)
     Houdini finds himself in terrible predicaments, and relies on his wit and brute strength to get out of it.
     I wish this book was longer.  A lot longer.  I know I’m being greedy saying this, but I would’ve loved to have more dialogue and see what makes Houdini truly tick.  Then again, a second book will be released, so I guess I’m getting my wish.

SPOTLIGHT
Pros: 
     - When it comes to stories that are set in a time period that isn’t present day, I can be a little bit of a stickler.  Mostly because I want to have an authentic feel, that in this case, of being in 1913 – 1923. 
     This book totally delivers that feeling.  The art, mannerisms and dialogue really make you feel like you’re a spectator of events going on almost 100 years ago.
     - Usually black & white books are done for two reasons; to keep cost down, and for artistic reasons.  However, I feel that the black &  white aspect really makes the book pop better than color ever could.  If you look at a picture from that era, it’s not going to be in vivid, crystal clear color.  Instead, it’ll be in black and white.  Just a nice over all flow that helps put you in the setting.

Cons:
     - Usually when you see something listed under a “con”, it’s about the subject being reviewed.  However, this con is a mistake I personally made. 
     After enjoying the book, I googled Houdini, to get a refresher on his history.   This is where I made the mistake.
     I should’ve had a refresher on Houdini before reading the book.  I felt like I would’ve enjoyed the book so much more if I did it in that order. 
     - I had only one issue with the story.  Personally, I thought it was cool having Houdini as a strong bad-ass, but it would interesting if he also had MacGyver characteristics.  Not necessarily turning a paper clip and stick of bubble gum into a bomb, but using ingenuity to get out of problems.
           
READING AGES
My first memory of magic and Houdini was probably around the third grade.  If I had a relative, or a friend’s kid that was in the same grade, I think it’s appropriate to let them check it out. 
            There’s nothing visually grotesque in the artwork.  At worst, theirs blood shown from punches, and bones being cracked, but that’s it. 
In terms of storyline, there’s nothing to worry about.  Parents might have to explain parts of the story to a kid, but nothing that needs parental guidance.
            Since this is the case with the writing and art, I feel as if this book is appropriate for kids to adults.

BOTTOM LINE
            Do yourself a favor, and get this damn book ASAP!!!  It’s so much fun to read, and puts a twist on one of the first, and most famous entertainers of all-time.  I’m glad I have this on my book shelf, and I know it’ll look even better when the second books is out. So what are you waiting for?  Go to their site, and get it for your book case…well…what are you waiting for…GO ALREADY!!!


***HERE'S MY VIDEO REVIEW ON THE BOOK***